May gales help Britain set record for wind power generation

In early hours of Friday, windfarm turbines provided nearly two-thirds of Britain’s electricity

Powerful gusts of wind sweeping across Britain have helped the country reach a new all-time high for electricity generated from wind turbines.

A new record was set in the early hours of Friday for the share of wind power in the generation mix, with wind providing nearly two-thirds of Britain’s electricity, according to provisional data from National Grid.

Between 2am and 3am, wind was contributing 62.5% to Britain’s electricity mix, beating the previous record of 59.9% from August last year, when gale-force winds brought by storms Ellen and Francis hit the country.

As the blustery weather buffeted the UK, there were several periods between 10pm on Thursday night and early Friday morning when wind was contributing more than 60% for the first time.

The amount of electricity generated from wind in the UK hovered around 16.3 gigawatts on Friday, after hitting a record 17.6GW on the bank holiday in early May. So far this month, wind makes up 18% of the electricity mix, below the 20% recorded in May last year, but much higher than the levels seen in May in previous years.

The Met Office issued a yellow warning for wind for Wales and southern England through Friday, with the strongest winds expected in the south-west with gusts between 50-60mph in coastal areas and 45-50mph inland. BBC Weather warned of gusts of up to 78mph.

New milestones for wind power generation have been hit several times in the past year. On Boxing Day, when Storm Bella brought gusts of up to 100mph, wind provided 50.7% of Britain’s electricity, sustaining high levels for 24 hours.

2020 was the greenest year on record for Britain’s electricity system, when average carbon intensity – the measure of carbon dioxide emissions per unit of electricity consumed – reached a new low, according to National Grid.

An independent climate thinktank, Ember, said the UK’s renewable electricity outpaced its fossil fuel generation for the first time last year and could remain the largest source of electricity in the future. It revealed that renewable energy generated by wind, sunlight, water and wood made up 42% of the UK’s electricity last year compared with 41% generated from gas and coal plants together.

The UK is also on track for its wettest May on record after a very dry April, with further heavy rain and forecast this weekend, while the strong winds are forecast to ease on Saturday.


Julia Kollewe

The GuardianTramp

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