Much has been written recently about the American shale gas boom, but wind energy became the number one source of new U.S. electricity generating capacity for the first time in 2012. Wind provided 42% of all new generating capacity. Over 470 manufacturing facilities across the U.S. now make half of all the components for wind turbines – towers, blades and coverings (nacelles). In the North Sea, Denmark-based energy firm Dong Energy is now testing two giant, 3rd generation 6MW wind turbines, the first of 300 German- made turbines for a variety of fields across the North Sea. Sobering news for BIS, as it opens its call for evidence on an Offshore Wind Strategy.
Renewable UK’s database shows 4,366 wind turbines now installed and operating in the UK. But none were manufactured here. As the trade body says, “the manufacturers of offshore wind turbines are all based overseas, and whilst many British firms are gearing up to provide components, the UK does not yet have a large scale turbine manufacturing plant to serve this burgeoning market”.
In the US, installed wind power will lead to the avoidance of almost 96 million metric tons a year of carbon dioxide emissions, equal to 1.8% of the country’s carbon emissions, and is capable of powering about 14.7 million homes, the AWEA said.
Householders and industry fund much of the UK’s investment in new energy supply through their energy bills. The consumer-based “levy control framework” (LCF), a Treasury cap on how much money DECC can allow to be levied on consumers’ bills to fund new projects, will progressively increase from £2.35bn in 2013 to £7.6 billion in 2020. UK consumers and are entitled to expect a return from their outlays in the form of new jobs and skills opportunities in the UK.
It’s encouraging that half a dozen turbine manufacturers are committing between half a billion and a billion pounds in total to open factories in the UK, but as RUK says, “the pledges remain pledges”. To get them converted into financial commitments, to see the foundations of factories being laid, and begin the recruitment of workers, a government strategy that develops continuity of work flow for UK manufacturers well into the 2020s is essential.