From The Herald 12-page special report on Renewables, published 30th of April 2019
Many people who installed larger biomass boilers in recent years, particularly farms for agricultural use, missed the fact that under micro-generation rules any boilers over 45 KW require planning permission.
As Cogeo director Dave Anderson explains. the situation was made somewhat foggy by the fact that modestly sized biomass boilers are regarded as “permitted developments” by Government. In general they do not need planning permission unless the flu is going to be unusually large or unsightly.
For agricultural users of larger biomass boilers the position was made worse by the fact that Ofgem was slow to pick up on the micro-generation rule about over 45 KW biomass boilers. It had been making payments under the Renewable Heat Incentive scheme to agricultural users but has now become aware of the micro-generation rule and is starting to withhold RHI payments unless owners of biomass boilers can show that they have planning approval.
As a result, there is now a real backlog of people seeking retrospective planning permission for their biomass boilers. Cogeo is a specialist planning and environmental consultancy and is busy with a number of such retrospective applications on behalf of clients, Anderson says.
Owners of some of the larger biomass boilers could be getting £30,000 a year out of the RHI scheme, so it is a big deal for them, and well worth seeking retrospective planning approval, he says.
Cogeo works with clients to secure planning permission for all kinds of energy projects. Anderson points out that getting the answers that planners need to make their decision on a planning application, often involves areas of specialist knowledge that developers just do not have.
“If you can address all the areas of impact involved in a particular planning application, it makes the whole process so much more efficient. It has a very real and very positive impact on your chances of having your application for permission succeed,” he notes.
Cogeo specialises in producing detailed reports, showing how the various dimensions of a renewables project impact on each other. This goes a long way towards de-risking the application process for the client.
“We’ve been very busy working across the UK on energy projects for clients. We’re seeing quite a bit of demand for residential projects and farm diversification projects,” he says. Although the government has withdrawn the Feed-in Tariff for onshore wind and solar projects, Anderson says that the current generation of seven and 10 megawatt turbines produce enough power to make them viable even without the feed-in tariff.
“The basic principle here is that it is very often going to be cheaper for high energy users to generate their own power, rather than to buy it in from someone else. We’re working on a number of farm scale projects that are completely tariff free and that make sense, nonetheless, because of the high and rising price of energy,” he explains.
Anderson points out that if one looks at the longer term energy future, with the coming move to electric cars, trucks and busses, the competition for energy cannot but increase. The grid is already constrained in many areas and grid power is always up against the fact that transferring electricity over long distances is inherently inefficient. If you can produce your power locally, that makes a lot more sense. So, even without subsidies, the future for wind turbines looks bright.
“Right now, deploying wind turbines onshore remains very challenging but there are more opportunities becoming available. Whether these get realised will depend on a cluster of factors, such as where energy prices go and whether we can get better management of the energy produced by wind power, through battery or thermal storage, for example. Plus, whether and by how much the cost of turbines comes down,” he comments.
Anderson says he is optimistic that local planning officials across the UK are becoming more familiar with the challenges posed by renewables projects and are better able to produce decisions more rapidly than in the past. Though “rapid” continues to be a relative term.
“We probably have around fifty projects on the go at the moment across the whole renewables space as well as on mainstream energy projects.
To read the full Renewables 2019 special report click here
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