The most extensive study yet of the UK's wind resource, conducted by Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute for the DTI, has analysed hourly wind speed records collected by the Met Office at 66 locations across the UK since 1970 and finds that the UK has the best wind resource in Europe.

The key findings from the study are:

  • The recorded capacity factor for onshore wind energy in the UK is 27%, greater even than in Germany (15%) and Denmark (20%) where wind farms are currently most widespread.
  • Availability of wind power in the UK is greater at precisely the times that we need it – during peak daytime periods and during the winter.
  • The UK wind resource is dependable. The likelihood of low wind speeds affecting 90% of the country would only occur for one hour every five years.
  • The chance of wind turbines shutting down due to very high wind speeds is exceedingly rare – high winds affecting 40% or more of the UK would occur in around one hour every 10 years and never affect the whole country.

UK energy minister Malcolm Wicks said: “This new research is a nail in the coffin of some of the exaggerated myths peddled by opponents of wind power. We have a vast and dependable wind resource in the UK, the best in Europe. Over the past year there’s been the biggest increase in wind power yet, as we move towards our target of 10% of electricity coming from renewable sources by 2010. This new research shows that UK wind power delivers more energy at times of peak demand, and that claims that calm conditions regularly occur throughout the UK in winter are without foundation,” Wicks added.

Graham Sinden, author of the report from the Environmental Change Institute research team said: “The UK wind resource offers a reliable source of electricity that is not only low carbon, but reduces the UK’s reliance on imported fuels. By examining such extensive wind records from throughout the UK, we can be very confident that the study identified both long-term trends and the most extreme wind conditions the UK will experience.”