Monday, March 27, 2006

Wind power 'ahead of predictions'

Onshore wind farms will provide about 5% of Britain's electricity by 2010, according to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA).

In a new report, it says turbines are being installed faster than predicted.

If this is correct, onshore wind farms will take the government halfway to its target of generating 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

The report comes a day before the government unveils a major review of its climate change policies.

Entitled Onshore Wind: Powering Ahead, the report claims to be the most comprehensive assessment of the UK's onshore wind sector ever undertaken.

It forms part of the BWEA's response to another ongoing government review on energy which is due to conclude in the middle of the year.

Half full

Our research proves that onshore wind will bring major benefits to the economy and the environment
Chris Tomlinson
The BWEA says that projects already constructed and those already approved will give a capacity of 3,000 megawatts (MW) by 2010.

Taking into account potential barriers such as planning consent and grid capability, it identifies a further 3,000MW capacity which it says is "forecast to be consented and built" by the decade's end.

"Onshore wind can play a hugely significant role in meeting renewable energy and climate change targets," said the BWEA's head of onshore, Chris Tomlinson.

"Our research proves, very clearly, that onshore wind will deliver, bringing major benefits to the economy and the environment while securing our energy supplies."

Onshore wind farms are more advanced than any other renewable energy sector in Britain, though installation lags well behind some other European countries such as Denmark and Germany.

A 2004 reform of the planning process aimed at easing approvals has proven only a partial success, with a number of recent applications refused or scaled down.

But despite opposition from a few high-profile figures such as TV naturalist David Bellamy, polls suggest the public approves, with a Guardian/ICM survey in 2005 showing about 70% of the population endorsing wind farm construction within 20 miles (32km) of their home.

If the onshore wind industry is as healthy as the new report suggests, the challenge for the government is to stimulate the remaining 5% of renewable capacity needed to reach its 2010 target.

BWEA figures show that only four offshore wind farms are currently in operation. Though output can be higher per turbine and wind more consistent, construction costs are also higher and grid connection is a bigger issue.

Photovoltaic solar panels produce less than 1% of the nation's electricity, and wave and tidal technologies remain in the development stage.

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