Wind farms in Britain became the primary source of electricity for the first time in the first three months of this year. This milestone was achieved with the activation of numerous new wind turbines, which generated 32.5% of the country’s electricity. Gas-powered plants, on the other hand, produced 31.7% of the electricity. (Source Drax Insights)
During the first quarter, wind farms contributed 24 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, an amount sufficient to charge over 300 million Tesla Model Y electric cars. This marked a 3% increase from the previous year, despite the less windy weather. The addition of more than 350 new offshore wind turbines, including the world’s largest offshore wind farm, Hornsea Two, situated 55 miles off the Yorkshire coast, compensated for the lower wind speeds.
The total capacity of wind farms grew by 14% compared to the previous year, contributing to the advancement even in less favourable weather conditions. In contrast, electricity generation from gas-powered plants decreased by 5% to 23.4 TWh due to a 4% reduction in electricity demand resulting from a warmer start to the year.
This shift towards wind energy surpassing gas is a significant step in reducing carbon emissions in Britain’s electricity system. For many years, fossil fuels, particularly coal, have been the primary energy source. However, coal’s contribution has decreased significantly, with it accounting for only 1.3% of the energy in the first quarter. Cleaner-burning gas has replaced a substantial portion of coal usage.
The British government has set ambitious goals to achieve a completely carbon-free electricity system by 2035, with a substantial increase in offshore wind energy. The target is to have 50 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, compared to the current capacity of less than 14 gigawatts. However, energy companies have cautioned that these targets may be challenging to meet due to delays in obtaining permits, establishing cable connections, inflation, and rising supply costs.
In England, the development of onshore wind farms has mostly been halted since 2015, when planning restrictions were introduced under David Cameron’s government. These regulations empower individuals to impede projects single-handedly. To encourage further development, the government has proposed offering better energy bill discounts to people living near new onshore wind farms. While wind farm developers already provide local communities with electricity bill discounts, it remains unclear what new and improved offers can be expected for those residing near onshore wind projects in the future. However, industry experts, such as James Robottom, the head of onshore wind at trade group RenewableUK, have asserted that these proposals lack significance without changes in planning rules. However, the renewable energy sector has accused the government of making minimal effort to reform the planning system and remove the ban.
- Wind farms: Large areas of land or bodies of water where multiple wind turbines are installed to generate electricity.
- Terawatt-hours (TWh): A unit of energy equal to one trillion (10^12) watt-hours.
- Gigawatts: A unit of power equal to one billion (10^9) watts.
- Offshore: Relating to or located in the sea, typically a considerable distance from the shore.
- Fossil fuels: Natural fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, formed from the remains of prehistoric plants and animals.
- Carbon-free: Free from carbon emissions or carbon dioxide.
- Permits: Official documents or licenses that authorize a particular activity, often granted by a governmental authority.
- Planning restrictions: Regulations or limitations imposed by authorities on the development or construction of certain projects.
- Impede: To obstruct or hinder the progress, movement, or development of something.
Choose the correct definition for each word:
a) Areas designated for recreational wind activities.
b) Large areas where wind turbines generate electricity.
c) Farms that cultivate crops using wind energy.
a) A measure of energy equal to one trillion watt-hours.
b) The rate of electricity consumption in a specific region.
c) The distance electricity travels within an hour.
a) A term used to describe objects floating in water.
b) Relating to or located in the sea, far from the shore.
c) An alternative name for marine energy sources.
a) Naturally occurring materials used as fuel, derived from ancient plants and animals.
b) Fuels obtained from current plant and animal sources.
c) Alternative energy sources produced through geological processes.
a) Describing an absence of carbon emissions or carbon dioxide.
b) The act of capturing carbon emissions from industrial processes.
c) The process of converting carbon emissions into a useful product.
a) Official documents granting permission to carry out a specific activity.
b) Financial incentives offered by the government for renewable energy projects.
c) Legal penalties imposed for violating environmental regulations.
- What was the main source of electricity in Britain during the first three months of this year?
- How did the electricity production from wind farms compare to gas-powered plants?
- What was the increase in wind farm electricity production from the previous year?
- What factors contributed to the growth of wind energy despite less windy weather?
- What are the British government’s goals for offshore wind energy capacity by 2030?
- Why has onshore wind farm development been largely halted in England?
Lesson Plan For English Teachers
By the end of this lesson, students should be able to discuss the topic of renewable energy sources, specifically wind power, and its impact on the business environment in Britain, using relevant vocabulary and structures. They should also be able to express their opinions on government policy decisions in English.
Time: 90-120 minutes
Level: B1.2 Business English
Warm-Up (10 minutes)
- Start with a brief discussion about different sources of energy and their impacts on the environment and economy.
- Ask students to share what they know about renewable energy and its use in their own countries.
Pre-reading (10-15 minutes)
- Introduce key vocabulary that students will encounter in the text (wind farms, turbines, terawatt-hours, offshore, onshore, carbon emissions, gigawatts, permits, planning restrictions, etc.). Define the words and ask students to use them in sentences.
- Ask students to predict what the text might be about based on these keywords.
Reading and writing (20 minutes)
- Students read the text either individually or in pairs.
- After reading, have a class discussion about the content. Make sure students understand the main points of the text and the significance of the events described.
- Students tackle the comprehension questions on their own and then compare their answers with a partner. Bring the class back together and discuss the answers, clearing up any errors. Collect the students’ answers for marking and feedback.
Post-reading discussions (20 minutes)
- Group activity: Divide the class into small groups. Each group is given a specific perspective (e.g., government officials, energy companies, local residents, environmentalists), and they discuss their views on the situation described in the text.
- Each group presents their perspective to the class. Encourage questions and discussion among the groups.
Watching (Optional 10 -20 minutes)
- Play a short video clip about renewable energy in Britain to provide a visual representation of the topic.
- The Daily Climate Show: Renewables overtake gas as top source of electricity for UK homes
- Will more wind farms solve the UK’s energy crisis?
- US pours trillions of dollars of public funds into new green industries – BBC News
- After the video, have a brief class discussion about what they saw and how it connects to the reading.
Production (10 minutes)
Individual activity: Students write a brief argumentative paragraph either in favour of or against the expansion of wind farms in Britain ( or their country of origin), using the vocabulary and information from the text. They should consider the perspective they were assigned earlier.
Wrap-up (5 minutes)
- Students share their paragraphs with the class or in small groups.
- End the lesson by summarizing the key points discussed and highlighting the importance of renewable energy in the business world. Encourage students to continue exploring this topic in English outside of class.
Students are assigned to research and write a short essay (300-500 words) on the status of renewable energy in their own country, comparing it to the situation in Britain.