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Find out about offshore and onshore wind farms in the UK, including how much energy they 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 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. This includes 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. And 30% of that should be through renewable resources, with two thirds 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. You can find out where individual energy companies source their energy from in our energy company reviews.
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.
If you're considering getting wind turbines installed on your home, take a look at our dedicated page to home wind turbines.