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Last edited 11 Sep 2017
Wind power has long been utilised as a successful source of clean, green energy. The UK's first commercial onshore wind farm was constructed in Cornwall in 1991. Onshore wind farms are now the biggest renewable energy source in the UK. Wind power helps reduce CO2 emissions and has also been found to benefit the local and national economy. Since 2008, the UK has also become the world leader in offshore wind energy.
 Onshore wind farms
The UK has a good wind resource which can be exploited by onshore wind farms. It can offer a cost-effective energy generation mechanism, with a 2.5MW turbine in a suitable position generating up to 6.5 million kwh of electricity each year.
The UK has many onshore wind farms, ranging from small schemes to large multi-turbine installations. In 2015 Renewable UK estimated that there were 5,105 onshore wind turbines in the UK with a combined capacity of 8,284MW.
There are many considerations when designing onshore wind farms including:
- Wind speed – Wind meters can be installed to measure the wind speed for at least 12 months to ensure an adequate supply.
- Location – The site needs to be exposed and not too close to buildings or other obstructions.
- Grid access – It is necessary to check with the local Distributed Network Operator (DNO) that the turbines can be connected to the local grid.
A planning application for an onshore wind farm greater than 50MW is considered to be a nationally significant infrastructure project and will be treated in the same way as the offshore wind farm process. In England and Wales, the Planning Inspectorate will consider the proposed development and provide a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change to refuse or permit consent.
 Offshore wind farms
The UK has become a world leader in the generation of offshore wind energy with the first offshore wind farm being constructed in Blyth harbour in north east England in 2000. In 2015, 14.3GW was in construction or had been approved, with a further 1.8GW in the planning process.
Offshore wind farms can be constructed within the two main sea areas:
- Within UK territorial waters which extend up to 12 nautical miles from the coast.
- Beyond 12 nautical miles in the Renewable Energy Zone.
 The Crown Estate
The Crown Estate are responsible for the management of the UK's seabed out to 12 nautical miles (nm). The Energy Act 2004 passed the rights to The Crown Estate to licence the generation of renewable energy on the continental shelf out to 12nm. A lease is required for offshore wind farms and the cables which transport the electricity ashore.
 Environmental assessments
A full lease will only be issued by The Crown Estate once all statutory consents and permits have been obtained. During this process, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required and compliance with the Habitats Regulations must also be demonstrated, possibly through a Habitats Regulations Assessment or Appropriate Assessment. Usually, the development will also be subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) which will be conducted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) or Marine Scotland.
As part of the planning process and Environmental Impact Assessment, a suite of environmental surveys will be required to assess any environmental impacts that a wind farm may have on species that live or use the offshore environment (air and sea). Typical surveys could include for example sea mammal monitoring surveys or fish surveys.
 Recent news
In June 2015, the government announced that it intended to stop providing public subsidies for onshore wind farms by closing the Renewable Obligation for new onshore wind farms from April 2016.
Developers bid in the auction far more aggressively than expected for the multi-million-pound government subsidies, driving the cost down to the 'exceptionally low' rate of £57.50 per MWh; far higher than the expected £70-80. This price is half what new offshore windfarms were being awarded just two years ago.
Ministers said the subsidies, paid for by consumers on energy bills, would bring forward enough clean power for 3.6m homes and create thousands of jobs.
As the technology continues to mature, developers believe that a new generation of much bigger turbines will be capable of achieving further cost reductions in the near future.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki.
- Environmental Impact Assessment.
- Nationally significant infrastructure projects.
- Renewable energy.
- Strategic Environmental Assessment.
- Wind Energy in the United Kingdom.
- Wind turbine.
 External references
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