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UK wind sets new record and supplies more power than domestic coal, hydro and biomass

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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On Sunday night, wind power in the United Kingdom supplied more electricity than domestic coal, biomass, and hydropower (combined) and set a new record for maximum hourly output. According to RenewableUK, this record was reached at 10pm when wind supplied an hourly average of 5 GW over an hour (17% of the total electricity demand on the UK power grid at that time). The new average was a 25% increase from one year ago, when generation hit 4 GW in August 2013.

According to the UK Wind Energy Database, the nation has a total onshore wind power capacity topping 7.4 GW and approximately 3.7 GW in offshore capacity. But, this resource is still in the minority. As this wind power fleet reached its new record high on Sunday, nuclear and gas power plants were supplying the majority (57%) of the electricity going to the UK power grid. Remaining demand was met by coal (11%), hydropower (2%), biomass (2.5%), and imported power (10%).

Photo Credit: The photo above is of the Sheringham Shoal offshore wind farm off the Lincolnshire Coast in the United Kingdom. Located 17-23 kilometers (approximately 10-15 miles) off the coast, this 317 MW wind farm consists of 88 wind turbines and reports the capability to produce 1.1 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity per year. The photogram was taken from North Norfolk by David Bradley (sciencebase.com) in July 2014 and is used here with his permission (link).

Melissa C. Lott About the Author: An engineer and researcher who works at the intersection of energy, environment, technology, and policy. Follow on Twitter @mclott.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. jtdwyer 10:09 am 08/15/2014

    “But, this resource is still in the minority. As this wind power fleet reached its new record high on Sunday, nuclear and gas power plants were supplying the majority (57%) of the electricity going to the UK power grid.”
    So why is this headline big news?

    Link to this
  2. 2. billbedford 7:22 pm 08/15/2014

    It is probably more significant, for the UK’s CO2 output, that since the middle of May more than twice as much electricity has been produced by gas fired powered stations than by coal fired ones.

    Link to this
  3. 3. jrkipling 12:56 am 08/16/2014

    Interesting. The title surprised me until I read that the condition was for a one hour period. I appreciated the total breakdown of power sources at the end of the article. Your post did leave me wondering what the annual breakdown is for the UK, but I can look that up myself.

    It’s a pleasure to see objectivity in reporting on this subject. But then I would expect nothing less from an engineer.

    Link to this
  4. 4. Dr. Strangelove 10:18 pm 08/19/2014

    5 GW of wind power for a short time is not impressive when you realize that the solid rocket booster of the Space Shuttle can generate 30 GW or equivalent to 100% of the electric power of UK.

    Link to this
  5. 5. Dr. Strangelove 10:41 pm 08/19/2014

    Correction: it should be divided by 2. The power of solid rocket booster is 15 GW.

    Link to this

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