Renewable wind power has generated more energy than natural gas for the first time.
Researchers at Imperial College London have revealed that, in the first quarter of 2023, wind farms generated almost one-third of the UK’s total electricity.
This marks the first time a renewable energy source has overtaken natural gas as the country’s greatest producer of electrical energy.
Wind power becomes Britain’s main source of electricity – a good sign for a greener future
Imperial College London carried out the research on behalf of energy firm Drax. Drax released a statement recognising that this was the first time wind power had “provided the largest share of power in any quarter in the history of the country’s electricity grid”.
Indeed, wind power accounted for almost one-third of the UK’s electricity – 32.4%. Meanwhile, gas produced 31.7% of the country’s electrical power.
While this is admittedly a slim margin, it signals hope for the future growth of renewable energy sources, especially when wind is combined with other renewable sources.
Biomass accounted for 5.7% of electricity produced, solar 2.3%, and hydropower 1.5%, meaning that renewables made up 41.9% of the UK’s electrical power in total.
Among non-renewable sources, nuclear energy produced 12.5% and coal 1.3%. Imports accounted for 12.6%.
“The renewable power revolution” – the results of the research
The research found that wind turbines produced 24 terawatt hours of electricity – enough, claimed Drax, to charge more than 300 million Tesla cars.
Another promising finding was that the use of wind power had increased by three per cent compared to the first quarter of 2022. The use of gas, on the other hand, fell by five per cent.
Lead author and energy researcher at Imperial College London, Iain Staffell, lauded the findings. He said, “The renewable power revolution has transformed how Britain gets its electricity, making our power grid cleaner and greener”.
Still some way to go – hurdles recognised
Staffell also described wind out supplying gas as “a milestone event” but was quick to point out that there remain “many hurdles to reaching a completely fossil fuel-free grid”.
Perhaps the main obstacle is that building new onshore wind turbines has been difficult since 2015 legislation restricted them to land identified for development in plans drawn up by local councils. UK prime minister Rishi Sunak has agreed to relax these restrictions.
Another obstacle is waiting times. The BBC reported that several renewable energy plans have been delayed by up to 15 years due to a lack of capacity in the national grid.
Furthermore, electricity accounts for a relatively small amount of the UK’s energy needs. For example, natural gas heats most UK homes, and much work would be required to equip homes with electric-powered heat pumps.