Big Field Windfarm

It looks like onshore wind has now reached the point where new windfarms can be built without subsidy. Good Energy has submitted a new application for planning permission for an eleven turbine wind farm near Bude in Cornwall. The Guardian report is here, and the company's information brochure is here.

   

In this case, the key seems to be that wind turbine technology keeps advancing. The previous application was for eleven 2.3MW turbines, a total of 25.3MW; the new application is for eleven 3.5MW turbines, a total of 38.5MW ... but, critically, without any increase in size. Presumably the higher-capacity turbines will cost a more, but the construction costs will be just about the same. The 50% increase in output is what makes the financial difference.

I'm sure that some will see this as a justification for the UK government slashing support for onshore wind under either the Renewables Obligation (RO) or the new Contract for Difference (CfD) subsidy schemes. For me, there has never been a problem about phasing-out subsidies. As originally envisaged, the purpose of the subsidies was to support an emerging technology until we reached a point where they were no longer required. The problem is that the UK government has chopped and changed the financial framework, making it difficult for companies to plan ahead. I have little doubt that their primary motivation for this has been to discourage onshore windfarms in principle, because they believe—wrongly—that most people don't like them.

For proof, we just need to consider that the Tories continue to offer substantial subsidies for nuclear and fossil fuel generation. By any standards, this is contradictory and unjustified, but particularly for a party that is meant to champion the market.

There is much to like about Good Energy's proposal in terms of community benefits. They are going to offer electricity to local customers at a 20% discount, as well as a community fund. They also want locals to invest directly, and become majority owners of the project. It is a model which would work very well for Wales.

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The problem that Good Energy face is that their previous planning application was rejected, and is now being appealed. But in terms of visual impact, nothing has changed, so it is far from clear whether the appeal will be successful. But different arrangements apply in Wales, and if a similar projects were to be proposed in Wales I have little doubt that they would be approved.

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