More than 700 new commercial-scale independent onshore wind projects have been developed across Great Britain in the past year, latest figures have revealed. This year’s Energy Entrepreneurs Report compiled by independent energy firm SmartestEnergy shows an additional 677 MW of capacity has come on stream since last year’s report.
The 707 new projects of 50 kW or more developed by businesses, farmers, landowners and communities, represents a year-on-year rise of 81.7% and takes the total number of sites now in operation outside of the big power companies up to 1,572. The wind projects now in operation have a total capacity of 3.46 GW, up by 24% compared to last year. They are capable of generating more than £411m of electricity a year, enough to power over 2.19 million households.
An estimated £721m has now been invested in commercial-scale independent onshore wind projects in recent years. Onshore wind now accounts for 40.4% of the total independent generation market in Great Britain. Wind was one of the most popular choices for onsite projects developed by businesses with 15 new projects during the year taking the total in operation across factories, offices and warehouses to 79.
The report reveals that £400m – over £1.1m a day – was invested in independent renewable energy generation projects of all technologies by businesses, farmers, landowners and communities last year. The continued strong growth seen in generation outside the big power companies came despite the renewables sector facing significant headwinds in political uncertainty and changes to renewable subsidies. The independent generation sector has also had to deal with the impact of a fall in wholesale power prices which wiped an estimated £132m off the value of electricity generated last year.
The total invested in the sector outside of the major utilities has now risen to almost £2.1bn with 4,460 commercial-scale sites of at least 50 kW capacity now in operation. The projects – ranging from community wind turbines to onsite generation plants at manufacturing sites – generated an estimated £1.08bn in wholesale energy a year, enough to power 5.7 million homes, or meet all of the public sector’s power needs.
“This report has highlighted the resilience of the independent generation sector against the backdrop of political uncertainty, changes to renewable subsidies and falls in wholesale power prices that occurred last year,” said Robert Groves, Chief Executive Officer for SmartestEnergy.
But recent changes announced by the new Government will challenge this growth. “With the early end to support for onshore wind under the Renewables Obligation and the end of the exemption from Climate Change Levy for renewable source electricity, 2015 could prove to be a difficult year for generators and investors,” Groves added.
“Our hope is that, as always, energy entrepreneurs find a way to seize opportunity so they can continue being a significant part of the energy landscape and contributing to meeting the nation’s energy needs and climate change targets.”
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