Installing a wind turbine Wind farms
The UK has 40% of Europe’s entire wind resource, making it a very attractive location for wind farms.
According to RenewableUK, the UK has 327 working wind farms, with 44 more under construction and another 262 with planning consent (February 2012 figures).
Wind farms can be built onshore or offshore and since the first wind farm was set up in 1991, Britain’s wind energy production has steadily increased. Offshore wind is expected to make the single biggest
contribution towards the government’s target of 15% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Wind farm strategy
The government's low-carbon transition plan and renewable energy strategy set out the role low-carbon energy resources – including wind, solar and nuclear energy – will play in powering the UK in the future, including a route map for the UK to deliver an 18% cut in greenhouse gas emissions on 2008 levels by 2020.
The strategy includes getting 40% of our electricity from low-carbon sources by 2020, 30% of that through renewable resources – and two thirds of that from on- and offshore wind technology.
The main way of achieving this target is the Renewables Obligation for UK electricity suppliers. The Renewables Obligation requires energy companies to source a specific and annually-increasing percentage of their electricity from renewable sources.
Opposition to wind farms
However, not everyone is in favour of offshore or onshore wind farms. Common objections to wind farms include:
- Wind farms built in prominent and scenic locations turn natural areas into unattractive industrial landscapes.
- Turbines can kill significant numbers of birds through disturbance, habitat loss/damage or collision with turbines.
- They produce only a fraction of their potential energy because wind is too unpredictable to be a reliable source of energy.
- Wind farms can be more expensive to build and maintain than traditional energy plants.
- They take up more space than other methods, such coal-powered stations, to produce the same amount of energy.
The future of wind power
Wind power has been highlighted as a key method of achieving the government’s carbon emission reduction and renewables targets.
Work on the world’s largest offshore wind farm off the Kent coastline, known as the London Array project, is currently under way. When complete in 2012, the wind farm will consist of 341 turbines and supply enough power for around 750,000 homes – a quarter of the population of Greater London.
The UK is now also the leading country in the world in terms of wind power.