An update from our CEO, Graham Reid:
With the UK travel restrictions lifting, I have been able to travel to our various sites around the UK this month. I was truly humbled by the warm welcome into Scotland whilst visiting our Edinburgh and Perth offices. It was a great opportunity to meet people face to face and to experience the enthusiasm and drive which my colleagues share. Travelling further up into Scotland, I visited our workshop at Nigg Energy park, and ended the journey at our Ness of Quoys site near John O’Groats. It was fantastic to experience the MeyGen site, and to witness how little of an impact our tidal array has on the Scottish seascape.
This month has been a month of innovation, with many projects making important steps towards delivery. Recently, we announced our mission to make our Uskmouth Power Station carbon neutral by 2025, and carbon negative by 2030. This mission is very important to our overall goal of providing green, sustainable energy to South Wales.
THE IMPORTANCE OF NEW LIFE
The Uskmouth Power Station has a strong history of service as a utility scale electricity generator. The next chapter in the Uskmouth Power Station story is helping to bring the station into the 21st century by introducing a new more sustainable fuel, and implementing a conversion which brings new life to this iconic electricity generating asset with significantly reduced carbon intensity and emissions.
The generated electrical efficiency of the converted Uskmouth Power Station will be 36.55%, making this power station the most efficient electricity generator using waste derived fuels in the world. At 220MW capacity output, after the two units are converted, the conversion will enable Uskmouth to continue to provide its essential service as a utility scale baseload generator for South Wales.
As we all know, the current situation of waste exports in the UK has come under great scrutiny recently. In addition to continuing its service as a large-scale electricity generator, the Uskmouth Conversion Project supports the UK in dealing with its waste problems by creating a demand for a new fuel derived from non-recyclable waste. The new fuel pellet is processed off-site from non-recyclable waste materials, comprising of 50% waste plastics and 50% paper/cardboard. The waste materials are sourced from end-of-life residual waste, meaning materials which have gone through their life cycle as a product once, or even a few times before reaching disposal. The waste used for the pellets has already served a purpose in society and is destined for either landfill or incineration. Fuel processing facilities remote from Uskmouth, will divert the waste from these destinations and process them to ensure the composition and chemical nature of the pellets is within a very strict fuel specification. As a result the pellets that arrive at Uskmouth will produce similar energy values as coal, can be combusted in a pulverised fuel power station similar to coal, produce significantly reduced emissions, and enable Uskmouth to continue to generate efficient utility scale electricity.
The fuel pellets are also specially designed to be suitable for bulk rail transport. The fuel processing plants will cater for loading fuel onto trains, and Uskmouth has existing infrastructure suitable for receiving rail delivery of fuel. The delivery of this new fuel by railway replicates the historic transport method used for coal, provides new life and utilisation of existing valuable Welsh rail infrastructure, and utilises what is well regarded as one of the most environmentally friendly forms of transport currently available for industry.
ACHIEVING NEGATIVE CARBON EMISSIONS AT THE USKMOUTH POWER STATION
We are pleased to announce our partnership with Remediiate (UK) Ltd (“Remediiate”), who are an integrated sustainable developer of patented technologies that utilise waste gases to deliver high value algae products. This technology has the potential to not only decarbonise the emissions from the Uskmouth conversion project, an important milestone towards making the project carbon negative, but also creates a high value economic product.
Our partner Remediiate will deploy an innovative product that tackles two of the biggest problems the world is facing, namely the journey to ‘net zero’ carbon and feeding a growing, global population. Using patented technology and highly specialized processes, their algae plants convert CO2, alongside other damaging greenhouse gasses, and use them to produce algae. The algae produced can then be used as feedstock for food and feed production.
This process is modular, allowing for a rapid and scalable rollout of the technology. This technology will be applied to SAE’s Uskmouth project and will further enhance the waste and greenhouse gas emission reductions. This project is a transformational technology partnership and will strengthen Newport and Wales’s position as a global leader in innovation and the journey to net zero.
The initial focus of the partnership is working on the development of a facility to be co-located with SAE’s Uskmouth power station. This pilot plant will be scaled up over time with the intention of making the power station carbon neutral by 2025 and carbon negative by 2030. This technology not only complements the ongoing work that we are doing as part of the South Wales Industrial Cluster (“SWIC”) carbon capture usage and storage project we announced on 17 March 2021, but also accelerates efforts to bring the UK to ‘net zero’ across two important sectors.
While the initial focus of this partnership is to deliver algae plants for the decarbonisation of Uskmouth, including securing all of the necessary planning, permitting and front-end engineering to accommodate Remediiate’s facility, the parties intend to work collaboratively across other geographical markets to help fast track emissions reductions using these complementary technologies and processes. The technology and processes being developed at Uskmouth will offer immediate benefits for owners and operators of existing coal-fired generation to rapidly reduce their reliance on coal and reduce their emissions in an economically attractive way, as well as making material reductions in the amount of material that is sent to landfill.
SAE and Remediiate recognise that this project would provide Newport’s expanding technology companies with access to vital base load electricity while also providing a solution to help remove emissions from the crucial agriculture sector. This means that the Uskmouth project would deliver for every aspect of the net zero journey.
THE GOTO TIDAL POWER PROJECT UPDATE
The AR500 tidal turbine was recently recognised as an official power generation facility by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), a key stakeholder in consenting renewable energy projects in Japan. This is great news for the project, which has consistently generated clean, tidal energy since it was installed in January.
The turbine tests, which were successfully passed during one of the strongest tides expected this year, follow an exhaustive process of inspection and verification of both the onshore facility and offshore equipment against national electrical standards.
Since January, the AR500 tidal turbine has generated over 100MWh of power from the tidal flow in the Goto islands. It is the first large scale project of its kind in Japanese waters and continues to support Japan’s ambition in diversifying its energy supply towards renewable sources.
THE RAZ BLANCHARD TIDAL POWER PROJECT
The Raz Blanchard demonstration array will be located between Alderney and France. It will be a 12MW array consisting of four tidal turbines of up to 3MW, connected to a subsea hub similar to the one deployed in the MeyGen tidal array.
The Raz Blanchard site offers comparable flows to the MeyGen site, with a slightly lower maximum flow speed. Critically, in the Raz Blanchard, the flow spends more time at the rated speed for the turbine. This is important because it means that the turbine will generate its maximum power output over longer periods of the tidal cycle.
Support structures are a crucial piece of tidal infrastructure, providing a solid foundation for the turbine and ensuring no movement even in the strongest tidal flows. There are several different designs which can be used to anchor a tidal turbine to the ocean floor, all with their own benefits. At the MeyGen site, the 1.5MW turbines use a gravity base foundation which supports the turbine using its own mass as an anchor. Accompanied by ballast blocks, the gravity base does not allow for any movement during the fast tidal flows that are seen at the site.
For the Raz Blanchard array, we will be using a monopile structure to support the 3MW tidal turbines. The monopiles will be drilled and grouted into the seabed, a solution that is widely used for offshore wind turbines. However, the wind industry does not face the additional challenge of carrying out the installation operations through high tidal stream flows and so the installation equipment and methodology must be adapted so that it can used in high tidal flow areas, such as the Raz Blanchard site.
By using a monopile supporting structure, there will be a 90% reduction in material required, compared to a gravity base foundation, meaning the construction process becomes more cost effective and friendlier to the environment due to the reduction in steel manufacturing required. From a hydrodynamic perspective, the shape of the monopile design causes less disruption to the tidal flow, this in turn reduces loading on the structure and helps optimise the turbine’s overall efficiency.
During installation, monopiles offer more flexibility in availability of installation locations, as the installation method used does not rely on a level surface. Due to the three-legged design of a gravity base foundation a flat installation site is required in order to provide stability to the structure. While single demonstration turbines can be micro-sited in suitable locations on gravity based foundations, it is unlikely that large numbers of gravity bases could be accommodated and monopiles will be required as the industry moves towards developing commercial arrays.
Similar to the subsea hub technology launched in 2020 at the MeyGen site, the monopile design will be yet another innovative step for tidal energy, taking an already proven technology, and adapting it for use within tidal energy. This is something which has never been done before at a high tidal flow commercial site at this scale.
We are currently progressing project development for the Raz Blanchard demonstration project which is being developed via our French joint venture, Normandie Hydroliennes, and we will be targeting financial close at the end of 2022, early 2023. Once financial close has been achieved, the project will enter a two-year construction phase, with the array generating first power in 2025.
Alex Reading, head of our hydro team and chairman of the British Hydro Association, has been busy on site at one of our run-of-river hydro projects, which is due to be commissioned very soon. The 5.8MW scheme is made up of one 1.8MW scheme and two 2MW schemes that feed into one grid connection. Throughout the pandemic, the project has employed local specialists who take pride in what they do, building projects which will provide renewable energy to the rural communities in Scotland. Although small in scale, these projects are vital to balancing the energy demand in the local area. As the river rises and falls, so does the energy produced. In the wintertime, when energy demand is at its highest, the schemes can produce consistent power due to the high level of rainfall.
The project is currently in the restoration phase, where the surrounding area is encouraged to grow around the schemes. After a few years, the infrastructure will have blended in with the local environment.