Storm Bella helps UK set new record for wind power generation

More than half the UK’s daily electricity came from wind turbines for the first time on Boxing Day, in a performance achieved on gusts of up to 100mph (160 km/h) from Storm Bella.

Data charting the proportion of power generated from different sources, including fossil fuel and nuclear plants, show that on 26 December wind provided 50.7% of UK electricity.

While wind briefly hit 60% in August, it had not previously sustained such levels for 24 hours.

Nuclear power accounted for the second largest share at 21%, while gas was responsible for 14.5% of the power supply, according to the power company Drax, which specialises in coal and biomass.

The milestone came in what is widely expected to be the greenest year on record in terms of UK power generation.

While wind’s share of the energy mix hit a record over 24 hours, UK windfarms did not generate a record amount of power. That milestone was reached earlier this month, when they delivered 17.3 gigawatts (GW), accounting for 40% of total demand, which was higher overall than on Boxing Day.

The coronavirus pandemic has reduced electricity usage overall in 2020 compared with a normal year, as large swathes of the economy have been forced to shut for extended periods. The result has been a reduction in average power demand across the year, from 32.58GW in 2019 to 30.6GW so far in 2020.

Demand on 26 December, with most people at home recuperating from Christmas dinners, was broadly similar to last year at an average 29.42GW, compared with 29.74GW in 2019.

But while wind provided just under a third of UK power on Boxing Day 2019, it rose above 50% this year, as Storm Bella brought high winds across much of the country.

The estimate of Boxing Day usage came from the power company Drax and is higher than a figure of 45.4% given by National Grid. This is because Drax factors in small-scale windfarms that generate power locally, whereas the National Grid estimates do not take these into account.


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