It’s almost a year since the Simple Power seed was sown. In April 2010, the Northern Irish Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) announced that incentives paid to renewable energy projects would increase, particularly for wind turbines below 250kW capacity. The Simple Power concept stems from this small but very significant change in focus.
DETI has set an ambitious target of 40% of all electricity in Northern Ireland to be produced by renewable means by 2020. We are currently producing around 10% through renewables. This is mostly through large scale wind farm projects. DETI however, has identified a space where more medium-scale turbines, spread across the Region, could help in a very significant way towards the 2020 renewable energy target.
This focus on medium-scale turbines is the very cornerstone of the Simple Power model. We have recognised an opportunity to achieve DETI’s renewables target through an approach that utilises single wind turbine sites. Partnering with Northern Irish framers and landowners, our target is to generate 50MW of wind energy within 4 years, using Simple Power turbines. This will see the development of around 200 single turbines and an investment of over £50 million by 2015. This 50MW of wind energy would equal an approximated 30% increase on current renewable energy generation.
But where is the fresh thinking?
Since the business has gone ‘live’ in November, we have focused on developing two key avenues, very unique to Simple Power.
First, our model assists farmers in maximizing returns from their land assets. We view them as integral partners to the business; vital to the future of Northern Irish renewable energy. The most important part of this is to give farmers a fair deal. We do the hard work, financing the entire project; ensuring landowners receive a regular income at no additional expense.
We have, in the four months since launch, established a strong and credible presence in the farming community across the Region and have attracted a tremendous amount of interest in the concept. There can be no doubt this is due to adopting this farmer-centric approach.
The second avenue we’re working tirelessly to develop is the solution we offer to farmers once they have decided a wind turbine is a suitable addition to their land. We keep it simple, with one contract that takes care off of all eventualities, to include planning, assembly and maintenance. Many single turbine operators attest to their abilities in this area. None have the experience we do.
Planning, above all else, is the key to developing single wind turbine sites and we can point to an extensive background in the area (through one of Northern Ireland’s leading consultancy firms Strategic Planning) as the key ingredient that sets Simple Power apart from anyone else in the industry.
The landscape in Northern Ireland is particularly sensitive and for large scale wind farm opportunities it is proving much more difficult to obtain planning approval. However, medium-scale turbines are more acceptable in the landscape and can have minimal visual impact, with careful and considered siting. In our view renewable energy can coexist within our landscape and there is no need to push the boundaries of the planning designations to thrive.
With the first sites now agreed and going through planning, we are on target to having our first turbines operational in spring 2012. We consider it a very exciting space, which if developed properly through professional companies like Simple Power, will assist greatly in allowing DETI to reach those 2020 targets.