Environment

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The Gwynt y Mor offshore wind farm, in waters off the coast of Wales. The U.K. is home to a mature offshore wind sector.
Ben Birchall | PA Images | Getty Images

Wind power was Britain’s biggest source of electricity in the first quarter of 2023, overtaking natural gas and highlighting the increasingly important role renewables are set to play in the years ahead.

According to researchers at Imperial College London, wind turbines provided 32.4% of Britain’s electricity in the first three months of the year. Gas, a fossil fuel, was responsible for 31.7% of the electricity fuel mix.

The results were made public prior to the publication of Drax Electric Insights, an independent report put together by a team at Imperial.

In a statement Wednesday Drax, an energy firm, said it was the first time wind had “provided the largest share of power in any quarter in the history of the country’s electricity grid.”

Other sources in the mix included:

  • Imports (12.6%)
  • Nuclear (12.5%)
  • Biomass (5.7%)
  • Solar (2.3%)
  • Hydro (1.5%)
  • Coal (1.3%)

In its statement, Drax said wind-based output was 3% higher compared to the first quarter of 2022. Gas, by contrast, declined by 5%.

Wind turbines, according to the analysis, produced 24 terawatt hours of electricity. This, Wednesday’s announcement said, would be enough to charge over 300 million Tesla Model Ys.

“The renewable power revolution has transformed how Britain gets its electricity, making our power grid cleaner and greener,” Imperial College London’s Iain Staffell, lead author of Drax Electric Insights series, said.

“There are still many hurdles to reaching a completely fossil fuel-free grid, but wind out supplying gas for the first time is a genuine milestone event,” he went on to state.

The U.K. is home to a mature offshore wind sector that looks set to expand in the coming years, with authorities aiming for as much as 50 gigawatts of capacity by 2030.

Major offshore wind farms include Hornsea 2, a 165-turbine facility that’s been described by Danish energy firm Orsted as the “world’s biggest offshore wind farm.”

Hornsea 2, which is now fully operational, has a capacity of more than 1.3 gigawatts, but other projects off the U.K.’s coast are set to be even bigger.

Situated in waters off northeast England, in the North Sea, the Dogger Bank Wind Farm will have a total capacity of 3.6 GW once fully up and running.

Development of the project is taking place in three phases, with those behind it saying it will be able to power 6 million U.K. homes. A fourth phase of the wind farm, known as Dogger Bank D, has also been proposed.

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