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25 years of wind power in the UK

Yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the date the UK’s first wind farm began generating clean electricity for British homes, offices and factories.

On 21st December 1991, 10 turbines were switched on at Delabole onshore wind farm in north Cornwall, powering 2,700 homes a year. The project, now owned by Good Energy, has since been upgraded, more than doubling its capacity, thanks to rapid technological advances. 

Celebrating the anniversary, Good Energy’s Chief Executive Juliet Davenport OBE said: “This is an incredible achievement for the renewable industry – and a big moment for Delabole. Since the turbines started turning, renewable technologies have come a long way, with wind power generating a record-breaking 12% of the UK’s electricity in 2015.” He continued, “The success of the wind farm has largely been down to the support of the local community who are the real custodians of this site. It’s thanks to them and their belief in the project that has helped make Delabole the perfect model for further wind power developments here in the UK.”

There are now more than 1,000 commercial-scale UK wind energy projects operating onshore and offshore, meeting the annual electricity needs of over 9,500,000 British homes. 

Over the last 25 years, onshore and offshore wind energy in the UK has generated more than 185 million megawatt hours (MWh). Wind power is now a mainstream power source in Britain. A quarter of our nation’s electricity now comes from renewable sources – nearly half of that from wind alone. Using wind has meant the UK has avoided burning more than 106 million tonnes of coal over the last 25 years. 

RenewableUK’s Executive Director Emma Pinchbeck said: “Onshore and offshore wind are providing industrial-scale benefits to our modern economy, supporting tens of thousands of jobs, and attracting billions of pounds in investment to the UK as the global energy market goes renewable. And we’re helping consumers, as onshore wind is the cheapest way to generate new power”. 

The latest onshore wind turbines, being installed in Scotland, are more than eight and a half times more powerful than those originally installed in Cornwall 25 years ago, showing the innovation the industry has achieved, which will continue in the decades ahead. 

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Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power