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Will be interesting to see who gets blamed

The power cut is believed to have been caused by two power supply plants that failed at around 4pm, the BBC said.

One was a traditional gas and steam fired power station in Cambridgeshire, the other a huge wind turbine farm in the North Sea.

Capacity problems at Britain’s largest single power station in Yorkshire may have been an additional factor, it is understood.

One reading could be……wind farm closes down immediately as wind speed is too high. Gas plant on idle can’t spin up for some reason. Drax is low capacity because it’s burning wood chips, not coal.

Of course, it’s far too early to be able to say that is exactly and precisely true but I’m willing to assert it with some confidence.

29 thoughts on “Will be interesting to see who gets blamed”

  1. It’s fun to wonder whether the Grid were trying for a record – i.e. biggest day’s % supplied from wind, and let Hornsea’s input run too high.
    I think it had been generally windy all day, and peak demand in early August seems about 31GW ( versus about 41GW in less sunny winter ) so it would have been an ideal day to do it. Is there any incentive for Grid management to break records, over and above the incentives to just keep the electrons shuffling around reliably.
    Just speculating.

  2. The first of many. So long as the increase happens slowly enough they will be able to freeze and starve us to death. We’ll just get used to the new normal.

    All coal fired plants closed in six years. Yay.

  3. Contra PJF, the more this happens the more people will examine why. And ultimately the reasons need to be good.
    With power cuts increasing throughout the western world, not to mention energy costs, people will at last take a long hard look at energy policies and the science behind them.
    Up to now the costs have been mostly hidden, so fashionable ideas have been followed.

  4. What Pat says.

    This will bring down governments, become electoral promises. The public might talk eco, but they want pathetic trivia, not lots of supply.

    Corrie goes out one night and they’ll be riots.

  5. I think the spectacular bit of this is what it did to the railways.

    Back in the day, say 30 years ago, pretty much all the electric rolling stock was controlled by simple electro mechanical systems which were exceptionally robust and reliable. These have all been replaced with stuff with fancy electrical inverter type controls, which can’t cope with the mains frequencys shifting beyond the normal window (brown out, effectively what happened last night). Worse than this, for about half the class 700 fleet, they locked down in a way which required a man with a laptop to come out to each unit to reset.

    How the idiots in charge were ever allowed to build in such a stupid feature is simply unbelievable. Also, 30 years ago (although it was already changing then), most rolling stock shared couplings types and brake systems such that you could at a pinch use pretty much any loco to remove any broken train from anywhere to get things moving again.

    We used to have a not brilliant, but usable system, built on 1950s tech which had unbelievable resilience – essentially we’ve replaced that with a slightly better system which is anything goes wrong really falls over in a big heap…

  6. I hope so, and used to say so. But I got to thinking how other governments survive keeping their citizens desperate. Plus, its not easily fixable short term so people will have to get used it. It’s for the war effort don’t you know.

  7. I was puzzled by the random nature of the power cuts over the country. I think the frequency drop is the key – load-shedding relays sensitive to frequency will kick off at slightly different frequencies so only the more sensitive ones triggered. I will be very interested to read the technical report on this, if it is ever released.

  8. “30 years ago most rolling stock shared couplings types and brake systems such that you could at a pinch use pretty much any loco to remove any broken train “

    So even Tornado, a Deltic or Class 37 won’t be any use now? Brilliant!

    “I will be very interested to read the technical report on this, if it is ever released

    There’s about as much chance of that as the report into the Carl Beech case being “Un-Redacted”…

  9. The one thing you can bet your bottom dollar is that it definitely won’t be the fault of wind turbines, no sir, not at all. The BBC are already doing reports saying exactly that, definitely NOT renewables fault, even though one doubts at this point anyone can really know. There is not one chance in a billion that the powers that be will allow their pet project to take any blame for this and future blackouts, they’ll just lie.

  10. At the moment the line is that the gas fired power station dropped out before the wind turbines, so ‘not renewables fault’ – how realistic is that argument?

    Is it feasible that they knew the wind turbines were going to trip (because of increasing wind pushing them over limits) so told the gas station to spool up in advance to take the anticipated load, it then failed and dropped out, and soon after what they knew was going to happen, happened, and the wind turbines dropped out too?

  11. It was the significant wind generation that ultimately caused the problem. When the gas fired unit dropped off line, the wind generation on there was not ‘stiff’ so it couldn’t constrain the frequency drop. You need lots of heavy rotating machinery at 3000rpm to act as a flywheel for a short time. Wind turbines aren’t like that as they are essentially a variable frequency source feeding a rectifier/inverter to get 50Hz out. That has no significant inertia. The frequency dropped as low as 48.889Hz at 15:53:45 UTC yesterday. There is a tech article on if you are interested.

  12. Pingback: Don’t think of it as a “power cut”, think of it as an “electricity holiday” « Samizdata

  13. When I told a greenie friend that turbines can’t cope with high winds she was astonished. “Are you sure? I’ve never heard that!”

  14. If you look at GridWatch, there’s an interesting “lump” on Thursday, coinciding with wind dropping to zero, then on Friday wind shoots up from zero to 20% – double normal. Would be interesting to drill down into the 15-minute data.

  15. jgh: And today, although it’s windier, the wind output is well below yesterday’s peak. However that could just be the Grid being defensive and scheduling more heavy machinery into the mix.

  16. Given renewables were generating just over 50% of total demand at the point of the outage yesterday, whats it going to be like when (if) they get to their stated aim of having the Grid operating on 100% renewables for some periods of time by 2025? If something goes wrong and there’s no (or very little) conventional at all online could the whole Grid collapse in a heap?

  17. Jim,

    That is what Saint Greta wants.

    Peasants spreading muck in the fields with their clogs, living a sustainable life style, free of nasty and horrible carbon The future is here.

  18. @TW, @Jim


    More here

    Cover up of Wind went off before gas in full swing. Seemingly wind went off at exactly 16:00:00

    Will Clinton “suicides” happen to whistle blowers?

    St Greta of Thunderbirds has a hissy fit

    “[url=]At the big meeting of the climate youth movement in Lausanne[/url] trouble is brewing. That seems to have left its mark on leader Greta Thunberg. Today the 16-year-old had reporting journalists thrown out of the conference hall…”

    Teen Greens arguing, crying, sulking, throwing toys out of pram – and Gove et al give them and their playschool thinking credence

  19. Bloke in North Dorset

    The power cut is believed to have been caused by <
    two power supply plants that failed at around 4pm, the BBC said.

    One was a traditional gas and steam fired power station in Cambridgeshire, the other a huge wind turbine farm in the North Sea.

    How does a wind farm fail? Individual turbines might fail but the whole farm?

    The wind getting too strong or light and having to be taken off line isn’t failure, its working to design.

    This is bollocks to try to deflect the story from the problems of intermittent wind power.

  20. “How does a wind farm fail? Individual turbines might fail but the whole farm?”

    Presumably it’ll be automatic cut outs for some reason – either that the wind breached speeds limits, which triggers auto cut outs, or that the drop in frequency triggered protection devices on the wind farm which dropped them out of the grid.

    The link Pcar provides above has a very detailed comment that suggests the timing for the windfarm drop out is suspicious – its timed at EXACTLY 16:00.00 which seems unlikely. His (the commenter) feeling is that the windfarm drop out precedes the gas station drop out, rather than the other way around, but that the windfarm wasn’t recorded as being off line until the start of the next billing period, which is on each hour, hence the exact nature of the time.

    Thus his conclusion is that the gas station was idling (as the Grid were trying to maximise renewable generation, possibly for PR reasons, given Sajid Javed was visiting the NG at the time), the windfarm dropped out for unknown reasons (wind too fast, other technical issues), causing a massive drop in grid frequency. Gas station tries to pick up but drop in frequency means its auto cutouts drop as well. Cue chaos.

  21. @Jim

    From same chap:

    For those confused – the times I quoted are correct in respect of Little Barford. I failed to notice that the first report was made 2 minutes and 3 seconds earlier, when they had probably already fallen over.

    The frequency chart in this tweet is the damning evidence:

    The rapid initial drop can only have been caused by the larger generation loss from Hornsea, and the subsequent drop to the nadir by the lesser drop from Little Barford, triggered by the loss of power on the major transmission line from the Humber past St Neots towards London, causing a high RoCoF .triggered shutdown (the set point is likely to have been 0.5Hz/s according to an NG presentation from 2016, which also contains a chart that suggests that such a RoCoF is only consistent with utterly inadequate grid inertia.
    Aug 10, 2019 at 10:27 AM It doesn’t add up…

    As you say the cover up is in full swing. When I downloaded the data on recent outages today I noted the outages at Hornsea and Little Bar had mysteriously gone AWOL. Just as well that I captured the lies that came from Hornsea and had already posted about them in several different places.
    Aug 10, 2019 at 4:16 PM It doesn’t add up…

    The story about a “scheduled” shutdown of Little Barford is nonsense. Demand didn’t drop to 23GW (the alleged trigger level) until after 23:00 BST. It’s the result of a German (PR chief) in Germany choosing to talk to a German (UK senior manager who knew the contract but wasn’t in charge of operations) in the UK, and then relaying half-knowledge to the Bloomberg journalist almost for sure. I’ve seen similar things happen. As I put it at NALOPKT Corporate silos can be wonderful things.


    The precise reason for the trip and complete loss of Hornsea remains unknown. It could have been something like a lightning strike on the offshore platform where the transformer and line to shore are located. Evidently it didn’t do serious damage, as they restarted sometime after 7 p.m. and by 9 p.m. were back at 848MW. When you lose the transmission line the generators have to disconnect automatically.

    In the case of Little Barford, the slowing of the grid frequency caused by the loss of the wind farm’s power output which was evidently passing the door on the power line from the Humber area to London gave it a poor outlook – the natural laws of electricity flow would have imposed a further substantial demand on its output, and the only way to try to supply that quickly is for the inertial energy of rotation to be converted to electrical energy, slowing the generator rotors. There is an automatic trip set on too low a frequency under load, as allowing any further drop can unbalance the turbine through frequencies that can cause vibrations which can lead to plant wrecking damage, so it disconnects to remove the load and shuts down the fuel supply. There are inherent delays between turning up or down fuel supply and response of generation, and also maximum rates (“ramp rates”) at which it can be safely done under load.
    Aug 11, 2019 at 3:50 PM It doesn’t add up…

    No permalinks available on

    Redwood accepting TPTB on “Gas failed first” despite evidence it didn’t:

  22. Today’s FT says that the investigators have concluded that Hornsea went down first – Little Barford was (wholly or partly) due to a lightning strike on a power line.
    Orsted (operators of Hornsea) have said that they have “made adjustments to the relevant part of the system” – which sounds very much like a plea of guilty.

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