2016 has been another record-breaking year for wind power in the UK, and for the first time ever, wind power generated more electricity than coal-fired power stations.
11.5% of the UK’s electricity came from wind turbines in 2016. Power from coal fell to just 9.2%, its lowest level since electricity started being generated in the nineteenth century.
It’s a pretty astounding result for a technology that’s older – and simpler – than you might think!
How do wind turbines work?
Wind turbines are one of the longest standing renewable energy technologies, and can be installed in a range of sizes from a few kW (enough to boil a kettle) to many MW (big enough to power thousands of homes).
The technology that allows wind turbines to generate electricity is simple: wind rotates the turbine blades, which drives a generator and this motion is what produces electricity.
You can find out more about how wind turbines work here.
This electricity is then sent through a transformer which converts it to the right voltage for the local network. And that's essentially how wind turbines work!
Wind turbine facts
- Older turbines are based on gears but some newer setups, like our turbines at Delabole, are gearless.
- Wind speed's affect on generation is calculated on a formula which means that when wind speed doubles, generation increases eightfold!
- According to figures from the British Wind Energy Association, a modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time.
The UK’s Wind
The UK has the best wind resource in Europe. Though our winds aren’t always strong, they are diverse and frequent – which means we can create a regular source of electricity by maximising the ways and places in which we capture and use wind energy.
- The UK is windiest during the winter, and on average it’s windier during the day than the night.
- Wind turbines are built where they’ll face prevailing winds, which have an average speed of over six metres per second.
- Most UK winds come from a south westerly direction, which is why some of our largest turbines are on the west coast of Scotland and in Cornwall.
We reckon more than half of our 100% renewable electricity will come from the power of UK wind this year – but it’s only part of our fuel mix.
We also rely on sourcing electricity from solar panels, hydro turbines and biomass – they all play an important part in creating an energy balance.