Wind power

The study of machines that generate electricity by harnessing the kinetic energy of moving air, which includes design, development, deployment, operation and maintenance. Spanning materials technology, modelling expertise and the development of components, this Research Area also covers key multidisciplinary issues such as public acceptability, cost reduction and the possible environmental impact of large-scale onshore and offshore wind farms.

We aim to maintain a cohesive interdisciplinary UK research community that delivers collaborative, 'user-inspired' fundamental and applied research. This will address immediate and long-term challenges, covering industrially inspired technical issues and providing policy-related evidence.

All future UK scenarios for a secure, sustainable and resilient energy supply include a significant contribution from sustainable, cost-effective wind power, at a scale and a level of technological development beyond those achieved to date (Evidence source 1,2). Onshore wind power technology is quite mature (Evidence source 3), with key innovation happening at development to demonstrator end, which is beyond the remit of UK Research and Innovation and covered by industry. Regarding offshore wind power, however, there is a strong steer from UK government and industry to reduce costs significantly (Evidence source 4,5,6,7), while key environmental and other challenges must be addressed by fundamental research (Evidence source 4,5,6,8,9,10).

This Research community in the UK punches above its weight internationally, (Evidence source 4,5,8) despite a relatively low academic volume which has reduced slightly over the last five-year period. EPSRC will facilitate development at the early-career stage to ensure pull-through from investment in training to the development of future leaders and maintenance of world-leading research.

By the end of the Delivery Plan, we aim to:

  • Support research investments that create high quality, user-inspired research outputs as well as maximising their uptake and impact
  • Ensure that any future significant critical-mass investment provides a locus for the research base, built on the UK's key strengths in innovation; the Supergen Programme and associated Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) will deliver this
  • Use the existing strong links with the UK innovation infrastructure and industrial end-users to provide solutions to immediate and long-term problems
  • Build on and add value to the current, strong training portfolio
  • Enable early-career researchers to build profiles and track records
  • Strengthen connectivity with other funding agencies to facilitate interdisciplinary research and translation to use through the Energy Programme (Evidence source 8).
  • Promote open access to data and for strategies on data acquisition, curation and signposting for the good of the research community.

This research area is also of potential relevance to Official Development Assistance funding streams.

Highlights:

Offshore wind power is of substantial interest to UK government (Evidence source 4,5,6,11) and industry (Evidence source 9,10) and will have a big impact on the UK's ability to reach its 2050 greenhouse gas emission targets (Evidence source 1,11). Generating electricity from renewable sources is critical to the decarbonisation of the UK energy system (Evidence source 4). The UK also currently maintains an internationally leading position in wind power and related innovation (Evidence source 3,4,8), despite relatively lower levels of funding.

To maintain this world-leading research, EPSRC must support and build academic capacity, especially at Post-Doctoral Research Assistant (PDRA) and early-career level. There are also key problems at high Technology Readiness Levels (TRL) (e.g. how best to place offshore wind generation further from shore) that can be solved with fundamental to applied research or knowledge transfer.

In addition, this Research Area has significant potential in overseas markets and there is a need to focus on niche technologies (e.g. offshore floating platforms) which would be readily taken up in developing countries and the UK.

Within the EPSRC portfolio, we envisage maintaining capacity funding through the Supergen Programme, while refocusing on the challenges around floating and offshore structures, and targeting feedback to high-TRL activities (particularly around reducing the cost of electricity generation).

This area has crossover with and draws additionally from the Natural Environment Research Council's (NERC's) 'Benefiting from Natural Resources' strategic theme, which includes consideration of potential environmental impacts/benefits.

The Wind Power research area mainly contributes to the Resilient and Productive Nation outcomes of the EPSRC Delivery Plan through the following Ambitions:

R1: Achieve energy security and efficiency

Utilising the UK's large wind resource to generate electricity reduces reliance on imported fossil fuels. Making offshore wind farms easier to install and more efficient to run and maintain will help reduce the cost of electricity to consumers.

R2: Ensure a reliable infrastructure which underpins the UK economy

The push to reduce the cost of offshore wind power generation will bring down the cost of electricity to consumers.

P1: Introduce the next generation of innovative and disruptive technologies

Offshore floating wind provides a niche area for the UK to excel, with a global market ready to take up a technology that enables fast deployment, minimal footprint and relatively cheap anchoring (50-120m deep).

P2: Ensure affordable solutions for national needs

Fundamental and applied research underpins increased efforts to cut the cost of offshore wind. The potential benefits are underlined by the fact that onshore wind is currently the cheapest way to generate electricity, globally.

  1. Climate Change Committee, The Fifth Carbon Budget, (2016).
  2. Energy Technologies Institute (ETI), Energy System Modelling Environment (ESME), (2016).
  3. J. Skea, Energy Research and Training Prospectus (PDF), (2013).
  4. Discussions with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and, subsequently, BEIS about their research needs.
  5. Involvement with the planning of the DECC/Innovate UK ‘offshore wind innovation programme’.
  6. Low Carbon Innovation Co-ordination Group (LCICG), Offshore Wind Power Technology Innovation Needs Assessment (TINA), (refreshed version, 2016).
  7. Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, Cost Reduction Monitoring Framework, (2016).
  8. The Supergen Programme Review process in 2016 gathered a range of evidence and reports: Full report and implementation plan to be published in 2017
  9. ETI, Offshore Wind: Floating Wind Technology (PDF), (2015).
  10. ORE Catapult, Floating Wind: Technology Assessment – Interim Findings, (2015).
  11. DECC, UK Renewable Energy Roadmap (PDF), (2011).

Research area connections

This diagram shows the top 10 connections between Research Areas within the EPSRC research portfolio. The depth of the segment relates to value of grants and the width of the segment relates to the number of grants shared by those two Research Areas. Please click to see the related Research Area rationale.

Maintain

We aim to maintain this area as a proportion of the EPSRC portfolio.

Visualising our Portfolio (VoP)
Visualising our portfolio (VoP) is a tool for users to visually interact with the EPSRC portfolio and data relationships.

EPSRC Support by Research Area in Wind Power (GoW)
Search EPSRC's research and training grants.

Contact Details

In the following table, contact information relevant to the page. The first column is for visual reference only. Data is in the right column.

Name: Mamiko Ohno
Job title: Senior Portfolio Manager
Department: Energy
Organisation: EPSRC
Telephone: 01793 444405