Rugby FoE > Local Campaigns > Renewable Energy
In the UK a typical home uses 4,700 units (kWh) of electricity a year and each unit costs about 7p each so that adds up to an annual electricity bill of around £329. Therefore, Rugby's 39,000 households demand a yearly supply of over 183 GWh (183 million kilowatt-hours) of electricity for which we collectively pay about £13million annually;
Where will all their energy come from?
- Our homes are not the biggest energy users and electricity is not even the biggest energy use in the home!
- Across Britain the average domestic customer also uses 20,500kWh of mains gas each year
- Which means our households are still responsible for about 27% of carbon emissions, and almost a third of the total energy consumption.
- Britain is Europe's worst energy waster, with bad habits, such as leaving appliances on standby, set to cost households £11bn by 2010.
- Hopefully the increasing energy prices should give us all a greater incentive to change our behaviour to be more careful in our use of mains electricity and energy generally
- Currently loft insulation and cavity wall insulation typically save £100 and £150 a year respectively per home but these will give an increasingly greater return on investment in the future
The West Midlands produces very little of the energy it uses.
- There are some moves locally towards encouraging on-site generation at point of use in order to try to help cut down our dependence on mains electricity
- However, Rugby is growing fast, with the building of up to 23,000 new dwellings by 2026.
- The West Midlands hopes to ensure that 5% of its electricity comes from renewable sources by 2010.
Wind power has great potential to make a significant difference:
The British Isles is the windiest place in Europe -
- Despite this the UK only has 2,389 MW (megawatts) from windfarms
- compared to Germany's 22,247 MW
- and Spain's 15,145 MW.
- ... we even lag behind France! (who supply us with enough electricity through the 2,000 MW cross-channel interconnect to power 3 million English homes - and now also own our nuclear power stations)
Local wind power saves energy:
Power stations tend not to be near centres of population, so there is an average power flow across the grid of about 8 GW (i.e. 8,000 megawatts) from the north of the UK to the south and on average about 5% is lost in transmission to get the power to the area where it is needed.
- The effectiveness and efficiency of new generation capacity is significantly affected by its location because of the power loss associated with this north to south flow.
- For example new generating capacity on the south coast has 11% greater effectiveness due to reducing transmission system power losses compared to new generating capacity in northern England.
- This flow is anticipated to grow to about 9 GW by 2011. However, windpower can provide a much more distributed source.
- The Midlands, being inland, are not the windiest sites in the UK but windpower is still perfectly viable
- Modern windfarms are efficient. The large wind turbines now in use in windfarms are more efficient than earlier ones, operating better at lower wind speeds and continuing to generate power at higher wind speeds.
- On average the capacity factor (or load factor) of conventional power stations is no greater than 53%, mainly because of the market that operates within the grid, that they don't burn their fuel unless they can get a decent return so they are not always fully utilised (based on the type of plant and the price of electricity at any moment in time) and they also have to be shut down for maintenance.
- The same does not apply to windfarms as they require no 'fuel', so wind power is entirely different as there is no 'fuel' cost to consider. However, the wind does not blow strong all the time. Nevertheless windfarms still typically have an average capacity factor of at least 27% and they achieve this without any great interventions.
- Inputting windpower locally, where it is needed, saves on transmission losses and costs;
- National Grid is already working to
reinforce and reconfigure the transmission system to accommodate an
increased amount of renewables.
Wind power is popular:
Climate change is the most serious long-term threat not just to us but to wildlife too, yet windpower is emission free and comes from a renewable inexhaustible source; When compared to other power generation, windpower is also quiet, safe, visually attractive, and has a small footprint and minimal impact on the land, residents and any wildlife.
Not surprisingly, around 80% of the population is in favour of wind energy:
- Construction of wind farms is quick and simple
- Very little space is used by the wind turbines themselves. The larger turbines are visible but not intrusive. Most of the land within the site can generally continue to be used as before.
- Appropriately positioned wind farms do not pose a significant hazard for people, birds, bats or other wildflife. They create no waste and, as they require no fuel, have no pollution or risk of accidents in the supply chain.
- Wind farms provide clean, efficient, safe, sustainable energy that contributes to renewable energy targets to fight climate change
- At end of their lives, turbines can be decommissioned quickly and simply, with the site reinstated to its former landscape
Site Selection ...
Proximity to the National Grid is essential (usually the link travels underground following the roads) and clearly a significant requirement is a suitable access route to bring the structures in, so sites near motorways or major roads are good, but ones which avoid disruption to the local community are best.
- The host Regional Electricity Company for Rugby is Central Networks (part of E.ON ) which covers both the East Midlands and (West) Midlands.
- E.ON now has 21 wind farms located from Cornwall to Northern Ireland.
- If we look at sites that could connect into the National Grid via points in or near Rugby, the area to the west of Rugby has;
- Motorways and major roads offering good access, but is away from any disruption to Birmingham and Coventry Airports' radar and air-traffic approach corridors.
- Sites which offer good wind outside designated ecological
areas and which are already affected by the impact (such as the noise) from main roads.
- Radio masts, electricity pylons, microwave communication links and offers visual screening
- Railways, canals and rivers, but sites that are not liable to flooding
The best thing to do is visit Burton Wold Wind Farm near Kettering (also in Central Networks' area) for an idea of what a wind farm looks like in real life and how quiet it is. Burton Wold Wind Farm is Northamptonshire's first Wind Farm, consisting of 10 turbines with a combined maximum wind farm output of 20 MW, generating 47 GWh of renewable electricity annually (equivalent to the needs of around 10,000 homes and also equivalent to £3.29million of bills from households).
There has been no effect on house prices in Burton Latimer, the town nearby:
- Risks: Wind farms could potentially affect analogue TV reception for nearby households.
- The developers ensured, at their cost, that any problems with television reception of residents were rectified swiftly - even though analogue switch-off will be happening relatively soon and digital signals will not be affected.
- Benefits: The construction of wind farm was quick, but it will displace around 40,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), 475 tonnes of Sulphur Dioxide and 140 tonnes Nitrogen Oxides from entering the atmosphere annually. The wind farm also paid £40,000 into a community fund administered by the local council and contributes a further £10,000 every year for the life of the project, for the implementation of energy efficiency and education projects in Burton Latimer
- e.g. for solar panels, children's books, grants and interest free-loans for energy efficiency projects etc.
Near Rugby there are now also several plans for wind farms to the east of the M1;
- Daventry Wind farm: between Yelvertoft and the M1 (committed to providing a Community Benefit Fund of up to £1.2M for the surrounding area). Daventry District Council's Planning Committee refused this application on Wednesday 25th November 2009 . You can help this proposal by writing a comment in support.
Swinford Wind farm: North of the A14 near the M1, between Swinford and Walcote. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has approved this application.
- Lilbourne Wind farm: South-East of the A14/M1 junction.
The developers are putting on exhibitions and holding consultations
with the community, so if you require any further details please do not hesitate to contact them. Their details are available on their respective websites.
More renewables are needed:
To hit a national target by 2020 of 15% renewable energy this would require something like 12GW from onshore windfarms, plus a further 20-30GW from offshore windfarms but windpower is is only one solution among many and we also require power from other solutions such as;
- Hydro-electric power: can convert over 90% of available energy into electricity and though it produces 40% of the UK's total renewable electricity production and 17% of the world's electricity it is estimated that only 30% of the world's hydroelectric capacity has been exploited to date. It's a vastly underused resource.
- Wave power: A wave-energy power-station off Cornwall is expected to start feeding electricity into the national grid in 2009 and another is planned for the Orkneys.
- Marine current and tidal stream energy: The world's first commercial-scale tidal turbine, the 1.2 MW SeaGen, developed by a small West Country firm, will generate enough electricity to power 1,140 homes. It has been placed directly in the tide race that rushes in and out of the Narrows in the mouth of Northern Ireland's Strangford Lough. This is the forerunner for a commercial product soon to be widely deployed, starting with a 10.5 MW tidal farm project using several SeaGen devices off the coast of Anglesey, North Wales that it is hoped will be commissioned around 2011/2012.
On a local scale:
Micro-generation from rivers is needed too. Thousands of river weirs once powered the industrial revolution and we've got some rivers in the Midlands, so we should re-use them to produce green electricity at no cost to the planet.
- By the 19th century, there were over 20,000 watermills in operation in England alone. Most in the Midlands have been for grinding corn, though some were for fulling cloth. In 1978 a booklet listed 180 watermill sites in Warwickshire of which about 20 were in the Rugby area.
There were still about thirty working watermills along the Warwickshire part of the Avon at the time of the first Ordnance Surveys in the 19th century and nine of them were along the Rugby stretch. This is a distance of less than 10 miles as the crow flies: Clifton Mil is at the end of Mill Lane, Brownsover Mill was at the end of Mill Road, Avon Mill became the pub, Thurn Mill was by what is now the cement works, Little Lawford Mill is by the ford, Kings Newnham Mill was by Church Lawford Bridge and further downstream were Marston Mill, Wolston Mill, Brandon Silk Mill and Ryton Mill. None of these are working anymore.
- There were at least ten more watermills in Rugby district: Anker Mill was at Bramcote and another is still on the Anker at Burton Hastings. Biggin Mill was near Newton, downstream from the Tripontium site. Cestersover Mill was on the Swift north of Churchover. Pailton Mill was on Smite Brook and Hopsford Mill was on another tributary of the Sowe. Sawbridge Mill and Grandborough Mill were on the Leam.
A number of nearby watermills have been converted to apartments or inns like the Old Mill Inn, Baginton and the Saxon Mill pub, Warwick, but some watermills still operate. Restoration of Charlecotte Mill started in 1978 and Wellesbourne Watermill was restored in 1990. However, it would be great if all these mills could be renovated and put to work generating electricity.
- Burmington Mill's two internal waterwheels were replaced by turbines connected to generators until the 1950s. Wootton Wawen Mill (72kW) and Great Alne Mill (11kW) had turbines that generated electricity until 1975. Broom Mills' two turbines generated electricity until 1977.
- Castle Mill in Warwick has now been restored to what it was in 1894, when the Earl of Warwick had the flour mill converted to provide the castle with electricity. The Mill and Engine House can now generate enough electricity to keep the attraction running
- Bugbrooke Mills in Northamptonshire, has installed capacity of 18 kW commissioned in 1949.
- Severn Trent generates renewable energy from hydro and sewage gas schemes at about 40 locations, with an installed capacity of 31MW and rising. In 2006-07 they generated 16% of the energy they used from renewable sources and by 2013 aim to have increased this to 30%.
Once installed, hydro turbines can run for between 50 and 100 years using a natural and free source of power - running water! So, let's rebuild Rugby's great heritage in power systems and on the basis that every kilowatt helps let's refurbish all those old mills and, instead of grinding corn, start grinding out kilowatts!
The tide is turning:
On a national scale:
The Severn tidal schemes could provide up to 1% of UK energy. There were ten options being considered by BERR in their Severn Tidal study.
On 26th January 2009 a shortlist of five schemes was unveiled by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) for 3 months of consultation which closed on 23rd April. There are concerns about these proposals as the least damaging option for wildlife, the tidal reef, has been excluded, whilst two very damaging ones have been included on the shortlist.
- The huge 14 metre tidal range of the Estuary, the second highest in the world, has the potential to generate 4.4% of the UK's electricity (17 TWh) from a renewable indigenous resource
- The study is largely based on the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC) Tidal Power report which has laid down a series of tough conditions which a Severn tidal scheme would have to meet in order to be considered within sustainable development principles.
- With such a large scheme there are bound to be some environmental concerns. In 2008 the RSPB, said: "It is right that all options for clean energy generation be considered but the feasibility study should rule out projects where the damage and costs outweigh the benefits.
- The Wildlife Trusts immediately said the tidal reef should have remained in the shortlist: "We implore the Government not to leap-frog common sense. Barrages are not the only answer. Current studies indicate a barrage across the Severn Estuary would destroy wildlife on an unprecedented scale. And it would be the least cost-effective means of tackling climate change."
- Martin Harper, Head of Sustainable Development at the RSPB said it was "hugely disappointing" that the Cardiff-Weston barrage option was on the short list.
Friends of the Earth Cymru's energy campaigner and author of their Severn Barrage Report, Neil Crumpton said: "Plans to build a Severn barrage are too big a threat to an internationally important wildlife site and must be scrapped - ministers must focus on developing the estuary's potential for tidal lagoons instead."
Looking at the bigger picture:
Concentrated solar power (CSP) mirror arrays covering just 1% of the Earth's deserts could generate a fifth of all the Earth's current energy requirements. It is the single biggest energy reserve.
- CSP uses mirrors to focus the sun's rays using the intense heat to produce steam, which drives a turbine to generate electricity
- The European Commission's Institute for Energy is saying that just 0.3% of the light falling on the Sahara (and other Middle Eastern deserts) could supply all of Europe's electricity needs. An array the size of Wales might be needed for the plan to work, but the Sahara Forest project say that instead the CSP could be coupled with vast 'Seawater Greenhouses' to evaporate salt water, generating cool air and pure fresh water thereby allowing food to be grown in the desert.
- But solar power in its other forms is a real option for meeting our energy needs today.