UK wind hits 20GW milestone

Wind generation capacity in the UK has hit the 20GW mark, enough to meet the annual power needs of more than 14 million homes.

The landmark total was reached after the opening of Ørsted’s 659MW Walney Extension off the coast of Cumbria earlier this month.

Industry body RenewableUK said the figures highlighted the huge contribution now being made by wind but also reiterated its call for the UK Government to allow future onshore projects to compete for contracts.

RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck said:

“It took 19 years to install the first 5GW of wind energy in the UK and we’ve now installed the same amount in under two years. That phenomenal growth shows just how quickly the UK is moving to a smart, low carbon power system and wind energy is at the heart of that.

“Over half of the UK’s wind energy capacity is onshore, which is the cheapest option for new power. However, Government policy preventing onshore wind from competing for new power contracts means that consumers will miss out on low-cost power that will keep bills down.”

RenewableUK said the total operational capacity of onshore and offshore wind in the UK now stands at 20.128GW, enough to cut carbon emissions by 25 million tonnes a year.

Dramatic growth

Wind has grown to be the UK’s largest source of renewable electricity, accounting for half of the 30% of power that came from renewables in 2017.

The UK’s first commercial onshore wind farm, Delabole in Cornwall, went operational in 1991, and the first offshore wind project in Blyth began generating in 2000.

Initially, wind deployment climbed slowly to 1GW in 2005 and grew to 5GW in 2010, before expanding rapidly to 10GW in 2013 and 15GW in early 2017.

A further 5GW, a quarter of total wind energy capacity, came on line in the last 21 months, to push the UK above the 20GW mark this month.

Total European wind to top 258GW by 2022

Meanwhile, European trade body WindEurope said onshore wind farms are poised to boost Europe’s wind capacity over the next five years by 70.4GW.

Offshore turbines will add a further 16.5GW, taking the total to 258GW by 2022.

Germany will still have the highest wind capacity with 73GW in 2022, followed by Spain with 30GW and the UK with 26GW.

The figures come from WindEurope’s new “Wind Energy Outlook in Europe” report.

But Giles Dickson, Chief Executive at WindEurope, warned: “This growth comes mostly from yesterday’s decisions.

“The outlook for new investment decisions over the next five years is less clear.

“Most governments still haven’t clarified their plans for new wind farms up to 2030.”

> Read the announcement in full