Wind farms don’t need fossil fuel back-up

» By | Published 05 Jun 2013

Wind energy doesn’t usually see much support from UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph, but this weekend the paper published a story based on National Grid (the UK’s electricity grid operator) evidence proving that wind farms do not need fossil fuel back-up for when the weather is calm.

“The National Grid has studied what actually happens in practice, with explosive, if surprising, results,” the paper said. “Between April 2011 and September 2012…wind produced some 23,700 gigawatt hours (GWh) of power. Only 22 GWh of power from fossil fuels was needed to fill the gaps when the wind didn’t blow. That’s less than a thousandth of the turbines’ output – and, as it happens, less than a tenth of what was needed to back up conventional power stations.”

That statement highlights another perhaps little known fact – fossil fuel power stations do need back-up. A fossil fuelled power station needs to shut down for repairs or maintenance taking many gigawatts of power offline with it.

And it also blows another anti-wind argument out of the water – that emissions from back-up fossil fuel generation severely dent emissions savings from wind power in general. The Telegraph reported that “wind saved nearly 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over that 18 months [April 2011 – September 2013]; standby burning of fossil fuels only reduced this by 8,800 tonnes, or 0.081%,” the paper said.

“Given these figures,” the article says, (scroll to bottom of webpage to see article) “no new fossil fuel power station has been built to provide back-up for wind farms, and none is in prospect.”