With industry leaders set to gather for this week’s All Energy Exhibition in Glasgow, Atmos MD Jean Curran reflects on what has been a busy year for the team and considers the importance of the local supply chain in driving further efficiencies in the sector.  In an environment where the renewable energy industry has faced great change and adjustment, the Atmos team has seen a wide ranging change in the support and advice that our clients need.

Development, construction and operation of projects is increasingly challenging – the ‘easier’ sites are developed, policy continues to evolve and change and understanding of the interaction of development and the environment continues to be the subject of very close scrutiny and strong opinion.  Additionally the reducing role of subsidies and commercial viability requires much greater efficiency and innovation in the project supply chain.

Supply Chain Efficiency

What we are increasingly seeing is more focus on accessing the local supply chain.   Developers and contractors seeking to minimise risk and maximise gain want to use companies who fully understand the subtle regional differences, particularly in the planning and environmental policy landscape.  
With offices across the UK our teams bring an in-depth understanding of the regional policy and sector trends to design and construction teams.   As is well documented the use of local supply chains brings a number of benefits not least on-the-ground, local knowledge together with socio-economic benefits.    By using local supply chains those investing in the region will also gain from the fact that there are few problems the local supplier has not come across; thus ensuring key issues are offset at an early stage, helping to achieve successful consent and unhindered construction with the fewest possible constraints – smoothing the passage of the project that maximises commercial viability.

An excellent example of the local supply chain working positively together is the habitat management and Ecological Clerk of Works input we recently concluded on the 24.6MW Tirgwynt Wind Farm, chairing the Ecological Steering Group and successfully integrating multiple landowner farm practices with the construction contractor’s programme to the overall satisfaction of our client and Natural Resources Wales.

We are also currently supporting the application to build the Wylfa Newydd, nuclear Power Plant in Anglesey, North Wales.  The project is being led by Horizon Nuclear Power and Atmos has been contracted by Balfour Beatty and Jones Brothers to deliver ecological services as part of the site preparation works.

Opportunities Still Exist

Despite some doom about opportunities for growth in this challenging environment we are increasingly seeing investment in the sector by developers keen to consider new approaches to the more challenged sites, whether that be developing integrated generation and storage, deploying the latest wind turbine technology or finding ways to reduce the financial impact of regulatory requirements.  Additionally, we have seen many of our projects progress successfully across Scotland, Wales, England and Ireland with particular highlights including:

Applications for consents for wind, solar, hydro and biomass energy projects – our project development is still progressing across a wide range of generating technologies.

Successful consent for our projects is always a matter of great pride for the team and we are delighted to have continued to support our development clients in their projects. One notable recent highlight is the Millennium South Wind Farm– a carefully designed and well thought through ten-turbine development that adds to the operational Millennium Wind Farm. The project was successfully presented through Inquiry to secure consent at the beginning of the year.  Great care was taken to establish and agree pragmatic consent conditions that recognised the practical challenges of construction in a mountain environment – again utilising our detailed local knowledge and understanding.

ECoW support to a complex and sensitive Hydro Power construction site in the Scottish Highlands with potential to impact a number of protected species.  Ground breaking work on understanding the potential interaction of construction activity with the ecological sensitivities meant the project kept to programme and was energised at the end of 2016.

ECoW for wind farm construction sites in Powys, Cheshire, Aberdeenshire, and grid transmission and distribution projects. Atmos has specialised in understanding landowner farm practices and using this to build stronger regulator and landowner relations making the task of implementation and compliance much easier and more efficient.

Post Construction Monitoring for wind energy sites in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland – continually looking for innovative measures to maintain a pragmatic approach to understanding the interaction of the project with its environment and providing operators and regulators with practical measures to discharge their duties.

In support of all of our work Atmos continues to apply our extensive GIS data management expertise to reduce the effort and time required to quickly robustly appraise feasibility and impact.  Our innovative ornithological modelling techniques were once again recognised in dispatches – this time by ESRI UK in their annual Customer Success Awards which celebrate excellence and innovation in Geographical Information Systems or GIS technology. Our entry "Understanding bird behaviour to progress wind farm development" was shortlisted within the "How spatial analysis leads to insight" category.