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Equate Wind Farm Project 2024: Proposal of a Wind Farm by Team Silver_Wind.

ABSTRACT

Renewable energy is an increasingly essential aspect of our modern world, as finding sustainable and efficient sources of energy is crucial due to climate change and environmental concerns. In this regard, wind energy plays a significant role, making the wind farm design project a critical initiative. Our team, Silver_Wind, is dedicated to advancing the understanding and implementation of wind energy solutions and propose the following project.

SITE SELECTION CRITERIA

In evaluating six potential wind farm sites across the UK, a comprehensive assessment considered criteria like energy generation potential, environmental and social impacts, accessibility, and proximity to infrastructure. A weighted approach prioritized certain factors, notably emphasizing environmental protection for Silver_Wind. This required the selected site to be at least 5 km away from any Sites of Special Scientific Interest, Special Areas of Conservation, or Ramsar Sites. Consequently, Site 4 was excluded due to its proximity to a Ramsar Site, Site 2 due to closeness to an airport, and Site 5 because of a nearby military area. While the proximity to existing wind farms was considered, it was not as critical. This thorough evaluation ensured the chosen site met Silver_Wind's strict environmental and logistical criteria, allowing for detailed design and development.

Rating

Figure 1 Rating of the sites based upon the weighted criteria.

A summary of sites, as well as their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats are compiled in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Location

Strengths

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

1. Penrith and The Border

No conservation or SSI areas, No peat (easier and more environmentally friendly construction)

Limited accessibility details provided

Potentially lower environmental impact, Easier regulatory approval

Unknown factors due to lack of information

2. Inverclyde

Most accessible, Located near major roads and water bodies, Construction space available

Nearby wind farm requiring buffers, Lower wind speeds, Proximity to airport (technical challenges)

High accessibility (simpler logistics and transportation)

Lower capacity factor, Regulatory and safety concerns (airport, reservoirs)

3. Braes of Doune Stirling

High average wind speeds, significant peat coverage

Distance and remoteness from roads and railways. Significant peat coverage

Potential for high energy output

Possible environmental concerns (peatland disturbance)

4. Beverley and Holderness

Higher wind speed, easily accessible.

Flat land and uniform terrain.

No space to build due to noise/shadow flicker buffers, High risk of coastal flooding, Arable farmland (unsuitable for development)

Proximity to Ramsar site(3.72km)

None identified

High environmental and flooding risks (unfeasible option)

5. Brecon and Radnorshire, Wales

High wind speeds, good terrain, Considerable distance from residences, Existing wind farm (indicates suitability)

Military area (requires authorization), Soil texture (challenges)

Potential for significant power output, Existing infrastructure could facilitate development

Delays (military restrictions), Environmental impact (peat disturbance)

6.Lochearnhead, Stirling

High average wind speeds, away from major conservation areas.

Limited accessibility details. Half of the site is on peaty soils. 

Potential for community engagement (clean electricity), Environmentally considerate site selection. Funds can be provided to provide accessibility, and this benefits the local community.

Environmental impact considerations (Loch Lomond National Park)

TECHNICAL DESIGN AND LAYOUT

Once the site at Lochearnhead was chosen, the technical design of the project was to begin. The bulk of the design was done using the assistance of UL Solutions OpenWind software, which was used to create a wind map of the site, determine a turbine layout, and determine a power output for the site.

The first step was creating a wind map of the site, which was done using data provided to Silver_Wind and using the OpenWind Software. The wind map of the site and the scale of the colour gradient are shown in figures 2 and 3. The wind rose showing the most common wind direction is also included.

site and the scale of the colour gradient

Once the wind map was created, the available areas to place turbines also needed to be designated. As Silver_Wind is extremely environmentally conscious, avoiding any peaty soil on site was a top priority. Peat maps from the Scottish Government were consulted, and the site was sectioned off accordingly to prevent construction of any turbines on peaty soil. The peat map consulted and site division and shown in figures 4 and 5. This limitation resulted in only the western half of the site being available to construct on.

peat map consulted and site division

Using the available space and comparing it to the wind map to see the areas with the highest average wind speed, a wind turbine layout was determined. Spacing was determined using the help of OpenWind’s turbine spacing/legality feature, which creates an oval that represents wake losses. After several iterations, the spacing decided was a line of 7 turbines going from north to south, as it takes the best advantage of the higher wind speed areas in the available areas of the site.

Line of 7 turbines

Figure 6

In terms of selecting the turbine size, there were several different options considered. The power rating of the different turbines were also considered for the relatively lower wind speed in the area, but the deciding metric was based on energy capture simulations done in OpenWind. While OpenWind calculates both gross and net energy, Silver_Wind opted to apply our own set of losses for calculation of net energy. The different factors for the total losses are shown in table 2, along with justification for each one, along with the total losses of 9%.

Table 2

Category

Loss

Reason For Loss

Wind Farm Availability

4%

Project is relatively hard to access, but not completely remote

Electrical Losses

1%

Smaller project with a relatively short connection to the grid (7 km)

Wind Turbine Performance

2%

Wind speed is much lower on the power curve relative to the overall performance of the turbines available

Environmental Losses

1%

Freezing temperatures are not expected frequently in Lochearnhead. Some precipitation, especially in the winter months, is expected

Curtailment

1%

Some biodiversity for bat and bird curtailments

Total

9% losses

 

This 9% lost was applied to the gross energy results from the OpenWind simulation to obtain the net energy calculations for different turbine types and configurations. From these results, the highest net capacity factor came from using 2.5MW turbines. The difference in gross energy from using the lower power rated turbines is not as significant when compared to the increase in price from using the higher power rated turbines. The loss in revenue from the lower power rating is more than made up for in terms of the reduced initial setup and construction cost.

The final technical design decision was the connection to the grid. There were two options for substation connection, the first being the 132 kV substation in Killin, which has a 7 km connection distance, and the second being the 400 kV substation in Braco, which is 29 km away. As Silver_Wind’s wind farm proposal only has a maximum power rating of 17.5 MW, there is a clear decision to be made in choosing the Killin substation for the shorter connection distance, which also reduces the initial setup costs.

In summary, the wind farm proposed uses 7 turbines with a power rating of 2.5 MW, while connected to the Killin substation. This results in a net energy production of 53.2 GWh/year, working at a net capacity factor of 34.6%.

SOCIAL CONSIDERATIONS

Zoning / Pre-Project Stage

Goal: Identify stakeholders, understand community needs and concerns.

Before diving into specifics, it's crucial to understand who will be impacted. Community mapping helps identify potentially affected communities and relevant stakeholders, such as residents, businesses, and environmental groups. This initial step ensures our outreach efforts reach the right audience.

After identifying stakeholder, we propose to hold public meetings as they are a great way to introduce the project concept and gather initial feedback. This allows for open discussion and helps gauge early community sentiment.

Maintaining a dedicated website and social media presence is essential for ongoing communication. Here, we can share project information, updates, and provide clear contact details for inquiries. This allows the community to stay informed and easily reach out with questions.

Surveys can also be a valuable tool to understand initial community sentiment towards wind energy and potential project benefits. This will help in understanding their needs and concerns.  By gathering this data, we can tailor our outreach efforts and address any concerns early on.

Based upon the preliminary study following stakeholder and level of influence was determined.

Stakeholder map

Figure 7

Pre-Application Stage

Goal: To provide detailed project information, address concerns, encourage dialogue.

Activities:

For targeted engagement, we have identified level of influence on various stakeholders. We propose to organize tailored meetings or workshops with each group to address their specific interests and concerns. We also consider inviting relevant experts to participate and facilitate discussions. After each meeting, provide summaries and action items, and maintain open communication channels for ongoing dialogue.

Public information sessions are a great way to broadly share project details. We propose to choose a convenient location and time, and prepare a clear presentation with visuals. Allocate ample time for questions and promote the sessions through various channels. Partner with community organizations for wider reach.

Open houses offer a more interactive format. Selecting a central location and setting up booths with representatives from different project aspects will be a viable option. Promote them alongside information sessions, highlighting the opportunity for direct interaction.

To ensure ongoing communication, establishing a community liaison committee with diverse representation is a sound idea. Holding regular meetings to provide updates, address concerns, and receive feedback is a must in this project so to tackle any major concern.

Post-Application (After Submission, Before Decision)

Goal: Maintain transparency, address any emerging concerns before planning approval.

Activity: Building Trust Through Effective Public Engagement

Successful public engagement hinges on clear and accessible communication. This means establishing multiple channels - email, phone lines, or online portals - for both the community and planning authorities to ask questions and receive timely, transparent responses. These responses should be clear, informative, and include estimated timeframes for a reply.

Keeping stakeholders informed is crucial. Regular project updates via email newsletters, social media, and community meetings will communicate the application process, milestones, and any changes to the plan. Additionally, public consultation activities such as public meetings, surveys, and online platforms offer valuable opportunities for stakeholders to provide feedback and voice their concerns directly.

Active participation in public hearings allows project proponents to address community and planning authority concerns with transparency. Furthermore, transparency in decision-making is essential. Documenting the process and making relevant documents publicly available fosters trust and understanding.

To ensure effective engagement, a comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan should be developed. This plan should outline the planned engagement activities, identify key stakeholders and their interests. Establishing clear feedback mechanisms allows stakeholders to provide input throughout the project, and acting upon this feedback demonstrates responsiveness and commitment to a collaborative approach.

Post-Approval / Construction

Goal: Mitigate construction impacts, maintain positive relationships.

To ensure smooth construction and open communication, establish a Construction Liaison Committee to address noise, traffic, and other concerns. Regular meetings are require to be held by this committee and project managers, along with a website updated weekly with schedules, contact details, and disruption notices,  to keep the community informed and provide a platform for addressing their questions and concerns throughout the construction phase.

Post-Commissioning

Goal: Maintain long-term relationships, showcase project benefits.

We are committed to supporting the local community and addressing potential concerns about the windfarm project through a variety of initiatives. First, we will establish a Community Benefits Program, allocating a set annual budget for local improvements. This will cover essential needs such as road maintenance, apprenticeships, and recreational activities, with the community having a say in how the funds are used to ensure they meet local priorities effectively. Additionally, we will create a dedicated fund for improving Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

To help with initial operational challenges, we plan to host annual meetings for the first three years after commissioning. These meetings will provide a platform to address any issues that arise during the early stages of the project.

We understand that visual and noise impacts are significant concerns. To address these, we will design the windfarm to be mostly hidden from Lochearnhead and the National Park, and we will implement buffer zones to reduce shadow flicker and noise. During construction, we will temporarily close the single walking trail to ensure safety, but it will be reopened and maintained as part of our ongoing site upkeep.

We also see great potential in promoting ecotourism by leveraging the windfarm's visibility from the south shore of Loch Earn. This could attract visitors, create jobs, and demonstrate how renewable energy can coexist with natural beauty. Furthermore, we propose exploring the creation of an educational center. This center would host school visits, industrial courses, and tourist tours, potentially funded by the Community Benefit Fund. It would provide educational opportunities, generate revenue, and create jobs for locals.

To keep the community informed and engaged, we will regularly share data on our energy production and its positive environmental impact. This transparency will help foster a sense of pride among residents, as they can see the tangible contributions to clean energy and the Net Zero initiative.

By following this community engagement design and incorporating the detailed business plan, we aim to foster a positive and productive relationship with the community throughout the lifecycle of the wind farm project.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONSIDERATIONS

The proposed sites proposes some environmental challenges.

Shadow Flicker

  • Buffer Zone: The wind farm site is located in an area with no considerable settlements, and a 2 km buffer zone will help avoid shadow flicker impacts on nearby properties.

Noise Mitigation

Stationary Noise Sources:

  • Location Strategy: Stationary noise sources will be positioned as far away as reasonably possible from residential properties to minimize noise intrusion.

Operational Noise:

  • Turbine Layout Design: The turbines' layout is meticulously planned to maintain adequate separation distances from residential properties, inherently reducing potential noise impacts.
  • Noise Management Systems: Turbines will operate with blade pitch adjustments under certain conditions to reduce noise. This involves a trade-off between power production and noise reduction. If consent is granted, conditions will enforce noise level and tonality limits to protect residents.

Construction Noise:

  • Best Practicable Means: Noise mitigation follows the 'best practicable means' concept from Section 72 of the Control of Pollution Act 1974, balancing noise reduction with practicality and cost.
  • Contractor Attitude and Communication: Regular consultation with local authorities and the Community Liaison Group will inform residents of upcoming activities and address non-acoustic concerns such as mud and dust.
  • Noise Mitigation Options: Measures include selecting quieter equipment, maintaining equipment with silencers, managing vehicle movements, and limiting operational hours (0700-1900 Monday to Saturday). On Saturdays from 1300-1900, noise reduction strategies will include reducing the number of simultaneous activities and restricting activity distance from properties. Acoustic barriers will be considered, particularly for turbine blade deliveries.

Mitigation Plan for Geology, Hydrology, Hydrogeology, and Peat

Potential Effects:

  • Water Pollution and Sedimentation: Risk of contamination from sedimentation of excavated material and machinery operation.
  • Drainage and Flood Risk: Modifications to natural drainage patterns and increased flood risk due to hard standing areas.
  • Peat and Soil Disturbance: Loss or disturbance of peat and carbon-rich soils, and disruption to Groundwater Dependent Terrestrial Ecosystems.
  • Water Flow Disruptions: Reductions in natural flows, localized flooding, and bank erosion caused by temporary water abstractions and flow impediments.

Approach to Mitigation:

  • Regulatory Compliance: Ensuring compliance with Water Environment (Controlled. Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 and continuous consultation with SEPA for necessary licenses.
  • Design Integration: Developing a peat depth model to avoid deep peat areas, selecting construction techniques to minimize peat excavation, and reusing excavated peat in landscaping and restoration is proposed.

Specific Strategies:

The mitigation plan includes strategies for water quality protection, flood risk management, peat and soil conservation, and flow and erosion control. Measures such as sediment control, sustainable drainage systems, limited peat excavation, and erosion prevention will be implemented to minimize environmental impact and promote sustainability.

Ornithology

The proposed development, despite lacking significant bird populations or migratory routes, still necessitates attention to potential impacts on bird habitats and populations. To address this, a comprehensive mitigation plan is outlined, beginning with the appointment of a qualified Ecological Clerk of Works (ECoW) to oversee construction activities and minimize disturbance to bird habitats. A Breeding Bird Protection Plan (BBPP) will be implemented during construction to safeguard breeding birds, including Schedule 1 species. Pre-construction surveys will identify new breeding bird activity, informing mitigation measures. Bird-friendly fencing and robust monitoring programs will reduce collision risks and assess mitigation effectiveness. Post-construction habitat restoration efforts will further enhance bird habitats and promote biodiversity recovery.

Socio-Economics, Tourism and Recreation

Socio-Economic Impacts:

Employment Opportunities: The wind farm project will generate employment opportunities during both construction and operation phases. These jobs, ranging from administrative to unskilled positions, can be filled by local residents, contributing to local employment and economic development.

Local Economy: The wind farm project will bolster the local economy by stimulating demand and attracting tourism. Local businesses, including accommodation providers, restaurants, and suppliers, stand to benefit from increased patronage. Additionally, partnerships with schools for study trips can create additional income streams for the community.

Property Values: It is commonly believed that the construction of wind farms decreases property values. However, research suggests that this is not the case.

Community Investment: A fund of £5000/year has been kept in place for the improvement of local resources such as forests, gardens and other water bodies.

Tourism:

Tourist Attractions: The area is relatively untouched from a tourism perspective, presenting an opportunity to create a tourist circuit that includes attractions such as the Loch Earn National Park and the wind farm. By developing a cycling track around the wind farm, visitors with diverse interests can participate in outdoor activities and enjoy the scenic surroundings. This initiative has the potential to attract tourists and promote sustainable tourism in the region.

Visitor Centers: The wind farm developer intends to establish a visitor center to educate the public about the positive impacts of wind energy. This center will serve as an interpretive facility, providing information about wind energy generation and its benefits to the environment and local communities.

Setup Costs

Silver Wind’s wind farm project will be funded by taking out a £28 million, to be paid back over 10 years at 1% interest. The majority of this money is used to cover the setup costs of the project. The highest proportion of the funds go towards the purchasing and construction of the wind turbines. At a price of £900,000 per MW, this gives a price per turbine of £2,250,000. There are additional setup costs for the foundations and constructions of a route to the site, as it is difficult to access. These additional balance of plant costs were taken as 30% of the total turbine cost to account for the new routes being built. Another expense is the cost of the connection to Killin Substation, which is 7 km away. At a price 750,000 per kilometer, this brings the total connection price to £5,250,000.The final two setup costs are for an environmental impact survey and consultancy. These amount to £140,000 and £175,000 respectively. Combining all these costs together give an initial setup cost of £26,040,000. These results are also summarized in Table 3.

Table 3: Summary of Setup Costs

Turbine Costs

Cost per Turbine

Number of Turbines

Total Turbine Cost

Balance of Plant Cost

Total Turbine Installation Fee

£2,250,000.00

7

£15,750,000.00

£4,725,000.00

£20,475,000.00

Grid Connection costs

Cost per km

Length of Connection (km)

Total Cost of Connection

£750,000.00

7

£5,250,000.00

Other Costs

Environmental Impact Survey

Consultancy

Total

£140,000.00

£175,000.00

£315,000.00

Total Setup Cost

 

 

 

 

Final Total

 

 

 

 

£26,040,000.00

The £28 million loan is planned to cover the entire setup cost and keep the remaining money as spending cash to cover operating expenses as needed once the wind farm is operating and collecting revenue. A graphical display of the proportion of spending going to each portion of the project is shown in figure .

Spending Graph

Figure 9

Financial Forecast for Service

Firstly, the project revenue: Simulations in OpenWind show the proposed wind farm layout has a Gross Energy production of 58.45 GWh per year. After accounting for 9% losses (electrical, availability, performance, and environmental), the net energy production is 53.2 GWh per year, yielding a net capacity factor of 34.7%. With a cost per MW of £70, the net annual revenue is £3,723,265.

Secondly, the operating expenditures: Maintenance costs are 10% of the initial turbine cost per year, totaling £1,575,000 annually. Rent costs are £6,000 plus 6% of expected revenue for the first 13 years (£229,395.90 annually) and £8,000 plus 8% thereafter (£305,861.20 annually). Additionally, there is a community fund contribution of 1% of revenues, amounting to £37,232.65 per year. Thus, total annual operating expenses are £1,804,395.90 for the first 13 years and £1,880,861.20 for the remainder of the service life. A summary of annual OPEX is shown in Table 5.

Table 5

Table 5: Annual Costs

First 13 Years

Rent

Maintenance

Community Fund

Total

£229,395.90

£1,575,000

£37,232.65

£1,804,395.90

Rest of Service

Rent

Maintenance

Community Fund

Total

£305,861.20

£1,575,000

£37,232.65

£1,880,861.20

 

Due to high fixed costs for plant setup, rent, and annual maintenance, our break-even point (BEP) is 993.08 GWh of electricity output, expected in the 19th year of operation. Our levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) is £34.28/MWh, providing a significant profit margin given the current selling price of £70/MWh. This LCOE calculation accounts for potential changes in electricity prices over the wind farm’s lifetime, indicating a highly viable investment. Considering all costs and revenues from setup to decommissioning, we project a total profit of £7,776,558.31.

References

  1. The future of onshore wind decommissioning in Scotland (2021) Zero Waste Scotland. Available at: https://cdn.zerowastescotland.org.uk/managed-downloads/mf-df5kvihv-1679501111d (Accessed: 31 May 2024).
  2. Investment costs (no date) Wind Energy – The Facts. Available at: https://www.wind-energy-the-facts.org/index-43.html (Accessed: 31 May 2024).
  3. Upgrades and refurbishment for your onshore wind assets (no date) GE Vernova. Available at: https://www.gevernova.com/wind-power/onshore-wind/services/upgrades-refurbishment (Accessed: 31 May 2024).

 

By Sarthak Mehta (Sarthak Mehta | LinkedIn)

I am a MSc student of Civil Engineering at University of Glasgow.