Bringing subsidy-free wind energy to the UK
Setting the scene
Until relatively recently, wind farms in the UK required government subsidies to make construction and subsequent operation cost-effective.
In 2019, following much successful work to improve performance and reduce all projects costs, BayWa r.e. began construction of the country’s first subsidy-free wind farm in Greenock, Inverclyde.
Located south of Greenock and Port Glasgow, approximately 20 miles west of Glasgow, the site is now host to eight Enercon 110m wind turbines, and has an installed capacity of 24 MW, enough electricity to power around 40,000 homes.
In early 2020, Tesco Group signed a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement and in September, BayWa r.e. announced the successful sale of the almost completed site. The first electricity was generated in November that same year.
The clean energy produced will displace more than 18,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually.
Meeting the Challenges
During the design of Inverclyde wind farm, a number of issues had to be considered including the turbine transport route through a major town, the mitigation of impacts on Glasgow Airport radar and the on-site avoidance of peat habitat and areas of archaeological interest.
This necessitated careful and sensitive planning and design, close liaison with key stakeholder and clear communication with the local community. Communication with the local community was particularly important prior and during the turbine delivery as the delivery route went directly through a residential area.
As a result, additional traffic management and safety measures were required and close liaison with local residents undertaken to ensure that disruption was minimised and residents were aware of what to expect and when.
We understand the value of local expertise and wherever possible we source locally. This project was no exception, and we were able to employ the services of a local family-run company I&H Brown as the main contractor. Several other smaller contracting jobs were awarded to local companies and the turbine manufacturer, Enercon, also has an operational office in nearby Port Glasgow, demonstrating our ‘keep it local’ goals.
During construction, two West of Scotland College students, undergoing foundation apprenticeships, were able to spend time working with both I&H Brown and the BayWa r.e. team to learn first-hand about the realities of project management, planning and construction.
Not only have we been one of the first developers to construct and sell a subsidy-free wind farm in the UK, but we have also been able to play a part in helping Tesco Group take a step closer towards realising its goal of using 100% renewables for all its electricity needs.
We also secured the sale of the wind farm to the UK’s largest sawmill firm, James Jones & Sons Ltd, in a joint deal with London-based specialist asset manager, Gresham House Asset Management, at the end of 2020.
Community involvement is at the heart of our process and does not stop when construction does. As part of our ongoing commitment to the area, we have provided a public car park, signage and archaeological interpretation boards to allow walkers to make use of the network of tracks around the windfarm.
We have also set up a long-term community benefit fund to be administered by ‘Inverclyde Community Fund’ to help fund future community projects.
With a local focus, regional sensitivities and challenges were successfully acknowledged, explored and addressed, and with the support of the local community and businesses BayWa r.e. is proud to have achieved this significant UK first.
As the first subsidy-free windfarm in the UK, this is a significant milestone in the energy transition. With renewable energy becoming the cheapest source of any form of new generation, we hope to see many similar projects coming forward.