Storm Diana brought travel chaos to road, rail and airports, but the clouds did have a silver lining: the strong winds helped set a renewable energy record.
Windfarms supplied about a third of the UK’s electricity between 6pm and 6.30pm on Wednesday, a time of peak energy demand. Output hit a high of 14.9GW, beating a previous record of 14.5GW.
The milestone coincides with the official opening on Friday of E.ON’s Rampion windfarm off the coast near Brighton, which is the first in the Channel and can power about 350,000 homes.
Blustery weather has buoyed wind output in the past few days, with National Grid reporting thousands of wind turbines were the UK’s No 1 source of power across Wednesday and Thursday, at about 32% of generation. Gas power stations are usually top.
Windfarms have moved from a niche source of electricity generation a decade ago – when they supplied less than 2% – to a cornerstone of Britain’s power mix, at nearly 15% of supply last year.
The 400MW Rampion project is one of four big offshore windfarms to come online this year, along with a 92MW windfarm in Aberdeen Bay, a 353MW windfarm off the Suffolk coast and a 659MW windfarm off Cumbria, which is the world’s biggest.
More vast schemes are in the wings, with a 588MW windfarm in the Moray Firth due to become fully operational next year. The title of world’s largest windfarm will be taken by a 1,218MW project off east Yorkshire a year later.
Emma Pinchbeck, the executive director of the industry body RenewableUK, said: “It’s great to see British wind power setting new records at one of the coldest, darkest, wettest times of the year.”
Onshore windfarms are cheaper and provide more power than those offshore, but the government has blocked them from competing for subsidies