The British public supports onshore wind – why won’t the government?

22nd May 2019 | Commercial Energy

Onshore wind is a major success story in the UK’s low carbon economy. However, inadequate government support for onshore wind will make it near impossible to meet the country’s renewable and carbon reduction commitments, let alone bridge the looming electricity generation gap.

A crucial part of the UK’s energy mix, onshore wind will help us to address the climate crisis whilst making a healthy contribution to meeting the country’s energy needs. It is also hugely popular with the public. The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s recent public attitude survey highlighted that 79% of people support onshore wind. Despite this, the regulatory and policy vacuum around onshore renewables means that the deployment of new projects is at its lowest for a decade.

Onshore wind

Onshore wind is excluded from capacity auctions for new power generation, has had subsidy support and other incentives removed, and must meet rigorous planning requirements. These requirements are often more onerous than those applied to fracking for shale gas, a form of energy generation supported significantly less by the public and one yet to prove that is can deliver without environmental damage.

Under the planning regime, new wind farms must be located within areas allocated under Local Plans, and to be approved they have to meet severe planning tests – tests that are often overcome in the more renewables-positive devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, in England the need for a proposal to meet these requirements alongside demonstrating full public support has led to and effective moratorium on onshore wind, with no new developments applying for permission in the past four years.

A key element in sustaining and increasing onshore wind capacity – particularly considering the poor policy environment for new development – is the process of repowering. Repowering is the re-design of existing wind energy sites when wind turbines reach the end of their operational live after 20-25 years. This is achieved by replacing older wind turbines with the new, highly-efficient technology in more effective layout across the site, increasing the wind farm’s generating capacity whilst utilising an area where planning permission has previously been granted.

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