UK Wind Capacity Increases 25%

A new report published this week by trade-body RenewableUK has revealed that once again the UK wind energy industry has seen another record breaking year of dizzying growth.

RenewableUK published its annual report ‘Wind Energy in the UK’ yesterday. The report examines developments within both the onshore and offshore sectors of the UK wind industry.

Firstly, the report revealed that the UK’s installed offshore wind capacity increased by a staggering 79% over the period between July 2012 and June 2013. At the start of July 2012 there was 1,858 Megawatts (MW) of operational installed offshore wind capacity in UK waters. By the end of June 2013 this figure had increased to 3,321 MW  of operational installed capacity. Interestingly, there were four major offshore wind projects which began generating electricity and feeding it into the National Grid within this time frame:Greater Gabbard (off the coast of Suffolk), Gunfleet Sands III (off the coast of Essex), Sheringham Shoal (off the coast of Norfolk) and the London Array (in the Thames Estuary) – which is the currently the worlds largest offshore wind farm with an installed capacity of 630 MW. The completion of these four major projects demonstrates the observed trend of offshore wind projects increasing in scale. This trend can be partially explained by a reduction in costs and also improvements in technology.

The UK’s more mature onshore wind industry also underwent a period of impressive growth. 1,258 MW of new onshore wind capacity was installed between July 2012 and June 2013.  This brings the total level of installed onshore capacity in the UK up to 6,389 MW by the end of July 2013 and the end of the period covered by the report. This represents an increase of 25% in total installed onshore capacity. However it should be noted that RenewableUK estimated that at the end of June 2013 there was a further 1,571 MW of onshore capacity under construction, 4,804 MW of capacity which had been approved  but construction had not yet begun on and 7,743 MW live within the planning system. This demonstrates that there is a significant amount of growth which will occur within the UK onshore wind industry in the near future.

The period July 2012 to June 2013 also marked the first time in which more offshore wind capacity was installed than onshore wind capacity (1,462 MW compared to 1,258 MW). Of course it should be remembered that the onshore wind market is more more mature than the offshore wind market. In total, across both sectors, 2,721 MW of new capacity was installed. This brought the UK’s total installed wind capacity to 9,710 MW from 6,389 MW and represents growth of 40% and enough new installed capacity to power five and a half million homes. This level of new capacity also brought in £2 billion into the UK economy; clearly demonstrating the positive economic benefits which wind energy is creating for the UK economy.

It has been noted that the size of offshore projects is increasing but it is also the case that the size of onshore projects is decreasing. Several reasons have been put forward to explain this trend. As mentioned previously in the offshore sector costs are coming down and technology is improving. In the onshore sector the decrease in project size has been attributed to, amongst other things, the success of the UK Governments feed-in tariff scheme which incentivizes the development of smaller scale projects. Additionally the sub-5 MW market developed considerably. Indeed it has accounted for two-thirds of all onshore wind planning submissions between July 2012 and June 2013. The reduced availability of sites suitable for large scale wind farm development has also been put forward to explain the reduction in onshore project size. We could also argue that this reduction in project size vindicates the approach of ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) as our primary focus has always been on small and medium scale developments.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffrey commented on the publication of the report:

“We’ve smashed another record in the past year with more offshore wind installed than ever before – the 79% increase in capacity within 12 months is a terrific achievement. With onshore expanding by 25%, the wind industry as a whole has proved that it has the tenacity to achieve substantial growth.

“It’s tangible proof of the dedication of thousands of Britons who are working tirelessly to generate electricity from a clean, home-grown source at a cost that we can control, increasing the UK’s energy security.

“Tens of thousands more will be joining the industry over the rest of this decade as we build out the rest of the projects in the pipeline – as long as Government policy is supportive and provides the right framework for one of this country’s greatest modern industrial and environmental success stories to reach its full potential”.

The publication of a separate study this week further vindicated the increasing focus on smaller scale onshore developments. The study, carried out by analytical firm Verdantix and commissioned by energy consultancy Utilyx, suggests that on-site renewable energy generation could save UK businesses  up to £33 billion between 2010 and 2030.  The report forecasts that the capacity of onsite waste-to-energy plants, wind turbines, anaerobic digestors, and solar panels, as well as combined heat and power and tri-generation facilities will increase 130 per cent to 17GW by 2030. The proper development of such on-site technologies could account for 14% of all UK generating capacity by 2030 and would also bring the additional benefit of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 350 million tonnes.

The development of such technologies would be hugely beneficial to UK businesses allwoing them to no longer have to rely on volatile international gas markets and could considerably reduce costs, particularly in the long term; not just from reduced energy bills but from reduced payments of the UK ‘carbon tax’ or carbon floor-price. Mark Stokes, director at Utilyx commented:

Traditionally businesses and organisations have focused on one aspect of energy management – typically procurement or energy efficiency.

“The report reveals the need to look at the bigger picture and adopt a joined up approach including considering on-site energy generation. In a climate of volatile and rising energy prices, decentralized energy can help businesses save money, reduce carbon, and provide energy security.”

The publication of these reports reveals not only the progress made by the UK wind industry but also the huge benefits it can still bring to the UK’s economy. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) will be playing our part in delivering that.

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