UK renewable energy company Ecotricity has turned on its latest wind farm, a small 10 megawatt wind farm in the west of England, but the company’s founder is concerned it might be the country’s last onshore wind farm due to policies which are effectively killing off the industry.
The 10 MW (megawatt), three wind turbine farm is located in Alveston, South Gloucestershire next to the M5 motorway, and will provide enough electricity to power more than 3,000 homes for the next 30 years. That’s a pretty decent return on investment and could serve as a cheap and clean way to power millions of homes across the country.
However, the onshore wind industry in England has been “effectively killed off by government policy” due to an unwritten government promise not to provide subsidies for onshore wind farms.
A report published in October by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit explained that a 2015 General Election promise made by the Conservative Party (which is currently in power) not to provide subsidies for onshore wind farms could end up costing the country more than £1 billion over the next four to five years. The premise behind the argument is that onshore wind is cheaper than other technologies — technologies that the government continues to support with subsidies such as nuclear, biomass, and offshore wind — and that by refusing to support onshore wind in any form (subsidy or otherwise), the extra costs required to support the technologies the Government “approves” of will end up costing the British people more than £1 billion.
“It’s always great to build another wind park and put it into operation,” said Dale Vince, founder of Ecotricity, on the completion of the Alveston wind farm.
“This one is a little bittersweet because, without a change of government, or government policy, this could be the last one built in England. Current government policy, to prevent new wind parks in England makes no sense and is a political choice — because onshore energy isn’t just good for the environment, it makes good economic sense too.”
“The effective ban on the cheapest form of new power generation looks increasingly perverse,” said Richard Black, director of the ECIU, in October.
“For a Government committed to making energy cheaper, this risks not only locking people into higher bills, but also runs contrary to its aim of having the lowest energy costs in Europe. These blustery isles have no shortage of wind and while other European nations are going large on onshore wind the UK is starting to fall behind by not making the most of our natural resource.
“David Cameron promised no new subsidies for onshore wind. But it now doesn’t need a subsidy — research indicates fixed-price contracts would more than pay for themselves. So, given that the government also knows it needs new low-carbon policies the question is, why not enable onshore wind where local people want it and where it won’t harm wildlife, while continuing to support a healthy mix of other low-carbon energy generation?”