El Ejecutivo laborista estudia medidas para acelerar la tramitación de las solicitudes que se presenten a fin de cumplir el objetivo de reducir en un 34 por ciento para el año 2020 las emisiones británicas de CO2.
Sólo treinta y cinco de las 93 solicitudes presentadas hasta ahora fueron aprobadas por las autoridades locales, otras catorce recibieron la luz verde tras recurrir contra una opinión adversa inicial, pero casi la mitad fueron rechazadas.
Las distintas regiones de Inglaterra se han fijado como objetivo una capacidad total de generación de energía eólica de 1.310 megavatios de aquí al año 2010, pero hasta ahora sólo llevan instalados 340 megavatios aunque otros 66 megavatios están en fase de instalación.
Actualmente hay en toda Gran Bretaña 2.237 aerogeneradores instalados en tierra, mientras que en aguas costeras hay instalados 210 aerogeneradores de mayor tamaño.
Number of wind turbines to quadruple under Renewable Energy Strategy
The number of wind turbines is set to quadruple over the next decade under government plans to force through wind farm planning applications.
Ministers have put wind power at the heart of a Renewable Energy Strategy, which is due to be released on Wednesday. It will outline how Britain is to meet its target of a 34 per cent cut in CO2 emissions by 2020.
The Government’s plans are likely to include more than 4,000 additional onshore turbines by 2020, many built at beauty spots and on high ground which would make them visible across miles of open countryside.
Another 3,000 turbines would be installed at sea — some of them visible from the coast, though others could be up to 100 miles offshore. Ministers are considering several measures to push wind farm planning applications through more quickly.
Of the 93 applications submitted for onshore wind farms in the past three years, only 35 were approved by local authorities. Another 14 were eventually passed after an appeal but almost half of the original applications failed.
In England, the South East, South West, East Midlands, London and the North West regions have all set targets for installing a combined total 1,310 megawatts of wind turbine capacity by 2010. So far they have installed only 340 megawatts (MW) and have another 66 MW under construction.
The worst performing area is the South West, which has so far achieved only 15 per cent of its 2010 target of 355 MW and has no wind farms under construction. There are 2,327 onshore wind turbines in Britain, with an average capacity of 1.5 MW — enough to power 840 homes. Offshore there are 210 larger turbines, the latest of which have a capacity of 5 MW.
The Government has already put pressure on councils to approve wind farms, issuing guidance which states that applicants should expect “expeditious and sympathetic” treatment.
The British Wind Energy Association, the trade body for suppliers and operators, wants ministers to adopt a “national presumption” in favour of all renewable energy developments and proposes a “flying squad” of experts to help councils to overcome objections.
Ministers will claim on Wednesday that 250,000 “green” jobs could be created as Britain increases renewable energy from 2 per cent to 15 per cent by 2020. Ed Miliband, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, said: “We can lead in the green jobs of the future, making wind turbines, making parts for nuclear power stations.”
However, Britain’s only wind turbine factory, in Newport on the Isle of Wight, is due to close this month with the loss of 600 jobs. Any new turbines are likely to be made abroad.
The trade union Unison said: “It is criminal to actually have the only wind turbine factory close. The Government should be intervening now.”
Crown Estate clears way for ten wind farms
Wind farms generating enough electricity to supply three million homes could be established off the Scottish coast after The Crown Estate approved key preliminary bids from a clutch of power companies.
If built, ten wind parks featuring hundreds of turbines could generate as much as 6,000 megawatts of electricity, a step towards the Government’s ambition to provide 15 per cent of the UK’s energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Four of the proposed wind farms – Beatrice, Bell Rock, Islay and Kintyre – were awarded to consortiums including Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). They alone could have a combined capacity of up to 2,700 MWs. The proposed Kintyre wind farm would have up to 126 turbines covering about 70 sq km; another off Islay would have 138 turbines covering 93 sq km.
E.ON, ScottishPower, RWE npower and Mainstream Renewable Power were among other companies also awarded rights to start development of the schemes.
The exclusivity agreements made with The Crown Estate, which owns the seabed out to 12 nautical miles from the coastline of the UK, allow developers to begin initial survey and consultation processes. The Crown Estate is expected to award lease agreements for the sites next year.
However, experts have questioned whether the wind farms will ever be built without fresh government incentives to make them more viable. Industry analysts say that the cost of building offshore wind farms stands at about £3million per megawatt of installed capacity, suggesting that the price of building 6,000MWs could top £18billion.
Conventional power-generating equipment costs a fraction of this. Gas-fired power stations, for example, cost about £500,000 per megawatt – or one sixth in terms of the electricity generated.
Chris Stubbs, a director at WSP Energy, the consultancy, doubted that the projects would be built without government action to improve the economics of offshore wind power generation.
“It’s great that people are interested in offshore wind, but the truth is that there is every chance these projects will be put on hold unless the Government is willing to intervene,” Mr Stubbs said.
Britain generates about three gigawatts of energy from wind farms, enough to power more than 1.5million homes. The Government estimates that the UK will need to boost this to 28 GWs to hit its 2020 target.
“The award of ten exclusivity agreements is excellent news for the companies involved, The Crown Estate and for Scotland,” Rob Hastings, marine estate director for The Crown Estate, said.
Peter Raftery, general manager of UK offshore development for Airtricity, SSE’s renewable energy unit, said: “We believe that Scottish territorial waters represent an outstanding renewable resource and I look forward to the development of the sites.”
Leases that enable the developers to go ahead with construction work will be granted by The Crown Estate only once the developer has obtained statutory consents and permissions from the Scottish Government, which at present is conducting a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) for offshore wind within Scottish territorial waters. The SEA is expected to be completed around the end of this year.
South of England’s biggest wind farm to be officially opened
The biggest onshore wind farm in the South of England with the capacity to generate power to 33,000 homes will be officially opened by Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband.
Each of the 26 wind turbines on arable land at Little Cheyne Court, Romney Marsh, on the Kent-East Sussex border, is 377ft (115m) high and weighs more than 275 tonnes.
Permission was granted by the Government for RWE Npower Renewables to construct the £60 million wind farm in 2005 following a public inquiry, despite widespread objections.
Local councils in Kent and English Nature were among organisations that voiced objection to the scheme, on the grounds that it was close to several nature reserves and in marshland teeming with wildlife.
But RWE Npower Renewables said the turbines will generate enough clean electricity to meet the average annual demand of three-quarters of the homes in the Shepway District Council area.
And the company said the wind farm will help contribute to the target for the South East to have 20% of electricity generated by renewable energy by 2020.
It added that a habitat management group, including English Nature and the RSPB, was set up and regularly met to discuss the construction of the project.
The wind farm started exporting electricity to the National Grid in November last year, and it is undergoing final operational testing before it goes fully on stream.
The turbines, produced by German manufacturer Nordex and with blades measuring more than 140ft (43m), each produce 2.3 megawatts of electricity, giving the wind farm a total capacity of 59.8 megawatts.
Today’s official opening comes as the Government will this week publish the UK Low Carbon Transition Plan for decarbonising the UK and maximising the economic benefits of low-carbon industries such as wind energy.
In a report earlier this month, energy expert David Milborrow found there was no technical reason why a significant amount of energy generated by wind could not be used to supply the National Grid.
The grid was already designed to manage fluctuations in demand and supply, while variations in wind power were considerably less than other demands caused by the weather or even TV programmes, the report said.
Some environmental groups, including Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, have called on the Government to put in place funding and incentives to encourage investment in much more wind power.
It has been argued that renewable energy is essential to help counter global warming and the consequences of increased droughts, and rising sea levels.
Wind farm approvals ‘too slow’
COUNCIL planning departments should share the blame for the region failing to meet renewable energy targets, it is claimed today.
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), the trade and professional group for the UK wind and marine renewable industry, said the region had little chance of achieving a target adopted by the North-East Assembly seven years ago.
It was hoped that, by next year, onshore renewables such as wind farms would provide 454 megawatts (MW) of electricity.
But the BWEA said currently only 175MW had been installed across the region – only 38 per cent of the intended target – and there was little chance of it now being met.
The organisation said the North- East was the second worst performing of nine English regions in progress towards its onshore renewables target.
In Yorkshire, the picture was only slightly better with only 39 per cent (183 MW) of its agreed 468 MW target being installed.
BWEA chief executive Maria Mc- Caffery said: “In common with most other English regions, the progress made in the North-East and Yorkshire is disappointing.”
The BWEA said that 44 per cent of wind farm applications refused permission at a local level across the country were ultimately approved by the Planning Inspectorate – which it said was evidence that local planning authorities were not doing their jobs.
Ms McCaffery added: “The average time it takes for a wind farm to get through local planning is 14 months, yet it’s supposed to take 16 weeks.”
The BWEA said there were currently a number of planning applications for wind farms in the North- East – representing 360MW of capacity – still awaiting a decision from councils.
A spokesperson for the Association of North East Councils, said the North-East was on course to meet renewable targets contained within the region’s planning blueprint, the Regional Spatial Strategy, over a period up to 2021.
In 2008, the UK installed 3,240 MW of wind energy capacity, and there are another 8,827 MW of projects either under construction or awaiting planning permission. After failing to pick up the pace of development in the 1990s and struggling to reach 1 GW of installed capacity, a clearly revitalized and reenergized UK wind sector has delivered over 2 GW since 2006, and continues to attract interest from developers and investors.
The UK government published a Renewable Energy Strategy in June 2008 which proposes 14 GW of onshore and 14 GW of offshore wind by 2020. This would increase the current installed capacity by eight times in 12 years, a necessary step towards meeting the UK’s obligation under the EU Renewables Directive of providing 15% of final energy consumption from renewable sources by 2020.
The Renewable Energy Strategy, currently under consultation, will help cement the country’s position as a world leader in offshore wind, a position that the UK reached in 2008 with a cumulative offshore capacity of 566 MW. The offshore sector received another major boost earlier in the year with an announcement by the Crown Estate, the Government agency in charge of managing the sea bed and the coastal waters. It was announced that land for 25 GW of offshore development could be available in UK coastal areas, and this announcement has received a great deal of interest from developers.
2008 was an important year for the wind sector in terms of legislation, with a number of bills making their way through the UK Parliament.
Building on its Energy Review from 2007, in January 2008 the UK government introduced legislation amending its energy policy. The Energy Act was adopted by Parliament in 2008 and its various provisions entered into force from 26 January 2009. The main provision for renewable energy is the introduction of a feed-in tariff for projects up to 5 MW, which is aimed at encouraging smaller scale deployment. The government has announced that a feed-in tariff will be introduced by April 2010.
The Renewable Energy Strategy consultation from June 2008 will be followed by a second more detailed consultation in the summer of 2009, which will examine how the two systems can be harmonized and determine the way in which different technologies will be supported. This second consultation might also reexamine the 5 MW cap on feed–in tariffs.
The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) has voiced concerns that the feed-in tariff could lessen support for the need to build large Renewable Energy Obligation (ROC) supported projects and has called for an effective harmonization of the feed-in tariff with the existing ROC system.
Another piece of legislation, the Planning Act, was passed in November 2008. Its main purpose is to deal with large infrastructure projects, and not renewable energy developments, so its impact on the large backlog of wind energy development applications is bound to be insufficient. However, the government has made repeated promises that the Infrastructure Planning Commission, created by the act, will be well resourced and equipped to deal with both onshore and offshore applications, which include wind projects of more than 50 MW onshore and more than 100 MW offshore.
Moving forward in 2009, the industry is keenly following the current progress of the Marine Bill, a first of its kind bill which will regulate and protect the UK sea environment. Government ministers have repeatedly emphasised the need to balance the interests of all sea users, while protecting the marine environment for future generations. As the bill made its way through Parliament, there was a positive signal for potential Round 3 developers from the government’s Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). It concluded: ‘there are no overriding environmental considerations to prevent the achievement of the offshore…wind elements of the programme.’
Although not part of the Parliamentary procedure around the Marine Bill, the SEA is a necessary stage in obtaining planning permission. It gives an overall strategic view of location suitability and any environmental concerns that government agencies might have in connection with the building programme.
Offshore wind development in the UK has had three phases (rounds). Each round starts by setting aside zones for proposed wind development. Companies are then invited to bid for sites, and once awarded, lease holders can submit planning applications. Round 1 & 2 sites, awarded in 2000 and 2003, are now mostly built or under construction, with the total installed capacity expected to reach 8 GW. The round 3 development process, which was launched in June 2008, could result in construction of up to 25GW of additional offshore wind capacity.
Public acceptance of wind energy has been one of the main stumbling blocks hindering developments in the UK, and this was influenced by media reporting of the issue.
Recently, however, the media’s tone has changed. Renewable energy in general and wind energy in particular received a great amount of media interest in 2008.The main national daily newspapers were broadly supportive of the industry’s objectives, with the quality and depth of coverage noticeably picking up throughout 2007 and in 2008. The Times, the Guardian, the Financial Times and the Independent covered in detail the important developments, dedicating considerable resources to wind energy news.
Research on attitudes to wind energy conducted by the UK’s Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform published in June 2008 found that 84% of the UK public supports renewable energy and 80% supports wind energy.