In a change that has seen the dominance of fossil fuels reversed over the last decade, renewables now generate more electricity than traditional carbon-emitting energy sources. The last ten years have been truly remarkable for the renewable energy sector, as electricity contributed by wind farms, solar panels, and biomass has more than quadrupled. In sharp contrast, the demand for fossil fuels has plummeted.
While there is still significant progress to be made for the UK to reach its goal of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, the shift from fossil fuels to renewables is promising. Of particular interest to investors, governments, and regulators are windfarms, which are now outpacing other renewable sources to produce more power.
Current and Projected Split Amongst Renewable Energy Sources
The third quarter of 2019 saw the UK’s solar panels, biomass, and wind farms generate more electricity than fossil fuels’ combined output. Approximately 29.5 terawatt-hours were produced while only 29.1TWh was provided by oil, gas and coal.
Of this energy, 39% derived from fossil fuels, of which 38% came from gas, and less than 1% from coal and oil. Another 40% was contributed by renewable sources, which further breaks down as 20% from wind, 12% from biomass, and 6% from solar panels, while nuclear power plants provided the final 19%.
Since then, there’s been a ‘substantial increase’ in total output from renewables across the UK. As revealed by government-gathered data, electricity powered by renewable sources rose from 39% in 2019 to 47% at the beginning of 2020. Of this, offshore windfarms contributed to the largest increase in the first quarter of that year. During this period, 30% of electricity was powered by wind, an increase from 22.3% at the end of 2019.
These numbers reveal the pivotal role windfarms are playing in increasing the country’s supply of renewable energy.
What more wind generation means for UK energy
Not only is wind more efficient compared to other eco-friendly energy sources, but it’s also one of the cheapest sources of energy available. That makes the future of wind very compelling for governments, investors, and people in general. Here are just a few ways wind is set to shape the energy sector in years to come.
Renewable energy is already a fast-growing sector requiring expansion of operations and innovation. This is particularly true for wind farms, given the many projects, both on and offshore, set to launch over the coming years.
Offshore wind jobs alone are predicted to double by 2030. RenewableUK is one organisation looking to develop and support new roles, with over 27,000 posts slated to start over the next decade. The government itself is also keen to back more wind jobs, creating over 60,000 new positions as part of its Build Back Greener targets. There’s substantial demand for human resource development in this area, from data analysts and policy advisers to more hands-on roles in engineering, subsea diving, and project management.
Increasing capacity is yet another factor set to drive further innovation and investment in wind. We can already directly trace rising wind-generated power to the build and launch of new offshore wind farms, such as the record-breaking 1,200 megawatt Hornsea One project completed in October 2019. Located just off the Yorkshire coast, it’s considered the world’s largest offshore wind farm producing power for over one million homes across the UK.
The East Anglia One project is yet another offshore project underway, while the WindFloat Atlantic Project just off the shores of Portugal and HYwind Scotland’s five-turbine development signal the beginning of more floating energy system construction.
Funding & Innovation
Of course, as the wind sector grows and becomes more viable, it will attract significantly more investment. From improving turbine drivetrain technology’s efficiency to testing new gearboxes that will result in even more powerful turbines, there are still many challenges to be addressed. That presents ample opportunities for investors, both private and public, to get involved and help fund the revolution of renewable energy sources.