Published on December 31st, 2014 | by Joshua S Hill3
When Wind Energy Continued As The Big News Story Of 2014
December 31st, 2014 by Joshua S Hill
Ever since I started writing for CleanTechnica I have been irrepressibly fascinating with wind energy. I believe it to be the most likely and legitimate of clean energy technologies to take us into a coal-free future — and many of the statistics and news stories that follow back me up. Unlike my roundup of global clean energy investments, 2014 was merely a continuation of wind energy’s popularity, lacking some of the big blockbuster news items that shaped the investment sector. Nevertheless, I’d like to take a moment to look back through the year that was, and see just how well wind energy did this year.
Note – due to the limitations of search engines available to me, I will rely solely on my own coverage of investment throughout 2014. Additionally, wind energy stories from emerging economies will be dealt with more thoroughly in a separate roundup coming soon.
Wind Energy Projects in Development
Throughout the year, wind energy projects continued to pop up all over the planet — from European powerhouses to emerging economies.
January saw the Scottish Government grant consent for the Bhlaraidh Wind Farm, a 180 MW wind farm to be located on the western shore of Loch Ness in the north-west of Invermoriston, Scotland. According to Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, “the Bhlaraidh wind farm will create jobs both in its construction and during its lifetime, and once up and running will save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide each year. With this wind farm we will now be able to produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of approximately 50,900 homes.”
Scotland also saw the announcement of what will become the world’s third largest offshore wind farm, to be developed in the outer Moray Firth, and combine up to 326 wind turbines in a 1,866 MW wind farm.
“Scotland has the potential to lead the development of an exciting, new renewables industry as offshore wind moves into deeper waters,” said Mr Ewing. “Offshore renewables represent a huge opportunity for Scotland; an opportunity to build up new industries and to deliver on our ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.”
The 258 MW Burbo Bank Extension saw a lot of interest this year: In February it was announced by Vestas Wind that the Extension would be utilising the company’s new 8 MW turbines, while official approval was given to the project in September, leaving DONG Energy to decide whether to go ahead or not — at the end of December, DONG Energy announced that they would be moving ahead with construction of the Extension project, set to be located on the Burbo Flats in Liverpool Bay. Unsurprisingly, a month later, Vestas Wind were placed atop consultancy group MAKE’s top wind installation companies for 2013.
February also saw the British wind industry take two massive hits, as one after the other the London Array Offshore Wind Expansion and then the Dogger Bank Wind Farm were both cut by their developers.
Throughout the year, a number of companies continued to make good progress across the world. Gamesa reached 30 GW of globally installed wind energy in August, and continued to make moves into Brazil both early in the year and later, stepping in after Vestas Wind bailed on a Brazilian project, and also continued impressive work in India, reaching 1,000 MW. On a related note, India announced plans to build their first offshore wind farm in October, a 100 MW project set to demonstrate the technology’s validity in the country.
GE had at least two big stories for the year: In March, the company announced four separate turbine supply partnerships which amounted to 213 MW, while a few months later the company announced that they would be investing $1 billion into the Indian wind industry, annually!
Most interesting from my perspective, as a fan of offshore wind energy, DONG Energy announced late December that they had completed total divestment of all onshore wind energy projects, in favour of focusing solely on offshore energy.
The UK Government approved the Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm in November, an extension expected to add another 660 MW to the already existing 367 MW Walney Offshore Wind Farm, as well as approving the development of the Hornsea Project One, a 1.2 GW offshore wind farm set to be located in the North Sea with possible expansion up to 4 GW.
The Wind Energy Industry
Europe and the UK
“Amidst the slowdown in the established markets, the demand for wind power in certain emerging markets will make these regions critical to the global wind market,” says Feng Zhao, research director with Navigant Research. “The opportunities arising in these underserved regions will not only help reduce the exposure of wind turbine manufacturers to ups and downs in the mainstream wind power markets, but will also hold the key for current leading turbine suppliers to maintain their leadership in the future.”
Meanwhile, the European Wind Energy Association released figures at the end of January that the offshore wind energy industry was in fact encountering a slow-down.
“The unclear political support for offshore wind energy – especially in key offshore wind markets like the UK and Germany – has led to delays to planned projects and fewer new projects being launched,” said Justin Wilkes, Deputy CEO at the European Wind Energy Association. “This means installations are likely to plateau until 2015, followed by a decline as from 2016.”
In June, the UK Green Investment Bank pledged to raise £1 billion for a new fund to “acquire equity stakes in operational offshore wind projects in the UK.” The news followed figures published at the end of March by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change that wind energy generation had grown by 40%, as coal and gas production both decreased.
Throughout the year, wind energy records in the UK — and in Scotland in particular — continued to fall. Wind energy provided 11% of all energy in February, a new high, only to be smashed a few months later, when the UK’s onshore and offshore wind turbines met 22% of the country’s electricity demand on a Sunday in August. In the same month, RenewableUK, the country’s leading renewable trade association, announced that UK wind had exceeded coal on the 3rd, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 17th of August.
Only days after the Scottish people voted ‘No’ on a referendum on independence — a vote that could have had catastrophic consequences for the country’s renewable energy industry — the country approved the new Middle Muir Wind Farm. Things got even better in Scotland as the year progressed, as the country’s wind energy sector generated 126% of all the country’s energy needs in October, and then generated 107% of required energy in November.
On the other side of the Pond, the American Wind Energy Association released a report predicting that the US wind energy industry would experience a big 2014, thanks in part to the extension of the Production Tax Credit in 2013.
Of course, as we would see, the US PTC would only be extended in early December, 2014, to the end of December, 2014.
February also saw
Miscellaneous Wind Energy News
Wind Energy in Europe
One of the more interesting stories of the year came out of Europe in February, after two French laboratories conducted research to conclude that the development of wind farms in Europe only has “an extremely limited impact” on the continental climate, a situation that is expected to remain the same until 2020.
The idea of a pan-European Energy Union was raised several times throughout 2014. In March, Greenpeace released a report floating the idea of a pan-European supergrid that would help the continent meet it’s energy goals for 2030. Later in the year, the European Wind Energy Association released a position paper stating that European policy makers and leaders must “tear down” member-state barriers if the European Union is ever to transition into an “Energy Union” — “a fully functioning internal energy market delivering power and heating at favourable prices to citizens and private business across the continent.” Then, just a few days later, a group of EU-funded researchers were brought to light; their goal? Creating a pan-European “super grid” for the specific purpose of transferring wind generated electricity across EU Member States.
Wind Energy and Health & Houses
One of the continuing stories of the past few years has been the impact wind farms and turbines have on house prices, health, and other miscellanea. In March, the Centre for Economics and Business Research and UK trade body RenewableUK released a report which found that the presence of wind farms has “no significant effect” on the prices of houses within 5 kilometres of wind turbines. However, a month later in April, the London School of Economics released a report detailing how wind farms can drop house prices by up to 12% within a 2 kilometre radius.
Turn the clocks forward to December, and two new reports were released — one published in the Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics, which found that wind farms have no effect on property values of nearby homes and farms, another conducted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology finding that living in close proximity to wind farms does not harm human health.
“No clear or consistent association is seen between noise from wind turbines and any reported disease or other indicator of harm to human health,” the MIT study reported. Birds also got a reprieve, this year, as research released late this year found that 99% of seabirds avoid collisions with wind farms — however more research is needed before this figure can legitimately be said to be accurate.
Without a doubt, however, the most hilarious wind energy story of the year goes to researchers from Loughborough University in the UK, who found that painting a wind turbine purple would help prevent wildlife injuries.
While simultaneously driving existing wind turbine opponents absolutely stark-raving mad.