Installing a wind turbine Wind farms
Find out more about wind farms, including why the UK is such an attractive location for wind farms and how much energy wind turbines produce.
We also reveal the objections to wind farms and the government's wind strategy.
Wind farms in the UK
The UK is the windiest country in Europe, making it a very attractive location for wind farms.
Wind farms can be built onshore or offshore. 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.
At the end of 2014, onshore and offshore wind farms produced just over half of the renewable electricity capacity in the UK.
The UK has over 6,000 wind turbines installed, according to the renewable energy trade association, RenewableUK. These turbines produce enough electricity annually to power the equivalent of about seven million homes (May 2015 figures).
Wind power 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 how the UK will 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 (RO) for UK electricity suppliers. The RO 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
- local residents objecting to having a wind turbine near their homes
- turbines can kill significant numbers of birds through disturbance, habitat loss/damage or collision with turbines
- the turbines 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
- wind farms take up more space than other installations, such as 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. But the future of onshore wind in particular might be uncertain.
However, the UK is now also the leading country in the world in terms of wind power.