Coronavirus: New UK wind capacity to fall 20% this year

Companies such as Siemens Gamesa had to halt production as part of compliance with the UK lockdown

The world’s wind power capacity grew by almost a fifth in 2019, with the Global Wind Energy Council claiming that wind power capacity grew by 60.4GW. GWEC had expected 2020 to be a record year for new wind energy projects, and forecast growth of 20%, but the impact of the global coronavirus pandemic had cast doubts over this trajectory.

However, new comments from GlobalData suggests that the UK’s anticipated installations of new wind capacity could be downgraded due to the restrictions imposed by the lockdown.

GlobalData noted that total annual installations for wind power reached 2.7GW in 2019 and that estimates for 2020 were around the 1.22GW mark. However, due to coronavirus, annual installations could now shrink to 980MW.

“The average energy demand in the UK declined by 13% after the UK Government announced the lockdown. The output of existing wind farms could significantly decrease due to the supply chain, travel bans and deferred maintenance. In addition, a shortage of engineering staff due to the lockdown could delay critical operational and maintenance (O&M) work at project sites,” GlobalData’s senior power analyst Somik Das said.

“Under normal circumstances, fixing a broken rotor or gearbox typically takes no longer than a month but now it could see up to six months of downtime on a particular turbine, which is quite significant for the wind industry as a whole. Thus, the performance of the wind sector in the second half of the year will be of critical importance for the UK.”

Companies such as Siemens Gamesa had to halt production as part of compliance with the UK lockdown. While companies are now resuming operations after giving staff equipment to stall the spread of the virus, the lost time is expected to impact installations.

The UK has since revised its timetable for awarding rights to sites capable of generating 7GW of offshore wind and extended deadlines of its tenders. The offshore wind market with cumulative installed capacity has grown from 1.34GW in 2010 to 9.97GW in 2019.

More broadly, the number of new renewable energy projects applying for planning permission reached a four-year high in the UK last year. There were 269 planning applications for new wind, solar and bioenergy projects in 2019, up from 204 the year before.

The Government has also reinstated “Pot One” technologies – including onshore wind and solar PV – for the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) Allocation in 2021.

Research from Cornwall Insight’s Renewable Pipeline tracker shows that 13.0GW of pipeline capacity could potentially be eligible at the auction. This would involve 5.5GW of Pot One technologies and 6GW of offshore wind. Around 2GW of Pot Two technologies could also be eligible with a “significant proportion” being Remote Island Wind (RIW).

Globally, BloombergNEF (BNEF) analysis suggests that the ramifications of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) will lead to downgrades in forecasts for renewables deployment and electric vehicle (EV) development, with solar capacity set to fall 16% compared to previous estimates.

BNEF has downgraded its forecasts for global solar capacity demand from 121-152GW to 108-143GW in response to the global disruption caused by Covid-19. If the downgrade were to reach the lower end of the estimate, 2020 could be the first year for more than 30 years that annual demand for solar falls below the levels recorded the year prior.

Matt Mace

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