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Stackyard News Dec 07

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    Government Falls Behind on Wind Farm Targets

The government made an announcement yesterday about a major expansion of off shore wind power. Mark Newton wind farm expert from Fisher German chartered surveyors responds.

© Sandi Baker

off-shore wind turbines

“The reality is that the 7,000 target for off shore wind turbines set by the government for 2020 is likely to be unrealistic, considering that their short term target of 10% electricity produced by renewable energy by 2010 is already falling far short.”

Mr Newton states, not only are the targets unrealistic but when you consider the other following factors, the off shore argument seriously starts to fall down;

  • Currently, an on shore wind farm costs about £1.3 million per mega watt (MW), while the off shore equivalent costs £2.3 million per MW. This is because off shore sites need to be built in water, into sand, with substantial piling, concrete bases and a helipad can be required. The grid connection is also expensive as extra cabling is needed to bring the power back on shore.
  • An on shore wind turbine is typically 2.0 MW and off shore turbines are currently 3 MW and the next generation will be up to 5 MW
  • Put these figures together and the off shore wind turbines cost 75% more per MW compared to an on shore turbine.
  • Power companies have also been put off building off shore wind farms as their maintenance is much higher due to the corrosive effect of sea water and physically getting to the structure to repair them, particularly when the weather is bad.
  • There is also a supply issue, the cost of raw materials to build them is going through the roof and in some cases, manufacturers have pulled out of building off shore turbines as there is a much easier market with on shore turbines. The number of vessels required to build them are limited and all booked up.
  • The Green payment known as ROCs is currently one ROC for on shore and one for off shore, this will increase to one and a half ROCs for off shore wind farms in 2009, which is a 50% increase in the payment, but is unlikely to be enough compared to the additional cost of building and running off shore wind farms.

The current position is that there are 148 on shore wind farm sites and six off shore sites making up 1.5% of the current source of renewable electricity generated. By 2010, i.e in two years, to meet the government’s 10% target, electricity produced from wind farms will increase to 6% (1.5% off shore and 4.5% on shore) i.e. twice as many turbines will need to be built on shore as are currently built. There are currently 1,900 turbines on shore and there will need to be 3,600 turbines in total on shore to meet the government’s targets. Considering sites can take years in planning, these figures just do not add up and their short term targets simply will not be reached. Mr Newton can see big utility companies investing in these off shore sites in the future but not the smaller companies. The wind farm companies are therefore targeting on shore sites where it is much easier to construct, but they are being delayed in the planning process and even when they do get planning it can take up to two years to get turbines and there can often be several years delay in getting a grid connection.

Fisher German is one of the leading firms representing landowners and is the only firm recognised by the NFU in England and Wales. They are currently dealing with wind farm sites in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Poland. “We will initially assess all approaches you have free of charge and normally a reputable wind farm company will pay a contribution or all professional costs explains Mr Newton.

“We know the sector and the right companies to deal with and have managed to negotiate some really attractive deals for landowners, substantially increasing the terms originally being offered. Mr Newton recently had a case were a farmer had been offered a fixed rent and by altering it so that he benefits to any increase in energy prices he should earn an extra £2.5 million during the life of the project. It is important any future projects are signed this year, so that they can hope to get planning permission and build the wind farms before part of the on shore ROC payments go and they are less profitable for the wind farm companies and the landowners.”

If you have been approached by a wind farm company then our renewable energy team can advise you and your professional costs are normally paid by any reputable wind farm companies. For further information contact our renewable energy team: Mark Newton on 01858 411215, George Simpson on 01785 273 995 and Stephen Rice on 01295 226 297.

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