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  News about Britain
August 2003
Each month, the background to a story about Britain.
This topic is now closed, but you can still read about wind power and also read the comments we received.

  wind turbines  

Story summary

A huge expansion in UK wind power has been announced by the government. The plans pave the way for thousands of coastal wind turbines, mainly in the north east of England, the Wash and the Thames Estuary. Licences are being issued for thousands of turbines to be built off the British coast to generate as much energy as around six nuclear power stations.


Wind power

There is currently one working off shore wind farm, with one other under construction and another 14 in the pipeline. An off shore wind turbine is similar to those on shore, but taller at almost 60 metres. The three blades - each around 35 metres long - turn as the wind blows, driving a shaft that goes into the unit mounted at the top of the pylon. Inside, a gearbox increases the rotation speed. A generator then uses magnetic fields to convert that energy into electricity.

The turbines are normally situated around 5 kilometres from the shore, in relatively shallow water around 30 metres deep. Undersea cables take the electricity, at 700 volts, to the shore. There, a transformer converts it to the appropriate voltage for the UK's national grid, typically 33,000 volts.

The UK currently lags behind much of the rest of Europe in the use of wind power, despite having over a third of Europe's total off-shore wind potential. Europe's wind generated electricity capacity currently meets the domestic needs of an estimated five million people. It will also make a major contribution to the government's targets for renewable energy and create up to 20,000 jobs.

The move has been welcomed by environmental groups but
Environmental organisations Friends of the Earth and Green Peace said they were pleased with the plans, although some sites will face objections because of a possible impact on birds and wildlife.

"Hopefully this marks the start of a massive programme to harness the considerable opportunities offered by wind, tides and waves," said energy campaigner Bryony Worthington. "Renewable energy has the potential to provide all our energy needs and is a clean, safe and affordable alternative to nuclear energy and inefficient coal-fired power stations."

However, electricity prices may go up, as renewable energy is more expensive than gas powered energy because gas prices are low at the moment.

The Trade Secretary Patricia Hewitt announced the plans. She said investment in energy efficiency would also be increased to minimise energy waste from poorly insulated houses.

"As we sort out the energy efficiency side, we can make sure the bills to consumers don't go up because people will need less electricity to get the same amount of warmth and power."

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UK needs varied energy sources


Scotland's most powerful wind farm has been opened near Peebles in the Scottish Borders.

November 2003: The UK's biggest offshore wind farm begins generating electicity.

BBC Wiltshire

Residents believe a farmer's plans to put up five wind turbines at Watchfield near Shrivenham will be an eyesore. The farmer, Adam Twine says the turbines would be a source of environment-friendly energy.

External link:
British Wind Energy Association

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