The National Grid has had to turn on a coal fired power station in the UK for the first time in 55 days as the electricity output in the UK slumped during the recent record breaking heatwave. The reduced wind and higher temperatures meant both wind power and gas fired power plants struggled.
The impressive coal free streak came to an end as National Grid had to fire up the coal fired power plant Ratcliffe-on-Soar located in Nottinghamshire. The site in Nottingham was called upon before the predicted peak in electricity demand that came.
Supplies of electricity in the UK became closer than expected as the temperatures soared as gas fired power stations struggled to produce electricity at their maximum capacities because of the increased temperatures across the country. Whilst this was happening, wind power also slumped as the wind speeds across England dropped noticeably as well.
Adding to this, a selection of power stations in the UK were also not able to generate power on Wednesday of last week due to planned maintenance work that takes place over summertime. However, even the available gas power plants were not able to generate as much electricity as normal due to the increased temperatures.
Gas fired power plants struggle to generate as much electricity when the temperatures rise. As gas plants require a steady flow of air through its compressor, when the temperatures increase more energy is required to compress the hotter more humid air. This then makes the power plant less efficient than when it has colder less humid air flowing through the compressor.
In the first quarter of this year, wind farms produced 30 per cent of all the electricity generate in the UK, however during the heatwave last week on Wednesday afternoon wind power only generated 4 per cent of the total.
The hottest August day was recorded in 17 years last week as temperatures rose above 36 degrees Celsius whilst the sweltering temperatures set a record for the longest continuous run of high temperature days in central London in nearly 60 years.
The Ratcliffe power plant in Nottinghamshire is one of the few remining coal fired power plants as Britain plans to phase out all usage of coal power by 2025.
The National Grid tweeted that even though the coal free run came to an end, it contributed to the 3300 hours without coal which is more than 60 per cent of the year so far.