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Climate Change ‘Could Lead to Rise In Coal Power Plants’

Climate change could leave wind turbines becalmed for many more days in the year, forcing power generators to burn fossil fuels, the Government’s watchdog on global warming says.

Prolonged lulls in wind speed could occur at times of greatest demand for electricity, exposing Britain to a greater risk of blackouts unless more coal and gas plants are built and kept on standby.

The research, published by the Committee on Climate Change, calls into question the Government’s decision to rely heavily on wind turbines for future energy. The committee said changes in wind speeds could undermine progress towards having legally-binding targets to cut emissions.

Heatwaves and cold snaps tend to cause wind speeds to drop close to zero and are expected to occur more frequently as the average temperature rises.

At 5.30pm on December 7 last year, when the country was blanketed in snow and demand for electricity was at its fourth-highest level recorded, wind farms produced only 0.4 per cent of the power needed. On a windy day they can supply up to 10 per cent. The average wind speed can also vary sharply from year to year, with Britain’s 274 onshore wind farms operating at only 21.4 per cent of their maximum potential capacity last year, compared with 27.4 per cent in 2009.

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