For the first time ever in the UK, solar, wind, and nuclear power generated more electricity than gas and coal combined on Wednesday. At roughly 1 PM that day, renewables including hydropower and biomass provided 50.7 percent of electricity demand. Thanks to high wind speeds and many more windfarms recently built off of UK coasts, as well as in Europe, these sources provided more power than ever before.
On Tuesday, 2.7 percent of EU power was generated by offshore windfarms, and 10 percent in the UK.
According to experts, the high quantity of electricity generated by wind power led prices to fall to prices as low as a tenth of their normal cost, overnight.
“It’s a sign of how things are changing – coal is coming off and renewables are growing,” according to RenewableUK deputy chief executive Maf Smith.
Giles Dickinson, chief executive of WindEurope, explained that even though the 2.7 percent figure may sound small, “you have to put it in the context that most countries do not have offshore wind.”
Dickinson was speaking at an offshore wind conference in London, which included exhibitions from countries like the Netherlands and Scotland, competing to attract windfarm developers. At the same time, the largest turbine manufacturers in the world are competing to lower the cost of a technology that is still relatively expensive.
The largest and most powerful wind turbines ever built, producing 8 megawatts each, were installed recently off the UK coast near Liverpool. Earlier this week, the Danish company who built the turbines, MHI Vestas, announced that an even more powerful 9.5 megawatt model is in development. The new model offers more power capacity from the same size turbine, thanks to refinements and better gearing. Larger turbines are desirable for windfarm developers, since fewer foundations are needed to generate the same amount of power, reducing costs for cables and other infrastructure. One turbine in development by the German firm Senvion would boast a 10-megawatt capacity, while another turbine built by the US company GE would provide 12 megawatts. Ultimately, these innovations will help continue to reduce the cost of wind power, which will help renewable energy in general become more economically competitive.