2017 was a strong year for renewable energy, with the likes of wind and solar power outstripping more traditional fuels like coal.
The latest data provided by MyGridGB found that renewable energy sources provided more energy than coal-based power plants on 315 days this year. Wind power has been by far the strongest of the various renewables, outpacing coal for 263 days.
Solar power, meanwhile, generated more energy than coal on 180 days in 2017. Renewable energy sources as a whole generated more than three times as much power as coal did in the year to 12th December.
Given that many of the UK’s coal plants are nearing the end of their lifespan, this is positive news for the renewable energy sector, as well as for the country’s energy markets as a whole, which can now see that renewable sources may well have the ability to take over from fossil fuels.
However, while this is great news in terms of how much we’ve reduced our reliance on coal, the government should be putting greater emphasis on cutting our use of natural gas, too. This is according to Dr Andrew Crossland, from MyGridGB and the Durham Energy Institute.
He acknowledged that it’s great that coal now accounts for less than seven per cent of our energy use, but stressed that more needs to be done by the government to curtail gas use.
“If we continue to use gas at the rate that we do, then Britain will miss carbon targets and be dangerously exposed to supply and price risks in the international gas markets,” Dr Crossland asserted.
Executive Director of RenewableUK, Emma Pinchbeck urged the government to do more to encourage take up of renewable power, in particular wind energy.
The government should be encouraging the development of onshore wind farms, she stressed, because this is “now the cheapest form of power for consumers”. In addition, Westminster should “agree an ambitious sector deal with the offshore wind industry,” Ms Pinchbeck commented.
There have been a number of breakthroughs in the offshore wind sector this year, not least of all the first floating offshore wind farm starting operations off the coast of Scotland in November.
Using what’s been described as “the next generation” of wind technology, giant turbines are tethered to the seabed. This enables firms to set up wind farms in areas of much deeper ocean - and could help the UK to grow the number of turbines it has operating off its coastline.
Each of these new turbines is 175m tall, from sea level, and extends a further 78m below the surface. The revolutionary technology used to secure them could result in wind farms being able to operate at depths of upto 800m. By contrast, traditional wind farms with fixed turbines can’t be situated in waters deeper than 50m.
Whatever kind of offshore wind farm you’re operating, you need to ensure that all of your employees and contract supply chain possess the correct experience and training qualifications such as GWO accreditations i.e. GWO working at heights course to work on these sites and inspect them.