Live Interface monitoring Wind Power output

I wanted a very  simple live grid  monitor similar to  gridwatch but less complex.  There is also a standalone version,  plus a 24 hour updating graph of the last 24 hours, and a 30 day running monitor. Update 8/5/14: I have now added together Hydro,Pumped Storage and Biomass to make a new ‘renewable’ category: ‘Hydro/Bio’.


About Clive Best

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

31 Responses to Live Interface monitoring Wind Power output

  1. Euan Mearns says:

    Good stuff Clive. OK if I do a post on this and put permanent links to your output on my sidebar?

    As an aside, I’d be really keen to see a post on the efficiency of solar PV in the UK compared with the continent. Maybe Aberdeen, Bournemouth and Faro (Portugal) taking into account variations in sunshine and latitude. I feel sure that solar PV is a total waste of money in Aberdeen where you are just as likely to see panels on N facing roofs. I’ve been told it makes no difference – which may be the case – uselss is usless – working on back scattered photons (?)

  2. Clive Best says:


    Fine – go ahead. It may be best to link to . That page updates itself automatically, however I only ping the server once an hour to ensure there is negligible load at their end.

    I have read that the measured annual load factor for PV across Germany is just 10%. For the UK I would expect the figure to be lower still – so something like 5-8% because of the higher latitudes (and clouds). For Aberdeen the figure must be < 5%. If we use the quoted installation cost for PV from "power" of €1000 /KW (installed) then we get a real figure ~ €20000/KW (delivered). Furthermore the efficiency falls by over a factor 2 during winter when we need most power. So even off-shore wind begins to look cheap in comparison. PV in Libya makes sense. PV in Scotland is barmy. Controllable Tidal power could make sense. A coffer dam would collect water at high tide and generate power by letting it flow out during low tides when power is needed. That way you let the moon pump water up hill !

  3. Joe Public says:

    Came here via Euan’s link, and am a regular visitor to GridWatch.

    Suggestion: Is it possible to add % info for each source?

  4. Glen Mcmillian says:

    This is a really great educational resource.

    Now I bet somebody here has the answer to this question.

    When wind is providing say for instance 2.0 GW how much EXTRA gas is being burnt to maintain a ready reserve on average due to that 2 GW of wind being part of the production system?

    In other words what is the net savings of gas ?

    I realize the answer must be an average answer for some given period of time such as a day or month.

    If wind AVERAGES 2 GW day in and day out how much actual money- exclusive of everything else involved- is saved on imported gas?

    I understand that the net monetary savings is less because the utilities providing the backup have additional expenses beyond fuel of course.But getting an honest answer to precisely what those expenses are would be just about impossible since it would be either an estimate from a wind advocate or a spokesperson for the utility which has an obvious reason to exaggerate that expense to the extent the utility can without looking ridiculous.

    I don’t think anybody CAN know just what that expense might be given the nature of the problem.
    A gas peaker plant might be built SPECIFICALLY- according to the owner– to use to balance wind but it would still be useful in other ways as in for instance a big coal plant had to shut down for emergency maintenance or because coal deliveries were interrupted.

    Finance in court and at tax time is not very precise in terms of what is allowed from one case to the next although a multibillion dollar company computes a tax bill to a penny for the year. Ditto the IRS or other govt watch dog.

    If the wind didn’t require some EXTRA reserve above and beyond the usual required in a system with out any wind then the answer would be obvious- enough gas to generate a continuos 2 GW in the case of my example.

    Finding out how much EXTRA gas a utility or country burns to balance wind is a hard thing to do.But I will keep asking until I get a good answer from somebody somewhere.

    • Clive Best says:


      You have asked the crucial question. Just how much fossil fuel is really saved by expanding wind energy ? You will not find any answer to this in the public domain because it is such a controversial topic. I am sure the the National Grid must have the data to be able to answer this. I suspect the conclusion is too politically sensitive to ever be made public and would anyway be vehemently opposed by vested interests.

      There is however a theoretical study by Leo Smith which is well worth reading see here:

      In addition a recent doctoral thesis showed that if wind power reaches more than 20% capacity on the grid in Ireland , that the benefit goes negative. In other words you burn more gas by balancing intermittent wind than you would by generating all power from fossil fuels alone. If true this would be a damning indictment of plans to expand wind power capacity to 20GW in the UK. The thesis is by Eleanor Denny of Trinity College:

      Germany’s CO2 emissions have not fallen despite huge investments in wind and solar energy. They are having to build more coal power stations to ensure base load.

      My feeling is that there is no alternative long term solution other than a massive expansion of nuclear power. Germany will eventually reverse its decision to close its nuclear program. Nuclear fusion will also eventually be available in the second half of this century.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        Clive: I don’t know if you could ever accurately calculate the amount of fossil fuel, if any, saved by expanding wind energy, but if you look at the big picture you find that the global growth in wind energy over the last ~20 years has had zero discernable impact on global CO2 emissions, which are of course a proxy for fuel burned:

        The graphic also illustrates a) the abject failure of the much-ballyhooed Kyoto Protocol to achieve anything in the way of emissions reductions and b) the fact that our only sure-fire option for cutting emissions is to induce a permanent global recession. Maybe our misguided emissions-cutting efforts will eventually do that anyway.

    • Doug Brodie says:

      I refer to the vexed question of how much fossil fuel, if any, is saved by wind power under reason 10 of my paper “20 reasons to object to a wind farm”, accessible at

  5. Roger Andrews says:


    Back, indirectly, on topic.

    Like you I plotted up the grid data covering the period of the recent power outage in N Scotland and here’s what I got:

    I didn’t see anything to indicate that wind was the cause of the outage (I read that it’s now been traced to a fault in a substation) but I was intrigued by the two abrupt downward demand spikes at 2040, ten minutes after the outage occurred, and around 2320 when it was being fixed. Initially I thought these spikes had something to do with the outage because I couldn’t think of anything else that could cause demand to drop by ~3GW for a brief period and then pick up again.

    But after looking through the grid data for other months I found that these downward spikes are in fact quite common. But what causes them? How long do they go on for? How many fall between the five-minute Gridwatch “spot” reading interval? And does it make any difference?

    Well, right now I have no idea whether it makes a difference or not, but I thought it might be interesting to sample the grid data over the period of the outage at, say, one minute instead of five minute intervals, just to see what drops out. Could you do something like this? It’s beyond the capability of an aged computer illiterate like me. 😉

    • Clive Best says:

      The blue curve is demand, so I suspect that those dips could be the interruption of the French interconnection. I have noticed also that this does trips out regularly and it is of the same magnitude – 3 GW.

      I also think that the scale determined by the demand (50GW) is too large to see much smaller changes in wind output, There was a drop in the wind and then recovery around 8pm on the UK scale. Whether this was concentrated in Scotland I don’t know. Maybe the power cut was an electrical failure. Someone surely knows what happened but whether we will ever know is another matter !

      • Roger Andrews says:

        Official cause of outage:

        The downward spikes occur only in the “demand” column. Generation doesn’t change (“other” in my plot includes interconnections). Nor does grid frequency, although with this large an imbalance we would expect it to.

        Maybe the spikes are metering errors or typos. How do they measure demand anyway?

        • Doug Brodie says:

          The official explanation of the recent North of Scotland power blackout was bound to exonerate wind. However I believe that the observations of local farmer John Graham are very telling, as reported under
          “Hi Paul. Definite wind drop. Never mind the forecast. I was out feeding the cattle. One minute I could hardly get the barn door closed and then no wind at all. Just went inside and the power went off. 08.20pm”

  6. John Morrow says:

    Like several others I arrived here via Euan’s link and am delighted to have found your web-site and this excellent representation of the actuals of UK power generation. I shall continue to refer to it and point others in it’s direction.
    One question for you. I understand the need to show each power generating sector with an identical scaling, but I wonder, would it be possible to show the theoretical maximum generating capacity of each sector as a “marker” at the appropriate point on it’s scale? If it can be done this would show in real time just how close to theoretical maximum each sector is running.

    • Clive Best says:

      Thank you, Yes that is a very good idea.
      I believe that currently the installed capacity for wind is just over 10GW covering just over 5000 turbines. Of course this number is growing with time. The average generation for this winter was about 3GW which agrees with a load factor of ~ 30%. However this value falls towards the summer months. I don’t have a figure for total installed Gas capacit and Coal capacity is deliberately being run down.
      Here is the Wiki data for UK wind capacity “>

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Clive, I was going to make the same suggestion. Your 6 dials as they are should be kept. But to have another 6 dials scaled to the capacity of each source would be good to have, this of course would have to be updated for capacity changes with time. DECC have a good spread sheet with all the power stations on it.

      • Clive Best says:

        I agree. I will do some tweaking later next week. I am away for a long weekend armed only with an iPad !

        I am wondering if we can calculate the decrease in thermal efficiency of gas stations balancing wind output. I found a week in September where the wind was almost exactly inversely correlated with peak demand. The wind was strong at night and died during the day to zero each day ! This is exactly what the grid doesn’t want so gas was powered up and down irregularly.

  7. Peter Lilley says:

    I am puzzled why this (and other grid tracking apps do not include biomass which, according to the government is bigger than any other renewable?

    Renewables’ share of electricity generation

    • Renewables’ share of electricity generation increased from 9.7 per cent in 2012 Q2 to a record high 15.5 per cent in 2013 Q2, a 2.8 percentage point increase on 2013 Q1’s previous record share. The increase on a year earlier reflects increased capacity, particularly in biomass conversions, onshore and offshore wind.

    • Clive Best says:

      The live generation figures are based on data provided by ELEXON . They do not give a figure for “biomass’ as such. Instead there is a category called ‘other’ which I believe includes biomass and PV. This generated power must be dominated by ‘biomass’ as PV is very small and seems to be rather constant at ~1.1 GW. This has increased by nearly a factor 2 because of the conversion of some boilers at Iron Bridge and DRAX to burn wood chips rather than coal. Burning wood is unsustainable – that is why there are no forests left in Europe and why they are disappearing fast in Africa. I will update my display to include biomass/PV soon.

      The renewables report is very interesting. The statistics are presented in a way designed to enhance wind power. The figures are for ‘Energy” generated and not “Power”. During the night demand drops by a half while wind generation tends to peak at night. This essentially doubles the percentage of wind power at night, when we don’t really need the power anyway. That is how the report arrives at such high % values for wind. If instead you calculate the contribution of wind power to the daily peak demand for last winter which I think is the key measure for energy security, you get an average figure for wind of 6.6%. However there were still several days when wind contributed < 1% so it does not really help with energy security.

  8. gmlindsay says:

    Brilliant work, Clive – the more people who are aware of the weather dependent intermittency of wind, the better

  9. gmlindsay says:

    Clive – is it possible to include the data from the Scotland/England interconnector?

    • Clive Best says:

      No there is no figure for the net flows of power between England and Scotland. Could be quite a sensitive issue if the Scots vote for independence !

  10. gmlindsay says:

    There used to be a NG site which provided this cross border data in addition to the other interconnectors – in fact it’s still there but the Scot?Eng data doesn’t update!!! I wonder why? I have tried contacting the Grid but so far only partial success – I will try again

  11. Dougie Moir says:

    Hi Clive this is a great addition and for a non techi, great. I am wondering if it would be possible to perhaps through SAS or other organisation to e mail the thirty day report to all MP and MSP’s and to circulate the link to all Media outlets as it is easy to follow as indicated.

  12. A C Osborn says:

    Clive, love the graphics, they are very easy to read.
    Off Topic, Chefio has a veiled request for you on one of his posts, see the last line of his “In Conclusion”, He states “Maybe Clive can do it. (hint hint ;-)”

    • Clive Best says:

      Oops ! I have been putting off this lunar tidal study because not only does it involve a lot of thinking but it also involves a serious Fortran programming effort to interpolate the Laskar ephemeris. That’s probably why I started monitoring wind power instead !

  13. Mark Daniels says:

    Nice display of the grid data. It is interesting to note that with your data being fetched from BM Reports less frequently than Templar’s that there is a discrepancy between the two sites. It might be worthwhile fetching the data more frequently, if you can afford the bandwidth. Also, you may want to correct the orange and red bands on the meters at so that they match this page. Thanks for the clear display of the data.

  14. gmlindsay says:

    Clive – I have been sharing your graphs far and wide. Can I assume that you have no objection to my doing this?

  15. joh. says:

    Nice info, will save this.

    Ps; Would you replace holland with Netherlands, it is not correct and even a bit insulting.

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