Ben Webster, Environment Editor
Wind farms are much easier to build in Britain than in most of the rest of Europe, according to a study that contradicts claims by the turbine industry that the planning system is too slow and needs to be reformed.
It takes an average of 26 months to win permission for a wind farm in Britain, compared with an average of 42 months across the EU. In France, it takes 29 months, Germany 30 and Spain 57, according to the EU-funded study by the European Wind Energy Association. Wind farm developers face the longest wait in Portugal, where the average wind farm takes 58 months from application to consent. Finland gives the fastest response, approving wind farms in only eight months.
Britain also has one of the least bureaucratic planning systems, with developers needing to contact an average of 15 authorities and organisations to obtain permission, it was reported. The EU average is 18. In Greece, applicants must contact 41 bodies.
The number of onshore turbines in Britain is due to treble in the next few years. There are 2,400 in use and planning consent has been given for another 2,100. Planning applications are being processed for more than 3,000.
Renewable UK, the wind industry’s trade body, wants wind farm applications to be approved in only 16 weeks, which it says is the typical period for permission to be granted to build a supermarket or housing estate.
A spokesman for the organisation said that the European study had not taken into account the success rate of applications. He said that only a quarter of wind farms were approved by local authority planning committees, though permission for others is granted on appeal. “Spain, which according to this league table is among the slowest, has five times more onshore wind capacity than the UK,” he added.
Offshore wind farms are much more likely to win approval, with Renewable UK announcing today that one gigawatt of generating capacity has been installed around Britain’s coast.
Renewable UK said there were 336 offshore turbines in 11 “farms”, producing enough power for 700,000 homes. Offshore turbines tend to be much larger than those onshore and the next generation will have a sweep larger than the London Eye.
Wind farm developers are planning to have installed a total of 8,000 offshore turbines by 2020, which will generate enough electricity to power most of Britain’s homes when the wind is blowing.