Monday, 10 February 2014

Britain’s Wild Weather

Written by Chris Handel
Director in CBRE’s Ratings & Taxation consultancy

Unless you were lucky enough to go abroad over the Christmas break you're unlikely to have escaped the effects of all the appalling weather. A possible upside could be that the UK’s wind farm fleet has just had its best ever period setting daily, weekly and monthly records.

Wind turbines generated 2.8m megawatt hours of electricity for the National Grid in December – enough to power more than 5.7m homes.

In the days surrounding Christmas a record of 17% of the nation’s total electricity demand was met by turbines. Indeed, they were spinning so much here and in Europe that on occasions supply exceeded demand resulting in very low or even negative spot electricity prices - which has never happened before.

At night Scottish turbines had to be turned off to avoid overloading local networks. Low carbon fans such as myself were pleased to learn that we burnt a lot less coal as a result and our nation's gas power stations did little more than tick over for days on end.

This phenomenon highlights the growth of this sector and the new challenges it poses for the national grid and the electricity market as a whole. Granted, this weather was exceptional; but I for one will be keeping an eye out for records to continue to be broken as the UK’s wind power fleet is set to double again in size by 2020 with giant machines miles offshore.

What’s clear is that our national grid will need to be dramatically upgraded to accommodate all this wind power. Imaginative solutions such as economical large scale electricity storage are now on the horizon and could well be the game changer that unlocks the true potential of renewable power.

So love ‘em or hate ‘em wind turbines will be coming to a field or local beach near you, transforming the way we power our homes and businesses.

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