UK summer “wind drought” puts green revolution into reverse

29th August 2018 | Commercial Energy

The summer of 2017 was lauded as the “greenest ever” for electricity generation, thanks to a growing number of windfarms and solar installations edging out coal and gas power stations. But this year has seen a comparatively dirty summer for power generation, due to the weather’s impact on renewables.

The Met Office said the high pressure that caused much of the country to bask under sunny skies had suppressed windy conditions. The weather proved a boon for staycations, garden centres and solar panel owners, but windfarms suffered. They usually provide four times as much power as solar each year. The wind drought meant that at times turbine blades sat idle for days.

Windfarm capacity is up by more than 10% since a year ago, but the share of electricity they supplied dropped from 12.9% last year to 10.4% this summer, figures from National Grid show.

Green Revolution

Although record-breaking solar output helped fill some of the gaps and nuclear plants provided a bedrock of supply, gas power stations were fired up to meet demand. The key measure of how green the power grid is – carbon intensity, measured in grammes of CO2 per kilowatt hour – was up by 8% on average over the past three months.

Duncan Burt, director of operations at National Grid, said, “We have seen a slight decrease in wind over the summer linked to the unusually warm weather, which demonstrates why it is important for us to have a diverse energy mix to ensure we can continue to manage supply and demand.”

He welcomed the growth in wind and solar over the past year, and said both were playing an increasingly important role in the energy system. While this summer showed an uptick in carbon emissions, it is the second greenest ever.

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