Britain is experiencing a “wind drought” that has slowed or halted the blades on turbines around the country.
July’s wind energy output so far is down 40 per cent when compared to the same period last year – despite more wind turbines having been installed in the interim, according to new figures.
“We’ve been typically doing between 2 to 3 gigawatts of wind [generation],” says Rob Gross of Imperial College London, which complied the data, “At a windier time of the year we might be doing 9 or 10.”
An unusually prolonged period of high pressure is to blame for the drought, says Grahame Madge, a spokesman for the UK Met Office.
The jet stream has remained further north, meaning an area of dense, high pressure air over the UK hasn’t budged.
“It’s like a lid, it keeps everything still,” says Madge. “From the forecast looking out over the next couple of weeks, there doesn’t seem to be any significant change on the way.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the National Grid said: ““Between 4th June and 15th July wind generation was around 30% lower compared to the same period last year. Electricity demand is low and we’re comfortable with the level of spare generation we have available. ”
“As we continue to transition to a low carbon energy system, managing the intermittency of renewable power is an important role in balancing supply and demand. However we have planned for these changes and ready to play our part”.
The price of natural gas, which is being burned more to compensate for the lack of wind, has ticked up slightly.
Ireland is facing similar problems with a lack of wind while falling water levels in rivers have also curtailed hydroelectric power generation in July.
Climate change might mean that less wind is available for energy production in general during the coming decades. One projection, published in Nature Geoscience in December, suggested that wind power would decrease in the northern hemisphere but increase in the southern hemisphere.
This might mean a loss of as much as 18 per cent of wind over the central US by the year 2100, according to the study.
It’s essential that the UK plans for windless periods in the future, says Gross. He points out that in recent weeks Great Britain has benefited from relatively high solar energy output. Solar provided nearly 10 per cent of Britain’s electricity in the week ending 1 July, for example.
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