Wind Power’s Current Contribution to Electricity Generation

As analysed in the paper provided to the UK National Grid by Bush and MacDonald (2010), the British government’s policy of relying on wind for about one-third of the UK’s electricity supplies in the 2020s will plunge the country into blackouts unless changed. This is fundamentally due to the intermittent character of wind flows over the British Isles and the basic physical and chemical impossibility of storing electricity on anything like the scale needed to affect security of supply (see Bush and MacDonald, The Chemical Engineer, October (2011) pages 30-34).

On the Secure Energy Strategy (SES) page of this website you can see the evidence that when electricity supply is most needed, i.e. in the short days of a British winter, electricity supply from wind turbines falls nearly to zero. This is because the high pressure weather system which establishes itself over the British Isles in January and February naturally brings very low wind speeds and sub-zero temperatures (as now in Britain). See the post from 3rd December 2010 “Wind Energy’s Contribution to UK Electricity Supply”.

The National Grid provides data on the electricity actually generated which is updated at 5-10 minute intervals. You can click on the link “Generating by Fuel Type” and then to find the table scroll down or click on the list at the left-hand side of the page. At the time of writing (January 17th, 1800 hours) supply from wind over the last 24 hours at 27383 MWh corresponded to 2.4% of UK demand and an average power of 1140 MW, roughly 17% of rated capacity.

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One Response to “Wind Power’s Current Contribution to Electricity Generation”

  1. David MacDonald says:

    It been a windy 10 days from 18 to 27 January and the wind farms monitored by National Grid have generated an average of 2.6 GW or 45% of the total of the 5.7 GW of installed wind turbine capacity. The peak wind generation during the period was 4.5 GW (79% of total capacity) on the morning of Sunday 27 January whilst the minimum recorded was 0.65 GW (11% of total capacity), close to the time of peak demand at 5 pm on Wednesday 23 January. During the same period the Nuclear stations have generated an average of 8.7 GW (90% of the total capacity of 9.7 GW), never falling below 8.3 GW.

    This year we have not yet had any periods of winter high pressure (so no low wind speeds) as we did in early 2010 when, on February 13, the power generated by wind fell to below 2.5% of the installed capacity.

    Two other points of interest:
    • The coal fired stations continue to generate an average of about 18GW, much the same as in 2010, so there should be concern about possible power shortages from 2015 when some 30% of our capacity will be lost due to the EU Large Combustion Plant Directive.
    • In contrast to 2010 when we were a net exporter of power to France through the interconnector at Dungeness, we are now importing more that 0.5 GW from France most of the time and also a similar amount via the newly installed interconnector to Holland.

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