UK wind energy now providing enough electricity for close to 3 million homes

5 gigawatts of installed wind power capacity in the UK. Delivery accelerates – 5th GW installed in less than 12 months.

The wind energy industry in the UK is today celebrating a milestone of 5 GW of installed wind turbines capacity, which is enough to supply close to 3 million homes with electricity on an annual basis.

The 5 GW landmark has been achieved by the commissioning of two major wind farm developments in September – Vattenfall’s 300 megawatt (MW) Thanet offshore wind farm, the world’s biggest, which comes on-stream today and the expansion of Fred.Olsen Renewables’ Crystal Rig 200 MW onshore wind farm in the Scottish Borders in early September.

RenewableUK Chief Executive Maria McCaffery MBE, said: “Five gigawatts is an important milestone for two reasons: it takes us within reach of our 2010 targets on renewable electricity, while proving that each successive gigawatt takes less and less time to deploy. Renewable energy generally and wind energy in particular is not alternative energy any longer – it is absolutely mainstream.”

Øystein Løseth, President and CEO of Vattenfall, said: “Today we are proud to launch Thanet offshore wind farm, the world’s largest operating offshore wind farm. We are pleased that our investment is making a substantial contribution to the delivery of UK renewable energy objectives and to the Isle of Thanet economy. Vattenfall is working hard to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from its operations, and projects like Thanet Offshore Wind Farm are a cornerstone of delivery.”

Nick Emery, UK Managing Director for Fred.Olsen Renewables, said: “The opening of Crystal Rig II demonstrates that onshore projects can, and must, continue to make a major contribution in helping the UK meet its renewable energy targets. While Scottish and UK governments have provided the policy to facilitate development, Crystal Rig II demonstrates that large-scale projects onshore are only achievable through appropriate site selection and a robust consultation, project management and planning process. We are delighted that the opening of our flagship project helps the UK renewable energy sector mark this significant milestone.”

The UK currently has nearly 18GW of wind capacity either consented, in construction or in the planning system in addition to 5GW in operation.

Christoph Ehlers, Managing Director of Siemens Wind Power UK, who manufacture many of the turbines for the UK market said: "Reaching the 5GW milestone is a great achievement for the UK wind industry. Siemens is proud to have played a major part in this. The latest wind turbine installation at Crystal Rig II in Scotland brings our total capacity to well over the 2GW mark. We have helped lay the foundation for further contribution to the achievement of the UK’s 2020 carbon reduction and energy security targets. We are very positive about the prospects for the industry."

Maria McCaffery added: “Today’s developments are of tremendous significance for meeting our long term renewable energy targets. In 2002 the UK was generating around 2% of all electricity from renewables. We are now on the threshold of 10%, having increased outputs five fold. This demonstrates that, considering the current pipeline of projects, 2020 targets are realistic and achievable, provided the policies are in place.”

In the Renewable Energy Strategy published in 2009, the Government outlined a scenario for the UK to reach around 30% of electricity from wind by 2020 in order to meet EU targets on reducing carbon emissions.

The figure for homes powered has been calculated using 2008 load factors of 29.8 per cent for onshore and 34.9 per cent for offshore.

The wind farms contributing to the 5 GW mark include Vattenfall’s Thanet Offshore Wind Farm, opening 23 September 2010, and the extension of Fred.Olsen Renewables’ Crystal Rig wind farm in Scotland, which opened on 8 September 2010.