Select Committee on Science and Technology Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Dr Garry Jenkins, Gazelle Wind Turbines Ltd

  1.  I have been involved in wind energy since 1986. I have been involved in renewable energy since 1977, and some of this work has been funded through the UK's R&D programme renewable energy. I have long observed the UK's R&D programmes on renewable energy.

  2.  At Gazelle Wind Turbines Ltd we have been developing a small grid connected wind turbine since 1996. It is a 20kW rated power turbine with a rotor diameter of 11 metres and a hub height of 13.5 metres. A leaflet is attached.

  3.  The original development of this product was carried out under the DTI Smart and Spur awards for innovation. The only direct funding received from the UK wind energy R&D budget was £3,000 in 1996 to carry out some initial market research.

  4.  The initial Smart funding enabled North Energy Associates Ltd, a small consultancy company of which I am a director, to employ two engineers to draw up a prototype design.

  5.  The Spur funding enabled the prototype turbine to be built. To do this we had to set up a company Gazelle Wind Turbines Ltd, at the time 51% owned by a local SME engineering company MKW Engineering Ltd of Ryton on Tyneside. They have been manufacturing partners ever since. MKW have put a lot of money into the project, as have various "friends and family"

  6.  Product development has been slow and difficult, as is the nature of R&D. We have built five turbines to date, and a sixth will be on order in two or three weeks. Turbines have been installed at an innovation centre, a private house, an ethical cosmetics factory, a primary school and a dairy farm

  7.  I believe that, world-wide, this is an excellent niche market to attempt to break in to. There is a strong initial demand for this size of turbine, with us receiving hundreds of enquiries. 800 to date, many from overseas.

  8.  We have had no support from the official UK renewables R&D programme since the original £3,000 for a market survey. Funding for development is on an ad-hoc/shoestring basis.

  9.  I have approached the UK renewable energy R&D programme for funding on a number of occasions. Our projects never seem to quite fit into the current call, and so I have effectively given up ever sourcing funds from there.

  10.  The price of the turbine is rather high for widespread competitive use without grant or subsidy. We make them one at a time, to order. They are craftsman made rather like Morgan sports cars rather than mass produced like Nissan Micras or Enercon wind turbines.

  11.  Cost of electricity from our turbines is roughly the same as that from offshore wind farms, or roughly a third of that from PV.

  12.  Areas of development funding which would help to make this product competitive and world class are:

    (a)  aerodynamic modelling and finite element analysis building on work done by CREST at Loughborough University.

    (b)  Design for manufacture and development of castings and lean manufacture.

    (c)  Thorough in-field testing, type testing to IEC 61400, certification to GL standards.

    (d)  Low noise design, noise measurements to IEC standards.

    (e)  Development of own blade building capability (blades currently bought from France).

    (f)  Development of microprocessor based control panel to replace Mitsubishi PLC controller.

    (g)  Development of direct drive/variable speed machine.

  13.  Other support which I believe would help to boost sales:

    (a)  Capital grants for small/medium wind turbines.

    (b)  Enhanced capital allowances for small/medium wind turbines.

    (c)  Reduction of the need for G59 power quality tests from the DNOs.

    (d)  Simple procedure to claim ROCs and LECs.

  14  The R&D which we are able to carry out is done using student projects, particularly the MSc students at CREST, Loughborough University. Other development consultants for tower design have been 50% funded through the Knowledge House scheme run locally for small and medium enterprises by the North East universities.

  15.  The renewable energy R&D programme seems to me to be "fashion" driven. I was involved initially in wave energy R&D in the early 1980s. Then the fashion moved on to geothermal hot rock R&D, then biomass gasifiers and now offshore wind and PV. The late Professor Bob Hill, a world renowned PV expert and friend, would have been overjoyed to have received some of the current £20 Million PV funding back in the 1980's when the UK PV industry could have been carrying out ground breaking R&D.

  16.  I believe that the UK consistently miss the boat by focussing too far ahead on "the next thing" and then not paying for "development" but leaving that to the market, which then will not support such development. "Too close to market" is the phrase often used to avoid having to commit funds at exactly the stage they are required.

  17.  I suggest that SME's be able to obtain 75% funding for RD&D projects. When cash flow is tight, there is little spare for "matching" money.

  18.  A simple two page application for sums under £10,000 and a four pager for sums under £50,000 would give the energy efficiency R&D sector a big boost.

  19.  The DTI's SMART programme should be used as an exemplar as it is very transparent and efficient.

  20.  There are bound to be winners and losers, but it is not possible to pick these before the initial funding has been spent.

4 September 2002

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