"The most important thing is to never stop questioning"
Below is a collection of frequently asked questions about the Garpsdalur Wind Farm project and the wind energy industry.
What are the socio-economic benefits of Garpsdalur Wind Farm?
Garpsdalur wind farm will involve a ISK 16.2 billion investment into the Icelandic energy sector, providing world class, low carbon energy generation infrastructure to meet Iceland's growing demand. The development benefits to the local community include a ISK 376 million community fund available to the community of Reykhólahreppur. Direct corporate tax earnings for the Icelandic governement are estimated to exceed ISK 7.4 billion over the project lifetime.
As well as these direct financial benefits, Gapsdalur wind farm will provide considerable job creation, expected to total 400 indirect jobs over the project lifetime. 200 direct jobs will be created during construction and 25 direct jobs will be created and sustained throughout the operation phase. The project will also provide the opportunity for knowledge transfer during construction and operation, whereby the turbine manufacturer will establish a local Operations & Maintenance team, capable of serving the wider Icelandic market. Local infrastructure such as roads and electrical systems will be upgraded. Normal farming/ industrial activities will continue between turbines.
Is wind energy economically competitive with hydro and geothermal in Iceland?
Iceland is presently facing a capacity shortfall, with rising electricity demand outpacing new generation development.
The scarcity of remaining large hydro resources, the rising costs associated with small hydro projects (~50 $/MWh), as well as the adverse environmental impacts of both require the addition of alternative generation technologies. (Askja Energy, 2017)
Lengthy development times (minimum 10 years) and rising costs for new geothermal (~45 $/MWh) mean that wind energy provides the most time and cost effective solution to satisfy Iceland’s current capacity shortfall. (Askja Energy, 2017)
The levelized cost of electricity of wind energy is presently at an average of between 30 and 60 $/MWh. IRENA predict this will fall to between 25 and 40 $/MWh by 2050. Iceland’s considerable wind resource, location and market dynamics put it at the lower end of this spectrum. (Lazard, IRENA)
This demonstrates that wind energy in Iceland is already cost competitive with existing technologies in both the industrial and household consumer markets, and that this advantage will significantly increase with time.
How much electricity can one wind turbine generate?
The output of a wind turbine depends on the turbine's size and the wind's speed through the rotor. An average wind turbine with a capacity of 3.6 MW can produce more than 12 million kWh in a year – enough to supply more than 3,312 average EU households. (Source;EWEA)
What happens when the wind stops blowing?
The power grid operator constantly matches the electricity generation available to electricity demand. No power plant is 100% reliable, and the electricity grid is designed to cope with power plants shutting down unexpectedly, and times when the wind is not blowing. Wind is variable, but predictable. Wind farm sites are chosen after careful analysis of wind patterns. This enables a forecast of output to be made - information which can be made available to the network operators who will distribute the electricity.
In the future, once a truly European electricity grid has been constructed, wind-powered electricity will be able to be traded between EU countries to balance out supply and demand even more easily. Other renewables such as solar will also form part of this electricity exchange.( Source: EWEA)
What is the Wind energy impact in Europe?
What is the future for Wind Energy?
Why are many European governments promoting wind power rather than other renewables?
Wind now meets 11% of the EU’s power demand and much more in many countries: Denmark 37%; Ireland 27%; Portugal 25%; Spain 19%; Germany 16%. ( Source: EWEA)
The IEA expects wind to become the no. 1 source of power in Europe soon after 2030. It could meet nearly 30% of Europe’s power demand by 2030. ( Source: EWEA)
Governments tend not to promote one technology above another. The reason that wind power has been popular is because of its cost effectiveness. In the short to medium term, alternatives are less attractive to developers. Hydroelectric power using large dams was popular until recent times, particularly in Iceland. However, the social and environmental problems caused by the flooding of valleys and large areas of land means that future hydro schemes are likely to be smaller and river-based. Solar power is much more costly than wind today, though it is reducing rapidly in cost, and can be very effective when integrated into new buildings. Tidal and wave power technologies are not as well developed as wind, although the long term future offers potential. ( Source; UK Sustainable Development Commission)
Aren’t wind farms a real blot on the landscape?
Some people find wind farms unacceptably intrusive in our much loved countryside. Others see them as graceful structures, generating local civic pride – unlike electricity pylons, for example, which we have lived with for decades. It’s a highly subjective judgement. Climate change – unless tackled effectively now – is far more likely to have a severe and widespread impact on the landscape in the longer term than wind plants. Our willingness to save energy and reduce our dependence on traditional means of power generation will help to safeguard the landscape for the use and enjoyment of future generations. (Sustainable Development Commission)
Why not site wind turbines offshore?
The urgent need to respond to climate change means that we’ll need to use as many renewable resources as quickly as possible, including both onshore and offshore wind. At present onshore wind is one of the most economically competitive of the renewable technologies. Due to the technical hurdles of offshore construction and connection to the National Grid, the cost of delivered energy from initial offshore wind farms is estimated to be up to twice that from equivalent land-based turbines – although this is expected to fall as the industry matures. There are also other constraints on the development of offshore wind resources including a limited number of suitable locations, new consents procedures and objections from the Ministry of Defence, which are slowing progress at some of these sites. The offshore wind resource is huge – the Government estimates it could theoretically supply today’s electricity demand 10 times over. But onshore wind is currently the key technology if the renewable energy market is to be successful. (UK Governemnt)
What are a turbine’s lifetime emissions?
Wind energy emits no toxic substances such as mercury and air pollutants like smog-creating nitrogen oxides, acid rain-forming sulphur dioxide and particulate deposits. These pollutants can trigger cancer, heart disease, asthma and other respiratory diseases, can acidify terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and corrode buildings.
Wind energy creates no waste or water pollution. Unlike fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, wind technology uses very little water to produce electricity. Given the fact that water scarcity is pressing and will be exacerbated by climate change and population growth, wind energy is key to preserving water resources. ( Source; EWEA)
Do wind turbines harm animals, birds and marine life?
Leading environmental and nature conservation groups like Birdlife, WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Birdlife support wind energy. Birdlife recently stated that climate change was the single largest threat to birds and wind and renewables were a clear solution to climate change.
Wind farms are always subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure that their potential effect on the immediate surroundings, including fauna and flora, are carefully considered before construction is allowed to start. Deaths from birds flying into wind turbines represent only a tiny fraction of those caused by other human-related sources such as vehicles and buildings.
A 2012 study carried out in the UK (Pearce- Higgins et al.) concluded that a large majority of species can co-exist or thrive with wind farms once they are operating (Journal of Applied Ecology).
According to the Greening Blue Energy study, “Including both on and offshore facilities, estimated rates of mortality for different bird species range from 0.01 to 23 mortalities per turbine per year” (Drewitt & Langston, 2005). It has been estimated that wind turbines in the US cause the direct deaths of only 0.01-0.02% of all of the birds killed annually by collisions with man-made structures and activities.
What are the ESIA subjects of study?
EM Orka will carry out an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for Garpsdalur Wind Farm to assess what effects the project might have on the environment and local community. The following studies will be conducted;
Social Impact Assessment
This involves examining the social effects of infrastructure projects on the surrounding community. The impact of the wind farm on human beings will be assessed by completing a desk study and conducting site visits to the surrounding areas. This study will examine land use, employment, health and safety, tourism and local amenities. EM Orka employs best practice guidelines to ensure any potential impacts are mitigated as early as possible.
An ecological impact assessment will be carried out for the wind farm to assess the impact on the sites natural environment (flora and fauna). The study involves identifying, quantifying and evaluating potential impacts of the wind farm on the local ecosystem. The findings of this study will inform the final design and position of the turbines.
Soils, Hydrology and Hydrogeology
The hydrology of the site refers to how water currently flows under and through the land. The final design will consider the soil and rock composition found onsite and will minimise any disturbance to drainage and ensure no interruption to residents’ drinking water supplies.
A noise assessment will be carried out to assess the impact of noise on the surrounding community. Sound level meters will be installed at sound sensitive locations (houses) to measure the existing background noise. The audible impact of the wind farm will be estimated using wind turbine noise curves. Turbines can then be positioned in order to mitigate adverse noise pollution to the local community.
Shadow flicker refers to alternating changes in light intensity caused by the moving turbine rotors, possibly impacting dwellings. This generally occurs only at sunrise or sunset when the cast shadows are very long. EM Orka will carry out a shadow flicker analysis using computer software to ensure that the placement of each turbine does not result in any shadow flicker.
The civil engineering assessment details the design of the site access tracks, turbine foundations, crane hardstandings, sediment and erosion control measures for the protection of watercourses, traffic impact assessment and turbine site investigations.
Landscape and Visual
A landscape and visual impact assessment will be carried out to ascertain the visual impact of the wind farm on the surrounding community and key transport routes. A zone of theoretical visibility (ZTV) will be produced outlining which turbines will be visible from various locations. Photo montages will also be produced showing the operational turbines in situ.
Cultural and Archaeological Heritage
This study will include the identification of significant archaeological, and cultural heritage constraints on the site and surrounding area. The final design will ensure that any sensitive areas are protected throughout development