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Wind energy and Planning – a storm ahead?

Considerable wind resources place many countries across the region in an enviable position. Yet capitalising on those resources can prove problematic, due to local planning restrictions. This case study from the UK highlights the problems faced and offers a number of solutions that will resonate with wind energy suppliers throughout Europe.


The UK has enviable wind resources and the potential to become the green powerhouse of Europe, yet lags behind many of its neighbours in its use and development of renewable energy from wind projects. Ambitious targets have been set by the UK Government, which equate to 30% of electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020. Currently however, less than five percent  of electricity comes from renewables, highlighting the major challenges ahead to meet these targets in the next ten years.

A number of issues surround the UK’s delay in exploiting its wind energy resources. However, the complex planning systems which are in place have been identified by both the Government and developers as the major obstacle to progress.

There are many examples of the planning system failing the renewable, and traditional, energy industry in the UK. The Ray Wind Farm proposal in Northumberland, for example, was the subject of application to the Government in December 2005, but is still undecided after a public inquiry which took place in 2008. As an extreme case, the public inquiry into the Sizewell B nuclear power station, said by the Government to have had direct costs of £30 million, sat for 340 days between 1982 and 1985, making it the longest inquiry of its type.   Significant delay and uncertainty such as this are clear disincentives to investment.

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