Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40
WEDNESDAY 23 JANUARY 2008
Q40 Dr Turner: Is there going to
be a problem with the ability of the turbine manufacturing industry
to simply supply on that scale? I know that at the moment there
is a shortage of actual turbines and that people are having to
wait a long time for them which is holding up developments. If
we are going to expand the scale to that extent, can the industry
support it at the moment?
Dr Edge: We obviously recognise
that this is an issue. Certainly right now, there are very severe
limits on what can be done. We surveyed our members both on the
development side and the manufacturing side to see the mismatch
between supply and demand and what might happen in the future
and we worked out that, by 2015, the limits on supply would maybe
keep us to around 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind but, by that
time, instead of the two major turbine manufacturers that are
in the market, we would have maybe seven or eight and they would
be able to produce enough turbines to be meeting the demand at
that time. Beyond then, eight years down the line, that is plenty
of time and there is plenty of time to develop the new turbines
and have new people come into the field. We have plenty of engineering
companies which have the expertise that could come into the field
specifically offshore because there are different challenges offshore
to onshore. We think that there are plenty of opportunities and
plenty of people coming into the market who see it as attractive.
Q41 Dr Turner: Do you see a technical
issue in offshore as opposed to onshore because, at the moment,
onshore wind turbines are essentially the same turbines stuck
on a pole in the sea? Is there any scope for technological variation
in the marine turbine?
Dr Edge: Absolutely. I have seen
plenty of alternative concepts being put about. The difficulty
is then the time and the expense of bringing those into commercial
reality and that is a five/seven year period and it is many millions
Q42 Mr Marsden: Dr Edge, taking the
Secretary of State's projection of the 33 gigawatts, is it possible
to give any estimate of the amount of marine area that might be
required to achieve that?
Dr Edge: It will be in the thousands
of square kilometres.
Q43 Mr Marsden: I ask that question
because obviously there are a number of exploratory applications
out for the Irish Sea and that is already raising environmental
and other issues there. My colleague Dr Turner spoke earlier and
we were given some priority areas for wave sites, but are there
particular priority areas which might prove particularly fruitful
for offshore wind farms?
Dr Edge: This is what the strategic
environmental assessment which the Government will be taking on
this year for offshore wind will be identifying
Q44 Mr Marsden: Do you have any views
Dr Edge: Certainly I know that
a number of my members are eying the Dogger Bank quite carefully
because that is a very large area of shallow sea in the middle
of the North Sea which could be extremely interesting because
there are fewer conflicts with other sea users. It could be a
staging post to interconnect through to the European mainland
which would be very important in accepting a large amount of variable
wind power on to our, and the mainland European, system.
Q45 Mr Marsden: Mr Wolfe, we are
expecting this week the new EU Statement on Targets which are
expected to be quite demanding is probably the right word to use.
Mr Wolfe: It will be later today.
Mr Marsden: How do you think these targets
impact on the Secretary of State's declared ambition to deploy
33 gigawatts by 2020?
Q46 Chairman: Briefly, Philip, because
I am desperately looking at the time.
Mr Wolfe: They make it important
to do that and a whole lot more as well. The target for the UK
is likely to be in the range of 15-16%. The White Paper published
last year points out that current policy will take us to about
5% by 2020, so we have only a third of what we need in policy
terms to achieve the target.
Q47 Mr Cawsey: You said earlier that
wind technology is the mature technology, yet actually has the
development of it which has been rolled out across the UK in recent
years not been a little disappointing? What do you think have
been the major obstacles in it not going further than it has?
Dr Edge: It has absolutely nothing
to do with the technology and everything to do with our very sclerotic
planning system and difficulties in getting the grid developed
to accept all the power that we might want it to. There is 7,500
megawatts of onshore wind in the planning system being held up
by the planning regime. That is the stuff that is stopping its
Q48 Graham Stringer: As you move
to a greater percentage of electricity generated by wind power,
is it not the experience of other countries that this leads to
instability in the grid?
Dr Edge: The short answer is "no".
A great deal of the propaganda that has been put out by some people
that says that the grid is very unstable is simply propaganda.
If you go to somewhere like Spain where they are already getting
10% of their electricity from wind, there are no issues
Q49 Graham Stringer: I was thinking
more of the experience in Denmark and Ireland.
Dr Edge: They have not had any
Q50 Graham Stringer: Are you saying
categorically that switching between wind power and the rest of
the system when the wind stops blowing does not produce instability
to the grid?
Dr Edge: It is a management issue
which they have managed to cope with without having failures in
Q51 Graham Stringer: So, it is a
problem when you say that
Dr Edge: It is an issue, it is
not a problem. It is manageable.
Q52 Graham Stringer: It is somewhere
between an "issue" and "problem".
Dr Edge: It is not a problem in
that it can be managed and it is managed. Therefore, it is not
a problem; it is merely one of planning and coping with.
Mr Wolfe: To add to that, it is
an issue that needs serious consideration and, while I totally
agree with what Gordon said, we should not underestimate the need
to prepare for it appropriately.
Q53 Graham Stringer: This is fascinating!
Can you refer the Committee to any papers on this that we can
look to in order to define whether it is a problem or not.
Dr Edge: There is a link in my
Mr Loughhead: There are a number
of publications which relate to some of that but I think it would
be fair to say that it deserves further consideration. For example,
Denmark uses the very strong grids of Sweden and Germany to balance
its power and the problems it has experienced has been when those
have not been available. That does not say that it is an insuperable
problem, it means that the solution they have adopted has certain
limitations that were experienced when connectors went down and
things like that.
Q54 Dr Gibson: Is Scotland ahead
of England in any way in all this? I keep seeing things about
Lockerbie with biomass and I hear about Pentland Firth and wind
and wave studies. Is it true?
Professor Wilson: I believe we
have had in a sense an unfair advantage in the hydro schemes of
course which have given us a good start and there is certainly
further capacity for increased hydro, but I think that in the
research as well we are punching well above our weight in the
marine and the PV and in grid handling.
Q55 Dr Gibson: I am interested in
biomass crops. Do you think that we have enough land available
for that or will that hold us up?
Professor Wilson: I think that
is a serious problem. It is not so much in the UK the competition
between food crops and fuel crops, I think it is a matter of how
much highland land which is not food-producing land could be developed
into more of a biofuel. It is locally very important.
Mr Wolfe: This was studied in
some depth by the Biomass Task Force led by Sir Ben Gill and he
concluded that, if the biomass were deployed as heat rather than
electricity, it would produce 7% of the heat of the UK.
Q56 Dr Gibson: So we will import
it. What is the problem?
Mr Wolfe: The biomass?
Q57 Dr Gibson: Yes. We will import
it from England
Mr Wolfe: Or from Latvia or from
Canada. There is quite a lot of biomass importing already going
Q58 Dr Gibson: What is the disadvantage
of the importing in terms of energy consumption?
Mr Loughhead: The disadvantage
generally is that biomass has a lower energy density than conventional
fossil fuels and therefore the transport can impose quite a strong
additional energy consumption on to the system.
Professor Wilson: I think that
even locally in Scotland there is a problem between big producers
able to supply it at a cheaper rate locally than the smaller producers,
so there is not a great deal of encouragement for new producers
to start because of the transport costs.
Q59 Dr Gibson: Where have we got
to with micro-algae and hydrogen? Is it hopeful?
Mr Loughhead: Early stage research.