Scottish Power has been given the go ahead for a giant 50 megawatt battery facility at its 215-turbine Whitelee wind farm near Glasgow.

One of the main criticisms of renewable energy has been that it is not always available when it is required. 

 

Batteries counter this by ensuring continuity of supply to the grid, storing electricity when wind speeds are strong and releasing it when wind speeds drop.

Batteries can also release short micro bursts of power when there are fluctuations in generation, allowing developers to maximize the output from a project.

Underlying land agreements with landowners need to provide for the incorporation of batteries or other forms of storage by the developer, otherwise savvy landowners may look to maximize their own return on any uplift associated with storage. Ensuring that provision is made for this at the outset is crucial to allow the most to be made of this technology.

Developers should consider a number of other aspects  in trying to incorporate at the outset to future proof their land agreements.

Repower capacity

The obvious example is making provision for repower capacity at expiry of the term. Any repower requires a fresh planning permission so does not sink or swim solely on the terms of the agreement with the landowner. But at least ensuring that that agreement is permissive, where this can be negotiated, leaves the door open.

Rent mechanism

There are issues with agreeing the rent, often having to leave this to a ‘fair rent at the time’ type mechanism which is far from ideal but gives a developer something to hang its hat on rather than starting that negotiation afresh.

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Other suggested ways of maximising future potential (and these may apply to other technologies) include:

  • Ensuring agreements facilitate delivery of larger turbines should the need arise in the event of repower.
  • Providing for shared grid connections with other projects (including with other technologies).
  • Providing for future project extensions, ensuring that landowners are obliged to enter into the supporting servitude and other legal agreements necessary to accommodate any upgrade in grid connection and transmission requirements as a result.
  • One eye must also be had on any ancillary land agreements with access and cabling landowners whose benefit may be restricted to a certain defined area or capacity.

Overbuilding is also something to consider in the future. Quite aside from the fact that wind farms do not always operate at full capacity, the metered output capacity can be significantly less than the rated capacity due to inherent losses (wake losses, downtime and cable losses amongst others) with the result that the grid connection is sometimes being under-utilised.

Overbuilding would ‘fill up’ the grid connection, but there are planning and other contractual considerations to bear in mind here.

 

ScottishPower’s battery is expected to be up and running by the end of 2020 and we understand that similar installations are proposed for a number of its other projects.

Maximising renewable resources will be key in hitting climate change targets, and getting the most out of land agreements has a part to play in helping developers to do that.

Lesley Roarty is a senior solicitor at MacRoberts

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