Last weekend’s strong winds across the country brought a boost to the electricity grid as wind power output reached record seasonal highs. Just under 16% of energy demand in the UK on Monday was met by wind power and just over 13% over the 24 hours from Sunday morning to Monday morning.
This strong performance meant that wind power output exceeded coal power (which accounted for just over 11% of demand). Nuclear met almost 29% and gas the highest meeting over 32% of demand.
This level of performance brought the output levels close to the all time high set in December 2013 when wind power met 10% of electricity demand throughout the entire month and peaked at 17% the Saturday before Christmas.
Over the past 12 months wind power has continued to break its own records and recently the UK government confirmed that throughout 2013 over 14% of electricity came from renewable energy sources with wind power providing just under 8%.
Although renewable energy can provide variable amounts of output, something the critics like to constantly remind us of, the National Grid has consistently argued that its infrastructure can cope with the differing levels of supply from renewable energy. The most recent government figures confirmed that last year the load factors from wind power often exceeded or equalled that of gas at 27.9%.
It has also been reported this week that EDF has had to close four of its UK nuclear reactors for eight weeks removing approximately a quarter of its nuclear generating capacity from the grid after a discovery of a fault.
The temporary closures at Heysham and Hartlepool are due to fault in the boiler system discovered during a routine inspection. The National Grid were quoted stating that the shutdowns would not impact upon power supplies due to wind power’s current strong performance, “Generally demand is low at this time of year, and a lot of wind power is being generated right now,” they said.
We are delighted that wind power is proving to be a consistent source of energy. It shows that the technology is now advanced enough, both the turbines and the grid infrastructure, to deliver energy reliably when called upon. However we should not stop here as further investment can continue to improve upon what has already been achieved. The call for clean renewable energy is going to increase and if we can continue to grow as an industry we will be in an excellent position to meet the demand.
In related news it has been announced that over 20,000 homes and businesses could be heated from energy from forty urban rivers and estuaries according to new government research. Using technology known as water source heat pumps they draw residual heat from the rivers which is then transferred into local networks or single building to provide a sustainable form of low carbon renewable energy.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey wants to see a quick development of this system and last week the Department for Energy produced a “heat map” to assist local authorities and developers in identifying the best areas for the installation of the pumps, aligning them to locations of high heat demand.
The map has been designed to illustrate the potential of the technology, which is popular in Japan and Scandinavia for heating individual homes. It will be updated as research continues.
The prototype system currently working in the Thames, London provides heat for 150 private homes plus a large hotel and saves 500 tonnes of carbon emissions per year that would otherwise end up in our atmosphere had the heat been created by traditional gas or coal fired electricity.
The water is drawn from two metres below the surface of the Thames, where latent heat is sustained at a constant temperature of between 8C and 10C.
Mr Davey said: “It sounds like magic, but using proven technology we can now extract some of the heat in our rivers and estuaries and use that energy to heat our homes and offices.”
“I want to help communities across England use our waterways for this renewable heat,” he said. “This new map is designed to help communities, councils and developers identify the most promising opportunities.”
“If we can succeed on a large scale it would cut Britain’s import bill and boost our home-grown supplies of clean, secure energy.”
The UK Government are looking at several forms of low carbon energy generation and hope to introduce more in the coming months in order to help meet European Union emissions targets. Europe is aiming to reduce carbon emissions by 40% of the 1990 level as well as produce 27% of its energy from renewable sources.
We believe in strong mix of various sources of energy so we are pleased that new alternative technologies are being tried and tested. At a time when overall energy demand is on the increase we need as many proven clean supplies as we can maintain. New technology may initially be more costly but in the long term it makes sense, both economically and environmentally, to have several established sources that can reliably deliver clean renewable energy.