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.