REVOLT opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

opposing unnecessary, excessive and intrusive powerline development

REVOLT Newsletter 195

Revolt news 22/08 /2005

1. Following news192.3, 194.1 and the announcement of the proposed route for the Beauly - Denny line, objectors are positioning themselves in anticipation of the formal application and public notice starting next week. It is expected that formal public objections should be submitted to the Scottish Executive within 56 days of the notice. Objectors from along the 200 mile route, and extending from Ullapool (expecting an additional proposal from Ullapool to Beauly) to Stirling, gathered at Loch Laggan in the Cairngorms National Park on 9.8.05. The several local objectors' groups collaborate under the banner Scotland Before Pylons.

2. The Beauly - Denny line may be just one of many to come, if wind power proposals and targets become reality. How many more might we expect? APPENDIX 1 works this out in some detail and shows, theoretically at least, how radical (but costly) alternatives might require far fewer new lines.

3. With a wind power policy implying many new long-distance 400 kV powerlines along most of Britain, it would be reasonable to ask how this can be planned. The government answer seems to be piecemeal and according to commercial interests, according to the important Ministerial Written Statement titled "Renewable Energy Statement of Need for Transmission System Upgrades" made by energy minister Malcolm Wicks on 21.7.05.

4. It is left to the Scottish companies to propose grid reinforcements in Scotland, such as the Beauly - Denny line. Section 37 consent under the Electricity Act 1989 comes, for Scotland, under devolved powers of the Scottish Executive. However, UK-wide transmission alternatives, such as sub-sea cables, may go beyond the scope of the Scottish Executive's consideration. Proposals for transmission lines in England are decided by Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.

5. The EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment requires that projects are assessed as a whole, including direct, indirect and secondary effects. APPENDIX 2 considers the implications for the current melee of wind farms and powerlines.

6. A Wallace Day protest meeting on the Beauly - Denny line is to be held on Tuesday 23 August (APPENDIX 3). Note the availability of large "barrage" balloons carrying a slogan (APPENDIX 4).

7. Two 5 MW wind turbines are to be installed in a depth of around 44 m, in the Inner Moray Firth close to Talisman's Beatrice Alpha platform. The demonstration project is a crucial step in deploying wind offshore, in waters considered shallow for the oil and gas business but challengingly deep by the offshore wind industry. (APPENDIX 5)

8. Complementing the Scottish news in this issue, an article (APPENDIX 6) from the Shropshire Star describes a petition in Wales demanding a referendum. It challenges the Welsh Assembly's TAN8 policy, which promotes wind farms in Wales. A TV programme the Mark Thomas Comedy Product a few years back declared that a modest number of people could require government (local or national) to hold a referendum on any specific topic. That might be a helpful device in Wales or Scotland, or the whole UK on the chaotic development of many more new powerlines to run most of the length of Britain.

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APPENDIX 1 How many more large power lines can we expect?

A1.1. Requirement for 10 GW installed wind capacity in the far north of Scotland.

Some 10 GW or more of wind power installed capacity is said to be proposed for the north of Scotland including the Hebrides and Shetlands. What if that volume of capacity came about? It would rarely, if ever, all operate at full capacity at the same time. But it might sometimes achieve a maximum aggregate simultaneous output around 90% of capacity; that is again in the region of 10 GW. Unless the wind farms are constrained off, the grid will need to cater for that maximum, even though the annual average output might only be a quarter as much.

At normal economic operation (about half thermal capacity), a double- circuit 400 kV line would carry about 2GW, although in practice it might usually carry less. The full thermal capacity of such a line would be a little over 4GW, but that is not the best operating condition. Spare transmission capacity is also required to meet security conditions, typically for the system to cope with the worst-case double-circuit outage. That means that an extra double-circuit line (or its equivalent) is needed, beyond those which could carry the required power. The extra line does not stand idly by; power is usually shared over all the lines.

Thus, to carry 10 GW would need four double-circuit 400 kV lines. Three would not be enough, given the security requirement. As aggregate wind power would normally be well below the maximum, on average only 2.5 GW, the four lines would be greatly under-loaded most of the time. When occasionally 10 GW is delivered, the lines could be loaded slightly above their economic level, but that shouldn't matter as it wouldn't happen very often.

There are no 400 kV lines in northern Scotland, so the new 10 GW from wind power would require the extra new line for the security condition. There is a 275 kV line from Dounreay, but it may not have spare capacity if nuclear power is retained. Hence, a little over 10 GW of installed wind power capacity in the far north of Scotland including the Hebrides and Shetlands would require four new 400 kV lines heading south.

A1.2. A further 10 GW off Aberdeen

In addition to wind farm proposals in the far north and west of Scotland, major off-shore developments off the east coast have been mooted. For the Airtricity proposal for 10 GW located off Aberdeen, I had suggested an extra three lines would be needed (news181.5).

Combining the 10 GW from the Hebrides and Shetlands with the 10 GW from Aberdeen off-shore, the 20 GW of wind capacity would now require the equivalent of seven new 400 kV lines into central Scotland. There are east coast 275 kV lines (which could be upgraded) but these cater for Peterhead gas-fired power station (among other things) which is unlikely to be displaced by intermittent wind.

A1.3. Southern Scotland and Northern England

As Scotland and the north of England already generate surplus electricity, the surpluses and new generation are destined for the south of England. There are already enough 400 kV lines to cover the security condition, saving the need for one of the lines from the north. The original 20 GW from wind power from the far north and north east would by now have transmission losses of about 10%, saving the need for another line. Constraining off coal fired plant in central Scotland (see below) will save the need for possibly another two lines further south. The flow into Southern Scotland could then be covered by possibly three new double-circuit 400 kV lines.

More wind farms continue to be proposed in central and southern Scotland and northern England, which will snowball the transmission requirement as we travel south. Hence some five new lines could be needed in northern England, that is roughly north of the M62. Existing generation here is mainly nuclear and gas which would be unlikely to be displaced or constrained off. Perhaps one new line could be avoided south of Teesside by constraining off the Teesside gas-fired power station. The coal-fired power stations don't start until the southern half of Yorkshire.

That 20 GW of installed capacity is not the end of it. In addition to wind power from the Hebrides and Shetlands and the east coast, and the snowballing wind farm proposals in southern Scotland and northern England, undersea cables from Iceland and Norway have been mooted, to bring in more surplus northern power destined for southern England. Some of these projects may not come about, although the government's renewable energy policy may mean yet more power lines in the longer term.

A1.4. Reductions in conventional generation

Might there be reductions in conventional generation in Scotland to offset these developments? The problem is that wind power is so variable, and conventional power will be needed for back up. Also the nuclear debate is reopening and if wind power were to displace nuclear there would be a net rise in carbon emissions (from the conventional back-up to wind). The grid must cater for the rare days when all wind farms are working near to capacity, as well as the low-wind days when they have zero output.

It could be possible for wind to displace a small proportion of conventional capacity (and to close a very few conventional power stations). This is because the grid operates to statistical standards, allowing a risk of .09 (that is loss of power in 9 winters in 100), and further, there is already more surplus capacity than strictly needed. But displaced capacity is a very different thing from the need for bulk back-up, which remains.

The peak loading on the grid at times of high wind power output might be alleviated, since at those rare times it would be possible to constrain off some conventional generators. In particular there are three coal- fired power stations in the industrial central lowlands of Scotland which might be constrained off at sustained high-wind times, when adequate notice could be given. This might release the equivalent of two 400 kV lines southwards from central Scotland. It would not release any grid capacity in northern Scotland of course.

A1.5. An answer with stated assumptions.

Perhaps a fair answer to the question would be, in terms of new double- circuit 400 kV lines or their equivalent by 2020:

* four lines from the far north of Scotland (beyond Inverness) down to central Scotland;

* an additional three lines (including possible upgrades of east coast 275 kV lines) from the north east coast (Aberdeen etc.) to central Scotland;

* three new lines through southern Scotland snowballing to five through northern England;

* the need for five new lines will taper off in the midlands of England after more transmission losses and after more coal-fired plant can be constrained off to give way to high wind output, although with extra wind in-feed from Wales and from east coast off-shore there will be other needs for new lines scattered throughout England and Wales.

This answer is based on the following key assumptions: 

(a) around 20 GW installed capacity of new wind power from northern Scotland including on- and off-shore, islands and North Sea;

(b) around 4 GW additional wind power from central and southern Scotland and northern England;

(c) output from the above wind power fed into the UK grid, with typical transmission losses around 3% per 100 km; and

(d) continuing nuclear power, but coal generation constrained off at times to make way for high aggregate wind output.

A1.6. The policy context.

The government target ("aspiration") of 20% UK electricity generated from renewable sources by 2020 would need an average renewable generation of over 6 GW (as output). Allowing for variability of wind power, and for the high transmission losses, that would be roughly consistent with 24 GW of installed capacity. However, government zones for preferred off-shore development, and policy in Wales and elsewhere, would suggest 24 GW would be dispersed the length of Britain.

The Energy Minister's 21.7.05 statement (paragraph 19) confirms the above UK aspiration and mentions the higher Scottish Executive target of 18% of electricity by renewable generation by 2010 and its consultation on 40% by 2020. Launching a PR road show for renewables this month, Scottish Deputy Enterprise Minister Allan Wilson referred to both these figures as targets. The ambitious UK policy aim of 60% CO2 reduction by 2050 doesn't convert directly to renewable generation targets, but many more new powerlines may then be needed.

The 20 GW in north Scotland by 2020 seems excessive relative to UK policy and even to the more gung-ho Scottish policy. The Airtiricty 10 GW offshore project and the cables from Iceland and Norway may appear doubtful in the short term. But the aspirations for 2050 may open up those and even further possibilities.

A report of October 2002 to DTI, "Quantifying the System Costs of Additional Renewables in 2020" by Ilex consultants, looks at alternative scenarios for generation and transmission. The scenario (called "north wind") nearest to the above assumes government renewables policy implemented through onshore wind mainly in Scotland and off shore mainly in northern England. For a 20% target it assumes 5.9 GW in northern Scotland, 2.8 GW in southern Scotland, 3.5 GW in northern England and something over 13 GW from the rest of England and Wales.

For northern Scotland that "north wind" scenario has much less than the 20 GW discussed above. Consequently the grid reinforcements needed are not as severe as we calculate. Even so, the transmission reinforcement capital costs (excluding undersea connections to islands) run into billions of pounds. The Ilex report lists 20 transmission reinforcement projects needed throughout Britain for its "north wind" scenario for a 20% renewables target, including reconductoring and upgrades. For a 30% target (which still only assumes 10 GW in northern Scotland) there are 28 transmission projects listed.

There is also a Renewable Energy Transmission Study (RETS) by SP, SSE and NGT, but this addresses just 2 to 6 GW of wind capacity in Scotland by 2010.

A report of February 2002, "Concept Study - Western Offshore Transmission Grid", by PB Power for ETSU, investigates the feasibility of an undersea cable from north west Scotland to England and Wales. It estimates that 6 to 8 GW of renewables generation capacity would be required for a 10% renewables target by 2010, and 20 and 45 GW respectively for 20% and 60% targets by 2020 and 2050. Those capacities are not attributed to Scotland but spread over the UK. The report assesses the cost of a 2 GW cable for comparison purposes, and estimates 1.7 billion for 700 km. If 20 GW were to be transmitted undersea from northern Scotland, some ten such cables would be needed.

What about timing? In paragraph 24 of his statement of 21.7.04, energy minister Malcolm Wicks says the annual build rate for renewable energy will need to be in excess of 1250 MW a year. That means 10 GW in eight years or less. Not all of it would be in northern Britain. If the Scottish proposals and targets were to be implemented, they alone could account for 1250 MW per year. That would mean a new double circuit 400 kV line or its equivalent every two years, potentially extending from the Highlands and Islands down to central England.

Beauly - Denny is only the start!

A1.7 Avoiding excessive peak wind loads

The excessive need for transmission arises from the peculiar nature of wind power. The grid has to cope with the rare event of aggregate output from all wind farms performing near to their aggregate capacity. For example, for aggregate wind power capacity of 10 GW, there will be many days when the grid gets practically 0 GW or less than 1 GW, many days when it gets say 4 to 6 MW, and possibly a very few days when it gets over 9 MW. The annual average would be about 2.5 MW on practical experience (and DTI statistics), although to be optimistic it might achieve around 3 GW.

Could the system be managed differently to avoid this high grid requirement? Well, perhaps it could in two ways, but with the usual high cost penalties.

First, limits could be placed on what the grid will accept. Wind farms could be constrained-off (e.g. switching some turbines off, so as to limit the aggregate output) when there would be too much power. For example, aggregate wind power of 10 GW installed capacity might be limited to 6 GW. Much power would be lost from the best wind days. On patchy wind days, wind farms enjoying the best wind could output to the grid, while those in the doldrums do little, and it may not be necessary to constrain off. On bad wind days, there would still be the usual failure and need for back-up.

Constraining off could, to a limited extent, smoothen the aggregate wind output, decrease the proportion of conventional back-up needed, and reduce the demands on the grid. Overall, there would be lost power.

Second, the same idea could apply, that is with limits on input to the grid, but with the excess wind power used in another way. A pilot project in the Shetlands uses peak wind power to make hydrogen, which is stored and used to generate electricity on bad-wind days. In this way, a steady output can be fed in to the grid, or, even better, output can be tailored to meet varying demand. However this approach would be expensive and inefficient.

Suppose 20 GW of aggregate wind capacity, with an average achievable output of 6 GW (to be generous), were managed this way. Because of inefficiency in the circular process, even with the best technology, it may take an average 4 GW (out of the 6) to produce enough hydrogen to return less than 2 GW of average electric power. The final result (combining some direct wind generation with hydrogen-fired back up) may be no better than a steady or tailored average of about 3 GW electric power delivered to the grid, but that might still be more useful than the highly irregular direct wind power output averaging 6 GW which we would otherwise get.

Instead of coping with a variable 0 to 20 GW needing transmission from north to south Britain, the grid would then only need to cope with a steady 3 GW. That might only need one new 400 kV line (or two where the security condition is not yet met) and that might be found within existing grid capacity. The wind power enthusiasts may then want far more wind farms of course. This note is not intended to advocate the hydrogen alternative, bearing in mind its cost and the impact of wind farms, only to outline the transmission implications.

A1.8 Summary

The following table sums up the implications of government policy and Scottish wind power development, as reflected in assumptions (a) to (d) above. Northern wind refers to wind capacity installed on and off shore in Scotland and northern England. Power lines refers to maximum-size long-distance 400 kV double-circuit power lines. The figures for 2050 are cautiously conservative as longer term policy and technology are less clear.

Scenario             normal  normal  hydrogen hydrogen
                     2020    2050    2020     2050
New northern wind
installed cap.       24 GW   48 GW   24 GW    48 GW
Average wind
power   delivered    6 GW    12 GW    3 GW     6 GW
New power lines:
North Scotland       7       13       2        3
South Scotland       3        9       0        1
North England        5       11       0        1

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APPENDIX 2 Implications of EU EIA Directive.

The EU Directive on Environmental Impact Assessment (99/11/EC, formerly 85/337/EEC) requires that projects are assessed as a whole, including direct, indirect and secondary effects.

Revolt and others complained to the EC Commissioner in 1992 that the assessment of the Enron power station on Teesside failed this test because it failed to assess transmission implications. The complaints were rejected. It was considered that "deep" grid reinforcements (that is, roughly, beyond the local connection to the power station) were not solely attributable to the new power station.

On a different occasion, I challenged the failure to assess the Scotland - Northern Ireland undersea interconnector as a whole. It had been fragmented into three parts (Scotland, Under-sea and Northern Ireland). My challenge resulted in stopping the Larne inquiry and postponing proceedings for six months while the assessments were modified accordingly.

Major wind power developments in Scotland have significant "indirect and secondary" effects upon the transmission system(s), but it might be difficult to argue that these secondary impacts (by way of deep reinforcement) should be assessed within the EIA for the major wind farms. The under-sea cable from Lewis and its transmission connections on the mainland should however be assessed as one project.

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APPENDIX 3 Wallace Day protest meeting.

FOR THE LOVE OF THE LAND!Please come along to the Gathering on Tuesday 23rd August - the 700th anniversary of the death of William Wallace - at 1.30 pm, beneath the Wallace Monument, at Powis Mains Farm, Blairlogie, near Stirling! Join in the protest about proposals for the Pylon Line and all the wind factories along the length and breadth of Scotland! We're hoping that the Gathering will be very well attended, with representatives of all the protest groups against the pylons and the wind factories  - along with their banners, placards etc.  Cameron McNeish, well-known writer, broadcaster and hill walker, will be making a speech, and leading a walk (for those that want to) up the craig to the foot of the Monument. A barrage balloon, with the slogan "No Pylons", will be flown at a height of 60 metres, to illustrate just how high and intrusive the pylons will be. And there will be plenty of information about all the developers' proposals. We're hoping for good coverage by all the media - press, radio and TV - and to make it look good, we need as many people as possible to take part. So please, do come and join us! We'd love to see you! For further information, please contact:  Nicki Baker phone: 01786 833399

e-mail: nicki@baker-pearson 

Alison Grave phone: 01577 830595

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APPENDIX 4 No-Pylons Balloon.

From Colin Kilgour

I have recently purchased a helium balloon (4.5 metres writing space) with the slogan No Pylons.

The Balloon will be launched to a height of 60 metres, opposite the Wallace Monument, in a field off the A91 at Causewayhead on Tuesday 23rd August (Wallace Day!). We are organising a gathering for the launch, with press coverage (final details to be established). Please set the date in your diary, we will provide further information soon.

For general interest, the balloon (called a blimp) cost 850 excl VAT, plus 180 excl VAT for art work. Black writing on yellow background. Delivery takes up to 3 weeks. Contact ABC Inflatables Ltd Tel: 01295 278600

Colin Kilgour Email: Home Tel: 01786 460231 Mobile: 07887 854060

Please contact me with regard to balloons or August 23rd gathering. Ian and Caroline have loads of organising to do, and I would like to ease their burden.

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APPENDIX 5 Offshore Wind Technology - Beatrice Alpha to provide a platform for the oil and gas industry's deep thinking.

Allan MacAskill, Talisman Energy (UK) Limited, Aberdeen, Scotland.

9 August 2005 Modern Power Systems (c) 2005 Wilmington Publishing Limited

(Extracts only)

Two 5 MW wind turbines are to be installed in a depth of around 44 m, close to Talisman's Beatrice Alpha platform. The demonstration project is a crucial step in deploying wind offshore, in waters considered shallow for the oil and gas business but challengingly deep by the offshore wind industry.

Talisman screened future options to identify ways of reducing operating costs, increasing production and identifying re-use opportunities for the existing field infrastructure. The study identified the potential for wind energy generation at Beatrice, which is in the Inner Moray Firth, about 12 miles east of Helmsdale on the Caithness coast.

The potential for a wind farm derives from the unique nature of the location. The area has significant wind resource, shallow water (by oil industry standards), and an existing grid connection. It is located just outside territorial waters and has substantial existing infrastructure, which could be re-used in a wind farm development.

The results of the screening study were sufficient to justify investment in a feasibility study to quantify the potential. This study showed that a large-scale development re-using the main Beatrice infrastructure as a hub could be commercial, but would require further detailed evaluation. The study showed that a successful development would require a new combination of skills combining the offshore expertise of the oil and gas industry with that of the utility business. As a result Talisman partnered with Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), a major UK utility, to progress the concept of offshore wind in the Moray Firth.

Preliminary analysis revealed that although the oil industry considers the water depth at Beatrice, 35-45 m, to be shallow, it actually represents a major hurdle for the wind industry. However, it is one that must be overcome if the potential of commercial, nonvisually intrusive offshore wind in northern Europe is to be realised.

To access EU funding for the project, Talisman brought together a pan European consortium of fifteen European companies and research agencies and universities from six countries. The purpose of this consortium, known as DOWNVInD (Distant Offshore Windfarms with No Visual Impact in Deepwater), is to act as a catalyst for commercialising deepwater wind farm technology.

The DOWNVInD project is made possible by its location adjacent to the Beatrice platform. The platform has been powered via the national grid since the mid-eighties and currently has a daily demand of 14 MW. The power derived from the two wind turbines, an average of 3.6 MW daily over the year, will be consumed on the platform, substituting for a some of the imported power which SSE supplies to the platform via the national grid. The turbines will be decommissioned with the oil field infrastructure when the field becomes uneconomic to produce. This is currently expected to occur in 2011.

The demonstrator project budget is currently estimated to be circa EUR43 million.

Assuming planning approval is forthcoming, the turbines will be installed in the third quarter of 2006. Thereafter, information gathered during the five years of operation will be used to examine the feasibility and benefits or creating a commercial deep water wind farm at the site.

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APPENDIX 6 Petition in Wales

SHROPSHIRE STAR - Last Updated : Aug 09, 2005

Fight for say on wind turbines

A Mid Wales man has launched a petition against the government's scheme for hundreds more wind farms across Wales that he claims will destroy the future for tourism and much-needed new jobs in areas like Montgomeryshire.

Dan Munford, from Welshpool, says he was appalled that the Assembly had failed to consult the public first.

He claims the plans to build hundreds more industrial wind turbines, many of which would be higher than Nelson's Column, would be sited across the most beautiful and unspoilt parts of the country.

He decided to start a petition covering the proposals for Montgomeryshire - sites around Carno and south of Newtown - but was contacted by so many people from both north and south Wales that the petition demanding a referendum on the national proposals has now been launched nationwide.

Mr Munford added: "They didn't ask us. This is the point behind the petition. We demand our democratic right to consultation. I'm a moderate man and I believe in renewable energy but when I read more about this I realised it was all about politics not climate change."

Petition forms are already circulating for areas affected in North, Mid & West and South Wales. They are available for each area from <>.

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-- Mike O'Carroll




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