Reasons to be positive about the future of wind power

Renewable energy is the cleanest, safest means of powering our modern, energy-hungry world. As today is Global Wind Day, here are some reasons to be positive about the future of wind power.

The amount of energy being produced by wind power is increasing.

2017 was a particularly good year for wind energy. In the UK, onshore wind generated 28.7TW, an increase of 37% from 2016. Offshore turbines produced a further 20.9TWh, an increase of 27.3% on the previous 12 months. According to RenewableUK, wind energy accounted for 15% of last year’s electricity demands.

The first three months of 2018 saw these achievements being further built upon, with record levels of wind energy production across Britain. According to data from energy market monitoring firm, EnAppSys, new half-hourly, daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly generation records were set during the period, with a total of 15.8TWh of wind energy generated through to the end of March.

Offshore wind in Scotland alone during these three months showed an increase of 44% compared to last year’s output. Data released by WWF Scotland shows that onshore wind turbines provided 5,353,997MWh of green electricity to the National Grid during the first quarter of 2018. This is enough power to provide the equivalent of five million homes.

It’s not just in the UK that the amount of energy being provided by wind farms has increased. In 2017 Portugal produced 11.9TWh of wind power, making it the leading source of green energy in the country. When you consider that 44% of Portugal’s energy was gained from renewables during that time, the amount provided by wind becomes even more impressive.

Lots of new technological advances are happening in wind energy production.

In order to increase the amount of power being produced by a wind turbine two things can be done. Firstly, the rotor and blades can be made larger, increasing the turbine’s potential capacity. Alternatively, the turbine could be made taller, raising the blades higher into the atmosphere to where the wind blows more steadily. To achieve both of these, new designs and materials have needed to be crafted that are capable of standing up to the stresses inherent to the greater height and higher winds.

In March 2018 GE Energy revealed the largest, most powerful off-shore wind turbine yet, the Haliade-X. This will be ready for demonstration by 2019, and deployment by 2021. Standing at a height of 260m, it carries a 220-meter rotor with 107-meter-long blades. That’s longer than a football pitch. Each turbine will be able to generate up to 60GWh per year. That’s enough clean power for up to 16,000 households per turbine.

This isn’t the only advancement in wind turbine technology, however. According to Finland’s VTT Research Centre of Technology, the latest turbines are also remaining reasonably efficient even in low wind conditions. In addition to this, new control system algorithms have been developed in order to reap the maximum benefit from the wind being harvested by the turbine.

The improvements are being put into practice with installations of new wind turbines.

The floating offshore wind farm of Hywind Scotland opened in October 2017 and is the world’s first full-scale commercial wind farm built on Hywind technology. The five giant wind turbines, that stand 250m high and have rotor blades that span almost as wide as an Airbus 380 (79.75m), are not fixed to the seabed by foundations. Instead they’re attached to a cylindrical structure and ballasted, allowing them to float upright like a buoy, and are simply tethered to the ocean floor to prevent drift. This type of technology opens up vast areas of deep sea that are unsuitable for the traditional style of wind turbines.

Another sign of the technological improvements happening in the field of wind power generation can be seen at Vattenfall’s 93.2MW EOWDC project off the coast of Aberdeen. The first of two V164 machines was fitted in April 2018. With a capacity of 8.8MW, this is the largest capacity wind turbine currently in operation. It stands 191m tall and its rotor blades are each 80m long. Vattenfall claims that a single turn of the blades can produce enough energy to power an average household for a day. Whilst these turbines m will be dwarfed by the Haliade-X once they’re in production, this simply illustrates just how rapidly advances are occurring.

The price of wind energy is reducing.

In September 2017 it was revealed that the amount of taxpayer subsidies for UK offshore wind farms has reduced by over 50%. This is because, as the technology has improved the costs involved have decreased. Three offshore projects won subsidies at the last round of auctions. At the previous comparable round of auctions in 2015, the average amount awarded to offshore schemes was £117.14 per MWh. In 2017, this dropped as low as £57.50 per MWh.

The reasons for this reduction are again due to technological improvements. As fewer turbines are required to generate more power, the costs of installing and maintaining wind farms have fallen. Costs are also being saved by the placement of new turbines in proximity to established wind farms. By doing this, developers are able to link into grids already in place rather than having to establish new ones. Maintenance teams are already on hand, as well as all of the other infrastructure requirements necessary for a successful, and relatively inexpensive, wind farm. This reduction of costs will lead to cheaper energy prices for consumers.

With the amount of energy being produced by wind steadily increasing, and with the technology enabling this rapidly improving and making its way into use, further lowering the costs of production, it’s easy to feel positive about the future of wind power.

Happy Global Wind Day.