Britain’s wind farms almost ground to a halt during the coldest spells in December, it has emerged.
As temperatures plunged below zero and demand for electricity soared, figures reveal that most of the country’s 3,000 wind turbines were virtually still, energy experts say.
During some of the chilliest weather, they were working at less than one-hundredth of capacity, producing electricity for fewer than 30,000 homes.
The National Grid was forced to compensate for the still, cold conditions by cranking up conventional coal and gas-fired power stations.
December was the coldest month in more than a century – and yesterday, as some in northern England, the Midlands and Wales were hit with more snow, residents will have been switching on the heating again. But critics have warned that the UK is becoming too dependent on wind for power.
There are 3,153 working turbines in 283 wind farms across the UK, capable of generating more than 5.2 gigawatts of electricity – enough to power almost three million homes, the wind industry says.
Over the next decade, another 10,000 turbines will go up to meet Europe’s climate change targets. By 2020, the Government says 30 per cent of all Britain’s electricity will be generated by wind.
But at best, turbines work at just 30 to 40 per cent of their capacity. And in cold winter snaps, often caused by vast, slow-moving high-pressure systems over Northern Europe, winds drop to almost nothing.
Helen Chivers, of the Met Office, said cold spells were often accompanied by low winds. ‘It is fairly common in winter to have these high pressure systems that bring cold, still conditions over Britain.’
By David Derbyshire Environment Editor
Last updated at 1:49 PM on 8th January 2011
Full article here: Daily Mail