Getting planning permission for a wind turbine can be a daunting task, however there are many post-planning and other issues to consider too, explains Tori Heaton, planning manager at installer and developer Earthmill.
Once your application is approved there are still plenty of hurdles to be overcome before your turbine becomes a reality.
Discharging conditions and finalising planning agreements
Your planning permission may include conditions on issues such as turbine type, height and colour, noise, traffic management plans, aviation, lighting, TV and radio reception. A single point of contact to keep the public informed may also be requested.
Planning authorities are generally fairly stretched – they do vary, but it is common for such conditions to be issued, rather than negotiated. So to give yourself the best chance of conditions being reasonable, provide as much information as possible in your application.
It is important to fulfil or discharge the conditions, otherwise you could be found in breach of the permission and subject to enforcement action. However, the authority may be open to some negotiation on how to meet the conditions.
You usually have three years from grant of permission for work to begin.
Begin liaising with third-party landowners in good time to achieve access to third-party land for electricity poles, cables and other infrastructure.
You need approval to connect a wind turbine to the grid. So begin a dialogue early with your local distribution network operator (DNO), which controls access to the grid. This can help speed up any required construction work, which may have to be completed within certain timescales, otherwise you may lose out when governmentFeed-in Tariffs (Fits) reduce.
Ofgem accreditation or pre-accreditation
You need to register or pre-register your turbine to Ofgem in order to receive the Fits. To do this, grid connection must be paid and planning permission must be in place. Technical issues are common throughout registration and the complexity of smart metering for exporting electricity can often make Ofgem accreditation complicated.
Pre-accrediting your project enables you to secure the current Fits before the plant is built and commissioned, as well as giving you the flexibility of an extra 12 months to build your project. This helps guard against the impact of long lead times by DNOs or turbine suppliers.
Export, LECS and REGOS
A good energy broker will get you a better deal than the government’s standard export tariff for power that you send to the grid. Developers can pool their installations to receive preferential rates and it is important to understand how peaks in demand affect the prices buyers are willing to pay. Levy Exemption Certificates (LECs) and Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin (REGOs) are electronic certificates that are traded by large companies that have targets to meet to offset their carbon footprint. Renewable energy generators receive these credits, which have a value to others and can be traded. Typically, opting into LECs and REGOs will increase your income by 0.3p for every kilowatt exported to the grid. This does add up and is usually worth the effort.
Most turbines include a five-year warranty covering everything apart from standard consumables such as brake pads and oil, but check the terms very carefully – breakdowns can be costly not only in repairs, but in lost income and power too.
Delays in meter installation can mean missing out on valuable higher tariff rates so once again, get this lined up in good time.