Wind power is the most significant generator of renewable energy in the UK. The onshore and offshore wind farms produced 14.8% of all electricity consumed by UK homes and businesses in 2017. The turbines we use today are advanced technology based on the traditional windmill concept.
The UK has an enviable geographic position for the turbines that harness the winds’ energy because of the high proportion of wind that’s blown around and over the country in Europe. Although the initial investment is high, this renewable energy source produces no carbon emissions and is one of the safest and cleanest methods of generating electricity.
The bulk of the installations for UK use are offshore to the North of Scotland rather than the smaller less powerful land-based versions. The advantages of building these engineering projects at sea include aesthetics, costs, the ability to harness stronger wind speeds and a superior electricity generation due to their sheer size.
Contrast that with the small farms built on land like those in Cornwall and you can see why more capacity get constructed at sea. There are additional health and safety issues to overcome so the blade length is shorter and less powerful. The majority of the land that gets used is green belt and protected so is more difficult to gain planning permission.
Once installed, the blades quietly go about their business producing electricity with no polution from carbon emissions.
Wind Farm Facts
Below are ten facts and figures about wind power for the UK.
The Cost of Electricity Produced
- Fact 1: Offshore wind cost £120/MWh in 2018 with new installations forecasting a lower cost of £58/MWh (5.8p/kWh) in 2022.
- Fact 2: Onshore wind costs just £65/MWh now and forecasted at £46/MWh in 2022 (4.6p/kWh).
The Amount of Electricity Produced
- Fact 3: Wind energy generates 14.8% of all electricity in the UK.
- Fact 4: The largest onshore wind farm is in Whitelee, Scotland with 215 Siemens wind turbines and a capacity of 539MW. The Hornsea Project Two installation due for completion in 2022 will become the world’s largest wind farm with a capacity of 1,386 megawatts that could power up to 1.3 million homes.
- Fact 5: During a typical year, a turbine only operates at between 28% (onshore) and 39% (offshore) of its maximum capacity. There is less energy produced during the summer months when the wind speed becomes lower or negligible.
- Fact 6: 40% of all wind energy generated over Europe blows over the UK.
- Fact 7: The wind turbine drives a generator as the rotor blades (or arms) spin producing AC electricity from magnets moving over stationary wire coils. This energy gets converted into DC electricity to store in batteries or fed directly into the National Grid to satisfy power demand.
Wind Turbine Installations Around the UK
- Fact 8: The average life of a wind turbine is 20 to 25 years.
- Fact 9: There are 1,516 onshore UK wind projects with 7,047 turbines connected to the National Grid.
- Fact 10: There are 32 offshore UK wind farms with 1,716 turbines connected to the National Grid.
- Fact 1/2: Carbon Brief
- Fact 3/5: Gov.UK
- Fact 4: >ScottishPower and BBC News
- Fact 6/8: Energy Saving Trust
- Fact 7: Energy Matters
- Fact 9/10: Renewable UK
Wind Farms UK Map
The wind farm map below depicts offshore and land-based wind farms across the UK. It also shows operational capacity in MW of these farms, representing the UK’s total renewable energy from wind-based sources.
The legend shows operational capacity in megawatts (MW).
Source: Renewable Energy Hub