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UK onshore wind boom set for mid-2020s as ‘pipeline’ grows

Professional Engineering

Whitelee Wind Farm on Eaglesham moor in Scotland (Credit: Shutterstock)
Whitelee Wind Farm on Eaglesham moor in Scotland (Credit: Shutterstock)

Onshore wind farm numbers are set to boom in the UK, with a new report showing ‘significant increases’ in deployment from the mid-2020s onwards.

The research, by trade organisation RenewableUK, found that the total capacity ‘pipeline’ – projects that are operating, under construction or in planning – has grown to nearly 33GW. 

The total figure is up by 3GW on last year. If every project in the pipeline goes ahead, the UK would hit 30GW by 2030 – more than double the current operational capacity of 13.9GW. The entire pipeline of 33GW could power more than 21m homes all year round, playing a significant role in decarbonising the grid. 

The onshore pipeline is roughly half of the offshore pipeline, however, which stands at 63.2GW. A government ban held back new onshore projects for much of the 2010s, and was only overturned last year.  

Earlier this month, RenewableUK published a report showing that doubling onshore wind capacity could reduce consumer bills by £16.3bn over the decade, an annual saving of £25 for every household. It could also generate £45bn of economic activity and create 27,000 full-time jobs.  

Despite the promising figures, the report found the UK is currently consenting less than half the annual capacity needed to reach the Climate Change Committee target of 35GW by 2035. Just over 600MW a year is being approved, much less than the 1,250MW needed to stay on course.  

RenewableUK CEO Dan McGrail said: “The government’s new net zero strategy specifically calls for more onshore wind to be installed in the 2020s and beyond, to help to enable the UK to be powered entirely by clean electricity by 2035. 

“As our latest Onshore Wind Project Intelligence report shows, we have a pipeline of projects which can help the UK to reach net zero as fast as possible – and at the lowest cost to consumers, as this is one of the cheapest ways to generate new power. 

“But to achieve this we need planning systems in place in all four UK nations which reflect the consistently high level of public support for this technology, and allow projects to go ahead where they have a majority of local support. This must include encouraging the repowering of older onshore wind projects as they reach the end of their lifespan with taller, even more efficient turbines. At the moment, less than half the annual onshore wind capacity we need to stay on track to meet our climate change targets is being consented. 

“In December, onshore wind will be competing for contracts to generate clean power for the first time in five years. To maximise job creation and investment, we need to move from holding auctions every two years to annual auctions, framed by a government target to 30GW of onshore wind by 2030. Doing this would show great leadership in tackling climate change at a time when the UK has an unprecedented international platform at Cop26”. 

RenewableUK is holding a conference and exhibition, Onshore Wind Energy 2021, in London today (22 October). 


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Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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