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There are a number of useful papers containing answers to frequently asked questions about Wind Power. Coriolis have answered a number of these below, however further questions and answers can be found from the following sources.  These include:

1.How much of our renewable energy is provided by wind?

Over a quarter of renewable electricity is currently generated by wind energy and the share is growing. Other sizeable contributions are made from hydro, landfill gas and co-firing biomass in power stations.

Renewable UK (R-UK) tracks the number of wind farms and their capacity for electricity generation. According to these figures, 5,483 onshore wind turbines had been installed by September 2016 with a combined capacity of over 8,997 MW.  At the end of 2014, the total onshore generating capacity in the UK provided the equivalent electricity consumption of 4 million homes.  See more at http://www.renewableuk.com/page/UKWEDhome

2.Is wind energy reliable?

The strength and variability of the wind determines not only how much electricity the wind turbines can generate but also how reliable electricity from the wind will be in meeting electricity demand.

The Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University produced the report ‘Wind Power and the UK wind resource (2005)’.  This looked into the availability of wind energy in the UK by analyzing hourly wind speeds collected by the Met Office at 60 locations across the UK between 1970 and 2003.

The Oxford University study used these wind records to identify patterns of wind power availability across the UK. It found that:

  • Wind power availability is greater during winter than at other times of the year, and is on average stronger during the day than overnight
  • Wind power delivers around two and a half times as much electricity during periods of high electricity demand as during low demand periods
  • Low wind speed conditions affecting 90% of more of the UK would only occur in around one hour every 5 years during winter.

It concluded that there are distinct advantages of wind turbines being located in a range of locations, rather than being concentrated in one place. In effect, the impact of low wind speeds in any particular area can be smoothed by the generation in other windier parts of the UK as weather systems travel across the country.

3.Does wind energy need back up from other electricity generating sources?

All types of power-station need ‘back-up' as they can all break down unexpectedly, or be taken off-line by routine maintenance or for commercial reasons. In October 2007 for example almost half of the UK's nuclear power stations (6 out of 17) were off-line at once due to either faults or maintenance work.

Indeed, rather than requiring more conventional capacity to be built, increasing the amount of wind energy will allow older power stations to be shut down. The Oxford University Report mentioned above for example calculates that if 10% of UK electricity came from wind power, around 3,000 MW of conventional plant could be retired.  

The report ‘Common Concerns about wind Power’ (May 2011) produced by the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) examines this question in detail, mentioning “the problem of ‘dispatch’, whereby supply of electricity is tailored to meet constantly changing demand, is not new to the industry.   Large unpredictable swings in the system are already balanced on a daily basis, and the grid is prone to critical failures for which significant reserve capability already exists; concluding “Wind farms offer a flexible, modular system that if implemented as a diversified resource with effective geographic spread can offer a reliable source of low-carbon energy, forming a core part of a mixed renewables portfolio in combination with a reduced platform of responsive conventional capacity”.

4.How noisy are wind farms?

People are usually surprised at how quiet modern wind turbines are.  It is possible to hold a normal conversation standing directly underneath a modern wind turbine.  Further, turbine noise decreases with distance from the tower.

Wind farm developers are required to carry out detailed noise assessments and comply with rigorous noise standards designed to ensure that the amenity of the rural community is protected. The best advice for anyone with concerns is to go and hear for themselves.

5.Do wind farms reduce house prices?

A small number of studies have been conducted to try and answer this question, and the results have varied greatly with no substantive evidence between a positive effect, no effect at all and a negative effect.

The CSE report states there is no evidence that a causal links exists between house prices and the proximity of wind turbines, and this is borne out by larger studies carried out on transaction data in the USA.

It goes on to say that  “in recent years, estate agents and surveyors have begun to accept that data on house purchases clearly show there is no lowering of house prices caused by wind turbines”.

6.How much support is there for wind farms?

Over the last 15 years more than 60 separate wind farm surveys have been carried out by different organizations, and a summary of these was produced by the sustainable development commission in their booklet ‘Wind Power in the UK'. The results have shown a consistently high level of support for wind farms with an average approval rating of between 70-80%. Levels of support have also been shown to increase after a wind farm has been built.

7.What is the future for wind energy?

The UK needs a mix of sources of energy in order to provide reliable and affordable electricity whilst still reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Onshore wind is an essential part of this mix as the cheapest form of renewable power, and now represents subsidy-free generation when the benefits of offset carbon emissions from more polluting conventional stations are taken into account, according to the Government’s Committee on Climate Change report published in June 2015. The UK is the windiest country in Europe and yet hasn’t taken full advantage of this safe, green resource.