Scotland Gagging on Wind Power

I last looked into the details and consequences of Scottish energy policy in the pre-referendum post Scotch on the ROCs. The expansion of Scottish renewables is progressing at breakneck speed and the purpose of this post is to update on where we are and where we are heading whether anyone likes it or not (Figure 1). Objections to wind power normally come from rural dwelling country folks whose lives are impacted by the construction of wind turbine power stations around them. My objections tend to be rooted more in the raison d’être for renewables (CO2 reduction), their cost, grid reliability and gross environmental impact. One issue I want to draw attention to is the vast electricity surplus that Scotland will produce on windy days in the years ahead. That surplus has to be paid for. Where will it go and how will it be used?

Figure 1 The rapidly changing face of electricity generation in Scotland. Wind power seems destined to grow from virtually nothing in 2010 to 15.8 GW come 2020. Maximum power demand in Scotland is 6 GW (red line).

This post was prompted by a couple of emails in the wake of my recent post on WWF Masters of Spin that brought my attention to two short reports prepared by Professor (emeritus) Jack Ponton that describe how operational and consented wind farms will already take Scotland beyond its 2020 target. The small pdfs can be downloaded here and here and the two key charts are reproduced below.

Figure 2 The status of operational, consented and pending wind farms in Scotland as of August 2014.

Figure 3 The status of operational, consented and pending wind farms in Scotland as of October 2014.

Figure 2 shows how in August 2014 operational and consented wind farms already had the capacity to meet the Scottish Government target of 100% electricity from renewables by 2020. Subsequent to that there has been a new round of wind power stations consented that takes us way beyond the target (Figure 3). So what is there to worry about?

Figure 1 shows the status of Scottish electricity generating capacity in 2010, 2015 and 2020 (it’s reproduced below to ease inspection). There has been an astonishing transformation.


The status in 2010, that doesn’t seem that long ago, shows two nuclear, two coal and one gas fired power station, a suite of hydro electric power stations and barely any wind turbine power stations. The red line shows approximate peak demand in Scotland of 6 GW and with 8.4 GW despatchable power, Scotland’s electricity needs were safe and secure


By 2015 a major transformation has already taken place. Cockenzie coal fired power station has been closed. But we still have 6752 GW of dispatchable power, comfortably in excess of peak demand but susceptible to a nuclear outage. Peterhead gas now has a standby role with reduced capacity. Part of that power station may also be developed for carbon capture and storage (CCS). But the transformation is the expansion of wind to 7.1 GW, most of which is onshore. Flexible dispatchable power (coal+gas+hydro) totals 4.7 GW. Hence, when the wind blows hard we still have power to switch off and of course we have  about 3.3 GW of interconnection with England. In 2010 we had 8.6 GW of generating capacity and today we have 13.9 GW generating capacity, that’s up 62%. The system is still safe and secure and expensive, testified by the fact that my lights are still on.


The 2020 configuration assumes that all the 8.68 GW already consented wind is built (Figure 3). The future of the Longannet coal fired power plant is currently being discussed by its owners and the Scottish Government. Given the massive over capacity that we already have, it seems likely it will close down. This is probably Scotland’s cheapest electricity supply. The two nuclear plants should still be operational. We will still have 4.4 GW of dispatchable power, 1.6 GW below the safe threshold. But 15.8 GW of wind operating above 9% capacity will cover that for most of the time, any shortfalls should be met by importing dispatchable power from England, but that will depend on how the capacity margin in England evolves. The reality will be that 2.07 GW of nuclear power will provide the stable system base load 24 – 7 – 365. When one of these plants is off line for scheduled or unscheduled maintenance we will be more heavily dependent upon imports. Unless of course Longannet coal is kept on permanent standby.

The problem therefore in 2020 is not so much risk of blackouts but what will happen to the vast surplus of power we will produce when the wind blows hard as it has been doing in recent days. In the UK as a whole, peak demand is always around 6 pm on a week day in winter and minimum demand is always at night at the weekend in Summer (Figure 4). The minimum is about 38% of peak, in Scotland, roughly 2.3 GW. Night time summer demand for electricity, therefore, may be almost met by our two nuclear power stations.

Figure 4 The pattern of UK electricity demand. Peak demand is always during a week day in winter at around 6 pm. Minimum demand is always at night during the weekend in Summer.

At this point we need to remind ourselves about how the renewable merit order and subsidy system works. In short, the producers get paid their elevated guaranteed price regardless of whether or not there is demand for the power. According to Prof. Ponton’s calculation we are on schedule to produce 6.1 TWh annual surplus of wind power [17.7 TWh operational+25 TWh consented -36.6 TWh total annual demand =6.1 TWh wind surplus]. To this needs to be added approximately 16 TWh of nuclear and hydro giving us a total annual surplus of 22 TWh. How is this surplus going to be used?


Plans are progressing to increase the interconnector capacity to England to 6 GW which is an interesting number since this is the same as Scotland’s peak demand. Part of “The Plan” is evidently for Scotland to export its surpluses. The snag is that when the wind blows hard it is often blowing hard in England and Europe too. At those times spot power prices are rock bottom and there is high chance that neighbouring countries will be gagging on surplus wind power at the same time. When the wind blows hard Scotland may be producing a 10 GW surplus that has nowhere to go.


The Scottish Government often talks fondly of the hydrogen economy where surplus renewable electricity may be used to make hydrogen, normally by the electrolysis of water. The trouble with this, which is conveniently ignored, is that in making the hydrogen about 30% of the renewable energy input is lost, with a further 30% lost on energy recovery when the hydrogen is combusted or used in a fuel cell (estimates vary according to whether or not waste heat is recovered and used). Very quickly, 50% of the expensive subsidised and paid for wind power is lost. This is a short cut to bankrupting the country.

Pumped hydro storage is a more feasible and scalable option and the Coire Glas scheme that has been approved but awaiting a final investment decision presents an ideal case study. In my post The Coire Glas pumped storage scheme – a massive but puny beast, I drew attention to how impotent Coire Glas would be in providing backup power to the UK. Let’s skin the cat another way at the Scottish scale.

Coire Glas will have storage capacity of 30 GWh. How many times would it have to be filled and emptied to store the 22 TWh surplus that Scotland is shaping up to produce?

22 TWh annual surplus / 30 GWh storage capacity = 733 cycles

With 50 hours generating capacity it is going to take about 1 week at optimum conditions to fill and then empty this massive beast. And so we are talking roughly 14 of these beasts (733 cycles / 52 weeks = 14.1 Coire Glas schemes required) to cope with the annual Scottish electricity surplus. This may sound feasible, but Coire Glas alone creates hydrology problems on the Lochs on the Great Glen that will act as the lower pumping reservoir. It is simply doubtful that Scotland will have 14 sites on the scale of Coire Glas that can each be filled and emptied 52 times each year without totally wrecking the hydrology of the lochs and river systems that are involved. If there is a concrete plan that shows how wind can be stored and delivered via pumped hydro storage then I’d like to see it.


Another option for consuming this surplus is to reconfigure the nation’s heating requirements away from natural gas to electric heating. Norway for example uses cheap hydro electric power as its main source of domestic and industrial heat. It’s just a pity that wind is currently one of the most expensive forms of electrical power that we have. Overproduction of expensive energy is quite simply a bad idea.


  • In 2010 Scotland had a self contained reliable diversified electricity supply system  that created a dispatchable surplus that was exported to England.
  • Come 2020 the Scottish system will be dominated by non-dispatchable wind power.
  • When the wind does not blow Scotland will become an energy parasite dependent upon imports of dispatchable power from England, assuming that England has that dispatchable capacity to spare.
  • When the wind blows hard, Scotland will generate a vast wind power surplus that will have low / no value and that no one will want / be able to use. The only way to make this plan remotely sensible is to deploy large scale pumped hydro storage. A detailed feasible plan for which, as far as I am aware, is lacking.
  • The uncontrolled expansion of wind power that has effectively already caused a glut of non-dispatchable renewable electricity must surely undermine future development and deployment of marine renewables, some of which may have made more sense than wind.
  • If you are objecting to wind turbine power stations being erected on your hill or glen, you should make clear in your objection that the wind power being generated is surplus to Scotland’s requirement. Some of it may be used at home, some of it will be exported and much of it may simply be wasted. It seems likely that Scotland’s beautiful landscape is being wrecked in pursuit of an ideological, empty dream.
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62 Responses to Scotland Gagging on Wind Power

  1. John Reid says:

    Can any of the surplus wind energy be used to pump hydro water uphill? I have long wondered whether this would be a viable option here in Tasmania where we have about 2GW hydro capacity and a 500 MW link to the mainland. Is pumping hydro water back up hill just too inefficient?

    • John: Pumped hydro works at 70-80% efficiency and is presently regarded as the most efficient way to store surplus wind power – if you can find any. But as Euan points out there isn’t anything like enough of it to go around in Scotland or in most other places for that matter, nor is there likely to be at any time in the foreseeable future.

      As for practical applications, Denmark currently exports a lot of the wind power it can’t use for storage in Norwegian and Swedish hydro facilities, and the Island of El Hierro in the Canaries recently constructed a pumped storage system around a wind farm:

  2. Nate Hagens says:

    Euan – what about 2030, 2050? 2100?

    • If we accept the wind industry’s claim that the lifespan of a wind turbine is 25 years then the first of the current generation of existing and planned Scottish turbines will need to be replaced by ~2030 and all of them by ~2045. If Euan’s assessment is correct – and I can find no fault with it – they won’t be. But hopefully by that time the politicians will have regained control of their faculties and developed an energy plan that makes sense for 2050 and 2100.

      • Jack Ponton says:

        A study by Prof Gordon Hughes of how wind turbine performance deteriorates over time suggests that load factors halve in about 15 years for onshore turbines and in less than ten offshore. The explanation is probably lack of maintainance.
        This suggests that onshore turbines will become uneconomic and need replacing in 15 years. Few UK installations are as old as that, but I read of a application to replace two 10 year old turbines which were decribed by the owner as ‘clapped out’. (The application was refused.)

        • Mike Parr says:

          That’s funny, I have half hourly data for 18 months from a pair of 900kW WTs & they still do their stuff after 20 years (i.e. regularly hit 1.7MWs) – still I’m sure the DNOs gave me false data & quite clearly your hypothesis (replacement after 15 years) has got to be the correct one – cann’t have data getting in the way of a good story can we.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Can you make a chart and post a link to it. Also interested in the commercial angle here. Ho much money have you made out of this in the last 20 years? I’m interested to know all the details of the CAPEX and maintenance costs and what you have been paid for power over the last 20 years, especially compared to the “market rate”.

            Like the recently moderated Craig Morris, you have in the past proven that you do not know how to conduct yourself properly in public. This comment is a testament to that. But here’s your big opportunity. I could turn your reply into a guest post.

            The long term reliability of wind turbines remains a contentious issue. All generators break down. Their profitability needs to cover for their vulnerability. The tenor of your comment is that the reliability of your two turbines is a shining example of all turbines.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            To be clear I want to see two charts, one for each turbine, daily averaged output for the last 20 years. I’m assuming this is at your fingertips. That’s only 7300 lines of data.

        • PhilH says:

          The Hughes study’s statistics have been seriously questioned by David MacKay ( who has better statistical expertise than me, so last year I looked at the LFs (from for the most recent year of some old & new offshore farms (listed below with year of completion) that are close together (so they experienced the same wind regimes):

          North Wales coast:
          North Hoyle (2004) 33%
          Burbo Bank (2007) 37%
          Rhyl Flats (2009) 36%

          Furness coast:
          Barrow (2006) 39%
          Ormonde (2011) 34%
          Walney 1 (2011) 32%
          Walney 2 (2011) 45%

          Norfolk coast:
          Scroby Sands (2004) 34%
          Sheringham Shoal (2012) 36%

          North Kent coast:
          Kentish Flats (2005) 30%
          Thanet (2010) 29%

          I can’t see any clear lower performance of the older farms in those comparisons, let alone of the magnitude Hughes derived, on which basis I’d question the conclusions of Hughes study too.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            Phil, thanks very much for this comment and in particular the link to the REF data base that I was not aware of. A quick check shows that the most recent annual LF is higher than the rolling LF for most wind farms – its obviously been windy.

            Its seems that in most polarised debates certain folks will believe what they want to believe and circulate propaganda.

          • Hugh Sharman says:

            I do agree with Phil,

            For me, Prof Hughes lost his credibility with this “study”. The much longer and very well recorded Danish data showed nothing like the performance decline he purported to prove from UK data.

            All rotating plant will require maintenance and renewal over the years and wind turbines are no exception.

            What makes wind turbines O&M different from, say, diesel engines or steam turbines, is their location at the top of a very tall mast on windy Scottish mountains or 20 miles out in the North Sea.

            No joke and not nearly so economic to maintain!

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Nate, I know you like to take the looong view which increasingly I believe is a “mistake”. Next decade both our nukes probably get decommissioned and that will leave us with about 2 GW dispatchable and dependent upon England for 4 GW back up when the wind doesn’t blow at all which does happen frequently. This effectively was the subject of Roger’s last post:

      At one level I’m simply trying to come to terms with the reality of what we have on the ground today. With the decline of FF it is obviously not a bad thing to have 16 GW of wind. A replacement of our two nuclear reactors with decent modern affordable nuclear power would have seen us through to the end of the century. I’m not sure, but it seems like blowing our wad on 16 GW of wind has put paid to any chance of nuclear power for the foreseeable future. We are hosting renewable energy on behalf of England – at cost to our landscape, England will host dispatchable power for us. The SNP have turned Scotland into an energy parasite. as Roger points out, all of the turbines will need replacing at some point long before your time frame expires.

  3. Dave Rutledge says:

    Hi Euan,

    Great post. It might be similar to Germany where a lot of power gets dumped at low prices in neighboring countries when the sun is shining. The Germans would say that it is coal power that is dumped, of course, but the bottom line is the residential price/kWh. The Germans are up to 38 US cents. Do you know what it is in Scotland now? That is your baseline.


    • Euan Mearns says:

      The table is from Scottish and Southern Energy, my supplier. There is a unit rate and a standing charge. I think its the TCR you want (Tariff Comparison Rate). 17.3 to 18.7 p. Perhaps Hugh could explain the subsidy mechanism for the wind producers and what they get paid.

      • Dave Rutledge says:

        Hi Euan,

        Thank you. So

        Germany 38 US cents/kWh
        Scotland 27 US cents/kWh
        California 15 US cents/kWh (our bills for the last 12 months)



      • Hugh Sharman says:

        As regards subsidy mechanisms for renewable energies, I think it is well enough known that suppliers of this energy receive a guaranteed fixed tariff in one form or another that is higher than spot market and protects them from market vagaries. Furthermore, they have priority access to the grid, therefore guaranteed sales that depend only on weather.

        Consumers are obliged to pay these suppliers through their electricity bills.

        Usually but not always, the TSO pays the renewable generator and passes through this cost through the suppliers. The usually regulated TSOs and distributors must also make investments to accommodate the renewables. These investments are OK-ed by the regulator and these costs + a rate of return are also picked up by the consumers.

        As regards the high tariffs that Dave Rutledge identifies, EU consumers are also cash cows for their Governments..

        The extraordinarily high costs of electricity in Denmark are 70% – 80% taxes in one form or another. Renewable support mechanisms are just a part of all this.

  4. Graeme No.3 says:

    Ontario is having to PAY the USA to take surplus wind energy. Admittedly only $0.5 per MWh, but hardly the way to make money. The wind farms are guaranteed $135 (I think Canadian $) so the customer just get charged a bit more for power that no-one can use.

    I wonder if the SNP realises that their enthusiasm for wind farms will destroy their hopes of independence. Importing 1.6GWh when the prices are high, and exporting 4GWh when the price is low will rapidly empty the Treasury. £500 million here, £500 million there, that can rapidly add up to a real problem.

  5. For Germany, the natural gas plants have been the throttle that has enabled wind and solar variability on the grid, in addition to transmission interconnections. Natural gas is much more expensive in Europe than in the United States, and thus is further down on the economic dispatch list than coal. As such, EON is splitting into two companies as they lost significant amounts of money on their natural gas plants running with much lower operating hours. In the United States, it is the coal plants that are shutting down.

    With the “hydrogen” comment, the tack in Europe is different, as hydrogen is being generated during low cost power times, and is being injected into the natural gas pipelines. At some point, electricity is re-generated through combined cycle gas fired power plants, or natural gas being burned for heat. What is interesting is that the electrolysis devices can be used to provide grid stabilization services (ancillary services) as an additional value add. Look up ITM Power for more on this solution. It only makes sense in Europe, where natural gas prices are considerably higher than in the United States.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      as hydrogen is being generated during low cost power times

      Ben can you be very specific and provide details of the source of this low cost power. This is the crux of the matter.

      My understanding is that it is low price power at times of surplus from a very high cost source – off shore wind. Generating a surplus of high cost power and selling at low price is the way to ruin.

      Burning hydrogen made from electrolysis in a CCGT is insane. Lets take an efficiency of a CCGT at 50% and electrolysis at 70%. The round trip efficiency is 0.7*0.5 = 35%. It simply pisses away 65% of the high cost electricity that you started out with. The way to ruin cubed. Put things another way, you drop the ERoEI from 18 to 6.

      The one thing that wind power has going for it is that it is primary electricity.

      • Nador says:

        If one assumes wind farms being built are a given (for political reasons), then it is better to use 1/3 of the inevitable surplus than to not use it at all. Sure, not building expensive intermittent capacity would be even more sensible, but as we know, there are ministers to make policy decisions and leal civil servants to do their bidding, and of course completely non governmental NGO-s and quangos to protect our Mother Earth.

  6. Raymond Robitaille says:

    I would use the surplus to power motor vehicles. This would be a long-term solution to the surplus that would probably taje a generation to be implemented. In Quebec, there is already enough surplus electricity to power all private motor vehicles, if we fully implemented energy-saving measures such as better insulating homes. What is missing is the infrastructure and electric cars.

    • Leo Smith says:

      You forgot the magic pixie dust. That’s missing as well.

      By the way there’s enough surplus sunlight falling in N America to send a corgi to Andromeda.

      Doesn’t mean its either a good idea or a cheap way to get rid of doggy doo.

  7. Fred says:

    Two points:

    1) You are, for some reason, considering scotland in isolation. That’s soooo last year (and given the rout that’s promised for Aberdeen, a good thing to). At minimum you should be considering Britain as a whole, maybe even bringing europe into this via the interconnector. Winds are more localised than you seem to be considering.

    2) First you say that wind is too expensive and a white elephant, then you are saying that the generating capacity of a small region can be massively affected in a short period of time, via wind power. Which is it, is wind power unimportant, or is it something that can have a massive effect in a short time?

    Seems like there’s some cognitive dissonance at play here….

    • Euan Mearns says:

      At minimum you should be considering Britain as a whole, maybe even bringing europe into this via the interconnector.

      Well I have a whole section on that. I suggest you read the article.

      Winds are more localised than you seem to be considering.

      I try not to consider but to focus on facts. I first looked at these facts many years ago. Unfortunately I now live in a society where facts are no longer valued in favour of spin.

      The Atlantic pressure chart is from the BBC / Met office a few moments ago. It shows strong winds blowing across Scotland, England, Ireland, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Northern France and Northern Germany.

      As for your second point, clearly wind power can have a massive impact in a short period of time. The post is about asking if this impact is positive.

      • Fred says:

        And no wind over Spain or Italy. Frankly I’d guess there is a scholarly work somewhere on the spatial coherence of strong winds, and that distance is probably related to the size of the typical depression, with the average being markedly less than the typical dimensions.

        In short, a less parochial viewpoint is called for, along with some superconducting interconnectors. Just the thing to have in place to pipe some solar power from the sahara to not so sunny, becalmed, scotland.

        • Graeme No.3 says:

          There were 2 studies done in Australia of 4 States (and the ACT) which looked at the question “the wind will always be blowing somewhere” and concluded that over that area it wasn’t true. The various wind farms were separated by up to 1500km. FYO if you look at a map, Victoria is slightly bigger than the UK. The wind farms ran from north of Newcastle, down to the west coast of Tasmania and across to York peninsular in South Australia. All States are interconnected.

          Re superconducting interconnectors – can you name one?

          Re ‘piping solar power to Scotland” it might be cheaper to move Scotland there. They will need lots of maintenance people keeping sand and dust off the solar panels or mirrors.

          • Fred says:

            I’d be kind of shocked if the wind was always blowing somewhere on a continent scale. What we have is a distribution – a correlation plot.

            Small distances have high correlation in wind speeds, and as you increase the distance you reduce the correlation. Importantly you will never hit zero, but you will see drop offs in correlation at particular distances (related to the average weather system size). It’s that point that you have to aim at.

            Re superconducting interconnectors –

            Re sand & dust; its almost as if you need some wind blowing….

          • Bernard Durand says:

            @ Graeme n°3 There is also a specific study for Europe, that you can find on http://www.sauvonsle, by Flocard and Perves. If you can read French, you will learn that there is little compensation from one EU country to another. Yes, the wind will always be blowing somewhere, but as concern high speed wind which carry most of the energy, largely at the same time at the European scale !

          • Graeme No.3 says:


            thank you for the link, but I note that Tres Amigas has not yet started building anything. The concept looks interesting, but it doesn’t seem that there is a rush of those willing to put money in.

            With regard to wind always being available from somewhere in the continent, the point I was making is that it has to be a very big continent. I am sorry but I’ve lost the link to the study on correlation of scottish and (principally eastern) german wind farms, but it found a strong correlation over a distance of 900-1200 km. Along with the australian studies you would have to be prepared to run the electricity over very long distances with the resultant losses, or if superconducting lines, with enormous cost.

            Re dust: we have some experience of deserts in Australia and dust on solar panels (or mirrors) WILL be an on-going maintenance cost.

            @ Bernard Durand – thank you, my french is very poor but I know someone (from Normandy) who might be able to translate it for me.

      • There’s a difference between spin and myopia, Euan. Maybe you should focus more on the latter:

    • Nial says:

      Fred, there are a lot of ‘wills’ in that link.

      There’s a link to the firm that makes the superconductors, there are no details as to the temperature they operate at but….

      ” It is highly durable in pressure-cycled liquid nitrogen, including splices and joints”

      ..suggests it’s exactly ready for distribution over 1000’s of kms.

      You’re not in the sort of job where you have to design things that work are you?

  8. Hugh Sharman says:

    Good post Euan!

    You are all early birds indeed! So many comments before Monday morning breakfast time!!

    In reality, take a look at where, as I write at 9h ECT, wind out-turn is 3 GW whereas the “latest” forcast is for 6 GW! In fact, wind out turn has been in the order of 1 – 3 GW lower than forecast for most of this recent, stormy period!

    Most of the WTs installed in Scotland turn off rather abruptly at 25 m/s wind which must be happening a lot in the Highlands and Islands. Could this stochastic behaviour be in any way a cause for the well publicized blackouts in the same area, these last few days?

    I am just asking!

  9. Pingback: Scotland Gagging on Wind Power | Musings on Interesting Things

  10. Euan Mearns says:

    The worst-affected areas were the Highlands and islands of Scotland, where 100,000 properties lost electricity.

    Its difficult to tell if these are power cuts (tree down on power line) or blackouts (failure of power generation). This is the third or fourth time recently that the Highlands have been blacked out when the wind was blowing. They must be getting huge power variation in an area with little demand and a few hundred miles away from the nearest CCGT.

  11. Fred Udo says:

    Fred Udo
    Nice post about the folly of windenergy.
    I would like to emphasise a technical limit to the growing contribution of windenergy.
    Presently the stability of grid-voltage and -frequency depends on the inertia regulation of large rotating machines. In Ireland the grid authority Eirgrid imposes a limit of 50% on the contribution of non synchroneous sources like windpower and the East West HVDC connector. It seems to me, that this limit is already at work in the present day configuration of the generating fleet of Scotland

  12. Olav says:

    Nice post enlightning the enormous Scottish wind capasity. Bulding a capasity 3x max demand seems unrealistic, it will be scaled down. The Danes have close to 1x max demand while they have Scandinavian hydro to play with, At this time Scotland has only interconnectors towards England and it will help if wind is restricted there, but not at the planned scale. Scotland needs interconnectors to somebody that can take and deliver on demand and that is Norway and Iceland.

    I also think hydrogen production is feasible as long as hydrogen is used as a product and not for electricity production.Producing hydrogen from metane has a 30% energy loss. Producing hydrogen with electricity may have a slightly lower loss. I have seen plans of steam reforming methane to hydrogen and it looks more complicated than elecrolyzers and elecrolyzers producing also oxygen which has a value. Big scale electrolyzers was used in Norway beeing the first to produce fertilizer from air, water and electricity. In the 1970 s was this production shifted to use NGL s due to economic. Since then elecrolyzers has been “small scale” which off cause makes a very expansive hydrogen. But when 100% pure hydrogen is needed it is done. Scale it up and the price will go down. Sometime in the future we will have to go back to the old method to produce fertilizer.

  13. I just came across a very interesting article – actually a slide presentation – on wind integration risks. It doesn’t say who wrote it or when, but it’s on the UK government website so it presumably has official approval. Link here

    It identifies all the risks we identify and provides some interesting backup charts, including this one showing how Denmark has to export power when the wind blows. (Note that this was at 26% wind penetration. Wind penetration in Scotland averaged 34% relative to demand in 2013 and is now probably higher).

    The presentation also recommends the following “mitigation measures … prioritised according to cost effectiveness”:

    1.Virtual power plants (VPPs)
    2.Improved wind forecasting
    3.Reduce gate closure by increasing fast-acting STOR
    4.Electricity storage
    5.Storm-ride through turbines
    6.Inter-connection between systems
    7.Centrally operated curtailment and ramping control

    For those who don’t know what a virtual power plant is, it’s “a system that relies upon software systems to remotely and automatically dispatch and optimize generation, demand-side, or storage resources (including plug-in electric vehicles and bi-directional inverters) in a single, secure web-connected system.”

    And for those who may wonder why “electricity storage” comes fourth it may be because there isn’t any:

    •Pumped hydro capacity in UK amounts to:
    –Dinorwig, North Wales, 1,728 MW/9 GWh
    –Ffestinog, North Wales, 360 MW/1.3 GWh
    –Cruachan, Scotland, 400 MW/8.8 GWh
    –Foyers, Scotland, 300 MW/6.3 GWh
    •Total 2,788 MW/25.4 GWh

    •It is doubtful that much, if any, new pumped hydro capacity can be accommodated in UK, for geographical and environmental amenity reasons

    • Hugh Sharman says:

      Thanks Roger! That was me, actually, summarising my co-written report for a well known UK consulting engineer!

      • Lars says:

        Hugh, Denmark has an extensive district heating system in most towns and cities as far as I know. Do you know if there are any plans to install more electric heaters in this system to replace coal, natural gas and bio when it is blowing a lot? I think you have about 300 MW electric heaters so far but I suppose the potential is much bigger. It could be that some of these are heat pumps, I am not sure.

        To me this makes a lot of sense because:
        1. The energy loss should be relatively low compared to alternatives like hydrogen etc. which are often proposed.
        2. The energy is kept within the country and provides flexible demand
        3. The wind is stronger in the winter when heating needs are bigger
        4. Technically easy solution

        The wind penetration is so far higher in Denmark than in Scotland but the latter is drawing close it seems. But in my opinion you have a potentially big advantage with your district heating compared to Scotland.

        • Hugh Sharman says:

          @Lars. Thanks. I must keep it short because I am travelling to Abuja tomorrow night and have a million things to do before leaving!

          Yes DK did everything right. Note “did”.

          All its cities have a municipal (cooperatively-owned until “privatised” in 2005) power station almost since the beginning of electricity production. This was and still is combined heat and power (CHP). Oil-fired mostly until 1973 whereupon these were converted in-situ to high efficiency coal. And many villages have had commonly owned district heat for almost as long.

          So our coal stations are state-of-the-art with total fuel utilisation in CHP mode at up to 93% and the latest super-critical, commissioned 1998, having a condensing efficiency of 47% (ie no heat). But by that time, the politicians were getting restive about cooperatively owned power stations because the “cheapest” electricity solutions did not suit their ambitions to halt catastrophic “Global” warming, hence the “privatisation” in 2005 to State-owned Vattenfall and State-owned DONG!!! Lots of boodle to share out among the managers of the old system who represented we the people! Needlessly to say, the Danish people got screwed!

          Yes, you are right. Electric heating is on the way in for the reasons you list and the coal-fired power stations are being legislated out of existence.

          This will leave Norden with a gap in dispatchable capacity in the next dry season (remember the winter of 2010 – 2011) when Norway only stayed lit because every thermal station was operating 24/7 and Norway imported power 24/7 for about 3 months?

          Keep those candles handy, although not this windy, rainy winter!!

          • Expanding electric heating in cold northern climes can be counterproductive from the standpoint of demand management and capacity margins:

          • Lars says:

            Hugh, thanks and have a nice trip!
            Yep I always keep my candles handy and not only that.
            I heat almost exclusively with firewood so in that sense I am grid independent. I have been isolated three days now in the tiny community where I live because avalanches have blocked the road in both directions during the recent storm. No loss of electricity though which was a pleasant surprise 🙂

        • The wind penetration is so far higher in Denmark than in Scotland but the latter is drawing close it seems.

          It looks like a dead heat:

          Denmark: “In 2013 wind turbines accounted for almost 30 per cent of domestic electricity supply.” (no numbers available yet).

          Scotland: 2013 wind generation 11,145 GWh, gross consumption 38,256 GWh = 29.1%

      • Hugh. How much of it was really you? I’m as surprised to find you featured on a UK govt site as I was to find myself featured by Greenpeace the other day 😉

        • Lars says:

          Roger, France is an interesting case but I don`t think it`s relevant in this case. With CHP fueled primarily by coal, natural gas, bio or a combination electricity can alternatively be used only when there is a surplus on the grid. Comparing this to electric resistance heating like in France is like comparing apples and oranges in my opinion 🙂

    • Mark Miller says:


      I noticed that CASIO recently published a report on the new Energy Imbalance Market.

      The challenges related to integrating wind from the North West in the CASIO 5 and 15 minute market are discussed in the report.

      • Thanks Mark. I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting stuff in the report, but …. is there an English translation available?

      • Euan Mearns says:

        On December 1, 2014, FERC granted the California Independent System Operator Corporation’s (CAISO) petition for limited waiver of the pricing parameters in sections and of its tariff for 90 days, as they pertain to the Energy Imbalance Market, effective November 14, 2014, as requested.

        Mark, have you seen the movie “Brazil”? Or even 1984? Are you able to give us a brief summary of what this is all about?

  14. Hugh Sharman says:

    Roger, we turn up in all the oddest places. Small but mighty “Energy Matters”.

    Talking of which, Euan, why aren’t the Scottish papers pleased to republish these articles?

  15. cgh says:

    Euan, your good post above makes the assumption that Torness and Hunterston B will continue in operation. Hunterston B (2 x 605 MW) entered service in 1976. Torness (2 x 625) entered service in 1988.

    By 2020, the two Hunterston B reactors will be getting very long in the tooth at nearly 45 years of age. And the Torness reactors will be only about a decade behind them. There are two aspects to their continued operation: technical and political.

    With respect to the first, it needs to be understood that under original power planning, Hunterston B was to be shut down in 2016 at the end of its economic life. Continued operation will require significant investment in life extension and refurbishment work. In Ontario with the reconstruction work completed at Bruce 1 and 2, it is not sufficient that the reactors be restored to their original safety envelope. They must in addition meet whatever additional requirements the regulators have layered on for new construction since their first operation in 1976.

    This needs to be planned well in advance. Given the very small size of the global AGR fleet (Britain only), refurbishment of the Scottish reactors may collide with any projected schedules of the refurbishment (if contemplated and undertaken) by the English AGRs at Hinkley Point, Hartlepool, Heysham and Dungeness. The available pool of expertise is small, and the available manufacturing capacity is limited.

    This becomes excessively complicated if Scotland is to adopt its own nuclear regulator at any time in the near or medium future.

    Then there’s the political dimension. Alex Salmond and the SNP have made a fetish out of antinuclearism. In large part this was the politics of securing Green support for the independence movement. Life extension of Torness and Hunterston B means in some measure walking away from that antinuclearism. How likely is that? Having stoked up public concerns about nuclear, how reasonable or effective will it be for the governing party to turn around and say, “We hated them like the plague before, but they’re all right now”? It’s easy for demagogues like Salmond to whip up public fervor, but as lots of French Jacobins discovered two centuries ago, it’s not so easy to turn it off again.

    Finally, the first bar chart is a bit misleading in one respect. It understates the importance of those four reactors. While only being about one-third of Scotland’s generating capacity, they in fact produce about half its total electric energy. Replacing them with wind will require at least 12,000 MW of wind generation simply to fill the energy void.

  16. 3d says:

    For the graphic! From Dr Roy Spencer’s blog, and wind turbine exploding in strong winds

  17. Ofay Cat says:

    Environmentalists are going to destroy this planet with their good and not so good intentions.

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