Three major wind farm projects in the North West have been backed for expansion despite growing concerns over the UK’s attractiveness for renewable energy investors.
Despite controversial government plans to end subsidies for onshore wind, proposals to significantly expand Scout Moor wind farm in Lancashire have moved a step closer after Rossendale Borough Council approved an application for 14 new wind turbines to be added to site.
The wind farm, which currently has 26 turbines, will become England’s largest onshore wind farm if the expansion goes ahead, with the final decision now resting with central government.
According to Rossendale council, the proposals would generate renewable energy for more than 21,000 homes and generate over £11 million for the regional economy.
The Government’s stance on onshore wind has already had a significant effect on the industry, with a new survey of ten major investors – who together account for around 90 per cent of all project finance for UK onshore wind in the past two years – finding that many will no longer be investing in the UK until there is more clarity around government subsidies.
Meanwhile, renewable energy crowdfunding specialist, Trillion Fund, has stopped offering loans altogether, citing that changes in government policy “have rocked investor confidence and made the landscape for future renewable energy projects very uncertain”.
According to the influential Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI), compiled by Ernst & Young, the UK has dropped out of the top ten countries for investor attractiveness for the first time.
Ben Warren, energy corporate finance leader at EY, said: “Few in the renewables sector would disagree that falling costs mean many renewables projects, particularly onshore wind and solar PV, will be cost-competitive and subsidy-free within the next three to five years.
“However, by prematurely withdrawing support, the Government risks stalling or killing projects that would otherwise maintain the momentum to get the market to that critical point.”
There was also good news for the North West region on the offshore wind front, with Dong Energy being awarded a £250 million extension deal to more than double the size of the Burbo Bank Offshore Wind Farm in Liverpool Bay.
Construction has also begun on the 660MW Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Cumbria.
The positive progress across the region comes at the same time as the Government refused planning for a huge 968MW wind farm off the Dorset coast – only the second time it has rejected an offshore wind project.