A new report from trade association RenewableUK has painted a bright picture of the UK’s wind power sector, including a major upswing in approval rates for new onshore projects.
1. Wind power is booming – There was 6.9GW of total operational wind farm capacity by the end of June this year, with a further 4.2GW in construction and 5GW with planning consent.
2. Wind energy is to provide a 10th of UK electricity – If current levels of growth continue, wind energy capacity will reach 13.5GW by the end of 2013, delivering 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs.
3. Councils are saying ‘yes’ to onshore wind energy – Wind farms have finally bucked the downward trend in planning approval rates. For the first time in five years, the amount of UK capacity being approved at a local level has increased instead of decreased.
4. Planning consents are up 15 per cent – UK consents by local councils for projects smaller than 50MW increased by 15 per cent compared to last year, and in England alone approvals rose by 60 per cent.
5. Ministers are rubberstamping wind farm projects – There was a near 50 per cent leap in approval rates for all onshore wind farms in the UK. This year, 110 schemes delivering 1.7GW were approved, compared to 77 projects and 1.1GW of capacity consented in 2010/11.
6. The pace of planning approvals has increased – Planning decisions taking place more quickly at all levels of government. Local authorities approved projects 10 per cent quicker last year, compared to a year earlier and government approval rates were 19 per cent quicker than the year before.
7. Smaller wind farms are in vogue – Despite the increase in approvals, project capacities have shrunk. The average consented project is 15.5MW for the second year in row – the smallest since 2000/2001. RenewableUK says the trend shows developers are consulting closely with communities to deliver projects that are more acceptable to local decision-makers.
8. The big money is in offshore wind power – Businesses invested £1.5bn in offshore wind projects last year, which is 60 per cent more than in the previous year. These projects are expected to bring £150m-£600m into the UK economy.
9. Wind energy jobs are being created all over the UK – The wind energy industry now employs 12,200 people in full-time jobs, compared to 9,756 in 2010. The offshore wind industry alone now employs 45 per cent more people directly than two years ago.
10. The industry is not out of the woods yet – Despite growing optimism, the industry is concerned that the forthcoming Energy Bill and electricity market reforms will fail to deliver the long-term investor confidence the sector needs.