The United Kingdom has his a historic wind energy milestone, reaching a total installed capacity of 20 gigawatts. The opening of the Walney Extension off the coast of Cumbria earlier this month tipped the total over the 20 GW mark.
Wind power is the biggest source of renewable energy in the UK, with the total capacity now standing at 20,128 MW – or just over 2 GW
The country’s first commercial onshore windfarm went operational in 1991 in Delabole, Cornwall
The first commercial offshore windfarm started generating in 2000, off the coast of Blyth in Northumberland
Total capacity was just 1GW in 2005 and 5GW in 2010, before rapidly expanding to 10GW in 2013
According to the trade body RenewableUK, wind power has enough capacity to meet the needs of 14 million homes.
Commenting on the announcement, RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck said:
“It took 19 years to install the first 5GW of wind energy in the UK and we’ve now installed the same amount in under two years. That phenomenal growth shows just how quickly the UK is moving to a smart, low carbon power system and wind energy is at the heart of that.”
“Over half of the UK’s wind energy capacity is onshore, which is the cheapest option for new power. However, Government policy preventing onshore wind from competing for new power contracts means that consumers will miss out on low-cost power that will keep bills down.”
“It was the opening of the world’s largest offshore wind farm that has took us over the 20GW mark. We’re confident that offshore wind alone can reach at least 30GW by 2030 to become the backbone of a clean, reliable and affordable energy system.”
The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) was officially opened this week by Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The 11 turbine system was developed by the Swedish company Vattenfall, and is said to be the most powerful in the world.
Scotland is already home to several onshore and offshore windfarms, and despite its relatively small size the country is a world leader when it comes to renewable energy.
The new development has a total generating capacity of 93.2 MW – enough to supply around 70% of the domestic energy demand in nearby Aberdeen, or the equivalent of 80,000 homes.
The project was briefly in the international spotlight back in 2015 when Donald Trump, then a US presidential candidate, attempted to block planning permission for the site claiming it would spoil the view from his Aberdeenshire golf course.
Nicola Sturgeon was joined by over 100 business leaders and dignitaries for the opening ceremony, held on board a NorthLink Ferry in the North Sea.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I am proud that as part of this groundbreaking project, the world’s most powerful offshore wind turbines are now up and running in Scotland.”
“The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre will maintain Scotland’s reputation for innovation in low-carbon and renewable energy development and deployment.”
“A single rotation of one of these 8.8mw turbines will generate enough energy to power a home for 24 hours, which truly shows the potential of this technology to strengthen Scotland’s renewable energy-generating capacity in the future.”
The site began producing power in July, ahead of the official opening in September.
The groundbreaking design can capture wind energy from any direction – including vertically. The creators of the O-Wind hope that the compact design will be effective in urban areas where traditional turbines can’t be used.
Conventional wind turbines can only really capture wind coming from a single direction. Due to this and their large size, they are better suited to wide open spaces where winds are predictable.
The O-Wind by contrast is a mere 25cm wide and can capture wind energy in all 3 dimensions, allowing it to take advantage of the abundant winds found in cities. No matter which direction the wind approaches from, the ball will always rotate the same way, driving a generator and producing electricity.
O-Wind was developed by Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani, who are both MSc students at Lancaster University. They believe that the concept is at least five years away from commercial production, but it could revolutionise the energy industry once it gets there. The design is a National Winner of the prestigious James Dyson Award.
Inspiration from NASA
Long before the O-Wind came to be, the team behind it were interested in using wind-driven balls to explore Mars. A prototype model was able to harness unpredictable winds and use the energy to travel forwards in a straight line. In a test it managed to travel 7km across the Atacama Desert in South America.
It soon became clear that the technology could have multiple uses, and the potential for generating clean energy was explored.
Lancaster University are busy testing, optimising and refining the O-Wind to maximise its efficiency. They hope that the technology could be used to power apartments, motorhomes, boats and other stand-alone structures. They are also exploring the possibility of using the O-Wind to capture wave & tidal energy.
Of all the electricity used in the first quarter of 2018, over 30% came from renewable sources – according to new figures from the Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) released last week.
Renewables were up by 3.1% compared to the same period last year, despite the higher demand for energy caused by the ‘beast from the east’ cold snap. Stronger winds and greater installed capacity (41.9GW at the end of 2018) are both thought to be the main factors behind the record-breaking stats.
30.1% of all electricity used came from renewable sources during January to March 2018
The figure was 27% during the same period last year
Wind generation was up by one third compared to last year
Wind accounted for almost one fifth of total generation, at 19.11%
For comparison, gas power was 39.9%, nuclear was 17.9% and coal was 9.4%
Emma Pinchbeck, executive director at RenewableUK, welcomed the positive news but warned that much more needed to be done:
“The landmark report from the government’s official advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change, warns that we need to do more to reach our clean energy targets, and it recommends deploying more onshore wind because it’s the cheapest source of energy… We hope Ministers will listen to their own experts and take swift action to lift the block on future onshore projects.”
Here comments refer to the government’s cuts to onshore wind funding in recent years.
The Unilever-owned ice cream brand are pressuring the UK government to scrap the obstacles that are preventing more windfarms from being built.
Policy changes and subsidy cuts in recent years have brought onshore windfarm construction to a grinding halt. The ice cream makers, who have a long history of campaigning on environmental issues, are hoping to raise public awareness and force the government into rethinking its renewable energy policies.
They have teamed up with climate change charity 10:10 to launch the ‘Blown Away’ campaign, accompanied by a promotional video:
In a poll conducted by 10:10, three quarters of the British public said that they support onshore wind energy. The charity states that despite this, the government are pulling funding away from wind energy and pushing nuclear and fracking instead.
Cecily Spelling, Campaign Manager at 10:10, said “The UK government made a clear commitment to tackle climate change when it signed the Paris Agreement in December 2015, yet they continue to block support for renewables. Public support for renewables is sky high; almost 75% of the public support onshore wind energy, yet the government is choosing to support fossil fuels over renewables. We need to show that, come rain or shine, the British public won’t stand for this!”
To show their support for the campaign, Ben & Jerry’s have re-branded some of their most popular flavours with wind-themed names, such as “Strawberry Breeze-cake” and “Cherry Gale-cia”. The flavours will be sold at half-price on ‘Windy Wednesdays’.
The company are backing a petition to lift the effective ban on onshore windfarms – you can find more information here.
For the first 3 months of 2018 the UK’s combined wind farms generated more electricity than its 8 nuclear power stations, setting a new milestone for renewable energy.
Wind power provided 18.8% of the country’s electricity during the first three months of 2018, with only gas power providing more. This is the first time that wind power alone has beaten nuclear – wind and solar combined did overtake nuclear during the final quarter of 2017. This is the latest in a long line of positive steps for cheap electricity from renewable sources.
It is thought that the recently built Western Link played a big role in achieving this milestone. The 262-mile long cable connects wind farms in Hunterston, Western Scotland to Connah’s Quay in North Wales, allowing electricity to be efficiently distributed throughout England & Wales as well as Scotland. Before the link was developed, Scottish wind farms often had to shut down as the National Grid couldn’t cope with the excess power.
Emma Pinchbeck, executive director at RenewableUK said “It is great news for everyone that rather than turning turbines off to manage our ageing grid, the new cable instead will make best use of wind energy.”
The UK is a world leader in wind power, with over 8,000 wind turbines in various onshore and offshore locations around the country – the largest being Whitelee Wind Farm in western Scotland, with its 215 turbines and a total capacity of 539MW. As of the beginning of May 2018, UK wind farms had a total capacity of 19.2 gigawatts.
Top image: Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm (source).
Experts predict that the world will run out of traditional fossil fuels within fifty to one hundred years from now.
Renewable energy sources – such as wind, solar, wave, tidal and geothermal energy – have been steadily growing in popularity around the world for well over a decade, and as resources like coal and gas become more scarce,the world will need to up its renewable capacity.
Have you ever been confused by renewable energy? This excellent short video from National Geographic explains what it is, the advantages and disadvantages of alternative energy, and the challenges the world still needs to overcome in order to let go of our fossil fuel dependency.
The video answers questions such as:
What is renewable energy?
What are the most common sources of renewable power?