Power generation Summer 2023

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.

Power generation by fuel type. Solar is an estimate from University of Sheffield. Wind power is also corrected to include non metered wind farms. (click to expand)

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.

Comparison of Gas output to Wind output this summer. They are almost perfectly anti-correlated. Click to expand.

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.

About Clive Best

PhD High Energy Physics Worked at CERN, Rutherford Lab, JET, JRC, OSVision
This entry was posted in Energy, nuclear, renewables, wind farms. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Power generation Summer 2023

  1. Clive, interesting analysis of current power generation, thanks. As to the future, surely a lot more than 5 new EPR’s when you take into account the closure of all but one of the existing nuclear plants by 2026-28 and the huge extra demand from EV’s, heat pumps and everything else requiring electrification?

  2. Well said. An absolutely irrefutable argument.

  3. David Bunney says:

    The need for gas or other flexible thermal plant to cover generation needs is shown by your second graph very clearly. If you build and maintain the reliable grid then you don’t want the complexity, duplication, money wasting of the unreliable one! Given that warming is so inconsequential and arguably beneficial rather than a threat to life, a large portion of it natural and the UK emits next to nothing, I’d build out gas, coal and nuclear generation. I’d secure supplies from domestic and friendly oversees sources and re-industrialise this country to make us independent from China and boost our economy.

  4. forbin says:

    Hello Clive ,

    The Greens dont have an answer to Wind Drought and never will because they are zealots against nuclear.

    In this post truth world we’ll get blackouts first.


  5. Barry Michael Clarke says:

    Thank you Clive. As always, an oasis of sanity in a desert of crap.

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