Strong December winds allowed wind power to contribute an average of 5.3% of the month’s electricity demand. Alex Blackburne has a look into the stats.
This past month or so has been a bit blustery, to say the least. Trees, chimneys and roofs have come toppling down as winds battered the country, causing widespread travel disruption and even loss of life.
But in amongst the current clean-up attempts lies some positive news. During these periods of often unfathomable gusts, the amount of electricity generated by wind farms shot up dramatically.
RenewableUK, the trade association for the wind, wave and tidal industry, says that an average of 5.3% of the UK’s electricity demand was contributed by wind in December and early January.
And, on December 28th, a particularly breezy day, a record 12.2% share of demand was achieved.
The organisation say that as a result of the increased input by wind power, the UK saw a 750,000 tonnes cut in carbon emissions – a figure equalling taking 300,000 cars off the road.
Dr Gordon Edge, RenewableUK’s director of policy, said, “Wind energy represents a new paradigm in electricity generation, allowing us to harness the power of the weather when it’s available, cutting our fossil fuel bills and lowering our carbon emissions.
“As we’re generating increasingly large amounts of electricity from wind, feeding those large volumes of power into the system represents an engineering challenge to the National Grid – a challenge we are pleased to see they met over Christmas.”
Adam Bell, communications manager at RenewableUK, said more wind farms are needed in order to maintain the high contribution of energy.
“Wind power output of course varies along with the weather, and so when assessing its contribution to our power needs, it is prudent to consider the amount of energy it produces over an extended period of time”, he said.
“The more wind farms on our electricity grid, the more effectively our ability to harness the weather.”
Looking forward, Bell said the constraints on the UK’s use of wind energy are economic, rather than technical.
“One could theoretically meet our power needs exclusively with wind, by converting nearly every valley and mountain configuration in the UK into a pumped storage facility.
“However, such an approach would be prohibitively expensive and involve extensive ecological damage as a result of drowning valleys.
“In realistic terms, the deployment of wind energy is dependent on a variety of factors, including its cost relative to fossil fuels, availability of sites, political support and energy demand.”
The stronger winds experienced across the UK before, during and after the festive period, could be linked to an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report from last year.
The report claimed that wild weather conditions were set to get even worse because of climate change, stating that some places may become “increasingly marginal places to live”.
Nevertheless, projects to harness wind energy have been announced across Europe. Scotland and Denmark are just two of the countries to have pledged to become 100% renewable in the future. Both plan to rely heavily on wind power, too.
As more and more renewable projects begin to take shape, the real challenge is to find a reliable method of storing the energy that has been produced for future use.
Last month, Blue & Green Tomorrow reported about a group of researchers at Stanford University in America who had come up with an innovative battery that could potentially be used on a large scale to store energy, though their design is still in its early stages.
Your electricity can be renewably sourced at home. Just get in touch with Good Energy and they’ll help you out.
Photo: ARendle via Flickr