The green energy industry has voiced alarm over the consent rate for new onshore wind farms which in England has reached an all-time low of 26 per cent.
That low success rate was highlighted in a report from RenewableUK which assessed deployment rates for both on and off-shore wind projects during the 12 months to June 2011.
This revealed that despite a healthy historic pipeline of projects coming to fruition, new onshore approvals hit a low of 42 per cent across the UK and 26 per cent in England. Offshore only one scheme, the Humber Gateway, was approved in 2010/11 - the first approval in nearly three years.
The average length of time for approval increased from 24 months to 33 months. The industry said larger schemes were increasingly being rejected, while smaller schemes were more likely to be successful.
The picture on deployment was more encouraging, according to the report. Some 44 projects totaling 985 megawatts went operational across the UK - an improvement of almost 20 per cent on last year's figures over the same period, which saw a growth of 794 MW across 37 schemes.
RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: "The overall level of deployment is encouraging, but that is being driven by the historic backlog of projects finally coming through the system. The number of planning refusals of new projects by local authorities is alarming, with the lack of new offshore approval and the Dudgeon onshore substation refusal setting a worrying precedent."
She added: “Despite this, the industry remains confident that the Government's scenarios for deployment can be exceeded, with 13 gigawatts onshore and 18GW offshore achievable by 2020 if the planning system is streamlined to promote growth and avoid putting further deployment at risk."
In a related development SSE Renewables has dropped proposals for a 72.5 megawatt wind farm at a site near Largs in North Ayrshire. The company has formally asked the Scottish Government to withdraw the company’s application for consent.
The generator cited “a range of construction and planning challenges” as the reason for cancelling the project. The scheme had become virtually untenable following the designation of the location as part of a Special Protection Area (SPA) under EU environmental legislation.
Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has been backing renewable energy. In a speech to an industry conference he said: “I want to take aim at the curmudgeons and faultfinders who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables. The climate sceptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain’s ingenuity short.
“Yes, climate change is a man-made disaster. Yes, the UK is only two per cent of global carbon emissions. But if we grasp the opportunity now our businesses and economy can be much more than two per cent of the solution.
“We are not going to save our economy by turning our back on renewable energy. This Government has resolved that we will be the largest market in Europe for offshore wind.”
27 October 2011