Less new onshore wind capacity built in UK for second year running

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NEW statistics show that the amount of new onshore wind capacity built last year fell to an even lower level than the year before – mainly because Government policy does not currently support the development of onshore wind farms, says RenewableUK.

In 2019, 629 megawatts were installed in the UK as just 23 projects went operational, of which 4 were in England, 4 in Wales, 6 in Northern Ireland and 9 in Scotland.

This continues the trend seen in 2018, when only 651MW (91 projects) were installed.

The huge drop in new capacity in 2018 followed the record high of 2,683MW installed in 2017, when 343 projects started generating as developers raced to beat the main deadline to qualify for Government support.

22 of the 23 projects which began generating last year had qualified for financial support under the RO, FiT or CfD schemes before they were closed to onshore wind developers.

These policies date from the coalition government and are now defunct.

The Government’s current policy for onshore wind led to just four new turbines, the 8.2MW Withernwick II wind farm in East Yorkshire, being built last year.

Just two onshore wind projects – three turbines totalling 1.9MW – received planning approval in England in 2019 and just one new project was submitted into the English planning system, with a capacity of 5MW.

No projects were approved or submitted in Wales last year.

In Scotland however, where the Scottish Government supports developing new onshore wind to meet its climate targets, there was a healthy pipeline of new projects, with 556MW (26 projects) consented last year, and 1,969MW (35 projects) submitted into the planning system.

25MW (25 projects) were approved in Northern Ireland and 127MW (52 projects) entered the planning system.

The Government’s advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, advised last year that under a low-cost energy strategy to reach net zero emissions, the UK’s onshore wind capacity could increase from 13GW gigawatts now to 35GW by 2035.

Research published by RenewableUK shows that building this amount of new onshore wind capacity would save an average household £50 a year in 2035 and reduce the cost of electricity by 7%, compared to using more gas, as well as supporting 31,000 jobs.

RenewableUK’s Head of Policy and Regulation Rebecca Williams said: “These figures highlight that the current approach is falling short on delivering renewable energy capacity at the level needed for net zero.

“This is a flashing red warning light on our net zero dashboard and we urgently need a new strategy from Government.

“Onshore wind is one of the cheapest low carbon technologies in the UK, quick to build, and it’s hugely popular as the Government’s own opinion polls show 78% of people support it.

“As Ministers get down to work at the start of a new decade, we need to see new policies which support the full range of clean power sources to transform our energy system.”