The positive effect that wind turbines in the UK have had on our carbon emissions is greater than originally thought according the University of Edinburgh’s analysis of the National Grid latest figures. Although it has been known for some time that wind power has played a substantial part in cutting the UK’s carbon emissions by preventing the manufacture of 35 million tonnes of greenhouse gases from 2008 to 2014 the overall effect is now known to be greater.
The report by engineering researchers at the University and published this week in Energy Policy looked at power generation figures from various renewable and traditional sources from 2008 to 2014 with results showing wind farms to have made the greatest impact in limiting carbon emissions in relation to the other sources, in total saving the equivalent of 2.3 million less cars on the road over the same six year period.
The report also showed good timing being released the week after the UK wind industry set a new record for power output at 10,000MW last Thursday afternoon. That is 23% of the country’s entire electricity demand for that period.
The report authors speaking with Business Green claim that the Scottish and UK emission targets could be met with greater investment in wind energy generation.
“Until now, the impact of clean energy from wind farms was unclear,” said Dr Camilla Thomson, a carbon footprinting specialist from the University of Edinburgh, who led the study. “Our findings show that wind plays an effective role in curbing emissions that would otherwise be generated from conventional sources, and it has a key role to play in helping to meet Britain’s need for power in future.”
The most eye-catching part of the report however is the claim that government estimates have seriously underplayed the emissions reduction benefits of wind generated energy with an additional 3.4million tonnes of greenhouse gases saved.
The University claim that the report’s findings are the most accurate to date as it uses real data as opposed to estimated output figures, take inefficiency into account, and breaks down the output figures into 30minute blocks therefore showing a more accurate overall figure.
WWF Director Lang Banks speaking of the report said it clearly showed the significant positive impact wind power in particular and renewables in general has on the environment.
“It’s great to finally have an independent and authoritative study that puts a more accurate figure on the massive amounts of climate-damaging carbon emissions being avoided thanks to wind power,” he said in a statement. “The figures in the study highlight just one example of the many benefits that have come from shifting our electricity system to a clean renewable one.
“However, with electricity generation accounting for less than a quarter of our climate change emissions, it’s now time to begin to reap the same benefits by increasing the use of renewables in our heat and transport sectors,” Banks added, urging the Scottish government to increase its 2030 renewables target to 50 per cent of all energy.
The report comes at a time when, due to the removal of government subsidies, the UK wind industry is winding down. However with the capacity for many new installations throughout the land and the evidence of the positive impact such projects has on our emissions now is surely the time for the government to review its policies and put wind turbines back to the top of their agenda.
Clean air with vastly reduced carbon levels compared to where the currently stand is not only legally required, it is right of every person. Our government can therefore go a long way in securing a cleaner environment for all at a cost much lower than alternative options by altering their policies and in some way reintroducing a subsidy to the wind industry promoting the growth of these type of projects in suitable areas throughout the country leaving an energy legacy they can be proud of.