The United Kingdom, racing toward a 2020 goal of 15 percent renewable energy, used less power in 2011 than in 2010, and an increasing proportion of what it did use came from renewables as wind power generation grew substantially.
Renewable electricity generation was 34.75 terawatt-hours (TWh) in 2011, up 35 percent from 2010, according to a government report [PDF]. With a record-breaking December putting a punctuation mark on a blustery year, and increased capacity also contributing, offshore wind generation rose by 68 per cent and onshore wind spiked 46 percent higher.
More rain gave hydropower a big boost, too, pushing production 58 percent higher in 2011 compared with a year earlier.
Wind energy output powered the equivalent of a fifth of the U.K.’s homes in 2011, an increase by over a half from 2010, according to RenewableUK, Britain’s trade association for the wind, wave and tidal industries. The group noted that wind power capacity increased by over a gigawatt in 2011, and output rose by over 5.3 TWh to 15.5 TWh.
“While we can’t guarantee last year’s strong winds will be repeated, we’re already on course to install at least another gigawatt of wind capacity this year, ensuring that the share of electricity that we get from wind will continue to rise—while the carbon emissions from our electricity generation system go down,” said RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Maria McCaffery in a statement.
A deeper look at the renewable energy trends provided by the government [PDF] showed the role that high winds, particularly late in the year, played in driving up wind power generation.
Because the wind ebbs and flows, turbines produce at their nameplate capacity for just a fraction of any given day. The ratio of its actual output to its potential output is called the capacity factor. In 2011, onshore wind’s capacity factor averaged 27.4 percent, a 5.8 percentage point increase over 2010’s 21.7 percent, while the offshore wind capacity factor jumped 6.2 percentage points, from 30.4 percent to 36.7 percent. Together, the wind power sector operated at a 30 percent capacity factor in 2011.
Overall, renewable energy’s share of electricity generation rose 2.5 percentage points from 2010 to a record 9.5 percent. Meanwhile, 40 percent of the U.K.’s electricity came courtesy natural gas (6 percentage points lower than in 2010), while 30 percent was derived from coal. Nuclear power increased by 3 percentage points from 2010 to 19 percent of the total. At the same time, total primary energy consumption for energy uses fell by 7.5 per cent from 2010, the government said.