It takes an average of three-and-a-half years to win consent to build a wind farm in the EU, an EU funded project coordinated by EWEA has found.
But there are huge differences between countries from eight months in Finland to over 58 months in Portugal, the initial results show. Wind countries such as the UK, Italy and Belgium offer a relatively swift permitting process, while Spain, Portugal and Greece require the most patience from developers.
Experts point out that considering the significant delays, developers will have to plan well ahead to be ready to meet the EU’s target of sourcing 20% of its energy demand from renewables. If it takes over 3 years to get a building consent, developers would have to hand in their applications as early as 2015 in order to have enough turbines up to achieve the 2020 goals.
"If Europe is serious about reaching 20% renewables by 2020 some member states need to streamline their consent procedures for wind farms," said Justin Wilkes, EWEA Policy Director. He added that the ongoing implementation of the EU's renewable energy directive provides an opportunity for targeted action in certain countries.
"There are a number of actions all member states could take: creating a one stop shop approach for contacting the different authorities, writing clear guidelines for developers, and introducing better and streamlined spatial planning procedures," Wilkes added.
The study found that the high number of authorities to be contacted is part of the problem. This ranges from 5 in Denmark to 41 in Greece.
But this is not the whole story as the project established that there is no direct relationship between the number of authorities that need to be contacted and the time it takes to get a permit.
In Spain, for example, developers only have to liaise with nine authorities but yet they have to wait the longest for a building consent. This can be explained by the fact that there is a bottleneck of wind farm applications which is holding up the permitting process, EWEA said.
Offshore wind farms face a leaner timetable to get a green light, 18 months on average, Wilkes said, adding that a number of countries with wind farms have created an efficient decision-making process for the sector.
The study did not look into aspects like public acceptance in halting the process but concentrated strictly on administrative barriers on getting a building permissions. Anti-wind campaigns growing more and more vocal are, however, perceived by many developers as a major obstacle to getting turbines up (EurActiv 15/04/10).