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 continuously below 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: ref.org.uk). Large wind farms were paid a staggering £2 million on 21st October to disconnect from the Grid. These payments are 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 continuously as more capacity has been added. We can see similar periods over weekends last August and April. All these hidden costs for wind are passed on to the consumer through their monthly 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, and this is made worse by unpredictability. There is really no point adding any new wind capacity until the underlying infrastructure is upgraded. But how much would it cost to completely redesign the National Grid, and is it really worth it when we could simply build large modern gas and nuclear plants compatible with the existing Grid?
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 reaping handsome profits from ‘phantom’ energy. Why are they not also charged for the extra expense to upgrade the Grid?
Finally lets look at the headline wind energy statistics that are often quoted. Renewable Energy UK quote that the UK fleet of wind farms generate 27,263,077 MWh of Energy each year. This is based on DECCs own DUKES review of on-shore and off-shore capacity factors (27.82%). So let’s now look at the actual electrical energy supplied to the Grid over a full year of operations. I have integrated the total energy supplied to the grid over the last 13 months based on hourly monitoring.
The total 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 September to September was 20,217,523,383 MWh. This demonstrates that up to 26% of the reported energy paid out to wind farms is simply thrown away. This fact is well hidden from public scrutiny because we all pay for such wastage through our electricity bills. Wind drives energy prices up. DECC and the Wind industry would prefer you not to know because it undermines their economic case for green energy.
Similarly the real ‘savings’ of CO2 emissions from wind were 3 million tonnes less than the official DECC figures of 11.7 million tonnes, and which also ignores the increased emissions of Gas plants to balance Wind. The real capacity load factor of Wind Farms was 20.6% and not the quoted 28.7%, once you take into account the discarded excess wind energy.
The real costs of Wind electricity should 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 expanding 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.