U.K. foresees boom in wind power schemes

March 16, 1998
Carland Cross wind farm, Cornwall, U.K., consists of 15 wind turbines that provide a total of up to 6 MW of electric power to local utility Southwest Electricity Board. Renewable Energy Systems Ltd. is operator of the farm, which started up in August 1992. Photo courtesy of British Wind Energy Association. [6,114 bytes]
Wind farms could provide 10% of Britain's electricity by 2025, British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), London, told the U.K. government.

This view was presented earlier this year to a select committee set up by parliament to review energy sources for power generation in Britain (OGJ, Jan. 12, 1998, p. 28).

The government has set a target for 10% of U.K. electricity demand to be met from renewable energy sources by 2010, as part of a move to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

U.K. wind power potential

BWEA reckons that wind generators could supply 24.2 million MW-hr/year in 2010, equivalent to 6% of forecast U.K. electricity demand. This is expected to be split 60/40 between offshore and onshore wind farms.

Nick Goodall, chief executive of BWEA, told OGJ that Britain's electricity transmission grid could cope with 20% "non-firm" availability of generating capacity, for which wind power would be suitable.

"U.K. is the windiest country in Europe," said Goodall. "It is rare for existing wind turbines here to be totally becalmed. Also, it tends to be windier in seasons when demand is higher."

Goodall said that, while 20% of total U.K. power generated is today's most ambitious target for wind energy, the wind sector can realistically look to provide 10-15% of electric power requirements.

Wind turbines have almost entirely been built onshore, said Goodall. Now the U.K. plans to develop offshore wind projects, with opportunities for market entrants with skills in the offshore petroleum industry.

European comparisons

Denmark has already begun to look at inshore wind farms, said Goodall: "These are only 'wet foot' turbines compared with what companies are planning to build offshore the U.K."

In January, the European Commission granted 134 energy projects funding amounting to 140 million ecus ($130 million), with the intention of developing sustainable energy and protecting the environment. Among these were a number of wind energy projects, notably a commercial-scale wind farm off East Anglia, U.K. This is expected to provide cheaper power per unit than offshore wind schemes under way or built in Europe.

Goodall noted that U.K. Environment Minister Michael Meacher predicted recently that combined heat and power schemes and renewables will provide 25% of Britain's energy requirements by 2010.

To meet BWEA's target of providing 6% of electricity by 2010, Goodall said Britain's wind generators will need to have developed and installed a number of offshore wind schemes.

"To make offshore wind happen," said Goodall, "BWEA is setting up meetings between the wind industry and other sectors. Nobody knows yet how offshore wind will be achieved-whether on platforms, barges, or otherwise."

The U.K. currently has 719 wind turbines in 40 wind farms plus two single-turbine installations. These have combined capacity to generate 308 MW of electric power.

BWEA anticipates that, by 2010, the U.K. will have 3,700 MW of onshore wind capacity, from 3,300 turbines, plus 5,000 MW of capacity from offshore wind projects. "If the government is going to achieve its 10% renewables target by 2010," said Goodall, "we could be looking at adding 6,500 new turbines in onshore and offshore projects over the next 12 years."

Oil company interest

Goodall said that, as realization of the potential to make money out of wind power grows, BWEA is beginning to receive inquiries from companies not previously interested in wind power.

The association recently added its first petroleum company to its membership: Royal Dutch/Shell is "seeing what opportunities are available," following the company's move into renewables (OGJ, Nov. 24, 1997, p. 29).

In addition to Shell, Goodall said a number of engineering companies have become involved.

BWEA estimates the worldwide wind energy market at $18 billion/ year currently, with great opportunity for expansion, given that worldwide electricity demand could quadruple over the next 50 years.

"U.K.'s first wind farm was opened in 1991," said Goodall. "Wind technology has been developing fast since then. From the first 4-kw capacity turbines, we now have 1.6-MW capacity units, and one manufacturer claims a 5-MW machine will be available by the end of the century.

"Renewables are the key emerging energy right now. No company with an eye to the future can afford to view renewables as a marginal energy source."

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