Most of this summer saw variable weather and short spells of windy conditions across the UK, followed by a very hot spell at the beginning of September with little to no wind. The consequent sudden changes in wind power output needs flexible backup which can realistically only be provided with Gas power stations. So let’s see how the National Grid coped with providing sufficient power to keep the lights on, and what lessons can be learned.
We see just how variable wind power really is with strong output followed by sharp drops to almost negligible output. It is also clear that even if we were to double wind capacity it would still have little affect on such windless periods, which cover the whole of the UK and its off-shore waters. The anti-correlation of wind power with Gas power is perfectly demonstrated below.
The Net Zero agenda calls for the phasing out of all fossil fuels by 2050, yet as clearly demonstrated, the largest renewable source (Wind) is totally dependent on an equal capacity of gas backup. Nor is it in feasible to store any excess energy on windy days (in batteries) to cover regular “dunkelflautes” simply because the energy storage requirements are astronomical and dangerous (Mtons of TNT)!
If we simply calculate the average net energy produced by different sources then we discover that our few remaining nuclear power stations generated almost the same amount of energy as all UK wind farms combined. (17% as compared to 23%). Gas will always remain our primary source (38%) until we build more large nuclear power stations. All other paths are futile
For the UK to reach net zero simply requires about 5 new EPR (Hinkley C) sized nuclear stations and some realistic localised energy storage to even out Wind and Solar excursions.