UK Storm Drives Wind Turbines to Record Output Levels

wind turbine storm clouds power renewable energy
Image (c) Carlos Moura/shutterstock.com

By Rachel Morison

Dec. 10 (Bloomberg) — Heavy gales battering the U.K. will peak in the north later today before heading south, leaving thousands of homes without power.

The Met Office issued weather warnings for the northwest of the country, where winds of as much as 77 miles per hour (124 kilometers per hour) hit coastal areas, according to the national weather service’s website. SSE Plc, the U.K.’s biggest utility by market value, restored power supplies to more than 28,000 homes today, according to an e-mailed statement. BP Plc evacuated staff from a North Sea oil rig.

“The strongest winds today will be across the western half of Scotland,” Stephen Davenport, a senior energy meteorologist at MeteoGroup, said today by e-mail. The gales will move south and hit the southern half of England from late tomorrow, he said.

The Met Office issued an orange “be prepared” warning for Scotland, the second most severe. There may be widespread damage to trees and some minor structural damage to buildings, it said. SSE added more than 500 engineers and field staff after power supplies were cut off, it said. About 2,800 customers are still affected, it said.

Wind power generation is forecast at near yesterday’s record later today, peaking at 6,747 megawatts at 9 p.m. London time, according to Bloomberg’s wind model. Wind turbines met 12 percent of U.K. demand at 4.30 p.m., compared with 4.3 percent a week earlier, according to data from National Grid Plc on Bloomberg. Wind generated as much as 6,835 megawatts yesterday, the data show.

Wind Speeds

Most wind turbines can cope with speeds of as much as 55 mph with some modern ones able to withstand 70 mph, according to lobby group RenewableUK.

“At speeds of 77 mph it would seem likely that there would be some curtailment,” RenewableUK spokeswoman Jennifer Webber said by e-mail. “It depends on whether it’s some gusts, which turbines should be able to cope with, or if it’s a consistent wind speed. If it’s the latter, ie we’re in a full blown hurricane, then they would need to shut down.”

BP evacuated all its staff yesterday from one of the platforms at its Valhall field in the North Sea as a precaution, Jan Erik Geirmo, a Stavanger, Norway-based spokesman, said today by phone. Oil production in the area is not impacted by the storm, he said.

Talisman Sinopec Energy U.K. Ltd. removed 61 staff from its Buchan Alpha platform on Dec. 8 and halted production before the bad weather, the company said by e-mail today.

Sullom Voe

Berthing of ships at Sullom Voe, the loading point for North Sea crudes including Brent, has been suspended since yesterday because of the high wind speeds, according to the Sullom Voe Harbour Authority’s website.

There is “no current impact on our operations from the weather conditions, though of course we are monitoring the situation closely,” Jonathan French, Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s spokesman in London, said in an e-mail.

Stena AB has two oil rigs in the North Sea that remain crewed, spokesman Erik Lewenhaupt said by phone today.

“They have stopped operations for now and are awaiting better weather,” he said. “They don’t want to be conducting drilling operations when the wind or the waves are that strong.”

A Stena oil product tanker sailing toward the east coast of Canada has been “fighting just to maintain her position,” he said.

–With assistance from Rupert Rowling, Nidaa Bakhsh, Laura Hurst and Naomi Christie in London.

(c) 2014 Bloomberg.