17 October 2012
“Improving the balance of the grid is vital for the implementation of renewables”

Interview with Elizabeth Johnson of Pure Energy Centre, the Shetland, project partner in the e-harbours project by Sander Kooistra.

"Scalloway is a relatively small fishing harbour on the Shetland Islands in the United Kingdom. The Shetlands don’t have a connection to the national electricity grid, and up till now, we have to generate our own electricity locally. That puts constraints on the grid, and makes it difficult to incorporate renewables like wind energy. We sell 6 kW wind turbines all over the United Kingdom, and of course also on the Shetlands. We have a lot of wind here, the pay-back period for a wind turbine is generally 4 to 5 years while it can take up 8 years elsewhere. But on the Shetlands it is very difficult to getpermission to plug a wind turbine onto the local grid. So it would make a great difference, if we could improve the balance of the grid, where the generation is tied to some loads. It is vital for the implementation of renewables.”

Elizabeth Johnson is Business Development Manager  at Pure Energy Centre, a company  based on the Shetland Islands that provides independent technical & consultancy services in fields like renewable energy, heating, and energy storage. One of their expertises is the production, storage and use of hydrogen from water, a relatively new but promising type of energy storage technology. The Pure Energy Centre is responsible for one of the showcases of e-harbours,  the Scalloway Harbour Showcase. In this showcase, it was found that Scalloway Harbour, a fishing port, has an annual electricity consumption of around 1,8 Giga Watt hours. Production units like fish processing, ice production and freezing storage are great consumers of energy.

Elizabeth said: “We work with the stakeholders in the harbour to help them reduce their energy consumption. All stakeholders are very supportive. This has of course to do with the place we live in. In 2011, we made a calculation, that even a small tiny rise in the oil price was enough to cause a rise in yearly energy costs of 17 million pound for the Shetlands. Something else has to suffer when energy prices rise. Locally, everybody is very well aware of energy cost.

Let’s be frank about it: the emission of COis not the factor that motivates most people, it is pounds or euros. Energy is vital to the businesses in the Scalloway harbour. That’s why we made an extensive program to install data loggers at all relevant places in the harbour, measuring both energy data and weather conditions. We have collected a vast amount of data, and we are going to analyse them in collaboration with the Robert Gordon University of Aberdeen. We know the stakeholders in Scalloway harbour are willing to work on reducing energy, even when it means they have to change their practices.

We are getting in contact with more and more small harbours in the North Sea Region that are interested in our findings, and want to know how they can implement them in their own harbour in the future. Recently we talked with representatives from harbours in Norway and Finland. We even got a visit from the harbour master of the Falkland Islands, on the other side of the world. We are glad to help them. When you work in a small harbour, you need all the help you can get.”

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