One of the reasons for the high prices was a lack of high winds affecting the capacity loads of wind farms.
For instance, in Cambridge – the main town in county Cambridgeshire and site of one of the country’s largest wind farms, McCain Foods with a capacity of 3 GW – average wind speeds for the period from 1st to 15th August stood at 15.7 metres per second (57 kph). But they dipped to 13.8 m/sec (48 kph) from 16th to 30th August and to 41 kph from 1st to 14th September, according to data from the Met Office, Britain’s national weather service.
The same scenario applied to the city of Camelford in Cornwall in southwestern England – two miles from the country’s oldest commercial land-based wind far at Delabole with a capacity of 2.3 GW – brought on stream in 1991. Over the same reporting period, the average daily wind speed tumbled from 69 kph to 56 kph and later to 53 kph.
“Boosting production of wind turbines in areas with low wind speeds can be done by lengthening the blade,” said Frede Blaabjerg, professor at Aalborg University in Denmark and winner of the 2019 Global Energy Prize. Other solutions might be integrating the wind farm with energy storage systems. “That gives you access to electricity when there is no wind.”
From 2011 to 2020 installed capacity of wind power stations rose in Britain from 6.6 GW to 24.7 GW, according to figures from BP. The share of wind power in total generated power rose from 4 % to 24 %, according to calculations by the Ember research centre. By way of comparison, from 2011-2020, the share of coal-fired power generation sank in Britain from 30 % to 2 %. Gas dipped from 40 % to 37 %.
But the vulnerable aspect of wind power remains the great dependence of load capacity on the weather – from 2015 to 2019 the average load of land-based wind power stations amounted to 26.6 % , compared to 38.9 % for offshore installations, according to data from the Renewable UK Association. The average load of gas-fired stations in that period, according to Statist, never dipped below 42.7 %.
Britain is a leader in construction of offshore wind installations. In 2020, of the 24.7 GW of installed capacity of wind power stations, 10.4 GW came from coastal stations – a higher figure than China (9 GW) and Germany (7.7 GW), according to data from IRENA, the International Renewable Energy Agency.
And the United Kingdom plans by 2030 to bring on stream 1 GW of floating, offshore sea stations – according to an official cabinet order, such a technological approach will allow for a high load for wind power stations.