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Renewable energy sources: what is wind energy?

Wind has been used for thousands of years – from pumping water to grinding grain. More recently it’s been used to generate electricity: we take a look at how using wind energy as a source of renewable energy has changed over time.

Our visual timeline shows that wind energy was used over 5,000 years ago by the Egyptians to sail ships down the Nile and in Persia between 500 and 900AD to grind grain and pump water.

Since then engineers have been working to capture the force of the wind and use it to generate electricity. This was achieved first by Charles Brush who used a windmill in America in 1888 to generate electricity in Cleveland, Ohio.

Wind power is now the UK’s largest source of renewable energy made up of both onshore and offshore wind farms.

How do wind turbines generate electricity?

The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft. The shaft is connected to a generator, which generates electricity. Sensors in the turbine can tell how strongly the wind is blowing and the direction it is blowing. The rotor then automatically turns to face the wind. During very strong winds it also puts the breaks on to prevent the turbine from being damaged.

The biggest wind turbine at the moment is the Vestas V164-8.0-MW. Vestas claim the turbine will generate 30% more electricity than the previous record holding turbine.

Offshore wind farms

The world’s largest offshore wind farm is the London Array – a joint project between E.ON, Dong Energy, Masdar and La Caisse. Phase 1, situated 12 miles off the Kent coast, was officially opened in July 2013 and consisted of 175 turbines generating 630MW – enough electricity for 480,000 homes.

But the title of the world’s largest array may not belong to the London Array for long. Permission has been granted for an offshore wind farm 80 miles off the Yorkshire coast on Dogger Bank. The Dogger Bank Creyke Beck project will be twice as big as the London Array – if it’s built.

Onshore wind farms

There are around 4,945 onshore wind turbines with a capacity of 8,161MW. The largest UK onshore wind farm was opened this year by the then Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey. The Lincolnshire wind farm project – developed by SSE is made up of 34 turbines with a capacity of 68MW.

Business electricity costs

Increasingly large manufacturers are using wind turbines and solar power to help reduce their business electricity costs. But smaller businesses can also reduce costs when they compare energy prices and switch supplier. can help small and medium sized businesses to find cheaper energy prices. For a quick quote call 0800 411 8830 or complete the quote form to the top right of this page.

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