Offshore wind power is set to dominate the energy industry in the UK. The Government’s growth plan, Build Back Better, places wind at its heart with other renewable sources taking a back foot. In this blog post we aim to give some insight in to how offshore wind works and why it holds the number one spot for renewable energy production.
How wind turbines work
Wind turbines harness the kinetic (movement) energy in air. When wind blows against a turbine blade some of its kinetic energy is transferred, causing the blade to rotate. This turns an internal generator which produces the electricity. The below diagram should help to visualise this.
Why offshore wind?
There are many other forms of green electricity but solar is winds’ only real competitor in the UK. There are a few reasons why wind is often chosen over solar (but this doesn’t mean it’s better for every situation).
The biggest advantage wind turbines have over solar panels is their energy output. One wind turbine can produce the same amount of electricity as about 50,000 solar panels, making turbines the most space efficient and cost effective option by far. Wind farms are generally very large, but the space each turbine takes up is minimal, meaning onshore wind farms can be placed in locations that serve another purpose such as farmland. Offshore wind is even better in this way as the sea has practically unlimited space. Comparatively, solar farms are entirely occupied by solar panels so are far less space efficient. A final advantage of wind energy is that it can be generated at night – an important feature for a renewable grid since without grid scale battery storage, energy must be created at the same time as it is used (see our battery storage blog for more on this).
However, wind does have a few pitfalls compared to solar. It is helpful for energy generators to be relatively close to the substations in order to avoid building more transmission lines but this difficult to achieve with offshore wind. In contrast, solar panels can be placed on rooves in urban areas in a relatively obscure manner, making them a preferable option to the loud and very large turbines in such environments. Solar power is also more reliable than wind and, finally, panels are less vulnerable to the elements than turbines so solar panels need less maintenance.
Can I produce my own wind power?
Domestic options for wind power generation are uncommon, but they certainly exist. If you live in a particularly windy area it may be a good idea to place a small turbine on your property. Depending on how much you want to spend upfront, these turbines can cost anywhere between a few hundred pounds to tens of thousands of pounds. The more you pay to begin with, the more you save in the long run and if you really want to make an investment you can start earning a small income through wind generation by making use of smart export tariffs, which some suppliers offer.
If you are struggling to decide between getting a wind turbine and solar panels for your home, we’re here to help! The first thing to consider is cost; solar panels might set you back around £5,000 but for a decent turbine you will want to spend at least £9,000. However, the difference is worthwhile in the long run since wind turbines are likely to generate at least double the amount of electricity over a year. Wind turbines will stand out more and will need maintenance so if you are worried about aesthetics and upkeep, solar may be the option for you. A final consideration is how long each appliance lasts. Both generally will operate well for at least 20 years and often a lot longer, but solar is generally seen to be the longer-term option of the two.
Check out one of our other blogs or give us a follow on social for more.