England saw just two new onshore wind turbines installed throughout 2022, although the news was a bit brighter for offshore projects.
According to data published by RenewableUK, there were 10 new onshore wind projects installed across the UK in 2022, adding 318MW. However, those projects were largely located outside of England, with Scotland home to six of them, providing 314MW of capacity, Northern Ireland providing a further two, totalling 0.5MW, and Wales providing one supplying 2.5MW of power.
England had just one project in 2022, despite being considerably larger than the other countries combined. That one project also consisted of just two wind turbines, providing a max output of 1MW.
However, despite the disappointing installation numbers in England, it was still more capacity than the country saw in 2021, where not a single new onshore wind turbine was installed in either England or Wales. The addition of new turbines in both England and Wales didn’t make a huge impact though, with the UK building less new onshore capacity in 2022 than it did in 2021, when 370MW was added, once again largely from Scotland which provided 295MW, and Northern Ireland making up the rest.
Given onshore wind is regarded as the cheapest source of electricity, it’s surprising to see the slow rollout of new capacity during the country’s worst energy crisis in decades. Many put the slow rollout down to the UK Government’s resistance to onshore wind, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly not a fan of onshore wind. Despite this, RenewableUK is calling for planning reforms to be implemented as soon as possible to enable more projects to go ahead, both onshore and offshore.
While onshore fared badly under current planning regulations, the same can’t be said for offshore, which saw a record amount of new capacity added. Three major offshore wind projects went fully operational in 2022, adding 3,193MW of new capacity, powering more than 3.2 million homes. This is a record annual high, smashing the previous record of 2,125MW set in 2018, and a significant increase on 2021, when just one offshore project (48MW) was fully commissioned.
The industry is warning that the planning system is a major barrier to speeding up the UK’s shift away from fossil fuels and imported energy. The Government’s British Energy Security Strategy set out a new target to decide on offshore planning applications in 12 months, as some projects currently take up to 4 years under the current rules. For onshore wind, the UK Government announced a consultation in December on proposed changes to planning rules in England which could enable more new capacity to be developed in areas where there is public support. Planning reforms are also underway in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Dan McGrail, RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, noted, “The latest figures show we made terrific progress in installing a record amount of new offshore wind capacity last year. However, we still need to ensure that the glacial pace of the consenting process is stepped up significantly to stay on track for the quadrupling of offshore capacity that the Government wants to see by 2030 as a key step in strengthening the UK’s energy security.
“In all parts of the UK, including Scotland, investors are highlighting the planning system as a major block on developing onshore new wind farms. Onshore wind is one of our cheapest sources of new power and the Government’s own polling shows that four-fifths of the public support it. But outdated planning rules and lack of resources in planning authorities mean progress and investment are being held back.
“Just two small turbines went operational in England in 2022, so we need to see substantial changes to enable consumers and local communities to benefit fully from the benefits that this popular low-cost technology offers. That means changing the rules which skew the planning system unfairly against onshore wind in England, putting it back on a level playing field so that it can compete fairly against other clean technologies”.