World's Largest Offshore Wind Farm Race
As Britain strives to reach European renewable energy targets, the world's largest offshore wind farm is on the rise off the coasts of Kent and Essex. This summer, a new milestone has been reached with the erection of London Array's 100th wind turbine of the 175 turbines to come online in Phase 1 of the project, accounting for 630 megawatts of power.
Onshore wind farms are a sore sight for eyes. In 2010, almost half of the applicants for expanding onshore wind farms were rejected as people vocally opposed the visual impact of the developments on the landscape. But for offshore wind power, efforts are expanding rapidly. Since Britain's first offshore wind farm near Blyth in Northumberland opened in 2000, another 14 farms have been built around the country. Another six are under construction and seven have planning approval.
Suddenly, meeting the European Union's targets of generating 15 per cent of its energy needs from renewable sources by 2020 doesn't seem so far out of reach. Despite Britain's slow progress towards that goal, the government has estimated that offshore wind alone could meet Britain's current energy demand 10 times over.
“Forty years ago, we were discovering North Sea oil, and now, as we find ourselves on the cusp of a technological revolution, we are sitting on the most fabulous resource once again,” Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth told the Telegraph. “It would be a tragedy if we didn’t exploit it.”
When construction is over, the London Array will generate a significant amount of work for locals as the area becomes a focus of renewable energy expertise. The purpose-built operations and maintenance base will employ 90 staff, including apprentices being trained as wind turbine technicians.
Phase one will be foretelling of the effect of the massive turbine systems on local marine life and fishing activities. The number of turbines in the first phase was reduced from 158 to 175 in order to protect the red-throated divers in the Thames Estuary and further assessment is needed on the wind farm's impact on birds before phase two proceeds.
Britain will be in somewhat of a competition with the North East, where a cluster of wind farms in the Irish Sea is currently the largest in the world. Furthermore, Denmark was generating 26 per cent of its power from wind at the end of 2011, compared to a whopping four per cent in Britain. But despite its slow start, the country is rapidly increasing its capacity and on track to taking the next title as the next wind superpower.
At the opening of the Walney scheme, energy secretary Lib Dem MP Ed Davey said:
"Britain has a lot to be proud of in our growing offshore wind sector. Our island's tremendous natural resource, our research base and a proud history of engineering make this the number one destination for investment in offshore wind.
"And Walney is the newest, biggest and fastest-built jewel in that crown, providing clean power for hundreds of thousands of households.
"Opening Walney during my first week in office lets me underline my commitment to continuing the coalition's work to make this sector a success story for the British economy, not least with the innovation it is driving and the employment it is creating."
DEVELOPING MASSIVE TURBINES
Earlier this year, the US and UK announced plans to collaboratively develop massive floating offshore wind turbines that can be deployed in deep waters further out at sea. Energy ministers from the world's 23 largest economies met in London at the Clean Energy Ministerial in May, co-chaired by US and UK Energy Secretaries Steven Chu and Edward Davey. Together, they announced that the US and UK would be working together to capitalise on this endeavour.
Unlike turbines resting on towers offshore, floating turbines are able to be located in waters several hundred metres deep, increasing the areas of sea and ocean that can be harvested for wind while gaining greater access to faster winds. It would also remove the turbines from the sight of local communities that are not completely enthused about having to look at a wind farm on their scenic coast.
The UK's Energy Technology Institute is going to invest $41 million in the project. Selected participants can submit concepts of a floating wind turbine between five and seven megawatts capacity, and the winner will be expected to produce a working prototype by 2016. The US Department of Energy has put forth a $180 million funding opportunity for four offshore wind demonstration projects.
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere