Offshore wind farm

Offshore industry says wind turbine installation rate must triple to meet energy targets

Image credit: Michal Bednarek/Dreamstime

The UK government's renewable energy targets would only be achieved with “significant improvements” in wind turbine installation rates, according to a new study from Offshore Energies UK (OEUK).

Meeting the government's four-fold increase target for offshore renewable energy 2030 could be “potentially achievable” if the rate of wind turbine installation would double or triple, the report says. 

The research found that almost half of the offshore wind projects needed to reach the target are only at the concept stage, despite the deadline for the government's targets being less than eight years away.

When it comes to offshore wind, it typically takes more than 13 years to move from the planning to the operation stage due to planning and approval delays. As a result, the UK is at risk of missing net zero targets, according to the report.

OEUK is a trade body for the UK offshore energy industries, covering both renewables and oil & gas.

“As of late August, OEUK knew of around 40 projects planned through to 2030 at various stages of the development cycle," said Ross Dornan, lead author of the OEUK’s report. “Based on this pipeline, the energy security strategy target is potentially achievable but it is important to understand the associated project uncertainties and risks."

The OEUK’s new economic report has taken a detailed look at the nation’s energy security landscape, including gas, oil and offshore wind in an effort to highlight its strengths and vulnerabilities. 

At the moment, the government strategy aims to increase the offshore wind capacity from 12 to 50 gigawatts (GW) by 2030. However, achieving this target will require the installation of around 3,200 newer and larger wind turbines, something that could only be achieved in the timeframe by cutting planning consent times from four years to one and developing a fast-track planning process for non-controversial projects.

Currently, as many as 46 per cent (almost 19.5GW) of the potential capacity additions before 2030, are only at a concept stage, according to OEUK. 

“This scale of installation is very ambitious and will require significant improvements to the regulatory and permitting progress," Dornan said. “History shows that it takes around 13 years to progress from concept to application stage through to operations. This means that the UK’s 50GW ambitions will only be achieved if this can be sped up.”

Last January, Crown Estate Scotland announced 17 new wind projects that would provide the nation with 25GW of capacity, with an additional three being cleared in August. Taking these projects into consideration, wind accounts for 27.6GW of Scotwind's capacity, with over 60 per cent allocated to floating solutions.

In addition, the North Sea will also witness the construction of the Seagreen offshore project and the beginning of the Dogger Bank project – two of the largest offshore wind farms in the world.

“The UK is a world-leader in offshore wind energy and we’re going even further, delivering up to 50GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, " said a Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesperson. "We’re doing this because the more cheap, clean power we generate at home, the less exposed we will be to volatile fossil fuel markets.

“We have already set out how we are going to cut the time spent on the planning and approval process for new wind farms by over half as part of our landmark British Energy Security Strategy published earlier this year.”

In July, Parliament debated a bill to fast-track offshore wind projects in the House of Lords, against a backdrop of record-breaking temperatures and spiralling energy bills fuelling a cost-of-living crisis. Earlier this year, the government announced a £31m fund to help drive further deployment of floating offshore wind projects, and secured 11 gigawatts of winning bids for various renewable technologies at a record-low price.

The energy obtained from these renewable sources amounts to 14 per cent of the UK’s total current electricity capacity and is enough to power around 12 million homes, according to officials. 

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