Eight months on from the updated national policy statement in September 2023, it would be hard to show how the confidence boost provided to onshore wind at the time has translated into any momentum.  With greater barriers to development than any other renewable technology, maybe it’s not surprising no new applications for onshore wind in England have come forward since Michael Gove announced the ban’s ‘lift’. 

Onshore wind is known to be cost-effective, compatible with agriculture, and popular amongst the wider public. This is a view certainly shared by opposition parties, with shadow Secretary of State of Climate Change and Net Zero, Ed Miliband claiming difficult decisions had been ducked, in reiteration that a revival of onshore wind would be a priority for a Labour government if elected. With our colleagues at Copper and RSK seeing a successful reception of onshore wind development across Scotland and Wales, we wanted to share three lessons England’s onshore wind industry can learn from its neighbours.

  

Go early 

Firstly, the significance of early community engagement is not to be overlooked. By actively involving local communities in decision-making processes and explaining the common myths, a collective sense of ownership can be fostered, resulting in an acceptance of changing skylines. When and if onshore wind applications return across England, prioritising community engagement from the outset will be needed to keep local stakeholders informed, consulted and involved in the planning and development stages of onshore wind projects. 

 

Give confidence 

The onshore wind industry also benefits from the confidence given by established projects. Unlike newer industries such as utility-scale solar or small modular reactors, the entrenched place of onshore turbines across the UK gives credence to the technology and its impacts. This evidence makes communicating the perceived impacts easier, with less uncertainty for communities learning about development. This is coupled with a multitude of case studies emerging where operational sites have had a real, positive effect on the communities hosting them through community benefit funds.  

 

Go long 

Lastly, the need to bring stakeholders along with a long-term vision has been at the forefront of Copper’s most recent onshore wind consultations. We have demonstrated from the Scottish Highlands for ESB’s Chleansaid and Ventient’s Beinn Ghlas wind farms to Res’ Killean windfarm on the Kintyre peninsula, and across Powys for Bute’s Llyn Lort, Banc Du and Rhiwlas energy parks that, by investing in thorough pre-application consultation, project teams can bring communities along and help them see the long-term vision for projects, and provide the reassurance needed on operational impacts before opposition forms. For onshore wind in England to be a success, this must be driven by whoever is seated on the front bench following the general election, with DESNZ and DLUHC establishing clear goals and policies to encourage investment and development in onshore wind.  

Onshore wind should be playing a vital role in the transition to clean energy, and England has much to learn from the experiences in recent years on the ground in Scotland and Wales. With the right lessons learned and actions taken, onshore wind has the potential to contribute significantly to England’s energy needs while addressing climate change and bringing genuine benefits to local communities.  

 

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