Wind Energy to Beat Coal in the UK?

published Sep 01, 2014
2 min read

What Is Wind Energy?

Wind is produced by the uneven heating of the atmosphere from the sun, irregularities of the Earth’s surface, and Earth’s rotation. Thus, it can be stated that wind is a form of solar energy. The different variations of the wind’s flow patterns are altered by the Earth’s terrain, diverse bodies of water, and vegetative cover. The wind flow created, also known as motion energy, when collected by wind turbines, can be used to create electricity.

The term “wind energy” describes the process through which wind is being used to generate mechanical power or electricity. Using wind turbines helps convert the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power. Adding a generator to the system converts this mechanical power into electricity, used to power schools, businesses, and houses.

Wind turbines work on the same principles like aircraft propeller blades, turning in the moving air, hence powering an electric generator that supplies an electric current. To put it simply, wind turbines are the opposite of a fan. Rather than using electricity to make wind, like a fan, a wind turbine uses wind to produce electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, connected to a generator and delivers electricity.

Wind Energy vs. Coal in the UK

According to figures published by the government, the UK has broken a number of wind records over the past 12 months. The report confirmed that in 2013, 15% of the electricity produced in the country has come from renewables, from which 7.9% was provided by onshore and offshore wind turbines.


Ireland’s Contribution

The Emerald Isle has become Ireland’s green energy cradle. Wind energy has reduced pollution and also protected consumers’ pockets from near-record natural gas prices because it provided 24% of Ireland’s electricity for the entire month of December. This considerable contribution of wind energy helped lessen the monthly average wholesale electricity price by 5%. There were times when wind power steadily contributed 50% of the electricity in Ireland, which is notably impressive for an island’s power system without the edge of large power lines to import and export power to nearby power systems. On the 5th of December, the output from Ireland’s wind turbines hit a peak at a record of 1588 megawatts (MW) with another new record of 1769 MW set on December 17th at 6:30 pm.

Britain’s Contribution

In the same note as Ireland’s energy accomplishments, Britain has set a new wind record productivity of 6,053 MW on the morning of December 2nd, 14% of the electricity on the U.K. system. During this period of high winds approximately 7,900 MW of gas-fired systems were shut down due to the simple fact that wind and solar don’t require any fuel costs, obviously making them cheaper than coal and gas. Interestingly enough, the French energy giant EDF had to shut down four nuclear reactors for eight weeks due to a malfunction in a boiler unit. The National Grid has declared that these closures haven’t affected UK’s energy supply given the energy that was being produced by the wind turbines.


The National Grid’s records dropped one after another. Over the course of the week, starting December 16th, wind power achieved a record 783,886 MW hours – proving to be the highest ever for a seven-day period – providing 13% of Britain’s total electricity needs in that week. Another example of the wind’s potential in Britain happened on the Saturday before Christmas, a busy day for everyone with huge electricity demands. There was a daily record amount of energy produced from wind with 132,812 MWh generated, which means a whooping 17% of the of the nation’s total power consumption that day. But there is even more good news; smaller wind farms that feed local networks don’t have their output recorded by National Grid which would make the figures above hit at least 30%.

Before the month of August 2014, there were another four days when wind generated more energy than the nuclear power plants. These were the 8th of February 2014, 15th of March 2014, 19th of March 2014 and 20th of March 2014.

August was by far the best month for wind power in 2014, exceeding the amount of energy coal has produced on the 3rd, 9th, 11th, 12th, and 17th. Slowly but surely, wind energy is becoming UK’s new powerhouse, overthrowing coal and nuclear as one of the most important resources. Due to the fact that it continues to exceed its own records and since autumn and winter are right around the corner, even better results can be expected especially when the electricity demand is high. The 11th and and 17th have offered the best results, wind providing 21% and respectively 22%. Overall, the month of August generated a bit over 10% of the country’s energy over the whole month, being really close to December 2013’s 13% record.

There is no doubt that the UK wind industry will continue to expand, thus the British are going to see more and more records being broken, as this technology continues to develop and increase month by month. Let’s not forget that every unit of clean electricity produced by wind is translated into one less unit generated by using expensive imports of fossil fuels, thus representing a significant economic and environmental benefit for all of us. It also puts UK on the right track for reaching their 2020 CO2 emissions target.