Offshore wind farms are drawing power from the National Grid to keep turning and prevent them icing up in subzero temperatures, it has emerged.
The turbines need to idle slowly when temperatures plunge in calm conditions to stop ice forming and to power hydraulic systems that turn the blades into the wind.
Critics of wind farms, which cost three times as much as conventional power stations per unit of energy produced, said it was “another example of why wind farms are difficult and expensive to manage”, but industry bodies pointed out that all power stations use electricity as well as generating it.
The phenomenon was pointed out in the Telegraph’s letters page by Brian Christley, of Conwy, who said that “over the weekend just gone, the coldest of the year so far, all 100-plus offshore wind turbines along the North Wales coast were idling very slowly, using grid power for de-icing”.
Rob Norris, a spokesman for the industry body RenewableUK, confirmed that wind farms used electricity to keep their systems running, but said it was a “tiny fraction” of the amount of power they generated.
He said: “The best comparison is to think of how much electricity you’d use to boil a kettle compared to how much an entire village would need to power everything. All generators, including gas and nuclear plants, use some electricity as well as producing it.”
John Constable, of the Renewable Energy Foundation charity, said: “We know that in Denmark there are days when their wind farms are net consumers of electricity, so in some ways this is not surprising.
“It’s another example of how wind power is difficult and expensive to manage.”
The energy firm RWE, which owns 30 turbines off the North Wales coast, said that on the days in question they were net contributors to the National Grid.
A spokesman said: “All energy generators use a small amount of electricity to keep their systems running smoothly, in the case of wind farms drawing power from either an adjacent operating turbine or the grid.”
Wind power makes up around 10 per cent of the electricity used in the UK, with coal and gas making up around 30 per cent each and nuclear another 20 per cent.
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