Renewables

How can subsidy free wind projects be optimised to maximise returns and find a route to market? A seminar by Brodies and WSP Renewable Energy teams discussed current and future approaches.

Design

  • Be future ready
  • Initial site design should use a generic envelope approach and avoid limiting options for value engineering, especially turbine envelope
  • Turbines – bigger, taller, more powerful turbines provide the step change to the unit cost of power to make unsubsidised wind viable
  • Cost optimisation may make the difference to site viability, for example, sizing your grid connection below the maximum rated output of the windfarm could be more cost effective
  • Design in battery space, even if not utilised at start, and consider co-location of solar – batteries are increasingly viable due to falling costs
  • Project life – consider designing for 30 years – implications for land deals and consent applications

Consenting

  • Regulator and public attitudes towards taller turbines are evolving
  • Procedural difficulties with revisiting existing consents, so future proof consent applications using generic envelope approach
  • Consider consenting battery or storage options from the outset even if intention is to add that later
  • Taller turbines have been consented and taller still applications are being considered – no clear consensus emerging

Landscape

  • Local authority landscape capacity studies are often dated – few consider turbines above 130m height
  • Capacity for tall turbines largely related to areas with existing wind farms, and relates to small schemes or extensions – but capacity studies are strategic guidance and do not preclude development of other sites
  • Only recent studies consider repowering opportunities

Routes to market

  • Traditional routes to bank finance depended heavily on the subsidy element, and are unlikely to provide a model in an unsubsidised market
  • The corporate PPA market is expanding and evolving and will support some development
  • Merchant trader schemes where operators build a windfarm and sell output on the market as the power is produced will also support some development
  • We may see the hedging products develop in the UK and Europe, which could help support the financing of new windfarms, something which is happening now in the Texas wind market.

Neil Collar

Partner at Brodies LLP
Neil is a partner at Brodies LLP and consistently rated as one of Scotland’s leading planning lawyers. He is well known for both his planning inquiry advocacy and his advisory work. Neil has a particular interest in renewable energy developments.
Neil Collar

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