Guernsey Electricity Director Sally Ann David speaks about Guernsey’s renewable energy opportunities

November 7th, 2011 by Sally-Ann David

Sally-Ann David, Director at Guernsey Electricity Ltd gave a presentation to the Guernsey Insitute of Directors (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Guernsey is well placed to develop renewable energy resources, through technical know-how, financing and support, and importantly through the availability of a local resource.

However, Guernsey may have to moderate its expectations, decide how fast to deploy the technology and, essentially, decide how it can be afforded.

Europe is one of the leaders in the development and application of renewable energy. It has signed up as one of the ‘pioneers’ in Berlin in 2004, and set a target that by 2020, the EU would seek to obtain 20% of its total energy consumption requirements with renewable energy sources. Individual European countries have developed their own initiatives, and differing strategies to get them to their own targets.

Europe has recognised the importance of reducing its dependence on foreign energy imports, as this has security of supply implications, as well as the overall aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat global warming.

As one of the powerhouses of the industrial age, it could be argued that Europeans have been large greenhouse gas producers, and have a moral obligation to reduce emissions.

The aim is to try to limit the average global temperature rise to no more than 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels.  We have already allowed a 0.8° Celsius rise to take place, and probably an additional 0.5° Celsius is already unavoidable. So urgent action is needed to halt this rise, before the economic consequences become too high.

The Northwest Passage and the North East passage have become ice free for only the second time this century. And the first reaction was for a tanker to sail from Houston to Taiwan in a record breaking eight days by using the ice free passages. I didn’t read what the tanker carried, but I fear, ironically, that it was oil.

European countries have set off with disparate strategies to meet their carbon emission targets. Not all of their strategies are entirely understandable.

Germany set-off with a vision of creating a hydrogen economy, powered by the conversion of solar energy, and subsequently incentivised its market with high feed-in tariffs and subsidies. Germany is not well known for its sunshine.

Part of the 9500 square metres of thin film photovoltaic panels with a nominal output of 837 kilowatts on the roof of a building at Riedel Recycling in Moers, Germany (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

Meanwhile the Spanish have generally ignored their obvious sunshine resource and invested heavily in wind turbines, which coincidentally are built by German and Danish companies.

Meanwhile the UK, stereotypically, is following the rules, and has a detailed plan. This plan is concentrated on wind energy, and it is allowing market distortion to do so. Huge offshore wind farms have appeared on the horizon, and planning permissions are being fast tracked to make this happen, upsetting some communities on the way.

In some of the technical forums I attend, the cable installers, ship operators and wind turbine manufacturers including the Renewable Energy Association (REA) have admitted that there is not enough production capacity in the world to meet this target, and so it will be missed.

Additionally an extremely generous feed-in tariff of £0.45 per kWh has had the UK placing photovoltaic solar panels on roofs, even in Newcastle, where the payback will be dismal, and the fund has run out of money, with those half-way through building their projects, out-of-pocket.

The cost of this building programme, is incentivised by generous feed in tariffs (FIT), which have been funded by a ‘tax’ or surcharge on UK customers bills.

So what about Guernsey’s plan?

There was an Energy Policy debated in 2008, which was noted, and not adopted, and recently Policy Council have issued an ‘Energy Plan’ for consultation. It sets out a decarbonised vision, encourages energy efficiency, and considers the key question of affordability.

As part of the response to that work, a bursary student examined how much energy Guernsey theoretically needed. She based her research on Professor David McKay’s book ‘Sustainable Energy – without the hot air’.

Professor David MacKay at the SDUK Conference in Westminster, London in March 2011 (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

While deliberately ignoring social, political and economic limitations, which we all appreciated could be an issue, particularly in Guernsey, it tries to demonstrate how much energy we will need in order to maintain our quality of life, even allowing for reduce, recycle, re-use methodology, and one which is clearly embraced here.

This book looks at the uses of energy – heating and cooling; light, cars, planes, material (drink containers, batteries, build a road, newspapers), gadgets, food and farming, public services, and then makes an estimate of how much may be harvested from local resources.

These are general assumptions based on a per capita basis, assuming current energy profiles and quality of life, but our initial research shows that even if we harvest all we can, there will be an energy gap, which underlines that the island will probably always be an importer of energy, whether electricity, oil or gas, but noting not all of these are renewable.

The issue of security of supply, a key discussion point in Guernsey’s Energy Plan, is one of the key weakness in an all renewable strategy because the sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow,… and this needs to be carefully considered. The longer term solution will be a well-developed electricity grid and energy storage.

Guernsey has good indigenous renewable energy resources. Strong westerly winds provide a good wave resource and we have strong tidal currents.

The advancements of developers such as Marine Current Turbines, which I have been following actively since 1996, has been encouraging, but slower than we all hoped, and more expensive.

SeaGen in Strangford Narrows in Northern Ireland now generates electricity for Irish electricity grid, and is proving reliable. The next phases for this technology will be in Scotland and North Wales, but significant funding is being required.

We have all learned from this installation – the operation and maintenance routine, the blade design, and environmental concerns have been allayed. The seals were fine, and kept out of the way, or indeed played around the blades, swam to the Isle of Man for lunch, Blackpool for tea, and back to Strangford Lough for supper.

EDF, the French electricity generator, is deploying their tidal energy machines off Paimpol, Brittany.

The first OpenHydro machine was installed on 1 September 2011 at a depth of 35 metres. There will be four machines eventually in the array with a maximum generation rating of 2MW. EDF consider this a €40 million project.

This equates to a capital cost of €20 million per MW. Even though this is recognised as a prototype, the cost reduction as the product matures and economies-of-scale come into play, are going to have to be significant before this can be considered commercially viable. And this may not even include the cost of capital, or operation and maintenance.

We would expect conventional generation or interconnection to be around twenty times less at £1 million per MW.

Guernsey has a good tidal resource but it is the speed in the water column which we need to understand and not just the current speed on the surface. Suitable sites will need good foundations, minimal sediment in the flow, and low turbulence.

Sally-Ann David is keeping a close eye on renewable energy technologies that could be deployed in Guernsey waters (click image to expand - ©RLLord)

There is enough offshore wind to be harnessed. The technology for offshore wind is more advanced, and in a growth phase in the market. The comparative installation costs are around £2 million per MW, so potentially within reach.

The Guernsey Renewable Energy Commission, and its successor, the Renewable Energy Team, have recently started a desk top study on deploying offshore wind turbines, and have set-up anemometers near Chouet and Fort Houmet.

The key to the success of this technology is public perception and acceptance. It is a bit of a marmite technology – you either love wind turbines or hate them. Unfortunately the cause of these machine is not helped by technically incorrect and alarmist photographs in the media – I saw one recently of a large turbine in the Little Russell next to the Brehon Tower (between Guernsey and Herm.)

I would expect Jersey to concentrate their renewable plans on offshore wind. Jersey has been investigating using some of their reefs.  Normandy is expected to allow wind farms soon, with about ten wind turbines in each farm.

Pelamis is the most well known wave energy generating technology.

A section of the Pelamis wave power generator (click image to expand - image courtesy of Pelamis Wave Power Ltd.)

We have a good wave resource, although our reefs may impact its contribution. I have not seen any cost figures yet.

Guernsey, just as other small independent communities are finding, has high barriers to entry into self renewable generation.

Media stories highlight the self-sufficiency of villages and towns, but these are usually taking advantage of state wide subsidies and tariffs.

Being outside of Europe means we do not have access to their incentives, which poses a barrier to deploying renewable energy technologies in local waters.


  1. No Comments

Have your say