Going off-grid: the UK’s evolving medium wind market

When Norvento first began to consider an entrance into the UK market four years ago, its medium-scale wind sector was one of the strongest in Europe. With the support of the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) scheme, the sector grew a further eightfold between 2013 and 2015, establishing itself as a major part of the rural economy.

Owners of medium-scale wind turbines ” in particular landowners – could use the high FiT rates, both to offset the Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) on site and make healthy profits selling power back to the grid.

Unfortunately, over recent months, the aggressive programme of quarterly degressions to the FiT rate, coupled with a tariff cut, has made it clear that subsidy and planning support for UK medium wind is on the way out.
Norvento wind equipment

But, while this presents a serious challenge to the industry ” one that will no doubt see the cancellation of a number of medium-scale projects ” looking at the bigger picture, there are wider economic developments at play that promise to offset these difficulties in policy. Ultimately these changes will encourage manufacturers, developers and independent power producers to adopt a longer-term perspective of the benefits provided by medium wind – and adjust their sights to the post-subsidy market.

Aside from the withdrawal of the subsidy, the two key drivers behind this shift will be improvements in the performance and efficiency of medium wind technology, along with falling costs for both equipment and installation. Combined, these factors have driven down the cost of unsubsidised on-site wind energy generation to the point that it is now on a par with ” or cheaper than ” grid electricity prices.

What’s more, all financial projections show that, in the coming years, the LCOE of medium wind will continue to fall, even as retail electricity prices rise. This means that users who are able to directly consume wind energy on site ” such as high-energy industrial and commercial enterprises ” will be able to start benefitting from a substantial cost hedge, resulting in considerable long-term savings.

As I’ve mentioned, this will require an adjustment in perspective – and an end to the days of seeking instant returns – but it’s nonetheless an indication that medium wind will remain a viable option in the UK market for many years to come.

Norvento has always aimed to provide technology that meets the specific demands of the UK market ” and, with this evolution in mind, we’re proud to announce the launch of a new model of our nED100 turbine, which will help independent power producers maximise the impact of the energy cost hedge by boosting the efficiency of projects, whilst reducing the overall cost of generation.

The new nED100 model benefits from smaller and more compact generator, as well as a lighter, redesigned nacelle and a 24-metre blade design that boosts performance by 3%. A rethink of our manufacturing processes means that the turbine now comes in at a cost below that of the original model, despite these efficiency gains. There are also a number of modifications targeted at increasing the effectiveness of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance in order to bring down long-term service costs.

With these improvements, it’s probably fair to say that nED100 has become the first medium wind turbine to be optimised for the post-subsidy market ” and as wind power moves towards grid parity, we’re fully expecting that this kind of technology will feature more and more to support energy-intensive on-site operations.

What’s more, as the shift towards on-site generation continues, manufacturers, developers and service providers supporting the medium wind sector will increasingly turn their attentions to alternative renewable energy technologies as they aim to deliver a more comprehensive range of equipment and services.

High-energy users throughout the UK and Europe, including utilities and commercial entities, are currently under huge pressure to cut costs with the aforementioned electricity price rises and the impact of green taxes ” and clean energy schemes are increasingly becoming part of the answer to the challenges they’re facing.

Indeed, as the market continues to develop, many of these organisations are now looking to go one step further than installing an on-site turbine, by developing integrated energy management systems that can be used both on-grid and off-grid ” incorporating wind, solar, biogas and energy storage systems, alongside energy efficiency measures.

To support this diversification of on-site generation, Norvento has recently turned its attentions to biogas. We are now rolling out “Bio-Plants” ” a distributed, modular and integrated anaerobic digestion (AD) solution aimed at farmers and smaller industries looking for a way to optimise returns from their waste.

Norvento Bio-Plants have been successfully installed and operated in Spain and we feel that they have strong potential in the UK market. Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Amber Rudd, has admitted that the UK is falling behind targets in respect to “renewable heat”, and this launch will hopefully go some way to addressing this issue.
à‚ Norvento wind power assembly

à‚ AD installations qualify for the UK government’s Domestic Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) and are ideal for meeting on-site needs. Deployment of nED100 wind turbines together with Norvento Bio-Plants can make for a powerful combination, with one providing peak electricity and the other providing a baseline heat and/or electricity.

à‚ By combining multiple forms of generation in this manner, alongside energy storage systems, organisations will be able to create their own ‘microgrid’. At our headquarters in Spain, Norvento is currently building such a ‘microgrid’, with a view, not only to cutting our own energy bills and becoming energy independent, but also to creating a model that can be rolled out across other energy intensive businesses.

à‚ In order to do so, we’re now providing turnkey off-grid services that will help these users throughout the design and procurement phases right through to project execution. All of these integrated systems can be regulated by a unique Microgrid Controller known as ‘OG+’ that Norvento has developed in-house.

Norvento’s new headquarters is currently one of a few buildings in Europe rated by BREEAM standards as “outstanding” and, with these services, we’re aiming to help commercial users throughout the UK and Europe attain similar environmental standards. We’re expecting to fully complete the headquarters project later this summer ” so watch this space!

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