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UK Wind Farm Prospects Take a Turn for the Worse

The UK government’s ambitious target to reach 20% renewable energy generation across all energy souces, by 2020 looks a lot less likely to be achieved this year, from a large contribution from land based wind farms, than it did 6 months ago.

When we first posted this in November 2010, the coalition government had just decided not to pursue the creation of a new planning body which would have made sure that strategic planning applications of national importance, of this type would be called in and heard under special planning rules which would have made it easier to obtain permission.

December 2014 update: The planning system continues to be much less favourable for onshore wind power generation than had been expected prior to 2010, and the Conservative Party are likely to make a pledge in the 2015 parliamentary elections, to tighten up the planning laws still further against onshore wind farms. This article should be read in the knowledge that this was first posted in 2010.

That decision was one of the very few popular decisions the coalition has made, and yet the public will not remain happy for long if new generating capacity is not brought on-stream soon to avoid power cuts in a few years time.

According to news sources in the UK, more than 230 local anti wind farm protest groups are currently active in the UK (in 2010). They are being increasingly successful in halting planning permissions on a large number of applications. One source has claimed that of the planned 10,000 wind farms that the energy industry had planned to be approved by now, only 2,500 have gone through so far.

Land based wind farms can at least go ahead rapidly, once they have planning permission. Fewer onshore wind farms will mean that more offshore wind capacity will be needed, and yet much of the reasearch, not least on how the power will be brought on-shore from these really large schemes, has not yet been completed.

It is also becoming a slower process to get wind farm planning permission granted for those that are successful, and the avergae time period for any application is thought to be about 2 years. With a rumoured succes rate at only about the 25% mark, it does have to be asked for how long the energy industry will contnue to invest at the current high level to obtain planning permission for projects onshore.

It seems that althouth the Brits might seldom visit their wild and windswept hilsides they do still harbour a romantic image of these rugged places, which will make it hard to turn many of them into areas littered with industrial structures. It is no matter that those may possess their own beauty of form and be so badly needed in these days of high and rising oil costs, and depleting carbon based fuel resources.

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