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Will British weather provide reliable electricity?  

Author:  | Economics, Emissions, Grid, U.K.

Energy Policy 36 (2008) 3212-3225


A model of a large and distributed installation of wind generators has been produced for the UK and used to analyse the power output characteristics for each January in the last 12 years. It suggests that

  • Although the aggregate output of a distributed wind carpet in the United Kingdom is smoother than the output of individual wind farms and regions, the power delivered by such an aggregate wind fleet is highly volatile. For example, if 25 GW of wind turbines had been installed, with full access to the grid, in January 2005 the residual demand on the supporting plant would have varied over the month between 5.5 and 56 GW.
  • Wind output in Britain can be very low at the moment of maximum annual UK demand (e.g. 2 February 2006); these are times of cold weather and little wind. Simultaneously, the wind output in neighbouring countries can also be very low and this suggests that intercontinental trans- mission grids to neighbouring countries will be difficult to justify.
  • The volatile power swings will require fossil fuel plants to undergo more frequent loading cycles, thus reducing their reliability and utilisation.
  • Reduced reliability will require more thermal capacity to be built to compensate, whilst achieving the same level of system reliability. Cost of wind calculations would be more accurate if they included this factor.
  • Reduced utilisation will encourage generators to install lower cost and lower-efficiency plants rather than high-efficiency base load plants. These have higher CO2 emissions than high- efficiency plants. Carbon saving calculations would be more accurate if they included this factor.
  • Power swings from wind will need to be compensated for by power swings from gas-powered plants which in turn will induce comparable power swings on the gas network as plant ramps up and down. This will have a cost implication for the gas network. Calculations of cost of wind would be more accurate if they included this factor.

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This material is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this material resides with the author(s). As part of its noncommercial effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Queries e-mail.

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