The UK's position in the world makes it one of the best locations for using renewable energy – we certainly get wind and occasionally some sun! In fact, in Europe, we get the most suitable weather for renewable energy systems to work. Wind farms
The most common way of getting energy from the wind is through setting up 'Wind farms'. The first wind farm was set up in November 1991. In March 2004 there were 1,043 wind turbines in operation at 84 sites around the UK, providing 649.4 MW or 0.3-0.4% of the UK's electricity supply. There are also two offshore wind farms at Blyth Offshore (4MW) and North Hoyle (60 MW).
When they were first introduced they were very expensive, however over the years, initial costs have fallen, and therefore the cost of getting electricity from the wind has dropped considerably.
The government, along with others around the globe have introduced initiatives and proposals to ensure more of our energy comes from environmentally friendly resources.
According to the British Wind Energy Association, BWEA, there now exists primary legislation to ensure that 10% of our renewable energy (3% of our electricity) will come from wind power by 2010 and 15% by 2015.
How they work
Wind turbines generally have 3 blades and they rotate at 10-30 revolutions per minute. The blades face into the wind, the wind forces them to go round, which then spins a shaft inside the turbine, which is connected to a generator which produces the electricity.
Wind power enables electricity to be produced in an environmentally friendly way – the turbines don't produce chemical or radioactive emissions.
The ground on which the turbines are positioned can still be used for agricultural purposes – such as sheep grazing.
If the turbines need to be taken down, there is no damage to the environment and no residues are left behind.
There are concerns from some people who are worried about wind farms being positioned in their area. The main worries are that they ruin the landscape – because they generally have to be positioned on hills to get the maximum benefits of the wind.
Wind farms also take up much more space to produce the same amount of energy as other methods such coal-fire powered stations.
Wind farms can be costly to maintain and electricity produced by this method is more expensive than that produced by other means. There are arguments that the money would be better put into energy conservation.
The noise generated from wind turbines has been criticised by some people who live very close to the wind farms.
The turbines can cause some slight electromagnetic interference, which can cause interference with television signals and some communications equipment, although this is thought now to be negligible.
Certainly the number of wind farms in the UK is steadily increasing and as this industry grows, prices of generating electricity in this way should fall.
The initial costs of setting these kinds of farms up is the main obstacle at the moment, but as the need to use more environmentally friendly methods of electricity production increases, this could be an avenue to explore.