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Wind energy: implications of large-scale deployment on the GB electricity system

With wind power set to play an expanding role in the UK’s energy system, the Royal Academy of Engineering has carried out a study on what the implications are of large-scale deployment of wind power on the UK electricity system. The study concentrated mainly on the engineering implications of wind power, particularly in terms of how the grid system will operate but also on issues of installation, operation and decommissioning as well as the effect on other related industrial activities. In addition to the engineering issues, costs and carbon emissions will also be considered as the UK tries to move towards solving the ‘trilemma’ of secure, affordable and low-carbon energy. The study considered a medium timeframe up to 2030.

The report drew the following conclusions:

  • Wind energy can make a significant contribution to electricity supply in the UK. Up to levels of penetration of 20% the system should be able to cope but beyond that, at levels expected in 2030 the system will need to be completely redesigned and wind will be just one element of the new system

  • Wind energy has a small carbon footprint and does reduce the carbon intensity of the grid system

  • Onshore wind energy is more expensive than gas or coal plant but is one of the cheapest low carbon sources of electricity. Offshore wind is more expensive but shows potential for cost reduction

  • By 2030, a wholesale transformation of the UK energy system will be required if government targets on carbon emissions are to be met. The government must take the strategic lead in preparing for the transformation of the UK energy system, in partnership with industry and other stakeholders.

  • Wind energy report (2850KB)Adobe PDF document icon image

Any inquiries about the study should be addressed to Dr Alan Walker


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