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Scottish Renewables Obligation contracts for 200 MW of wind

Wind energy scooped more than 50% of the capacity in Scotland's latest round of support for renewable energy, winning contracts for nearly 200 MW of installed capacity. Twenty-eight wind bids totalling 82 MW declared net capacity (DNC) were among the 150 MW DNC of awarded power purchase contracts won by renewables under the third round of the Scottish Renewables Obligation (SRO-3). Other technologies supported were hydro, waste to energy, biomass and, for the first time, wave power.

Results of the keenly fought competition were announced by Scottish Business and Industry Minister Lord Macdonald on February 25. "The government attaches the highest priority to increasing renewable energy sources and by doing so, safeguarding the environment through reducing greenhouse gases," he said during a visit to Aerpac's wind turbine blade manufacturing site in Glenrothes. That, he added, is why he decided to approve an order 25% larger than originally planned.

For the first time in Scotland, wind projects are split between two bands-11 large wind schemes of over 1 MW, totalling 68 MW (158 MW rated capacity), and 17 small wind schemes totalling 14 MW (33 MW rated). Wind energy emerges as the cheapest technology, with prices from £0.0189 in the large wind band, up to £0.038 for small wind. Scottish Office officials indicate, moreover, that the geographical spread of wind schemes is greater than in the past.

Under the SRO, the public electricity suppliers in Scotland are obliged to contract for a specified amount of renewable electricity. The order runs for 20 years, with a 15 year power purchase contract and a lead in period of up to five years to allow for commissioning of plant.

fewer wind bids

The latest round of support is the most generous to date. The allocation of contracts to wind alone approximately equals the total capacity of the entire first round of support. At first sight it would appear to be good news for Scotland's wind industry, which had been bitterly disappointed at the mere seven contracts awarded under the previous round, SRO-2. The disappointment has apparently discouraged many wind developers from taking part this time, as evidenced by the lower numbers of applications for contracts; 90 wind bids were lodged in SRO-3 compared with 142 in SRO-2.

Yet the SRO-3 results met with a mixed reception among the Scottish wind community. "A greater geographical spread of projects is good from the planning perspective and having a small wind band is also good news," says Robert Forrest from the Scottish branch of the British Wind Energy Association. "But we are slightly disappointed that given the incredibly low prices that were bid in, they did not give us a larger size of order. We need a lot more than that to encourage an indigenous wind manufacturing industry."

Of more concern to some was the allocation of most of the capacity in the large wind band to just a few big players. Indeed, one developer is believed to have won around half of the contracts. "There is not unbounded joy here," comments an unsuccessful bidder. "Those of us who did not receive vast swathes of contracts, unlike some, came away feeling that not much has changed." But Colin Anderson from Aerpac, one of the very few manufacturing companies to be based in Scotland, points out that some 190 MW rated capacity of wind plant was successful. "We will be competing hard to get our blades on them," Anderson says.

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