Wind energy has been identified as having an important role to play in the world’s move towards a low-carbon future. But due to short-term planning rules, it may not have as big a part as it could in the UK’s own sustainable energy generation.
To date, when most UK wind farms were under development, temporary planning consent of 25 years was granted. Under the terms of this consent, when the two and a half decade period comes to an end, the turbines have to be removed and the land returned to its previous use. Now, a significant number of the country’s wind farms are starting to reach the end of their permission period, 62 wind farms in England, Wales and Scotland are aged 15 and over and 22 of these are more than 20 years old. If existing sites are removed without replacement this could decrease the overall amount of energy generated from UK renewables.
There are other problems, too: the government has warned that there is a risk of equipment being abandoned on some of the oldest sites, because some original planning consents failed to specify the removal of all of the infrastructure. In some cases, large equipment and cables do not have to be removed. And in 2015, the government created major planning hurdles for onshore wind farms and ended subsidies. As a result, there has been a 94 percent drop in applications to build new wind farms in England alone.