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Study of Wind Power in UK Finds Actual Results Extremely Variable
11 December 2006
An independent study commissioned by the UK’s Renewable Energy Foundation (REF) has found that power generation by the UK wind sector varies enormously with location, and that even with a large installed base of wind turbines, results for wind power in the UK would be extremely spotty.
Although most wind power sites were built on expected capacity factors of around 30%, actual results include 19% (approximate) capacity factor for the wind turbines at Dagenham, Essex; 9% (approximate) capacity factor at the Barnard Castle plant, County Durham; and 7.7% for the turbine close to the M25 at Kings Langley, Herts at the HQ of Renewable Energy Systems, the green energy division of Robert McAlpine group—the worst results found.
Power generation capacities offshore are encouraging, while those onshore are generally only superior in locations very distant from the populations requiring the electrical energy.
Using this analysis, the researchers calibrated a model to project the performance of a large installed capacity of wind power built across the UK. The project used Meteorological Office data to model output for every hour of every January from 1994-2006.
The results show that, even when distributed UK wide, the wind power output is still highly volatile, with the average January power variation over the last 12 years equivalent to 94% of installed capacity. It is an uncontrolled variation decided by the weather. The average minimum output is only 3.7% or 0.9GW in a 25GW system.
Power swings of 70% in 30 hours are the norm in January, according to the results.
The British Government’s expectation is that three quarters of the 2010 renewables target, and the lion’s share of the “20% by 2020” target will be made up of windpower. However, the new research offers predictions which are in keeping with Danish and German empirical experience and demonstrate the need for a broader spread of investment in the renewable sector.
This important modelling exercise shows that even with best efforts a large wind carpet in the UK would have a low capacity credit, and be a real handful to manage. This isn’t the best way to encourage China and India to move towards the low-carbon economy. As a matter of urgency, for the planet’s sake, we need to bring forward a much broader range of low carbon generating technologies, including the full sweep of renewables. Wind has a place, but it must not be allowed to squeeze out other technologies that have more to offer.
—Campbell Dunford, CEO of REF
The report was commissioned from Oswald Consultancy Limited and funded by donation from the entrepreneur Vincent Tchenguiz. Tchenguiz is, according to the Times of London, with his brother among Britain’s richest people, with a combined fortune of £400m. The brothers made their money in property.
In November, 2006, Tchenguiz, with the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, established the £130m Abu Dhabi Masdar Clean Tech Fund to invest in renewable and alternative energy such as solar power. Tchenguiz has remodelled his £1bn business portfolio to invest in everything from low-carbon technology to forestry projects.
The Renewable Energy Foundation is a registered charity that funds independent research into renewable and alternative energy technologies and policy. REF is funded by private donations and has no political affiliation or corporate membership.
According to the Telegraph, a spokesman for the British Wind Energy Association accused the Renewable Energy Foundation of having an “anti wind agenda” and said it was “deeply suspicious” of the findings.
UK Renewable Energy Data