There is a surge in capacity of onshore wind and solar projects with planning consent in anticipation of more Government-backed contracts being available later this year.
With public attention focussed on offshore wind the increasing amounts of onshore wind and solar projects awaiting commercial opportunities are being ignored. Yet (on top of those projects already under construction) already there is enough renewable energy projects with planning consent to supply over 3 per cent of UK electricity generation.
Indeed these projects are stuck in a sort of limbo-land – some of them would be able to go ahead as ‘subsidy-free’ schemes (supported by power purchase agreements – PPAs – from large companies). But the developers are waiting for Government-backed contracts to be offered. Ultimately they may not derive any more income from such contracts than going so-called subsidy-free, but the generation prices would be guaranteed for 15 years, something that will make it easier to bring investors and lenders on board.
The Government promised last year to open up a tranche of ‘contracts for difference’ (CfDs) for onshore renewable projects to be available for competitive tender in around September of this year. But it is uncertain whether this will take in a lot of projects, or just a nominal few. Clearly, the argument against onshore wind and solar farms that they have problems getting planning approval does not apply if they have already got planning consent!
Of course the CfDs will be awarded at such low prices that really they will be subsidy-free since they may be paid less than the wholesale power price.
According to the Government’s planning database (which is itself out of date), by December 2020 around 3.4 GW of onshore wind and 2.6 GW ground-mounted solar pv have current planning consent. Because the wind projects have around double the capacity factor of the solar pv projects, this means that the large bulk of the over 11 TWh of generation that would come from these projects would come from wind.
More projects are coming before planning authorities all of the time, especially in Scotland in the form of wind power plans. Statkraft for example, is going for around 100 MW in two projects in the North East of Scotland through a proposal at Craigwatch and an extension to an existing project at Berry Burn. The solar projects tend to be in the south, and some of them are co-located with battery storage projects.