Renewable energy is the most environmentally friendly way to generate power. An example of renewable energy is wind, used to rotate turbines to produce electricity. Thanks to the increasing interest in renewable energy, many nations are setting up their own wind power projects. In this article, we look at the biggest wind farms in Europe. However, we will look at the benefits of European wind farms and their impact on the environment first.
What Are The Benefits Of Wind Power?
The biggest draw of wind power is it is produced from clean fuel, promoting environmental sustainability. This means it doesn’t create by-products that pollute the air, soil, or water, which could endanger human health.
Also, wind power is a method to domesticate power production as wind is available in most countries in Europe.
Wind power is inexhaustible, making it a sustainable way to produce electricity. Wind farms can also co-exist with other land uses like agriculture or ranching.
Interestingly, wind farms can be sited offshore, allowing precious land to be available for other purposes.
In addition, wind farms generate employment and stimulate the economy. They are also cost-efficient when compared to other means of producing electricity.
Do Wind Farms Have Downsides?
While the most environmentally friendly way to produce energy, wind farms have some drawbacks.
For example, wind turbines may kill birds that fly into them, affecting the habitat. However, farm site selection can significantly reduce this problem.
There have also been noise and aesthetic complaints, but these can also be solved by proper siting.
In some cases, the best sites for wind farms are far from cities or other locations where electricity is needed.
Perhaps the most pressing disadvantage of wind farms is the high upfront costs.
How Sustainable Is Wind Power?
While wind power is sustainable, it is essential to consider the equipment used. Manufacturing and setting up wind turbines can be intensive.
For example, according to the German Environmental Agency, UBA, you have to operate a wind plant for between 2 ½ and 11 months to balance the amount of energy that goes into its construction.
However, wind farms are among the least contributors to carbon emissions compared to other energy sources. For example, on-shore installations produce 9 g of CO2 for every kWh while it is 7 g for offshore plants.
However, according to the UBA, natural gas plants produce 442 g of CO2 while coal produces between 864 g and 1,034 g.
Critics have also pointed out how recycling of wind turbines. However, many of the components can be recovered through recycling.
For example, the concrete foundation can be reused in road construction while the steel can be processed into new steel.
The blades, usually made from plastic composites, are not so easily recycled. However, recyclable blades are appearing in the market.
In fact, Siemens Gamesa, a turbine blade maker, has committed to selling only recyclable blades by 2030.
The Largest Wind Farms In Europe
According to the 16th annual Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) report, there is 743 GW of wind power capacity globally. The largest in Europe is the Hornsea One installation in the UK.
It has a total capacity of 1.2 GW and is situated offshore off the Yorkshire coast. It spans 407 square kilometers and includes 174 Siemens turbines with an individual capacity of 7 MW. The farm came online in 2020 and powers more than a million households in the UK. More than 350 employees keep the site running.
The second biggest wind farm in Europe is the Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm located west of Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria, of the NW coast of England.
It has a total capacity of 659 MW generated from 87 turbines. Forty are MHI-Vestas models that output 8.25 MW each while the rest were supplied by Siemens Gamesa, capable of 7 MW each. The farm became operational in 2018 and lights up about 600,000 homes.
Outside the UK, there is the Fantanele-Cogealac Wind Farm in Constanta County, Romania. Located about 17 km from the shores of the Black Sea, the farm produced 600 MW using 240 turbines supplied by GE.
It was fully commissioned in 2021 and accounted for 10 percent of the country’s renewable energy capacity.
Off the Dutch coast is the Gemini Offshore Wind Farm, another 600 MW wind farm. It operates 150 Siemens turbines rated 4 MW each and supplies almost 800,000 households in the Netherlands.
Germany also has an entry in the list of the top largest wind farms in Europe. The Gode Wind 1 and 2 offshore farms have a combined capacity of 582 MW.
This is enough to supply 600,000 homes.