Where is all the Wind Power

UK news this morning reports energy from offshore wind will be cheaper than from new nuclear power for the first time.   Its apparently caught even its most optimistic supporters by surprise as the price of offshore wind energy has now halved in less than five years.

It does however make me wonder why we don't use more of what we have available:   Wiki shows 3rd Qtr 2016 the UK had 15031-MW on-line capacity of on+offshore power available (I expect in Sept 2017, its now higher) But looking at today's country wide steady to strong winds & the power demand/output on 'www/gridwatch' the output for Wind is showing at 7.457-MW.    OK that makes 23.6% of the total demand & its nicely balanced with the other principle generator types  Nuclear is 25.2% & CCGT is 35.1%.  I just wonder why we don't use more of the wind power that we have.       I suspect its a logical answer,  but does anyone know ???    

Original Post

It may also be contractual. To encourage investment, nuclear and fossil fuel companies are often beneficiaries of "take or pay" contracts that essentiallly guarantee them access to markets. The energy wholesalers can find that is cheaper to refuse supply from wind turbines, rather than pay the penalties to other producers. As wind is free, this seems inefficient, to say the least.

winkyincanada posted:

It may also be contractual. To encourage investment, nuclear and fossil fuel companies are often beneficiaries of "take or pay" contracts that essentiallly guarantee them access to markets. The energy wholesalers can find that is cheaper to refuse supply from wind turbines, rather than pay the penalties to other producers. As wind is free, this seems inefficient, to say the least.

One might think that when the wind blows, that 'free' energy would be used as a priority, but in practice, that is not what happens. Wind energy use fluctuates with demand, just as it does for fossil fuel use. As usual, market forces trump carbon emissions in the energy industry.

ChrisSU posted:
winkyincanada posted:

It may also be contractual. To encourage investment, nuclear and fossil fuel companies are often beneficiaries of "take or pay" contracts that essentiallly guarantee them access to markets. The energy wholesalers can find that is cheaper to refuse supply from wind turbines, rather than pay the penalties to other producers. As wind is free, this seems inefficient, to say the least.

One might think that when the wind blows, that 'free' energy would be used as a priority, but in practice, that is not what happens. Wind energy use fluctuates with demand, just as it does for fossil fuel use. As usual, market forces trump carbon emissions in the energy industry.

100% agree. The market will, over time, better factor in the benefits of free fuel and incentivise the construction/modification of alternate sources that can efficiently ramp-up and down, and contracts that reflect that. One example is that the duration/size of blocks of power that are now traded are apparently currently not optimal for a significant renewable mix.

Don Atkinson posted:

Let's face it Mike, power generation and distribution is a combination of commerce and politics. Nothing else !

ingenuity and the environment don't feature unless driven by the above two.

I don't believe so Don,  my question & the answer I'm looking for is (I believe) a technical one concerning power generation & distribution.    Nothing else  

Mike-B posted:
Don Atkinson posted:

Let's face it Mike, power generation and distribution is a combination of commerce and politics. Nothing else !

ingenuity and the environment don't feature unless driven by the above two.

I don't believe so Don,  my question & the answer I'm looking for is (I believe) a technical one concerning power generation & distribution.    Nothing else  

I think winky provided a good answer to your question Mike. I was merely adding to it

I don't think the reason is purely technical

But as others have noted, wind might have been running at full available capacity due to efficiency levels or planned maintenance etc

Yes Don,  Winky did indeed provide a good answer,  & my response was somewhat flippant aimed more at the poke at the tories,  which is completely inaccurate; the new subsidy contract for offshore wind is £57.50/MWh – a significant fall from the previous average of £117.14/MWh.   As a comparison to £92.50/MWh (controversially) promised to the French & Chinese for Hinkley Point C. 

I have been enquiring on the www & have answered my own question - or at least the purely technical question I had in mind:   The National Grid have to balance supply & demand to deliver power at 50Hz, this requires constant regulation & very short reaction times. Forecasting the demand is a constant moving variable – outside expected demands they have daily weather changes, days of the week, even post big TV viewing brew ups to add to the mix.        Each different generator type has a different start up time, reliability & cost. The NG use the constant (practically) unchanging up to 8.9 GW from Nuclear & its 48 hour startup (& shutdown) time together with the more flexible up to 34GW capacity of CCGT to provide the majority of UK power. Wind is used as a significant support to the NG balance with these other generator types; the problem with wind is it's the least predictable & can never be at 100% of the installed capacity due to unpredictable local variations in wind speed, maintenance & others, at this time the NG plan for using 40% to 60% of the total UK installed capacity.  (and that 40-60% plan really answers my question)  This is under constant review as more capacity comes on line over the next years.  However the regional power generators do show some exceptions; Scotland produced 125% of the regions total demand from wind for some days over last christmas, I expect we will see more of this over the next years.

Mike-B posted:
Don Atkinson posted:

Let's face it Mike, power generation and distribution is a combination of commerce and politics. Nothing else !

ingenuity and the environment don't feature unless driven by the above two.

I don't believe so Don,  my question & the answer I'm looking for is (I believe) a technical one concerning power generation & distribution.    Nothing else  

Well I'm sticking by my previous assertion - you need to look at the statistics. The capacity figure you quote (15031) is the maximum theoretical generating capacity of all UK windfarms. What they actually achieve at any point in time is obviously variable, and the industry uses a figure of 30.1% of installed capacity, based of actual output over the last 5 years. So really, if they are generating 7457 today, they are doing quite well.  

My previous post has done the stats & some limited research Chris,  Its no big deal,  I was just wondering why the wind generation always falls so well short of the installed capacity.  I found the answer was they try for 40%;    At the moment at 23:00(pm) considering the NG demand has reduced by aprx 10GW,  the wind generators are now pushing out 7.571GW compared to 7.457GW at 10:00 this morning.    7.571 is  50.37% of 15.031GW  & is producing around 29% of the total demand.     All is good.   

Don Atkinson posted:

Mike, I think that £92.5 for new nuclear is index linked, so it's current "value" is somewhat larger. As I say, I think that is so.

Not sure how the pound/euro etc value affects things ?

Don't worry Don,  it'll all be changed when that thing goes on-line sometime far away.  In the meantime I expect JC will turn it into a vegan theme park when he gets in next time around.   

Mike-B posted:

My previous post has done the stats & some limited research Chris,  Its no big deal,  I was just wondering why the wind generation always falls so well short of the installed capacity.  I found the answer was they try for 40%;    At the moment at 23:00(pm) considering the NG demand has reduced by aprx 10GW,  the wind generators are now pushing out 7.571GW compared to 7.457GW at 10:00 this morning.    7.571 is  50.37% of 15.031GW  & is producing around 29% of the total demand.     All is good.   

Lack of wind, the wrong sort of wind, and breakdowns, all widen the gap. Sticking these things on steel posts in salt water means the offshore ones will be high maintenance - some already are, despite not being very old. Blade repairs are also needed quite often, and can only be done in low wind conditions and calm seas, meaning that a turbine might be out of action for quite some time before it gets fixed. Some of these things were quite well made, but others were only thrown up as a means of milking the grant system, and apart from being shoddily installed, in some cases these were located in places where there isn't anything like enough wind to justify them. Nonetheless, they do make a significant contribution to the UK energy supply - only time will tell if this is going to last.

Mike-B posted:

My previous post has done the stats & some limited research Chris,  Its no big deal,  I was just wondering why the wind generation always falls so well short of the installed capacity.  I found the answer was they try for 40%;    At the moment at 23:00(pm) considering the NG demand has reduced by aprx 10GW,  the wind generators are now pushing out 7.571GW compared to 7.457GW at 10:00 this morning.    7.571 is  50.37% of 15.031GW  & is producing around 29% of the total demand.     All is good.   

Turbines only generate power whilst the wind is blowing in the optimum range on the turbine's power curve. Too slow and nothing happens, too fast and it switches itself off else it would burn out the (fairly small) motor. Historically, onshore turbines produce around 22% of capacity. Offshore turbines produce slightly more because the winds are more reliable out at sea. Wave power is (imo) the holy grail for renewable energy.

I wouldn't like to be on the operating table when the wind stops ...

ynwa250505 posted:
Mike-B posted:

My previous post has done the stats & some limited research Chris,  Its no big deal,  I was just wondering why the wind generation always falls so well short of the installed capacity.  I found the answer was they try for 40%;    At the moment at 23:00(pm) considering the NG demand has reduced by aprx 10GW,  the wind generators are now pushing out 7.571GW compared to 7.457GW at 10:00 this morning.    7.571 is  50.37% of 15.031GW  & is producing around 29% of the total demand.     All is good.   

Turbines only generate power whilst the wind is blowing in the optimum range on the turbine's power curve. Too slow and nothing happens, too fast and it switches itself off else it would burn out the (fairly small) motor. Historically, onshore turbines produce around 22% of capacity. Offshore turbines produce slightly more because the winds are more reliable out at sea. Wave power is (imo) the holy grail for renewable energy.

I wouldn't like to be on the operating table when the wind stops ...

Tidal is the way forward if you want consistent power(and I'm not just referring to the hot air that comes out of Jay Z's backside.) It can be flat calm, no wind and pitch dark, but as long as the Moon orbits the Earth, there will be reliable energy in tides.

Agreed tidal has predictable reliability,  something that wave does not.  I see both as viable fillers in the mix of a renewable energy portfolio,  however both are not as easy or low cost as it might first appear.   Both have a mix of visual, eco & environmental impacts for the sea area required for economic power generation.  The big negative with both is anything in the ocean is constantly degrading with corrosion, erosion & marine organic growth.  It's either eaten or blocked up with all manner of plants & animals;  as a result the frequency & cost of maintenance are significant.

Hi Mike - I know in East Anglia there has been and continues to be a massive investment in offshore wind farm energy generation - and East Anglia ONE is the latest massive farm in the North Sea. The big challenge is bringing the power on shore and into the super Grid. Here the high tension cables are currently being tunnelled from the Suffolk Coast to Bramford ( I believe 220kV) near Ipswich currently causing quite a lot a construction disruption where the feed will connect to the  Super Grid switching centre - where interestingly the Sizewell Nuclear power station feed (2x400kV) overground HT power lines also join the Super Grid. Apparently East Anglia ONE will provide upto 714 MW.. talk the about that central switching station being a piece of national critical infrastructure... I wonder if it has armed guards... I know Sizewell nuclear power station does

Hi Simon,  thanks for the post.  I was looking into the whole East Anglia project a while back,  it's not just EA ONE,  there are three & plans for a fourth in all,      I was chatting to some ScottishPower + others overseeing the onshore cable route flora/fauna conservation when I was twitching around Suffolk last spring.   Amazing the detail & care in that alone,  years ago they would dig a trench & just backfilled it,  the objective with these EA projects is to leave the landscape better than before they started.  The onshore route will carry six (two x three circuit) cables in two separate trenches.  

ChrisSU posted:
ynwa250505 posted:
Mike-B posted:

My previous post has done the stats & some limited research Chris,  Its no big deal,  I was just wondering why the wind generation always falls so well short of the installed capacity.  I found the answer was they try for 40%;    At the moment at 23:00(pm) considering the NG demand has reduced by aprx 10GW,  the wind generators are now pushing out 7.571GW compared to 7.457GW at 10:00 this morning.    7.571 is  50.37% of 15.031GW  & is producing around 29% of the total demand.     All is good.   

Turbines only generate power whilst the wind is blowing in the optimum range on the turbine's power curve. Too slow and nothing happens, too fast and it switches itself off else it would burn out the (fairly small) motor. Historically, onshore turbines produce around 22% of capacity. Offshore turbines produce slightly more because the winds are more reliable out at sea. Wave power is (imo) the holy grail for renewable energy.

I wouldn't like to be on the operating table when the wind stops ...

Tidal is the way forward if you want consistent power(and I'm not just referring to the hot air that comes out of Jay Z's backside.) It can be flat calm, no wind and pitch dark, but as long as the Moon orbits the Earth, there will be reliable energy in tides.

Yes, I agree entirely. I was being loose with terminology is saying "wave" when I was actually referring to tides. My apologies ...

Looking UK National Grid stats this morning,  its nice to see the UK power supply is at 38% from 'renewables'  The largest input is from wind @ 29.5% & the rest is little odds & sods from solar, hydro & pumped.     The non-renewables part is Nuclear @ 25%,  CCGT @ 23%  & some cross channel feeds from France Holland & Ireland

 

Indeed, at 10.26 BST coal was at 1.26% at 360MW, whilst wind is at 28.68% at 8.21GW at about 77% max wind capacity and this is without some of the new major East Anglia North Sea farms coming yet on line. Notice importing power from our neighbours with even 160MW coming in from Ireland, but the UK demand is very low at 28.63GW, the needle is just off the bottom of the dial. This surely must massively reduce the UK co2 emissions on days like this.

Re supplying/receiving from the cross channel links,  During last weeks work days when UK demand was a tad over 40GW we were pushing 2GW into France.   Now today with the UK demand at <30GW,   logic says we have spare capacity but we are still receiving from all these links.     Must have a look into that sometime to see how it works

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matt podniesinski
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