Wind Farm Revolts Spread Across Britain

Local revolts by British residents against wind farms are to blame for the number of planning approvals hitting record lows, an industry report has warned.

More than 230 campaign groups across the country are putting plans to generate more than a quarter of Britain’s electricity in jeopardy, it was claimed.

New figures show one in three wind farm applications were approved by councils amid heightened opposition from angry residents.

Approvals in England has fallen by 50 per cent half over the past year while the number of new wind farms coming “on-stream”, or becoming active, has dropped by almost a third.

The report, from RenewableUK, which represents the wind farm industry, blamed a groundswell of opposition in areas including Kent, Yorkshire and Cornwall and Scotland.

The report, to be published next week, casts doubt on the government’s ability to meet its ambition of generating a fifth of Britain’s energy from renewable sources by the end of the decade.

“The industry has significant concerns for both the rate and consistency of local decision-making on projects yet to come forward for determination,” the report concluded.

According to the report, seen by The Independent, it can take seven years to build an offshore wind farm and more than two years to obtain planning permission.

But changes to planning laws, due to be announced later this year, are expected to make it harder for wind farm to be built as local councils are given more power over decision making.

“The court of public opinion plays a big role here,” said Maurice Cann, head of planning at Hambleton District Council.

“I can see the situation getting worse. Some of these structures are 125m high and have a huge visual impact.

“It does not surprise me at all that so many applications are getting rejected.”

Michael Hird, from the Campaign against Wind farms, said his group’s campaign was working while environmentalists called for a compromise.

The Daily Telegraph, 28 October 2010

UK Carbon Tax May Force High Tech Companies Abroad
SourceWire, 26 October 2010

It is less public facing than the hospital and public sectors, and uses less energy than the exempt transport sector – at 6,000MWh/yr — but when it comes to business and carbon emissions, the data centre industry has received little mention, despite being one of the most affected by recent changes to the UK’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC).

The announcement by the UK government last week that rebates would be turned into a fee could put the UK data centre industry at risk, according to some data centre specialists who spoke with our DatacenterDynamics London conference organisers.

The industry has since warned rising energy prices without incentives could send data centre business offshore, where nuclear and renewable power is readily available, and change the face of the industry as we know it.

The UK Government said it was scrapping plans to offer rebates to companies found to hit the top of a league list created under its original plans to highlight businesses that had made large moves towards efficiency.

Instead, the government said it will hold on to the £1bn worth of funds expected to be raised in 2014 and 2015 as part of what is now being called a ‘stealth tax’ by the industry.

Data centre operators will now face a direct tax on energy consumption at £10 to £15 per tonne of CO2 allowances and 1 tonne of CO2 equating to roughly 500kWh of grid electricity (which will raise the price of energy by about 10%), according to reports.

Britain’s data centres produce 2% of the total amount of greenhouse gas emitted in the UK each year – the UK Government’s Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) scheme affects those industries which make up 10% of overall emissions.

UK-based Romonet, which researches energy and cost points within the data centre, told DatacenterDynamics London, which will soon host its annual conference, that the changes could have wide implications for the data centre industry.

Romonet CTO Liam Newcombe said the large collocation and hosting data centre operators would be most affected, having to find a possible additional £500,000 in OPEX costs.“The change in the recycling payments will clearly have a substantial impact on the UK data centre sector,” Newcombe said.

“No longer is CRC simply a complex regulatory burden that will cost a lot of money in compliance and reporting. It is now and expensive tax as well. A medium-sized collocation data centre can expect to add £500,000 to its annual OPEX for the purchase of allowances in addition to the compliance costs.”

For some operators, this could be enough to halt new projects in the UK, and for some businesses, it could lead to a drop off in business, as clients investigate offshore options offering lower energy costs.

“This change to CRC will, in combination with the already high cost of electricity in the UK, cause some operators to build new facilities in other countries instead. This is likely to be particularly true for outsourcers and cloud (computing) providers who are able to deliver services from remote data centres with little overhead,” Newcombe said.

“Instead of leading the development and delivery of new technologies and services that generate service and IP exports, this displacement drives the UK towards being a consumer and importer of such new developments.”

Data centre development company Lockerbie Data Centres is currently working on a 272,000 sq m data centre north of Lockerbie, Scotland, which it says will follow world-class sustainable practices which will incorporate energy-efficient technologies.

Lockerbie Data Centre’s project director David King said he expects the data centre environment will be unsettled for some time following the UK Government’s announcement, but the changes to the CRC could actually be positive for collocation providers.

“It could take a year or more before the data centre industry really knows what it is dealing with in regards to the CRC. One thing we do know is that end users will not be investing in great numbers at this time. The CRC is a cost at the end of the day,” King said.

Further, King notes “I think that UK businesses may be driven now to outsource from the enterprise data centre into a collocation operation or into the wholesale market as they will be forced to go with larger data centres that can be twice as efficient due to scale. Some people, however, will be put off investing in the UK until they fully assess what the financial picture is.”

The UK is not immune to criticism regarding energy policy and provision. Last year, representatives from Digital Britain told DatacenterDynamics that data centres in the country already struggled when it came to acquiring physical connections and installing cables, switches and transformers to the regional grid. A Digital Britain report also showed that data centres had issues accessing distribution and generation capacity across the grid. The report said that the South East of England and London – the UK’s financial hub which houses data centre reliant on low-latency connections for financial trading – pose particular challenges that jeopardize the UK’s standing against the world’s more accessible data centre markets.

According to Thomson Reuters Global Head of Energy & Sustainable Technology, Content, Technology & Operations Harkeeret Singh, who will be speaking at DatacenterDynamic’s London On November 9th, the uncertainty surrounding last week’s announcement could be enough to cause a blow for the industry.

“The initial cost and the uncertainty are not a good mix for those considering placing data centres in the UK, especially if another country is a bit more stable in its energy and tax options,” Singh said.

Full story

Thousands Of Green Jobs Go Up In Smoke
Financial Times, 27 October 2010

Clare MacCarthy

Vestas, the world’s largest wind power company, is to cut up to 3,000 jobs – some 14 per cent of its global workforce – because of excess capacity and a cut in order expectations in Europe.

The closures of four production facilities in Denmark and one in Sweden were announced on Tuesday with the Denmark-based group’s third-quarter results. Net profits fell to €126m ($176m) from €165m a year earlier and sales declined 5.1 per cent to €1.72bn.

Shares in Vestas tumbled more than 8 per cent to DKr183.30 in afternoon trading in Copenhagen.

The closures in Denmark – representing about a third of its current domestic workforce – will come as a severe disappointment in its native country. As a pioneer in the industry worldwide, Vestas is cherished as a national champion though many industry watchers harbour deep concerns about its fluctuating fortunes. Support functions at locations worldwide will also be affected.

Ditlev Engel, chief executive, said Vestas was increasing its global market share because of orders booked during 2010.

“Based on the expectations we have for 2011 in Europe, however, we must now recognise that a higher European level of activity will not be realistic – at least not in the short term,” he said.

Mr Engel, who joined Vestas as chief executive in 2005, has presided over several deep redundancy rounds but has managed to internationalise the company out of its Danish homeland by opening production plants in the US, China and Spain.

“The distribution between the regions of Europe, North America and Asia is today out of balance, and the situation in Europe is very clear when you look at the number of orders in relation to how many employees we have. To ensure the competitiveness of Vestas, we therefore have to act in a very offensive and very drastic way today,” he said.

Mr Engel said it was cheaper for Vestas to produce a wind turbine in Spain and ship it to Sweden than to send it out of Denmark. A turbine manufactured in China and shipped to Denmark cost about the same as making it at home.

Full story

Scottish Wind Turbine Firm Goes Bust
Argyllshire Standard, 26 October 2010

A WIND turbine manufacturer which received around £15m of support from the Scottish government to set up and expand a manufacturing site at Machrihanish has gone bust.

Danish company Skykon was hailed as an economic saviour for the Kintyre area after it took over the former Vestas factory in the spring of last year. The firm announced on Tuesday that it had filed for a suspension of payments to creditors.

Skycon was awarded a grant of £9.2m through Scottish Development International, along with a £500,000 training grant from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). At the beginning of this year, it was reported that the company had been awarded a further £5m by HIE towards an extension to the Machrihanish plant, with company sources saying that it hoped to create 300 jobs by 2012.

Around 120 people were employed at the site until this week, and it is understood that staff were told on Tuesday morning that they had been laid off.

In a statement, Skykon said: “The wind turbine industry is project-based and very cyclical, and it is currently being affected by a number of negative factors in the wake of the financial crisis. These effects have also impacted Skykon to the effect that we are in a very cash-strapped situation.”



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