5.2.4 Wind energy

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A 2013 report by Zero Carbon Britain showed how we could provide 100% of UK energy demands by 2030 from renewable sources.  In their plan, 79% of electricity demand is supplied through wind (72% from offshore turbines, 7% from onshore).

We are making good progress. According to an official UK Gov report, updated 28 July 2016, offshore wind generation was 30 per cent higher in 2015 than the previous year, with capacity up 13 per cent. Onshore wind generation was 23 per cent higher, with capacity up 7.6 per cent. Overall wind generation was 26 per cent higher and capacity 7.0 per cent higher.

Scotland in particular already has a significant share of the European wind energy market and high winds on once day in August 2016 boosted renewable energy output to provide 106% of Scotland’s electricity needs for a day.

Also in August 2016, the government gave planning permission for the Hornsea Project Two offshore wind farm. This project, located off the east coast of England, could be the largest in the world when completed and have a capacity of as much as 1.6 GW. That’s half the capacity of Hinkley in one wind farm.

Dong are now considering the potential to develop Hornsea Project Three. With a potential maximum capacity of up to 2.4GW, Hornsea Project Three Offshore Wind Farm could generate enough electricity to power over 2 million UK homes per year, which would again make it the largest offshore wind farm in the  world.

Dong Energy has recently stated that it is ready to offer the U.K. more offshore wind power should Prime Minister scrap construction of Hinkley nuclear power plant.

“We would be able to further accelerate and expand the build out of offshore wind should there be such a need,” Dong’s Chief Executive Officer Henrik Poulsen said. “Of course, that’s entirely leaving those decisions to the U.K. government.”

Building more offshore wind farms is key to driving down the cost of the renewable energy technology, according to Poulsen, head of the Danish utility, which is the world’s biggest offshore-wind-farm developer.

The Government’s Renewable Energy Roadmap highlights a potential deployment by 2020 of up to 18 GW of offshore wind (compared to installed capacity at the end of 2015 of 5.1 GW). This would correspond to around 17 per cent of the UK’s net electricity production (compared to 4.8% at the end of 2015), which is OK. But we need to be more ambitious and target 25 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020 and 50 GW or 50% of our electricity production from offshore wind by 2025.

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Addressing intermittency from wind energy

Wind power is currently the cheapest and most abundant source of renewable energy in the UK, but is said to present the challenge of dealing with the intermittency of wind speed.  Nevertheless, as of 2014, wind already supplied 39% of Denmark’s electricity generation.

Although the output of a single wind farm will fluctuate greatly, the fluctuations in the total output from a number of wind farms geographically distributed in different wind regimes will be much smaller and partially predictable.  Additionally, over the longer term (month by month) in many regions, peak wind production matches up well with peak electricity demand.

UK wind seasonality

Monthly wind output vs. electricity demand in the UK (UK Committee on Climate Change 2011).