Updating wind farms would bring millions into local communities and put the UK on track to meet its climate change targets, climate scientists say.
A new report by the Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has argued upgrading wind farms with the latest and most efficient turbines rather than allowing them to close would increase the UK’s generating capacity by more than 1.3 gigawatts (GW).
This would yield more than 3 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity per year, which would be enough to power nearly 800,000 homes.
It would also save consumers more than £77m per year on energy bills, compared to generating the same amount of electricity from gas-fired power stations.
The report argued upgrading could benefit local communities through payments from developers, with a potential pay-out of more than £100m from the first 750 turbines that will reach their 20th anniversary within the next five years.
More than 80% of these funds would go to rural regions.
‘Britain installed its first wind farms during the early 1990s when the technology was in its infancy, and the electricity generated was significantly more expensive than that from fossil fuels,’ said Dr Jonathan Marshall, ECIU energy analyst.
‘The industry has developed rapidly, however, and modern turbines generate vastly more power than older ones at costs competitive with coal and gas fired generation, especially when located onshore.
‘It makes sense to re-power sites of the earliest wind farms, which tend to be in locations that have the best wind resource. Existing infrastructure including network connections can also be reused or upgraded at costs lower than for new sites.’
Responding to the report, Simon Clarke, Conservative MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said: ‘Upgrading our oldest wind farms with the latest technology would deliver a big boost of clean power to the grid at a time when wind is already making a record contribution, while delivering cash for the communities that have hosted these sites for years.
‘It would also provide a market for the newly re-invigorated British steel industry, cut greenhouse gas emissions faster and, given that re-powering is the cheapest way for us to expand electricity generation, reduce bills for businesses and consumers.’