Windpower survey blows away myths from opponents

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Wind power supporters have received a boost from a study that shows Britain has the best wind in Europe because it blows all year round and peaks when there is greatest demand for electricity.

The first methodical investigation of Britain's wind resources has found that, despite claims to the contrary, there has never been a time over the past 35 years when the entire country has been "becalmed".

The study also found that the wind tends to blow more strongly during the day and the winter months when energy demands from the national grid are greatest.

Proponents of wind energy said the findings undermined one of the main arguments against wind turbines - that the power generated from them is intermittent and unreliable.

The government-commissioned study assessed national wind patterns and how they might affect the output of a network of windfarms by collecting the hourly windspeed records of 66 meteorological stations since 1970.

Graham Sinden of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University said the results showed wind patterns in Britain were not randomly distributed but were clearly concentrated at certain times of the day and year.

"Wind power on average is delivering more energy when electricity demand is at its highest, which is during the winter and the day," Dr Sinden said.

"By examining such extensive wind records from throughout the UK, we can be very confident the study identified both long-term trends and the most extreme wind conditions the UK will experience," he said.

The study found that, during the past 35 years, the wind has always blown strongly enough - faster than 4 metres per second - to generate electricity in some parts of Britain.

"Met Office records show that, while low wind speed conditions can be extensive, there was not a single hour during the study period where wind speeds at every location across the UK were below 4 metres per second," the study says.

"On average, there is about one hour per year when more than 90 per cent of the UK experiences low wind speed conditions with those events being far more likely in summer.

"Low wind speed conditions extending across 90 per cent or more of the UK during winter occur about one hour every five years," the study says.

The findings come at an important moment for the Government because of its manifesto commitment to wind power as the prime source of Britain's renewable energy. Wind is expected to generate three-quarters of the 10 per cent of electricity produced by renewables by 2010.

Malcolm Wicks, the Energy minister, said the study provided valuable insight for a sensible debate over wind power. He said:"This new research is a nail in the coffin of some of the exaggerated myths peddled by opponents of wind power."

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