UK onshore wind installations plummet in 2018

Onshore wind installations in the UK fell to 598MW in 2018, down from a record high of 2,666MW the previous year, new figures from Renewable UK show.

Peel Energy's 50.35MW Frodsham project in Cheshire, England, was commissioned in a record-breaking 2017

This sharp decline is largely the result of changes in government policy, the trade body argued, and comes as plans for a new nuclear plant in north Wales are scrapped.

Japanese developer Hitachi’s announcement that it is suspending development of a new nuclear power station at Wylfa, north Wales, adds to the gap in clean energy needed to meet the UK’s carbon targets, RenewableUK added.

It predicted that with the closure of existing nuclear plants and other ageing power stations in the 2020s, the UK faces an energy shortfall of more than 55TWh by 2030.

RenewableUK executive director Emma Pinchbeck suggested onshore wind could help to plug this gap.

"We have ready-to-go onshore wind that can help close the gap between the low carbon power we need and the amount government policy is delivering.

"This week’s announcement on nuclear power has made this mammoth task even harder," she said.

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Doug Parr, meanwhile, suggested offshore wind, which is cheaper than nuclear power, could provide the backbone of the UK’s power system following the suspension of work at Wylfa.

Maximum bids for UK offshore wind projects coming online in 2024/25 have been capped at £53/MWh (€59.60/MWh), while EDF Energy’s Hinkley Point C nuclear plant in south-west England will sell power for £92.50/MWh, Parr pointed out.

"We could have locked ourselves into reliance on an obsolete, unaffordable technology, but we’ve been given the chance to think again and make a better decision.

"The failure of the old technology is the opportunity the new technologies need, and Britain’s world-leading offshore wind industry’s time has come," he said. 

RenewableUK argued that government policy has prevented a route to market for 4,466MW of shovel-ready onshore wind projects in the UK, as well as for projects proposed in the future.

The UK government announced plans to end the Renewables Obligation support scheme earlier than planned in 2015. The scheme officially closed in 2017, prompting record deployment that year.

It then barred onshore wind farms from the UK’s second Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction in 2017, despite having access in the first round. Onshore projects on remote islands have since been re-admitted.

RenewableUK pointed out that a 2017 report by management consultancy Baringa Partners suggested the UK government could procure 1GW of onshore wind for £46.10/MWh (€52.20/MWh) – making it cheaper than gas, new nuclear and other renewable energy sources.

It also pointed out that the most recent department of business, energy and industrial strategy (BEIS) public attitudes tracker that found 76% of the public support developing new onshore wind.

"Onshore wind is now the cheapest source of new power for UK bill-payers, and it is supported by more than three-quarters of the British public," Pinchbeck added.