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UK onshore wind additions fall again as subsidized pipeline dries up

The expansion of onshore wind in the U.K. declined in 2019, with slightly fewer new turbines installed compared to a year earlier, trade group RenewableUK said on Jan. 14, as the pipeline of projects with government subsidies comes to an end.

In total, 629 MW of new onshore wind capacity was installed in 2019, according to RenewableUK's statistics, which capture projects of 100 kW and above. The figures show continuing declines: new installations dropped from over 2.6 GW in 2017 to 651 MW in 2018, following the phaseout of government subsidies.

All but one of the 23 projects installed in 2019 still had financial backing from the now-defunct Renewables Obligation, Feed-in Tariff or Contract for Difference schemes for onshore wind, said RenewableUK.

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Interest from developers to build new projects in England and Wales has dwindled, the organization said. In Scotland, "there was a healthy pipeline of new projects" because of more supportive government planning policy, with 556 MW consented and 1,969 MW submitted into the planning system in 2019.

"The current approach is falling short on delivering renewable energy capacity at the level needed for net zero," said Rebecca Williams, RenewableUK's head of policy and regulation, referring to the U.K. government's target to become carbon neutral by 2050. "We urgently need a new strategy from government," she added.

Onshore wind is facing stumbling blocks in other established European markets. German lawmakers are currently debating a way forward on growing the country's renewables capacity, but distance requirements to houses are likely to be introduced for new wind farms as part of the legislation.

Many projects are also being opposed by locals and successfully challenged during the planning stage. German wind group BWE said in December that the industry "remains under massive pressure and is waiting in vain for credible political signals."