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Policy needed to ‘repower’ onshore wind farms

Words: Laura Edgar
Turbine / iStock:182842179.jpg

More than 8 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind could be retired over the next two decades, so RenewableUK has warned that new policies are needed to support replacing or repowering older onshore wind farms.

This 8 GW generates 17.5 per cent of the UK's renewable power output.

Onshore Wind: The UK’s Next Generation calls for building new projects with more powerful turbines on existing wind farm sites. The UK’s first commercial wind farms were built in the 1990s with an operational life of 20-25 years. Replacing these with more efficient models would mean that fewer turbines would need to be installed than are currently on the site.

In addition, the report suggests upgrading turbines that are already operating or allowing the existing wind farms to generate energy for longer than originally planned.

According to the independent Committee on Climate Change, the UK is facing a low-carbon electricity generation gap of up to 18 per cent of its current demand by 2030. RenewableUK says that if the government does not support repowering onshore wind sites, this gap could increase as current onshore wind farms amounting to 8.27GW reach the end of their expected lifespan.

The report’s optimum scenario is that 12 GW replacement onshore wind capacity would be installed to help fill the energy gap and power nearly eight million homes a year and contribute to the UK’s climate targets.

This would require more applications for repowering approved and more powerful turbines installed, but under the ‘low scenario’, just 2.76 GW of new capacity would be installed owing to fewer planning applications and smaller turbines being used.

Emma Pinchbeck, deputy chief executive of RenewableUK, said: “This should be an easy win on climate change that cuts emissions and secures cheap power for consumers. The public mood is for more urgent action to tackle climate change and this is a concrete example of where government can act to avoid backsliding on progress against our carbon reduction targets. We need to see positive policies in place that will keep Britain powered up with clean, affordable electricity.

“Without new policies from government we risk losing huge amounts of renewable energy, so repowering onshore wind is critical to cutting our carbon emissions and closing the looming energy gap. Upgrading our infrastructure with modern onshore turbines is good for consumers, as onshore wind is the cheapest form of new electricity available, and brings investment to communities around the UK”.

The report can be found on the RenewableUK website.

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