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Sustainable Energy

Europe’s Blustery Weather Boosts Renewables to Record Highs

The U.K., Germany, and Denmark have seen clean energy blow past fossil fuels this month.

The weather hasn't been what you’d call pleasant across Europe for the past week. Sure, the sun has shown its face a reasonable amount, but there have been rain showers and unusually high winds. Still, while that may have stopped al fresco dining in the north of Europe and ended cricket matches in England, it’s been a huge boon for the renewables sector.

The BBC reports that as a result of weather conditions on Wednesday, the U.K. generated more energy from renewables than gas and coal for the first time ever. The nation has invested heavily in wind power, which accounted for 10 percent of yesterday’s generation. Add in solar, hydro, and biomass, and 50.7 percent of demand was met by clean energy. Include nuclear, and the figure jumps to an impressive 72.1 percent.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg notes that renewables supplied two-thirds of Germany’s power needs at one point on Wednesday. (It set its own renewables record of 85 percent back in April.) And also in the small hours of yesterday, wind power accounted for 137 percent of national demand in Denmark.

That final point speaks to an issue facing renewables that all the wind turbines in the world won’t help us solve right now: when the wind blows, production is great, but when it stops, it’s non-existent. And because we currently lack the large-scale energy storage devices that could store electricity during times of overproduction, there’s still no way of smoothing out the intermittency. (Virtual power plants could help, but they’re still in their early days.) 

Still, the trend is undeniable: more and more of Europe’s energy needs are being met by renewables, and that only looks set to continue. Huge investment into wind power will see hundreds of turbines erected across the North Sea in the coming years, and the ever-tumbling price of solar will see its adoption across the continent continue to rise. More record-breaking days are undoubtedly on the way.

Mercifully, the U.S. is on a similar, if slower, trajectory. Now all we need are those damn grid batteries.

(Read more: BBC, Bloomberg, “Wind Fuels the North Sea’s Next Energy Boom,” “The World’s Largest Wind Turbines Have Started Generating Power in England,” “What We’re Doing Wrong in the Search for Better Batteries”)

Hear more about clean energy at EmTech MIT 2017.

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