Repowering UK wind farms that are scheduled to end operations in the next five years could increase the country’s generating capacity by more than 1.3GW, according to a new report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU).
The report said upgrading the projects would yield more than 3 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year.
Report author and ECIU energy analyst Jonathan Marshall said that with onshore wind the cheapest source of new electricity generation, repowering with the most efficient modern turbines is a cost-effective way to secure new capacity.
“It makes sense to repower sites of the earliest wind farms, which tend to be in locations that have the best wind resource,” he said.
“Existing infrastructure including network connections can also be reused or upgraded at costs lower than for new sites.”
The report’s analysis of a database of onshore wind farms across England, Scotland and Wales shows there are close to 60 projects with over 750 turbines that will reach their 20th anniversary within the next five years.
Failing to stimulate repowering risks these productive sites closing, it said.
Repowering could also benefit local communities through payments from developers, with a potential pay-out of more than £100m from this first wave of projects, more than 80% of which would flow into rural regions.
Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Simon Clarke said: “Upgrading our oldest wind farms with the latest technology would deliver a big boost of clean power to the grid at a time when wind is already making a record contribution, while delivering cash for the communities that have hosted these sites for years.
“It would also provide a market for the newly reinvigorated British steel industry, cut greenhouse gas emissions faster and, given that repowering is the cheapest way for us to expand electricity generation, reduce bills for businesses and consumers.”
RenewableUK executive director Emma Pinchbeck said: “As this report shows, the onshore wind industry’s supply chain offers industrial benefits to sectors such as the UK’s steel industry producing high-quality material for turbine towers.
“But onshore wind still needs a route to market, so it’s encouraging to see ministers examining possible ways forward for this technology, which has consistently enjoyed a high level of public support.”