21 June 2022

When we think about wind as a renewable energy source, many of us instantly think of offshore wind. With the UK government pushing renewable energy as a way of meeting its net zero commitments, onshore wind farms are becoming a key part of the discussion on how the country will transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. If we want to create cost-effective green energy, we’ll need to utilise both onshore and offshore wind farms to create carbon-free electricity.

It's easy to think the two systems must be drastically different. In reality, the systems used to generate electricity for onshore and offshore wind farms are largely similar. When you’re exploring the options of converting your property into a wind farm, it’s important to understand the finer details of how wind farms work and how these two different systems operate.

We’re exploring the differences between onshore and offshore wind energy and how they work in unison to maximise the UK’s green energy potential. 

Onshore Wind Energy

Onshore wind energy is a style of wind farm where the turbines are located on land, utilizing the air’s natural movement to generate energy. Due to their size, onshore wind farms are usually reserved for rural areas and those with a smaller population density. For wind turbines to achieve their optimal performance, they shouldn’t be surrounded by obstacles that can interrupt the airflow. 

The origins of onshore wind date back to the 1880s but it would take until 1991 for the first commercial wind farm to open in the UK. Onshore wind will play a vital role in the UK realising its ambition of net zero carbon emissions by 2050. 

In 2020, onshore wind farms contributed roughly 11% of the country’s electricity needs. That statistic represents over 18 million homes being powered by clean energy for a whole year.

The Benefits of Onshore Wind Farms

The development of onshore wind farms has significant lower carbon emissions than the production of other green energy sources. Along with their reduced environmental impact, wind farms allow for the land to still be utilised through other means for maximum efficiency. 

Along with solar power, wind farms are considered the most cost-effective renewable energy option. The main difference between onshore and offshore wind is their cost. The infrastructure cost involved in onshore farms is lower than their offshore counterparts, having a knock-on effect on energy bills.

Onshore wind farms have a quicker installation time and come with lower maintenance needs, making them a more viable alternative to offshore wind in my scenarios. With the push for renewable energy, wind farms will continue to pop up across the country at a quicker pace.

One knock-on effect of the push for renewable energy is job creation. The net zero and energy sector is expected to produce 400,000 jobs to realise its goal with 60,000 of these jobs coming from the creation of onshore and offshore wind farms.

What to Consider About Onshore Wind Farms

Like any form of renewable energy, there is always a catch. Just like solar, wind is a variable energy source. You’ll want to utilise a battery energy storage system to optimise the performance of your wind turbines and keep up with demand. Wind is – by its nature – occasionally intermittent. Interconnectors can play a role in helping to manage green energy and support the transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy.

One thing you want to consider before choosing to lease your land as a wind farm is your neighbours. Wind farms are often considered an “eye sore” but their environmental value and ability to lower your energy costs will likely change your view on their appearance.

While onshore wind farms have lower maintenance and infrastructure costs, they produce less energy than offshore wind farms. This capacity factor is the main difference between the two systems as onshore wind farms have a limit on the turbine height that isn’t as strictly applied to offshore wind farms.

Offshore Wind Energy

By comparison, offshore wind farms behave similarly by generating energy from the wind that blows across the seas. Offshore wind farms can generate more energy as their location puts them in a prime position to utilise the higher wind speeds and greater consistency that comes from the sea. These wind turbines are also not distributed by physical infrastructure like their onshore counterparts are.

So far, the UK has put most of its focus on offshore wind, but it’s clear that onshore wind farms are just as vital to meet the net zero goal. 

The consistency and wind speeds at sea mean that offshore wind turbines are more energy efficient. The focus has been largely on offshore wind as it offers almost endless potential for infrastructure development. 

This efficiency comes at a cost. Offshore wind farms involve more complicated infrastructure that is expensive to develop. By its nature, offshore wind farms have more challenging maintenance needs and can be difficult to repair.

The Role of Wind Farms in the UK’s Future

The Climate Change Committee estimates that the UK will be consuming twice its current amount of electricity by 2050. These statics shows the challenge of meeting the government’s net zero commitment. The National Grid’s capacity will be required to double and four times more green energy will need to be produced. Wind farms will play a vital role in achieving this.

While the UK government is focusing its efforts on offshore wind capacity, there is a significant investment to be made from the potential of onshore wind farms. If you have agricultural land that you wish to repurpose, consider leasing it for wind farm development. It’s an ideal way to create a passive income stream and lower your energy bills.

Wind farms represent one of the cleanest renewable energy sources and are the future of the UK’s electricity. Wind turbines are the most popular alternative to solar farms and are an ideal choice for properties and land in sparsely populated, rural areas.