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What is wind power?

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The wind is a renewable energy source. Wind turbines can convert its kinetic energy into electricity. As the windiest country in Europe, the UK is well placed to harness wind energy.

The main advantage of wind turbines as a means of generating electricity is their small carbon footprint. All the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions associated with wind turbines arise from their manufacture, construction and maintenance, not from their operation.

However, turbines can only generate electricity when the wind is blowing at a suitable speed, so they need to be backed up by other forms of electricity generation. Onshore wind turbines can produce electricity at costs closely competitive with other established sources of energy in the UK. But there is only a limited number of suitably windy sites in the UK, and concerns about the visual impact of wind turbines can sometimes make it difficult to secure planning permission.

Offshore wind farms

Offshore wind turbines have much less visual impact for UK residents, and there is much more space available offshore in which to build them. Offshore wind turbines can also take advantage of higher and more consistent wind speeds. However, the offshore environment makes manufacturing, constructing and maintaining offshore wind turbines more complex and hazardous than for onshore projects. Consequently, offshore wind turbines are currently a much more expensive way to generate electricity than onshore turbines.

Information sources

How electricity is generated through wind

Diagram displays electricity generation

See how wind turbines turn the wind's kinetic energy into electricity.

is it plentiful?

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Wind is one of those practically inexhaustible sources of energy. The biggest constraint on harnessing the wind is the number of turbines the UK can build, but the move offshore opens up a greater number of suitable windy sites.

Is it secure?

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The UK is one of the windiest countries in Europe and obviously the wind does not need to be imported. But there are times when the wind does not blow so backup power plants are needed that can generate at relatively short notice.

Is it predictable?

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UK wind farms have an assumed availability at peak of 10%. Wind is intermittent. But this can be addressed by storing its energy output, providing quick-to-respond flexible backup and distributing wind turbines across a wide geographical area.

Is it affordable?

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By 2020 the cost of generating electricity using onshore wind should be about 8.3p/kWh, and for offshore wind 12.5p/kWh. Wind has high upfront construction costs but once running, the fuel is free.

Is it clean?

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Wind farms have a carbon footprint of 11gCO2e/kWh. Wind energy is not zero-carbon due to emissions from constructing, maintaining and decommissioning wind farms, but it has one of the lowest carbon footprints of the scalable generating technologies.

EDF Energy's approach

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Wind energy is an important part of EDF Energy's mix.