This is one of a series of recommendations which could make Scotland’s next generation of onshore wind projects at least 20% cheaper if Scottish and UK Governments work with industry and regulators to remove a series of barriers, a new report has found.
Onshore wind is already one of the lowest-cost forms of new electricity generation and the expert report shows that industry could cut costs by a further £150 million a year.
That saving would come from making a series of changes including installing the latest – and bigger – wind turbines and extending the life of existing ones.
Turbines installed in Scotland are often ‘capped’ a heights lower than permitted in the EU as a result of local planning decisions, or the actual number of turbines permitted is reduced from that originally proposed by the developer.
In the ROC ‘’goldrush’ wind farm developers were guaranteed profits due to the UK subsidy – which was axed by the Conservative government last year – which meant there was less industry focus on standardising turbine design and improving performance, resulting in wasteful duplication and higher costs (borne by taxpayers and energy bill-payers)
This is the same kind of ‘new for old’ scheme used to encourage car owners to scrap their older models in favour of new, more environmentally-friendly motors in the aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis.
The research, carried out by consultants Everoze also found that introducing a more flexible way of connecting onshore wind projects to the grid, and reducing the amount developers have to pay to connect, could reduce costs.
The report – commissioned by Scottish Renewables – is almost entirely focused on wind-power, with little or no reference to other Scottish renewable energies, such as biomass, wave, solar, and tidal marine energy – in contrast to the keynote Scotland’s Renewable Future forum held shortly after the Scottish parliament elections earlier this year.
Zoe Barnes, Head of Everoze’s office in Scotland, said: “The work is designed to be more than just another policy report to sit on the shelf gathering dust.
“This is about identifying concrete actions for government, industry and relevant stakeholders to find common ground to enable onshore wind to fulfil its potential in Scotland – delivering reliable, affordable and clean energy at the heart of the power sector.
“Based on our analysis, we estimate that the changes proposed could cut costs by at least 20%, meaning potential savings upwards of £150 million a year.”
In total researchers identified 10 key areas that could provide a range of cost reductions for the onshore wind sector in Scotland. They include:
- Encourage the deployment of the latest turbine technology, including larger turbines
- Make the planning application process more coherent (an issue already highlighted in its Scottish Energy Strategy submission to the Scottish Energy Minister by Scotland’s Renewable Future forum)
- Develop guidance on how to maximise the potential benefits from redeveloping, replanting and repowering existing wind farm sites; This issue has already been highlighted in its Scottish Energy Strategy submission to the Scottish Energy Minister by Scotland’s Renewable Future forum, which called for “A supportive policy framework to give both on- and off-shore wind time to become subsidy-free”
- Reform system charging
- Adopt ‘smart’ grid connections
- Adopt Independent Connection Providers or self-build connections
- Lower the cost of transmission assets
- Extend asset life
- Adopt new off-take arrangements (where power is sold to private end-users with no direct grid link)
- Deploy storage, allowing onshore wind to capture, and therefore use, more of Scotland’s renewable energy resource (also an issue already highlighted in its Scottish Energy Strategy submission to the Scottish Energy Minister by Scotland’s Renewable Future forum)
A spokesman for Scottish Renewables commented: “Deploying the latest generation of turbines has the biggest impact on costs, however, reducing them by £11/MWh.
“The report sets out just how competitive onshore wind in Scotland can be, and shows that it makes no sense for the UK Government to exclude the technology from long-term contracts for clean power.”