Gales blowing across damp windswept landscapes around parts of Great Britain can be a bit of a downer when you are out and about. The same winds, though, can also come in handy — by powering homes, shops and offices.
A case in point are high-speed winds blowing from the Atlantic Ocean during a winter storm the day before Christmas, which helped local wind farms generate 5.14 gigawatts of electricity. That accounted for more than half of all electricity generated in Great Britain that day in a first for wind power on the island.
As the winds kept up over the Christmas holiday, so did wind power continue to provide plenty of electricity in a country that is a world leader in offshore wind energy with nearly 10 gigawatts of installed capacity, which is more than in any other country.
Wind turbines installed offshore already power as many as 4.5 million homes each year, generating more than a tenth of the country’s domestic electricity. And as the cost of wind power technology continues to decline, it is fast becoming one of the cheapest low-carbon solutions, which means that plenty more capacity is expected to be installed in coming years.
In fact, the country’s government plans to have every home powered by wind energy within a decade by quadrupling current offshore capacity to 40GW by 2030. The increasing dominance of wind power is good news for the United Kingdom, which has been seeking to wean itself off fossil fuels in order to decarbonize its electrical grid.
“Factor in nuclear, solar, and hydropower — all zero-carbon forms of energy — and nearly three-quarters of all power generated on Dec. 26 [this year] came from clean sources,” explains Brian Kahn, managing editor of Earther, an environmental news website. “All told, every kilowatt hour of electricity generated emitted 0.2 pounds (80 grams) of carbon dioxide or less than half of the annual average this year, which itself is a record low.”
Nor is the UK new to setting low-carbon records, Kahn points out. “Last year, it went a week without coal for the first time in 137 years and generated more power from renewables than fossil fuels for the first time,” he explains. “This year, it went more than two months without coal contributing an iota of electricity to the grid.”
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