The UK’s wind energy industry has passed 5GW of installed wind energy capacity, enough to supply close to 3 million homes annually with electricity.
The 5GW milestone was achieved by the commissioning of two wind farm developments in September. Vattenfall’s 300 megawatt Thanet offshore wind farm, the world’s biggest, which began operating on Thursday, and the expansion of Fred.Olsen Renewables’ Crystal Rig 200MW onshore wind farm in the Scottish Borders in early September.
“Five gigawatts is an important milestone for two reasons: it takes us within reach of our 2010 targets on renewable electricity, while proving that each successive gigawatt takes less and less time to deploy,” said RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery MBE. “Renewable energy generally and wind energy in particular is not alternative any longer, it is absolutely mainstream.”
The 5GW mark, which represents about 4% of the UK’s entire electricity needs, is good news for manufacturing. Earlier in 2010, three global companies – GE, Mitsubishi and Siemens – announced plans to build and expand both R&D and manufacturing facilities for large wind system infrastructure in the UK. US company Clipper Windpower will officially open its new wind turbine blade factory in Blyth, Tyneside in early October. The factory occupies the part of the Swan Hunter shipyard.
“The 5GW’s of wind energy that has been installed demonstrates that wind energy in the UK can no longer be seen as alternative energy, it’s absolutely mainstream and now making a vital contribution to the UK energy mix,” said a spokesman for RenewableUK. “The potential manufacturing opportunities represented by this sector are huge when you consider we have 7.4GW of onshore projects in the planning system and 49GW in offshore development.”
Øystein Løseth, president and CEO of Vattenfall, said of the landmark: “We are pleased that our investment is making a substantial contribution to the delivery of UK renewable energy objectives and to the Isle of Thanet economy. Vattenfall is working hard to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions from its operations, and projects like Thanet Offshore Wind Farm are a cornerstone of delivery.”
The UK has nearly 18GW of wind capacity either consented, in construction or in the planning system as well as 5GW in operation. Wind power delivery is also accelerating, where the fifth gigawatt of installed output was delivered in the last 12 months.
Nick Emery, UK managing director for Fred.Olsen Renewables, said: “While Scottish and UK governments have provided the policy to facilitate development, Crystal Rig II demonstrates that large-scale projects onshore are only achievable through appropriate site selection and a robust consultation, project management and planning process.”
In 2002 the UK was generating around 2% of all electricity from renewables. “We are now on the threshold of 10%, having increased outputs five-fold,” added McCaffery. “This demonstrates that, considering the current pipeline of projects, 2020 targets are realistic and achievable, provided the policies are in place.”
In the Renewable Energy Strategy published in 2009, the Government outlined a scenario for the UK to reach around 30% of electricity from wind by 2020 in order to meet EU targets on reducing carbon emissions.