UK’s wind generation capacity surpasses 20GW milestone
The UK's total wind generation capacity has reached 20GW for the first time, following the opening of the world's largest wind farm off the Cumbrian coast earlier this month.
Trade body RenewableUK announced the achievement of the milestone today (17 September), after work to extend Ørsted’s £1.2bn Walney Facility was completed at the beginning of September. The 189-turbine wind farm now spans an area the size of 20,000 football pitches and has a capacity of 659MW, enough to power the equivalent of 590,000 homes.
According to RenewableUK, the total operational capacity of onshore and offshore wind in the UK currently stands at 20,128MW, which is enough to meet the annual power needs of more than 14 million homes. This capacity has enabled the nation to reduce its CO2 emissions by 25 million tonnes annually by switching away from fossil fuels.
RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said the growth of the UK’s wind sector had been “phenomenal”, adding that she was “confident” the nation would reach 30GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.
“It took 14 years to install the first 5GW of wind energy in the UK and we’ve now installed the same amount in under two years,” Pinchbeck said. “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 milestone comes shortly after the publication of the UK Government’s latest Digest of UK Energy Statistics, which revealed that renewables accounted for a record 29.3% of the UK’s electricity in 2017. Wind power accounted for half of the renewables mix, with 8.6% of the overall total sourced from onshore wind and 6.2% from offshore. In total, electricity generated from wind power increased by 11% compared to 2016 levels.
While RenewableUK welcomed the “historic milestone” of 20GW, the trade body is continuing to lobby for policymakers to introduce legislation which will spur the installation of new onshore facilities.
Onshore wind has been locked out of the UK’s Contracts for Difference (CfD) framework since 2015, with the current auction process only open to less established renewable technologies such as offshore wind.
Reports suggest that 1GW of new onshore wind farms would be £30m cheaper a year than offshore wind, and £100m less than new nuclear or biomass plants. In response, the UK Government has signalled that onshore wind and solar projects could be allowed to compete for subsidies in future CfD auctions.
But onshore wind remains absent from the latest round of CfD auctions, which will take place in May 2019. The UK Government has unveiled plans to add between 1GW to 2GW of renewable wind power annually throughout the 2020s, and, for the first time, remote island wind providers are eligible to bid for contracts at the next CfD auctions.
“Over half of the UK’s wind energy capacity is onshore, which is the cheapest option for new power,” Pinchbeck said. “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.”