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Lack of wind raises fears for future of green energy  

Credit:  Robert Lea, Industrial Editor, The Times, www.thetimes.co.uk 2 February 2011 ~~

Britain’s leading renewable energy company has reported a 20 per fall in the amount of electricity produced by its wind turbines.

The news came as official figures revealed that on December 30, an exceptionally still day, Britain’s 3,000 operational wind turbines produced only 0.04 per cent of the country’s power.

The Energy Minister Charles Hendry told The Times that the figures proved the urgency with which other forms of low-carbon generation needed to be developed.

SSE, the company that trades as Southern Electric and Scottish Hydro, yesterday reported for the first time detailed information on the performance of its renewable power-generating facilities. It admitted that it revealed the figures under pressure from anxious investors.

SSE’s figures show a 30 per cent decline in output from its nine hydroelectric schemes. The company blamed that on dry periods early last year and the amount of unthawed snow this winter. SSE said that such significant swings in hydroelectric output were not unknown in the industry.

The 20 per cent fall in wind turbine output is potentially more worrying. The fleet of turbines, onshore and off the coast, are thought to be capable of producing 4 per cent of Britain’s electricity needs.

Data obtained by The Times from the National Grid’s Elexon unit reveal that for long periods in the summer wind farms produced less than 1 per cent of the country’s electricity. That was repeated again in November and December. The amount of electricity produced on December 30 was a seventy-fifth of the amount of power produced on the windiest day of the quarter on November 2.

SSE revealed the figures after investors demanded to know detailed information after an admission three months ago of falling renewable energy output. “We had not been explicit in our previous statements and investors have been asking the question about reduced output,” a spokesman said.

SSE does not know the extent to which last year was historically unwindy. “It is important enough to highlight to our investors – but just how exceptional it is, we simply do not know,” the spokesman said. “We have to look at this over a 20 to 25-year time frame.” The figures have not put SSE off the wind market. It is spending £1 billion on three big projects, including the Clyde onshore wind farm in South Lanarkshire, which will be the largest in Europe.

Mr Hendry said the data underlined what his department was trying to achieve in its electricity market reforms, which will be contained in a White Paper in the spring.

Source:  Robert Lea, Industrial Editor, The Times, www.thetimes.co.uk 2 February 2011

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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