England is not windy to power more onshore wind turbines, the chief executive of wind industry trade body has admitted.
Speaking about the chances of having more onshore turbines in the UK Hugh McNeal from RenewableUK said he believes there is a case for it – just not in England.
McNeal, who came from the Department of Energy and Climate Change revealed wind speeds were not high enough to make the projects economically viable without subsidies which are now unavailable.
The Government has implemented its manifesto pledge to end subsidies for new onshore wind farms, but McNeal and other believe they will be able to demonstrate onshore farms are the cheapest form of new power generation capacity.
At the moment, wholesale electricity prices are too low to warrant big investment in any new form of power generation.
As a result the Government has already had to make subsidies available to new gas plants.
Mr McNeal said: “We are now the cheapest form of new generation in Britain.
“If plants can be built in places where people don’t object to them and if, as a result of that, over their whole lifetime the net impact on consumers against the alternatives is beneficial, I need to persuade people we should be doing that.”
But it is unlikely wind farms will be in England.
There are some with subsidies and others being built, but after them, it is widely believed there will be no more as they would not be cost-efficient enough to undercut gas power, McNeal said.
Mr McNeal said: “We are almost certainly not talking about the possibility of new plants in England. The project economics wouldn’t work; the wind speeds don’t allow for it.”
Keith Anderson, chief executive of ScottishPower Renewables, agreed it would be “incredibly challenging” to build more in England.
But he suggested there may be the opportunity to build bigger farms on older sites.
The admission calls into question why developers are still seeking planning consent for hundreds of new turbines onshore in England.
Analysis of Government databases by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), a group critical of subsidies, suggests there is till 425 megawatts of capacity in England in the planning system – although this is about a tenth of the amount seeking permission in Scotland.
But the idea of “subsidy free” financial support for onshore wind is heavily criticised.
Owen Paterson, the former environment secretary, described it as a “con” after ministers confirmed earlier this year that they were considering the idea.
John Constable, REF director, said claims that wind power was the cheapest failed to take into account the wider cost impacts on the system.
He said: “There has to be grid expansion to remove bottlenecks, short term response plant and or demand to cope with errors in the wind forecast, and the cost of operating a conventional fleet of almost unchanged size to guarantee security of supply.”
There are no present plans for “subsidy free” financial support for onshore wind, but ministers have not ruled it out.
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