A new report, produced jointly, by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and the industry trade body RenewableUK has studied in-depth the impact of onshore wind upon both local economies and the national economy.
The report examined 18 wind farm sites of different sizes from across the UK. The contribution made by wind farm development, construction, operation and maintenance to the British economy was observed at local, regional and national level.
It was found that the total onshore wind market was worth £548 million to the UK economy in the year 2011 alone. Additionally, over 9,000 jobs were supported by the industry. Perhaps even more interestingly, it was found that for every megawatt of onshore wind capacity installed in the UK £700,000 was added to GDP. Over £100,000 of which remains within the Local Authority area that the development is located.
If the UK was to achieve the target of 13GW of installed onshore wind capacity by 2020, set out in the Renewable Energy Roadmap, then the contribution to annual GDP would rise to £780 million and approximately 11,600 jobs would be supported. A figure which rises to 15,500 if ancillary jobs are included. These figures would then suggest that onshore wind is already making a major contribution to the British economy, particularly at a local level.
UK Energy Minister Ed Davey described onshore wind as “a cost effective and valuable part of the UK’s diverse energy mix”, at the publication of this report, going on to say further:
“Not only does wind power provide secure, low carbon power to homes and businesses, it supports jobs and brings significant investment up and down the country too.
“Our policies of increasing community involvement will also help to ensure the right balance between developers and community interests.
“With the cost of the technology coming down, there is a real opportunity to reap the economic benefits onshore wind can bring.”
Perhaps most interestingly, it was found that one of every three local jobs created by onshore wind developments is in the operation or maintenance sector.
Which is to say that these are long term jobs in the local area. This sort of job creation is of particular importance to Local Authorities and is very much a consideration in planning decisions.
The question of the supply chain is also raised in the report; specifically how much of the work required for onshore wind developments is carried out within the UK. It is found that many of the 8,000 components required to manufacture a turbine are, or could be, produced within this country, reaching the conclusion that; “many activities relating to the development of wind farms are already carried out by UK based businesses. As the sector develops, there are likely to be opportunities to increase this activity.”
The reports findings were greeted by RenewableUK’s chief executive Maria McCaffrey:
“This study explains why in rural areas 68% of people support wind, and 57% of those living in rural areas recognise that wind brings benefits in terms of jobs, 12% more than those in urban areas.
“Rather than feeling that wind has been imposed on them, real people across the UK are recognising the benefits of having wind in their backyard, and with Government’s help we’ll continue to build on the 8600 people employed across the country because of onshore wind, as promised by our members in the “Wind Energy Charter“.
“Whilst we can see that with increased deployment comes both increased value and jobs added, plus an increase in market share for the UK, if we were to only see 10GW come forward jobs will actually be lost in the development and construction phases, and there will be no increase in our market share. So it’s therefore essential for UK growth and employment to keep onshore wind progressing and revitalising communities.”
It could be argued that as the economic benefits of onshore wind become more apparent they become more difficult to refute.