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article imageWind power in U.K. continues to set records, overtaking nuclear

By Karen Graham     May 16, 2018 in Technology
In the first three months of 2018, the U.K.'s wind farms made history, supplying more electricity than its eight nuclear power plants. And in another milestone, overnight on March 17, wind supplied almost half, 47 percent of Britain's electricity.
The data was drawn from the country's electrical grid by analysts from Imperial College London. They crunched the numbers and found the UK’s 8,886 onshore and offshore turbines produced 18.8 percent of all the country’s electricity in the first quarter of 2018, followed by 18.7 percent from nuclear power plants.
Basically, wind power in Britain is continuing to break records. In the last quarter of 2017, wind and solar power, combined, overtook nuclear power for the first time. The March 17 data showed that wind power provided over 14 gigawatts, another record when it surpassed nuclear all by itself.
Interestingly, the event occurred during a six-day cold snap with winds blowing in from Siberia dubbed "the beast from the east." The Imperial College researchers found the during the six-day period when temperatures dipped below zero, wind power provided between 12 to 43 percent of all electricity demand.
Britain s electricity supply mix for first quarter of 2018
Britain's electricity supply mix for first quarter of 2018
Drax/Imperial College London
"There has been much debate on whether wind can be relied upon during a cold, calm spell,” reads the report, noting that this latest data provides evidence to the contrary. The wind farms actually proved to be an advantage providing power when it was needed the most.
In the first quarter of 2018, according to the report, all renewable sources of energy provided 26 percent of electricity, and with adding in nuclear power, this means low-carbon sources reached 49 percent, a very nice number indeed.
The opening of the Western Link connection also helped
It was also noted in the report that the opening of the new 2.2GW cable connecting Scotland — which has 7.7GW of wind capacity – to North Wales also helped in generating additional capacity during the first quarter this year.
The Western Link connection has really helped — cutting the amount of money the National Grid has to pay wind farm owners for that curtailment. In 2017, the National Grid paid £100 million, and this year, the payments are already down by two-thirds.
Laying the Western Link connection cable. Did you know the Western Link is one of the longest high v...
Laying the Western Link connection cable. Did you know the Western Link is one of the longest high voltage direct current cables in the world?
Western Link
Emma Pinchbeck, the executive director at industry group RenewableUK, said: “It is great news for everyone that rather than turning turbines off to manage our aging grid, the new cable instead will make the best use of wind energy.”
And nuclear power was hampered during the same period because two nuclear reactors were taken offline for maintenance and a third one was shut down after its cooling system became clogged with seaweed.
Government policy changes threat to clean energy
All this good news comes at a time when MPs are warning there had been a “dramatic and worrying collapse” in clean energy investment over the past three years. MP's are pointing the finger-of-blame at government policy changes, including cuts to clean energy subsidies.
In a report by the Commons environmental audit committee. annual investment in clean energy dropped 50 percent in 2017. Mary Creagh, Labour MP and chair of the environmental audit committee, said: “Billions of pounds of investment is needed in clean energy, transport, heating, and industry to meet our carbon targets. But a dramatic fall in investment is threatening the government’s ability to meet legally binding climate change targets.”
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