All you need to know about wind power

The potential of wind power is enormous! Bringing clean energy to power homes across the UK. But what are we doing about it you ask? Well, lots actually! We're investing, innovating and providing some of the much needed new affordable, low carbon electricity to the UK.

Breeze through the basics

What is wind power?

Wind is a type of solar energy. Wind is caused by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the differences in the earth's surface and the rotation of the earth. Wind flow can be harvested by wind turbines to generate electricity.

How does wind energy work?

Wind turbines convert kinetic energy from the wind into power. A generator is then used to convert the mechanical power into electricity, powering homes and businesses across the UK.

How efficient is wind power?

Generally, a wind turbine is around 30-45% efficient increasing to 50% during peak wind times. If wind turbines were to be 100% efficient, the wind would completely drop after going through the turbine.

In the UK, wind turbines are typically producing electricity 70-80% of the time, which makes them a reliable source of power throughout the year. 

What is a wind turbine?

A wind turbine is simply the opposite of a fan. Instead of using electricity to create wind, they use wind to create electricity. When hit by the wind (this doesn't have to be strong winds either) the blades rotate. This motion turns a rotor, which spins a generator, this motion creates kinetic energy, which is then used to create electricity.

How does a wind turbine work?

Simply put wind turbines work by being hit by the wind (which can be as little as 3-5 metres per second). The wind then turns the blades of a turbine around a rotor, which turns a generator and that creates electricity.

If you’ve ever flown a kite or sailed a boat, you’ll know that there’s plenty of power in the wind. Of course, making use of the wind's power is nothing new – windmills have been used around the world to grind flour or power machinery for hundreds of years. And wind-powered boats have been around for millennia.

So there’s plenty of wind power, but how are there other factors involved in generating electricity from wind turbines?


Choosing the best spot

As with many natural energy sources they’re rarely 100% consistent. Winds can drop, blow too strongly or become gusty – none of these is very good for wind turbines. So finding the right spot where the wind strength is as predictable as possible is crucial.

Wind is influenced by the landscape: hills, valleys, forests and buildings. These all deflect and change the power available so flat, high and uninterrupted locations are best for wind turbines. That’s why there are plenty of off-shore wind farms and why you'll see turbines located at the top of hills.

Countries that have flat landscapes such as Belgium and the Netherlands are good locations for wind farms as there’s very little to interrupt the wind flow.


Facing the wind

Every wind turbine has a sensor that detects the direction of the strongest wind. The streamlined structure behind the blade (called the nacelle) houses the mechanics to turn the top of the structure, putting the blades in the perfect position for the strongest wind. When the wind is too strong, turbines have a brake to slow the rotors down, avoiding any damage.

What is a wind farm?

We group our wind turbines together to generate bulk electrical power. The power is then fed into the national utility grid and renewable energy is distributed into thousands of our customer's homes all over the UK.

Onshore vs. Offshore wind farms

We have 36 on and offshore wind farms – but what's the difference?

The verdict:

It's a draw! Both wind farms provide clean and low-carbon energy. And most importantly – wind is a renewable source that'll never run out!

The life of a wind turbine

Wind farms can be built quicker than any other type of power station. The average time to assemble a wind farm that's capable of generating 50 MW of energy is only 6 months!

Wind turbine's are built to last between 20–25 years. Some parts may need replacing during this time.

The future of renewable energy

We have more than 1 GW of renewables projects in planning and development – that’s 1000 MW. So to give you an idea of the power – just 7.2 MW can power up to 4,000 homes!

One of the largest onshore wind farms is in Europe as part of the EDF Renewables group. The 177 MW Dorenell wind farm near Dufftown in the Scottish Highlands is home to:

Our long-term approach – what's next?

We've partnered with the communities where our wind farms reside to create opportunities for the future. Here's how: 

  • Creating apprenticeships at Burnhead.
  • Supporting local education and training for the life of the wind farm by developing the fund at Corriemoillie.
  • Developing the environment fund at Fallago Rig, which is now 5 years old and has shared more £1 million across many local projects in the Scottish Borders.

What does it mean for you?

We’re one of the UK’s leading renewable energy companies, with 36 wind farms in operation and one of the largest operational battery storage units in Europe. Discover how we’re planning to build a sustainable future through wind power.

You can also go for a spin around our Fallago Rigg wind farm with Camilla Thurlow in episode 5 of our Electric Adventures.

Looking to become an expert on wind power?

Our Innovation team is busy with the technical stuff when it comes to wind energy. Find out how they use Big Data to create value out of offshore farms. You can also read about challenges of floating offshore turbines.