Extending the Operational Life of the Project through expansion
The 4.5MW Hammars Hill project was commissioned in 2010 and is situated in the northeast of the Orkney Mainland. With planning consent for 25 years, the project has been running successfully for over eight years, is locally owned and locally managed. It consists of five operational Enercon E44 900 kW wind turbines. The company is exploring the potential to expand the project. The proposed development will form an extension, adjacent to northwest of Hammars Hill Wind Farm with two wind turbines generating approximately 8MW of additional renewable electricity.
Orkney has been at the forefront of renewable energy development for over 30 years. With a history of land-based wind development at Burgar Hill, and the more recent arrival of wave and tidal development, hosted by EMEC, this has resulted in the concentration of unique expertise in the field of renewables, with its associated disciplines of environmental, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering. This human resource, when combined with some of the best wind and marine resource in Britain, makes Orkney the perfect place for the commercial generation of electricity by means of renewable generation and the Hammars Hill windfarm is an excellent example of the transformational nature of Island projects in terms of economic growth, sustainability, and transformation to a low carbon economy.
Orkney is also home to the highest concentration of small and micro wind turbines in the UK, as well as several larger community owned and commercial turbines, one locally owned wind farm (Hammars Hill), and one commercial wind farm (Spurness, Sanday – SSE). Wind power is the main energy source that allowed Orkney to become a net energy exporter since 2013.
Onshore wind is one of the lowest cost forms of new-build electricity generation in the UK. Delivering for businesses across the UK; creating jobs, economic growth, security of supply, promoting sustainability in local communities and in doing so delivering on the grand challenge of clean growth. Already considered the cheapest form of large scale new-build electricity generation, the sectors levelised cost of energy is forecast to continue to fall further over the next decade as innovation progresses. At the same time demand is forecast to increase through the decarbonisation of transport and heat. Against this background the withdrawal of the Japanese from investing in new nuclear in the UK appears to leave the UK energy policy in tatters. The message is clear. Time is running out. The world is nowhere near where it needs to be on the transition to a low carbon economy. Within a decade we need to get most of our electricity from renewables. Orkney can contribute significantly to the security of supply that the UK needs.
Strategic Context – Remote Islands Contract for Difference (CfD)
Following an August 2018 consultation on changes to the CfD contract, The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced its response on 18th December 2018. In the August 2018 consultation, the government proposed making certain minor amendments to the CfD contract associated with the introduction of remote island wind (RIW) as a new category of eligible generating station. The government proposed that, subject to a limited number of exceptions, RIW should be subject to similar standard terms and conditions as onshore wind projects. BEIS has now confirmed that RIW will be eligible to bid into the next CfD allocation rounds. The next CfD auction will be held in May 2019 with an overall budget of £60m and a RIW administrative strike price of £82/MWh. There are no minima, and a grid connection contract and planning permission are pre-conditions to be eligible to bid.
Grid – Orkney Needs Case & SSEN’s Alternative Approach
The distribution network in Orkney is supplied from Thurso in Caithness by two 33kV subsea cables. At present there is no transmission infrastructure on Orkney. In 2012 the Orkney network reached full capacity and Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) introduced a moratorium on the connection of any new renewable projects to the distribution network. In view of the demand for new grid connections SHEPD opened a formal “S.22 Consortia Application” process in December 2015, which involves aggregating applications and sharing costs across all new applicants on a per MW basis, and in February 2018 SHEPD launched a consultation on the principles, development and framework for a proposed “Alternative Approach” to the reinforcement of Orkney.
Following conventional technical and commercial approaches, the evolving contracted position of generation on Orkney over the last decade has been a challenge for SHEPD to demonstrate that a transmission connection is needed. In order to try and overcome this impasse and help Orkney realise its vast renewables potential, SHEPD began developing an Alternative Approach.
SHEPD’s Alternative Approach aims to unlock Orkney’s renewable potential by creating an opportunity for those ‘ready to connect’ via a staged approach to network reinforcement. They believe that the most economical and efficient solution is to reinforce the network in incremental stages. They plan two phases, each of 180MW. The first connection phase to be complete by April 2023.
There requires to be a critical mass of developments (both marine and wind) in order to justify economic investment in grid reinforcement and justify the needs case.
In March 2018 SHEPD submitted to the energy regulator, Ofgem, a ‘Final Needs Case’ for a new subsea cable transmission link from Orkney to the Scottish mainland. The Final Needs Case proposes that Ofgem approve the Orkney transmission project (a 220MW subsea cable between Orkney and the Scottish mainland) on condition that 70MW of generation on Orkney sign up by the end of 2019 to a new “alternative approach” to connection-queue management. In its submission, SHEPD outlines that there is significant renewable generation potential on Orkney, particularly wind and tidal, and stresses that this potential generation can only be realised if a new transmission link to Orkney is constructed.
Ofgem launched their consultation of their final needs case for the proposed new transmission link on 14th December 2018. In terms of the needs case, Ofgem’s consultation provided a “minded to” decision subject to developers meeting a range of conditions. This is current out for final consultation.
Challenges & Opportunities
Since the original turbines were constructed in 2010, the design and economics of wind turbines has evolved. The most significant change is that turbines have become larger. The existing five turbines each have a rated capacity of 900kW with a blade tip height of 67meters. The proposed turbine design for the expansion project is a 4.0MW turbine with a blade tip height of up to 150 meters.
The proposed development will make use of existing infrastructure at the Hammars Hill Wind Farm including access tracks, substation and control buildings. The proposed development is expected to include:
- Two wind turbines at up to 150 metres in height to blade tip
- Turbine foundations
- External transformer housing
- Crane pads
- Underground electricity cabling
- New access tracks
- Temporary borrow pits
- Temporary construction and storage compounds, laydown areas and ancillary infrastructure.
- Drainage and drainage attenuation measures (as required)
With the level of wind resource in the area, the proposed development is in an ideal location to help contribute to the UK and Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets and add weight to the Island’s bid to improve grid connectivity to mainland Scotland. As far as possible, the proposed development will also utilise existing tracks, which will help minimise potential effects on the local environment.
The proposed development would be classed as a ‘local’ development and planning determined by Orkney Islands Council (OIC), and as such the application would be assessed against the Local Development Plan and other material considerations.
Scoping the expansion project for planning purposes
We have been conducting ornithology and ecology survey work and lodged a detailed scoping report with the planning authority in the summer of 2018.