United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Out of the doldrums in Britain -- Best year yet ahead

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An improved rate of wind plant installation during 2000 took the UK out of the doldrums and signals a renewed optimism and growing confidence in Britain's wind industry. A total of 65 MW of wind plant was built -- the highest amount since 1996, bringing installed wind capacity in the UK to 409 MW.

And the upward trend continues. "The build rate is accelerating," says Nick Goodall from the British Wind Energy Association. He points out that some 120 MW is either under construction or expected to be built during 2001. "This year will be the single biggest year so far; the trend is definitely on the way up." Nonetheless, the increase represents only a small proportion of the projects that have won contracts under the UK's competitive non-fossil fuel obligation (NFFO) system of renewables support. Most have either failed to gain planning consent or are stuck in the permitting system.

With the exception of one wind farm in Northern Ireland, all the new projects are sited either in Scotland or the north of England. They include the UK's first offshore project in the North Sea off Blyth in Northumberland, developed by a consortium of AMEC Borderwind, PowerGen Renewables, Shell Renewables and NUON.

New market

Output from most of the wind projects is sold under NFFO in England, the Scottish Renewables Obligation in Scotland, and NI NFFO in Northern Ireland. But the year also saw the UK's first commercial projects -- built without any government support. At their new Lendrum's Bridge wind farm in Northern Ireland, partners B9 and Renewable Energy Systems (RES) installed an additional wind turbine solely to satisfy consumer demand for renewable energy. It sells output to Northern Ireland Electricity at the utility's green tariff rate.

And ScottishPower's 13 MW Hare Hill wind farm in Scotland is the first entire project to be built without the support of a non-fossil fuel obligation contract. It was developed in anticipation of the forthcoming obligation on all electricity suppliers to buy a proportion of their power from renewable energy sources, expected to be introduced later this year, and the climate change levy on the business use of energy that comes into effect in April. Wind power is exempt from the levy, making its electricity relatively cheaper.

The largest wind farm built during 2000 is RES's 17 MW plant at Dun Law in Scotland. Although more projects are successfully negotiating the UK's planning system, local authorities in England and Wales are still apparently resisting larger projects. RES -- whose developments in Scotland and Northern Ireland make it the UK's most successful wind plant developer in 2000 -- had four wind farm applications in England and Wales rejected last year, with no approvals.

Turbine manufacturer Vestas was the supplier of choice for over 75% of the new capacity and its performance this year has narrowed the gap on Bonus, still the market leader in the UK.

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