Electric Power Generation and Distribution

Video: Cold Weather and Wind Energy Supply in the UK

19 June 2017

A comparison of U.K. wind power availability with electricity demand in winter shows that as temperatures fall and electricity demand increases, average wind energy supply is reduced. However, on the very coldest days, with highest electricity demand, wind energy supply starts to recover.

(Source: Imperial College London)(Source: Imperial College London)

The nature of the weather patterns affecting Great Britain is responsible for this relationship. High demand is driven by a range of high pressure weather types, each giving cold conditions, but variable wind power availability. Offshore wind power is sustained at higher levels and offers a more secure supply compared to that onshore.

Researchers from U.K. Met Office Hadley Centre, Imperial College London and the University of Reading found that during the highest 5 percent of energy demand days, one-third of these days produce more wind power than the winter average.

Deploying turbines across the U.K. would make the most of the varied wind patterns associated with the coldest days – maximizing power supply during high demand conditions.

The research also highlights the risk of concurrent wide-scale high electricity demand and low wind power supply over many parts of Europe. Neighboring countries may therefore struggle to provide additional capacity to the U.K. when the U.K.’s own demand is high and wind power low.

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Discussion – 3 comments

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Re: Video: Cold Weather and Wind Energy Supply in the UK
2017-Jun-19 10:42 PM

One thing I can't understand, is why only three thin blades are used to drive the generators. You'd really want to maximize the surface area to catch all the wind possible. Pressure-relief devices can be used to prevent over-stressing the unit. And the added weight of the rotor and gyroscopic effect can be compensated for. But these 3-bladed jokes look like they can only work in a hurricane. What's up with that?

Re: Video: Cold Weather and Wind Energy Supply in the UK
In reply to #1
2017-Jun-20 6:40 AM

The sums have been done (VERY carefully!) to maximize the energy harvested from the wind. Altho' they seem to rotate very slowly, they're actually known as high-speed wind turbines!

Re: Video: Cold Weather and Wind Energy Supply in the UK
In reply to #1
2017-Jun-20 12:17 PM

More blades increase the torque generated at a specific wind speed but decrease the maximum speed the blades can spin. More blades also reduce the cut-in speed (and the stall/torque-out speed--where the aerodynamics no longer favor rotation or the turbine starts to see heavy twisting about its tower). Having fewer blades also tends to allow for farm arrays--where the extra blades affect the wind around a single turbine too much to make this viable.

Turbines are built to suit the location and yearly wind profile. And you can design a turbine to function well in only a "small" range of wind conditions, so they have to be designed to maximize operating wind speed, the frequency of seeing the operating wind speed, and for how long each occurrence of that wind speed lasts.

If a turbine works well at low wind speeds, chances are it will be lacking in performance when the wind picks up--which is when you really want them to work because power increases by the cube of the wind speed. This is also why they must stall at higher wind speeds (which are less frequent relative to the operating speeds).

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