Wind and Aviation: A collaborative approach to decarbonisation?

This year's Wind & Aviation event, taking place virtually and over two days from 17-18 September, brings together 150+ representatives from industry, Government Departments, and stakeholder bodies to collaborate and discuss the future needs of aviation, operating in partnership with modern wind energy infrastructure. In this blog, RenewableUK Policy Analyst for Planning & Environment, Alicia Green, runs through the issues being discussed in this area as we countdown to the event.

Now that we have entered the ‘decisive decade’ in the fight against climate change, many industries are mapping out how they can each play their part in meeting the UK’s net-zero ambition.


The energy sector’s roadmap for greening the UK power system is ambitious, with RenewableUK members leading the fastest energy transition of any major economy. Over the next 30 years, our energy system will change dramatically – our latest report ‘Powering the Future: RenewableUK’s Vision of the Transition’ highlights that UK wind energy capacity alone has the potential to expand sixth fold from 22GW today to 126GW by 2050.


Whilst these targets are challenging, they act also as an opportunity to unlock cross-sector benefits, rethink strategy and promote collaborative working. What’s more, a green recovery and plans to ‘Build Back Better’ post COVID-19, call for process change – something which can be driven by thinking innovatively and collectively looking for long-term, sustainable solutions that enable net-zero by 2050.


One such example of a new approach is a holistic decarbonisation strategy across transport and power, which simultaneously supports the growth of both the energy and aviation (defence and civil) sectors.


This is much wider than renewable power being used to help reduce flight emissions. The wind sector is already inherently linked to aviation in more ways than you may think – with RenewableUK members working to manage the interaction of their projects with radars, integrate helicopters and drone systems into key logistics and operations, and ensure turbine lighting and marking can be seen by aircraft while minimising visual impact – but more now needs to be done to ensure the right policy levers enable both industries to grow and co-exist effectively. Given these linkages are not exclusive to the UK, we should be capitalising on our world-leading expertise in wind deployment and exporting our thought-leadership on how technology and infrastructure can work better for multiple industries, particularly in the pursuit of a greener future.


Despite the need for change, we are not starting from scratch. The wind and aviation industries have been working together for many years, engaging government and key stakeholders. The difference is wind projects are no longer in their infancy and the UK wind sector is now well-established and nationally significant. Case-by case solutions and framing policy require step-change to both reflect, and effectively support, the acceleration of growth to come. More so, with the announcement in March that onshore wind will be re-introduced into the Contracts for Difference auction regime (with RenewableUK forecasts looking to 26GW of UK onshore wind power by 2030), repowering of projects on the horizon, and innovation leading to taller and more powerful turbines to come, the industry is booming and here to stay.


Since the launch of the Offshore Wind Sector Deal and in recognition of UK Government’s commitment to 40GW of offshore wind by 2030, initiatives are already underway through the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS)-led Aviation Management Board and workstreams under the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC) umbrella. Namely, establishment of a joint Air Defence Task Force between industry and the Ministry of Defence (MOD) has recognised the importance and value of collaborative working.


Similarly, WindEurope has established a new Aviation Task Force and from the civil aviation perspective, Scottish Government have taken a proactive lead in bringing Scottish wind developers and airports together as part of their Aviation 2030 programme.


What is clear however, is that overarching policy direction is still required from more senior-level engagement with cross-sector stakeholder support. Key stakeholders can only be enabled once the framing narrative is adapted to chime with, and help facilitate, Government strategy for energy, transport, and defence.


A key opportunity to discuss these themes will be our upcoming Wind & Aviation 2020 event taking place on 17th and 18th September. This year’s event will be virtual, using the online platform Network Tables. Attendees will be able to participate in 3 highly interactive workshop sessions, with the opportunity to engage with key stakeholders and representatives across industry. The workshops will build upon themes discussed during our Wind & Aviation webinar back in May (catch up here) on the surveillance environment; aviation lighting and marking; helicopter and UAS operations – conversations from which will be captured within a post-event summary report (read our 2019 event report here), with key outcomes helping to further shape the RenewableUK Aviation Action Plan.


In addition to the workshops you can also tune in to view keynote addresses, an OWIC-MOD panel discussion and several key scene-setting presentations, listed on our online programme. There will also be the opportunity to connect and network with speakers and other attendees on the online platform. Join our Event Partners: Thales, Vattenfall, the Offshore Wind Industry Council (OWIC), the Aviation Investment Fund Company Ltd (AIFCL) and Wind Europe, Event Supporters: the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), NATS, Scottish Government, The Crown Estate and Crown Estate Scotland and other key stakeholders including the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Ministry of Defence (MOD), the Department for Transport (DfT) and RenewableUK members.


Read more and register for Wind & Aviation 2020 here.


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