La Niña effect on wind electricity production

23rd October 2016 | Commercial Energy

There was a prediction in the Times recently which made a prediction for the UK wind industry this winter. It warned of the arrival of a weather phenomenon known as La Niña which could cause real problems for electricity supplies because of the likelihood of it being accompanied by an unusually cold and windless winter in the UK. However, according to Met Office and Carbon Brief’s analysis of previous La Niña events, there is little reason for such fears: it is considered to be just one of a host of factors which can affect UK weather and is unlikely to dominate enough to warrant forecasts of supply shortages.

Every five years or so, weakening trade winds cause a shift to warmer than normal ocean temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, a phenomenon known as El Niño: La Niña is El Niño’s cold-water counterpart.

Political commentator, Andrew Neil, warned about the potential effects of La Niña, “If meteorologists are to be believed, the La Niña weather pattern this year is likely to lead to an unusually cold and windless winter across northern Europe.” A dip in wind-produced electricity, together with the closure this year of three cola plants and a squeeze on supply from French nuclear plants, means National Grid will be eyeing the winter forecast more anxiously than ever.

Bloomberg quotes a Deutsche Bank analyst as saying, “A cold and windless period is most likely to result in high power prices, particularly if accompanied by multiple unplanned outages.”
The last notable La Niña occurred in the winter of 2010/11, with a weak event persisting into the following winter: prior to that, the last La Niña was in 2007/8. It typically peaks between December and April.

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