A world-leading wind turbine production company has accused the British government of putting up obstacles that are causing us to lag behind in terms of global progress towards a wind energy boom.
The CEO of Vestas Wind Systems, the largest producer of turbines in the world, has said that erratic imposition of various restrictions on the construction of onshore wind farms is doing damage to our journey towards green energy production and, as a result, towards energy security generally.
In particular, CEO Anders Runevad said in an interview with the Telegraph, that the “tip-height restriction of 125 meters” that the UK government has imposed on onshore wind turbines, is “cumbersome” and is causing us to seriously lag behind the global wind energy market.
The 125 metre restriction is not strictly codified but is implied by various bits of local legislature and is adhered to.
With the current restrictions in place, onshore wind production is not the most economical form of energy production. However, Mr Runevad said, with legislation adapted to fit technological progress in the industry, then his company could “compete in a market-based system” and would be “happy to take on the challenge.”
Vestas’ current latest turbines sit at a height of over 140 metres, exceeding the current government-imposed limitations, but are far better at producing the electricity they are designed to produce than previous models.
Larger rotors and more advanced internal technology mean that, as one journalist at the Telegraph described, have the potential to “radically change the economics of wind power.”
Onshore wind technology has advanced now to the point where, if allowed to be used to its full potential, could meaningfully, and without caveat, compete not just with other renewables, but with coal-based power plants as well.
Energy production through onshore wind farms has taken off in a big way in the US lately, where, as Runevad reported, prices have “come down by 50%…since 2009” to the point that the average KWh of energy from a wind farm now costs just 2.35 cents.
The Bank of America reported that “onshore wind is either the cheapest or close to being the cheapest source of energy in most regions globally.”
The UK government’s approach to renewable energy has been criticised of late, particularly in the aftermath of the COP21 agreement in Paris at the end of last year.
The general line toed by the Department for Energy and Climate Change has been that in the interest of immediate energy security, fossil fuels like shale gas would need to be promoted, at the expense (in the short term) of renewables.
However, these statements from Mr Runevad and from the wind industry as a whole now show that even in the short term, lifting unnecessary restrictions on the building of wind turbines mean that they would generate a sufficient amount of electricity to compete with fossil fuel plants.
Currently, opposition to onshore wind farms comes from a variety of starting points, a not insignificant part of which comes from groups looking to preserve the aesthetic of the countryside.
There is also a contingent of conservative backbench MPs who want to stymie onshore wind farm production entirely, taking Amber Rudd’s cuts to the industry to new extremes. Rudd justified her severance of government support for onshore wind farms by saying that the country was “reaching the limits of what is affordable and what the public is prepared to accept.”
What has now happened is that government policy is turning its back on onshore wind energy while the technology that drives it is improving at a rate of knots, making it actually now one the most viable means of energy production that we have at our disposal.