Wind energy: UK experiences and offshore operational challenges

Christopher J. Crabtree*, Donatella Zappalá, Simon I. Hogg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents a discussion of the development of wind energy generation in the United Kingdom and the challenges faced by the wind industry including reliability, performance and condition monitoring, particularly in the offshore environment. The worldwide installed capacity of offshore wind has now risen to over 7 GW, with an ever increasing deployment rate of new assets. About 90% of the global currently installed capacity is in Northern Europe, with the United Kingdom having the world's largest share at 4 GW. Capacity factor data from UK offshore wind farms is presented, providing an insight into the current performance of large Round 2 offshore wind farms compared to the earlier Round 1 farms and to onshore farms. The data reveal that the United Kingdom's Round 2 offshore farms are achieving an average monthly capacity factor of 38.3% with a peak value of 75.8%. The older Round 1 farms have a lower average capacity factor of 33.6% while large onshore farms with capacities above 100 MW have achieved 25.6%. Offshore wind turbine performance has improved over time, and the industry is applying the learning from early experiences to achieve better performances at the more recently installed farms. Despite these improvements in turbine availability, the cost of energy from wind, particularly offshore, remains too high for it to be a commercially viable form of generation without subsidies. Reducing the cost of energy from wind to economically sustainable levels is the most important challenge facing the industry today. Operation and maintenance costs constitute up to 30 % of the total cost of energy from wind in large farms. The industry must overcome the challenges associated with improving component reliability and the development and adoption by operators of appropriate condition monitoring systems and maintenance strategies, in order to reduce costs to sustainable levels. Research and development work carried out with these goals in mind is also reviewed in the paper.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)727-746
Number of pages20
JournalProceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part A: Journal of Power and Energy
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • condition monitoring
  • offshore wind
  • performance
  • reliability
  • Wind


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