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Offshore Wind Power Big Challenges Big Opportunity

Offshore Wind Power Big Challenges Big Opportunity

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Published by Eric Morgan

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Published by: Eric Morgan on Nov 16, 2010
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Current planning regulations

The current planning process for onshore wind, offshore
wind and new grid connection is not fit for purpose, due to
the time taken to go from application to approval and the
complexity of dealing with multiple planning bodies. This
has resulted in long delays for building new capacity and
even in developers withdrawing from projects entirely.

Planning for the Beauly-Deny line, a major new onshore
transmission line connecting the Scottish grid to
England, will have taken more than ten years by the
time construction starts. Yet if any significant amount
of offshore wind is to be located off the Scottish coast
Beauly-Deny will need to be augmented with another new
connection – and adding another ten years of planning
delay will mean any transmission capacity from this new
line will only be available after the 2020 target has passed.

The London Array development gives an example of
the complexity of multiple approval interfaces under the
current system. The developers had received planning
approval to build a 1GW wind farm in the Thames
Estuary, successfully negotiating related shipping and

the site to the grid separate planning permission for an
onshore substation was required, the approval of which
by the local borough council added more than 12 months
to the development timeline. The ability of relatively
minor approval processes such as this to delay major
energy projects is particularly serious given the timing
challenges of reaching the 2020 goal.

Assessment of UK Government’s proposed
Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC)

A key part of the Planning Bill, introduced last November
is the Infrastructure Planning Commission (IPC). It will
cover large infrastructure projects including wind
farms and the grid, but also airports, motorways
and power stations.

The IPC should resolve both the speed and complexity
issues if implemented as currently planned, and if
provided with sufficient power and resources to secure
offshore wind developments of the scale described in
this study. It will provide a single approvals process for
all offshore wind farms – assuming all schemes will be
greater than 100MW – and should dramatically reduce
the timeline for approval from as long as ten years
today to less than three years in the future (Chart 3f).

Chart 3f Potential impact of new planning regulations (IPC) on offshore wind development to 2020

IPC proposal





Indicative timing for large projects (years)

Multiple separate processes

Site & grid only


















3 months

3 months

9 months

~2 years

~2 years

21 months

3 months

~1 to 5 years (and up to 10 years)

Consents process




Consents process


Potential round 3
offshore wind power
capacity installed
per year (GW)1


Round 3 seabed site leases for up to 25GW of additional offshore wind capacity beyond the current planned 8GW from previous rounds 1 and 2
of site licensing


Offshore wind power

Chart 3g Summary of recommended changes to UK grid and planning regulations

Requiring developers to prepare a more detailed case
prior to submission and then comparing this against a
National Policy Statement (NPS) for renewables ensures
the planning risk is concentrated in these two stages.

compromised, with a provision that the IPC be reviewed
in 2 years’ time. The Government will need to show
strong leadership to maintain the required efficiency
of the new planning regulations.

To reduce delays and risk during the preparatory
stage, developers need to be given clear guidelines for
preparing their applications so that repeated iterations
are not necessary prior to acceptance by the IPC. More
importantly, to reduce risk at the approval stage the
NPS for renewables must take a pragmatic approach
to development and be capable of making the difficult
but necessary trade-offs between the need to reduce

carbon emissions and the concerns of other stakeholders
– such as the shipping community, MoD, environmental
groups and the general public. The Government needs
to take a more active role in these negotiations rather
than leaving them up to developers to resolve outside
of the review process, and also needs to define a clear
and efficient process for managing any Judicial Reviews
that occur.

In addition to the renewables NPS, there will also
be an NPS for the electricity grid. This needs to work
in harmony with the process for approving offshore
wind farms, and should carry the same weight as the
renewable NPS to enable the right trade-offs to be
made between stakeholders.

A summary of the recommendations for grid and
planning regulations and their associated impact
is given in Chart 3g below.






Grid regulations

Introduce ‘connect and
manage’ in the short-term;
wind farms can connect
before grid is upgraded

Need to remove delays in
grid access

Avoid capex
of up to £2bn

Implement capacity
sharing mechanism in the
medium term

Over time will want
more efficient option than
‘connect and manage’


Change criteria for
determining network

Risk of excess investment
and delays if current system

Undertake upfront grid
investment in advance
of demand

Small upfront investment to
produce a coordinated grid
plan for 2020

Reduce lead time
by up to 5 years

Develop international
interconnector business
case (optional)

May provide opportunity to
reduce balancing cost


To be quantified in
business case

Planning regulations

Implement full IPC

Accelerate and de-risk
planning process

Reduce lead time
by up to 50%
(i.e. 2-5 years)

36The Carbon Trust

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