The world’s largest offshore wind farm, comprising 100 turbines and rated at a capacity of 300MW, opened off the Kent coast this week. Do you view this as an important milestone in the development of renewable energy? Or do you still have concerns about the ability of wind to make a meaningful contribution to the UK’s energy needs?
Wind farms seems to have been seized upon as the panacea which I suspect is due to there being no need for extensive R&D and trials as the concept is relatively simple. However, if we want the lights to stay on when the wind does not blow then we need conventional backup.
Mike Young, Erskine
In my opinion, offshore wind will play an important part in electricity generation in the future as I’m sure that we’ll find ways of storing excess energy to smooth out the variable generation produced by wind.
White elephant! Benefits minimal, costs of installation and maintenance disproportionately high (relative to energy alternatives), is long term unsustainable when considering complete lifecycle model including decommissioning. May satisfy the politicians 'green agenda' but will not address inevitable future energy shortages arising from the inadequate infrastructure investment in recent years.
Herman Ruijsenaars, Lincoln
Wind power is seen by many people as the panacea of green energy supply. Unfortunately they have not explained where the electricity comes from when there is no wind and what to do with it when no one wants it. We need a mixture of energy sources (including nuclear) and everyone to cut demand.
Mike Holmes, Pickering
It’s an important milestone and will make a meaningful contribution, but there need to be many more in conjunction with other renewable sources and energy efficiency. Nuclear is the easy, lazy option, but the waste legacy it leaves for future generations means we must find alternatives.
Mike Wright, Tamworth
Wind energy has a part to play in our energy supply however the major source of future power will be nuclear energy. The government need to push ahead with new nuclear stations or we will face power shortages.
Trevor Sansom, Salisbury, Wiltshire
Having just completed a cycling tour of Denmark and riding/staying at close proximity to wind turbines I can't say I find them offensive in appearance or acoustically. However, I can't see the windfarm off Kent as a milestone, there are plenty around the world so it's hardly ground breaking and we need to know the actual or average power output rather than what it's capable of (rated at) under favourable conditions.
Tony Dewdney, Southampton, Hampshire
I do feel this is an important milestone, however I have yet to understand why there is so little investment in tidal and wave power. I realise it’s a hostile environment, but we manage to extract oil and gas from harsh environments.
Tony Hoyle, Northallerton, North Yorkshire
A few years ago, I was working at Wylfa nuclear station on Anglesey. There are several windmills on the road between the power station and the hotel where I was staying. I remember one windless evening, when I was glad that I didn't need to rely on those windmills, otherwise I'd have gone to bed cold and hungry. The larger the windfarm, the larger the power shortfall when they aren't running or are only going at part-speed.
Brian Rowney, Astley, Manchester
Windmills are great as children’s toys, but to base the continued existence on our society on them is ridiculous. They are an absurd and silly diversion from the real problem. As a nation we are spending more on ring-tones than we are on nuclear fusion, one of the genuine potential alternatives to our present energy sources crisis, which sums up our priorities.
Robin Stafford Allen, Weston On The Green, Oxfordshire
Sail while the breeze blows, wind and tide wait for no man. Just as in the era of working sailing boats, no wind equals no power. Perhaps the answer lies in farming tidal energy on-land? With global warming we won’t have to wait too long.
Robert Falk, London
For much of the time it will be the world's largest offshore still farm; what will we do then? Without back-up generation and storage the reported "capacity" will never be realised. Adding to this the costs of system control, distribution, access and maintenance in a marine environment means there are more effective (and environmentally acceptable) options than wind as an energy source.
R H Minter, Brockdish, Norfolk
The IMechE Safety and Reliability Group and Power Division very recently held a seminar on the through life reliability and integrity of marine energy projects and from that it is clear that more attention needs to be given to that aspect if it is to reach full potential. It can make a meaningful contribution but must be a reliable one.
Dick Vote, Aberdeen
Yesterday evening I drove home at about 1830 hrs along the M66. Up on a hill was a wind farm; not a blade was turning. Smoke from some domestic chimney stacks was climbing vertically. We don't get many days like that in the northwest, but it does illustrate a drawback with wind power.
Tony Pritchard, Preston, Lancashire
It's great to see the UK investing in renewable energy. This is a step in the right direction but not a major milestone. My only concern is the number required to make a significant difference to our energy needs and the effect of hundreds or thousands of wind turbines on the environment. No one wants them to spoil the beautiful coastline of our island.
Peter Edwards, Kingsfold, West Sussex
Whilst there is a place for wind power in our future generating mix, reservations remain as to the cost effectiveness and the unreliability of output (back up capacity is still required). More reliable sources of low carbon energy should be given greater financial support than wind power e.g. solar power in the desert, tidal power and the must-have of nuclear power.
Peter Briers, Sutton Coldfield, Birmingham
More effort is required to be put into energy storage devices. Wind Power is nominally free apart from capital costs and some maintenance, but is highly intermittent. All large wind farms should be obliged to provide facilities for storage of energy on site or close by, so that all energy can be harvested even when not required, and can be released into the Grid at times of need. More joined up thinking is required!
Peter Thompson, Sutton
NO – windpower is a dead end. Why?
- Output is 25 – 30% of installed capacity.
- Output is randomly intermittent, so standby capacity is needed – until and unless a cheap, reliable large scale means of storing electrical power is found.
- Cost per MWh is high and windpower therefore needs large subsidies.
- In the UK, windpower is generally not in the right place (generation in the north and west; demand in the southeast).
I am all for renewable energy – hydro, solar, wave, even tidal, as it is predictably intermittent. Windpower comes after all these.
Peter Maitland, Bristol
Rated capacity is all very well but how much will the farm produce when the winds are light or non-existent? A more meaningful contribution to the UK's energy needs would come from using the several hundred years supply of coal beneath our feet. It would do wonders for the balance of payments as well.
Peter Howells, Tamworth, Staffordshire
Wind turbines are one of the renewable energy systems the UK is developing. However, it is certainly not a system that can cover all our needs, and should continue to be a part of a network of energy producing systems, in a mixed energy economy.
Paul Markwick, Wellesbourne, Warwickshire
Renewable projects such as this are a great showcase for the technologies and the engineering that makes it all possible. However I cannot help but think that UK Government has the wrong target. A target of percentage power generation from renewables leads to a very different outcome to a carbon emissions reduction target.
Paul Cullen, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire
Politicians of all persuasions have allowed themselves to get pulled in all directions by environmentalists and various lobby groups in the energy field and the result may still be that we end up with power cuts over the next 5-10 years as our old nuclear power stations drop off line. As engineers we have a responsibility for this, as there are not enough professional engineers in politics and our voice hasn't been heard; equally, our view hasn't always been unified. Much has been written about the subject and from what I can gather there are some basic rules that apply, namely: we must have a secure base-load which should be generated by nuclear and/or other clean, land-based, power sources. Wind power is expensive and fickle; there are only certain areas of the British Isles that have regular strong winds and these do not include the north coast of Kent. Offshore wind farms are expensive and are costly to connect to the grid and to maintain. Onshore wind farms are inefficient, unsightly and are not supported by the public. Tidal power is available in large quantities around the British Isles and this is where renewable investment should be focused; the Severn Barrage is the obvious project with the scale to make a difference. Microgeneration, including combined heat and power systems, heat pumps and solar power should also be subsidised and all new houses should be self-sufficient and/or carbon-neutral.
Nick Schulkins, Winchester, Hants
A step not a milestone, and the UK content was? I suspect small. Wind will make a contribution to the UK energy mix but I'd rather hear about the ground being broken for the proposed new nuclear power stations. Now that would be a proper milestone.
Mike Billington, Suffolk
I hope the local grid can take 300MW from this windfarm. It is certainly more of a milestone than a millstone and will apparently repay its embodied energy investment very quickly.
But the windfarm debate also illustrates that we may not have the luxury of baseload power availability for future generations, so perhaps we'd better get used to it.
Roger Middleton, Epsom, Surrey
300 MW of wind power on line is an important contribution but when are we going to be able to welcome on line the gigawatts of nuclear power we also need? Over 20 years of indecision needs addressing now.
Michael Newbound, Bath
It is a good idea to try new technology but is it enough? There is plenty of coastline for such installations (Just keep away from Bournemouth and Milford-on-sea) and all green power should be encouraged. I only hope that the government doesn't see this as a way of avoiding the Nuclear debate.
Martyn S. Ralph, Hilton, Derbyshire
Wind power is the future. How can it not be? Free power for the foreseeable future with nuclear providing base load and fossil fuels filling in the gaps. Bring it on!
Malcolm Savage, Stockport, Cheshire
I believe this is an important step forward. We always need to start somewhere. I hope it is a success and more wind farms are to be built based on experience. Its contribution to the energy need will increase.
Jim Yip, Stockport, Cheshire
As a technical exercise it is wonderful, as an overall 'Green Project' forget it. The thought of maintaining this lot in anything over a force 4 or 5 wind is simply mind boggling, any wind over that and the cost will just get silly, no-one is making much of the fact that each of these giants need looking after individually, and like my wife they are 'High Maintenance'!
Ian Morris, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire
Offshore UK is definitely the place to put wind farms.
We have the skills and the infrastructure to look after them from the UK offshore Oil and Gas Industry and lots of wind offshore.
Even though wind farms in some locations can look very attractive we need to be aware that too many of them will just spoil where we live. Who wants to live next door to a High Voltage Pylon, look how they spoil our countryside. Wind turbines are nosy and you do not want to be near one when it is snowing- high velocity snowball hurt if you are in their firing line.
Offshore is the place for them. A great development. To make a significant impact we need more of them.
John Hopkins Aberdeen
Thank you Sweden for providing the windmills for 200,000 houses. Pity we hadn't got the energy to do it ourselves.
Jim Hogg, Sheffield
I have 2 concerns.
- We may be world leaders in wind energy, but how many wind turbines do we actually make?
- 'Non-fossil energies', including nuclear, are attractive, however I am not convinced that wind and tidal will not slow the earth’s rotation or re-route the Gulf Stream. At the very least there are dramatic effects on local birdlife and coastal ecology.
John Hadland, Leicester
This is a very important milestone in renewables. While there is some evidence that wind is not as reliable a provider as we need for sustained production it can (and should) be a contributor. We need to tap every source of power that we can so long as it is sensibly economical to do so, the need for power is not likely to diminish so every source has to be valued.
Graham Hughes, Cirencester, Glos
"I agree that we should explore all reasonable forms of energy generation and create a system that is as diverse, robust and economically sound as possible. What is not clear is the long term mix that would be of maximum benefit to the UK taking into account lifetime costs, environmental impact, safety, reliability and efficient use of natural resources."
Glyn Hawkins, Swindon, Wilts
Of course, the opening of a wind farm with a capacity of 300MW is a milestone, but it represents less capacity than one Magnox station from the early 1960’s. Furthermore, it is unrealistic and dangerous to believe that 20% of Britain’s electricity, which is the Government’s stated objective, can come from wind power. The variability of the wind is such that there would need to be virtually 100% back-up from more dependable means of power generation, otherwise industry, commerce and individuals will be at risk of loss of supply. To protect against this risk, which surely the country must, we will still need virtually the same number of other types, presumably, mostly nuclear and clean coal plants with or without the wind farm capacity.
Geoff Gill Member, Thornbury, Bristol
I see the farm as a significant step in providing sustainable low carbon energy. My biggest concern is what the through life cost per kw will be over the next twenty years. I suspect it will be more than anyone envisages, though I'd love to be wrong.
Gary Lock, Leatherhead, Surrey
There is too much reliance in political circles on wind energy. It’s not a constant, and the infrastructure issues are not seen as taken seriously. We have seen power transmission problems on land. The risks are greater when there is 20km of ocean involved.
Also, assuming Newton was right, we are not creating energy here, just converting it. Will we get to the stage when there are so many turbines in the wind, the Earth will slow down?
Frank Ashurst, Brentwood, Essex
Wind can make an excellent contribution as a local power source in remote (and windy!) locations; for base load power it makes no sense. This just illustrates the shambles that is the UK's generation strategy - now where did I put those candles?
Edwin Smith, Marlow, Buckinghamshire
In the overall scheme of things the power generated by a wind turbine is limited. Given the design, installation and environmental impacts, whether onshore or offshore, wind energy can only be supplementary to large scale power generation.
In any case, would you want a wind turbine in your back yard, or even in sight of land!
Barry Durrant, Harpenden, Hertfordshire
All well and good but, to put into perspective, it's the largest in Europe but it's still only a third the output of a single Nuclear power station.
How many windmills would we need, and would we have the space?
David Schaffert, Thornbury, South Gloucestershire
It may be a significant milestone for wind farms but due to unpredictable wind supply in the UK then underwater renewable energy devices are far more suitable and beneficial as offshore installations without the need for back-up energy generation.
David Thornton, Banchory, Aberdeenshire
While wind power onshore can be economic, offshore wind power is very expensive (ref. Mott MacDonald). Poor economics plus intermittency and the need for back-up means that the enormous sums planned to be spent on offshore wind power look to be extremely bad value for scarce money, with damaging consequences for all consumers.
David Odling, Altrincham
It is recognised by most that there is unlikely to be a single solution to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels. Therefore development of renewable energy sources such as the new wind farm has got to be a good thing, even if it is only part of the answer to meeting future energy demand.
Ian Bishop, Aberdeen
We have to try. We cannot stand idly by and wonder want happened when we run out of oil/gas, when the lights go out.
Colin Sanderson, Stonehaven
It will only be an important development of renewable energy when the out of phase variable outputs of the wind turbines and the demands of the electrical supply system can be fully smoothed by a suitable electrical energy storage system e.g. batteries.
Rupert Clarke, Sevenoaks, Kent
Of course this is a milestone. While there will always be a concern that the wind does not blow constantly, it would be remiss indeed to ignore the vast potential of offshore wind as part of a strategy for renewables; the UK is after all pretty well placed to exploit the wind - and without massive intrusion into the countryside.
Charles Melton, Brighton
Until we find a way of storing what is generated wind energy is like the froth on top of beer, a little bit extra if you need it but otherwise not that useful. Stop playing with toys and get nuclear.
Peter Bowden, Hyde
No. The issue is that the UK needs to have a balanced energy system which does not rely on one form of energy supply, nor is reliant on energy imported from outside the UK.
Wind energy can contribute but if my Maths is correct one wind turbine can produce 3MW of power. I would suggest therefore you would need a large number of wind turbines to have a significant contribution to the overall energy usage of the UK. I would also be concerned about the long term availability of offshore wind farms; how easy are they to maintain particularly at sea? Also what happens if there is no wind?
Clearly renewable energy in any form has a key role to play to ensuring we have a healthy future on this planet. However, I would suggest that we are still going to be reliant on fossil fuels in the near to mid-term future and nuclear energy has to be an option.
We also have to become more energy efficient. In this area I do not believe the government or learned bodies are still doing enough.
Mark Blowers, Walton-on-Thames
It’s hard to understand the commercial viability of locating these huge machines off-shore, in a remote, corrosive and hazardous environment. We have ample windy hillsides and coast line where turbines are more accessible, cost less to erect and maintain, and are not a hazard to shipping. The equivalent investment in civil works and steel fabrication would have been better applied to wave or tidal schemes, which have a much smaller geographical footprint/aesthetic impact, and more importantly have virtually 100% on-time. Harvesting energy when the wind is blowing is all very well, but as Canute discovered, you can’t stop the tide.
Ian Bell, Perth, UK
Such a major increase in wind energy demonstrates a serious commitment to alternative energy by this country, and the CO2 reduction that goes with it. As the largest wind farm in the world it does stand out as the largest, and most important, milestone of the millennium so far in renewable energy and an encouragement to other developed nations.
Barry Kempster, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire
Not this subject again! Clearly wind can't provide a constant reliable supply of electricity, so to allow for the vagaries of the weather we need to either duplicate the capacity or import power from overseas. Together with the subsidies provided for wind generation, we end up with a very expensive solution. The vast majority of government support is directed to windfarms whilst largely ignoring more reliable renewables such as tidal power. We should concentrate our efforts on technologies which would be globally saleable or locally cheap and reliable. Energy storage should be the focus for development as this can overcome many of the shortcomings of the existing renewable generation.
Andrew Taylor, Warwickshire
You can’t control when the wind blows – and you definitely need backup (either coal, gas or nuclear) for when the wind is too light – or too strong.
We are also out in front in terms of off-shore wind generation (producing more electricity from sea-based turbines than the rest of the globe put together).
Alison Owen, Leeds