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« In honour of Nigel Calder | Main | Watts up with Mann? »

Wind in the doldrums

The Telegraph is reporting the latest official figures about wind energy generation in the UK. Despite a rapid increase in capacity since last year, output in the three months to June was actually lower than a year ago  because the wind hasn't been blowing hard enough.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said that the impact of increased capacity was “out-weighed by that of very low wind speeds”.

“Average wind speeds were 1.6 knots lower than a year earlier, and the lowest for quarter two for four years. Average wind speeds in June were the lowest for any month in the last 14 years,” it said.

A glance at Gridwatch suggests that the next three months is going to be even worse. September has been nothing short of disastrous for wind generators, with the whole wind fleet at a virtual standstill.

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Reader Comments (37)

Another AGW miracle...climate change abates british winds exactly as more capacity gets installed. Devilish!!

Sep 26, 2014 at 10:29 AM | Registered Commenteromnologos

""National Grid has no problem taking clean power generated by wind whenever it's available as often as it can," says the man from RenewablesUK.

So they're not demanding payments to turn off in periods of high wind and insufficient demand?

Sep 26, 2014 at 10:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterTinyCO2

Yes we've been keeping an eye on Gridwatch and Robin has made a suitable screen shot of the first three weeks of September when there was virtually no wind. The wind turbines near me have been at a standstill for most of the time for several months. The trade body RenewableUK put out a press release in August when we had one windy Sunday and, with low demand, wind had its highest fraction of total electricity generation so far. I wonder if they'll issue a press release about the lack of wind!

Of coutrse one of the expected outcomes of Climate Change is rreduced wind speeds ;<)

Sep 26, 2014 at 10:33 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

Less wind. Is that some of the 'extreme weather' that the ecogoons have been telling us to expect?

Maybe they will call this type of situation 'wind droughts' and try to tell us that these are just like 'rain droughts', and caused by too much CO2 in the air. Well, CO2 is a relatively heavy gas compared with the rest of the atmosphere, so maybe it is harder to move it about at high speed.

Sep 26, 2014 at 10:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterMax Roberts

Yet more evidence of *extreme* weather - clisci never excluded extremely tame weather, did it? (Or anything else, come to that...)

Sep 26, 2014 at 10:43 AM | Registered Commenterflaxdoctor

Has anyone ever done the calculation as to how much CO2 has *not* been emitted due to all our wind turbines? I don't mean how much electricity has been generated by wind turbines and what equivalent fossil fuel would have been needed to produce that electricity (which I'm sure is the figure that the pro-wind people would quote).

I mean what is the difference between our current CO2 emissions to produce our electricity per year, and what they would have been if we'd had no wind turbines at all?

That would take into account all the wasted fossil fuels spinning up and down generators or ticking over on standby, and all the wind power that was dumped because it was too windy.

Surely this is the only meaningful figure?

Sep 26, 2014 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterSean OConnor

"Has anyone ever done the calculation as to how much CO2 has *not* been emitted due to all our wind turbines?"

The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind .....

Sep 26, 2014 at 10:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterKen

In return for the over-generous subsidies I'm involuntarily forced to contribute into the coffers of the wind subsidy-farmers, I get to enjoy a brief period of schadenfreude.

Sep 26, 2014 at 11:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

Yesterday, I expressed (hypothetical) pleasure at a certain Minister swing in the Wind.

There isn't even any Wind.......

Sep 26, 2014 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

"Average wind speeds in June were the lowest for any month in the last 14 years"

You realise that there are people (in DECC and elsewhere) who will interpret that as a need for more windmills?

I'm not normally a fan of Donald Trump, but it was fun to hear him on R4 this morning, pinning Alex Salmond's woes on his enthusiasm for wind power. I think he had a point.

Sep 26, 2014 at 11:29 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Sean O'Connor

Denmark discovered that wind power actually increases CO2 production. It is caised by the gas plants running to cover wind power popwerdowns due to variable wind. This study must have been duplicated here.

Sep 26, 2014 at 11:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

I've presented calculation results at a public inquiry which show that we have enough installed wind capacity such that any further wind capacity will increase CO2 emissions. Nobody wants to be the first to officially agree with the facts. The Government (DECC) refuses to examine the issue because it knows what the results will show.

Sep 26, 2014 at 11:51 AM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

@John Marshall: by end 2004 the Danes knew that ramping Coal Fired power stations up and down to fill in the variability of wind, CO2 generation rose 5% compared with no windmills. They decided to dump >10% demand wind power to Nordic hydro but kept quiet to avoid losing windmill sales.

I have private information from a relative who ran a coal power plant in Australia; once wind energy reaches 10% of demand, the steam turbines start to 'hunt'; it is a Universal phenomenon for steam turbines. The facts are; windmills in a steam-driven grid save 3% of fuel up to 10% 'penetration', 0% to 20%, negative more than 20%.

CCGTs are worse than coal and nuclear because below ~60% load, the steam cycle stops and efficiency falls below 40%. DECC and Davey know the facts; they are apparently persisting the windmills as a deliberate tactic to make electrical power unreliable as a form of social engineering, to kill off the poor by an inefficient economy and no basic services in cities, like sewage, supermarkets and cash machines. In effect, they have declared War on the population to feed their windmill and PV fetish, and to enrich landowners, renewables' corporations and carbon traders, also their relatives who have invested in the scam. There is a much better way to make the system work with windmills and save up to half fossil fuel use for equivalent heat and electrical power use in buildings.

Sep 26, 2014 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

These are the turbines used off Clacton

the cut in is between 3-5 metres/sec around 5.8-9.7 knots

the average wind speed in uk was 7.2 knots (april-june 2014) 6.8 knots (may-july 2014) according to

so the turbines may not even have started generating power
and even if they did the power would be minimal as power output of turbines increases with cube of wind speed

Do you reckon Douglas will mention this in his election campaign?

Sep 26, 2014 at 12:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterJeremy Shiers

'More wind turbines..!'

Just a note to Ed Davey, RenewablesUK and all the other protagonists with their heads where the sun don't shine..


(By the way, folks - if you want a chuckle, just play the animation on the Surface Pressure Charts website for the next few days...)

Sep 26, 2014 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

Once again the skeptics are proven to be correct: Wind energy as far as delivering electricity is concerned, is a failure.
Which raises the reasonable question: Since it is no longer debatable that wind power is a failed effort, what is it that the promoters of wind energy actually want?

Sep 26, 2014 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

Surely its time for the Man in the Street (or certainly the Man in the Countryside or at the Seaside) to start asking some serious questions of his/her elected representative.
You can't look at a gas-fired or nuclear power station and see whether its producing any electricity (coal you might be able to work it out if the cooling towers are producing water vapour)
With wind turbines, you can SEE when your hard-earned tax and utilities cash is not working..

Sep 26, 2014 at 1:19 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

So - how does that DECC statement fit in with the statement I had from one of their minions a few months ago: 'The UK has a valuable wind resource..'...?

How about adding the word: 'occasionally'..?

Sep 26, 2014 at 1:25 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

They turn even when not producing electricity. Apparently the bearings are likely to seize if not. On holiday in Llandudno earlier this year the flag outside our sea front hotel was vertical i.e. not a breath of wind, when we went for breakfast. All the turbines out to sea were spinning merrily. On our return they had all stopped.

Sep 26, 2014 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterTom Mills

@ John Marshall & turnedoutnice

With respect to this Danish conclusion that wind energy actually increases CO2 emissions, I would appreciate a link to it, if you have one available. That would be just the ammunition I need in a discussion I have with some green relatives.
Thanks in advance!

Sep 26, 2014 at 2:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

This graph is from the official Danish statistics:

It shows that as wind penetration increased significantly, 2003 to 2005, the CO2 Kg/GJ rose. However, the author plotted data which included other factors: natural gas replacing oil and increasing CHP. Also in late 2005 they changed the game by stopping cycling the stream turbines and dumping excess wind to Norway and Sweden.

The best guess is that the emissions per kW coal electricity jumped by ~5%: they then ran the Coal stations at constant output. The other issue is that the Danish Energy Agency 'adjusted' their data to maximise the apparent windmill statistics.

Sep 26, 2014 at 3:16 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

Thanks for that turnedoutnice - the penetration issue is the important one to note here as a small amount of wind generation can be catered for in the overall grid production without serious consequences.

Also I feel we should continue to talk about usable wind in these discussions as there is a cubed relationship between energy and speed for wind. To double wind speed takes an eightfold increase in energy. So if your wind turbine is calibrated to maximise energy generation at 16mph and the actual wind speed is 8mph then the turbine will be producing 12.5% of capacity. Turbines are fitted with governors to cope with a small level of wind speed above optimium perfomance then the turbine has to be shut down to protect itself. Very much a Goldilocks technology is wind.

Sep 26, 2014 at 4:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterLiT

When are the renewables industry going to wake up to the fact that they may be able to con politicians and gullible consumers, but they can't control nature? I bought a solar powered air pump for one of our ponds - it's sod all use, the colony of common lizards living around the pond have decided the solar panel is a sunbed installed for their benefit and spend most of the day lying on it, so not enough power for the air pump!

Sep 26, 2014 at 4:18 PM | Registered CommenterSalopian

Unfortunatly if they are not going round they are not wearing out, one can only hope that they corrode a seize up!

Sep 26, 2014 at 4:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoger Tolson

@LIT: you've got to watch common lizards, they'r pretty shady characters in my experience.....:O)

Sep 26, 2014 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterturnedoutnice

There's less wind because of climate change so we need more renewables such as wind turbines :-)

Sep 26, 2014 at 5:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

As I just noted on Unthreaded, Paul Homewood has an excellent article on Ed Miliband's decarbonisation plans. He calculates that, with fossil fuels eliminated, by 2030 we will need another 58GW of offshore wind capacity - i.e. a 15% increase from current levels. Just one problem: what would happen when the wind doesn't blow?

Paul's conclusion:

It is clear that Miliband has not thought through this policy, simply preferring to spout meaningless sound bites. Unfortunately, the UK will have to pay for the consequences.

Sep 26, 2014 at 5:41 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Not going well for the German investors either. Subsidies there not such an effective cushion again reality.

"Unexpectedly high repair, maintenance and insurance costs

At the 2:06 mark Daldorf tells SWF that the cause is “the missing wind, too much wind was planned, shoddy planning, improper planning, and unexpected (or falsely expected) high repair, maintenance, and insurance costs“.

These are the results of Daldorf’s nationwide windpark analysis. More and more it is becoming obvious that many of the investors were conned to some extent by Big Wind.

The missing wind

The report then focusses on the wind parks in the German state of Rhineland Palatinate. There the picture is even worse. The problem is that the necessary amount of wind needed to make the projects profitable there often just does not materialize. At the 2:51 mark economist Uwe Pilgram tells viewers that a turbine must run a minimum of 1700 hrs at full capacity each year in order to make a profit. But Pilgram says the average in 2013 was barely over 1400 hours."

Sep 26, 2014 at 5:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMick J

"National Grid ..... can predict exactly where the power will come from in advance with pinpoint accuracy."

"In August, wind energy outstripped coal and nuclear for several days.."

Will the man from Renewables please tell us on which days this will happen next month please?

Sep 26, 2014 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

In order to fulfill the plan mandated quotas, each wind turbine will have another (actually two) in fan mode facing it and powered from the grid to generate the wind needed for sustainable energy.

Sep 26, 2014 at 6:12 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

I think we now have enough evidence of the sheer uselessness of windmills in that they;

a) do not provide energy security
b) raise industrial and domestic energy bills
c) raise, rather than lower, CO2 emissions

that a judicial review of DECC's - and Potato Ed's energy policy is now in order.

Anyone willing to help?

Sep 26, 2014 at 8:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Philip Bratby

There are none so blind as those who do not wish to see. The Danish numbers on CO2 versus connected wind power generation are too factual, no unicorns or fairy dust. I'm pretty sure the laws of physics and thermodynamics don't change when they cross the channel. I also did the calculations for internal use when still working, anything past a nominal 18% wind power and CO2 emissions start to rise just on a simple fuel basis, never mind a full lifecycle evaluation. That was also in a Canadian context in areas with even better wind resource than the UK, 33%.

Time for a "winter of discontent" with interrupted power to possibly motivate the twitterati generation.

Sep 26, 2014 at 8:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

"In August, wind energy outstripped coal and nuclear for several days.."

Sep 26, 2014 at 6:04 PM | Unregistered Commenterbetapug

I think that the standout point that is missed there is that it was the first time output exceeded 5GW (installed 12 GW) since at least March according to the graph at Gridwatch. Coal generation was also down, seem to recall there were problems at a couple of coal fired power stations with gas picking up the slack.

Sep 26, 2014 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterMick J

Thanks for the link turnedoutnice!

Sep 27, 2014 at 6:24 AM | Unregistered CommenterWijnand

Does anyone have a source of the installed base for wind on a month by month basis?
I can download the gridwatch data and get averages by month. It would be good to get a figure against installed base.

So far September isn't looking much better than June.

Numbers in MW

Jan Average 3449.482526
Feb Average 4094.199727
Mar Average 2724.574368
Apr Average 2047.553356
May Average 1617.75577
Jun Average 937.7135574
Jul Average 1342.092722
Aug Average 2311.796259
Sep Average 1002.257894

Grand Average 2173.457966

Sep 27, 2014 at 8:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

If windmills were so good, people would buy their own. B&Q tried selling small domestic windmills (claiming a 1kW output) but, unsurprisingly, they failed the market test and were withdrawn. If only geniuses like Ed Davey could open their eyes to the truth staring them in the face.

Sep 27, 2014 at 9:44 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve Jones

I'm no expert - but I reckon the 'missing wind' has gone into the deep oceans, along with the 'missing heat'...

Sep 27, 2014 at 1:57 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1

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