On Tuesday 13th September I attended a webinar to introduce Power Allotments Devon along with colleagues from TECs.
This Devon wide project hopes to encourage local communities to build, own and benefit from their own renewable energy power station projects across Devon, creating spaces for biodiversity net gain and generating an income for local people.
To find out more you can visit the Power Allotments Devon website, here you will find a toolkit which includes a handbook, interactive map, and submission form which enables you to identify and submit possible sites.
This post considers the proposition that most energy could be generated from renewables near to where it is needed. This article starts with a brief history of the electricity network, which reminds us that its origins were local in nature, and of how the grid evolved.
History of the electricity network
In 1881 the town of Godalming in Surrey established the first public electricity supply driven by a water wheel. This supplied street lighting and electricity to those that wanted it. In that year street lighting went out to tender and the cost of lighting by electricity was 19% cheaper than by gas.
In the late 19th Century a battled raged over whether we should be using alternating current(AC) or direct current (DC) for electricity distribution.
By 1900 many town councils were building power stations, which were typically fuelled by coal brought in by train. Over time these council power stations would be connected together to give greater flexibility, first using 2.2kV. Over the next 20 years a network at voltages 6.6, 11, 33 and 66kV developed. By the 1920s the network increased to 132kV. This meant that council generators could be replaced by larger regional stations.
In 1926 the Electricity Supply Act introduced effective national energy coordination. The Central Electricity Board was formed to concentrate the generation of electricity in a limited number of stations, which were inter-connected by a national grid by 1935.
Newton Abbot power station, built at Jetty Marsh in 1898, played its part in this development. It was bought by Torquay corporation in 1920, converted to AC, and used to provide power out to the coast. Newton Abbot power station developed to have a peak capacity of 52MW in 1948.
In 1948 electricity supply was nationalised and eventually Newton Abbot power station was connected to the National Grid.
By the 1960s higher voltages (275kV and 400kV) started to overlay the grid with a supergrid. Nuclear stations started to appear placed near to the sea for cooling. Instead of transporting coal down to the south to generate electricity, electricity was generated by the coal fields and transmitted down south.
Historically the transmission network developed because generation from coal was better placed near to mines than close to demand, because:
It was cheaper to transport electricity than to ship coal to cities.
Burning coal had caused caused serious atmospheric pollution including a smog that turned many building black.
The current development path for electricity generation and the electricity network involves placing a large amount of off-shore wind generation in remote locations, National Grid is planning to spend £54 billion to upgrade the transmission network to accommodate 50GW of off-shore wind energy.
Onshore wind and solar PV near to demand remain under exploited.
The alternative of much more local generation from solar and onshore wind backed by storage does not seem to have been seriously considered by government.
It appears that the network has evolved by patching up what already exists, each patch adding on expense and complication.
The network exists to supply electricity demand. So we need to ask if demand can be satisfied without so many expensive additions to the periphery of the network.
In an electricity network demand at any point in the network must be matched instantaneously by supply, if this does not occur the voltage and frequency will drop, which will cause issues for connected devices such as flickering lights. When a load switches on this increases demand on the electricity supply, which must either supply that demand from storage or generation. Currently all this supply to demand generation is handled centrally.
Now there is significant small scale generation connected at LV substations, this is currently seen as a problem to the network because it behaves in an unplanned manner. It should be seen as an opportunity to efficiently supply local demand. To do that at a local level there needs to be:
Storage so that:
over a day cycle at least supply and demand can be matched.
surges in demand are matched locally.
Smart systems so that:
Larger discretionary load (EVs, some heat pumps, water heating, appliances) run times can be timed to make best use of supply. Different user’s demands could be coordinated to avoid overloading the system.
Local supply and demand can be predicted, so that any additional supply from elsewhere in the network can be acquired in the most advantageous way (price, carbon intensity, availability of renewables could be considered).
Smart system would exist both on sites and at LV substations.
If there were sufficient solar and storage, such a scheme could work well in the summer (based on scaling up domestic experience). It would need onshore wind to continue operation through the winter, this may not be on the local LV network, but would probably be fairly close, so would need to be linked into systems at nearby LV substations as a preferred source of supply.
Only when there wasn’t enough local generation would it be necessary to procure electricity on the wider grid.
This may have significant costs at each substation, but bear in mind that there are 230,000 ground mounted substations in GB, and that National Grid intends to spend £54bn on upgrading the transmission network. This is equivalent to £234,000 per substation.
It is at least theoretically possible to meet the UK’s electricity demand using:
Renewable generation – mainly wind and solar, but also other technologies as these develop.
Storage of various durations including batteries, pumped hydro.
A relatively small amount of dispatchable generation (green hydrogen, biofuel generation, etc.)
This has been demonstrated by CAT and REGEN studies.
Consequences of carrying on as we are
Cost of upgrading the transmission network for 50Gw of offshore wind
According to carbon brief National Grid ESO plans to spend £54bn upgrading the transmission network to be capable of carrying 50Gw of offshore wind planned for 2030. When the wind blows it seems plausible that SW demand could be met by off-shore wind from the north sea. This is equivalent to £234k per ground mounted LV substation (assuming 230k ground mounted LV substations). Also £2k per property
Most of the electricity consumed in the South West is not generated in the South West
Most of the time the majority of electricity demand is met by generation outside the South West.
Normally electricity demand peaks between 4pm and 7pm and is at its lowest overnight, and most of the time local generation is much less than demand. On sunny days PV generation is significant, but still not enough to meet demand.
It is expected that by 2030 electricity demand will have increased substantially due to electric vehicles and electric heating.
Does Grid demand need to increase
Conventional thinking says that electricity demand will double because of electrification of transport and heat.
This would not be the case if:
The standard of insulation of all buildings were improved substantially
Private vehicle use were to be reduced, in favour of active transport and public transport.
Lightweight electric vehicles such as e-bike, e-scooters were to be used more.
Renewable energy is the cheapest energy source
Why did renewables become so cheap so fast? from Our World in Data studies the fall in the cost of wind and solar between 2009 and 2019, and suggests possible causes. They found that the cost of electricity generation from solar dropped by 89%, and on-shore wind by 70%. A similar thing has happened with off-shore wind, but not with nuclear.
This rapid cost reduction for renewables has resulted in electricity from gas costing roughly 4 times as much a from renewables, following recent gas price rises.
50% of electricity demand could be met by solar PV on commercial roofs
According to Solar PV on commercial buildings, a 2016 report from BRE: “There is an estimated 250,000 hectares of south facing commercial roof space in the UK. If utilised this could provide approximately 50% of the UK’s electricity demand.”
In practice 50% is probably an over estimate because this much solar is unlikely to be timed to match demand, however, it should when combined with storage to make most buildings self sufficient for the summer.
Teignbridge has many existing buildings without solar, though recent applications for new commercial buildings have often incorporated substantially more solar photovoltaics than is required by the building regulations.
A case in point is the recent application by Lidl to build a store in Bovey Tracey. According to the carbon reduction plan submitted as part of the application, the roof will have 180kWp of solar panels, which reduces the building’s regulated emissions from 111tonnes of CO2 equivalent to just 4 tonnes. We can expect other examples to come forward following energy price rises.
With sufficient panels and storage it should be possible on many sites to be almost self-sufficient between March and September.
Teignbridge’s draft local plan identifies 217GWh of on-shore wind capacity
Teignbridge’s draft local plan identifies 217GWh of on-shore wind capacity, which is about 39% of current demand. We think that 217GWh is a low estimate.
Public Opinion on Renewables
A recent opinion poll by survation shows that there is overwhelming public support for building new wind and solar farms to tackle the cost of energy crisis.
Another poll also from survation shows that both the public and conservative voters believe windfall tax on energy producers should form a part of paying for energy bill cap.
Another essential component of a locally based solution is sufficient storage. This would be used for:
Storing solar energy during the day to use at night, this would often be for use on domestic or commercial sites where it had been collected.
Storing of local wind energy when it abundant for later use, it is possible that when local wind is abundant it would also be relatively cheap.
Network management purposes, such as short term balancing.
Longer term storage to survive longer shortages.
DNO operating licence prevents them from owning storage, so grid connected storage at substations would require another operator.
Most sites connect to an LV electricity station, which then connects to the distribution network. The capacity of a substation and the distribution network it connects to is limited, if demand and local generation can be managed to within this limit then there will be no need to upgrade the substation or distribution network.
Accurately managing power at a substation level requires substation metering and intelligence at the substation, this would be relatively low cost, but most substations currently have very little monitoring.
Larger demands could be accommodated when there they are matched by local generation. Storage either at substations or behind the meter also helps maintain the balance, both by storing excess local generation, and charging during periods of low demand and excess external generation.
Demand from things like EV charging, heating water, running storage heaters (and heat pumps in suitable houses), as well as appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers can be shifted provided that demand is satisfied within some time window. If you have solar PV and you choose to do the washing when the PV is exporting, this is a kind of demand management.
This concept can be extended to networked grid connected devices, which can register that they require an amount of energy by a certain time, the grid then works out when it is going to supply the energy.
The OpenADR Alliance was created to standardize, automate, and simplify Demand Response (DR) and Distributed Energy Resources (DER) to enable utilities and aggregators to cost-effectively manage growing energy demand & decentralized energy production, and customers to control their energy future. OpenADR is an open, highly secure, and two-way information exchange model and Smart Grid standard. Together we are creating the future of smart grid modernization today.
OpenADR – Article on BSi adoption of OpenADR 2.0BSi have published two standards based on OpenADR:
PAS 1878:2021 Energy smart appliances. System functionality and architecture – Specification
PAS 1879:2021 Energy smart appliances. Demand side response operation – Code of practice
It may not always be possible for individual premises to have the most advantageous combination of on-site renewables and storage. There could be economies in installing a wind turbine, sharing rooftop solar between several premises in the same building, or sharing a large ground mounted solar setup. As soon as the grid is used to connect to a larger resource, grid charges are involved.
A microgrid consists of several sites which are connected together, share common resources and a single (probably smaller) grid connection.
Most of the time electricity comes from on-site resources.
When on-site resources are insufficient, or it is otherwise advantageous to do so, the microgrid will draw on the grid, and either distribute electricity to members, or store it for later use.
A microgrid could be a group of dwellings or a business park.
Microgrids are only really feasible when building from scratch, new estates or new developments, where renewable energy and storage can be shared. There are significant operational issues beyond construction.
A virtual microgrid could exist at an LV substation, if a number of connected sites were to aggregate their supplies. This means the operation and maintenence remains with the DNO, but a community can share resources such as renewables or storage.
What about Inertia, Black start, Power factor correction and so on
It is sometimes claimed that a grid consisting entirely of renewables will be unstable, and unable to start if it is ever shut down. You will often hear terms like inertia and black start used in this context.
Conventional generator have a spinning turbine, which tends to carry on spinning at the same rate when power is removed because of Inertia. Whereas solar PV and wind turbines use inverters to generate alternating current (AC) to put into the grid. Normally inverters are grid tied, which mean that they depend on the presence of AC to produce alternating current. Grid-forming inverters on the other hand will produce AC based on a local signal source.
This article gives a good description with video of Inertia and related concepts, and describes how a grid powered entirely by renewables can work with Grid-Forming inverters. New large renewable generators connecting in Texas have been required to do this for some time.
ZERO CARBON BRITAIN (ZCB)
ZCB is a study from Centre for Alternative Technology, which amongst other things models how the UK could be powered by renewables, including 84% of the time with wind and/or solar. They based this study on 10 years of weather data at half hour resolution.
A day in the life 2035
A day in the life 2035 is a detailed modelling study by REGEN and National Grid ESO of a dull windless winter day, and how the grid would cope.
On site generation
Firstly there is a lot of scope still for generation on sites where electricity is required, which would avoid any change in grid capacity. This could lead to many sites being self-sufficient for a significant part of the time.
A typical site would need:
Renewable generation in the form of rooftop solar, and for larger sites smaller wind turbines
Storage sufficient to ensure 24 hour power on good generation days, possibly longer.
Energy management system to handle scheduling of larger loads (EV charging, Heat Pumps, Water Heating, Appliances)
Key to all this is a smart local network, which would have:
Sufficient storage to deal with demand fluctuations and to store electricity procured from outside advantageously (either in terms of price, carbon intensity or renewable availability)
Smart system which monitored system performance, and negotiated supply of larger loads with connected sites.
The LV substation would be able to fairly accurately predict the load that would be placed on the higher voltage network, and would be able to draw down supply when it was available. This would lead to a much more stable situation for the higher voltage network, which could then dispense with many of the patches that it currently has.
It may also mean that much less reinforcement would be needed to the higher voltage network.
Ofgem currently has a policy of being technology neutral, prioritising what it sees as the best value, regardless of climate concerns.
Government is generally technology agnostic, rather than prioritising renewables.
Designated areas more difficult for renewables
Commercial scale renewables such as wind and solar farms are not allowed in National Parks.
In the National Park, conservation areas and on listed buildings renewable technologies generally require planning permission. Planning permission is determined by the aesthetic effect that the renewable installation has on the area. This means that it is unlikely that permission would be granted for:
Standard monocrystalline silicon panels facing a road
Horizontal axis wind turbines
Permission is more likely if the renewable installation is out of public view, or is designed to fit in with the street scene. This could be by using things like solar slates.
If you live in Dartmoor National Park (DNPA) and want to fit renewable technologies to your property, then you should seek planning advice from the park planners.
National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
The following is a copy of the paragraphs that have effectively stopped planning applications for onshore wind.
When determining planning applications for renewable and low carbon development, local planning authorities should: a) not require applicants to demonstrate the overall need for renewable or low carbon energy, and recognise that even small-scale projects provide a valuable contribution to cutting greenhouse gas emissions; and b) approve the application if its impacts are (or can be made) acceptable54. Once suitable areas for renewable and low carbon energy have been identified in plans, local planning authorities should expect subsequent applications for commercial scale projects outside these areas to demonstrate that the proposed location meets the criteria used in identifying suitable areas.
54 Except for applications for the repowering of existing wind turbines, a proposed wind energy development involving one or more turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing.
This has effectively stopped new applications for onshore wind since 2016
In the recent fiscal event there is the following statement:
“The Growth Plan also announces further sector specific changes to accelerate delivery of infrastructure, including:
· prioritising the delivery of National Policy Statements for energy, water resources and national networks, and of a cross-government action plan for reform of the Nationally Significant Infrastructure planning system
bringing onshore wind planning policy in line with other infrastructure to allow it to be deployed more easily in England” (pg 21)
Spot the wind turbine! – industrial scene in the Netherlands.
Cost of connecting to the distribution network
The cost of connecting to the network often rules projects out.
Making a connection with generation capacity no more than 16A in capacity accompanied with no more than 16A of connected storage can be done without first informing the DNO, the DNO needs to be informed afterwards with a G98 notification.
Any larger connection requires a G99 application, which needs to be approved by the DNO. Not only does this take time, there is a strong probability that at present the DNO will ask for payment for network upgrades, which could be not just at the current voltage, but at up to 2 higher voltages. It is not uncommon for this payment request to be £10k for an additional 5kW system.
Most projects are effectively limited to this size because the installer doesn’t want the overhead of making a G99 application. I believe that this has limited the deployment of rooftop PV.
A review called the Significant Code Review is currently being undertaken by Ofgem, which proposes that network upgrades be planned for by the DNO and most of the cost absorbed in network charges. Costs local specific to connecting to a site would still be born by the site, but otherwise costs would be limited to the current voltage, and should generally be much lower.
Presentation on Ofgem proposals for a Significant Code Review (SCR), which will encourage DNOs to plan for increased network demand, and limit the lottery of charges for upgrades falling on the first customer to trigger an upgrade.
Delay getting a connection
There are currently delays of up to 10 years getting a network connection above 1MW, this is severely delaying larger renewable projects.
Good description with video of Inertia and related concepts, and describes how a grid powered entirely by renewables can work with Grid-Forming inverters. New large renewable generators connecting in Texas have been required to do this for some time.
Accounting for renewables
Currently electricity suppliers reconcile their generation on an annual basis, which means that it is possible to buy certificates (REGOs) for 100% renewable generation without actually buying anywhere near 100% renewable generation. This has lead most retail electricity suppliers to claim 100% renewable electricity.
Once generated electricity enters the network it contributes to the general carbon intensity of the network, it becomes unidentifiable. It would require physically separate supplies to guarantee renewable supply, which would not be practical. For most practical purposes a similar result could be achieved if electricity were accounted for in half-hour periods as recorded by smart meters. This would enable the consumer to identify the carbon intensity of each unit consumed. It would also enable suppliers claims of renewable percentages to be more credible.
The EnergyTag project seeks international agreement on a standard for generating hourly certificates for energy generation.
Selling locally generated electricity:
Local Electricity Bill seeks to enable selling of electricity locally by a generator directly without selling to an intermediate licensed electricity supplier.
We examine the reasons behind the dramatic rises in electricity prices following the unprecedented rises in fossil fuel prices, and why reductions in renewable prices have had no effect.
We examine the reasons behind the dramatic rises in electricity prices following the unprecedented rises in fossil fuel prices, and why reductions in renewable prices have had no effect.
Fossil fuel prices have risen dramatically since 2021 and particularly since May 2022. The price of gas and oil in particular has soared. Gas is still used for a large part of electricity generation, as well as directly for heating. Because of the way the wholesale electricity market works, the price of gas normally sets the price of electricity.
How the wholesale electricity market works (simplified)
Electricity retailers pay the wholesale price for electricity they sell on to retail customers. The electricity demand in any period needs to be balanced to generation. This balancing is done by a bidding process where generators bid to generate in a period. The Electricity System Operator (ESO) ranks the bids in merit order with the lowest price first, and then adds up the generation capacity until a marginal generator is found. The price paid to all successful bidders is the price paid by the marginal generator. Recently the marginal bidder has often been a gas generator.
Domestic customers on standard variable tariffs are protected from excessive charging by a price cap, which is calculated periodically by Ofgem based on predictions of market prices for the upcoming period. In April 2022 the price cap rose sharply to 28p per unit for electricity, and in October 2022 it will rise to 52p. Consultancy Cornwall Insight predicts that the cap will rise a further 51% at the start of January to about 80p per unit, and a further 13% in April to about 90p per unit.
Ofgem cap methodology change
Historically Ofgem calculated the cap six monthly, based on forward prices wholesale price estimates. Recently wholesale prices have been volatile, and suppliers have had to pay more for electricity than was predicted. In order to avoid further supplier failures, Ofgem have introduced some changes:
The cap will be recalculated at 3 monthly intervals from October onwards.
A backwardisation calculation has been introduced which introduces compensation for the excess of actual wholesale prices for the previous period over those predicted in advance of the period.
These changes compensate suppliers for additional costs they have incurred and have the effect of increasing the cap more than would otherwise have been the case.
Energy Price Guarantee
Since this post was written the government has announced an energy price guarantee, which replaces the energy cap. This means that effectively the cap on electricity prices will be 34p.
You might have thought that the simple measure of boosting onshore renewables would have been an obvious step to shorten the period that the government had to finance this intervention. The government hasn’t done this, instead it is lifting the ban on fracking, launching a new round of oil and gas licencing, and carrying on with nuclear projects. None of these actions will make any difference in the next few years to energy prices, but they will certainly cause increased carbon emissions.
Most domestic electricity customers expect to buy electricity at a fixed price per unit, very few would accept a tariff which offered a different price for each half hour period (to the author’s knowledge there is only one such tariff). This means that electricity retailers need to find a means of fixing the price of the electricity they offer for the period of the contracts they offer, to do this they buy contracts to supply electricity at an agreed price at a future date. This practice is known as hedging. The failure of a many smaller suppliers to hedge adequately in 2021 lead to the large number of supplier failures last year.
The cost of renewables
Between 2009 and 2019 the price of electricity from solar generation dropped by 89%, and the price of on-shore wind dropped by 70%. A similar thing has happened with off-shore wind.
This rapid cost reduction for renewables has resulted in electricity from gas costs roughly 4 times as much as from renewables.
Renewables have a high initial capital cost and low running costs. Initially subsidies were required to get the market established and get the benefits of scale. There is significant future price risk if renewables were to be funded based on future receipts, the cost of capital is substantially reduced if this risk is mitigated somehow.
Support methods for renewables
Early renewables were subsidised by the Renewables Obligation (RO) and Feed In Tariff (FIT), which are currently paid out of retail electricity bills. More recently renewables have been financed by Contracts for Difference (CfD), which now tend to reduce electricity prices. All domestic renewables are now privately funded. Given current prices some grid scale renewables are also being funded without subsidy.
The RO requires electricity suppliers to buy a proportion of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) from generators registered with the RO scheme. ROCs are issued by Ofgem to registered generators. There is a monthly reconciliation to ensure that suppliers have either bought enough certificates or pay a penalty known as the buy-out price.
RO closed to new generators in 2017, but will continue to operate until 2037.
Each year BEIS calculates the amount of ROCs that need to be issued to meet proportions of renewables fixed in the 2015 Renewables Obligation Order (ROO). For 2022-3 the number of ROCs is set at 124.5 million. From this a rate of 0.491 ROCs per MWh is set for GB, this is a drop from 0.492 in 2021-2.
Projects remain in the RO scheme for 20 years, the scheme started in 2002 and closed in 2017, so we expect to see the number of generators in the scheme falling from now on, so the number of ROCs required will also drop.
ROCs are traded in the market, and are normally sold above the buy-out price set by Ofgem. Suppliers are prepared to do this because they receive a share of the buy-out money in addition to meeting their obligation.
The buy-out price is set by Ofgem each year by rules determined by the ROO and is linked to RPI. For 2022/3 it is set at £52.88/MWh
Feed In Tariff
Feed in Tariff is paid to domestic generators and smaller grid scale generators. It is paid regardless of how the electricity generated is consumed. The rate paid depends on when the scheme was joined and is inflation linked. The last FIT installations were done in 2019, though the rate was far lower than early installations in 2011.
Electricity generated under FIT must be measured by a generation meter. In December 2021 Ofgem published rules that must be applied when FIT registered plant is replaced or modified, essentially:
If the generation capacity is increased, then the meter reading is adjusted pro-rata when calculating the amount of FIT payable.
If storage is installed behind the generation meter, then it must not be possible for electricity to pass from the grid side of the meter to the generator side of the meter. (Otherwise it would measure electricity that hadn’t been generated by the plant).
New renewables are supported by Contracts for Difference (CfD). Periodically there is a CfD auction where generators bid a strike price for the period of the contract. For each technology the auction is for an amount of generation. The result of the auction is a strike price for each technology. If the wholesale price does not meet the strike price then generator is subsidised from electricity bills. If the wholesale price exceeds the strike price, then the generator compensates electricity bills.
This subsidy is managed by a government owned company—the Low Carbon Company.
In recent CfD auctions prices have fallen, and record amounts of renewables have been contracted.
Since the end of 2021 the electricity wholesale price has mainly been above the strike price, so CfD has acted to reduce electricity bills. In a climate of higher wholesale prices this will continue.
As well as wholesale electricity costs, retail electricity bills also pay for network costs, social and environmental obligations, other direct costs, taxes and operator’s margin.
Environmental and Social costs aka Green Levies.
Environmental and Social costs are often referred to as ‘Green Levies’ and currently amount to about 12% of electricity bills. The breakdown of environmental and social charges is shown on the left.
RO and FIT schemes have now both ended, so the amount of generation in the scheme won’t increase and will start to fall, but payments are linked to RPI, so the costs will increase. These are both contractual agreements.
ECO and WHD assist those in fuel poverty to improve the insulation standards of their dwellings.
When a supplier fails another supplier is found to continue their supply. Other costs associated with the failure are shared between the remaining suppliers, who pass this on via electricity bills. This has resulted in a near doubling of standing charges for electricity this year. According to this article the cost of failed suppliers is estimated at more than £2.7bn.
The electricity market has grown to be very complex, this brief note doesn’t touch on many aspects of it. As with many things that have grown complex there is a temptation to think that it would be simpler to start again, if this is done it should be done with care.
BEIS has launched a consultation Review of Electricity Market Arrangements (REMA), which runs until October. This is far reaching, recognises some of the current problems, and could eventually achieve a more workable market, however, it is unlikely there would be any change from this for several years.
ACT plans to respond to the wind and solar energy section of TDC’s third part of its consultation on the local plan. We encourage you to do the same. To find out more about these proposals, how to respond and how to share your views
oOn 15th November Teignbridge District Council launched the third part of its consultation on the Local Plan. This third part of the consultation covers Renewable Energy, Gypsy and Travellers and Residential Sites Options. The consultation closes on 24th January 2022. The renewable energy part of the consultation covers site options for wind energy as well as policies in respect of wind and solar energy.
ACT plans to respond to the sites and policies for wind and solar energy. We encourage you to do this direct to TDC. We also welcome your views and comments, so we have included a facility for you to do this.
We believe that renewables are an essential part of the overall effort to remain below the climate tipping point, caused by temperature rise of more than 1.5oC. For more information on Climate Change please refer to Why this is an Emergency. To read about actions needed, please see our Energy & Built Environment webpage.
When responding to the TDC online consultation, each wind site has a number of criteria against which free text can be entered. You can also comment on policies associated with the potential solar areas identified for Teignbridge.
To help you see all the information provided by the consultation, as well as other related information, we have extended our Local Plan mapping data web page to cover proposed wind sites. Please read the instructions first to learn about how to use this data and how to enter comments you’d like to share with ACT against each site.
Although solar PV, especially with Li Ion battery storage has its part to play, this is mainly for smaller behind-the-meter applications. Ideally rooftops or ground mounted close to buildings. The following headings therefore represent our current views on the Part 3 consultation for wind. We welcome your input on this.
Why we need local wind
In order to stand any chance of restricting global temperature rise to 1.5˚C above pre-industrial levels everyone needs to cut their greenhouse gas emissions as fast as possible. According to Our World in Data 73.2% of global greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to burning fossil fuels to generate energy. To rapidly reduce emissions from energy production we all need to:
Reduce energy consumption, i.e. cut out waste and reduce non-essential consumption.
Increase the efficiency of the devices/processes that use this energy, e.g. A rated or higher.
Electrify transport, heating and industrial processes as these are the main consumers of fossil fuels. Electrification is currently the most effective way to decarbonise energy as renewables become more widely deployed.
Electrification of transport and heat will increase electricity demand, if sufficient low carbon generation isn’t added, this could cause the Carbon Intensity of grid electricity to increase, the opposite of what is needed. This is because more gas will be used to supply the additional energy needed.
The first wind farm in the UK was opened at Delabole in Cornwall in 1991. Between 2009 and 2020 wind energy in the UK grew by 715% , but most of that generation is on-shore in Scotland and off-shore, mainly the east coast of England. These are a long way from Teignbridge involving electricity transmission losses.
On-shore wind is a mature technology, which is also currently the cheapest source of electricity and has one of the lowest Carbon Intensities. It is needed as part of the energy mix and can be deployed now.
Teignbridge currently has negligible wind generation, but has significant solar generation in the sunnier summer months. In winter, just as energy is needed for electrified heating (e.g. heat pumps), the local Carbon Intensity of the electricity supply is at its highest. If supply and demand were better matched for more of the time, Teignbridge’s Carbon Footprint would be reduced. Wind generation is highest during the colder months.
How much of Teignbridge’s demand could be generated
The consultation estimates that an additional 10,000 homes would require 66GWh of electricity per year, so each home is estimated to consume 6.6MWh of electricity per year. If this level of consumption were repeated across all homes in Teignbridge after full electrification of heating and transport, then annual demand would be in the region of 462GWh.
The University of Exeter has estimated the generation from the sites identified in the consultation would be 217GWh using a mix of 1MW and 2MW wind turbines, this would be 47% of Teignbridge’s estimated electricity demand.
Wind turbines are designed for an IEC wind class from I for the strongest winds through to IV for the lowest wind speeds. The site with the strongest winds in Teignbridge has class II winds, most are III or IV. Turbines designed for class I winds have much smaller rotors and towers than those designed for class IV for the same power rating.
We believe that it would be more effective to place higher rated turbines at sites with the strongest wind classification. This is not only more cost effective but also minimizes some of the potential adverse impacts of having wind turbines in Teignbridge. We believe such an approach would probably meet or exceed all of Teignbridge’s estimated electricity demand.
We have placed turbines in line with the consultation to illustrate their potential impacts. Using Local Plan mapping data web page, you can see the example turbines placed to comply with various restrictions. Two example scenarios can be selected, those specified by the consultation (default scenario) and fewer higher rated turbines. We have done this to illustrate the reduced noise impact of these higher rated turbines.
Proximity to Housing- Noise from wind turbines
Modern wind turbines are remarkably quiet compared to a decade or more ago. We have provided visual outlines where the sound power from the turbines is just lower than 45dBA, 40dBA and 35dBA. The noise level inside a quiet library is 35dBA, 40dBA is the level in a quiet rural area when the wind is not blowing. When placing turbines on the maps, the default noise level at neighbouring properties is set to be less than 40dBA.
Many of the proposed sites have a relatively high ambient noise level, often from road traffic and proximity to built up areas. While an ambient day time noise level in some location may well be 35dBA or less, this is quite unusual in the vicinity of the proposed sites and would need to be considered if and when these sites are developed.
Noise from wind turbines is site and wind speed/direction dependant, so the mapping circles we have provided are only indicative. More detailed and specific measurements will be made as part of any and every turbine application, so the local community will have the ability to comment.
“Few people are seriously annoyed during the daytime at noise levels below around 55dB(A)Leq outdoors. Noise levels during the evening and night should be 5 to 10dB lower than during the day”
Ecological and Land Use Impacts
The main ecological concern of wind turbines relates to bats and birds. For both bats and birds there are mitigation solutions, which suggests that a strategy of monitoring and mitigation is likely to be effective.
Apart from the relatively small loss of land needed to support a wind turbine and gain maintenance access, there are no other significant impacts to land use or its ecological value.
Exeter University undertook research on the interaction between bats and wind turbines for DEFRA by monitoring a number of wind sites, a range of wind conditions and recording bat fatalities. More accessible references, are:
It seems that some relatively simple mitigation measures can allow wind turbines to generate most of the time:
Turbines only turned off when there is a high risk to bats (example low wind, summer evenings), turbines can now have this automated.
Ongoing monitoring to refine the circumstances when turning off needs to occur.
Absence of bats at the pre-construction stage is not a good indicator of their absence during turbine operation. Subsequent mitigation is more likely to be effective than pre-construction surveys.
There are devices that emit an ultrasonic signal, which effectively blocks the bat’s radar, so they do not approach the turbine. This is mounted on the turbine
Several references suggest there are much higher numbers of bird deaths in general from cats, collision with windows and traffic compared to deaths from wind turbines.
This reference discusses both bats and birds. It suggests that large birds are more at risk than smaller ones. It reports Norwegian research where turbines with one blade painted in a contrasting colour has dramatically reduced fatalities.
Infrastructure and Highways Impacts
These include site access during construction, especially for larger turbines. The consultation states that these will be considered on a case by case.
Connection to the electricity network is a key factor. There does not appear to be much consideration for this in terms of site selection. We have included mapping information on current electricity distribution/transmission lines and sub-station.
The distribution network operator Western Power Distribution (WPD) has been made aware of these potential sites. This information should allow them to better consider strategic network reinforcement, something they are not currently required to do by the regulator Ofgem.
Landscape and Heritage Impacts
Undoubtedly most wind turbines will have a visual impact. Like electricity pylons, roads and housing developments, they are manmade structures in the natural environment. The question we need to answer is what the balance is between the benefits and the detriments.
To minimise their visual impact, wind turbines are painted white or grey to blend into the sky when viewed from the ground. The lower part of the mast can be painted to allow this to blend into the surrounding’s natural structures. For safety reasons wind turbines need to be visible from overhead low flying aircraft.
We are more likely to accept new structures that are familiar to us, like roads and housing. This despite them having a greater detrimental visual, ecological and of course greenhouse gas emission impact compared to wind turbines. Road and housing are also more likely to persist for a lot longer than wind turbines, if eventually we are able to generate our energy from other low Carbon technologies. We could also limit wind turbine deployment if we become more careful about how much energy we consume and distribute energy better.
This space is made available in the on-line consultation for making comments on the benefit and impact of wind turbines not covered above.
We believe that if we are to avoid the existential threats resulting from Climate Change, on-shore wind turbines will be necessary. They are by far the most effective renewable technology available to us now. Nothing comes without a degree of negative impact, we need to minimise the impact of wind turbines. The consultation materials list many of these safeguards, you can also read general references to these on the internet, e.g. for on-shore wind.
Our wildlife wardens have been busy gathering information about many sites, and some have submitted responses for their areas individually. Here is the response on ecological matters, which includes information about many sites.
We have also studied chapter 11 low carbon, in detail and have been assured that a further consultation on renewable sites will occur later in the year. Chapter 11 is based on a report from Exeter University, which identifies the district’s energy requirements and potential for renewable generation. We await this consultation with interest.
The government demands that the local plan provides sites for about 750 houses per year over the next 20 years in Teignbridge.
Where homes are built makes a difference to carbon emissions.
If you build small flats in town centres:
There are fewer emissions from construction.
There are fewer ongoing emissions.
You don’t need a car, so there is a chance of no private transport emissions.
This post considers how far this could be achieved in the Heart of Teignbridge using the sites already identified in part 2 of the local plan. It is quite a long post which includes some feasibility calculations, which considers:
Part 2 of the local plan identifies more new sites than are needed to meet this when sites already allocated in the existing plan are taken into account.
The plan proposes that the allocations are split between the areas identified as follows:
Heart of Teignbridge: 40% (c. 2,920 homes)
Edge of Exeter: 24% (c. 1,800 homes)
Dawlish: 14% (c. 1000 homes)
Teignmouth: 1% (c. 100 homes)
Bovey Tracey: 3.5% (c. 250 homes)
Ashburton: 3.5% (c. 250 homes)
Villages: 14% (c. 960 homes)
Each site has a suggested minimum and maximum number of homes, the following table is derived from these, and shows the level of choice in each area:
The columns in this table are sourced from the local plan documents as follows:
Proposed distribution comes from ‘How much housing development is required’ in chapter 2.
Min is the sum of the lower number of homes for each site in the area, taken from chapters 3 to 10.
Max is the sum of the higher number of homes for each site in the area, taken from chapters 3 to 10
Min <= 1ha is the sum of the lower number of homes for each site in the area, where the site is less than 1 hectare (and so suitable for a smaller developer).
Max <= 1ha is the sum of the higher number of homes for each site in the area, where the site is less than 1 hectare (and so suitable for a smaller developer).
%required min is the proportion of Min that would be required to satisfy the proposed distribution.
%required max is the proportion of Max that would be required to satisfy the proposed distribution. This indicates the level of choice between sites given in the plan.
Notes are any observations.
For the sake of argument let’s accept this distribution. It shows that there is a considerable amount of choice of sites in the Heart of Teignbridge, Dawlish, Bovey Tracey and the villages.
The rest of this post considers a possible allocation for the Heart of Teignbridge.
Allocation in the Heart of Teignbridge
Within the Heart of Teignbridge the sites are subdivided into Urban Renewal sites, which are on existing land that has already been developed for other purposes, and the rest of the Heart of Teignbridge.
Enough of the sites in the Heart of Teignbridge to meet the allocation of 2920 are shown in the following table:
Some of the sites towards the bottom of the table have been chosen to make up the numbers, but this allocation tries to avoid using green field sites that are away from current development.
This post considers putting the maximum possible amount of development into the Urban Renewal sites, this has a number of advantages:
The homes delivered will all be within easy walking distance of:
Newton Abbot Station
Newton Abbot town centre
The combined cycleway/footpath towards Bovey Tracey and Moretonhampstead to the north, and currently to the Passage House, soon to be extended to Teignmouth.
The need for car ownership for day to day use would be minimised:
occasional car use could be provided by a car club.
Day to day car use would only be needed if work demanded it.
The need for further car parking would be minimised.
Car traffic growth would be minimised.
These sites suit smaller dwellings and these is a proven demand for smaller dwellings.
The combination of smaller dwellings and possibilities for active travel and use of public transport will give the smallest carbon footprint.
Development of green field sites further out away from the centre is minimised.
We then consider other sites as near to the Town Centre as possible. The A382 development is already in progress, and there is relatively level access to the town centre along this corridor. This favours the Berry Knowles, Caravan Storage and Forches Cross sites. Unfortunately we still need to find 424 homes from the remaining sites.
The latest TDC housing policy document states that there is a waiting list of about 1000 applicants, and that 51% of these applicants are looking for a single bed property the proportion of property types required by applicants is shown in the following table:
Additionally 1 in 3 Teignbridge residents is over 65 years old, so probably doesn’t have children.
This says that there is a need to smaller properties, which could be flats.
There is clearly a need for social and affordable housing, as the waiting list recently has been about 1000 applicants, with about 350 applicants being housed each year. If the waiting list were to be substantially reduced over say 4 years to 100, then an additional 225 affordable homes per year would be required.
On average 137 new affordable homes are provided, other applicants are housed from existing stock. So the number of new affordable homes needs to increase to about 425. That would leave 325 open market homes from the obligatory 750 allocation.
Housing density is expressed in dwellings per hectare (dph), the area part of this measure includes estate roads, but excludes major thoroughfares.
From the developable area and maximum homes stated for Urban Renewal areas we can calculate the maximum dwellings per hectare:
Kingsteignton retail park site has a maximum density of 37.04, which is low for an urban area. This is a large site, so makes a big difference to the overall numbers, developing this at 50dph delivers an additional 175 homes.
If all the sites were developed at a density of 70 dph, then only 522 more homes would be required, so only the Berry Knowles and Forches Cross sites would be needed in addition to the Urban Renewal sites. Some sites are already allocated at more than 70 dph, so setting this as a minimum gives 2466 homes, so we are left with 454 to find.
If a minimum of 84.5 dph was set over this area, then 2932 homes would be delivered, which is enough to satisfy the Heart of Teignbridge allocation.
When I originally wrote this section I has misread the developable area of Brunel as 22 hectares, which makes the calculations better. If the developable are of Brunel or Kingsteignton retail park could be increased by 7ha between both sites, then the average density required overall could be reduced to 70dph.
So the Teignmouth block to the top left is at 70 dph. These examples are in the Teignbridge Vernacular. For a larger development such as Brunel, a complementary, but more modern style might be appropriate.
I am sure that an imaginative architect could manage better!
So it looks like 70 dph is achievable if most dwellings are small and development is up to 3 storeys.
What should the housing mix be?
In order to substantially reduce the housing waiting list we need to deliver about 425 affordable homes per year. The mix for these should follow the mix of dwelling sizes required by applicants. If the urban renewal area were developed using this mix then the numbers would be as follows:
Here we have split 2 and 3 bed dwellings equally between flats and houses.
What would be the carbon footprint of this development be?
The carbon footprint that can be attributed to this development is made up from:
Embedded emissions from construction of dwellings.
Operational emissions from buildings in use.
For buildings emissions can be approximately calculated from floor area, we assume that development is to the minimum space standard introduced in 2015. This standard takes into account the number of occupants as well as the number of bedrooms, so a one bedroom flat may have one or two occupants. Apply the minimum floor areas in this standard to our required annual housing numbers:
Embedded emissions from construction depend on the construction type, the following values are assumed, and are applied to a floor area of 45969 m2:
CLT stands for cross laminated timber, which is a lightweight construction that can be used for up to 9 storeys. It lends itself to offsite pre-fabrication. CLT panels have good thermal properties.
The above embedded emissions do not take account of sequestration caused by the carbon sequestered whilst trees are growing being locked up in the structure of a dwelling. If this is taken into account it could be that CLT construction is carbon negative.
The operational emissions can be approximated from past energy performance certificates, combined with an aspiration that the new building regulations will reduce operational emissions to 25% of current building regulations. The average current CO2 emissions from properties with an EPC rating C and above since 2015 is about 24kg CO2e/m2/year. So we assume that these dwellings will be built to 6kg CO2e/m2/year. This gives operational emissions of 276 tCO2e per year.
As no car travel is necessary with these sites, there are no additional transport emissions.
If the urban renewal sites are built at 750 dwellings per year, it will take nearly 4 years to construct these dwellings. If we allocate embedded emissions to the year of construction, then the total emissions over the first few years would be:
Comparison with development of more out of town sites
Suppose that instead we built 750 brick built 3/4 bedroomed homes on sites 3 miles from the town centre.
Assume these have an average floor area of 100m2, then the embedded emissions would be 73.1 tonnes per house, or 54,825 tonnes for 750 houses.
The operational emissions would be 450 tonnes per year.
We assume that a resident 3 miles from the town centre travels everywhere by car including travel to work, shopping and leisure. This might amount to 8,000 miles per year. Worse sites 3 miles from the town centre are generally at a higher altitude, so will require additional energy to go uphill that is not regained downhill. 8,000 miles in an average petrol or diesel car emits 2.5 tCO2e/year, and a diesel 2.2 tCO2e/year. Even an EV powered from grid electricity would emit 0.8tCO2e/year. If we assume 20% EV, 40% diesel and 40% petrol, then the average car would emit about 2t CO2e/year.
Even if we assume 1 car per house, then there are an additional 1500 tonnes from cars. It would be more realistic to assume 2 cars with one being used less, so effectively 1.5 cars.
Putting all this together for the first few years we get:
Once built this option has nearly 10 times the emissions than the alternative low carbon option.
A meeting of the council executive on 1st June passed a motion to run a public consultation on site options for the local plan from 14th June to 9th August.
Executive Committee meeting
You can watch the proceedings of the executive committee here , this gives access to a recording of the whole meeting, the local plan is item 6 on the agenda, which you can select from the menu on the right.
Jackie Hook said “We will have to choose some sites, help us to choose the least damaging. This isn’t however about who can gather the biggest petition against a site, this is about bringing to the council’s attention additional planning related information and knowledge.”
Local plan consultation on sites
Part 2 of the local plan has now been published and can be found here.
As you may know, the Government has told Teignbridge it must build 751 houses a year (they had planned to order 1,532 houses a year!). The council therefore has to identify the sites where the houses can be built. If we do not do this the Government will take over planning at Teignbridge and increase the numbers by 20%.
This consultation asks that members of the public help by:
Checking through the sites and see what may be proposed in your community and commenting about the sites.
Sharing the consultation with your friends and family living in Teignbridge. It’s really important as many people as possible know about the proposals and say what they think to Teignbridge.
This could well be the last time local people are given a say in major planning decisions like this. The Government is proposing to bring in a new system under which land will be zoned. Anything designated for ‘growth’ will be deemed to have ‘planning permission in principle’. Government ministers claim their plan will eliminate ‘red tape’ but many fear that it abolishes any meaningful involvement of residents and local councils in planning matters. The consultation on the possible housing sites ends at 12 Noon on Monday 9th August 2021. Do please have your say
Chapter 11 states Teignbridge’s 2018 carbon footprint and analyses emissions trends over the period 2008-2018, showing that the transport, buildings, agriculture and waste sectors have not reduced over that period.
Electricity consumption is estimated to grow from 468GWh to 940GWh (101%) as a result of electrification of heat and transport, as well as growth associated with growth mandated by the plan.
The report doesn’t give any detail of how this electrification will be achieved, but the proposed increase in electricity consumption is close to our own estimates based on widespread EV take-up and retrofitting the existing housing stock to near Passiv Haus standards. Indeed the growth in electricity demand is slightly lower than we estimated, so some other demand reduction must be assumed.
Possible sites are identified for 217GWh of wind and 726GWh of solar, totalling 953GWh. So on a whole year basis enough to meet demand. The report identifies a number of constraints, which mean that this much renewable generation is unlikely to be buildable.
Peak demand occurs in the winter, when solar generation is producing least. We see already that in the recent sunny period that grid carbon intensity for the South West can get as low as 30g/kWh when most energy comes from solar and nuclear. Contrast this with winter when on a calm day most of our electricity in the South West comes from gas when grid carbon intensity can exceed 400g/kWh.
The report identifies an increase of 201GWh of demand from heating, which will mainly be needed in the winter months. It also identifies 49 GWh from additional housing, if we assume that this will also be biased towards winter, the additional winter demand could increase to 230GWh. This is more than could be supplied by the identified wind resource. So Teignbridge will need to import more renewable energy from elsewhere during the winter.
A large amount of land is identified as suitable for solar development. Here there is also scope for a significant contribution from rooftop PV, however, this is limited in practice by the ability of local substations to deal with local generation.
We have written a tool which enables you to see details of all active planning applications on a single interactive page. This enables applications to be filtered by date range, parish, ward or Wildlife Warden area, type, decision level. Text search on address, proposal and document description and title is also provided.
A summary of each application is shown with reference number and proposal, this can be expanded to show all details and the latest documents relating to the application. There are links from the reference number to the application on the TDC site, as well as to the documents page for the application.
University of Exeter is developing a low carbon strategy to determine where and how renewable energy generation and low carbon development should feature in the district, and will feature in Part 2 of the local plan.
Authority participating in DELETTI and will install double rapid EV chargers in four of Teignbridge’s AQMAs.
Shortlist of 12 sites selected in collaboration with parish councils for On-street Residential Charging Scheme (ORSCS) in car parks.
Draft local plan requires installation of EV chargers in new development.
Joint bid submitted under the Cosy Devon partnership to delivery energy efficiency improvements for low-income households. A further bid for £1.14M has been submitted to deliver authority led improvements.
The Authority has participated in the Solar Together scheme. 917 solar PV and 153 battery storage systems are proposed as part of the scheme across Devon.
Low-carbon social housing projects include Drake Road, East Street and Sherbourne House. These will achieve high carbon and energy standard and feature Air Source Heat Pumps and EV charging points.
William Elliot has been measuring the authority’s own carbon footprint, annually Scope 1 & 2 emissions are 2Mt CO2 and Scope 3 emissions 6.7Mt
The Authority is currently working on a Carbon Action Plan to identify a cost and carbon efficient pathway to becoming carbon neutral, which will cover about 40 projects across 15 buildings owned by the authority. A budget of £E3.6M over 2021-2024 has been allocated, and a grant application for £3.1M has been submitted covering seven sites, which could deliver a combined reduction of 400 tonnes of CO2/yr. A full report will be submitted to Executive Council in April 2021.
TDC is a signatory of the Devon Climate Emergency and is supporting the Devon Carbon Plan, the consultation on the interim plan has just ended, following a Citizen’s Assembly the final Devon Carbon Plan is due for adoption by Local Authorities in summer 2021.
Following the declaration of an Ecological emergency in September 2020, plans are in hand to plant 1,500 trees in Q1 2021 in partnership with the Woodland Trust and Idverde. A tree strategy is progressing and a draft will be available for consultation in Q1 2021. The Authority has committted £5,000 to Devon Wildlife Trust to support a habitat mapping exercise.
It was reported that ACT’s Wildlife Warden Scheme has received 75 applications and has trained 50 wardens to date.
I remember as a student putting a shilling (2.5p) in the meter to run one bar of an electric fire for an hour to heat my single room. The heat was soon lost again due to poor insulation.
I now live in a large house heated to a steady 21C by an air source heat pump that uses less energy per hour than the one bar fire did to heat a single room, even in cold weather. It also heats water twice a day to 55C.
Our heat pump works by extracting heat from the air outside and using it to heat water, which then circulates through the underfloor heating system. This works well because the floor area radiating heat is much larger than traditional radiators, so the circulating water does not need to be as hot as in a conventional system. The key point is that the electrical energy needed to run the pump is much lower than the heat energy it provides.
Many households will need to replace their gas or oil boilers with heat pumps if we are to have any chance of reaching the government’s net zero carbon target by 2050. Heating accounted for nearly one third of UK household greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, according to the Energy Saving Trust. We need to cut heating emissions by 95% to reach net zero by 2050, it says.
So far we have made little progress. Currently, biomass is the main source of low emission heat in British homes, primarily supplied via wood burning stoves. Around 1 million homes make use of this energy source, according to the Climate Change Committee, which advises the UK government. Heat pumps account for fewer than one in 100 sales a year of heating systems and show little sign of becoming more popular.
Part of the problem is that heat pumps work best in houses that are well insulated and airtight. That makes them a good choice for new build houses. My house, for example, was built 10 years ago and designed for maximum energy efficiency. It is an oak framed building with insulated wall and roof panels, underfloor insulation and triple glazed windows. Plus solar panels and the heat pump. It has an Energy Performance Certificate rating of A and is as airtight as possible while still being well ventilated.
Installations in older buildings are possible but it is important to obtain a professional whole house heat loss calculation so that the heat pump and radiators or underfloor heating are correctly sized. If this is not done a heat pump may not work well.
It is likely you will have to improve your home’s insulation before you can install a heat pump, but this is an investment worth making however you decide to heat your home. It will reduce your energy use, which is the first step to decarbonising your home.