UK surge in wind energy

More than 1,200 new wind turbines will be dotted throughout Britain’s countryside over the next year.

There are 763 onshore wind turbines due to be erected this year, adding to the 4,366 currently in operation.

A further 7,843 wind turbines have been approved but are yet to be built, taking the total slated for construction the UK over 10,000.

Wind power now provides 10 per cent of the country’s electricity needs when the wind is blowing, or 8.2GW of power- enough to power 4.5 million homes for a year.

Last year, despite some deriding them as blights on the landscape, the number of wind farms approved by local councils went up for the first time in five years.

The surge has been attributed to a cut in subsidies due this year and an apparent relaxing of the planning rules.

Last year the approval rate for wind farms went up by 50 per cent, according to Renewable UK, who said: “This welcome trend is coupled with continued strong support for wind energy, with two thirds of the population in favour of continued development of wind energy.

“What is more, this support rises in rural areas.”

But Dr John Constable, director of Renewable Energy Foundation, a UK charity publishing data on the energy sector, said the increase owes more to the impending subsidy cut.

He said: “The UK’s wind power deployment on and offshore is way ahead of the learning curve, and needs to slow down to a rational pace to avoid insupportable burdens on the consumer and the risk of major malinvestment the unwinding of which will be painful and embarrassing.”

John Hayes, the Energy Minister, has said that the number of wind farms does not need to go beyond those planned.

The Government is committed to generating 13GW with onshore wind turbines by 2020.

RenewableUK has welcomed new figures showing that the UK is moving up the European league table in terms of wind energy capacity, as well as holding its own near the top spot in terms of new capacity installed in 2012.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has released new statistics showing that the UK now has 8.4 gigawatts of wind energy installed, overtaking Italy and France. In 2011, the UK was fifth in the league table, with less capacity installed than France or Italy, but we have now moved up to third in Europe. Germany is at the top with 31.3GW and Spain is second with 22.8GW.

According to EWEA, the UK installed 1.9 GW in 2012 – 16% of all new wind capacity in Europe. This puts the UK 2nd in terms of new deployment last year. Only Germany installed more in 2012 (2.4GW – 21% of new capacity).

EWEA highlighted the fact that renewable energy represented 69% of all new power capacity in Europe in 2012, while coal, oil and nuclear capacity continued to decline due to decommissioning.

RenewableUK Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith said:

“The UK’s strong performance in the European league table reflects the growing importance of the British wind industry as a leading player. This proves the increasing significance of wind energy to the UK’s economy despite tough global economic conditions.

“The Government is calling for the UK to quadruple the amount of wind installed between now and 2020. The industry can achieve 31 gigawatts onshore and offshore by the end of the decade, but only with clear cross-party political support.

“We can attract billions of pounds worth of investment to the UK and create tens of thousands of jobs, but only if the signals from Westminster are right. The proof of this will be in the Energy Bill, which is due to become law by the end of the year. So the decisions taken by Government over next few months are absolutely crucial for the UK’s wind industry”.