Small and medium wind sees dramatic growth in 2012

Last week industry trade body RenewableUK published a new report examining the condition of the UK’s small and medium wind industry.

The report, entitled ‘Small and Medium Wind UK Market Report 2013′ which can be found here, revealed that the industry is in a very healthy position.

Indeed the report revealed the fact that 2012 was a record year for the sector. 2012 was a record year in a number of ways. Firstly, the number of new small and medium turbine installations in 2012 represents an all time high for the industry and is a dramatic increase on the level of installations carried out in 2011. Secondly, the export market for small and turbines manufactured in the UK grew dramatically. Thirdly, job creation in the industry continued to accelerate. And fourthly a record amount of electricity was generated and fed into the national grid.

By the end of 2012 over 23,500 small (turbines of a capacity below 100 kilowatts) and medium(turbines of a capacity between 100 and 500 kWs) scale wind turbines were installed across the UK. The vast majority of these developments took place on farm land or rural properties. This is significant for a number of reasons. It demonstrates that small and medium scale wind generation is one of the most accessible forms of renewable energy generation. Small landholders and business operators are able to access the revenue which renewable energy can bring in. This is in opposition to many other forms of renewable energy generation where development costs and the need for large properties (such as those required by large scale wind farms) make development prohibitive for many. Additionally, small and medium wind generation is making a large contribution to the UK’s fragile rural economies. For instance agriculture is coming under increasing pressure on a number of fronts – spiralling  energy costs due to price increases in the international fossil fuel markets, reduced subsidies from the European Union, and poor yields due to bad weather. Small and medium wind developments (such as those undertaken by Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy)) not only open up new and much needed revenue streams but can also serve to reduce energy bills particularly in energy intensive sectors such as dairy farming. This point was emphasised by several in the industry including  Gaia Wind CEO Johnnie Andringa:

“Energy Secretary Greg Barker’s ‘people energy revolution’ will in part, be built on “Local Wind Energy”. With retail electricity prices rocketing, energy generated largely for use on site, in rural homes, farms and businesses, delivers exactly what is being called for. A farm scale turbine is a world away from the wind farm: it can be the difference between a rural business being feasible or not.”

Steve Milner, Managing Director of UK company Earthmill made a similar point:

“More farmers are looking beyond traditional enterprises to survive and the financial benefits of wind turbines for farms are becoming more widely known.

“Over the last quarter, we have seen an increase in demand of over 150% for single-turbine surveys and power evaluations from working farms…It is giving farmers the motivation to look at renewables as an additional source of revenue, especially those in dairy, pig and poultry farming where large amounts of electricity are consumed.”

Exports of small and medium turbines manufactured in the UK have also dramatically increased. Indeed, more (almost 25,000) turbines of this scale were exported from the UK than were installed within the country in 2012. Growth has been so dramatic that the UK’s export market for turbines of this scale almost doubled in size in 2012 alone. Indeed the export is now worth over £100 million to the UK economy.

The growth in the manufacturing and export sector has also increased the industry’s employment levels and is building up the UK’s skill base. The small and medium scale wind sector saw the greatest increase in employment of any part of the UK’s wind and marine energy industries. A four-fold increase in jobs from 2010 to 2012. By the end of 2012 the wind and marine industries directly employed 18, 465 full-time staff. The last survey of this type was carried out in 2010 and reported 10,600 directly employed full time staff. This represents an impressive increase of 70% but the impact of this is offset by the far more dramatic growth of the small and medium wind sectors.

The level of electricity being generated from small and medium scale wind installations also saw extremely encouraging growth. 21% more capacity was installed in 2012 than in 2011. By the end of 2012 102 Megawatts of small and medium scale wind was installed across the UK.  This figure is of course outweighed by the amount of small and medium wind power which is currently progressing through planning departments across the country. Indeed the Glasgow Herald revealed last week that there are currently 500 live planning applications across the UK for small and medium scale turbines on farm land.  2012 saw an increase of 58% in electricity generation from and small and medium scale wind. The recorded generation level for the year represents 106,851 tonnes of carbon dioxide which was not emitted. An impressive figure and one which is predicted to dramatically increase year on year.

RenewableUK’s report also outlined some potential growth scenarios for the sector in the next few years. Indeed the report noted that the medium wind sector is predicted to grow dramatically in the years 2013 and 2014 even under the ‘least optimistic assumptions’. 2013 is expected to bring a four-fold growth the medium wind sectors installed capacity. The market for small and medium scale wind is expected to increase by 48.78% in 2013 and by the end of the year a cumulative capacity of 171.33MW is expected to have been installed across the country.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffrey made the following statement upon the publication of the report:

“With about 20% of our population living in rural areas, it’s vital that we find ways of powering the rural economy, and wind is doing exactly that. This technology brings over £100 million into the rural economy and in the past couple of years we have seen the market almost double in size.”

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are doing everything in our power to realise the hopes of our landowners and help the UK to achieve the level of growth that the small and medium wind industry is capable of.

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