Why rigorous analysis can open our eyes to our true impact

It’s no secret there has been a lot of change in the onshore wind industry over the last year, but at SSE we are positive about the future of onshore wind. 

The industry is increasingly being asked to stand on its own two feet and we believe that, if industry and government work together to deliver change, then it should be possible to develop onshore wind without public subsidy. 

One way we can do that is to better understand the economic contribution that onshore wind can make. That’s why we chose to look at one particular project we have, Clyde Extension wind farm, to see just what lies behind the numbers. 

The results detailed within this report have helped SSE to better understand the impact of our developments and operations. 

Together with Siemens we’ve been able to assess the total contribution to the UK and Scottish economies from the construction of Clyde Extension – £108.2m and £76.1m respectively.

Without this new analysis from Siemens, SSE’s largest contractor for Clyde Extension wind farm, previous analysis by SSE suggests the estimation of this economic contribution would be 20% lower than we now know it actually is. 

In other words, this study demonstrates the impact to the UK economy from onshore wind exceeds anything anyone in the industry has understood until now.

Clyde Extension is an addition of 54 turbines and 173MW of renewable energy generation capacity to the existing Clyde wind farm located in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. Construction is expected to be complete mid 2017.

When we first put the report together, no turbine manufacturer has undertaken such a detailed exercise as this, and project developers like SSE were often ‘blind’ to the impacts beyond the first tier supplier.

Sophisticated understanding of the detailed sustainability impacts of development throughout the supply chain is a mark of the growing maturity of onshore wind as an established global industry.

As responsible companies involved in a key industry, it is important to develop a sophisticated understanding of the impacts of development throughout the supply chain. Clyde Extension will also be the largest fully Living Wage compliant wind farm in the UK.

Clearly the onshore wind industry is in a period of change and transition, much of which poses real challenges for the future.  

The progress made by the industry as a whole in the past ten years, suggests it has a role to play in the next ten.  

A healthy, efficient and global supply chain with companies that concern themselves with the social, economic and environmental contribution of their goods and services bodes well for the industry as a whole.  

About the author

Paul Cooley Director of Generation Development, SSE

Paul Cooley is Director of Generation Development for SSE plc and is responsible for the development and construction of all of SSE’s renewable energy projects across Great Britain and Ireland. He was formerly General Manager for Ireland of SSE Renewables. Paul joined SSE and the energy industry from the chemicals and manufacturing sector where he held various senior management positions including operational, regulatory and engineering management roles at DuPont and the Quinn Group. He has an Honours degree in Electrical Engineering from Queens University, Belfast.

Read more articles by Paul Cooley