A Lancaster University professor has contributed to a key report published by The Royal Academy of Engineering into the future of wind energy in the UK.
Professor Roger Kemp was a member of the working group for Wind energy: implications of large-scale deployment on the GB electricity system.
This assessed the potential for wind energy to contribute to meeting the government‘s targets of providing 15% of the UK’s energy from renewable sources by 2020 and cutting 80% of greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
The working group found that wind power could be used to meet up to one fifth of the country’s electricity demands but beyond this, managing the system will become increasingly difficult.
Professor Kemp said: "We see wind as playing a major role in the future but the task of decarbonisation represents a paradigm shift in the UK's energy system - the scale of the challenge should not be underestimated. Wind energy will be only one of the tools available alongside other generating technologies, better connectivity and demand side measures. All will need to be carefully integrated using a systems engineering approach.
“As we progress towards a low-carbon future, the energy industry and infrastructure will have to evolve ahead of or with electricity demand to accommodate more wind. This evolution is complex and will also require other forms of low carbon generation, innovations in energy storage, management and more interconnections with the electricity grids in other countries.
“This will happen only if there is clarity in the government’s plans for the future decarbonisation of the country and a willingness to work together with industry in building confidence to invest in the UK energy market. Energy systems and technologies are global; several countries are ahead of the UK in developing wind energy and we will need to adopt best practice, wherever that might be.”
Managing fluctuations in supply, including variable renewables such as wind power, is fundamental to the operation of the electricity grid and, to date, the balancing mechanisms already in place have been sufficient to cope with the amount of wind energy on the GB system. The contribution of wind is expected to reach 20% within the next decade.
The report said that if the UK is to meet its targets and further reduce greenhouse emissions by 2050, the grid will need to be largely decarbonised by 2030. Fossil fuel intensive uses, such as transport and heating, are likely to be progressively electrified in the form of heat pumps and electric vehicles. This will significantly increase overall electricity demand as well as fluctuations in demand, both daily and seasonally.