Violent Holiday Helps Wind Farms Set New Clean Energy Record

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Britain’s wind farms set a new clean energy record on Monday after bad public holiday weather helped onshore and offshore wind turbines make up almost half of the power system.

The windy holiday produced a new wind energy record as the turbines generated just over 17.6 GW of electricity for the first time in mid-Monday afternoon, enough to be able to carry over 3.5 m of boiling kettles.

Wind farms generated 48.5% of the electricity grid in England, Scotland and Wales, more than the contribution of gas plants, nuclear reactors and biomass burners combined. Gas plants supplied 21.7% of the electricity grid yesterday afternoon, while nuclear reactors generated 12% and biomass plants contributed 6.1%.

However, washout time resulted in a drop in clean electricity from solar farms, which accounted for 2.3% of the electricity mix.

Wind turbines played a slightly larger role in keeping the lights on between Christmas and New Years last year, when wind power made up over 50.6% of electricity, but generated fewer gigawatts, as the overall electricity demand was lower.

The new high in wind power production narrowly surpassed the previous record, set in February, of 17.5 GW when Storm Darcey propelled wind power to 56% of UK electricity. Before that, wind turbines peaked on Boxing Day, when Storm Bella helped them generate just over half of Britain’s electricity.

The highest percentage of wind power in the electricity grid was recorded last summer, when demand for electricity is typically lower, at 59.9% of the energy mix. The National Grid power system operator (ESO) set a series of green electricity records in 2020, in part because the Covid pandemic helped reduce demand for electricity, which outpaced fossil fuels.

ESO recorded the greenest year in power system history after the average carbon intensity for 2020 fell to 181g CO₂ per kilowatt hour of electricity produced after the longest coal-free run since the Britain began to generate electricity from coal during the Industrial Revolution. England, Wales and Scotland were deprived of coal-fired electricity for 68 days between April 10 and June 16.

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