The history of urban wind energy in the UK

Harnessing the energy of the wind is as old as sailing boats and windmills. The wind and ocean currents carried pre-historic people on long sea voyages, and the earliest examples of windmills date from 2000 BC.

Many communities in Britain used to have a local windmill for grinding corn or doing other heavy work, with as many as 10,000 dotted around the country.

One of the UK's remaining windmills - now in urban Brixton, London Credit: Steve Double

One of the UK's remaining windmills - now in urban
Brixton, London
Credit: Steve Double

For thousands of years, local energy created local products. But the eighteenth century saw the coming of the Industrial Age and, ince then, there has been a huge move away from using local, renewable sources of energy in favour of burning fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and gas.

In a few short centuries, we have consumed vast quantities of these fuels - which took millions of years to form - and in the process we have released vast quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, enhancing the greenhouse effect and adding to global warming.

The resulting changes to the climate are potentially devastating.