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Author: Caroline Lockyer - Glenigan utilities sector expert

Wind energy has continued to push forward during 2014, with Glenigan tracking billions of pounds worth of proposals for wind farms that would ultimately have capacity to generate alternative energy for thousands of homes.

The proposal of a wind farm is always a hot topic. For those who embrace them, they are a welcome sight; for those who remain sceptical, they are merely a blight on the landscape.


The aesthetic and environmental impacts are always an opposition factor to wind farm proposals, but would we rather see a cluster of turbines or clouds of smoke from coal fired power stations?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, recent sector trends have seen approvals for offshore wind farm projects overtake onshore. But what is driving this move towards offshore development – are planning authorities really listening to the arguments against onshore or is offshore simply a better option?

There is certainly a lot less opposition to offshore wind farms, as their impact on the surrounding environment is less direct. Offshore also has the ability to produce more power to more homes than their onshore equivalents, primarily due to their sheer size. Developments can cover a larger area, with more turbines generating more power.

So is this really a win-win situation for sea-bound turbines? Or should we consider the cost to natural sea life in the short, mid and long term?

Offshore impacts

The offshore wind industry has grown rapidly over the last ten years and its impact on the environment needs to be carefully reviewed. Offshore water quality assessments have considered potential impacts on coastal areas, including designated shellfish, bathing waters and blue flag beaches. Other studies have covered noise, air quality, fish and shellfish ecology, marine mammals and offshore ornithology - to name but a few.

However, with public consultations a pre-requisite of submitting plans, knowledge and understanding of the sector and its impact on the environment will naturally improve.

One such example of this is the new build project at Navitus Bay, just west of the Isle of Wight (Glenigan Project ID: 10027617), which has an application currently under examination by the Planning Inspectorate.

Joint developers EDF Energy and Eneco have appeared to be very open and honest in their approach to the scheme. During the public consultation process they reduced the number of turbines and total area they would cover. They also moved them an additional kilometre away from the shore line in accordance with views from local people. 

One of the main concerns about the scheme was the potential negative impact it would have on local tourism, with residents concerned that visitors would no longer holiday along the Jurassic Coast. However statistics compiled from areas where other offshore wind farms have been constructed indicate this is not the case.

Alongside the main wind farm development, the developers have submitted proposals for an operations and maintenance building, creating additional jobs once the project is complete. 

Onshore issues

During the first half of 2014, two thirds of new onshore wind farm applications were rejected at planning. Could this be politically motivated? With the general election less than a year away, is carbon reduction being sacrificed for Tory-led votes? 

Industry figures reveal that local authority approval rates for green energy has reached an all time low, with the number of schemes being given the go ahead plummeting by half in the first five months of 2014 compared to the previous three years.

Across the UK, some 164 projects (including onshore wind and solar projects) have been halted since January 2014 as a result of opposition, resulting in the loss of enough energy to power 321,186 homes.

In contrast, other European countries such as Denmark, France and Germany continue to lead the way in alternative energy. A large proportion of companies involved in British wind farms are from these countries - is this because we lack the technology and ability to maintain the projects?

On the other side of the coin, the European Platform Against Windfarms lobby group, which represents more than 800 members across the continent, claims the UK has become `saturated’ with turbines.

There are 4,417 turbines operating in the UK, with plans for a further 3,000, however opponents to further expansion argue that Britain’s current output will easily reach the EU target of producing 30% renewable electricity by 2020.

It is unclear whether this forecast includes all proposed projects, given that many of them have already been halted. There is certainly a steady stream of proposals in the pipeline, but how many will fall at the first hurdle? How many will be turned down, and at what cost to our environmental future?

For further information about environmental and energy issues within the construction industry, contact Caroline Lockyer, utilities sector expert at Glenigan, on 01202 786723.

What are your views on wind farms – are offshore developments preferable to onshore? Do you think EU green energy targets are too high for Britain? Get involved with the debate on our social media channels via the icons at the top of the screen.

PR contacts:

Kirsty Maclagan (Marketing and Communications Manager)

T: +44 (0)1202 786 842│E: kirsty.maclagan@glenigan-old.thrv.uk

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