Something Fishy in the air?

I have noticed that wind power delivered to the grid is always less than 6 GW, no matter how windy it gets. This was clearly demonstrated  on October 21st when wind speeds across the country reached around 50 mph for most of the day. The  wind output was simply bumping along always under 6 GW. Something fishy is going on – What is it?



The heart of the problem becomes clearer once  you start looking at  the constraint payments made to  wind farms under the Grid’s ‘balancing mechanism’ (see: Large wind farms were paid a staggering £2 million on 21st October to disconnect from the grid. These payments were priced at over £90 for each MWh of generated wind energy which is then simply thrown away !


Nor is this an isolated incident. Over the past year constraint payments have been increasing as more capacity is added. We can see similar periods over weekends in August and April. All these hidden costs for wind are passed on to the consumer through their bills.


The UK installed wind capacity is 11.2 GW but the effective load capacity on a perfect day of wind is apparently only around a maximum of 60 %.  The Grid simply cannot handle more than 6GW of instantaneous wind power, whereas it has no problem with 30GW of coal or Gas. I think the problem lies in the Grid topology which is based on large power lines to central generators. The high voltage connections to dispersed wind farms cannot handle large power, made worse by unpredictability. There is really no point adding new wind capacity until the underlying infrastructure is upgraded.

This message of course is not what the green Wind lobby want to hear. They want to instal as much as possible because they can’t lose. They get paid whatever happens.

Finally lets look at the headline wind energy statistics that are often quoted. Renewable Energy UK quote that the fleet of UK wind farms generate 27,263,077 MWh of Energy Produced each year. This is based on DECCs own DUKES review of on-shore and off-shore capacity factors (27.82%). Lets now look at the actual electrical energy supplied to the Grid in 1 year of operations. I have integrated the total energy supplied to the grid over the last 13 months based on hourly monitoring.

Power delivery by Fuel type to meet Peak demand every day since September 2013. Weekdays peak demand occurs around 18:00 and fat weekdays around 20:00.

Power delivery by Fuel type to meet Peak demand every day since September 2013. Weekdays peak demand occurs around 18:00 and fat weekdays around 20:00.

The average daily electrical energy  supplied to the Grid by Wind farms between  1st September 2013 and 1st October 2014 was 22,833,000 MWh. The total energy generated in a 12 month period was 20,217,523,383 MWh.  This means that up to 26% of the reported energy paid out to wind farms is simply  thrown away. This fact is hidden from public scrutiny because we pay for this wastage on our electricity bills. DECC and the Wind industry would prefer you not to know because it undermines their economic case for green energy.

So for example the real ‘savings’ of CO2 emissions from wind were 3 million tonnes less than the official figures of 11.7 million tonnes.  The real capacity load factor was 20.6% and not the quoted 28.7% if you take into account the discarded excess wind energy.

The real costs of Wind electricity should really be revised upwards by  35%. Only if and when the Grid gets upgraded to handle multiple power lines to such a dispersed energy source as wind can the current DECC and wind industry figures be believed. The costs of upgrading the Grid are enormous and must be factored into the real costs of expending wind energy. Until the Grid is upgraded  it makes hardly any sense at all to add any new UK wind capacity. That is unless you are a wind operator with  guaranteed 20% return on investment underwritten by the UK government.

Posted in Energy, renewables, Science, Technology, wind farms | Tagged | Leave a comment

Wind power results – 2013/14

I have been monitoring the UK peak power demand every day for the last 12 months, and how that power was delivered. The UK government has invested about £50 billion into Wind energy since 2005,  so how has it performed?

The average Wind component of UK peak power demand was 5.7% over a full year. The maximum power output was 6GW on 21 February 2014 at 18:10, while  the maximum proportion of demand was 16.8% on Sunday 17th August 2014 at 20:08. The minimum proportion was 0.15% on 31st May 2014 when total Wind output was 49MW (0.05GW).

Power delivery by Fuel type to meet Peak demand every day since September 2013. Weekdays peak demand occurs around 18:00 and fat weekdays around 20:00.

Power delivery by Fuel type to meet Peak demand every day since September 2013. Weekdays peak demand occurs around 18:00 and at weekdays occurs around 20:00.

For comparison Nuclear Power averaged 18.1% of demand and never fell below 15%. The bulk of UK power is still met by fossil fuels and it is impossible to imagine a future Grid based purely on Wind power. The mix of coal and gas is interesting. Coal is dominant in Winter while gas dominates in summer. I also monitored the daily energy “trough” or the lowest demand for electricity which usually occurs each day at around 4am . This is shown below.

Power delivery by fuel type at minimum daily power demand (~4am)

Power delivery by fuel type at minimum daily power demand (~4am)

It is Coal that keeps the lights on during winter nights! Gas output is ramped down at night, probably because it is easier to regulate power in Gas power stations. The exception to this is during the summer when several coal power stations would appear to be mothballed.

The statistics for Wind power at night appear better because the overall demand is much less. The average contribution of wind power to minimum demand was 9.8%, and the  maximum Wind supplied was 22.5% on 2nd February at 05:30 (6GW).  However Nuclear also contributes proportionately more at night averaging 30%, which is 10% more than Gas. The difference between the 2 extreme demand curves is shown below over the 13 month period. Note the sharp drop in power demand over the Christmas period.

Daily Peak and Minimum demand  over  a 13 month period Sep 2013 to Oct 2014

Daily Peak and Minimum demand over a 13 month period Sep 2013 to Oct 2014

This analysis makes it clear, to me at least, that the UK should shift the balance of investment towards Nuclear and away from Wind. Even doubling Wind generating capacity to 20GW would still leave some days with essentially zero output, thereby undermining energy security. Furthermore Gas will always be needed with at least the same generating capacity as Wind in order to continuously balance Wind’s erratic output. Nor can energy storage save the day, since it reduces the EROEI for Wind to below sustainable levels.

The data used for this analysis was collected through BM reports – the National Grid balancing mechanism. There are about 10% of wind farms that are not metered by BM so the above figures should probably be adjusted upwards by 10%. The conclusion is the same.

The live monitoring of peak demand over the last 30 days is shown below.

Posted in coal, Energy, nuclear, renewables, Science, Technology, wind farms | Tagged | 30 Comments

The certainty of extreme weather

The Met Office tell us that September was the driest since records began 104 years ago. Last summer was ‘the hottest ever recorded’ in Australia. These extreme records hit the headlines implying that global warming is to blame. However just how likely is it that one extreme weather record or another will be broken due to pure chance? Barometer in today’s Spectator shows how to do the calculation and the results are surprising. I have simply extended the same argument to include Australia and the US.

In the following we consider 3 countries and their regions – The UK, US and Australia. The regions for the UK are England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Similarly Australia has 6 states and the US has 50 states. That gives a total of 63 different regions if we also include the whole country itself.

Lets take 4 records that can be broken : hottest, coldest, wettest and driest. During a single year each record can be set yearly, monthly, or seasonally. That equates to 17 different time periods. Therefore for the UK there are a total of 5x4x17=340 records that can be set  during the current year 2014. For Australia there are 6x4x17=408 records and for the US there are a staggering 51x4x17=3468 records.

Now lets assume that all weather records go back 104 years. The probability of a single record being broken in any year is simply 0.0096. So the probability the record will stand during the current year is 0.9904

What is the probability that any of the UK weather records will be broken during the current year ? That is

P = (1 - 0.9904^{340})

There is a 96.3% chance that at least one Met Office record will be broken this year in the UK!

For Australia there is a probability P = (1 - 0.9904^{408}) or 98.1% chance that a record will be broken and for the US there is a probability P = (1 - 0.9904^{3468}) or essentially a 100% chance that a record will be broken!

So in 2014 we can be absolutely certain that at least one state in the US will have its hottest/coldest/driest/wettest month/season/year ever recorded! Such records are totally meaningless.

Posted in AGW, Climate Change, Meteorology, Science | Tagged , | 12 Comments