TRUE OR FALSE. Were the wind turbines stopped during the storms, as an RN deputy claims?

National Rally MP Daniel Grenon questions the usefulness of wind turbines and cites their shutdown during recent storms as proof. Except that the wind turbines actually experienced production peaks on those dates.


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Wind turbines (illustrative photo).  (AURÉLIEN ACCART / RADIO FRANCE)

Are wind turbines useless windmills? This is what the National Rally deputy for the first constituency of Yonne thinks, Daniel Grenon. He denounced the investments made in the wind energy sector during a speech in the National Assembly on Wednesday December 6, while the European Commission also affirms that the EU will need 584 million euros to modernize the all of its electricity networks by 2030, as reported by the newspaper The echoes.

For him, it would have been better not to invest in wind power because “the wind turbines demonstrated their inefficiency during the storms of last October. While incredible wind forces were blowing, the wind turbines were stopped”. But is it true?

No, the wind turbines were not shut down during the storms

What Daniel Grenon says is false: not only were the wind turbines not stopped during the storms of October, but their electricity production even increased during these weather episodes.

RTE, the electricity transmission network manager, provides the public with real-time monitoring of electricity production by sector in France. The éCO2mix site allows you to select specific dates in order to see whether or not a sector produced electricity during these specific days.

This allows us to see that the wind turbines operated throughout the month of October, but also that they had a small burst of production between October 20 and 21, while the south of France was crossed by storm Aline. However, since the wind turbines are mainly located in the west and north of France, the phenomenon was even more marked during the following two storms.

Production peaks during storms Céline and Ciaran

Between October 28 and 29, storm Céline swept across the west of the country and electricity production from wind turbines reached its highest level for the month of October at 15.5 gigawatt hours (GWh), i.e. two to three times more than the highest levels reached before and after the passage of the storm, on October 26 and 30.

The same thing happened a few days later, between November 1 and 2, the days when Storm Ciaran hit Brittany and northwest France the hardest. The production of wind turbines then experienced a new peak, even higher, at nearly 16 GWh. That night, wind turbines even provided more than a quarter of the country’s electricity demand according to RTE (27%), or three times more than in normal times. A Breton wind farm has even reached its maximum electricity production power, as reported by France 2.

In reality, wind turbines produce the most electricity when winds are around 50 km/h and they stop spinning when gusts reach 90 km/h for safety reasons, to maintain their structural integrity, as Engie explains on its website. It is therefore true that strong wind gusts at 100, 170 or 200 km/h are not particularly advantageous for wind turbines, on the contrary. Except that, when there is a storm, there are not constantly strong gusts of wind, the wind turbines are therefore not stopped all the time and they can benefit from the increase in wind speed, up to ‘at 90 km/h, to produce electricity.

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