A breath of good news

The Thanet facility in the United Kingdom has gone on stream as the national grid revealed that at one point last month 10% of Britain’s electricity came from wind farms.

But industry experts claim that the wider green revolution needed to meet renewable and climate- change targets imposed by the European Union is still in danger from proposed spending cuts.

The Thanet farm, which will be able to produce 300MW of electricity, is the biggest offshore facility of its kind until the even larger London Array, which has an eventual goal of 340 turbines, is completed.

It will dwarf the nearby Kentish Flats facility off Whitstable, also run by Vattenfall—the Swedish energy company behind the Thanet wind farm—and using similar Vestas turbines.

Excitement about the potential for wind was heightened last week when the grid put out a statement that over a 24-hour period up to 10% of electricity came from wind and 4% from hydro.

Maria McCaffery, the chief executive of RenewableUK, said the figures underscored the contention that wind and renewables are no longer “alternative” but core parts of the power sector.

“We are expecting to see the contribution of electricity from wind gradually increase over the next decade, to around 30% of the UK’s total consumption. This news confirms that not only are the wind farms we have built so far starting to deliver, but that UK wind-farm yields are the best in Europe and comparable with established technologies such as hydro,” she said.

Richard Fearnall, of the wind energy developer West Coast Energy, said it “put to bed the myth” that wind power is not a vital part of the mix in achieving energy security and meeting renewable targets.

But the euphoria was dampened by Lord Turner, the chairman of the government’s committee on climate change, who wrote to the energy and climate-change minister, Chris Huhne, warning that a “step-change” is needed if Britain is to meet its target of generating 15% of energy—not just electricity—from renewable sources by 2020.

The UK currently generates only 3% on an annual basis, although last week’s figure from the national grid shows that—on a temporary basis at least—that figure can be much higher.

The government is considering whether to cut grants such as the £60-million earmarked to help construct port infrastructure that will be needed to support further North Sea wind-farms.—

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