The UK wind energy industry announced this week that it has surpassed 20 gigawatts (GW) worth of generating capacity with the opening of Ørsted’s 659 megawatt (MW) Walney Extension off the coast of Cumbria.
The announcement was made on Monday by RenewableUK, the renewable energy trade association for onshore and offshore wind, and wave & tidal energy. According to RenewableUK, with the opening of the world’s (currently) largest offshore wind farm, the 659 MW Walney Extension earlier this month, the UK broke the 20 GW mark and now boasts 20,128 MW worth of wind energy capacity — enough to meet the annual power needs of over 14 million homes and cut carbon emissions by 25 million tonnes annually.
As a result, wind energy is now the UK’s largest source of renewable electricity, accounting for half of the 30% of power that came from renewable energy in 2017.
“It took 19 years to install the first 5 GW of wind energy in the UK and we’ve now installed the same amount in under two years,” said RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck. “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.”
The UK’s first commercial onshore wind farm was at Delabole in Cornwall, which came online in 1991, while its first offshore wind farm began generating electricity in 2000. Wind energy deployment has increased dramatically over that time, and explosively over the last couple of years. Deployment climbed to 1 GW in 2005 and 5 GW in 2010 before expanding to 10 GW in 2013 and 15 GW in early 2017 — meaning that a further 5 GW was added in the last 21 months.
“Over half of the UK’s wind energy capacity is onshore, which is the cheapest option for new power,” explained Pinchbeck. “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.” Additionally, Government intervention “is putting at risk billions of pounds of new investment across the UK and making it more expensive to meet our climate change targets.”