A Big Gale

With the UK Met Office starting to name storms it is refreshing to see that there is at least one person who works there that has a sense of humour. Wind blowing nowhere is now giving way to the winter storm season beginning with Storm Abigail that is tracking to the W and N. We have had a few blows and squalls here in Aberdeen.

As I write, metered + embedded wind as recorded by Clive Best is churning out 9.1 GW or 23% of UK demand. And as demand drops and the wind rises through the night, no doubt this percentage will rise. A triumph of electrical and social engineering. “King” coal is the big loser.

Note that UK wind is metered in two different ways. Large wind farms are part of the grid balancing system and are seen as a variable source of supply. Small wind farms and single turbines are seen as negative demand in the same way as roof top solar. Hence the total demand figure from BM reports underestimates actual demand since embedded generation is seen as negative demand.

Leo Smith’s Gridwatch, that monitors the National Grid Balancing Mechanism reports, is reporting the grid figure for large wind farms and you will see that Clive’s figure for wind is 1.46 times larger because it includes the estimated embedded small wind farm production.

Grid watchers will be looking to see if there are any blackouts in Scotland as over supply strangles the grid, and to the level of curtailment payments where suppliers are paid to stop producing electricity that cannot be used.

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7 Responses to A Big Gale

  1. garethbeer says:

    Hi Euan, another good post!
    How do they ‘curtail’ the wind farms – pull the plug, Ground them, surely stopping one of those things in a gail won’t be easy, pushing against the forces of nature they are supposed to harness now & again??

    With Longonet going next year, pay attention as its decommissioning – will it be ‘mothballed’ or literally ‘destroyed’ like the fully operational plants here within days of them going off??

    £4.8 billion for extension lead to Iceland for a pathetic 1gw of power is the worse deal since the last deal on energy infrastructure was precured by UK govt!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Gareth, I don’t know the exact answer. In storms, turbines need to be shut down for mechanical reasons and to do this the blades are feathered parallel to the wind. For curtailment I guess they simply throw a switch.

      Longannet is an interesting story. Scottish government has a policy for 100% renewables and is then surprised that our only coal fired plant is to go out of business and blames this on Westminster. I’m not sure how Scotland’s grid will fare. Should be OK for sol long as both our nukes are working, but when one is not working I’m not so sure and if both are down I guess the lights will go out.

      Its pretty calm here in Aberdeen today, but the BBC report 30 incidences of power loss. Pretty well parr for the course – lines down etc.


      • Stuart Young says:

        Gareth, Euan is right, it just needs the flick of a switch but there is a preliminary process when NG asks the operators how much it will take for the operators to flick that switch, and only after the operator has screwed as much as he needs or can from NG does he agree to do it.
        NG can only flick the switch by closing down that part of the system the operator is in and that disconnects customers which NG doesn’t want to do for obvious reasons so prefers to pay the ransome rather than face the music.

  2. garethbeer says:

    Thank you for the clear & concise answers Gentlemen, appreciated.

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  4. Iain Reid says:


    ” “King” coal is the big loser.”

    No, the big loser is the U.K. public for a misguided energy policy. While the wind blows the thermal stations cut their output but are still running at reduced efficiency and still emit CO2. This makes them expensive to run putting up energy costs. Further it inhibits further essential investment in badly needed new base load stations . (I’m talking U.K. wide)
    Let me ask you to do some maths to work out how much wind capacity would be required for no fossil fuel stations as some people (Not least Mr. Obama) talk about given that at times the wind generators generate virtually nothing at all. (See Gridwatch monthly and yearly graphs). It will be many times the maximum demand which is crazy, add the extra transmission lines required etc.

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