The projects, with a total capital investment of £600m ($919m), are to be largely located in Scotland, but “opportunities for new wind farm developments will be pursued throughout the UK”, the firms said, adding that a “significant” number of projects are already in the partnership’s pipeline, with the first project planned to be operational by 2019.
Onshore wind has been a controversial proposition in the UK due to its visual impact, especially in England where residents have lobbied the government to preserve so-called “areas of outstanding natural beauty”.
Kieran O’Neill, media relations manager at ESB, said the majority of the partnership’s proposed sites are located in Scotland due to the “more favourable planning and political context for onshore wind there”, as well as Scotland’s superior wind resource.
Asked whether he believes the potential for onshore wind development in the UK could change after the upcoming general election on 7 May, O’Neill said: “Generally speaking ESB are taking a more strategic, long term view of the sector rather than responding reactively to shorter term political changes.” The firm has targeted the installation of 7 GW of power generation capacity in the UK and Ireland by 2025, he said, from a current installed capacity of 4.8 GW, with 26 per cent of this planned to come from renewable sources (up from 13 per cent currently).
“We will be watching the election outcome closely,” he said, “but it is unlikely to affect our current strategy.”