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Renewables firms already planning new onshore windfarms in England
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Renewables firms already planning new onshore windfarms in England

Renewable energy companies have begun work on new onshore windfarms in England for the first time in almost a decade after the new government reversed restrictions the Conservatives had put in place on turbines.

At least half a dozen renewables developers have begun identifying potential sites for full-scale windfarms in England after the Labour party swept to power last week with the promise to make Britain a clean energy superpower.

The new schemes are expected to renew the supply of onshore projects that are essential to the government’s plan to double Britain’s onshore wind capacity to 30GW by 2030.

Currently the only onshore windfarms in England’s planning pipeline are projects using one or two turbines, located on private property. The Guardian revealed last year that Ukraine built more onshore wind turbines than England in 2022 despite Russia’s invasion. But Labour’s decision to reform planning rules mean larger onshore windfarms could return to England by the end of the decade.

One of the UK’s biggest wind developers, Germany’s RWE, said it began identifying viable sites to develop onshore windfarms “some time ago”, in advance of Labour’s victory, and expects its pipeline of new projects to develop “quite quickly”.

Other energy companies including EDF Renewables, RES Group, Coriolis Energy and Ridge Energy have also confirmed that they are moving forward with plans for potential onshore windfarm projects in England.

Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, said: “The onshore wind ban was in place for nine years, and this government has removed it in 72 hours. We are wasting no time in investing in the clean homegrown energy that our country needs to lower bills and make Britain energy independent. We welcome investors responding to this announcement by moving forward with plans to invest in Britain’s clean energy future.”

RES Group, the Hertfordshire-based company which built England’s second ever windfarm in the early 1990s, has confirmed that it is considering a return to full-scale English projects in the future.

Ian Hunt, the global head of asset management for RES Group, said: “England is definitely a core market for us. But each project will be judged on its own merits and in light of the impact it might have on the environment and local communities.”

Trevor Hunter, a development manager from Coriolis Energy, said his company was considering half a dozen sites in England. Coriolis began undertaking bird migration surveys for sites in England “a good year ago” in anticipation of “where we believed things were going politically”, he said.

Industry sources believe that the return of onshore windfarms to England will face less opposition from local communities than prior to the Conservative government’s effective ban. This is due to technological advances which mean that fewer turbines are required to generate the same amount of clean electricity, and better financial incentives for local communities.

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“There has also been a change in mindset in the last decade,” Hunt said. “People can see the effects of climate change, and they know that onshore wind can help emissions and bring down bills. There is a far greater level of public acceptance now.”

But, despite the fresh interest, industry analysts fear that the new Labour government may still struggle to meet its pledge to double Britain’s onshore wind capacity by 2030.

Energy data provider ICIS has predicted that the UK will miss its 2030 onshore wind target because it was “difficult to envisage a new government being timely enough” to improve the approval process and attract enough new projects before the end of the decade.

James Robottom, Renewable UK’s head of policy, said restarting an industry “will take time” because onshore windfarms can take up to seven years to develop, depending on their size and whether a grid connection is available.

“But we do know there is strong interest from developers, businesses and communities which are already exploring sites in England,” Robottom said. “We’ll be excited to see early community engagement and detailed environmental monitoring work on prospective sites starting soon.”

Source: theguardian.com