History was made in the UK in 2016 when analysis revealed that energy from wind turbines exceeded that sourced from coal power stations for the first time ever. Figures from analysts revealed that coal-generated electricity in the UK fell from 22.6% in 2015 to just 9.2% in 2016. In comparison, wind power provided 11.5% of all generation in 2016 – 0.5% lower than in 2015.
The removal of coal from the generation capacity has been a Government target for some time, with all coal-fired power stations scheduled to close by 2025. Three major coal power stations were closed in 2016 leading to the substantial fall in generation.
The decline of coal led to a series of records being set last year including coal plants producing no output in May for the first time in more than a century. There were also multiple cases of solar panels generating more power than coal sources throughout the year. However, the decline in coal hasn’t necessarily paved the way for a rise in renewables with output from gas-fired power stations increasing by 45% in 2016.
While 2016 was historic for the UK as a whole, Scotland again led the way in breaking records. The country had a remarkable month for wind, managing to generate 100% of its energy needs through wind turbines alone for two full days in September. Scotland also set new wind power records at the end of December, generating the equivalent to the nation’s entire electricity needs for four straight days over the Christmas period. A particular achievement was on Christmas Eve when turbines generated the most amount of wind power ever on a single day. Scottish wind turbines sent 74,042MWh of electricity to the National Grid on that day despite total demand only reaching 56,089MWh.
It has also been a momentous period for wind energy across in England which recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of the UK’s first commercial wind project. Generating more than 340GWh of renewable electricity since December 1991, the Delabole Wind Farm in Cornwall was bought by independent renewable energy company Good Energy in 2002. The farm now generates enough electricity to power around 6,200 homes per year.
More needs to be done to drive development of renewable technologies to meet the energy demand and deliver on the fundamental change in energy generation in the UK. In recognition of this the Government is consulting on how it will achieve this transition. That said, the success of wind power in 2016 is welcome news at a time of uncertainty with regard to the future security of supply.