Variability ain\’t a good thing in power supplies

A wind farm has been paid £1.2 million not to produce electricity for eight-and-a-half hours.

That\’s £999 per MWh when if they\’d been producing they\’d only have got £100.

High winds (but not too high) mean that all the little windmills were spinning madly. So there\’s just too much juice for the grid to absorb, we just don\’t want that much power.

And then of course on still days they\’ll produce nothing at all. It just doesn\’t look good for this idea of producing 20, 30% , whatever the target is, of our electricity from these sorts of sources, does it?

It\’s going to cost an absolute fucking fortune. And no, these sorts of costs are not included in those lovely numbers we see about how much windmill \’leccie costs us, these sorts of costs are buried out of sight.

7 thoughts on “Variability ain\’t a good thing in power supplies”

  1. The Grid operator is going to have to be given the power to order generation and load curtailments on a merit order. A simple recording wind gauge at each wind farm and records of past performance (output vs. wind speed) could be used to determine the payments for being curtailed. I assume that if none of the wind farms had tendered a bid to curtail, the Grid Operator would have begun to shed their connections? Or does the UK Grid even have separate circuit breakers for the wind farms’ connections that they can control?

  2. All wind farms must be teamed up with pumped-storage hydro facilities! This of course means they can’t be built at sea. But never mind.

  3. This happens with fossil fuel plants as well, and with nuclear plants.
    It’s because the UK has a self-dispatch system, and limited transmission capacity. So, under some circumstances, a power plant wants to generate but for technical reasons the system operator can’t use the power.
    You can play around with whether the transmission system operator (in the case of Britain, the National Grid) pays over money for the power plant not running, or if the power generator just has to lump it. But in the long-run, the basic cost is entirely paid for by the end customers.

    Of course the formula on which the NG is paying this charge in particular might be a bad one, that could do with changing. But it’s not a situation unique to wind plants.

  4. I believe the issue is due to wind being privileged in the energy market?

    Essentially conventional plant bid according to their characteristics, capacity and demand, e.g. coal plants are ideally suited for baseload. By comparison wind is suited for nothing: it is useless for both baseload and peak. Unfortunately politicians have decided that wind isn’t useless, that actually its quite ok for wind providers to bid for baseload, and the grid must accept the bids preferentially. Given that wind can’t meaningfully dispatch power at all, this leads to all sorts of issues: such as conventional plant cycling, and paying wind providers to not supply excess power in the middle of the night.

    This is my understanding cobbled together from various articles, but I’ve never seen anything in black and white that paints the complete picture. So if anyone has a link to a definitive source. And if I’ve got this wrong somewhere then let me know.

  5. IMHO wind and wave, which produces power “whenever”, is best tilted towards synthesising hydrocarbons which can be stored and transported very efficiently, being energy dense, and consumed likewise, given there are millions of potential consuming devices around the place.

    Now, people will say synthesising is not that efficient, but that is in part presuming fossil energy used to create the hydrocarbons (which rather defeats the purpose). This is not so in this case.

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