By Michaela Cryar
Wind power does currently play a big part in community energy, with only solar power producing more energy. The more community energy grows, the more renewable, clean, green power can be generated for the community by wind.
Whether you're a passionate wind power fan (pun intended) or looking to find out more about how this renewable source can help drive the transitioning of sustainable energy - we're covering it all right here.
A brief overview of wind power
Wind turbines convert kinetic (moving) energy from wind into power. Simply put, wind makes the turbine’s blade move, which then turns a generator, which then converts it into power used for heating our homes.
Wind power has technically been used for thousands of years, with the history of it dating back to ancient China and Africa, when they used it to propel boats and grind seeds. Nowadays, wind power is produced in wind farms, a collection of wind turbines in the same location that act as a power station to produce energy.
Wind generation is a completely renewable energy source. It produces 99% lower emissions than fossil fuel energy sources, so it’s better for the environment, and as long as there’s wind - which in the UK there usually is, power can be produced.
Producing fossil-free fuel is the future, and our only option. It also has a massive part to play in the Net Zero target of 70-80% renewable energy for the UK by 2030.
The UK is one of the global leaders in wind power generation, with a total of over 11,000 turbines both onshore and offshore. The fight for renewable energy in the UK is well and truly on.
A deep dive into onshore and offshore
Even though they technically do the same thing, there are fundamental differences between onshore and offshore wind.
Onshore wind is wind power generated on land, with the wind farms often spread across large, rural areas.
The concept first arose in the late 1880s, however the first official onshore wind farm in the UK was built in Delabole in November 1991.
Onshore wind farms produce a renewable energy source and are so much better for the environment due to their emission output, which is why today, there are over 2,600 onshore wind farms in the UK, housing a total of over 8000 wind turbines.
Advantages of onshore wind farms
- Very green energy source compared to fossil fuel energy sources.
- As well as being a renewable energy source, once the wind farm is built, the lifespan of the turbines is approximately 20 years.
- Onshore wind farms can be quick to build, once planned, they can be built within a year.
- Easy to maintain and access due to the fact they’re on land.
- Very cost effective, similarly to solar power generation. Can reduce energy bills. Wind and solar are the future!
- Creates jobs through building and maintaining the wind farms, also allows agricultural farming to carry on around the turbine sites.
As well as this, Onshore wind farms can have an instant impact on the community through community owned wind farms, with the Community Energy England State of Sector report 2022 stating that “Community-owned wind farms have been shown to provide an annual average return of £170,000 per installed MW compared with £5000 per MW for private developments.”
The report states that there is 113 MW of community wind energy in the UK, so the investment returns for communities is significant.
Disadvantages of onshore wind farms
- We personally think they add to the view, however, there have been complaints about wind turbines ruining scenic views as they are usually in wide, open spaces.
- Throughout 2022 there were record breaking wind statistics throughout the UK. However, no wind, no energy. Sometimes there is very little wind, which is why it is important to have a diverse renewable electricity generation mix, including solar and hydro power
Despite this, the advantages are clear, and in the recent Independent Review of Net Zero, it advocated onshore wind power as part of the climate solution for a greener future, and states that “Onshore wind would be one of the fastest, lowest cost solutions to rapid delivery of net zero making the transition more affordable.” Alongside this, research shows that the majority of people want planning legislation to be altered allowing more onshore wind farms.
Offshore wind is wind power generated off land, with the farms being built in the sea.
The first offshore wind farms arose around 1991, however the UK’s first offshore wind farm was built in 2000, just off the Northumberland coast. Only 2 turbines were built then, and they were the largest in the world at the time.
Just like onshore wind farms, offshore wind farms produce a renewable energy source and do not emit greenhouse gases. There are just over 40 offshore wind farms in the UK housing just over 2,600 turbines, making us the leader in offshore wind generation in the world. It was stated in 2020 by the then Prime Minister that within a decade, the UK’s offshore wind farms will generate enough electricity to power every home in the UK.
Advantages of offshore wind farms
- Generate increased rate of renewable energy compared to onshore wind farms due to higher wind speeds offshore.
- Minimal effect on scenic views or rural areas on land.
- Due to the length of the UK coastline and its shallow seabed, allows high construction levels.
- Bigger turbines offshore than onshore meaning a greater capacity to generate electricity.
Disadvantages of offshore wind farms
- Compared to onshore wind farms, they are more expensive to build and have higher maintenance costs. The strong wind speeds and seas can often cause structural damage to the turbines.
- Can disturb marine life when building and maintaining, it has however been reported that the creation of offshore wind farms can create habitats and biodiversity for marine life.
- Not as easy to make a community energy project out offshore due to sheer cost of the operation. However, this avenue is currently being explored by the community energy organisation Energy 4 All who say offshore community energy wind ownership could ‘take community ownership to another level’.
As you can see, both onshore and offshore wind production are much better solutions for a clean energy future and offer a security of renewable energy sources for the UK.
Onshore and Offshore Wind - The Community Energy Perspective
The future has to involve renewable energy, as the UK is using more power than ever, and this amount is only going to increase. We can’t rely, and don’t want to, on fossil fuels forever. So, generating electricity from wind and other forms of green energy has to be the answer. If the energy is then owned and run by your community, as a group - even better.
The rate of community-owned energy is also increasing, as people are recognising the importance of securing their own energy source as well as its other benefits.
Community energy works by creating sustainable energy for the community, run by the people . It also allows people to reinvest money back into their communities from local community energy projects.
Britain produces the most amount of wind power in the world. A whopping 26.8% of the country’s energy was produced by wind in 2022 according to the National Grid. Imagine if this was ALL owned by the community…
That’s where Younity comes in. We facilitate community energy projects in the UK and support 29 onshore community energy wind sites by providing fair pricing though our PPAs (power purchase agreements). See our full list of projects we support here.
A special shoutout to Baywind Energy Co-operative, who were the first UK cooperative to own wind turbines. Read more about their story here.
Our parent company Octopus Energy also runs their own fan club, in which they connect smaller, local wind projects to the community, giving them access to renewable energy.
Read the full blog on everything you need to know about community energy and sign up for our newsletter while you’re at it too, to find out all about Younity and the community energy world.