The astonishing rise of wind energy

Charley Rattan

Renewable Energy Troubleshooter

I attended All Energy recently where some of the discussions set me thinking about how far the wind industry has come, and in such a short time.

The first UK Wind Farm was built at Delabole in Cornwall. When it was initially being developed the turbine sizes were expected to be in the region of 100kw each. As the scheme progressed there was something of a quantum leap and the ten machines installed were rated at 400kw each giving a nameplate of 4MW. Excited industry insiders confidently predicted that if the current trend continued, then machines of 1MW may ultimately be possible.

Later on it was decided to re-power the ageing site and I was Project Manager as this took place in 2010. The machine chosen were Enercon E70’s rated at 2.3 MW each.  The revised layout was worked around 4 machines and these went live at the end of 2010. Fewer than half of the existing machines, albeit with a higher tip height, but at 9.2 MW more than doubling the existing output.

The trend continued. My next involvement was at Hunterston in Scotland. The idea was to provide an onshore test bed with marine characteristic which could trial the next generation of offshore machines. By this stage most installations offshore were of machines of around 3 MW, but at Hunterston we wanted to trial the significantly larger 6MW prototypes.

Hunterston has been operational for a number of years now and the machine effectively re-rated at 7MW Tip heights increased but only marginally for what were already large structures. The success of the kit is evidenced by it being chosen for the Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm off the North East of Scotland.

The machines are still spinning and are there for all to see but still the industry moved on. 9 MW machines are installed at while GE have announced a 12MW machine.  The figure are incredible – and represents a 120 fold increase on Delabole’s pioneering energisation of 1991.

So what next? Perhaps more integrated developments rather than pure size increases measure in MW. Developers are starting to mix and match. Wind with solar, wind with solar and batteries and hydrogen gas. More recently offshore wind and wave combinations have started to enter the public domain.

So, from a small land owner driven scheme in Cornwall an industry many believe merits a UK sectoral deal has arisen. Major oil and gas players are entering the market and the industry is gaining global traction. A tribute to he tenacious individuals who fought to make it happen. Well done indeed!

If you want to realise the economic opportunities and realities behind this remarkable story then drop me a line:charley@charleyrattan.co.uk