The Powersystems Renewables NewsWatch provides a roundup of the latest headlines relating to Wind Energy
With more investments in the efficiency, scale of wind and a strong project pipeline, the wind energy sector is a key enabler for the UK economy to achieve net zero by 2050.
Alongside contributions from other technologies, meeting this target will require a tenfold increase in offshore wind generating capacity to about 100 GW, which would be one of the biggest infrastructure projects the country has ever undertaken.
Wind energy relies on wind turbines to generate electricity. As the blades turn, they rotate a generator and a shaft that converts the energy into electricity. The UK is one of the best places in the world for wind-powered energy. The National Grid ESO explains electricity and wind power.
New records for green electricity
The news that Britain’s National Grid set a new record for green electricity on Easter Monday and again on the May bank holiday is a further sign that we are heading in the right direction – not just in the fight against climate change but also in terms of modernising our economy.
Offshore and onshore wind turbines generated a new high of 17.6 gigawatts of power on Monday afternoon, enough to power 3.5 million kettles, according to the Guardian. This represents nearly half (48.5%) of the electricity grid in England, Scotland and Wales, according to data from operator National Grid ESO, and beats the previous record of 17.5 GW set on 13 February 2021.
The average UK household requires around 3700 kWh of electricity per year and 12,000 kWh of gas. To help supply this, there are 8,600 onshore wind turbines and 3,000 offshore wind turbines in the UK.
The UK offshore wind sector generated enough green electricity for 39% /10.8 million of UK homes (40.7 TWh) in 2020, up from 30% (32TWh) in 2019.
Key insights into UK offshore wind sector
Aprils Powersystems NewsWatch sees The Crown Estate publish its ninth Offshore Wind Operational Report, which provides in-depth insight into the progress of the UK’s offshore wind sector. It paints a picture of a mature, robust and healthy market which is progressing at pace to deliver a strong and sustainable pipeline in support of the nation’s net zero ambitions.
In less than 20 years on from the first offshore wind farm being installed, the UK remains number one in the world for offshore wind installed capacity, with 14 GW of total capacity.
The report also advises that the most significant change in 2020 was the shift in project status, with three large projects moving into the under-construction phase. Project capacity under construction increased by over 60% from 4.4GW to 7.2GW due to a final investment decision (FID) being reached on Dogger Bank A and B projects. This marked the start of construction on what will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm, a title currently held by Hornsea 1, which is located off the east coast of England and became the largest offshore wind farm in the world, capable of supplying energy needs of one million UK homes. The wind farm has a planned total capacity of up to 6 GW. Dogger Bank is also furthest from shore at 130km off the North East English coast. The 1,050 MW Seagreen project also achieved FID in June and construction has started onshore for what is expected to be Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm. Recently RWE has committed to building its biggest ever wind farm off the UK coast after making a final investment decision on a £3bn 1.4-gigawatt offshore wind farm called Sofia.
The Government’s 2050 net zero ambitions, combined with its Ten Point Plan and Energy White Paper which set out an aspiration for the UK to achieve 40 GW of offshore wind by 2030, has helped fuel momentum in the sector.
Wind energy around the globe
The recently published Global Wind Report 2021 has found that the global wind power market has nearly quadrupled in size over the past decade with record growth in 2020 driven by a surge of installations in China and the US, together, the US and China installed 75% of new installations in 2020 and account for over half of the world’s total wind power capacity. Today, there is now 743 GW of wind power capacity worldwide.
The report shows that the current rate of wind power deployment will not be enough to achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of this century, and said “urgent action” must be taken by policymakers now to scale up wind power at the necessary pace.
Scenarios that have been established by international energy bodies such as IRENA and the IEA, state a minimum of 180 GW of new wind needs to be installed every year to limit global warming to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and will need to increase to 280 GW annually to maintain a pathway compliant with meeting net zero by 2050.
Current challenges in the wind energy market
As renewable energy grows, wind energy will become the backbone of energy systems in many parts of the world, requiring us to move beyond the focus on simply increasing wind energy capacity to instead instigating new collaborations with stakeholders across the global energy system to uncover more powerful policies and unlock greater investments to fuel the Sustainable Energy Transition.
- This entails expanding our reach to cover key issues such as limited customers on the grid, grid build-out, storage, market redesign and accelerating the deployment of renewable energy to new sectors.
- Red tape and antiquated planning and permitting systems are slowing down the Energy Transition all over the world – many countries share similar challenges in market design, where investment in wind energy is available but policy conditions undermine the viability of projects.
- Primarily countries in the Global South, renewable energy uptake faces structural barriers, such as energy access shortfalls and affordability gaps in the power sector. Worldwide, 770 million people still lack electricity access, and this is set to shrink only moderately to 430 million people by 2030
A team to combat wind energy challenges
The Global Wind Energy Coalition for COP26 was launched in April to help governments deliver on their Net Zero targets through the scaling up of investment and wind programme ambitions. The campaign is being led by the Global Wind Energy Council and RenewableUK and will focus on the build up to COP26 in Glasgow:
- Highlighting the role of wind power in decarbonisation
- Developing wind energy acceleration plans with policymakers in key onshore and offshore wind markets
- Building collaborations with other technologies and heavy industries that work towards system-wide decarbonisation in a global renewable energy alliance; and
- Creating a global Sprint for Offshore Wind Ambition to support governments achieve the global 1,400 GW target by 2050 set by the Ocean Renewable Energy Action Coalition.
New enabling technologies
Large-scale wind penetration will require balancing and storage technologies to maintain a cost effective and secure transition. Hybrid renewable tenders with wind, solar and battery elements are now picking up around the world, but storage technologies will need to be competitive and scalable to disincentivise support of polluting and inflexible energy systems.
Concurrent to the transformation of infrastructure to enable grid interconnectivity and sector coupling, the production of green hydrogen as a key storage solution will need to be economically viable.
With hydrogen now playing a prominent role in national energy strategies, from Germany to Australia to Chile to South Korea, it is no longer meaningful to dismiss it as over-hyped. But it is worth examining the political and economic constraints of Power-to-X and green hydrogen to understand the degree to which they can accelerate the shift to carbon neutrality, and whether we are indeed headed towards the age of the “hydrogen economy”.
Of all renewable energies, offshore wind and wind/solar hybrid projects have the highest potential to improve the economics of green hydrogen projects due to cost competitiveness and scalability.
Wind energy the future for meeting business requirements
- Amazon has unveiled deals with nine new utility-scale wind and solar energy projects in the US, Canada, Spain and the UK totalling 1546MW. The projects include a 350MW offshore wind farm off the coast of Scotland, which is Amazon’s largest in the UK and also the largest corporate renewable energy deal announced by any company in the UK to date.
- Budweiser has launched an ad campaign revealing that every single can, bottle and keg of Budweiser in the UK has been brewed with 100% renewable energy