Wind Power Came To The Rescue As UK Shivered

Wind power is intermittent, and from this fact people assume that it fluctuates wildly from minute to minute. That’s not really the way it works, generally.

Take the period from 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 21, until that same time the following night in Great Britain. For that 24-hour period, wind was sending at least 5 gigawatts of power to the grid.

Not 1 GW, then 6 GW, then 3 GW. At least 5 GW, the entire time.

uk wind power

Scout Moor Wind Farm in Northern England (image via Wikimedia Commons)

“This means that for this 24 hour period wind was generating enough to power the equivalent of nearly 4 out of every 10 UK homes and consistently over 10% of GB’s overall electricity needs,” the trade group RenewableUK said in a statement.

In fact, wind production was in a pretty narrow range the whole time, sustaining at least 5 gigawatts and reaching a peak – and a record for the U.K. – for a half-hour period at 3:30 p.m., at 5.296 GW.

“What this shows is that wind is a stable and reliable source of power generation on the scale we need, when we need it most,” RenewableUK  chief executive Maria McCaffery said.

RenewableUK pointed out some other interesting facts about this remarkable date in U.K. wind power history.

First, it came during a period of cold weather, when demand on gas was high – and the price was high as well (many people in the U.S. forget that our natural gas market is uniquely buyer-friendly right now).

“This then counters the idea that wind does not generate power during cold snaps and comes at the same time as reports that the UK has only 36 hours of gas supplies in reserve, and on the day that the wholesale price of gas in the UK reached a seven year high,” McCaffery said.

So while wind has its drawbacks – there will no doubt be days in which it dies down and produces little power – there is one claim it can always make over gas or any other fossil-fuel driven form: the price of the input won’t skyrocket. It’s always free.

In that sense, McCaffery said, March 21-22 “serves as a timely reminder of the vulnerability of supply and the price volatility of imported fossil fuels.”

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.