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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Could Tory wind farm ‘halt' offer reprieve to small wind turbines?

April 30:

Scottish Water install Evance small wind turbines to power water treatment works

Conservative sources indicate vow to 'halt' wind farms will focus on large projects, potentially leaving door open for small turbine market
When do wind turbines become a wind farm? It is a riddle that has given rise to yet more policy uncertainty for wind energy developers as they wrestle with the likely implications of the Conservative Party's high-profile pledge to "halt the spread of onshore wind farms".
The Conservative manifesto declaresthe party would "end any new public subsidy for [wind farms] and change the law so that local people have the final say on wind farm applications", arguing local opposition to some projects justifies a crackdown on the relatively low cost renewable energy source.
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Conservative sources have defended the controversial move, arguing there are sufficient onshore wind projects in the planning system to meet the UK's renewables targets for 2020.
However, the move has angered wind energy developers, with trade association RenewableUK accusing the party of pursuing a "breathtakingly illogical and therefore idiotic" policy. It also sparked 

criticism from Labour and the Lib Dems, fuelling hopes among renewable energy developers that a minority Conservative government may struggle to deliver on its wind farm pledge.
However, in addition to being angry at the likely impact on their project pipelines, wind energy developers also remain in the dark as to how the Conservative policy would work in practice.
Specifically, industry sources have raised questions over when subsidies for onshore wind farms would be ended under a Conservative government, what happens to projects in the planning system awaiting a final decision, and whether the pledge to end "any new public subsidy" for wind projects covers small turbines or projects with one or two large turbines, such as those deployed on industrial estates that may not qualify as wind farms?
Conservative sources have declined to provide further details on how the policy would work in practice, butBusinessGreen understands the plans could leave the door open for the small turbine market to continue and may even allow for one or two turbine projects, particularly if they include an element of community ownership.
"The focus for cuts to onshore wind would be on subsidies for larger wind farms," a Conservative source said, adding that the party remains "supportive of community energy - when it's done in a sensible way".
Currently, small wind turbines and projects with less than 5MW of capacity can qualify for subsidies through the feed-in tariff (FiT) incentive scheme, while larger projects benefit from the Renewables Obligation (RO) scheme and recently introduced contract for difference (CfD) regime.
Barring onshore wind farms from accessing the RO and CfD would effectively bring a halt to the development of new large onshore wind farms, while allowing small turbine projects and small-scale community or business-owned projects to proceed under the FiT, subject to planning approval.
Industry insiders warned leaving the FiT open to wind energy developers who have previously focused on the RO would create its own challenges, as any surge in small projects could quickly burn through the available budget for the scheme.
However, the chance of a reprieve for small turbine developers is likely to be welcomed by a fledgling industry, whichaccording to a report last year from RenewableUK could be worth over £860m a year by 2023.
"The UK's small and medium wind industry would welcome any suggestion that they might be exempt from such a misguided policy," said Maf Smith, deputy chief executive at RenewableUK. "It would certainly be good news for the 3,500 people in the UK whose livelihoods depend on the small and medium wind sector.

"We would hope that these remarks are indicative of a more considered approach to onshore wind policy as a whole. With onshore wind already the cheapest source of low-carbon power, any move to limit it just heaps further cost onto the UK bill-payer, and risks the £900m that the industry was worth to the country last year."

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