TNEI see a step change in UK renewables development

23 May 2019

The Renewable Energy sector is bullish with continued policy support from the Scottish Government. Development phase work is increasing. With teams dedicated to supporting the development of complex renewable energy projects, TNEI has seen a step change in the number and type of proposed development opportunities. We are at the early stages of a development curve characterised by high levels of site finding, feasibility assessment and initial planning and EIA works. Jason McGray from TNEI's Environment and Consents team notes that 'understandably these opportunities are focused on Scotland and Wales and feature turbines with tip heights ranging between 145m and 200m and total installed capacities around or above the 50MW Section 36 threshold (in Scotland). Reinvigoration of onshore wind supplier frameworks and opportunities such as the upcoming Forestry and Land Scotland tender are very promising.'

Key factors when competing in the subsidy-free market are scale, innovation and driving down costs; wind farm, solar array and battery storage developers are seeking to maximise installed capacities. Scale brings efficiencies but increased complexity and development and consenting risk. TNEI recently supported Peel Energy in gaining approval for its Mossy Hill Wind Farm near Lerwick on Shetland Mainland. In coordinating the EIA and undertaking various impact assessments, TNEI addressed all implications of the proposed 145m turbine tip heights within a complex landscape in close proximity to the Shetland National Scenic Area. There were also implications relating to the potential for likely significant effects on various sensitive ornithological species including those associated with the East Coast Mainland proposed Special Protection Area. As a result of careful design, robust assessment and liaison with SNH, neither issue led to sustained objections and the proposal received local level approval in April 2019.

However, challenges throughout the onshore wind industry persist. Continued innovation and cost reduction initiatives need to be supported by a well-resourced planning system but currently, a planning policy vacuum is prevalent with the majority of local authority development plans not yet reflecting the ongoing requirement of developers seeking consent for taller turbines. Notable exceptions include South Lanarkshire's Capacity and Guidance for Tall Wind Turbines that was published in September 2017. This presents an addendum to its 2016 Landscape Capacity Study and provides useful guidance considering turbine typologies up to 200m to blade tip including consideration of the need for medium intensity (2,000 candela) aviation lighting on turbines with tip heights above 150m.

TNEI has recently welcomed Justin Reid, a chartered town planner with 18 years’ experience, to head up the environmental and consenting offer in our Glasgow office. Justin is an accomplished environmental planner with a wealth of renewable energy developer-side and consultancy expertise. This includes the delivery of innovation and cost reduction measures to bring forward large scale subsidy-free wind farm schemes. Contact us to find out more about the step change in development opportunities.

Key contact

Jason McGray

Principal Consultant

Jason heads up TNEI's environmental and consenting team. He is a Chartered Environmentalist, full member of the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment and a Registered EIA Practitioner. Jason has extensive experience of co-ordinating, preparing and reviewing Environmental Impact Assessments and in gaining planning consent for a range of energy related projects. In addition, Jason has undertaken environmental due diligence and provided specialist input into strategic and regulatory projects working alongside TNEI's technical and engineering experts. He has supported complex projects for both private and public sector clients including Ofgem and the Crown Estate. Jason's wider experience includes detailed feasibility assessment, environmental permitting, socio-economic impact assessment, delivery of programmes of community engagement and financial modelling.