Britain’s onshore wind farms could start disappearing from 2023
Credit: By David Parsley, Chief News Correspondent | December 3, 2022 | inews.co.uk ~~
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As a Westminster battle rages over whether to allow new onshore wind farms, existing turbines could start disappearing from next year due to a planning quirk, i can reveal.
The UK is in danger of losing power from onshore wind farms that currently provide energy for around 1.2 million homes within a decade, according to a leading energy campaign group.
A planning rule means renewed permission must be sought from local authorities for every onshore wind farm, after an initial 25-year life span, with at least two coming up for renewal next year.
The process is known as repowering, and RenewableUK says that when combined with the Government’s insistence of approval from local residents, it could jeopardise the future of thousands of turbines.
The organisation – representing green energy providers – says the UK could lose 2 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind farm capacity, representing more than 14 per cent of the total from the energy source by 2032.
James Robottom, head of onshore wind at RenewableUK, said this was “the thin edge of the wedge”. “In the next 20 years, around 12.3GW of the current 14.2GW of capacity will hit the 25-year consent time,” he said. “This is the equivalent of powering over 7.5 million homes a year in the UK.”
Independent experts are also warning about the difficulties in renewing permission for the turbines.
Ross Fairley, head of renewable energy at law firm Burges Salmon, noted that while the National Planning Policy Framework has recently been amended to smooth the way for onshore wind farm renewals, the process may still be troublesome.
“It is tempting to think that existing onshore wind sites would be relatively easy to repower, but that is not necessarily the case,” he said. “Any repowering is likely to require full planning permission and will almost certainly require a renewed environmental impact assessment.”
The warnings come as Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, battles with his Cabinet and Conservative backbenchers over whether to lift the effective ban on new onshore wind farms across the UK.
According to Government figures, onshore wind farms have produced almost 10 per cent of the UK’s electricity generation.
It is believed that Mr Sunak is inclined to bring an end to the Government’s onshore wind farm moratorium but is facing pushback from Cabinet colleagues and backbench MPs concerned over the impact on rural communities.
“We will of course be hoping to build new projects and double our capacity to 30GW by 2030,” added Mr Robottom. “But without a proper repowering regime, and making the best use of the land and wind resource already occupied by onshore wind, we are in danger of losing precious generating capacity.”
Earlier this week, Tory MP Simon Clarke, the former secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, received backing for his amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to lift the de facto ban on onshore wind farm developments from former prime ministers Liz Truss and Boris Johnson.
The likelihood of a Government U-turn also appeared to increase after the Business Secretary, Grant Shapps, signalled that the Government will reverse its ban on onshore wind farms.
However, Mr Sunak has been warned he will face a fresh rebellion from opponents within the party if he pushes ahead to allow the development of new onshore turbine sites. Under the current rules, an onshore wind farm can be blocked if there is only a single local protester opposed to the scheme.
Magnus Gallie, a Friends of the Earth planning expert, said Mr Clarke’s amendment would “remove some of the shackles that have been constraining the development of onshore wind for far too long”.
Mr Gallie is also not as concerned over existing onshore sites being closed down due to the 25-year planning law. He said: “The fact that these sites have already existed for 25 years means that issues such as landscape, transport, noise, ecology and radar impacts are unlikely to be a significant issue.”
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy was approached for comment.
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