There are many forms of renewable energy open to us in the UK. As an island nation, you would think that we would be making great use of the ocean around us, but unfortunately that isn’t really yet the case. Although renewable sources provide almost 10 per cent of the nation’s energy, ocean power has barely been exploited at all. In a way, that is good news, because there is clearly plenty of potential yet to be exploited, but it is hard not to feel at least a little disappointed.
Rather more impressive is the nation’s commitment to wind power. On and off-shore wind farms have both been constructed and about 4.6 per cent of the nation’s electricity is now generated by wind power. Current capacity is just under 7,000 megawatts, but this is set to grow further. Estimates have put the nation’s wind capacity at 28,000 megawatts by 2020. Currently, the UK is the world’s eighth biggest wind power generator.
Clearly this can’t happen without new wind farm projects. Siemens and DONG Energy are currently working together on a rather striking wind farm which could be up and running off the Essex coast by 2014. It would see 300 giant wind turbines with 75 metre carbon fibre blades put up and together they could generate 1,800 megawatts.
Off shore wind farms seem to be a higher priority now after an early push to build on shore farms. In 2010, off shore farms went into operation at Gunfleet Sands, Robin Rigg and Thanet. The last of those offers 300 megawatts of capacity. Only the Greater Gabbard Wind Farm provides more. It is capable of generating 504 megawatts.
Greater Gabbard Wind Farm is built on sandbanks 23km off the Suffolk coast. It is thought to have cost around £1bn and features 140 turbines.
Planning permission for on shore wind farms is difficult, but there is still huge potential to expand the nation’s off shore capacity. The UK is already the world’s largest off shore wind power generator, having overtaken Denmark in 2008 and it is thought it is responsible for as much as a third of Europe’s total capacity.
The nation’s coastline is generally owned by The Crown Estate and as such, parts have to be sold off in order to build wind farms. So far, there have been three rounds of applications, although construction has not finished for any of the projects that came about from the third. Nevertheless, they will see more wind power generated than from the first two rounds combined.
Ian Arnold shares his knowledge in looking for jobs in renewable energy.