After almost 30 years of service, Scotland’s first commercial onshore wind farm has been powered down in preparation of the site being ‘supercharged’ to help meet the UK’s net zero targets. Meanwhile, the green light has been given for the Hornsea 4 offshore wind project, but the Norfolk Borealis offshore wind development is to be shelved.

ScottishPower Renewables’ Hagshaw Hill onshore wind farm in South Lanarkshire, Scotland, has generated over 895 MWh since 1995 and is currently being decommissioned ahead of repowering work next year. The 16 MW site will become home to 14 new, more powerful and efficient wind turbines, with a combined capacity of over 79 MW.

Producing five times the power of the old site with just over half the number of turbines, the repowered Hagshaw Hill wind farm will be able to produce enough electricity to power almost 61,000 homes each year – almost half the homes in South Lanarkshire.

Barry Carruthers, Onshore Managing Director at ScottishPower Renewables, comments: ‘Repowering is critical to achieving net zero ambitions, but we need to be able to do it faster than current legislation allows. We know these sites, we know how to look after them and we know how much more they can deliver for the UK if we can repower them fast enough.’

Delivery of the first new turbine components to the site is expected in May 2024, with the new wind farm fully operational by early 2025.

The UK government has set a target of deploying up to 50 GW of wind by 2030 in a bid to help it meet its net zero by 2050 target. However, this is expected to be met mostly by offshore wind, with up to 5 GW coming from floating offshore wind. Onshore wind currently has a limited role to play in reaching the 50 GW goal as there has been an effective moratorium on its development in England and Wales since 2016 after restrictive planning rules were introduced under former Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015, which led to a sharp decline in the number of sites granted approval.

Last year, the UK government indicated that it would ease planning restrictions on onshore wind, but this has yet to happen, with the government’s response to the formal consultation that closed on 7 July to be published in ‘due course’, although most likely not until this autumn. Meanwhile, conservative MPs, including former Prime Minister Liz Truss and Sir Alok Sharma, the former COP26 President, recently launched another attempt to overturn the de facto ban on onshore wind farms, with an amendment proposed to the government’s Energy Bill, which is due to return to the Commons after the summer recess.

Scotland has its own planning regime and has thus not been covered by the moratorium impacting England and Wales.

Green light for Hornsea 4, but Norfolk Borealis project is shelved
In other news, the UK government has given Ørsted the green light for the fourth phase of development of the Hornsea wind farm off the Yorkshire coast.

The 2.6 GW Hornsea 4 project is expected to include 180 giant turbines, capable of generating enough electricity to power 1 million UK homes. It follows the 2.8 GW Hornsea 3 project currently under development. Hornsea 1 and 2, which are operational, have a capacity of 1.2 GW and 1.3 GW respectively.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Vattenfall has announced that it is halting development of the 1.4 GW Norfolk Boreas offshore wind power project and is to review the way forward for the entire 4.2 GW Norfolk Zone, which in addition to Boreas also includes the Vanguard East and West projects.

The company cited ‘challenging market conditions’ as the reason, explaining that the entire energy sector has been hit with ‘higher inflation and capital costs’, while the ‘geopolitical situation has made offshore wind and its supply chain particularly vulnerable’. The company reports that, overall, it has seen cost increases of up to 40%.

Commenting on the news, RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Dan McGrail says: ‘Ministers are going to have to take account of these global inflationary pressures, which have significantly changed the economic landscape… We need a stronger industrial strategy for the sector, which the Chancellor should support with new measures in the Autumn Statement as a matter of urgency. Growing the UK’s supply chain won’t only bring new jobs to Britain – it will also help to ensure we can get on with the job of building new projects to provide cheap power for consumers, strengthening our energy security and tackling climate change.’

He adds: ‘Even with these cost increases, offshore wind still remains the lowest cost way of generating new electricity. That’s why international competition for skills and supply chain is continuing to intensify, with the US and EU setting attractive incentives to try to lure renewable energy companies away from the UK and lead the global market. The government needs to step up with a robust response to enable industrial growth throughout Britain.’

Extracted from Energy Institute website, read more here

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