Energy firm confirms wind turbines need to draw electricity from grid at
times, but point out that all power stations use electricity as well as
Offshore wind farms are drawing power from the National Grid to keep
turning and prevent them icing up in subzero temperatures, it has emerged.
The turbines need to idle slowly when temperatures plunge in calm
conditions to stop ice forming and to power hydraulic systems that turn the
blades into the wind.
Critics of wind farms, which cost three times as much as conventional power
stations per unit of energy produced, said it was “another example of why
wind farms are difficult and expensive to manage”, but industry bodies
pointed out that all power stations use electricity as well as generating it.
The phenomenon was pointed out in the Telegraph’s letters page by Brian
Christley, of Conwy, who said that “over the weekend just gone, the coldest
of the year so far, all 100-plus offshore wind turbines along the North
Wales coast were idling very slowly, using grid power for de-icing”.
Rob Norris, a spokesman for the industry body RenewableUK, confirmed that
wind farms used electricity to keep their systems running, but said it was
a “tiny fraction” of the amount of power they generated.
He said: “The best comparison is to think of how much electricity you’d use
to boil a kettle compared to how much an entire village would need to power
everything. All generators, including gas and nuclear plants, use some
electricity as well as producing it.”
John Constable, of the Renewable Energy Foundation charity, said: “We know
that in Denmark there are days when their wind farms are net consumers of
electricity, so in some ways this is not surprising.
“It’s another example of how wind power is difficult and expensive to manage.”
The energy firm RWE, which owns 30 turbines off the North Wales coast, said
that on the days in question they were net contributors to the National Grid.
A spokesman said: “All energy generators use a small amount of electricity
to keep their systems running smoothly, in the case of wind farms drawing
power from either an adjacent operating turbine or the grid.”
Wind power makes up around 10 per cent of the electricity used in the UK,
with coal and gas making up around 30 per cent each and nuclear another 20