Wind industry disputes 'quick' UK planning process claim

| 22nd April 2010
Offshore wind turbines

The UK now has 1GW of offshore wind capacity, capable of powering 700,000 homes

European report ranks UK application process for wind farms as amongst quickest, ahead of Spain and Portugal

It takes nearly two and a half years to get planning consent for an onshore wind farm in the UK - a year less than the European average - according to a report released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

At 26 months, the UK application process for wind farms is one of the quickest in Europe, taking half the time of Spain, Greece and Portugal.

But the trade association for the UK's renewable sector said the figures
were misleading because they didn't show the actual number of applications being approved. 

'These sort of statistics don't show us the refusal ratio which is 75 per
cent in the UK,' said a spokesperson for wind industry body, Renewable UK. 'Spain, which according to this league table is amongst the slowest in Europe has 5 times more onshore wind capacity than the UK.' 

Stuck in system

Renewable UK also pointed to a continuing disparity between the application times for wind farms and other large infrastructure projects in the UK.

'Around 75 per cent of large projects, such as supermarkets, and housing estates, get decided within the 16 week guideline period, compared to 7 per cent of wind farm projects.

'There are currently 10 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy stuck in the planning system, that's £15 billion worth of investment,' the spokesperson added.

A leading wind farm developer said the planning system was ‘holding back’ growth in the UK wind energy sector and warned that the figure of 26 months may be skewed by the number of quick refusals.

‘An analysis of five of our projects that have received consent gives an average time in planning of 41 months,’ said Rachel Ruffle of RES. 

As well as application times, the study investigated the number of
authorities with which wind farm developers needed to liaise during the planning process. In the UK, developers liaised with 15 authorities, in contrast to five in Denmark and 41 in Greece.

EU targets

In light of the report, the EWEA has called on member states to streamline their consent procedures if they are to reach 20 per cent renewables in overall EU energy consumption by 2020.

'There are a number of actions all member states could take: creating a one-stop-shop approach to contacting different authorities, writing clear
guidelines for developers, and introducing better and streamlined planning procedures,' said Justin Wilkes, EWEA Policy Director.

According to the study, the planning application time for offshore wind farms were half those of onshore winds farms.

This is borne out by today's announcement that the UK offshore wind industry has already reached 1GW of capacity, powering 700,000 homes.

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