Monday, July 25, 2005

Following wind

Following wind July 22, 2005
Keele University’s Applied and Environmental Geophysics Group (AEG) has helped resolve an impasse that has prevented 40% of UK renewable wind energy being developed

Dwain Eldred writes: In order to meet, and in fact exceed, Kyoto targets, the UK government has set a challenging target of reducing the UK's carbon dioxide emissions by 60% by 2050. The development of renewable energy, especially wind power, will be an important contributor to the success of that policy.

Some 40% (in excess of 1 Gigawatt) of this wind generation capacity was planned for the southern uplands of Scotland. However, the United Kingdom seismic monitoring site which constitutes our component of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty compliance for nuclear testing is situated at Eskdalemuir near Langholm in the Scottish Borders. The Ministry of Defence therefore placed a precautionary blanket objection to any wind farm developments within 80km of Eskdalemuir, just in case this compromised their capacity to detect distant nuclear test and breached the UK’s agreement under the CTBT. The effect of this was to remove at least 40% of the UK renewable wind resource identified by the DTI.

Because of the Keele Unit’s unique experience in monitoring seismic vibrations from wind turbines in the UK, the Applied and Environmental Geophysics Group of the School of Physical and Geographical Sciences the MOD, the DTI and the British Wind Energy Association asked them to investigate whether there was a solution to this impasse.

By carrying out a detailed programme of seismic and infrasound measurements in the vicinity of several wind farms in Scotland the team was able to identify the characteristic frequencies and mode of propagation of seismic vibrations from wind turbines and develop a model for the integrated seismic vibration at Eskdalemuir that will be created. By setting a noise budget that is permissible at Eskdalemuir without compromising its detection capabilities, the team demonstrated that at least 1.6GWatts of planned capacity can be installed. They have also developed software tools that allow MOD and planners to assess what further capacity can be developed.

The MOD have now lifted the 80 km exclusion and any further wind farm proposals will be assessed against criteria established by this study.

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