Did wind power cause Scottish blackout?

At about 8.30pm on Wednesday 16th April the whole of northern Scotland was affected by a power cut. There was much speculation at the time if this may have been caused by a power surge from wind farms since that evening experienced some strong gusts of wind.

The official cause of the power cut offered by Finance Secretary John Swinney to the Scottish Parliament was that:

the relay at Knocknagael, a recently redeveloped substation at Essich, had “malfunctioned”.

Map from the BBC

In a letter to today’s Press and Journal (local press to Aberdeen and northern Scotland) electrical engineer Andrew Mackay, who lives in the affected area, offers his explanation of what happened on the night of 16th April. His letter is reproduced in full below the fold. It begins “Sir, I was amazed to learn…”

SIR, I was amazed to learn that a Scottish Hydro Electric transmission spokeswoman said “repairs are being carried out on the faulty relay” that allegedly caused the power cut on April 16 (“works to fend off blackouts”, P&J, May 10).

I have been an electrical engineer for over 40 years and have never heard of anyone “repairing” a hermetically sealed relay switch.

The relay switch operated perfectly on the windy night of April 16 when it detected a sudden surge of voltage and frequency that fell outside acceptable parameters.

A relay switch has two states: on and off. All of these relay switches operated perfectly on the night, independent of the relay switch at Knocknagael Substation which is, itself fed by at least two windfarms, Farr and Moy.

This was what is known as a “rolling blackout”. It is ludicrous to suggest that all lights went out all over the north at 8.30pm exactly. My area went out at 8.43pm when the blast of wind reached Novar windfarm and toggled the relay switch to off to protect its local circuit and so on up the coast.

Grid operators can switch windfarms on and off remotely – if there is a risk of too much wind generating too much “wrong time” low-grade electricity with what is known in the industry as “flicker”. The grid cannot handle more than 10% of flicker contaminated electricity at any given nanosecond and this limit was exceeded on the night.

The operators were caught on the hop. With no electricity, all the windfarms had to be isolated manually.

The spokeswoman goes on to say that they will be making changes to how the protective equipment operates. This is code for shutting down windfarms even earlier in windy conditions so that the operators get more and more constraint payments for not generating when the wind speed is just right.

Andrew H Mackay, Tain

[Editor] My emphasis added above. It is worth noting that there is extensive re-engineering works underway in Northern Scotland to harden the grid to enable it to cope with the ever growing amount of wind power. Mr Mackay’s explanation sounds entirely feasible to me and I believe the Scottish people have the right to further clarification from the utility companies and Scottish Government.

If there are other engineers who have information to share with the public then these are suitable pages to do so either in person or in confidence. Local views on Scottish wind power are also more than welcome.

Farr wind farm is an onshore monster, 40 turbines with 92 MW capacity, located 10 miles south of Inverness and operated by RWE.

Moy wind farm is under construction, 20 turbines and 60 MW capacity, located near Inverness and operated by Eneco.

Novar wind farm comprises 34 turbines and 17 MW capacity, located north of Inverness and operated by RWE.

A turbine too Farr

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46 Responses to Did wind power cause Scottish blackout?

  1. Joe Public says:

    It’s always the ‘cover up’ that gets the politicians.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      So why would SSE and the Scottish Government want to mislead? What is wrong with acknowledging that every now and then wind may cause the system to trip? Well the SNP (Scottish Government) energy policy is to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 – just 6 years to go. And as most will be aware we have an independence referendum in September. In an independent (isolated) Scotland’s surplus power may have no where to go. And when we are in power need there may be no country (i.e. England) or local FF based generation to provide balancing services and backup. 1.6 GW of Scottish hydro will help but it does not have stamina to cover long lulls.

      • Joe Public says:

        It is plausible that they didn’t set out to deliberately ‘mislead’.

        However after promoting ‘wind’ as having so many wonderful benefits in order to obtain both the (national) subsidy-structure, and, local planning approval – it becomes a face-saving issue if something as simple as a relay safety device actually does its job, but highlights (pun intended) unforeseen consequences of strategic planning.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          If you consider the engineering situation. The N of Scotland is at the end of a long power line originally designed to transport hydro power south. They are now building a second line – Beulay to Deny. I suspect the capacity of wind N of Great Glen now exceeds hydro capacity that is the only local source capable of balancing wind. And the hydro is disperssed among dozens of small remote power stations. After that its the CCGT at Peterhead – which is the only CCGT in Scotland. A relay at Knocknagael trips, doing its job, but leaving part of the control system without power. The gusty wind moves N creating same problem in other wind farms that cannot be disconnected because of the power cut and so their local stations trip and the blackout cascades across the region. It’s exactly the sort of thing that many have been anticipating for a long time. They will probably disconnect all wind farms now when it is windy :-(

          • Joe Public says:

            Would Met Office records show if a relatively strong ‘gust’ swept across the area? If so, it would undoubtably also indicate the time and duration, at particular measuring stations?

            I’ll ask Paul Holmes, the weather historian who frequently knows more about Met Office Records than Juliet Slingo’s in-house advisors.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Joe, at the time I had a look at the Gridwatch outputs and couldn’t see anything unusual and Roger has just posted a chart. Trouble is this is such a small area relative to the whole UK. I recall the night, it was windy and unusually gusty. That area N of the Great Glen is undergoing massive expansion of wind and they are still doing the grid upgrades. I won’t surprise me if this becomes common place, unless of course wind farms get shut down in windy weather – there will be 2 modes, flat calm and shut down.

            PS is Paul one of Sherlock’s brothers ;-)

      • Ratt says:

        All depends, how much Gov’t subsidies are going into the Wind Farms ?

  2. Pingback: Confirmed: Power outage was due too much wind | Scottish Independent People

  3. Joe Public says:

    Substitute ‘wind’ for ‘solar’, and maybe, just maybe, there’s a similar opportunity??? Especially when extremely generous ‘constraint payments’ are in the offing?

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/05/12/hackable_solar_systems_spurt_free_money/

    • The question is not whether wind energy
      is good or bad. In principle it is useful. But the problem is the intensity of their entry in the national network of a country. However, with the privatization of national networks, the goal is to serve the profits of private companies making wind energy at the expense of the taxpayer and the customer.

    • Ed says:

      Wong. Renewable energy won’t need backup fossil fuel generators. Organic mega flow batteries, which is one of many technologies being developed at the moment, could be the answer to storing renewable energy together with a smarter grid. If Scotland went independent, the energy market between Scotland,Britain and Norway would stay exactly the same.

      Wind turbines do not contribute significantly to bird kills. 55 million birds per year are killed by cats in Britain.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Again, you are declaring someone to be wrong and in doing so you must provide evidence to back up your black and white declaration. When are the organic mega flow batteries going to be available? What are they made of? What is the capacity? What is the cost? And how many would the UK need to back up a 7 day lull in January.

        And when is the smart grid going to arrive. I’ve been writing about energy for about 8 years now. Greens have been promising me a smart grid for all that time. It doesn’t seem to be getting any closer.

        Easy to say these things to buy popularity, much harder to deliver. My opinion is that its much better to develop technology ahead of deployment and to resist making false promises.

        • gregfreemyer says:

          The state of New York is rolling out a pilot large scale battery solution this summer. Google “EOS Aurora battery”. I’m pretty sure it is around $1M per 6 MWh. They are going to use it for peak load capacity on hot summer afternoons. Thus if it can provide 1 MW for 6 hours a day for $1M investment, it becomes a realistic option to integrate into the grid instead of building new fossil fuel capacity that is only used during the late afternoon peak load. If the peak usage for a location is less than 6 hours a day, it is cheaper than typical fossil fuel plants that would typically be built to handle the peak load.

          I think the typical peak load in the US is 4 or 5 hours per hot afternoon, so the batteries may make economic sense.

          But as a backup solution exceeding 6 hrs, it is cheaper to build a traditional fossil fuel plant. I don’t know of anything approaching production ready with better economics than the EOS Aurora solution.

  4. gareth says:

    I saw this linked on Bishop Hill and posted the following comment:

    “The grid cannot handle more than 10% of flicker contaminated electricity at any given nanosecond”

    Not that I like wind farms or the scam that allows them to flourish, but this sounds like BS to me (an electronics but not power engineer). Flicker will be spectral components of the total wave and “any given nanosecond” implies frequency components of >1GHz. Therefore we would be talking of 10% of the total power being above a Gigahertz – I don’t think so!

    The bit about repairing relays didn’t ring true either. He’s obviously talking about a little reed/hemetric sealed relay, whereas I suspect that the electricity company are talking about a honking great contactor switching the turbine output.

    Maybe any power engineers could comment?

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Gareth, in light of some sceptical comments on BH I did a bit more digging and find that Mr Mackay is a pro-renewables, anti-wind advocate.

      http://www.greenheating.com/

      This doesn’t mean he is wrong but I agree that the things you highlight in your comment don’t ring entirely true. But lets look at things this way. Either the relay was faulty, should have tripped but didn’t. Or it functioned OK and tripped to isolate a part of the system. Alternatively, the relay was faulty and tripped when it shouldn’t have.

      It would be good to get some expert views from SSE engineers.

      • Joe Public says:

        Euan, perhaps it may be more believable “…… to get some expert views from engineers who don’t depend upon SSE for wages, salary or pension.”?

  5. Roger Andrews says:

    Did wind power cause Scottish blackout?

    Well, I’m sure that somebody somewhere knows, but we the great unwashed public don’t have enough data to say.

    National grid data are non-diagnostic. There was an abrupt drop in wind output between 7.40 and 7.45pm, but not a large one, and it’s hard to see how it could have triggered a power outage almost an hour later. Otherwise everything behaved normally, including grid frequency, during the outage period. (The abrupt downward spikes in demand at 8.40 pm and 11.20-11.25 pm probably aren’t real. Spikes like this occur quite regularly and my guess is that they’re metering errors. It’s certainly hard to envision a set of circumstances that would cause demand to drop by ~3GW for a few minutes and then come back up again.)

    http://oi59.tinypic.com/e8smfp.jpg

    A problem with the grid data, however, is the 5-minute sampling interval. The ~8.30 outage could have been triggered by a short-term spike in wind output that briefly caused the grid frequency to move outside acceptable limits, at least in N. Scotland, but we would need a much shorter sampling interval to see it.

    Other uncertainties are a) exactly when did the outage start and b) exactly when did the wind suddenly stop blowing (and where)? Andrew Mackay claims in his letter that “My area went out at 8.43pm when the blast of wind reached Novar windfarm and toggled the relay switch to off to protect its local circuit and so on up the coast.” Well, maybe it did, but in the absence of information on local wind speeds and wind farm output (does anyone have any?) and/or confirmation from Novar that its relay switch really did get toggled this claim can’t be confirmed.

    A similar outage in Germany in 2006 was extensively investigated. The investigators found that “the uncoordinated operation of generation units (mainly wind and combined-heat-and-power) during the disturbance complicated the process of re-establishing normal system conditions”, but didn’t commit themselves on what triggered the outage except to say that the “N-1 (secure grid) criterion was not fulfilled on some of the affected grids”, whatever that means. Details at:

    http://www.google.com.mx/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=10&ved=0CFcQFjAJ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.energie-team.org%2Fpublic%2Fnews%2Faktuelles%2F2006%2F061130_Unterlagen_Notfallmanagement%2FIC-Interim-Report-ausfuehrlich20061130.pdf&ei=_91wU9r8OoHpoATHxIGYDw&usg=AFQjCNGG44d3w4jz3-XgikgFxshFRbfe0Q&sig2=S9e_KzmYQzXOf2OLyWU4kQ

  6. Glen Mcmillian says:

    It seems that most of the people commenting here today are almost gloating seeing this outage as proof that wind is no good.

    Now it is obvious enough to me – a layman- that if the descriptions here of what happened are correct then there will need to be some more engineering work done to make the wind and ff generating systems work together properly.

    I have worked at many industrial and health care facilities and just about all of them that have critical work going on have their own emergency back up power.

    I may be WAY off base in supposing it would not take very much backup to operate the disconnect system that failed because the primary power failed.

    My guess would be that few thousand dollars worth of large batteries would be enough to handle this disconnect job. Of course by the time the batteries could be actually installed and tested the bill would probably be a million bucks…..

    But just what do you guys who are so anti wind suppose Scotland is going to export to pay for gas and coal indefinitely into the future?

    Whiskey and tourism are not apt to be enough to pay your energy bills going forward as we collectively approach the beginning of the end of the fossil fuel age.

    Industry such as you have is going to chase low wages and low operating costs- neither of which are to be found in your country compared to say Mexico or Vietnam.

    Good luck on getting enough nukes permitted and financed !!!!

    People every where are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea when it comes to fossil fuel depletion.The only question is when the devil will come calling- Russia and Canada are in good shape in this respect- the devil won’t be getting to those countries anytime soon – maybe not for a couple more generations.

    We can probably skinny by in the US for another generation.

    BUt your country is not too far down his schedule.

    Now if Scotland does become an independent country – which seems possible but I have no opinion as to whether it will happen- I don’t think England will actually cut her own throat and refuse to cooperate with you on load balancing your grid- England is going to need whatever wind power you can send that way to cut back on her own ff bills.

    Right now the UK as it exists has been able to work the same scam as Uncle Sam-Is working the same scam— getting imports on the never never as in the country will never never be able to make its debts good- and sooner or later the sellers of gas and coal and oil are going to insist on cash on the barrel head- or even hard goods barter.Iran for instance can swap oil for rice and wheat without money changing hands once some other country decides to defy Uncle Sam- and Russia or China are in a position to do so already if they so choose.

    We Yankees have more or less run the world for the last few decades but we cannot effectively bully either country from here on out- they can both push back as hard or harder than we can.We are still the biggest dog but our power has peaked.In a few more years we may be playing second fiddle in a lot of respects.

    What can Scotland barter once nobody will accept Scottish fiat money??

    There is a time coming when nobody will accept Uncle Sam’s electrons in the place of gold or silver or maybe wheat or corn or coal. The difference is that we have enough of just about everything to get by for a good long time yet – even oil.

    We could burn half as much and quit importing and if times get bad enough we will cut back that far.

    But you can park half the cars only one time.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Glen, this map taken from Renewables UK gives you some idea of the wind issue. Blue dots are wind farms. The “een” sticking out in the N Sea is Aberdeen. Now to be sure, this gives a false impression, many of the blue dots are single turbines on farms. But driving N of Aberdeen you now encounter a forest of turbines. These are providing us with expensive and unreliable power.

      The whole job in Scotland could be done with two new nuclear power stations – Torness B and Hunterstone C. Permitting would not be a problem on these existing sites and the locals will likely welcome the employment. And that’s it, job done for 60 years ± some expansion of pumped storage.

      Wind does not sit well with nuclear, in fact its probably the worst possible combination. To get to 100% you probably have to take what we have now * 5 to 10 – there will be no birds or tourists left at that point.

      • Glen Mcmillian says:

        If you can get a couple of new nukes permitted and built I think you should go for it. I tend to think it terms of larger problems of course. Two new nukes would not be much more than a drop in our power bucket here in the US.

        I am not argueing whether wind is dependable – I know it is not. My argument is simply that going forward fossil fuels are in my opinion going to be far more expensive than anti wind advocates think they will be and that wind will be a good investment simply due the savings in the fossil fuel bills.

        I would like to know what the regular commenters here think natural gas is going to cost in ten or twenty years.

        My guess is that it will be at least double to triple in constant money in less than twenty years.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Glen, which gas price do you mean? It is already 5* more expensive in Japan than USA. If China makes shale discoveries and Japan switches back on its nukes then gas prices in the rest of the world will fall, while prices in the USA likely rise.

          Scotland has maximum electricity demand of about 5 GW, hence two new nukes providing 6 GW provides us with all the heat, light and comfort we need. maybe even enough to electrify vehicle fleet.

          • gregfreemyer says:

            Nuclear is only good for base power. Maybe 35% of peak. The other 65% is typically fossil-fuel / hydro / renewable. That’s because you can’t easily turn it on and off. Integrating utility scale power storage would let nuclear provide more of the total. Also the typical nuclear plant is more like 1 GW not 3.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            The last nukes to be built in the UK were rated at 1.2 GW about 20 years ago. That would be two 0.6 GW reactors. The new European reactors that are planned will be rated at 3 GW, probably 3 * 1 GW reactors in a single building.

      • Ed says:

        Wong. As a tourist I don’t mind seeing wind turbines. In fact they enhance the countryside for me. 55 million birds are killed in Britain per year by cats. The bird issue is a non argument.

        • Euan Mearns says:

          Ed, I’m afraid you are occupying tricky territory. To declare someone is wrong, you need to provide evidence. You are extrapolating your opinion to the whole population, including French and Dutch visitors. And its noted that you don’t care much about birds or the landscape.

          • Ed says:

            Only talking about myself. Wind turbines are beautiful. Majestic and sculptural like the man made hay barns and field systems where I live in the Yorkshire Dales. I also like cats so I don’t advocate culling them because they kill more birds than wind turbines by several orders of magnitude. But please, don’t get me wrong, I love your site. Keep it up. Prob. agree with the majority of what you write apart from Nuclear and wind turbines.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Ed, diverse opinion is important to a fertile debate. At one level I can agree with you that wind turbines are majestic. Many of the wind developments around Aberdeen do not bother me. But as an example, there was a hill top development near the town of Laurencekirk that had about 8 turbines for a number of years, that was “majestic”. But now they have increased it to about 20 turbines and it has in my opinion become an eye sore. Another farm near the Green village of Alyth seems visible from every where and is an eye sore. But you need to see this from the perspective of locals who may object, have their views over ruled, and their lives impaired. You need to come to NE Scotland and then imagine 10* as much.

            Glad you like my blog. There is enough here to annoy everyone :-) (apart from Roger who sits under a wavy palm tree in Mexico sipping tequila)

            PS I am a dog person, have two West Highland Whites and they are not that keen on cats

          • Roger Andrews says:

            Euan: You have no idea how stressful it is to sit under a waving palm tree sipping tequila while the world goes to Hell in a handcart around you

  7. Roger Andrews says:

    Euan: In your post you link to an article in the Press & Journal which says this:

    “Changes are being made to the electricity network in the north to prevent a recurrence of the major power cut which hit more than 200,000 properties across the region last month.

    “And energy giant SSE is to submit a full report on the incident to Highland Council following investigations.

    “For the full story, pick up a copy of today’s Press and Journal or read our digital edition now.”

    So I clicked on the digital edition link to read the full story, but it’s paywalled.

    Since this appears to be the most recent word on the subject I was wondering whether you could post an accessible link to it, or at least tell us what it says. In the meantime I’m going to assume that if changes are being made to the electricity network then there was more to the outage than just a malfunctioning relay.

  8. Interesting post, Euan. Since I am new to this blog, let me just briefly introduce myself: I am the editor of RenewablesInternational.net and the lead author at EnergyTransition.de. You could say I spend most of my time explaining Germany’s energy transition to the world.

    Above, Roger asked what Germany’s n-1 rule is. Essentially, it means that you have to have a backup power line serving the capacity that would be needed if another power line fails. I explained that briefly here in 2012:
    http://www.renewablesinternational.net/german-wind-association-to-expand-grid-itself/150/505/33326/

    For the blackout Roger mentions above, see the official report:
    https://www.entsoe.eu/fileadmin/user_upload/_library/publications/ce/otherreports/Final-Report-20070130.pdf

    Now to my question: Why is what you describe above happening in Scotland and not in Denmark, for instance, which probably has even more wind across an area with a similar population size / power market (though much larger geographical area – but I don’t think that matters as much).

    Shouldn’t requirements for reactive power and general “ancillary services” (as they are called in California) prevent such things? Aren’t they in place in Denmark and Germany?

    Or is the difference between Scotland and Denmark interconnections – Scotland is so isolated that it cannot dump excess power on to neighboring countries?

    Keep in mind that Denmark already has days on which wind power serves more than 100 percent of domestic power demand. On those days, Denmark obviously dumps power on to its neighbors, but northern Germany will also have a lot of wind power simultaneously – and therefore no need for power imports from Denmark.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Craig, welcome to Energy matters. One of my recurring themes is that one size dos not fit all. For example I’ve recently run a series highly sceptical on solar in Scotland, a land where the Sun seldom shines. The situation in the Mediterranean is different. Hydro is not suited to Holland ;-) The isolated grid status of Scotland is of course relevant and my earliest engagement on such issues several years ago now was reading the work of Hugh Sharman where he described the balancing system between danish wind and Scandinavian hydro. Denmark is in an enviable position where it can shed excess power all around and suck in power when it is needed. But the business model sucks for Denmark, selling cheap and buying dear.

      Changing the isolated status of Scotland is not easy. Some advocate building inter-connectors. This just leads to more expenditure, more infrastructure that leads to another false promise and partial solution. Thus, I favour building two new nukes and be done. We can then export loads of power to England.

      I imagine we will find ourselves on opposing sides of the renewables debate. I have flipped from enthusiast to sceptic a couple of times but have been firmly sceptical for a few years. Absent grid scale storage, renewables can only function on a FF based grid and the current market mechanisms are enabling renewables to kill off that FF based host upon which they are dependent. Cheap, efficient grid scale storage changes everything.

      Parasitic wind killing its host
      The Coire Glas pumped storage scheme – a massive but puny beast
      The Arguments For and Against Wind Power

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Craig:

      Thanks for the link to the UCTE report. Like the preliminary report I linked to it goes into great detail on the grid-related causes of the November 4 2006 outage (lack of data, operator error, insufficient backup etc.) but doesn’t provide a clear account of what triggered the outage. However, a number of statements in the report suggest that a wind surge in Northern Germany was a significant contributor:

      “(T)he North-East area …. faced severe imbalance conditions with a generation surplus of more than 10 000 MW …. leading to a situation of high over-frequency. The imbalance was attributable to the fact that before splitting there was a huge transit of electricity from this area towards the West and South of Europe. This is a typical load flow situation in this region, but on this day the volumes of flows were increased as compared to standard days due to high wind conditions in the North of Germany.”

      “The main point to be underlined around North Europe (starting point of the disturbance) is the high flow from Germany to The Netherlands and to Poland due to the high wind generation in Germany.”

      And a warning for the future:

      “Additionally, certain TSOs have no control over the generation (e.g. cannot reduce or stop wind power generation). Bearing in mind the growing amount of installed power of wind generation, this situation could lead to serious power balance problems especially in over-frequency areas.”

      Based on these results I would say that there’s enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that wind surges made a significant contribution to the April 16 2014 N. Scotland outage too, but at this point not enough hard evidence to convict.

  9. Euan Mearns says:

    Dear Mr Johnstone,

    You may recall we met a few years ago when I arranged a political debate on energy at the University of Aberdeen. I have since set up my own blog dealing with energy and climate issues and yesterday I ran a simple post based on a letter published in the P&J providing an alternative explanation for the Scottish blackout. This was cross posted to Bishop Hill, the UKs biggest climate and renewable energy sceptic blog. It has had large national exposure.

    While there are reasons to doubt the reliability of all the claims made by Mr Mackay in his letter, much of it rings true. The blackout occurred on a windy and gusty night and the grid engineering works designed to enable the grid to cope with such conditions are not yet complete. It does not seem credible that a faulty switch at Knocknagael substation would alone blackout the whole of northern Scotland. And it does seem more credible that the switch did its job, isolating a part of the system, setting off a chain reaction that resulted in an extensive rolling blackout, as claimed by Mr Mackay.

    John Swinney: I am absolutely certain that it was not a contributing factor. Mr Johnstone is free to ask whatever questions he wishes, but I would think that what I said to the Parliament in my original answer—that Scottish and Southern Energy Power Distribution discovered a faulty electronic relay at its Knocknagael substation, which is near Inverness—would have been enough reassurance for him.

    My emphasis added, where “it” refers to wind power.

    I am advised that one way of getting at the truth in this matter is to see the “engineering incident report” from SSE, although I gather this may not yet be complete. I encourage you to pursue this matter since it is critical that the SNP energy policy is scrutinised and those who advocate it, are held to account.

    Yours sincerely,

    Dr Euan Mearns

    Did wind power cause Scottish blackout?
    http://euanmearns.com/?p=3043

  10. Sometime about 2004 I met the senior civil servant, I brought up the need for pump storage over long periods and he explained to me how disastrous wind was to the power system over much shorter periods.

    After the CATS conference I tracked down the engineer who presented and he had looked at the cost of this intermittency and I forget the exact figure but I think he said it had added £700million onto consumer bills (I’m not at all sure – but it was a massively huge figure).

    The simple fact now, is that almost every single power outage of any size will be made worse because there is so much wind on the system. Soon, from being a contributing factor, they will become the dominant factor as many outages will be down almost exclusively to wind. Without massive investment – and huge levels of running capacity from conventional those power cuts will get worse and worse. That added running capacity and cost will probably mean onshore wind produces more CO2 than it saves and it is probably already certain that offshore wind doesn’t actually save any CO2 if all the lifetime CO2 is included.

    Sure – if like Scottish Renewables you only cost windmills that are currently running – they reduce CO2 usage. But when you take into account the energy in building the things in China, Shipping them from China – the way the profits in China then go to fund consumer spending there so INCREASING their output of CO2. If you take account of the 100s of tonnes of concrete for each turbine (which again produces masses of CO2) – and then if you see what these developers do with all that public subsidy – which they then use to fund a massively CO2 producing lifestyle at public expense. The chances of all that added CO2 ever matching that supposedly “saved” is frankly zero.

    And the last straw for me is the carbon capitalists response when asked about all the CO2 they are responsible for producing “if only they used wind” … well the reason all the windmill manufacture went to China is because this crazy EU policy so increased the price of manufacture in Europe that only the coal-fired Chinese manufacturers were competitive.

    There never has been a more ridiculous policy nor a country (Scotland) which has been hoodwinked so completely for so long.

    • Ed says:

      Agreed. We can’t look at renewable energy in isolation. Renewable energy infrastructure relies on fossil fuels for its build out. As such, renewable energy can be thought of as a fossil fuel extender; giving us a little extra time. If we are using this extra time just so that we can increase world population and consumption then nothing is solved. We will still not be living within Earths carrying capacity. A population crash is inevitable within the next 50 years when net energy per capita plummets.

  11. Colin Hunt says:

    Euan, one thing to remember is that there is no real world price for gas. Unlike oil, it cannot be produced anywhere and delivered anywhere. The LNG portion is simply too small a share of total world gas supply and demand. This is the principal reason why there’s such a price disconnect between North America and Europe. And given the rate at which new LNG plants are coming on line, this situation is not likely to change any time soon. Restarting nuclear plants in Japan will certainly reduce electricity costs there, but it’s unlikely to produce much in the way of price drops elsewhere. There will be somewhat more gas flaring as a result, but that’s probably about it.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Colin, the Japanese nukes coming off line was one cause of far east and European gas prices spiking and so when they come back on we can expect a reverse effect. LNG may be small compared to the whole, but it provides main supply to Japan and S Korea and key marginal supply to Europe and China and has pricing power beyond its volumes. Agreed that not much new supply is on the way and 2012 actually saw a fall in LNG shipments.

  12. Leonard Jones says:

    The relay bit may be UK speak for a breaker in the way that they call a hood a bonnet or an
    elevator a lift. If the voltage or frequency goes beyond a certain level, you need to disconnect
    the output. A magnetic starter is another device that can serve this purpose, Any number of
    protective switches can be wired in series to shut down a piece of machinery in addition to the
    Thermal Overload relay.

    If this was caused by unusually high winds, one has to ask about the control systems which
    are supposed to keep these turning at a constant speed. Maybe they are incapable of
    controlling beyond a certain wind speed.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I’m unsure about control systems and constant speed. These things are supposed to produce more power the windier it gets. The gear box is a key component. So constant “giant stinking fan” speed can still mean variable output. This part of Scotland is at the end of a long power line with small hydro schemes available locally to provide balancing services. A feature of the wind that night it was particularly gusty.

  13. Roger Andrews says:

    “Nuclear is only good for base power”

    Wrong.

    http://ansnuclearcafe.org/tag/load-following/

    • Roger Andrews says:

      This was entered as a reply to gregfreemyer’s 4.22 pm comment. Dunno what it’s doing down here. Euan, maybe you could relocate it when you have time.

  14. Mkelley says:

    “Green power” is great if cost and reliability are not important.

  15. Bernard Durand says:

    @gregfreemeyer
    You are obviously not well informed when you say that nuclear power is good only for base load. In France, it is also used in semi-base load and for a large part of peak load , and makes about 75 % of electricity supply on a year average. You woud be surprised in looking at French nuclear plants production charts to see how quickly they can react to load variations. Of course, I am not speaking of very fast peaks of demand, at the scale of a few minutes, which are covered by fuel turbines, but make a tiny part of the annual consumption. Many people make the same mistake, because they believe that nuclear plants cannot follow quick load variation. This may not be the case in the UK, I don’t know, because nuclear provides a relatively small part of electricity and there is no need to equip the plants with load following systems.

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