Yesterday (21 October 2014) the UK's wind farms generated more electricity than our nuclear power stations. Wind made up 14.2% of all electricity generated, overtaking nuclear power's 13.2%. Meanwhile on 18 October, our wind turbines generated a record 6,372MW of electricity - more than ever before and actually almost 20% of the UK's electricity needs on that day.
This is great news for renewable energy, but it's not likely to continue for long. The very windy conditions of the last few days meant that our turbines were able to generate very large amounts of electricity. As for outstripping nuclear energy production, eight of our 15 nuclear reactors are currently offline.
However, it does show the potential for us to generate more of our electricty in the futrue using wind energy. Some people dislike wind power because turbines are often sited in fairly remote places and because they need to catch as much wind as possible, they tend to be located quite high up on hills and ridges. This means you can see them from miles around and for some people, they spoil the view and the countryside surrounding them. In other words, they are often built in places where you wouldn't build a nuclear or gas-fired power station! The noise they create can also be quite loud if you're fairly near them.
However, they can produce electricity without producing carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases contributing to climate change, which is a real benefit and of course they require no fuel, just the wind. This is great until the wind stops blowing, as it does from time to time. Nuclear electricity generation doesn't produce carbon dioxide either, which is great. The downside is that both the fuel and the waste from nuclear reactors is highly dangerous and needs to be stored very carefullly, often for thousands of years.
Also in the news recently has been the plan to generate electricity for the UK using concentrated solar power generated in the Tunisian desert. For this, thousands of mirrors are angled to focus the sun's ray's on a tower, which heats up water inside it to produce steam, which spins a turbine and generated electricity. The challenge will be getting the energy from north Africa to the UK. You can read more about it here.
It's clear that we need to generate our electricity from a mixture of sources in the future, taking advantage of the wind when it blows, the sun when it shines and reducing our reliance on burning fuels to create electricity. It's also clear that there is no one ideal solution to the question of how best to generate our electricity in the future. We can be certain though that we are going to need more and more energy, so being able to generate it more and more of it using renewable energy is essential.