Political and business leaders have welcomed today’s announcement that the UK has installed its 5th gigawatt of wind energy capacity, which places the country within reach of achieving 10% of electricity from renewables.
The 5th gigawatt has been achieved by today’s opening of Thanet Offshore Wind Farm, a 300 MW project off the coast of Kent and the extension of Crystal Rig, a 200 MW wind farm project in the Scottish borders that opened earlier this month.
Five gigawatts of wind power represents 4% of the UK’s annual electricity consumption, with other renewables contributing around 5%. The UK currently has nearly 18 GW of wind energy capacity either consented, in construction or in the planning system.
When this is added to today’s 5 GW of built capacity, it represents more than a third of our current peak electricity demand. This follows on from the news that for the first time ever on 6th September, 10% of the electricity supplied to UK consumers was generated from wind turbines in a 24 hour period.
The first gigawatt, which was achieved five years ago took 14 years to deploy from 1991 to 2005. Since then the UK has installed four more gigawatts and going forward the industry expects to be bringing around two gigawatts on stream each year until the middle of the decade. By 2020 expects to see over 30 GW deployed both on and offshore.
RenewableUK, the leading renewable energy industry body has welcomed the announcement but warned that if the UK is to achieve its targets on renewable energy and deliver on carbon emission reductions there must be a firm commitment from Government.
Concerns are focused on ensuring there is streamlined planning system, a stable financing mechanism in place to inspire investor confidence and the necessary infrastructure upgrades to allow renewable energy projects to connect to the grid.
Maria McCaffery MBE, Chief Executive at RenewableUK said: “Today’s 5th GW announcement and the news on 6 September that wind energy supplied 10% of all electricity to consumers serves to highlight just how mainstream this energy source has become. Each successive gigawatt we install is taking less and less time and with the right Government policies in place we expect to be delivering between 3 and 4 gigawatts per year by the time the consented Round 3 projects begin construction.”
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change, Chris Huhne praised “the tremendous engineering achievement of building Thanet” and highlighted the potential of wind energy in the UK.
Ditlev Engel, CEO & President of Vestas Wind Systems, said: “Vestas is incredibly proud of its successful partnership with Vattenfall in building Thanet, the world’s largest operational offshore wind farm. This is yet another key landmark in the UK’s bid to meet its energy and climate goals, and create local UK jobs. The UK’s five gigawatt milestone is testament to industry achievement. Vestas looks forward to playing a major role in the UK Government’s future plans for on and offshore wind, and reducing the cost of energy.”
Christina Grumstrup Sørensen, Senior Vice President of DONG Energy Renewables said: “Wind energy is a viable renewable technology and demand for new investments is increasing, particularly in offshore wind power. DONG Energy is already, together with partners, building the world’s largest offshore wind farm the London Array. We have invested £ 2.6 bn. in offshore wind projects, and with our 20 years experience in building offshore wind power we are contributing to Britain’s renewable energy future."
Charles Hendry, Minister for Energy said: “The Government has a very ambitious target of reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050. As we look to rebuild the whole of our energy infrastructure the development of wind is going to be a very important part of that process both onshore and offshore and so it’s critical towards achieving our goals of low carbon energy and energy security.”
Rt Hon Ed Miliband, said: “I welcome the opening of Thanet today and it is great news that the wind industry is now reaching 5GW of installed capacity, which is a massive increase over the past 8 years. The government should now do all it can to continue the support the wind energy industry needs to meet the 2020 target and achieve the greening of our energy supplies.”
Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green Party, said: “This announcement represents a key landmark in the transformation of our energy sources in the UK, with wind now providing enough power to satisfy the annual electricity consumption of three million homes. But this is only a start, and we need significant further investment in wind and other renewables, if we’re to provide clean domestic electricity throughout the UK and to create many thousands of green jobs".
Andrew George MP, who leads for the Liberal Democrats on issues relating to DECC & DEFRA in the Commons said: "This is a significant milestone. However, we have no room for complacency. Liberal Democrats in Government are determined that the UK should become a world leader in tackling climate change and promoting renewable technologies. This announcement means that the UK will now have more offshore wind capacity than the rest of the world put together.”
RenewableUK is the trade and professional body for the UK wind and marine renewables industries. Formed in 1978, and with 620 corporate members, RenewableUK is the leading renewable energy trade association in the UK. Wind has been the world’s fastest-growing renewable energy source for the last seven years, and this trend is expected to continue with falling costs of wind energy and the urgent international need to tackle CO2 emissions to prevent climate change.
The wind farms contributing to the 5GW mark include Vattenfall’s Thanet Offshore Wind Farm, opening today [23 September 2010] and the extension of Fred.Olsen Renewables’ Crystal Rig wind farm in Scotland, which opened on 8 September 2010.