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Blades for Change Windfarm Proposal 2022

Windfarm Proposal 2022

Blades for Change

Blades for Change Image

Matthew Murphy, Tanvi Kapil, Abdullah

[For ease of reading, please scroll down and download pdf of this article]

What is included in this article:

Introduction

Team Organization

Site Selection

Technical Design

Environmental Impact

Social Impact

Community involvement

Financial Plan

End of life

Conclusion

References

Introduction

This project was carried out to understand how engineers from different fields work collaboratively to design a successful, profitable windfarm while taking into account the various factors such as environmental and social concerns.

Our team, Blades for Change, explored the selection of a suitable location for a wind farm based in England, UK. We took into consideration the social and environmental impacts, and the financial plannings of a big project like this.

Wind energy is the use of wind turbines to generate electricity. Historically, wind power has been used in sails, windmills, and windpumps. Wind power is a popular, sustainable, renewable energy source that has a much smaller impact on the environment than burning fossil fuels. Wind farms consist of many individual wind turbines, which are connected to the electric power transmission network. [1]

The United Kingdom is one of the best locations for wind power in the world and may be the best in Europe. By the beginning of this year, the UK had over 10,000 wind turbines with a total installed capacity of over 24.6 gigawatts (GW): 14.1 GW of onshore capacity and 10.4 GW of offshore capacity.

Lets look at more impact of wind power. In America alone, wind power prevents the release of about 62 million tons of greenhouse gases, and it conserves 20 billion gallons of water annually. This should encourage and motivate us for a sustainable future with renewable sources of energy powering our homes.

Team Organisation

As a team, we decided to split up the tasks so each member could have something to work on.

Project Gantt Chart

Figure 1 – Project Gantt Chart

Site Selection

The location we chose is close to the coast and the Lake District national park, which is located to the south of the proposed project site. Silloth port is 8.3 miles away (11 minutes drive) away where we could transport all parts necessary for construction via B Road B5302. The project will have a construction time of 9 months.

This site has no large forestry and is not in an area of conservation or importance. It is not a RAMSAR site and has a moderate landscape capacity. Up to a small group, or exceptionally a large group of turbines will be suitable. [2] Regarding the archaeology and culture heritage of this site, the proposed location has a nearby castle St. Mungo’s Castle at Bromfield.

The biodiversity of this location should be considered in which there is a small SSSI in Thornhill which should be avoided, additionally a RAMSAR at the coast, more than 5km away. The site is over 11km away from the nearest airfield at Brayton which is suitable as many standards state the distance between wind turbines and airfields should be more than around 1.5km.

Regarding the existing infrastructure in this location, there was a recently rejected development near Abbeytown. The residents fought the plans as it had people living a quarter of a mile from the site. Allerdale councilors on the development panel refused the plans on grounds that the windfarm would have a detrimental visual impact on the landscape and would harm tourism.

The benefit of this location is that it is in a near coastal region and there are minimal obstacles that may disrupt the wind. However, this site is near a national park and near a local windfarm at Silloth, near to properties (500m).

The terrain of the land is flat, it’s low farmland with some coastal mosses which means there is no wind enhancing obstacles such as tunnel effects where wind accentuated into a valley between surrounding hills becomes accelerated. Due to elevation, the wind speed increases the higher you move above ground level.

Concerns were raised by councilors that country lanes would not support huge trucks delivering to the site which will be avoided by making use of the main road to get close to the site and only travel on the country roads for a small portion of the journey.

This site has the lowest average wind speed compared to other proposed locations; however, we believe that due to the land conditions and the local authority’s positive view to wind power it was a strong choice to locate our wind farm. The following is an image showing the landscape of the proposed location along with the windspeed, shown in Figure 2.

Cumbria Wind Energy Map

Figure 2 – Cumbria Wind Energy Map

Technical Design

As introduced previously the project will be placed on the West Coast near to the Lake District national park, so by using turbines placed closer to the coast the turbines will be generating more energy due to the higher wind speeds. The area of the plant is 10km^2 which can be seen in Figure 3 including the wind speeds at a height of 110m which is the hub height for the turbines selected in this project.

Wind Speed at the proposed site at 110m

Figure 3 – Wind Speed at the proposed site at 110m

The maximum wind speed can be seen as 9.03m/s on the upper left of the project's designated area, the area closest to the coast. From here the area had to be investigated in Google Earth which shows the topology and the local buildings and roads which can't be built onto. The area of the wind farm on Google Earth is displayed in Figure 4 below,

Proposed Site Location

Figure 4 – Proposed Site Location

From here the wind farm design had to stay out of range of the SSSI zone as shown on the map in yellow and keep a safe distance from residents and roads. The project ensures at least 1km is kept between the residents and any turbines and 1.5x turbine height (tower + radius) setback from any roads.

Ten turbines were selected for the project to ensure the power capacity was below 60MW, meaning no change had to be made to the grid connection and saving any adjustment costs necessary. The ten turbines were placed carefully to ensure the areas of interest were avoided and effort was made to place the turbines within the areas with the greatest wind speed as shown in Figure 3. Another consideration was the wake losses which occur when turbines are placed near each other as the turbines nearby affect the flow conditions making the air flowing through them less “clean”. The flow direction at the windfarm site was as shown in the wind rose in Figure 5,

Wind rose and power curve

Figure 5 – Wind rose and power curve

The wind clearly travels from Southwest to Northeast and should be considered when choosing the turbine layout, for turbines in the direction of the wind, 5-9 rotor diameters should be kept between turbines and for turbines not in the wind direction, 3-5 rotor diameters should be kept limiting the wake effects. The layout of the windfarm is as shown in the WAsP software in Figure 6,

Wind Farm Layout in WAsP software

Figure 6 – Wind Farm Layout in WAsP software

For all the turbines shown above in the WAsP contour map, the inter-turbine distances are displayed in terms of rotor diameters (Table 1),


inter-turbine distances are displayed in terms of rotor diameters part 1

inter-turbine distances are displayed in terms of rotor diameters - Part 2

As shown, the inter-turbine distances are above the minimum values stated with only turbines with inter-turbine distance under 5 rotor diameters being turbines that are not in front of each other in the wind direction. The necessary grid connection was taken as HARK1 with an operating rating of 132kV which was mapped from the turbines positions to determine the total connection length of 15.15km. The map of necessary connections is displayed in Figure 7,

Turbine Grid Connection

Figure 7 – Turbine Grid Connection

From here the energy generated was calculated including all the losses estimated in the region shown in Table 2:

Energy Losses

The annual energy output is therefore 219,177 MWh after accounting for the losses stated above.Table 2 – Energy Losses

Environmental Impact

Since the proposed windfarm lies near a coast on a moderately flat land, there are low concerns regarding Environmental impact. Location is close to the coast and the Lake District national park is located to the south of the proposed project site.

There is less risk of animal life being impacted in that area as its not near any forestry locations.

“Renewable energy” is a misnomer. Wind and solar machines and batteries are built from nonrenewable materials. And they wear out. Old equipment must be decommissioned, generating millions of tons of waste.

When electricity comes from wind or solar machines, every unit of energy produced, or mile traveled, requires far more materials and land than fossil fuels. That physical reality is literally visible: A wind or solar farm stretching to the horizon can be replaced by a handful of gas-fired turbines, each no bigger than a tractor-trailer.

What’s more, mining and fabrication require the consumption of hydrocarbons. Building enough wind turbines to supply half the world’s electricity would require nearly two billion tons of coal to produce the concrete and steel, along with two billion barrels of oil to make the composite blades. [3]

However, wind energy has a large environmental gain which outweighs the disadvantages stated. One is that wind energy captures wind which is a natural resource, and it will always occur on the Earth. The method of capturing the wind energy outputs no fossil fuels as many non-renewable sources tend to. The amount of wind energy captured is growing rapidly with the capacity in the UK with an increase in the last 10 years of around 26 GW. [4] As this industry continues to grow, the UK will start to get towards their aim of Net Carbon Zero.

The environmental impact of wind power is minor when compared to that of fossil fuel power. Compared with other low-carbon power sources, wind turbines have one of the lowest global warming potentials per unit of electrical energy generated by any power source. [12]

Wind energy has a relatively small carbon footprint. Some greenhouse gas emissions are created by the manufacture, transportation, and installation of wind turbines, but these are considered low, at around 9 gCO2/KWh. By comparison, the average footprint of gas power generators is around 450 gCO2/KWh and that of coal power generators around 1,050 gCO2/KWh. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that wind power in the UK prevented the creation of almost 36 million tonnes of emissions from sources such as coal and gas between 2008 and 2014, the equivalent of taking 2.3 million cars off the road. [13]
An onshore wind farm’s construction and operation creates significantly less emissions than other energy sources, while the sites they’re placed on can still be farmed.

Wind Turbines in Ardossan, Scotland

Figure 8 – Wind Turbines in Ardossan, Scotland

Social Impact

As the proposed wind farm takes up a 10km² area of the region, Blades for Change recognizes and aims to address the concerns of the residents and visitors in the area.

To ensure that the noise levels are kept at a minimum, we will be installing sawtooth-shaped serrations on the edge of each blade on all ten turbines. We understand that many of the residents in the area chose to buy homes here because of the peace and quiet that this part of Allerdale offers, and our installations on the blades would prevent any disruptions to the everyday lives of the residents. Additionally, in comparison to a previously rejected wind farm proposal called "Brownrigg Hall", our site is further away from the nearest residences (1km away). As a result, the noise produced by the windfarm can easily by tackled with a simple addition to the blades.

Close of up serrations on the blade

Figure 9 – Close of up serrations on the blade [14]

In order to prevent fatal collisions between birds and the turbine blades, all the turbines constructed by Blades for Change will be painted a darker colour so that the blades are easier for the birds to see, preserving the region's biodiversity, along with saving the lives of all migratory birds passing through the area. Additionally, our proposed site is not a part of any areas of conservation.

We understand that the wind farm site might disrupt certain areas that are frequently used for recreation. Blades for Change recognises the importance of such a space to the community, and therefore proposes the construction of new walking and bike trails in the area for the residents to use if necessary.

Community involvement

As an organization with a firm belief in sustainability, Blades for Change aims to spread awareness about our cause by running workshops and guided tours aimed at locals as well as visitors of all ages. This would allow for the residents to have a better understanding of the project as it affects them the greatest. Additionally, it would teach the newer generations of the importance of renewable energy and how it helps tackle the ongoing climate emergency.

Blades for Change also believes in enhancing skills and professional development of students and graduates, which is why we plan to offer 5 apprenticeship positions every year for the entire lifespan of the project. This would benefit and reduce unemployment in the community. The residents in the area will be prioritized during the application process. Aside from the apprenticeship programme, the presence of our wind farm will create many job openings in various fields ranging from engineering to education and tour guides, further reducing unemployment in the region.

In order to establish a clear line of communication between us and the residents, we will make sure all our contact details (our email address as well as our phone number) will be provided on our company website. This makes it easier for the locals to contact the staff that is always present on-site and is available to answer any questions that the residents have regarding the project. We understand the residents' concerns and will address them to the best of our abilities. We will ensure that the entire community is aware of our decisions by emailing regular newsletters to every household, summarising our recent activities and progress.

To further involve the locals in the project, we aim to send monthly financial reports to all residents and investors. We believe that being transparent with the residents regarding how our organisation's money is being spent is crucial since our decisions as a company affect the residents the most.

Financial Plan/Financial model

Blades for Change are planning on having a windfarm lifecycle of 25 years as current industry standards suggest, so all calculations will stem from this lifecycle estimate. To implement the 10 turbines as introduced in the technical design there are many components which had to be calculated and estimated, shown in Table 3.

Financial inputs


The decommission cost was estimated by using data stated by Renewables UK [5] which was £30,000 per MW and this decommissioning will be described in the ‘End of Life’ section to follow. Another important cost to estimate was the radar mitigation cost in which a case study value was used as an estimate for the radar mitigation cost per MW. As shown in Figure 8, the proposed windfarm is within NATS primary radar zones so radar mitigation costs must be accounted for, in this project £20000 per MW. [6]Table 3 – Financial Inputs

NATS primary radar zones

Figure 10 - NATS primary radar zones

On top of this, there are additional costs which are displayed in Table 4 and calculated from the previous estimations, as shown for their total cost over the full 25-year lifetime.

Predicted costs

The project will have a 25-year lifetime in which the turbines will generate an annual energy production of 219.18GWh with all losses accounted for, with the largest losses occurring due to blockage and availability, accounting for 5% and 7% respectively. The project will make use of the Contract for Difference Scheme in which the government will fund the project with a strike price of £53/MWh with 2023 price estimates. Implementing this along with the sale price to the grid of £70/MWh results in a total income of £123/MWh. By using the energy calculated a profit of £148,065,642.05 can be seen while paying £9,486,977.56 back to the bank annually in this 10-year period.Table 5 – Upfront Costs

After the loan is paid off the project will generate a profit of £421,975,870.76 after decommissioning the turbines at the end of year 25. Breakeven analysis is shown in Figure 9 for the standard case where the energy captured is exactly as the calculations lead to:

Breakeven Analysis

Figure 11 – Breakeven Analysis

As can be seen the project will breakeven at year 5 and make steady profit as it reaches its end of life.

Sensitivity analysis (Table 6) has been carried out which shows for the worst case when 50% less energy is captured than predicted or the project does not make it into the Contract for Difference Scheme then the project will remain profitable over 25 years and be able to pay off the loan successfully.

Sensitivity analysis - 50% wind captured


Finally, the Levelised Cost of Energy (LCOE) was calculated to establish the cost of the projects energy production. Using a discount rate of 6.5% [7] for energy produced and an interest rate of 8% as estimated for the coming years, the LCOE amounted to £70.41/MWh when using NPV estimates. Final values for end of year 10 and end of year shown in Tables 7 and 8.Table 6 – Sensitivity Analysis

Sensitivity analysis - after 10 and 25 years

End of life

Blades for Change will make use of reusability and recyclability to ensure the materials used during the project lifetime are not only used one time. The project will work to reuse the tower and turbine blades to improve the local community infrastructure. Many rural areas around Allerdale would benefit greatly with the installation of bicycle and footpath bridges to travel over small sections of water and low-quality surfaces. A proposal of this has been set out by Re-Wind in which the blades can be used on either side of the bridge (Figure 10) providing high quality and recycled materials back to the community. [8]

Bridge Project

Figure 12 – Bridge Project

In addition to bridges, bicycle racks and shelter will be proposed in the local area which has been previously carried out by Siemens in Denmark, seen in Figure 11. [9]

Bike Rack Project

Figure 13 – Bike Rack Project

Internal components are another area which the project will target by working with world leading technology at different universities to reuse the rare earth magnets which are present in the generator of the turbine, commonly disregarded in the decommissioning stage. We plan to work and join ties with the University of Birmingham which currently works to reclaim rare earth metals from loudspeakers. [10] While also protecting the environment by reusing the magnets in these components, this move will reduce the UK’s reliance on global supplies, where the biggest producer of rare earth elements is in China.

As well as reuse the materials in the wind turbines will be recycled locally to keep the materials that are used in the UK within the local infrastructure. Steel makes up a majority of the turbine (70%) which must be recycled or the end of life of the project will not succeed as this would harm the environment and causes large wastage and landfill. Steel can also be reused for use in automotive, transport and other domestic applications. The steel market circular economy can be seen in Figure 12.

Steel Re-usability

Figure 14 – Steel Re-usability [11]

Conclusion

To put a stop to the spin, we managed to take a careful look on the suitability of The Allerdale District where we plan to build the wind farm. There are environmental concerns of this project especially for the construction of wind turbine and wind farms but on the brighter side, once completion of the project, it becomes a source of renewable energy that lasts many years. As with all major projects, the construction of a wind farm carries risks and has its disadvantages. However, even though these are outweighed by the benefits, Blades for Change aims to carefully consider and address the concerns of the community, as well as involving them in the decision-making and activities of the wind farm with regular updates and on-site workshops and events.

Through the use of a loan, the project will begin its 25-year life cycle in which the project will generate profits every year of its lifetime and in year 5 passing the breakeven point. The project will sell directly to the grid and generate large profits by entering the Contract for Differences scheme which enables the project to make profits even if the energy generated is 50% less than expected. With a levelised cost of energy of £70.41/MWh the project will generate £421,975,870.76 in profits by the end of year 25. With these large profits, Blades for Change will expand and build a larger wind farm with its own funds which will generate greater profits but will not lose its focus on the community it is built upon, ensuring that the project will benefit all residents.

References

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power

[2] https://www-cloudfront.allerdale.gov.uk/

[3] One Wind Turbine Takes 900 Tons of Steel , 2500 Tons Of Concrete , 45 Tons of Plastic! | peckford42 (wordpress.com)

[4] https://www.statista.com/.

[5] https://www.zerowastescotland.org.uk

[6] https://www.pagerpower.com/

[7] https://www.grantthornton.co.uk

[8] https://earth911.com

[9] https://www.weforum.org

[10] https://www.birmingham.ac.uk

[11] WorldSteel Asscoiation: Steel-The-Permanent-Material-in-the-Circular-Economy-

[12] Environmental impact of wind power - Wikipedia

[13] What are the pros and cons of onshore wind energy? - Grantham Research Institute on climate change and the environment (lse.ac.uk)

[14] https://www.siemensgamesa.com/

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