Is The UK Grid Approaching Instability?

I was looking at the “Dashboard” for the UK electrical grid here:

http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

Zooming in on detail usage of Nuke vs Coal vs Gas vs Wind, It looks to me like the UK wind farm total is approaching the point where the UK grid destabilizes. It looks, to me, like at most a “double” of wind (ether farm size, or a smaller increase in peak wind speed where ‘drag’ goes as the cube of velocity, so energy ought to ramp up at some significant power function) and there is just not enough “fast response” capacity to absorb the shocks. There isn’t any indication, really, that this is a ‘typical’ chart, so we might already be past that point if other samples are even more extreme.

UK Electricity Dashboard

UK Electricity Dashboard

You can click on that for a bigger image.

OK, that first column has Daily, Weekly, and Monthly demand. Notice that the base demand runs just about 30 GW, no matter what. The peaks run about 45 GW on big days (some touching 50 GW on the monthly chart) but where modest demand periods can run down at 35 GW to 40 GW (notice about the 1st of the month).

OK, so we have a 30 GW to 35 GW range on ‘slow days’ with 30 GW to 40 GW being typical. Some days get up to a 30 GW to 50 GW, but those are demand peaks.

Now look over at the far right. Hydro, wind, biomass. Notice the red ‘wind’ line. It jumps and fades rapidly. It has about a 5 GW range on that monthly chart. On the 21st it ramps up by about 4.5 GW in a rapid spike. You can see in the middle column that Gas (CCGT) ramps down in that period. Those gas turbines can respond fast doing “load following” (or in this case “surprise supply following”). Coal and nuclear can’t do that nearly so well, often taking most of a day (or 2) to get fully up to speed or shut down.

Now look at the 30th. Wind has essentially died. Demand is low, even the ‘daily spike’ is low. Gas is ramped down to near 5 GW leaving coal and nuclear running the show. (And even coal is ramped down about 5 GW from peak). So what would happen if the wind suddenly picked up and 5 GW of wind were dumped into the grid at that point? What would be dropped to absorb it? Scram a nuke? Hard on the equipment. Shutdown more coal? It’s hart to ‘load follow’ with big coal. Just shut off ALL the gas turbines? No fast response then if the wind suddenly dies – brownouts for sure.

In fact at the far right margin you can see some of the strains as the present wind is cranking, and the other power is being rapidly shut down. Coal running about 1/2 power (so not able to ramp up a cold coal plant fast… if that wind dies…) and Gas down at about 2.5 GW. With an additional 2.5 GW of wind turbines installed, that gas plant would be off and cold too. Doing a “rapid cold start” on gas turbines can be rough on equipment.

IMHO, this shows there is already some “difficulty” in trying to balance out the wind supply surges and that coal is being used to “demand follow” and / or “wind supply follow” – a very not good thing to do with large coal facilities. With just 2.5 GW more wind (about 50% more), it looks to me like grid instability will start showing up on high wind / low demand days. During the summer, this will likely get worse, as heating and lighting demand fall off, but the wind does not.

On the flip side, the 12-14 and the 18-20 look like nuclear, coal, and even the gas turbines are running near flat out to keep demand met as the wind drops off. If an even larger part of generation comes from wind, and less from coal or nuclear, it will become very hard to keep the lights on when the wind stops. Total capacity will not be there, and rapid response fast bring up capacity will be way too little to respond.

In short, it looks to me like the UK Grid “has issues” right now, and at 50% more wind turbines, or a 3 to 5 GW reduction in any combination of coal and nuclear, the UK Grid destabilizes on wind dropout days, and on wind surge days. (And even that ignores local ‘inside the country’ distribution limits / bottlenecks that could cause local problems sooner.)

As I understand it, there is an intent to shut down some large coal and nuclear units in the next few years. That, IMHO, looks like it will be a complete disaster on any of: Very high demand days, very low demand days, very high wind days, very low wind days. And lord help you when a very cold very high demand day shows up without wind. “Dark and cold” are not a good combination…

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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48 Responses to Is The UK Grid Approaching Instability?

  1. Ian W says:

    Well the experiment is underway – there is a closure plan for coal fired generation that has seen several large power stations shut down. The real reason why UK consumers have been forced to ‘smart meters’ is that there is an option to ‘ramp down’ demand. Consumers chosen even individually to be the ones getting a power cut, So much easier to hide than an entire region losing power.

  2. nzrobin says:

    These graphs are likely based on integrated energy over a 30 minute period (times 2 to give kW, MW or GW) to give an average demand. That is all quite long duration in the scheme of things. The network has to balance real and reactive energy cycle by cycle. This is dynamic stability.

    Dynamic stability is required cycle by cycle, (1 cycle is 20mS in UK). The usual generators on the network are synchronous generators and run with a magnetic ‘delta’ angle that leads the network. I’ll put a note at the end to try and explain this further, but the size of this angle is restricted to a range, and it essentially determines the ability of the machine to respond to a frequency disturbance, presuming the governors on the machine sense and respond to the frequency shift. Wind generators are typically not synchronous machines. They are induction machines. They cannot respond to a system disturbance. They add nothing to system stability. In fact they detract from it.
    There is also the matter of reactive energy flow. All people seem to talk about is real energy, ie: kW, MW or GW. I dont see reactive energy mentioned, ie: kVAr, MVAr or GVAr. It is necessary to manage both to manage the energy flowing into and out of the network and keep the frequency constant(ish), that’s the real part. But it is also necessary to manage reactive energy to ensure this is all done at an acceptable voltage and power factor. The network is made up of complex impedances, mostly resistive and inductive.
    Compounding factors include the allowable volt drops along the lines, the tap ranges of transformers, the sharing of real and reactive power on parallel circuits, add dimensions of complexity which I reckon the renewable energy folk never consider. They might even think they don’t exist.
    Further, it should be said that while synchronous machines provide reactive energy for the network, induction machines like wind turbines, suck up the reactive energy like and induction motor. An embedded wind generator added to a supply point might reduce kW, but it requires more kVAR, making the power factor of the network worse.
    So yep, you’re right EM. They’re asking for trouble.

    Now about that delta angle in a synchronous generator. The rotor of the machine, excited with a DC current, creates a rotating magnetic field. The stator of the machine is connected to the three phase power network and it also creates a rotating magnetic field. For the generator to provide real energy to the network the delta angle between the fields must be positive, ie the rotor leads the stator, ans the rotor pulls the network along. If the motive force is lost the rotor would slow and lag the network, and the network would pull the rotor. Ie it has become a motor, not a generator.
    The pulling between the two fields can be thought of as a spring between two flywheels, one flywheel representing the network, it it physically huge, and a smaller flywheel representing the machine. To transfer energy between the wheels it is necessary to stretch the spring. But you can see that as the spring is stretched further and further, when you get to 90 degrees delta, you have to watch out because you lose synchronism. The machine becomes unstable and the protection equipment will remove it from the network. Power is controlled by how much energy is put into the shaft of the machine. Voltage is controlled by how much DC current is flowing through the rotor.
    (All dumped from the memory from an old man so don’t be too harsh on me please)
    Kind regards from NZ
    Robin

  3. It looks like the large battery or other forms of storage are essential to be able to use the variable power supply available from the “green” alternative power. It also looks like the utility companies aren’t going to do that, so it’s going to be necessary for the individual user to provide their own energy storage.

    If we suddenly have a load of Lithium cells as storage in houses, expect a rash of unusual fires/explosions since we don’t really know if we might get LENR-type reactions in them, and it looks as if there is some chance of this happening. Better to have a different form of energy storage, and personally I’d rather use super-capacitors. Even there, there is some risk of explosions, though, since a failure of the electronics could lead to a shorting-out of a capacitor and where we’re storing megajoules the explosion would also be pretty impressive. These comments also apply to electric cars, by the way.

    Could be that the Green option will be “interesting” in future.

  4. Petrossa says:

    Germany is way ahead in that front. The grid is so unstable due to wind/solar that their neighbors installed special circuits to block Germany’s overflow.
    http://www.welt.de/wirtschaft/article112279952/Polen-macht-die-Grenze-fuer-deutschen-Strom-dicht.html
    Also they have to dump the overflow at negative prices
    http://translate.google.nl/translate?sl=nl&tl=en&js=n&prev=_t&hl=nl&ie=UTF-8&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.deredactie.be%2Fcm%2Fvrtnieuws%2Feconomie%2F1.1511995
    Next they pay a huge surcharge for their energy:
    http://uk.reuters.com/article/2012/10/10/us-germany-energy-renewables-idUKBRE8990PC20121010
    AND they have to pay huge cost overruns:
    http://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/wirtschaftspolitik/energiepolitik/umweltminister-altmaier-energiewende-koennte-bis-zu-einer-billion-euro-kosten-12086525.html
    Due to serious problems with windfarms:
    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-offshore-wind-offensive-plagued-by-problems-a-852728.html

    So all in all they invested 140 billion euros to replace a few nuclear reactors, with as a result that energy prices skyrocket, the grid becomes unstable and they have to run coal and gas fired power plants at full steam anyway.

    The energy pricehike in fact only serves to pay for their neighbors free energy, same as in Denmark.

    If after the total fiasco of Denmark, Germany,Britain and Spain in the ‘alternative’ energy sector someone still is daft enough to invest in that mess….
    Probably reason why all the major players get out fast, BP http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/04/bp-exiting-us-wind-unit-pares-renewable-energy-interests-to-fuels for example, or Shell http://royaldutchshellplc.com/tag/renewable-energy/

  5. nzrobin says:

    Simon,
    Batteries and capacitors might be useful for part cycle, maybe even a few cycles or seconds, but backing up a power station outage for a few hours or days. It is not practical.
    The best storage systems are lakes, heaps of coal, or a gas supply from a well with loads of gas in it, and the generators running with a low stable delay angle so the governors can respond to frequency dip, crank up the output, and hopefully fill the gap.

  6. nzrobin – you’re thinking like an engineer. That’s not what’s happening, and in fact people are looking at some form of battery storage for a day’s output of a power-station. It will be practically possible, but as I inferred it may be somewhat dangerous.

    It looks to me that having your own generation and storage of energy in your house may be the way to go to avoid the grid blackouts that seem pretty certain to occur as the “greening” continues. Finding a safe way of doing this seems to be a good idea.

  7. Ralph B says:

    Robin hit upon a good point with reactive load. Large stations usually “over-excite” to pick up the reactive load…there are capacitor banks throughout the grid that will help pull the power factor up as well. Usually most stuff is designed for a .8 lag pf…on one of my projects we had an active VAR sharing system which ended up jacking the voltage up too high and frying a bunch of lighting ballasts (at night while the camp was not occupied the only load was lighting, fluorescent, which has a leading pf). The VAR share was designed for .8 lag and inched up the regulators on the gens trying to get some reactive load. We were in what is known as island mode. I can see something similar with voltage destabilization on the UK grid if they rely too much on the highly variable sources. Knock off those big stations and pretty much guarantee problems. All stuff the politicians and greenies have no idea about.

    Another thing to consider is big coal stations are most efficient when running at full load. Same for those CCGT. The wind cycle is lowering the efficiency of those units cause more fuel burn per watt…so increasing the carbon footprint.

  8. nzrobin says:

    That’s funny Simon, its hard for me not to think like an engineer. Having been a power system engineer for 40 years I think it’s in my genes now.
    Because I live in a rural area and the power goes off now and then, I have invested in a 3kVA petrol generator. Big enough to startup and keep the fridge and freezer running and a few lights. The primary storage is the motor mower petrol.

  9. DirkH says:

    Simon Derricutt says:
    14 April 2013 at 10:50 am
    “It looks to me that having your own generation and storage of energy in your house may be the way to go to avoid the grid blackouts that seem pretty certain to occur as the “greening” continues. Finding a safe way of doing this seems to be a good idea.”

    Some German companies try to sell freezer-sized Li-Ion boxes with about 10 kWh storage capacity – that’s 50 kg of battery and another 50 kg of inverters and metal or so.

    These are designed to store the output of your roof solar and supply your household for about one or two days. They are about as expensive as a mid sized car.

    Nobody’s buying them. You do get a certain extra subsidy, a reward for consuming your own solar power, of a cent or two per kWh; basically a reward for not sending that kWh across the grid; and you do profit from selfconcumption because you have to pay 25 Eurocent/kWh for a grid kWh but lose only 20 Eurocent/kWh in subsidies for the selfconsumed kWh.

    But these differences are too small to pay for the battery box over its lifetime.

    The industry is waiting for a) newer better subsidies for their batteries – unlikely to happen under the general brokeness of European governments or
    b) a wholesale blackout so they can sell via the scare factor.

    Again, as long as the grid works, this product is entirely uneconomic. Any old gasoline generator like ChiefIO has for the post quake disruptions or the people in Tornado alley have is way more appropriate for that. You don’t want a hugely expensive backup system. You want a CHEAP backup system. Because you only need it a few days in a year; the capital cost is ridiculous.

  10. I agree that currently having your own battery storage is generally uneconomic. Good points from Robin and Dirk…. I also have a petrol genny for those days when the power goes out.

    At some point I need to investigate cheap capacitor storage. Quite a lot of capacitance can be produced by using Aluminium foil in water. The cell tops at 0.6V, but a lot of cells can be cheaply produced using a few rolls of baking foil. The energy is in fact stored in the water, thus all the bits are easily available and size is not really a problem in most houses. It needs a bit of electronics to produce a stable output voltage, but could still be a cheaper option than either Lead-acid or Lithium cells with far less danger from explosions. At the moment I’ve done no work on this, so I don’t know if doubling the amount of water will also double the stored energy, but it’s probably worth some tests later this year. News when I’ve done the experiments.

  11. kakatoa says:

    It looks like the role of “Diesel generators participating in Reserve Service” will be increasing in the UK in the future.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Control_of_the_National_Grid_(UK)

    “….There are many private owners and operators of small diesel generators contributing to Reserve Service: Wessex Water is typical and has a total of about 550 diesel powered generators ranging in size from 50 kW to 1.2 MW, with a total capacity of over 110 MW. 32 sets spread across 24 sites totalling 18 MW have already been converted to Load Management, and some of the others are now being converted as well. These are at clean water sewage treatment works. These figures are quotable because Wessex Water has gone on the record in a number of conferences and seminars on the subject.

    Many other water companies, hospitals, factories have similar arrangements.[………”

  12. Ian W says:

    There is a large market here in Florida for household generators that run on propane and automatically trip in when the grid power drops. But then Florida has a very high lighting risk and power outs are not uncommon with heavy storms and 2 – 3 days out in hurricanes is relatively normal. That people could consider buying standby generators because the grid is poorly designed and served shows that non-engineers have taken over management of systems that they do not understand.

  13. tckev says:

    A couple of observations on the UK situation are –
    1. For the last 10 years or so the electricity officials have been calling for a massive injection of cash to renew the aging grid system. In particular the primary UK grid, the backbone of the grid system requires urgent work. Apparently significant parts of this system is still running on 1950-60s technology, indeed some reports say that some parts remain unchanged from 1948. (see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmselect/cmenergy/194/194.pdf ).

    2. Natural Gas reserves have been running low during the early part of the year. During this period when reserves were said to be particularly low I noted that generation from NG was curtailed significantly. During this time (December/January) grid stability was less of an issue as much of industry was not operating over this extended Christmas/New Year holiday time. Therefore it was mostly domestic consumers to satisfy. I did note that judicious use of the import/export of electricity through the international interconnect system happened and that frequency regulation appeared a little more lax than is usual.

    Comment in todays UK Telegraph news blog is very prescient, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/energy/windpower/8770937/Wind-farm-paid-1.2-million-to-produce-no-electricity.html

  14. Julian Jones says:

    Have looked at small dispersed pump storage lakes, for energy stability and flood protection here in UK. In one 14 sq km catchment, 40MWh capacity available – while providing 1/75 year flood protection. With one in six households in UK threatened by increased flood risk (from half a century of mismanaged chemical agriculture) and all households threatened by economic mismanagement – seems a straightforward, if radical solution to several problems.

  15. tckev says:

    Some links you may find useful –
    http://www.nationalgrid.com/
    http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Balancing/
    http://www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Balancing/services/reserveservices/fastreserve/

    From the balancing figures it is noteworthy that December/January the UK grid quickly bought in additional requirements of 0.4GVA of supply from short term contractors.

  16. adolfogiurfa says:

    The old and proud England navy about to sink down…ask the Rotschilds Barons why, is it perhaps of a too big “City” ballast?

  17. adolfogiurfa says:

    The old and proud England navy about to sink down…ask the Rotschild Barons why, is it perhaps of a too big “City” ballast?

  18. Chuckles says:

    E.M. We have Interconnectors to continental Europe with a capacity of about (I think) 3GW, so we do have the French nuke fleet as a fallback option.
    As any Frenchman will tell you, their suave and sophisticated nuke plants are designed for load following, and do it very well, unlike your coarse, rough and ready American attempts. :)

    Not sure if it’s enough, as they seem heel-bent on closing 7-20 or 30% of our capacity over the next couple of years, but as noted above, our betters have decided that if they put the price up high enough, they’ll curb demand to the point where the problem goes away.

    Simon D, 24GWH battery packs aren’t going to happen.WHile they might just be feasible, practical they most certainly are not. I’d guess an MTBF of about 1/10 second, and I don’t want to be anywhere near when it’s switched on. :)

  19. nzrobin says:

    Ian, the problem is not so much with grid design as the type of generator. The shift to wind and solar means the generator mix is changing from synchronized governor controlled units to asynchronous units which follow the wind and the sun. The power network always has been a very finely tuned machine. It is of course understood by power engineers but nowadays there are so many others applying their generation equipment who do not understand. It is a management of the grid issue. We have let ideology and politics direct, where the laws of physics should have.

  20. J Martin says:

    I don’t know if the voltage supplied to domestic consumers is relevant to any of this, but I am engaged in a battle with my local electricity supply, because at times I am getting 254 Volts, when the supply should in fact be 230 Volts. The electricity company has now fitted a logging device to my mains supply for a week and I hope to hear them confess that my mains is above the legal limits and I shall then expect them to drop it by three taps ie. 18 V.

    I have had a number of domestic machine failures in recent years and blame the electricity company.

    I read somewhere that over voltage causes electricity bills to be higher than they would have been had the electricity been supplied at the correct voltage.

    A device you can buy for about £400 can rectify the problem and reduce the incoming mains supply to the correct voltage, indeed it even lowers the voltage still further, claiming that equipment doesn’t need the full voltage level and that it will save you further money. If I were to ever consider one I’d want it to just give me 230V, no less, no more.

    I think this over voltage situation is a widespread problem in the UK, but wonder if it gives the electricity companies some room for manoeuvre in the face of wind derived supply problems ?

    If blackouts became a regular problem in the UK, I would be looking to make sufficient space in my garden shed for a generator, capable of running lights, fridge freezer, and one additional large power item such as oven or washing machine or tumble drier.

    I would not be a happy voter.

    ( I don’t know the situation for business users).

  21. Bloke down the pub says:

    The risk of power spikes from a rapid ramp up of power from wind is not too much of an issue. The wind farm owners are paid even if the capacity they produce is not wanted, so the turbine can be feathered to reduce it’s output. This way everyone is happy, except for the poor shmucks who end up paying twice over for their electricity. As to what happens when the wind stops suddenly, well that’s a different issue entirely.

  22. DirkH says:

    Bloke down the pub says:
    14 April 2013 at 8:01 pm
    “The risk of power spikes from a rapid ramp up of power from wind is not too much of an issue. The wind farm owners are paid even if the capacity they produce is not wanted, so the turbine can be feathered to reduce it’s output. ”

    Well it CAN be feathered; but it isn’t automatically; smaller village grids nearby wind turbines in Germany are overwhelmed about 5 times a year and go into safety switchoff. The German FIT law in its monumental stupidity does not even FORCE the wind/solar owners to switch their toys off when so commanded so the grid operators have to BEG them when a countrywide overload is expected. This happens regularly in East Germany; there are no big industrial users, low population density, huge numbers of wind turbines, and only three interconnectors to the West German grid. The Poles are installing phase shifter transformers to be able to stop the surge from entering their grid, so we can expect many more near meltdowns in the future in East Germany.

    Don’t know whether more connectors to the West are already being built; infrastructure projects in Germany generally happen with a glacial pace – mostly due to environmentalists protesting against everything.

  23. kakatoa says:

    I am a bit unclear of the rational of having EV charging stations be bi directional……, but we are funding the approach:

    http://www.greencarcongress.com/2013/01/cec-20130110.html

    …The funding will support four microgrid projects that involve solar forecasting; demonstration of distributed energy storage systems (DESS) including the addition of a second DESS using different storage technology to the project that would be charged/discharged daily for “load shifting”; demonstration of renewable energy charging of electric vehicles; and improvement of California Independent System Operator (CAISO) microgrid operations observability……….”

  24. DirkH says:

    kakatoa says:
    14 April 2013 at 9:13 pm
    “I am a bit unclear of the rational of having EV charging stations be bi directional……, but we are funding the approach: ”

    Assuming a 10kWh battery for an EV with a range of 100km is designed for a lifetime of 100,000 km; in other words for 1000 full cycles, and costs say 10,000 USD, it will over its lifetime deliver 10,000 kWh, each one of which will therefore cost 1 USD.

    All very much simplified, ignoring capital costs, and the numbers are just order of magnitude estimates, but you get the gist of it…

  25. peter_dtm says:

    Yesterday afternoon; (13th) I was showing a friend the Templar site & noticed the frequenc was over 50.25Hz – first time I ever seen it up there.

    That means we had too much genertion on the grid; in other words we weren’t shedding capacity fast enough

    Unfortunately the muppets who (don’t) represent the population have no idea what this means and why it is importent

    I suspect it is not long befroe we are all wearing the hair shrts the Greens seem so desperate to put us in

  26. Jason Calley says:

    Take the power surplus and create calcium carbide by running massive currents through powdered limestone (or marble) and powdered coal. When you want your power back, add water to the carbide and feed the acetylene gas into your turbine or your boilers. Sure, Carnot gets his cut of the energy, but this gives a quick way to soak up large amounts of electricity (and just as importantly, a way that can be quickly stopped) and store much of it for later use.

  27. artwest says:

    J Martin
    I share your concern. I agree that if you have the funds and, critically the spade to house, a generator then it wouldn’t be a bad idea – although given fuel prices…

    However, many people live in flats or other housing where a generator isn’t practical. Whichever political party is in control when the lights go out is going to find itself out of power for a generation. This ought to concentrate the minds of even the densest politician, but I’m prepared to bet that it won’t.

  28. Paul Hanlon says:

    As I see it, these problems are caused by the new entrant to the market, wind, and should be solved by the new entrant. No windfarm (or solar plant, for that matter) should be allowed to go ahead unless they install an appropriate energy storage solution on site.

    We have the technology. We can do it chemically with redox flow batteries, or mechanically through flywheels, or electrically through super capacitors. By making the individual wind farms responsible for their own output, you are also distributing the storage, ergo making it more robust.

    Now wind, instead of being a pariah on the network, is the solution to nearly all of the network’s problems. There can be a twenty times difference between the wholesale price during daytime vis-a-vis night (with 2-3 times average), so the wind farm operators start getting clever about it and only release their energy during peak times, thereby maximising their revenue, and stabilising the grid, and more than paying for the extra capital investment. Now the coal, gas and nuclear can be run at their most efficient. In fact, a standalone energy storage company should be a viable operation in its own right.

    Wind farms are always in fairly remote locations, so my favourite solution would be to stick a flywheel in the nacelle between the turbine and the generator. You get to run the turbine at its most efficient, the flywheel soaks up the variations, and allows stable power to be passed on to the generator when it is switched on, with minimal losses.

    Of course, this still isn’t going to solve the problem that wind energy is just not “dense” enough (we’re only getting a tiny fraction of the overall wind power), but it would certainly lessen the burden imposed by existing and proposed wind farms.

  29. Graeme No.3 says:

    Paul Hanlon says:
    Your solution would mean no more future wind farms; no great loss. They’re already too expensive for what they produce, and the necessary extra cost would be unacceptable to any consumer.
    Yes, storage would reduce eliminate the problems of wind farms, but the methods you suggest would not store anything like the amount needed. Even outside of freezing winter conditions when they don’t (and can’t) run, wind turbines can be useless for 3 days at a time. The necessary flywheel would require its own large building, as would a chemical storage battery. Neither have lived up to the initial hype, and their current storage capacity is little better than lead acid batteries.
    The only feasible storage at present, is pumped storage. Very expensive. Dinorwig would cost around £2 billion if built today, and from my calculations could store 12 minutes of capacity output from installed wind farms.

  30. Graeme No.3 says:

    Sorry, should read
    “and their current storage density is little better than lead acid batteries”.

    You are quite correct about the low energy density of wind (and solar) but current methods are limited in their collection.

  31. DirkH says:

    Paul Hanlon says:
    15 April 2013 at 1:29 am
    “Wind farms are always in fairly remote locations, so my favourite solution would be to stick a flywheel in the nacelle between the turbine and the generator. ”

    That would be fun. Instead of bladethrow we could have wheelthrow… Imagine a hundred tons of steel rotating with half the speed of sound falling from a height of 100m… The devastation would be spectacular!

  32. Petrossa says:

    That’s the point indeed DirkH. People in general just aren’t capable to envision the gigantic amount of energy needed to be stored. Best expressed in nuclear weapons, that brings it home a bit more. 1 day storage is one Hiroshima bomb (i didn’t calculate that, just for example)

  33. DirkH says:

    1 kT (Kilotonne TNT) = 4,184 · 10^12 J = 1,162 GWh
    Hiroshima: 15 kT equivalent. Or 17.43 GWh. Germany consumes on average I think 80GW of electricity ; so that’s 1920 GWh a day or 110 Hiroshima equivalents.

    The Hiroshima bomb was a pretty small thing.

  34. Pingback: These items caught my eye – 15 April 2013 | grumpydenier

  35. Gail Combs says:

    Ian W says:
    14 April 2013 at 7:32 am

    Well the experiment is underway – there is a closure plan for coal fired generation that has seen several large power stations shut down. The real reason why UK consumers have been forced to ‘smart meters’ is that there is an option to ‘ramp down’ demand….
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    We are seeing that happening here in the USA too.

    Assessment of Demand Response and Advanced Metering
    On April 17, 2006, ERCOT was forced to use 1,000 MW of involuntary demand response and 1,200 MW of voluntary demand response to successfully prevent a system-wide blackout. Unusually high and unexpected load due to unanticipated hot weather, coupled with 14,500 MW of generation that was unavailable due to planned spring maintenance, resulted in insufficient capacity to meet load. System frequency dropped to 59.73 Hz at one point. Rolling blackouts were required for about two hours…..

    A power systems engineer @ WUWT said “Letting non-professionals get involved in the power grid is like giving the keys to the family car and a bottle of whiskey to a 14 year old boy and his pals. If the renewables were viable, we’d adopt them by the train-load and build them so fast your head would spin.”
    List: 36 Of Obama’s Taxpayer-Funded Green Energy Failures However the Financiers are jumping for joy:

    We see an attractive long-term secular trend for investors to capitalize on over the coming 20–30 years as today’s underinvested and technologically challenged power grid is modernized to a technology-enabled smart grid. In particular, we see an attractive opportunity over the next three to five years to invest in companies that are enabling this transformation of the power grid.
    SOURCE

    The cat is out of the bag on just what a Smart Grid is for:

    Energy InSight FAQs

    ….Rolling outages are systematic, temporary interruptions of electrical service.
    They are the last step in a progressive series of emergency procedures that ERCOT follows when it detects that there is a shortage of power generation within the Texas electric grid. ERCOT will direct electric transmission and distribution utilities, such as CenterPoint Energy, to begin controlled, rolling outages to bring the supply and demand for electricity back into balance.They generally last 15-45 minutes before being rotated to a different neighborhood to spread the effect of the outage among consumers, which would be the case whether outages are coordinated at the circuit level or individual meter level. Without this safety valve, power generating units could overload and begin shutting down and risk causing a domino effect of a statewide, lengthy outage. With smart meters, CenterPoint Energy is proposing to add a process prior to shutting down whole circuits to conduct a mass turn off of individual meters with 200 amps or less (i.e. residential and small commercial consumers) for 15 or 30 minutes, rotating consumers impacted during that outage as well as possible future outages.

    There are several benefits to consumers of this proposed process. By isolating non-critical service accounts (“critical” accounts include hospitals, police stations, water treatment facilities etc.) and spreading “load shed” to a wider distribution, critical accounts that happen to share the same circuit with non-critical accounts will be less affected in the event of an emergency. Curtailment of other important public safety devices and services such as traffic signals, police and fire stations, and water pumps and sewer lifts may also be avoided.

    And the power companies are not giving consumers much choice.

    Don’t want smart meter? Power shut off
    The rollout of smart electric meters across the country has run into a few snags: one woman doesn’t want one, and ended up in the dark as a result.

    You might not think that would be an issue. But it is, because Duke Energy is now beginning to disconnect any homeowner who refuses a new electric meter.

    Other electric companies are not pulling the plug…yet…..

    The US Department of Energy is on board too.

    The Department of Energy Report 2009
    A smart grid is needed at the distribution level to manage voltage levels, reactive power, potential reverse power flows, and power conditioning, all critical to running grid-connected DG systems, particularly with high penetrations of solar and wind power and PHEVs…. Designing and retrofitting household appliances, such as washers, dryers, and water heaters with technology to communicate and respond to market signals and user preferences via home automation technology will be a significant challenge. Substantial investment will be required….

    More “Smart Grid” information here @ WUWT.

  36. DirkH says:

    They gotta add a party affiliation feature to the smart meters.

  37. Gail Combs says:

    a party affiliation feature to the smart meters…. I like I like!

  38. Petrossa says:

    Tnx for the calculation DirkH. About smartmeters, the EU has made a directive every nation has to switch to smartmetering. France has adopted it to a national law, by 2015 tous le monde must have a smartmeter. The rolling out is underway, no is not an option. I don’t think they’ll be ready by 2015, it’s France after all, but still. Good news is that a econut law that called for a law which made using gas/electricity progressively more expensive the more you used got stricken down by the constitutional court. On the grounds that it was unequal since industry was excluded. Exiting times ahead :(

  39. Steve C says:

    If the winter temps keep on going the way they have been lately, next winter should be an interesting test. In particularly cold weather, we Brits can require 60GWh – i.e. just a wee bit over the top of your calculations, and the sort of load where our trusty old coal stations just sit there (sat there?) all day and deliver. Any inadequacy in our shiny new green system will be thrown into sharp relief by that sort of load, as we’ll see. If not next winter, just keep watching.

    Meanwhile, I don’t think people here have realised yet quite how close to the edge we’re skating now, the usual comment when energy comes into the conversation is on the rocketing price of the stuff. Come the brownouts and blackouts, they’ll realise – especially when they also realise how much they’re still paying for the “service”. The price has already more than doubled over the last decade to pay for all the green scams.

  40. Adam Gallon says:

    Dr Richard North has added to this, on his EU Referendum blogspot.
    The push to get us to drive electric-powered cars, is linked with the need to smooth power demand. Less demand overnight, so get all those cars plugged in. On the flip side, when demand is high, their charged batteries can then be tapped into!
    http://www.eureferendum.com/blogview.aspx?blogno=83788

  41. Petrossa says:

    Yet another idiotic idea. first of all charging all the batteries from commuters will fry the grid, then when you unload your batteries on the grid you can walk to work and have the fun of replacing your 6000$ batterypack much more often. Provided it doesn’t burn your house down first.

  42. E.M.Smith says:

    My $600 or so Honda Generator is looking better and better ;-)

    Also my $50 Kerosene Stove and my nice Coleman Kerosene lantern (that also kicks out a load of heat…)

    You know, at this rate, I’ll be “off the grid” while still being “on the grid” in no time. Now to just install my battery box & inverter and let the “smart meter” wonder why my battery charging current is a flat line constant…

    Unfortunately, as I’m in California, half the time I’d not know if the power failed were it not for the TV and Internet router going down ;-)

    I think maybe I need to put up a posting on “DIY Power Systems” for folks in the UK and elsewhere… It CAN be as simple as a fuel driven lantern for combined heat and light, along with a battery operated Carbon Monoxide detector and a bit of ventilation. In an emergency, that is.

  43. cm says:

    Let the blackouts come. I’ve just read ScottishPower’s small-print. :-0 The electricity companies have to pay me £50 for every 24 hours I’m without power.

  44. Petrossa says:

    Replacing the grid with anything other isn’t an option unfortunately. You need a permission to install a generator large enough to output what i need, and since i live in a protected medieval city no modification whatsoever is allowed. Even the color of my house they choose. Well, they give me 2 shades of one color i can choose from, to give the illusion of free choice. And even then, i could never generate it at the price the nukes do. So smartmeter it is. Just have to wait for a good hack which won’t be long.

  45. Gail Combs says:

    A comment over at James Delingpole

    EU climate change policy in crisis after MEPs vote against high CO2 prices

    The European Union’s climate change policy is on the brink of collapse today after MEPs torpedoed Europe’s flagship CO2 emissions trading scheme by voting against a measure to support the price of carbon permits.

    The price of carbon crashed up to 45 per cent to a record-low €2.63 a metric ton, after the European Parliament rejected a proposal to change the EU emissions-trading laws to delay the sale of 900m CO2 permits on the world’s biggest carbon markets.

    The European Commission measure, known as “backloading” was aimed at artificially raising the price of EU carbon permits by restricting supply after they fell to a record low in January due the economic slowdown and contraction in manufacturing across Europe.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/9997868/EU-climate-change-policy-in-crisis-after-MEPs-vote-against-high-CO2-prices.html

  46. DirkH says:

    Petrossa says:
    16 April 2013 at 10:17 am
    “and since i live in a protected medieval city no modification whatsoever is allowed.”

    But that way they’ll never get it modernized. Didn’t that occur to them?

  47. Petrossa says:

    That’s actually the point DirkH. It has to stay ‘original’ I had to redo my outer walls, i was only allowed to do it the ‘old way’ with materials they used in those times. So 6 months after the 40.000 Euro job was finished the material started to crumble and flake. By now, 2 yrs later, about a quarter of the ancient type plaster is gone. No guarantee on it. I expect another letter to tell me to redo it anytime.

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