Wind capacity is growing and will continue to grow in the UK.
By 2030, we will have closed more than four fifths of the existing power stations producing electricity through fossil fuels. With Hinkley Point C looking less likely and its debate postponed until at least Autumn, it’s a good opportunity for the government to re-examine the benefits (and drawbacks) of renewable and low-carbon options for the UK’s energy mix – one of which being wind generation.
In the first quarter of this year, renewable sources generated a quarter (25.1% to be exact) of our electricity up from 22.8% in the same quarter last year. Wind accounted for about 12.5% of our total generation and generation decreased slightly.
Wind speeds dropped. (Believe it or not – and I had to double check this – rainfall was lower than last year too!) So how can the wind industry still generate such a large proportion of our energy?
Firstly, total demand has dropped. As a developed economy, improvements in energy efficiency has pushed our requirements down year on year and electricity generation stood 3.8% lower in Q1 2016 than a year earlier. The Government expects primary energy demand to fall 11% in the UK over the next ten years. Benefits from energy efficiency won’t last forever though; and demand may start rising again from 2025.
Both onshore and offshore wind capacity increased – about 7.5% for both onshore and offshore environments, offsetting these lower wind speeds. The long-term, phased nature of windfarm development means that irrespective of discussions on climate change policy and the role of nuclear energy in our future mix, we will see further (and significant) capacity additions to the wind sector in the coming years.
As an example, this week’s approval of an expansion to the Hornsea project anticipates the installation of 300 offshore turbines in the North Sea, expecting to generate 1,800MW to 1.8m homes. Projects such as this should result in offshore wind producing 10% of our energy by 2020.
Like it or not, the wind business is a huge grower in the UK and we are a world power-house in the offshore sector. With a potential demand growth for renewable energy of nearly 100% by 2035, and with nuclear options entirely uncertain, our blustery island nation will see more than its fair share of newly sanctioned wind projects.