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WEW: Growth of onshore wind


Our Onshore MD, Barry Carruthers, talks during Wind Energy Week about the future growth in onshore wind via repowering and the support needed to unlock those opportunities.

Barry Carruthers

We’re at a pivotal time in the energy sector where a focus on climate change, achieving Net Zero targets and bolstering energy security are the focus – and I firmly believe renewables are at the heart of solving all of those challenges.  

I’m proud to be a part of ScottishPower Renewables - a long-standing renewables developer on the cusp of full circle moments at our oldest windfarms as the turbines come to the end of their life. The legacy those projects have left goes way beyond the power they've generated over the years. We’ve been able to create local jobs and support our sector’s supply chain, to drive positive economic contribution at a local and national level, have been a part of exploring the latest technological advances and approaches, and all whilst working closely with the communities we operate in and around – contributing over £55million to date in community benefit funding.

But the exciting part is that even as the turbines on some of our sites approach their original operational lifespan, that's not the end. We have so many fantastic opportunities to do even more by repowering our windfarm sites. 

So, what is repowering?  When the turbines on our windfarms come to the end of their operational life, the next step is often to remove them and replace them with more efficient turbines using the latest technology and increasing the electricity generation capacity of that windfarm.  This can be around ten times the generating capacity of the original wind turbines – and in-turn ‘repowering’ the existing site for coming decades after the original assets are decommissioned.

With the increased electricity generation made possible through this new investment, the whole country as well as local regions benefit from increased security of energy supply. The work involved in physically building and maintaining the new assets will also create more jobs and supply chain opportunities, and the more we generate from the windfarm, the more community benefit funding we have to share with our communities.  We firmly believe our local communities should share in the benefits of our projects and that the communities themselves are best placed to determine which initiatives and projects will be of greatest value to them when considering how to use those funds.  

However, we also have the chance to do more for ecology and the environment in the process whilst considering how the materials removed from our older sites can be utilised for other sustainable purposes, such as research and training for future generations, to recycling and restoration into assets like bus shelters and re-usable components etc. that we can then offer to local communities, academia and the wider sector that can unlock further value in a Circular Economy.

But for all of that to be successful, we as a sector can’t do it alone. We need the regulatory environment to support it, we need to encourage investment across the sector, we need to foster the evolving skillsets needed in our industry, to harness the power of the latest technology, and crucially...we need the planning framework to enable it all.

Planning should be an enabler of deploying the infrastructure required to meet societal needs and to address the critical need for a decarbonised power sector. Planning policies need to provide clear direction on how balanced planning judgements are reached, to ensure consistency, transparency and predictability in order to underpin supportive investor confidence and to drive engagement with more efficient processes between public and private sector as well as local community needs. We know that planning teams are already under immense pressure, so we need to consider how we can support them e.g., via streamlined processes for repowering sites which have already been through the full planning process when first consented. 

There are challenges ahead and lots to do to further enable the growth of the renewables sector in order to deliver substantially more secure, clean energy. But as we celebrate Wind Energy Week 2023, it's a chance for us not only to look back and reflect on just how far the renewables sector has come and what change across society it has enabled to date, but to look forward at the growth opportunities ahead and how we can build a greener future for everyone…and much faster with onshore wind at the heart. 

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