How efficient are wind turbines?
The process of converting wind energy into electrical energy is actually very efficient compared to burning fossil fuels where a lot of heat energy is wasted. Wind turbine efficiency is often confused with capacity factor. If a wind turbine worked at its maximum capacity all of the time then it would have a capacity factor of 100 per cent. However, of course, the wind does not blow all the time so a typical wind turbine has a capacity factor of around 30 per cent. This means it produces 30 per cent of its theoretical maximum output each year.
Here are some approximate figures for the capacity factor of other forms of energy generation:
• 50 per cent – Coal-fired power stations
• 65 per cent – Nuclear power stations
• 65 per cent – Combined cycle gas turbine power stations
• 35 per cent – Hydroelectric power stations
What is the wind resource in the UK like compared to other countries?
The map below displays average wind speeds across Europe. As you can see, the north of England and Scotland has the best wind resources in the whole continent.