Installing a wind turbine
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Find out about offshore and onshore wind farms in the UK, including how much energy wind farms produce and why some people object to them.
We talk you through UK 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. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about wind farms.
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 2016, onshore and offshore wind farms made up around half of the renewable electricity capacity in the UK.
The UK has more than 7,000 wind turbines installed, according to the renewable energy trade association, RenewableUK. These turbines produce enough electricity annually to power the equivalent of about 9.5 million homes (November 2016 figures).
Wind power strategy
The government's Climate Change Act (2008) sets out the role that low-carbon energy resources – including wind, solar and nuclear energy – will play in powering the UK in the future. This includes legal commitments to reduce emissions by 57% by 2040 and at least 80% by 2050 (relative to 1990 levels).
The strategy includes getting 15% of our energy from renewable sources by 2020. And 14% of that could come from onshore wind.
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.
You can find out where individual energy companies source their energy in our energy company reviews.
Opposition to wind farms
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-fired power 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, as the Renewables Obligation is set to close in March 2017.
However, the UK is among the world’s largest producers of wind power and is home to several of the largest onshore wind farms.
If you're considering getting wind turbines installed on your home, take a look at our dedicated page on home wind turbines.