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Wind Power Becomes the Largest Source of Electricity in Britain

Hornsea wind farm
The Hornsea wind farm in the UK North Sea

Published May 14, 2023 5:13 PM by The Maritime Executive

For the first time, Britain’s wind farms generated more electricity than gas-fired power stations in the first three months of this year. These findings were released last week ahead of the quarterly Drax Electric Insights report. The publication is an independent report by academics from Imperial College London commissioned by the UK renewable power producer Drax Group.

During the first quarter of 2023, almost a third (32.4 percent) of UK’s electricity was supplied from wind power, outpacing gas, which delivered 31.7 percent. This is the first time that wind has provided the largest share of power in any quarter in the history of the country’s electricity grid.

Across the three months, Britain’s turbines generated 24 TWh of electricity. This wind output was three percent higher than during the same quarter last year, while gas was down by five percent.

Further, almost 42 percent of Britain’s electricity came from renewable sources (wind, solar, biomass and hydro) during the quarter under review. Fossil fuels supplied 33 percent, with the rest coming from imports from abroad and the country’s shrinking nuclear fleet.

“In the space of a decade the UK has almost completely cut out coal, after relying on the most polluting fossil fuel for over a century to power our country. There are still many hurdles to reaching a completely fossil-free grid, but wind out-supplying gas for the first time is a genuine milestone event,” said Dr.Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, and lead author of the Drax Electric Insights report series.

These findings come several months after wind-generated electricity reached over 20 GW in November 2022, according to data by UK’s National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO).

In the same year, the proportion of wind-generated electricity was estimated at 26 percent, behind gas at 38.5 percent.

Partly, the rise of wind-generated electricity in the UK stems from the country’s bet on offshore wind, which it has identified as a critical technology in achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Currently, UK is one of the leading offshore wind power markets with an installed capacity of over 13 GW spread across 44 wind farms. The ambition is to secure 50 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, of which 5 GW will use floating technology.