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Britain's wind power could be best in Europe

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The government's target of generating 10 per cent of the UK's electricity from renewable resources could be met by wind alone, a study has found, with very little risk of either high or low winds significantly disrupting the power supply.

Researchers at Oxford University's Environmental Change Institute analysed more than 34 years of wind speed data collected by the Met Office at 66 sites across the UK.

The data revealed that the British Isles are much windier during the winter than the summer, meaning that (rather usefully) wind power delivers two-and-a-half times as much power during times of high demand.

The research also showed that the chances of the whole of the UK being becalmed were very slim, particularly in the winter.

Low wind speeds affecting more than 90 per cent of the country are only likely to occur for about an hour, once every five years during the winter. The danger of high wind speeds causing more than 40 per cent of plants to shut down would only be an issue for an hour, once every 10 years.

Energy minister Malcolm Wicks described the research as "a nail in the coffin" of the "myths" perpetuated by opponents of wind power, and said that wind power in the UK is a "vast and dependable" resource.

"This new research shows that UK wind power delivers more energy at times of peak demand, and that claims that calm conditions regularly occur throughout the UK in winter are without foundation," he said.

"It also shows that it's misleading for opponents of wind in the UK to cite problems from elsewhere in Europe as valid here. Our wind resource is far better even than Germany and Denmark where wind power is currently most widespread."

The UK is certainly windier than the rest of Europe. It has a so-called capacity factor (a measure of electricity generated vs. theoretical maximum under ideal wind conditions) for onshore wind turbines of 27 per cent, as compared to 15 per cent and 20 per cent in Denmark and Germany respectively.

The report also says that introducing wind farms that would generate 10 per cent of the UK's electricity will increase the cost by approximately 2.5 per cent, thanks to the initial investment required, and the need to balance the supply across variations in the weather.

You can have a read of the full report here. ®

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