Last edited 29 Jun 2016

Wind energy

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[edit] Introduction

The scientific community has warned that there is an urgent need for a transition to a low carbon economy if we are to avert a global catastrophe due to climate change.

The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 400ppm in 2014, up from 280ppm in pre-industrial times, corresponding to 375,000,000,000 tonnes of CO2 released into the atmosphere since 1750.

Wind is a clean, plentiful renewable energy source.

The UK has relatively good and easily exploited wind resources:

  • It has 40% of Europe’s wind due to its position in the North West of Europe where it bears the full brunt of weather systems coming in from the North Atlantic.
  • It has the longest coastline in Europe (the island of Great Britain has a coastline of 17,820 km according to the Ordnance Survey).
  • It has many shallow waters, ideal for off-shore wind.
  • It has many sparsely populated upland areas, mainly in the North which is also the region with the most significant wind resources.

Wind is the most developed renewable energy source in the UK.

[edit] Wind installations in the UK

The first British wind farm was established in 1991 at Delabole, Cornwall. Since then, largely due to the government's Renewables Obligation, UK wind energy capacity has flourished.

There are currently (Dec 2012) 361 projects live in the UK, which equates to 4,136 turbines, 5,054 MW of on-shore capacity and 2,679 MW off-shore capacity, i.e. a total of 7,7733MW.

The United Kingdom was the world leader in off-shore wind in 2012.

Installed wind capacity UK.JPG

[edit] Public perception of wind power

There are some vocal opposition groups to wind power who object to new wind farms being built in their area, claiming that they are noisy, a danger to wildlife and a blight on the countryside.

However, by and large, the British view wind power in a favourable light. In surveys carried out in 2012 for RenewablesUK, the body which champions UK wind and marine energy, and for the Sunday Times, it emerged that:

  • 77% of Britons are in favour of electricity from renewables.
  • 73% of Britons support offshore wind and 66% onshore wind installations.
  • Only 17% of Britons support additional gas/coal power stations.
  • Only 40% of Britons support additional nuclear power stations.

[edit] Advantages and disadvantages of wind power

[edit] Advantages

  • The main advantage is the low carbon nature of wind power. It is a completely 'clean' energy, other than the manufacture and construct on of the pylons, blades and turbines.
  • Wind power generation is relatively silent.
  • The wind is strongest in the winter months when energy demand is at its highest.
  • Many jobs are created in designing, manufacturing, and servicing the equipment.

Analysis from the Carbon Trust suggests offshore wind has the potential to deliver significant benefits to the UK, including:
  • A 7% reduction in UK carbon emissions versus 1990
  • A quarter of a million UK jobs by 2050
  • Annual revenues of some £19 billion by 2050

[edit] Disadvantages

  • The main disadvantage is the unpredictable nature of wind speeds resulting in turbines being immobile for significant periods.
  • It is difficult to store generated power.
  • Wind turbines tend to be large and very visible within the countryside.

[edit] International Comparisons

[edit] Worldwide

There was 250 GW installed capacity worldwide in 2012. The UK ranks 8th in the world for installed capacity, however on a per-capita basis the UK is not in the top 20.

The 8 countries with the most installed capacity are (2011 figures, GW):

  • China (62.4)
  • USA (46.9)
  • Germany (29.1)
  • Spain (21.7)
  • India (15.9)
  • Italy (6.7)
  • France (6.6)
  • United Kingdom (6.5)

[edit] Europe

The UK had the 5th largest installed capacity in Europe at the end of 2011; this reflects its fairly late uptake of wind power compared for example with Germany, which has by far the most capacity, or Spain.

Installed capacity in Europe, end of 2011 (MW)

Ger Spain France Italy UK Port Den Swe NL
29,060 21,674 6,800 6,747 6,540 4,083 3,871 2,907 2,328

Germany had the largest new installed capacity in Europe in 2011 (2,100 MW) with the UK following at 1,300 MW, of which 752 MW was offshore wind. Spain came third (1,050 MW) and then France (830 MW).

NB RenewableUK claim that a new UK record was achieved for wind energy on 17 August 2014, when 22% of the UK’s electricity was generated by wind, an average of 5,797 megawatts.

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