The last 10 years have seen unprecedented growth in the contribution of wind power to the UK’s energy needs.

Thousands of wind turbines have been erected both onshore and offshore, on sites that have been heralded as the bedrock of the UK’s bid to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

Politicians see wind power as so important, Boris Johnson has pledged the UK will become the Saudi Arabia of wind, a reference to oil production giant.

But, how do the government’s plans stack up? Is the UK really going to be the largest wind energy producer on the planet?

The growth in wind turbines

In the last 20 years, the contribution of wind power to the UK’s energy needs has gone from around 320MW (in 2001) to more than 24GW (in 2021) – a 73-fold increase.

Nearly 20GW of that has come on stream in the last 10 years.

One of the massive offshore wind farms the government has been keen to promote, Hornsea One, is now the largest offshore wind farm in the world with an operational capacity of over 1.2GW. Centred about 110km off the Yorkshire and Norfolk coasts, the full site has an area of about 1,800 square miles, and capacity is planned to increase to 6GW – nearly three times that of the biggest gas turbine site at present in Pembroke.

By 2019, the expansion in the number of farms meant wind was accounting for almost one fifth of the UK’s total generation. But on some days, up to half of all the UK’s electricity needs have been met by wind.

While there are now hundreds of sites across the UK and its territorial waters, the plan is to go further. The National Grid has produced more and less optimistic future outcomes, but this is the “middle” scenario:

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