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Developers lay claim to next wave of Scottish onshore wind
While the UK onshore wind market as a whole is still in a post-ROC hiatus, Scotland is on a high after two international JV groups announced this month they will each be developing 300MW-plus portfolios in the country in the coming years. Both are gunning for the re-introduction of Cfds or other price stabilisation mechanisms, although alternative routes to market may also emerge
The formation of two Scottish onshore wind JVs this month, targeting over 600MW of pipeline, has underlined investor confidence in the country, and the belief that projects will find routes to market despite a current absence of regulatory support.
Firstly, Norwegian energy powerhouse Statkraft unfurled a new JV agreement with domestic developer Airvolution Clean Energy which will see the two identify and develop 300MW of onshore wind projects over the coming years.
Statkraft had until two years ago been more focused on its offshore wind activities, but with its exit from that sector now well advanced is keen to re-ignite its onshore wind presence in the country.
This was soon followed up by Canadian developer Boralex’s tie-up with UK-based Infinergy, whereby the two groups will partner on the development of another 325MW pipeline of projects in the country.
For Boralex, the partnership forms another part of its international growth plans. Infinergy meanwhile is once more at the start of the pipeline origination journey after successfully securing Cfds for its most mature projects back in 2015.
In addition to the JV activity, the UK government has even got in on the act, confirming in its Clean Growth Strategy published on October 12 that Scottish Islands-located onshore wind farms will be able to compete for Cfd contracts in the next auction for the low carbon incentives, scheduled for Spring 2019.
Scotland’s attractions are clear – it benefits from excellent wind resource, while the Scottish government has continually, and very publicly, maintained strong support for renewables.
Political backing is important given developers will have to use larger 3.5MW-4MW turbines on the next generation of projects to continue to drive down the cost of energy, and the deployment of behemoth structures of up to 150m in tip height could potentially run into planning challenges.
“If you want renewables without subsidy, you need to make best use of your resource – this can be done by finding more available sites and by using state-of-the-art technology. I’m very encouraged when I speak to ministers and senior civil servants that they get that,” says Infinergy managing director Esbjorn Wilmar.
Equally bullish is Statkraft UK MD David Flood: “I think that the Scottish government is very receptive to looking at increased tip heights if they’re appropriately sited.”
But while resource and use of the latest technology are both key, onshore wind projects in Scotland would also benefit greatly from some form of energy price certainty.
The JV developers therefore appear to be taking a calculated risk that onshore wind projects will, at some point in the future, be able to compete once more in Cfd auctions, or something like it.
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