25 years of wind power in the UK – wind energy now a mainstream electricity source
21 December 2016
Posted by: Rob Norris
The 21st December marks exactly 25 years since the UK’s first wind farm started generating clean electricity for British homes, offices and factories.
On this day in 1991, 10 turbines were switched on at Delabole onshore wind farm in north Cornwall, powering 2,700 homes a year. The project, now owned by Good Energy, has since been upgraded, more than doubling its capacity, thanks to rapid technological advances.
Celebrating the anniversary, Good Energy’s Chief Executive Juliet Davenport OBE said: “This is an incredible achievement for the renewable industry – and a big moment for Delabole. Since the turbines started turning, renewable technologies have come a long way, with wind power generating a record-breaking 12% of the UK’s electricity in 2015.
“The success of the wind farm has largely been down to the support of the local community who are the real custodians of this site. It’s thanks to them and their belief in the project that has helped make Delabole the perfect model for further wind power developments here in the UK.”
There are now more than 1,000 commercial-scale UK wind energy projects operating onshore and offshore, meeting the annual electricity needs of over 9,500,000 British homes.
RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck said: “1991 was a year for innovation: in the spring a British scientist introduced the world wide web, and by Christmas, Delabole’s first turbines were turning. And just as the dawn of the internet has changed how we communicate, so renewables are revolutionising the way we generate electricity, replacing old technology with new”.
Over the last 25 years, onshore and offshore wind energy in the UK has generated more than 185 million megawatt hours (MWh) – that’s enough to power over three-quarters of a billion computers for a year, giving us internet access.
She continued: “Wind is now a mainstream power source in Britain, outperforming and replacing old fashioned coal. It’s a crucial part of our new energy system, which is designed to deliver the energy the country needs in the smartest way possible”.
A quarter of our nation’s electricity now comes from renewable sources – nearly half of that from wind alone. Using wind has meant the UK has avoided burning more than 106 million tonnes of coal over the last 25 years.
Ms Pinchbeck concluded: “Onshore and offshore wind are providing industrial-scale benefits to our modern economy, supporting tens of thousands of jobs, and attracting billions of pounds in investment to the UK as the global energy market goes renewable. And we’re helping consumers, as onshore wind is the cheapest way to generate new power”.
The latest onshore wind turbines, being installed in Scotland, are more than eight and a half times more powerful than those originally installed in Cornwall 25 years ago, showing the innovation the industry has achieved, which will continue in the decades ahead.
RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck is available for interview at Delabole wind farm in Cornwall on Weds 21st December (afternoon).
For further information, please contact:
Robert Norris, Head of Communications, 0207 901 3013 or 07969 229913 Robert.Norris@RenewableUK.com
RenewableUK is the trade and professional body for the wind, wave and tidal energy industries. Formed in 1978, and with more than 430 corporate members, RenewableUK is the country’s leading renewable energy trade association. RenewableUK’s member companies employ more than 250,000 people.
The first onshore wind project at Delabole in Cornwall consisted of 10 turbines, each with a capacity of 400 kilowatts (kW), totalling 4 megawatts (MW). The project was repowered by Good Energy in 2009-2011, and now consists of 4 turbines, each 2.3MW totalling 9.2MW.
The UK now has 1,090 onshore (9,164MW) + 27 offshore (5,098) commercial (100kW and above) wind energy projects, totalling 1,117 projects (14,261MW). These generate enough electricity to meet the needs of 9,508,850 homes.
Wind generated 12% of the UK’s electricity needs in 2015 (7% onshore + 5% offshore).
Between 1990 and 2015, wind generated 185,493 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity:
Renewable sources used to generate electricity and heat; electricity generated from renewable sources 1990 to 2015 (DUKES 6.1.1) (published by BEIS).
Energy Saving Trust Powering The Nation report (June 2012), states (page 15) that average computer electricity consumption is 240kWh per year.
Between 1990 and 2015, 185,493GWh wind = 185,493,000,000kWh divided by 240kWh = 772,887,500 computers.
1 tonne of coal generates 1,734kWh of electricity.
Between 1990 and 2015, 185,493GWh wind = 185,493,000,000kWh divided by 1,734kWh = 106,974,048 million tonnes of coal displaced. More than half of this (58 million tonnes of coal) was replaced by wind between 2013 and 2015, showing how fast the industry has grown in the last few years, as we upgrade our energy system with innovative clean technology. (In 2013 - 2015 (DUKES 6.1.1) wind generated 100,672GWh = 100672000000kWh divided by 1,734kWh = 58,124,711 tonnes of coal displaced).
The UK’s offshore wind industry has an annual turnover of £3.1 billion (direct economic activity), rising to over £5.7 billion when indirect economic activity is included.
The UK’s onshore wind industry has an annual turnover of £2.8 billion (direct economic activity), rising to £5.6 billion when indirect economic activity is included (latest ONS stats).
Our onshore wind fleet (9,164MW) is bringing £18.8 billion investment in the UK economy over its lifetime (UK economy retains £2.06million per MW installed - BiGGAR 2015)
Bloomberg New Energy Finance report on cost of energy (Oct 2015) shows onshore wind is the cheapest form of new power in the UK.
The latest onshore wind turbines to be installed (3.45MW Vestas turbines at SSE’s Bhlaraidh wind farm to the north-west of Loch Ness) are 8.625 times more powerful than those originally installed at Delabole (400kW) 25 years ago.