Bringing massive economic benefits across the U.K., 2016 will be a busy year for construction activity in both onshore and offshore wind, predicts RenewableUK.
However, says the renewable energy trade association, as the government has withdrawn financial support for future projects, onshore construction work beyond next year is under a severe threat of curtailment.
Construction activity is currently underway on six offshore wind projects – with onshore substations being built and cables being laid. These projects have a combined capacity of more than 2.6 GW, says RenewableUK.
During 2016, building work will start on another five offshore wind projects, adding a further 1.9 GW. This means more than 4.5 GW of offshore wind capacity will be under construction in 2016 – enough to meet the needs of over 3 million homes, according to RenewableUK, which adds that these sites will nearly double the U.K.'s current offshore capacity of 5.1 GW by the time they go fully operational by the end of the decade.
Onshore wind developers are set to install at least 1.2 GW of new capacity next year, with more than 50 projects becoming fully operational – enough to power more than 660,000 homes. This is more than three times the capacity installed in 2015, when just over 400 MW came online, according to RenewableUK, noting that uncertainty over future access to the energy market means onshore wind developers are trying to get projects up and running before current market arrangements end in 2016.
In terms of the economic benefits to Britain, the onshore wind projects going live in 2016 will generate more than 913 million British pounds of investment in the economy during their development and construction phases.
On the other hand, says RenewableUK, offshore wind projects in construction in 2016 will generate 5.9 billion British pounds of investment within the U.K. over the next five years of development and construction activity.
"The U.K.'s wind energy infrastructure pipeline remains healthy in the immediate term, continuing to bring billions of pounds of investment to British companies across the supply chain and supporting 35,000 jobs," states Maf Smith, RenewableUK's deputy chief executive.
"No government would want to jeopardize the successful future of such an industry. Government understands this and has set out a long-term framework for offshore wind, allowing industry to plan ahead. This means we can attract investment, bring down costs and secure the U.K. supply chain. This needs to be replicated across the wider renewables sector.
"People understand the importance of investing in renewable energy. That's why they've told the National Infrastructure Commission to make this sector their No. 1 priority. Wind deserves a place in our energy mix. Onshore wind is one of cheapest of all sources of electricity for consumers. Ministers need to give onshore wind projects access to the energy market. Without that, Britain will lose out on billions of pounds of future investment," Smith concludes.