UK Leads in Wind Energy

UK is the Saudi Arabia of wind energy.

On Sunday, OGN reported that China’s drive to conquer the global renewable energy market continues apace: it’s constructing more offshore wind capacity than the rest of the world combined. But despite the huge drive into offshore wind farming, the largest generator of wind energy today isn’t China - it’s the UK.

The UK, with 10.4 gigawatts of installed capacity, three more than Germany and China, still leads the way. Dale Vince, owner of green electricity company Ecotricity, brands Britain the “Saudi Arabia of wind energy.” It’s certainly draughty enough: our wind-battered isles receive 40 per cent of all of Europe’s gusts, with 20 per cent of the country’s entire electricity needs per year generated by wind. “It’s the leading source of renewable energy because it matured first - it’s been around much longer than solar power,” Vince explains. “And most people like it: wind energy is simple, clean and safe.”

From the late 1990s, under the early Blair government, turbines began cropping up all over the country. But onshore wind farms were effectively banned by then prime minister David Cameron in 2016, when they were excluded from the government’s system of subsidies for low-carbon electricity. Politics, however, has helped create an offshore boom. Its success has driven the price down incredibly - it’s now nearly on a par with onshore as the turbines have become so big and built on such a scale that there’s a proper economy of scale.

There also tends to be less of a resistance to offshore wind farms. In Scotland, construction onshore has mostly continued without disruption: without subsidies it’s still a cost-effective exercise thanks to an abundance of gale-force winds. But from the Shetlands down to the Highlands and Borders, residents are rallying against turbines in the surrounding countryside. Building wind farms offshore sidesteps some of the challenges posed by reworking beloved rural landscapes.

In March the government announced that onshore wind farms can compete for clean power contracts from next year, paving the way for another onshore boom. Luke Clark, of RenewableUK, cites a recent independent opinion poll with only six per cent opposing onshore wind. He adds that the industry works closely with conservation groups, and that developers collaborate with local communities and planning authorities. “Wind farms bring massive economic benefits to local communities by attracting billion-pound investments and creating local jobs: 13,300 work in the UK's onshore industry.”

Despite some fervent opposition, a ghastly pandemic and a global recession, the long blades of wind energy show no sign of slowing. If anything, it’s proven the industry’s robustness. As the world grappled with coronavirus, another two-and-a-half gigawatts of offshore wind power was installed in the first half of the year. Ten new farms went into operation too, across Europe, the US, the UK and China.

China is targeting half of all its energy to come from renewable sources by 2050 - the same year the UK aims to be carbon neutral. Wind will be core to either happening. “I like what China is doing,” Vince says. “There’s hypocrisy coming from the developed world about its power stations - we’ve been through that stage. You have to balance criticism of its coal habits with the rate at which it’s turned to renewables. Without China, we wouldn’t have the successful solar and renewables industry of today.”

Original source: Wired

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