Memorandum submitted by the British Wind
1. To evaluate the level of expenditure on
R&D in non-carbon energy technologies, by the UK Government,
the Research Councils, the Carbon Trust and industry and where
it is being directed
UK state support for R&D in onshore wind
has largely ceased. Limited research fundings are available for
wind power in the UK through EPSRC, and an even more limited amount
through the DTI New & Renewable Energies Programme, including
£1.2 million directed to offshore wind and a further £74
million in the shape of capital grants. What monies are available
tend not to be directed towards pure RD&D.
Turbine manufacturers do have their own in-house
RD&D programmes, but these will be aimed at their own products
and take place, in the main, outside the influence of UK factors.
Were RD&D funding available through UK initiatives,
we feel that this would help attract manufacturing base back to
the UK, which itself would have beneficial effects on the necessary
skills level and workforce envisaged for the future wind industry.
By way of example, we would cite the instance of Taywood Aerolaminates,
a UK company involved in the manufacture of wind turbine blades.
DTI RD&D funding allowed this company to become so firmly
established in the UK that when a takeover occurred, it was a
natural choice that the company and its expertise remain in the
UK. The new company, NEG Micon Rotors, are now the largest employers
in the UK wind industry.
2. To identify which technologies are, or
should be, receiving support and how much investment is directed
at research, development and demonstration respectively
Much is expected of the UK wind industry, and
in particular, the offshore sector. The dramatic rate of growth
necessary to achieve such aspirations will require support from
all quarters, including the maintenance of a solid bedrock research
BWEA would also note that although wind energy
is a relatively commercially mature industry compared to other
renewable technologies in the UK, it is still a fledgling industry
and as such there is a need for continued fundamental research
to achieve projected costs savings and performance improvements,
vital to maintain the viability of the wind industry. Such ongoing
R&D includes whole life, accelerated durability and longevity
testing, and developing and accrediting dependable systems for
predicting output over various timescales.
Specific to the onshore sector, co-generation
opportunities should be identified, such as biodiesel, and hybrid
wind-solar systems, together with better technology to maximise
low wind speed areas.
Looking specifically offshore, foundation designs
for wind turbines need to be developed and tested for different
seabed conditions; oil, gas and hydropower generation offshore
could be combined and transported onshore and technologies need
to be developed and integrated to ensure the UK becomes the leader
in hybrid wind and hydrogen power.
Furthermore, there a number of issues that are
common to offshore wind, wave and tidal generation technologies.
BWEA is working closely with colleagues in the wave and tidal
industries to ensure a co-ordinated approach to the development
of the offshore renewables sector, including RD&D requirements.
|Planning consents||Simulation of active electricity networks
|Grid connectivity and embedded generation
|Electricity transmission||Blade fatigue
|Environmental studies||Turbine reliability
|Wind resource and forecasting
|Power transmission technologies
The following matrix illustrates the priorities for RD&D
spend both by the time period in which it takes place as well
as the specific area (research or development) in which it is
|Short term (1-2 years)
||Medium term (2-5 years)
||Long term (5+ years)
||Larger turbine designs, novel designs
|Development||Planning consents, installation, foundations, risk reduction
||Environmental, embedded generation, monitoring of machines, reliability, wind forecasting
||Transmission options (eg hydrogen)|
|Note: Timescale is when the product is required and not when the RD&D should be carried out.
3. To assess the skills base and the state of RD&D
for different technologies
The UK renewables industry is at risk of being hampered by
the lack of engineering graduates and other qualified personnel.
This could affect not only the capabilities for future expansion
but could also result in the UK losing the early-mover advantage
it currently holds in the field of marine renewable technologies.
An active research presence in Universities and research institutes
would ensure a steady stream of students equipped with up-to-date
knowledge; these graduates will be a vital input into a rapidly
Furthermore, Britain has an excellent technology pool from
its experiences over the last 30 years in oil and gas. Technology
and personnel transfer from oil and gas and "sunset"
industries into offshore renewables will be a key factor in the
success of this new sector. Equally, "joined up thinking"
and promotion of wind energy opportunities to UK companies that
can be a part of a greater wind energy supply chain would also
encourage any appropriate skills.
4. To establish how Government policy on energy RD&D
is formulated, implemented and evaluated and the nature of co-ordination
between department, external agencies and industry
There is a need for co-ordination in Government policy on
energy RD&D between departments, agencies and industries.
BWEA is in agreement with the recommendations of the PIU report,
specifically that a dedicated national research centre be established
to boost the profile of energy research and attract high calibre
scientists into the field.
However BWEA notes that such a centre will almost certainly
be geographically distributed as it is hard to imagine a single
site with the correct skills and infrastructure to carry out work
on wind, wave and tidal energy as well as, for instance, the hydrogen
A wide-reaching industry forum (which BWEA would be pleased
to assist in organising) to take soundings from the wind and related
technologies would be a helpful activity.
5. To establish the level of and rationale for international
collaboration in energy RD&D and how the priorities are determined
Notwithstanding EU-led RD&D programmes which require
cross-boundary collaboration and tend towards demonstration rather
than deployment, there is potential for RD&D through trade
partnership with other countries.
BWEA feels that international collaboration would be of benefit.
Offshore renewables in particular has many trans-boundary issues,
such as fisheries, navigation and impacts on birds. Equally, the
needs and experiences of the different countries in RD&D,
construction, maintenance, operations etc are very similar and
should be shared wherever possible in order to minimise costs.
BWEA believes that there is a potential need for a set of
international technical standards for offshore wind farm construction
and operation and that the adoption of such would be of significant
value regarding issues of financing and insurance.
6. To examine the effect on energy RD&D of privatisation,
liberalisation, regulation and changes in ownership in the sector
The overall effect of privatisation and liberalisation on
energy RD&D has been very negative. RD&D budgets of privatised
companies have shrunk dramatically; the emphasis is on the short
term and this is exacerbated both by the demands of the stock
market and a volatile energy market. In addition corporate RD&D
is rarely associated with technologies (such as the hydrogen economy)
that do not have near-term financial payoffs.
There needs to be a greater funding focus directed towards
the supply chain, for example, helping British companies to diversify
current technologies, develop new technologies and plants and
keep abreast of new technological advances.
7. To make comparisons with overseas competitors
BWEA is in broad agreement with the findings of the October
2001 IEA report on R&D in the Wind Energy Sector.
The study brought together 17 countries as well as the European
Commission, to identify the appropriate level of wind energy research
out to 2020.
The report indicates that, although costs have already fallen
dramatically, if wind energy is going to supply 10% of the world's
electricity needs by 2020, cost reductions in the technology of
30%-50% are still necessary, which would enable wind power, particularly
from the offshore sector, to be price-competitive with conventional
generation technologies. The report notes that R&D work could
contribute up to 40% of those cost reductions.
BWEA also notes the findings of the Energy Research Review
specifically the table contained in Annex B: "International
Government Expenditure on Energy R&D". Key data from
this table is included below; the numbers speak for themselves.
The UK is home to the greatest wind resource in Europe, if not
the world, yet has the third lowest per capita R&D spend on
renewables. Although DTI has announced that it intends to increase
R&D spend in 2001 to £18 million;
on a per capita basis this represents only £0.31 and still
leaves the UK well down in both European and international rankings.
Such "back of the envelope" calculations take no account
of the fact that the other countries are almost certain to have
announced increases in their R&D budgets for renewables.
||Total R&D Spend|
|Per capita R&D spend|
|*R&D spend is shown for the most recent year available.
20 September 2002
"Long term research and development needs for wind energy
for the time frame 2000 to 2020" IEA R&D Wind Executive
Committee. October 2001. Back
Chief Scientific Adviser's Energy Research Review Group-recommendations
to inform the PIU's Energy Policy Review. Undated. Back
DTI's New and Renewable Energy Policy Document. Section 3-Form
of Support. Back