RenewableUK Reports on Wind Energy Performance

RenewableUK Reports on Wind Energy Performance

RenewableUK has issued a report on the ongoing state of the wind energy industry in the UK. In the first part of the report, wind energy performance is discussed, with a focus on the current status and electricity mix. The report also gives prediction for the future state of renewable energy in the country, which will be lead by wind resources. Hereby, we are bringing the parts of the report related to offshore wind sector.


The year to the end of June 2012 saw the consent of two schemes. In November 2011 the single, 7MW turbine at Methil Offshore Wind Farm Demonstration Site in Fife was approved. December saw the consent of the 210MW Westermost Rough project, which will be built 8km off the coast and 25km north of Spurn Head on the Humber estuary. These consents were most welcome following their submissions in December 2009 and April 2010 respectively. As 16GW of submissions are expected to enter the planning system in the next 12–18 months it is key that both decision-makers and statutory consultees are resourced to handle applications swiftly.

These consents were followed in early 2012/13 with approvals of the 560MW Dudgeon project and 580MW at Race Bank in July 2012, both located around 30km off the north Norfolk coast.

The consents of Dudgeon and Race Bank were accompanied by the rejection of the 540MW Docking Shoal scheme, also located off the Norfolk coast in the Greater Wash. Docking Shoal is the first offshore application to be refused planning consent since 1999, when the UK’s first offshore project – the two-turbine Blyth Offshore scheme – was consented.

Finally, on 1 October 2012, and after initial rejection by DECC and Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG), consent was given by Breckland Council to build and operate an onshore substation near Necton, Norfolk, servicing the Dudgeon project.

Wind energy in the UK: Current status

Over the course of 2011/12, 517MW was deployed offshore. All this activity was at three offshore projects off the Cumbria coast commissioned this year: the Walney I and II and Ormonde schemes. Walney I went live in July 2011 and Walney II in January 2012, with a combined capacity of 367MW. The 150MW Ormonde scheme was completed in February 2012.

In the first three months of 2012/13, Greater Gabbard has gone operational, and the 140 turbines were fully commissioned in September this year. At 504MW, Greater Gabbard is almost equal to the 2011/12 deployment figure.

Beyond those projects actually commissioned, 2011/12 has been a bumper year for construction, with over 2GW recorded as under construction at six sites on 30 June 2012. Many of these projects are vying for the title of ‘largest offshore wind project in the world’, including London Array (630MW phase 1), Gwynt y Môr (576MW), Greater Gabbard (now operational, 504MW), Sheringham Shoal (317MW) and Lincs (270MW) as well as the last Round 1 project Teeside (62MW). This highlights that the industry can deliver significant amounts of capacity and shows that the 2020 targets can be delivered. It will also extend the UK’s world-leading position in offshore wind with 3GW of offshore wind expected to be operational by mid-2013.


In the year to June 2012 seven projects were newly submitted into planning, with a combined total of 3,305MW. The long-awaited submission of Triton Knoll, Kentish Flats II and Galloper has been followed by the submission of Beatrice (1,000MW), NeartnaGaoithe (450MW), the AREG demonstration site in Aberdeen Bay and the NAREC demonstration site off Blyth. These projects are now the only offshore schemes awaiting determination.

All offshore demonstration sites have now been submitted, with Gunfleet Sands 3 and Methil Offshore Wind Farm Demonstration Site in Fife now consented. Gunfleet is soon to enter construction.

While many major planning reforms are ongoing, industry is hopeful that the planning systems in England and Wales may be moving into a period of greater stability. In the year to 30 June 2012, the UKhas seen the assent of the Localism Act in 2011, the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework in March 2012, and the transition from the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC) to the National Infrastructure Directorate within the Planning Inspectorate. The countryhas also seen decision-making powers returned from the IPC to the Secretary of State for Energy.

Over 2011/12 the UK saw the consent of two projects; the Methil Offshore Wind Farm Demonstration Site in Fife and Westermost Rough, 25km north of Spurn Head on the Humber estuary, with a combined capacity of 217MW. These consents were followed shortly afterwards by the approval of Dudgeon and Race Bank in early 2012/13, totaling 1,140MW.

By Quarter 4 of 2012 wind should be supplying up to 7% of the UK’s electricity. Overall, renewables should supply 12%. This process demonstrates that delivery of the 15% ‘all energy’ target – which is expected to consist of around 30% of electricity from renewables – for 2020 is both realistic and achievable.

The Future

The renewables industry, with wind energy leading the way, is expected to reach a number of important landmarks in the near future. These progress estimates are based on the pipeline of projects in operation, construction and planning, long-term load factor averages, and the expected changes in the UK’s energy generating portfolio.

As of the end of June 2012, the total operational capacity of UK wind farms was 6.9GW, with a further 4.2GW in construction and 5GW with planning consent. Given current lead times, it is estimated that by the end of 2014 the UK should have up to 13.5GW of wind capacity in operation, delivering 35TWh per annum. This is equivalent to 10% of the UK’s electricity needs. This is based on a load factor of 30% which factors in the long-term load factor averages and increased role of offshore wind.

At this stage, even if the UK follows the conservative assumption that other sources of renewable electricity will not grow but will remain at their 2011/12 output levels, renewables in total would be supplying around 55TWh per annum, or around 15% of total electricity. This compares to 62TWh generated by nuclear in 2010 and 69TWh generated in 2011.

However, if the nuclear decommissioning plan goes according to schedule, with the whole of Wylfa closed down by 2014, the end of that year could see renewables start to rival nuclear in terms of contribution to the electricity supply. The trend is expected to be accelerated with the decommissioning of Hinkley Point B and planned decommissioning of Hunterston B in 2016. At that point renewables would have overtaken nuclear by a wide margin in terms of share of electricity supplied.

By 2020 a total of at least 13GW of onshore wind and 18GW of offshore wind should be operational, pursuant to the Government’s delivery plan published in 2011. This capacity could deliver around a third of the UK’s electricity on an annual basis. Owing to a reduction in the use of coal due to the coal plant decommissioning programme mandated by the Large Combustion Plant Directive, wind will be the greatest contributor to the nation’s electricity supply after natural gas. This significant milestone will be the culmination of a delivery programme which will have increased wind’s share from less than 1% to 30% of electricity supplied to the UK in under 15 years.


Offshore WIND Staff, October 30, 2012; Image: DONG Energy