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Wind Power Peaks in the UK, Denmark, US

Wind energy generated more than 5 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity consistently over a 48-hour period last week in the UK, enough to power more than 10 percent of the country's overall electricity needs, and the equivalent of nearly four out of every 10 homes. Also, a record 5.296 GW of wind was present on the grid at one point, measured as average generation over a half-hour period.

The data references Elexon, which tracks half-hour averages of generation by various sources (scroll down to "Generation by Fuel Type"). According to Elexon's records, generation was in the 5-GW range (half-hour averages) from the late evening of March 21 through March 23, and into the early hours of March 24.

"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," stated Maria McCaffery, CEO of nonprofit trade association RenewableUK. She said the achievement during a cold day in March "counters the idea that wind does not generate power during cold snaps" — apparently referencing known concerns about various challenges in operating wind turbines in cold and icy environmental conditions, from loss of lubricant viscosity to load stresses from icing, and even the risk of "ice throw." She also contrasts the wind output to recent fears of a U.K. gas shortage, and a recent spike in wholesale gas prices caused by a temporary pipeline shutdown.

RenewableUK also pointed to a report last week from Ofgem, revealing the "real cost" of wind energy to households as being less than 20 pence a week.

The UK is far and away Europe's leader in offshore wind, accounting for nearly 60 percent of the region's total 5 GW offshore capacity in 2012 (Denmark is net with 18 percent). The UK now has 870 turbines running in 20 offshore wind farms (twice as much as Denmark), including 243 of Europe's total 293 new offshore wind turbines that were grid-connected in 2012. Earlier this month (March 7) the London Array had 141 of its 175 wind turbines online (3.6 MW each), able to generate 507 MW of energy. The final turbine was installed in December and the project should be fully operational later this spring.

Speaking of Denmark, earlier this month Danish wind turbines sent nearly 4 GW into the electricity grid, only about 800 MW shy of meeting the nation's entire energy needs. (Though in reality the energy is sold to other European countries.) The Danish government has targeted wind to produce half its electricity by 2020, double its current rate.

It's been a busy month (or so) for record wind power production here in the U.S. as well:

  • In the evening of Feb. 17, local wind power generated 1,713 MWh of electricity for Xcel Energy's Upper Midwest region, meeting roughly a third customer electricity demand in the area. Wind amounted to about 12 percent of Xcel's Upper Midwest energy profile in 2012, with a target of 25 percent by 2020 (out of a total 30 percent RPS).
  • For the entirety of Feb. 12, Puget Sound Energy (PSE)'s three wind farms in Eastern Washington produced 16,595 MWh of electricity, about 90 percent of their one-day generating capacity. That was enough to supply 23.5 percent of electricity for PSE's 1.1 million customers. On average the turbines supply about 10 percent of power for PSE customers.
  • Just after 7pm on Feb. 9, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) reported 9,481 MW of power provided by wind generation — well surpassing the old mark of 8,667 MW set a few weeks prior, and providing nearly 28 percent of system load.

Lead image: Wind farm on Royd Moor, via Shutterstock

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