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Below is a snapshot of electricity by type at 14:15 on Wednesday 22nd December 2010, a cold day with no appreciable wind, three weeks into a very cold, windless spell.

Generation by fuel type @ 14:15 22/12/2010

Current Last ½ hour Last 24 hours
(13:00 – 13:30) (14:00 – 14:00)
MW %age MW %age MW %age
GB generating plant
Gas turbine 20529.0 38.7 20567.0 38.9 457395.0 38.6
Oil 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 579.0 0.2
Coal 23137.0 43.6 22942.0 43.4 491349.0 41.4
Nuclear 7640.0 14.4 7637.0 14.5 187811.0 15.8
Wind 108.0 0.2 118.0 0.2 1520.0 0.1
Pumped Storage 408.0 0.8 472.0 0.9 11925.0 1.0
Hydro 87.0 0.2 86.0 0.2 3416.0 0.3

Interconnectors (imported)

France 1102.0 2.1 988.0 1.9 3146.0 2.5
Ireland 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Netherlands 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
Totals 53011 52820 1185470

The important point to notice here is the paltry contribution from wind at a time of high demand, on its own not a problem, as any slack is taken up by other generating plants.

The problem arises when you understand that the EU has decided in its infinite wisdom, due to MMGW, to force us to shut down our coal powered power stations by the end of 2015. The shortfall is meant to be made up by renewables, mainly wind turbines. Currently we have 3,149 wind turbines active, producing a nominal 5,194 MW of electricity. In addition some of our nuclear power stations are due to be shut down and decommissioned, so we are looking at potentially 50% less power producing capacity. How many turbines did we need to have built in the last 4 years to guarantee 50% capacity based on the figure above, would be about 800,000, which would cost about £1.6 trillion and who knows how much carbon dioxide for the concrete and aluminium production.

The major issue with wind turbines is not their efficiency, it is their intermittency, no wind, no power. When the wind drops, something else has to be online ready as backup, that role is currently done by coal.

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