New clean energy milestone as 15 gigawatts of onshore wind is enabled by North Lanarkshire wind farm

West Benhar wind farm (Photo: EDF Renewables UK)

RENEWABLEUK is celebrating a new clean energy milestone, as 15 gigawatts (GW) of onshore wind capacity are now fully operational throughout the country – enough to power 9.9 million homes all year round.  

The project which enabled the UK to cross the 15GW threshold is EDF Renewables UK’s West Benhar onshore wind farm in North Lanarkshire, with a capacity of 30.1 megawatts (MW), consisting of seven turbines. It brings the UK’s onshore wind capacity to 15.002GW across 2,631 projects. This represents significant progress since the UK’s first commercial wind farm, Delabole in Cornwall, opened in 1991 with a capacity of just 4MW. Onshore wind now provides 11% of Britain’s electricity a year. 

Matthieu Hue, Chief Executive of EDF Renewables UK commented:  “It is great to see the impact that our efforts as a business and as part of the wider industry are having on accelerating the journey to net zero. Onshore wind has a major part to play in reaching UK’s target of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

“Opening West Benhar wind farm in recent weeks is a positive step to realising the country’s ambitions. We have worked closely with the local supply chain and communities throughout the project, investing millions in contracts with Scottish and UK companies to construct the wind farm. Over £4.5million will be re-invested back into the local community over the wind farm’s lifespan. It is a great reminder of the huge positive impact brought by onshore wind farm investments to the UK.”

Most of the UK’s onshore wind fleet is Scotland with 9.4GW up and running, which is 63% of our total onshore wind capacity. In England, where the de facto ban on onshore wind introduced in 2015 is still largely in place, 2.93GW is fully operational (less than 20% of the UK’s capacity). Only one new turbine has gone live in England since the start of 2023, and one other is under construction. Northern Ireland has 1.35GW (9% of UK onshore wind capacity) and Wales has 1.26GW (8%). 

The Climate Change Committee has advised the Government that the UK needs to install 35GW of onshore wind by 2035 as a key step to reaching net zero. 

RenewableUK’s Head of Policy James Robottom said: “It’s great to see West Benhar going fully operational – this excellent Scottish project boosts the UK’s total onshore wind capacity to over 15 gigawatts, which is a major milestone for the industry, strengthening our energy security and providing clean electricity for consumers from one of our cheapest sources of new power. 

“We welcome the Government’s announcement this week of the budget for this year’s auction for new clean energy projects. It’s important to ensure that the UK maximises the amount of new onshore wind and solar capacity we secure in this year’s auction, to benefit local communities and help to grow our supply chain”. 

“We’re urging the Government to set an ambitious UK-wide target of 30 gigawatts of onshore wind by 2030, so that we can maximise the economic benefits of this technology throughout the country. Our research shows this would boost the economy by £45 billion and create 27,000 jobs. We need to accelerate the build out of new projects in areas where local communities support onshore wind if we’re to double our capacity by the end of the decade and get closer to the Government’s net zero target. 

“To achieve this, we need to see more projects going ahead in England in areas where they have local community support. Despite the very minimal changes to planning policy announced by the Government in September, we still face an English planning system which is stacked against onshore wind, treating it differently to every other energy source or infrastructure project. Under the current rules we’re not going to see investment in new projects at anything like the scale needed to reinvigorate onshore wind in England after nine years of lost progress. New planning policies could unlock green growth and bring economic benefits to communities which are currently being denied opportunities to benefit from onshore wind”.  

A summary of UK wind energy statistics is available here.

More details on RenewableUK’s EnergyPulse database, which includes marketing intelligence on UK wind energy projects, is available here.

More information about EDF Renewables UK’s West Benhar project is available here.

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