Wind Power in United Kingdom By Iain Campbell, Matthew Morris and Fiona Brocklehurst

The United Kingdom (UK) has one of the best wind resources in Europe and has significant potential for development of both onshore and offshore wind. The UK government has put in place a range of measures to enable the successful development of that potential resource, and it is committed to ensuring the further growth of wind generation. The proposed EU target of 15% of the UK’s energy to come from renewable sources, whilst still subject to agreement, is likely to mean a very significant increase in the contribution from wind energy—both onshore and offshore—to the UK’s overall energy mix.

From the time the first commercial turbine was installed in the UK, it took fourteen years for the UK to reach the 1-GW mark but less than two years to double that capacity to 2 GW. By the close of 2008, more than 3.3 GW of wind energy capacity was operational in the UK. The UK is now the world leader in offshore wind energy, with 598 MW installed capacity.

The UK government has strengthened the regulatory framework to deliver its renewable energy targets by setting in law three key pieces of legislation:
• The Climate Change Act
• The Energy Act
• The Planning Act

In addition to these legislative measures, the government has conducted a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) to investigate the potential impacts of further leasing for offshore wind farms and licensing for offshore oil and gas, including natural gas storage. In the UK, primary energy supply comes from a range of sources: natural gas (39%), oil and petrol products (36%), coal (17%), electricity (7%), and renewables and waste (2%). Electricity generation stations use a mixture of energy sources: coal (39%), gas (36%), nuclear (17%), and renewable (5%). The remaining 4% comes from other fuels, oil, and electricity imports.

Renewable energy sources accounted for 5.17 million tonnes of oil equivalent, with 4.08 million tonnes used to generate electricity, 0.73 million tonnes to generate heat, and 0.36 million tonnes for transport fuel. Use of renewable energy grew by 8.4% between 2006 and 2007. Total primary energy demand was 2.7% lower in 2007 than in 2006 at 226 million tonnes of oil equivalent.

UK gas production is declining as UK continental shelf reserves deplete. The UK continues to be a net importer of gas. In the fourth quarter of 2008, imports of gas were 16.6% higher than the same period in 2007. Exports also increased by 21.3%. Reliance on imports will increase over the coming years as output from the UK declines.

The wind energy industry in the UK continues to grow rapidly. A total of 912 MW of new wind generation capacity was commissioned in 2008 (450 MW in 2007), bringing the UK well over the 3-GW mark in terms of installed capacity. Total installed capacity stood at 3,331 MW in February 2009, an increase of 38% above the 2007 level. This includes 598 MW of offshore wind energy capacity.

One of the main contributors to this increase in capacity was the Whitelee wind farm in Scotland, now one of the largest in Europe. When the first phase is complete, it will have a generating capacity of 322 MW. If plans for extensions are approved, Whitelee will increase its capacity further to 614 MW. Clyde, another wind farm in Scotland, has been approved by the Scottish government. This wind farm will have a generating capacity of 548 MW when fully commissioned.

The overall electricity contribution from wind energy increased from 1.04% (2006) to 1.32% (2007) of the total electricity demand for the UK. This contribution from wind is set to rise dramatically. Wind energy will be the single biggest contributor to the government’s target of 10% of electricity from renewables by 2010. Wind is expected to deliver more than half of the 10% electricity target.

There were 1,665 MW of projects under construction at the end of 2008, and a further 7,093 MW were approved but had not yet begun construction.

Progress Toward National Objectives

The UK government has four long-term goals for its energy policy:
1. Put the country on the path to reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050, with real progress by 2020.
2. Maintain the reliability of energy supplies.
3. Promote competitive markets in the UK and beyond, helping to raise the rate of sustainable economic growth and to improve our productivity.
4. Ensure that every home is adequately and affordably heated.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) was established on 3 October 2008. DECC joins much of the Climate Change Group that was previously part of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) with the Energy Group from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR). The DECC has three principal objectives:
• Ensure that the UK has energy that is affordable, secure, and sustainable.
• Bring about the transition to a low carbon economy.
• Achieve an international agreement on climate change at Copenhagen in December 2009.

Renewable energy is an integral part of the government’s longer-term aim of reducing CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. In 2000, the government set a target of 10% of electricity supply from renewable energy by 2010. In 2007, 5% of the UK’s electricity supply came from renewable sources, with 4.9% from Renewables Obligation (RO)–eligible sources. There are no specific targets for installed capacity or electricity generation from wind energy.

The UK has agreed with other member states to an EU-wide target of 20% of energy from renewables by 2020, including a binding 10% target for the transport sector. The European Commission (EC) has proposed that the UK share of this target would be to achieve 15% of the UK’s energy from renewables by 2020.

Progress toward national targets

British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) figures show a total of 34 new projects, including two offshore projects, came on stream in 2008, representing 912 MW of new capacity. Projects commissioned in 2008 raised the total installed capacity to 3,331 MW, an increase of 38% over capacity installed at the end of 2007.

Offshore wind projects completed through the end of 2008 brought the total installed offshore capacity in the UK to 598 MW. In 2008, 56 new projects were approved through the planning system totaling 3,980 MW. These projects brought the total UK capacity approved but not yet under construction to almost 7,100 MW. The total capacity of approved projects is 12,089 MW, which includes operating projects, projects being constructed, and projects that are approved but have not yet been constructed. The greatest proportion of capacity in this figure (3,255 MW) is made up of English offshore projects that have been approved but have not yet been built. Onshore wind projects in Scotland also contribute significantly to this total, with over 2 GW of capacity approved but not yet under construction.

The approval rate for new wind energy projects in 2007 was 70.1%. This was significantly greater than the rates of 54.7% and 59.6% observed in 2006 and 2005, respectively. In 2008, the approval rate dropped to 61%. Although this rate is considerably worse than the 2007 rate, more capacity was approved in 2008 (almost 4 GW) than in 2007 (2,300 MW). In both 2007 and 2008, refusals had the biggest impact in Scotland. In 2007, 17 projects and 575 MW of capacity were refused planning permission or were withdrawn. In 2008, only six Scottish projects were refused permission or were withdrawn; however, this amounted to over 1 GW of capacity.

Benefits to National Economy

The consistently high level of project development undertaken over the past three years, together with the large number of projects that have gained planning consent and are on the drawing board, underlines the fact that wind energy remains one of the fastest-growing energy sectors in the UK. It is estimated that companies working in the renewables sector currently sustain about 16,000 jobs in the UK, and this number is projected to increase as the wind industry grows. If the UK is to meet its proposed 2020 RE target, it is estimated that this will require 122,000 to 133,000 jobs, although not all of these will necessarily be in the UK.

The supply chain that supports the UK wind energy industry includes developers; professional services providers such as accountants, solicitors; and insurers; and technical consultants in the areas of wind resource assessment, planning, civil engineering, environmental impact assessment, and electrical engineering. Also included are supply chain manufacturers that provide all major components of a wind turbine, including blades, foundations, seabed survey, logistics and port storage, installation, cable laying, connections, standards/certification, and O&M services. With the exception of Clipper Windpower, major turbine manufacturers are located outside of the UK, which poses challenges for the UK supply chain.

Financing for wind farms is obtained largely from the balance sheets of corporate investors and banks, although there is a small amount of private investment. There are also some community wind farms in the UK. One of these was completed in 2008—the five-turbine Westmill wind farm. Westmill is the first onshore wind farm to be built in the southeast of England and is 100% community owned.

The Renewables Obligation has greatly increased the development of wind projects, with utilities, generators of conventional power, and new developers active in the market. Because of the high value the RO places on renewables, corporate investment will yield good returns through an expansion of the core business while reducing exposure to penalty payments. Onshore wind energy has found particular favor because of its economics, maturity, and ability to deliver relatively quickly. In the future, offshore wind, biomass generation, and technologies further from commercial deployment (for example, wave and tidal) will be advantaged by the introduction of banding. During the current financial recession, project financing has generally been very difficult. In some cases, particularly in the offshore market, this has led to companies withdrawing from projects. This has often resulted from changes in ownership rather than the project not being taken forward.

The present-day costs of installing wind energy in the UK are between 1000 £/kW and 1,500 £/kW onshore, rising to between 2,000 £/kW and 3,000 £/kW offshore. The higher capital expenditure costs of offshore are due to the increase in size of structures and the logistics of installing the turbines at sea. The costs of foundations, construction, installations, and grid connection are significantly higher offshore than onshore. Typically, for example, offshore turbines are 20% more expensive, and towers and foundations offshore can cost more than 2.5 times the price for a project of similar size onshore.

Indications of power purchase prices come from published auction prices and trading prices from renewable energy certificates. Currently, the Non–Fossil Fuel Purchasing Agency Ltd. (NFPA) conducts biannual green power auctions. These auctions are for electrical output that will be produced by NFFO (Non–Fossil Fuel Obligation) generators during a six-month period (starting 1 April or 1 October) following the end of the auction. These auction prices are for electrical output, together with (depending on the generation technology) Climate Change Levy Exemption Certificates (LECs) and Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs). In the NFFO power auction in February 2009, the price for wind was 92 £/MWh. This is a significant decrease from the peak of 136.9 £/MWh in August 2008. In February 2008, the price was 106 £/MWh. In January 2009, ROCs cost 51.81 £/MWh. This is a decrease from the peak of 53.27 £/MWh in July 2008. In January 2008, the price was 49.95 £/MWh.

National Incentive Programs

The government is eager to encourage the development of wind generation in the UK and has created several incentives, either through legislation or other means. The Energy Act 2008 received Royal Assent on 26 November 2008. It implements the legislative aspects of the Energy White Paper published in May 2007; its principal objective is to make the legislative framework more appropriate for today’s energy

Aspects of the Energy Act that are expected to affect UK wind energy projects include the following:
• A reform of the Renewables Obligation, the principal fiscal incentive for renewable electricity generation in the UK. The act aims to increase the effectiveness of the RO by allowing different levels of support to different renewable technologies under the RO scheme through banding.
• The provision for a system of feed-in tariffs to be introduced for small-scale renewable generators (e.g., small-scale wind turbines) up to a maximum total capacity of 5 MW, to incentivize households, businesses, and community groups to generate low-carbon electricity. The government intends to consult in summer 2009 on the detail of a feed-in tariff mechanism and is aiming to introduce the new mechanism in 2010.
• Additional powers to enable the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem) to run effective competitive offshore transmission tenders and recover their costs. This is designed to ensure that the most economic and efficient transmission solution is encouraged to facilitate the expansion of offshore renewables.
• Strengthening of the statutory decommissioning scheme for offshore energy installations, including offshore wind turbines, as part of the offshore licensing regime.

The Climate Change Act 2008 received Royal Assent on 26 November 2008, making the UK government the first in the world to introduce legally binding long term objectives to tackle climate change. The act includes the following elements:
• The creation of the Climate Change Committee (CCC), an independent advisory body on climate change consisting of experts in the field. The CCC will advise the UK government on reducing emissions across the economy, adaptation strategies, and setting targets for emissions reductions over time. CCC members will also report independently on progress made toward targets.
• A formal system for setting medium and long-term emissions reduction targets and carbon budgets for all areas of the UK economy, including electricity generation. The act requires the UK government to reduce the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 to at least 80% below the level of net UK emissions of targeted greenhouse gases in 1990. Since currently two-thirds of UK emissions originate from the use of energy, this will act as a driver for large-scale adoption of low-carbon energy sources, such as wind generation, over the next forty years.

Planning Act (England and Wales)

The Planning Act 2008 received Royal Assent on 26 November 2008. The act introduces several reforms to the town and country planning system in England along with a new integrated planning system for major infrastructure—including large-scale renewable energy generation projects in England and Wales. The new system is designed to improve and streamline the planning process to reduce uncertainty, time, and cost while retaining public involvement and accountability.

The act establishes the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC), an independent body responsible for applications for development consent for nationally significant infrastructure projects. (For electricity generation, this means schemes with an installed capacity of greater than 50 MW onshore and greater than 100 MW offshore.) The IPC will be guided by National Policy Statements (NPSs). These will be prepared for each category of infrastructure that the Planning Act defines as nationally significant.

It is expected that there will be an overarching NPS for energy infrastructure and a specific NPS for renewable energy. By rationalizing the planning regime for major infrastructure projects in this way, the UK government aims to reduce the time between application and decision to less than a year in most cases. The UK government launched a consultation on the list of statutory consultees for NPSs in January 2009 which closes in April 2009. The government has also published its “Route Map to IPC Implementation” which establishes a timetable that requires the IPC to begin making decisions in 2010.

Planning in Scotland

The planning system in Scotland differs from that of England and Wales. In Scotland, the planning system for large renewable energy projects is also being reformed. The Scottish government recognizes that steps are urgently needed to streamline the consenting process. The Scottish government now has the objective of determining new applications within nine months where there is no public inquiry. In December 2008, a draft of Scotland’s second National Planning Framework (NPF) was laid before Scottish Parliament for consideration. The NPF is concerned with Scotland’s development over the next 25 years and the actions needed to bring about that development. The draft NPF sets out the following issues:
• The Scottish government’s commitment to develop Scotland’s renewable energy potential.
• A different planning process for projects deemed to be of national significance.
• The potential for development of a subsea transmission grid.
The Scottish Parliament is currently reviewing the draft, with the aim of publishing the final document in spring 2009.

The Renewables Obligation

The Renewables Obligation is the government’s chief incentive mechanism for renewable electricity generation in the UK. Also, working in support of other policy measures such as the EU Emissions Trading System, it is an important part of the government’s program for securing reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. It requires electricity suppliers to source an increasing proportion of their electricity from renewable sources or pay a buyout price.

To make the RO more efficient and effective, the government is introducing several reforms. The RO Order is expected to get EU approval for state aids such that it can be implemented on 1 April 2009. The new RO Order will accomplish the following:
• Band the RO to provide more support to technologies that are currently further from commercial deployment.
• Introduce mechanisms to protect investments made in renewable generation.
• Change the RO to make it easier for microgenerators to access it.

These proposals are now set out in the draft Renewables Obligation Order, which went before parliament in March 2009. The UK government and the Devolved Administrations understand the benefits of a consistent approach across the UK and the importance of this matter to many within industry. Separate Renewables Obligation Orders were made for Scotland and Northern Ireland so that the changes came into effect on 1 April on a UK-wide basis.

Under a banded RO, onshore wind will continue to receive 1 ROC/MWh, and offshore wind will receive 1.5 ROC/MWh. This change acknowledges the extra difficulties, risks, and costs involved in offshore wind development as compared with onshore wind development. Since its introduction in 2002, the RO has succeeded in almost tripling the level of renewable electricity (from 1.8% of total UK supply to 4.9% in 2007). The changes being introduced are designed to make the RO more successful still. A banded RO is expected to deliver approximately 13.4% of electricity from renewable sources by 2015/2016.

The Chancellor’s Pre-Budget Report announced on 24 November 2008 that the Renewables Obligation was to be extended from its current end date of 2027 to at least 2037. The announcement has been widely welcomed and will allow investors to plan for the short to medium term. Indeed, this extension means that almost all renewable projects going through planning will benefit from the RO support mechanism throughout the entirety of their proposed life spans.

The Renewable Energy Strategy consultation

In the Renewable Energy Strategy consultation, the government consulted on a range of possible measures to deliver the proposed UK share of the EU’s renewable energy target (of 20% of energy by 2020). The consultation ran from 26 June to 26 September 2008 and sought views on how to increase the use of renewable energy in the UK as part of the overall strategy for tackling climate change.

Renewable Energy Strategy consultation proposals relevant to wind power generation included the following:
• Creating additional financial incentives for electricity by extending and raising the level of the RO for largescale electricity and using either feed in tariffs or enhanced RO for micro generation.
• Removing grid barriers to renewable by providing new incentives for National Grid to build grid infrastructure and by reforming access arrangements.
• Reducing planning consent barriers by providing strong guidance and training to local decision makers through a National Policy Statement, creating an expert body to advise planners and setting regional renewable targets that shape local economic strategies.
• Stimulating innovation and the supply chain by setting a clear, long-term framework and considering how efforts to meet the 2020 target will affect incentives to develop emerging renewable technologies.
It is expected that the key growth area will be wind power, both onshore and offshore.

One scenario in the consultation was that by 2020, offshore wind capacity could be ~14 GW, compared with less than 1 GW today. This would require the installation of a further 3,000 offshore turbines, rated at 5 MW. Initial government models indicate that ~13 GW of onshore wind generation capacity will be required by 2020, as compared with 2.7 GW in February 2009. This equates to approximately 4,300 onshore turbines rated at 3 MW. It is expected that a large proportion of this onshore wind development will take place in Scotland.

Addressing aviation issues

Current-generation wind turbines have very large radar signatures, and can have significant impacts on civilian and military aviation radar systems. Therefore, wind energy developments must take into account national air defense and air safety. To investigate the issue and improve understanding between the aviation and wind energy industries, BERR (now DECC) set up the Wind Energy, Defence and Civil Aviation Interests Working Group. The Working Group, includes representatives from UK military and civilian aviation authorities, the BWEA, and the UK government.

In 2008, the Working Group produced the Aviation Plan, which coordinates activities to identify, develop, and deliver mitigation solutions. The plan allows stakeholders to monitor progress of the delivery of solutions by presenting details of the key programs, including studies on air defense radar, air traffic control, radar interference reduction, and stakeholder consultations. To ensure the success of the plan, several stakeholder groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding, published in June 2008, to commit to fully implementing the Aviation Plan and its approach.

To ensure the delivery of the Aviation Plan, an Aviation Management Board (AMB) has been established with overall responsibility for the success of the plan. This is supported by a panel of experts, the Aviation Advisory Panel (AAP). The role of the AAP is to provide the AMB with information and advice on the progress of the Aviation Plan and its associated work streams. Both of these groups had their inaugural meetings in July 2008.

Grid connection issues

The Transmission Access Review (TAR), led jointly by DECC and Ofgem, has examined the technical, commercial, and regulatory frameworks for the National Grid to ensure that they remain fit for purpose as the proportion of renewable generation on the system grows. The final report of the TAR was published on 26 June 2008. Taken together, the measures set out in the TAR final report will remove or significantly reduce grid-related access barriers to renewable generation. The report recommends actions that will allow faster connection of some renewable generation to the grid in the short term; introduce new, enduring grid access arrangements that will allow faster connection and expansion of grid capacity; and identify the new transmission infrastructure necessary to meet the UK share of the 2020 EU renewable energy targets and new financial incentives on transmission companies to deliver that infrastructure.

To facilitate faster connection to the grid, National Grid is proposing changes to the contractual system for transmission access. The Connection and Use of System Code (CUSC) is the legal document that constitutes the contractual framework for connection to and use of National Grid’s high-voltage transmission system. National Grid leads a series of CUSC Working Groups, which are developing CUSC Amendment Proposals (CAPs). These amendments are intended to improve access arrangements that facilitate the anticipated connection of large volumes of generation whilst maintaining an efficient and reliable network. CAPs relating to short-term access modifications aim to facilitate more short-term connection to the transmission system through changes to how access rights are granted. CAPs that address longterm transmission access involve changing the framework for agreeing and terminating long-term connection agreements.

The CAPs require approval by Ofgem before they take effect; several were approved and implemented in 2008, and others will be considered in 2009. Ofgem delivered a progress report to the Secretary of State at the end of December 2008 stating that it was satisfied with progress and would continue to work with National Grid to agree on further amendments. The UK government views the development of offshore wind generation as a major contributor to meeting the 2020 renewable generation target. At present, there is little electricity network infrastructure installed offshore; DECC and Ofgem are working together to develop a new regulatory regime for offshore electricity transmission so that significant amounts of renewable offshore generation can be connected to the onshore grid in a cost-effective way.

DECC and Ofgem have been consulting on the design and implementation of the new regime. Several consultations and stakeholder communication events took place in 2008. The final consultation on the full package of proposals for the offshore transmission regulatory regime will be published in 2009. The UK government has decided that offshore transmission owner (OFTO) licenses will be granted via competitive tenders run by Ofgem. Companies will bid a 20-year revenue stream to design and build (where appropriate), finance, and maintain the transmission assets connecting each offshore generation project to the onshore grid. The government believes this competitive approach will deliver significant
efficiencies and attract new players and innovation to the market. The first tenders are expected in the summer of 2009 so that existing projects will have an OFTO in place when the new regime comes into force in June 2010.

Offshore wind

Of the marine renewable energy generation technologies, only offshore wind is presently commercially viable, although other marine renewables technologies will eventually also contribute to the attainment renewable energy goals. Under The Crown Estate Act 1961, The Crown Estate is landowner of the UK seabed out to the limit of the territorial sea and areas of foreshore ( The Crown Estate’s permission in the form of a site option agreement and lease or license is required for the placement of structures or cables on the seabed. This includes offshore wind farms and their ancillary cables and other marine facilities.

The Energy Act 2004 gave The Crown Estate rights to issue licenses within Renewable Energy Zones from 12 nautical miles (nm) out to 200 nm for development. Round 1 of offshore wind farm leasing was supported by the government using the Capital Grants Programme, which covered approximately 10% of project capital costs. The first phase of the development of offshore wind projects in the UK was launched in December 2000 and has resulted in 14 projects, of which 7 are now operational.

During Round 2, 15 projects, with a combined capacity of up to 7.2 GW, received leases to operate offshore wind farms. These projects are all at varying stages of development, either progressing through the planning system or under construction. None of the Round 2 projects are yet operational, although work on the 64-MW Gunfleet Sands II wind farm has started and should be fully operational in 2010.

Proposals for Round 3 of offshore wind farm leasing were announced on 4 June 2008 by The Crown Estate. In Round 3, The Crown Estate is taking a more prominent role and will coinvest with developers, combining the technical experience of the offshore wind industry with efficiencies generated by The Crown Estate’s access to resources and stakeholders.

The key principle underlying the first two rounds of offshore wind farm development was a robust process for selecting parties to develop, construct, finance, and operate designated offshore wind projects. This is being carried forward into Round 3. The Crown Estate’s role in Round 3 will revolve around program delivery and zonal contract management; the partners will work with The Crown Estate to identify suitable wind farm sites in each zone and thereafter address delivery of specific sites. The Crown Estate will not be involved in building or operating wind farm sites. During 2008, significant progress was made toward agreeing Round 3 leases.

The Crown Estate has mapped potential zones suitable for wind farm development against other activities that are undertaken on its Marine Estate. In August 2008, organizations were invited to submit expressions of interest. Ninety-six UK and international companies registered their interest during Round 3, greatly exceeding expectations. In September 2008, The Crown Estate issued an invitation to negotiate to parties selected following their submission of an expression of interest. Potential developers that registered interest were invited to bid for one or more of nine development zones identified by The Crown Estate. The timetable for Round 3 is as follows:
• 2009 (Q1)—Submission of bids
• 2009 (Q4)—Completion of awards to zone partners
• 2010 to 2013—Phase 3 (consents and contracts)
• 2014—Phase 4 (construction)
• 2018—Phase 5 (operation)

In 2007, The Crown Estate undertook a feasibility assessment of transmitting electricity through offshore transmission systems. The study concluded that the activity was technically feasible and offered commercial possibilities. As a result, a more detailed investigative study has been undertaken to examine the potential requirements for offshore transmission connections for Round 3 wind farms.

In April 2008, The Crown Estate commissioned a study into the potential requirement for offshore transmission connections for Round 3 wind farms and connecting up to 25 GW of additional wind generation. The report’s observations and recommendations included the following:
• The extent of constraints on the supply chain may affect delivery of the Round 3 connections.
• The power transfer capacity of HVAC and high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) technologies should be raised to improve economies of scale.
• “No regret” onshore reinforcement options should and can be progressed immediately to provide the necessary transmission capacity in a timely manner.

The Crown Estate believes there is a case for commencing onshore reinforcements ahead of connection applications. It understands that a coordinated plan and commitment are needed to give the supply chain the confidence it needs to invest in infrastructure to support transmission development.

On 5 January 2009, BERR (now DECC) published its Offshore Energy Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Environmental Report for public consultation, closing on 22 April 2009. This SEA was intended to accomplish the following:
• Consider the environmental implications of a draft plan/program for licensing for offshore oil and gas, including gas storage, and leasing for offshore wind. This includes consideration of the implications of alternatives to the plan/program and the potential spatial interactions with other users of the sea.
• Inform the UK government’s decisions on the draft plan/program.
• Provide routes for public and stakeholder participation in the process.

The SEA considered the alternatives to the draft plan/program and the potential environmental implications of the resultant activities in the following contexts:
• Objectives of the draft plan/program • SEA objectives
• Existing regulatory and other control mechanisms
• Wider policy and environmental protection objectives
• Current state of the environment and its likely evolution over time
• Existing environmental problems.

To attain the 25-GW objective of the draft plan/program, several thousand wind turbines would be needed which, depending on turbine spacing and wind farm separation, may occupy up to 10,000 km2.

Development on this scale may result in significant environmental effects on areas or landscapes of recognized national, European Community, or international protection status, as well as on other uses of the sea. The conclusion of the SEA Environmental Report is that restricting the areas offered spatially through the exclusion of certain areas is the preferred option. The report concludes that no overriding environmental considerations will prevent achievement of the offshore oil and gas, gas storage, and wind elements of the plan/program—assuming implementation of several mitigation measures to prevent, reduce, and offset significant adverse impacts on the environment and other users of the sea.

On 16 February 2009, The Crown Estate announced it would be offering exclusivity agreements to companies and consortia for 10 sites for development of offshore wind farms in Scottish territorial waters.

R, D&D Activities

To accelerate development of both onshore and offshore wind energy, the UK government provides funding for research and development projects in partnership with industry. It does this through two bodies:

Technology Strategy Board (TSB)

The TSB, sponsored by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, was established as an executive body at arm’s length from government in 2007. It supports businesses conducting research and development in certain technology areas in the form of match-funded grants. As well as investing in programs and projects, much of its work is in spreading knowledge, understanding policy, spotting opportunities, and bringing people together to solve problems or make new advances. The TSB’s vision is for the UK to be seen as a global leader in innovation and a magnet for technology intensive companies, where new technology is applied rapidly and effectively to create wealth. The TSB’s priorities for R, D&D in wind energy include the following:
• Projects that seek to reduce cost of the turbines themselves or of offshore foundations, installation, or operations and maintenance.
• Projects that seek to mitigate the interaction between wind turbines and radar, which is at present a key barrier to wind development both onshore and offshore.

The TSB had no new calls for wind related projects in 2008, as this area of R&D is now supported under the Energy Technologies Institute. However, the TSB continues to support existing projects in wind R&D. In 2008, TSB spent approximately 650,000 £ on the wind program to support R, D&D projects. These projects are at various stages of the project cycle from inception to completion. During 2008, one new project joined the TSB wind program. The in-situ wireless monitoring of offshore wind towers and blades project aims to develop a system to monitor blades and support structures for offshore wind generators. The data will be transmitted and the system controlled by wireless communication with the shore base. This system could drastically reduce the cost of offshore wind turbine inspection whilst increasing reliability.

Energy Technologies Institute

The ETI is a 50:50 partnership between government and industry, with some of the world’s largest energy and engineering firms involved. The institute will spearhead the collaborative development of new commercially viable, sustainable low-carbon energy technologies to provide a secure, sustainable, and affordable energy supply for this and future generations. BERR (now DECC) has announced that it is prepared to authorize matched public funding of up to 550 million £, creating the potential for a 1.1-billion-£ institute over 10 years.

The ETI sees offshore wind in particular as a strategic priority. To support increasing levels of deployment in line with the government’s ambition, the initiative has the following goals for 2020:
• Reduced costs: cost of energy to be reduced to the prevailing least-cost wholesale price of electricity, or lower.
• Increased yields: annual farm availability to be increased to 97% to 98% or better, equivalent to onshore wind today.
• Reduced risks: reduction in technical uncertainties to allow farms to be financed in a manner, and at costs, equivalent to onshore wind today.

The ETI issued a call for projects to form part of its Offshore Wind and Marine Energy Programmes in December 2007. More than 130 expressions of interest were received for the Offshore Wind Programme for a range of projects involving research, development, and demonstration activities.

On 13 January 2009, the ETI announced funding for its first four projects. Three are related to offshore wind turbine technology, and one is related to tidal stream turbine technology. The three projects in the Wind Energy Programme will receive ETI funding totaling approximately 10 million £.

Project Nova is a UK-based consortium led by Guildford energy specialists OTM Consulting that includes representatives from three universities—Cranfield, Strathclyde, and Sheffield; the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture (CEFAS); and SME Wind Power. Key subcontractors include James Ingram Associates and QinetiQ. The project will assess the feasibility of a unique wind turbine with a pair of giant vertical wings, which has the benefit of ruggedness, stability, and simpler maintenance access when compared with the horizontal-axis concept of conventional turbines.

Project Helm Wind is a UK-based consortium led by E.ON Engineering that includes representatives from Rolls-Royce, BP Alternative Energy, and the University of Strathclyde. The project aims to deliver a concept design and feasibility study for a new offshore-specific wind farm and seeks to overcome the issues facing today’s systems including turbine reliability and accessing equipment for maintenance.

Project Deepwater Turbine is led by Blue H Technologies with representatives from UK groups including BAE Systems, CEFAS, EDF Energy, Romax, and SLP Energy. The project aims to design and determine the feasibility and potential of an integrated solution for a 5-MW floating offshore wind turbine for deep-water deployments between 30 and 300 meters.

Further support for wind is expected via several new mechanisms in 2009. The Environmental Transformation Fund for Low Carbon Technologies formally began operation on 1 April 2008. On 26 June 2008, John Hutton announced his intention to launch an Offshore Wind Technology capital grants competition, supporting the demonstration of next-generation technology for offshore wind. The UK Energy Research Council is expected to announce that it will develop a technology road map for offshore wind in 2009.

The Carbon Trust has announced that it will launch an Offshore Wind Accelerator program, with the aim of reducing offshore wind costs, in 2009. 

The Next Term

The UK Renewable Energy Strategy is scheduled to be published in late spring 2009 following agreement in March 2009 about the UK’s share of the EU renewable energy target. The UK RE national action plan, which will set out how the UK will meet its target, will be published later in 2009.

Authors: Iain Campbell, Matthew Morris, and Fiona Brocklehurst, AEA, United Kingdom.