People have used the power of the wind for many years to produce mechanical power for milling grain and pumping water. In recent times wind turbine technology has enabled us to harness wind to generate electricity. The electricity is then exported either to the grid for use locally or to power a stand alone application.
This renewable source of energy has great potential in both onshore and offshore wind farms. Wind power is one of the cleanest and safest of all the renewable commercial methods of generating electricity. The UK has the largest wind resource in the whole of Europe.
Blood Hill Wind Farm, Winterton-on-sea, Norfolk
Courtesy of DTI New and Renewable Energy Slide Library
Wind energy applications in the UK range from small battery charging applications producing useful electricity remote from the electricity distribution network, to large wind farms producing electricity competitive with conventional power stations. We currently get less than 1% of electricity from wind. There is the potential for wind to provide 10% or more of our power requirements over the next twenty years.
Competitive with conventional sources
It is possible to produce electricity from wind for as little as 2 pence per kWh, comparing favourably with the cost of electricity from conventional sources. Low cost generation is only possible on the windiest sites. Typically, electricity from wind will cost between 2p/kWh and 10p/kWh depending on scale and location. Overall wind energy projects are simple, clean and cheap to maintain. The land can still be part of the agricultural system and jobs are often created both in the short and long term in the building and maintenance of the turbines.
Wind power produces no pollutants or emissions during operation. A typical wind turbine for electrical generation will repay the energy used in its manufacture in the first 6-9 months of its operation. The main area in which wind power impacts upon the environment is in its visual impact. This is one of the most contentious aspects when siting wind farms.
For more information about wind power and a list of suppliers, please visit the British Wind Association's website at www.bwea.com
For information about the Foundation's windscope service, please visit our Windscope consultancy page.
For information on grants, please visit the Low Carbon Buildings Programme website at www.lowcarbonbuildings.org.uk