Octopus launches ‘dating agency’ to spur windfarm development

Octopus Energy has launched a platform designed to connect community demand for onshore wind development with landowners that have the space to house projects.

The company described its ‘Plots for Kilowatts’ scheme as a “dating agency”-type platform which will marry up local communities with landowners, overlaying this with data on grid availability, wind speeds and the environmental impact.

Octopus said this will help identify at least 10 viable sites by the end of summer and that the potential locations will be put forward for the government to consider as part of the energy security strategy.

The company estimates that if just 1% of the more than 1.5 million acres of land owned by the UK’s top 30 landowners was rented for wind turbines, more than 1,500 could be built.

Last year Octopus launched its local wind tariff the Fan Club which offers communities living close to its wind turbines up to 50% discount on their energy rates.

The company has previously made known its ambitions to cut the time it takes to plan and build onshore windfarms from nearly a decade to less than a year and it is hoped that this new initiative will speed up the building of onshore wind.

“Bed blocking”

Speaking to Utility Week, Octopus’ director of regulation and economics Rachel Fletcher said there are constraints to building new wind capacity that need to be addressed.

She said: “There’s a huge amount of bed blocking as it were going on in the network connections world. Many developers have got connection approval but they haven’t got the money to build the windfarm or are facing other obstacles.

“There’s now a recognition at National Grid that that needs to be addressed with a combination of unblocking those queues and better information about grid capacity.”

Fletcher revealed that Octopus has so far had expressions of interest from 5,000 communities across the UK.

She continued: “We can’t have 5,000 construction projects on the go at any one point, so where do you start?

“You start where the conditions are right. Where there’s masses of community support, where there is capacity and isn’t a queue, where it looks like there might not be big objections in terms of environmental issues.”

Fletcher said that Octopus wishes to see the creation of designated wind development zones where there is network capacity and some level of environmental permits already in place, as well as a “critical mass” of local support.

“With these things in place you’ve effectively removed the need for a whole load of bespoke planning permission if you’re building wind in that area,” she added.

Meanwhile Zoisa North-Bond, chief executive of Octopus Energy Generation, said: “It’s crystal clear we need more renewables, with wind playing a significant role.

“Launching ‘Plots for Kilowatts’ will accelerate this so we can build more onshore wind quickly and at scale.

“Our aim is to create a ‘dating agency’, using a new data-driven approach to match-make willing landowners who have land to develop with communities that want onshore wind.”