Wind farms produced nearly a fifth less power in the second quarter of this year, despite the installation of hundreds of new turbines, because it wasn’t as windy as usual.
Statistics published yesterday showed that the amount of electricity produced by offshore wind farms was down 22 per cent in the three months to June, compared with a year earlier.
And the same data showed almost as big a fall in output from onshore wind farms, down nearly 17 per cent. Both drops came despite huge amounts of new turbines brought online.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change said the reduction was down to unusually calm weather, ‘with the impact of low wind speeds exceeding that of increased capacity.’
‘Average wind speeds in 2014 Q2, at 7.2 knots, were the lowest for that quarter since 2010, and 1.6 knots lower than a year earlier,’ officials wrote.
‘With wind speeds of 6.1 knots (1.5 knots lower than a year earlier), June was the calmest month in the last 14 years, while wind speeds in both April and May were 1.7 knots lower than a year earlier.’
The falls in output came despite more than a gigaWatt of extra capacity brought online in onshore wind farms and more than 500 megaWatts offshore.
Officials claimed nevertheless that the share of electricity generated from renewable sources was nearly 17 per cent, up 0.9 per cent on a year earlier. Solar electricity generation was up by 67 per cent and there were also big increases in hydroelectricity, anaerobic digestion and energy from waste.
Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, which is critical of subsidies handed to the sector, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘The latest DECC data is further confirmation that wind power output is highly variable over all timescales, minutes, hours, months, and even from year to year.
‘These variabilities are physically manageable but they have highly significant negative economic impacts on the rest of the power generation fleet, whose market is made very uncertain, and these uncertainties ultimately mean much higher costs for consumers.’
Trade association RenewableUK defended the role wind farms had played in catering to Britain’s thirst for power.
Pointing out that more than 50 per cent of the UK’s renewable energy comes from wind, a spokesman told the Telegraph: ‘In August, wind energy outstripped coal and nuclear for several days, and hit at all time 24-hour record high of 22 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs. …
‘Every unit of electricity we generate from wind offsets a unit from polluting fossil fuels, so anyone who cares about climate change knows that we need to make the most of it whenever we can.’
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