Onshore wind could be cheapest new electricity source by 2020

Innovation and improvements to grid connections could make onshore wind the most cost-effective new electricity source by 2020, according to the Onshore Wind Cost Reduction Taskforce.

Research carried out by the Taskforce, set up by RenewableUK, shows that these measures, along with ensuring the UK planning system is working and sharing best practise within industry, would be needed to drive down the price of onshore wind.

It believes this would make onshore wind cheaper than its nearest price competitor, gas, by reducing the cost up to £21 per MWh. The costs are anticipated to be 22% less than today’s current prices for onshore wind.

Onshore value

The research expects combined cycle gas turbine plants to be the cheapest new technology in 2020 with a predicted levelised cost of energy of £65-75 per MWh

Renewable UK expects the cheapest onshore wind sites in 2020 to undercut the price of gas by £3 per MWh. However, it says that without the recommended measures onshore wind will struggle to reach this lower price, but would still be the cheapest low carbon electricity.

“This work definitively shows the value of continuing the role of onshore wind in the UK,” RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said. “It’s already the most cost effective way to generate low carbon power, and this report shows that within the next five years onshore wind can be the most cost effective of all forms of power generation, driving down all our fuel bills.”

“We have already seen evidence of the falling cost of onshore wind in the most recent auctions for low carbon power. However, further cost reductions won’t happen if this technology is cut off at the knees by a premature withdrawal of support.”

Scottish output

The report comes during a week of record-breaking wind for the UK. Particularly strong winds on Tuesday night (31 March) generated 209 GWh of energy, just beating the previous record of 208GW set on 10 December last year, and equalling 23% of the UK’s electical needs.

According to WWF Scotland analysis of data provided by WeatherEnergy, wind output in Scotland in March was up by 16% compared to the same period last year, enough to supply the electrical needs of 110% of Scottish households.

Wind power generated the equivalent of 57% of Scotland’s total electricity consumption for the month – 2,325,687MWh.

“Even though Scotland is generating so much renewable energy, it’s vital that our politicians don’t forget to keep supporting investment in demand reduction and energy storage, such as pumped hydro,” WWF Scotland’s director Lang Banks said. “Doing so makes hitting our renewables targets easier and helps on those days when the wind isn’t blowing so strongly.”

Public Support

Official Government statistics have shown that renewable electricity provided a record percentage of supply in the last quarter of 2014, reaching 22%. Onshore and offshore wind combined provided the biggest share of renewable electricity, at just under 12% of the total electricity generated.

Banks added: “Given the growth in output from pollution-free wind and solar power, it’s hardly surprising that opinion polls show that the vast majority of public want the next UK Government to keep supporting the deployment of even more renewables. We urge political parties to listen to public and to do all they can to ensure Scotland is able to fully harness its massive renewable resource.”

A YouGov poll released this week showed that the vast majority, 79%, of Scottish adults support the continued development of renewable energy. This follows a previous poll conducted in February revealing support for wind projects in Scotland to be on the rise.

Lucinda Dann

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie