Unreliability of Windfarms- Old Sparky

OLD SPARKY  Private Eye  26/07/13 No.1345

THE report from energy regulator Ofgem that sparked headlines on
potential power cuts contains much new analysis highlighting the
uselessness of wind generation in contributing to security of
electricity supply, aka the problem of windfarm "intermittency". But
the problem is being studiously ignored by the Department of Energy
and Climate Change (DECC).

As coal power stations shut down, windfarms are notionally replacing
them. If, say, only one windfarm were serving the grid, its inherent
unreliability could easily be compensated for. But if there were only
windfarms, and no reliable sources of electricity available at all,
security of supply would be hugely at risk. Thus the more windfarms
there are, the less they contribute to security.

For every one megawatt of reliable capacity (eg a coal-fired power
station) that gets closed, Ofgem calculates Britain would need six to
eight megawatts of windfarm capacity to achieve the original level of
reliability - and the multiple is rising all the time. Windfarms are
not of course being built at eight times the rate coal plants are
closing - hence the ever-increasing likelihood of blackouts.

At least Ofgem has started to analyse intermittency seriously.
However, when it comes to devising a solution to this real and growing
problem, its masters in the DECC are burying their heads in the sand.
Over the past five years DECC has twice convened a working group to
address it, but on each occasion it has lapsed into dormancy - much
like a becalmed windmill. The DECC's own chief scientific adviser, the
much-respected Cambridge professor David Mackay, is pressing for the
issue to be tackled as an urgent strategic priority - so far to no

In consequence windfarms are being featherbedded - not only with
lavish subsidies, but also by not being billed for the ever-increasing
trouble they cause. When the DECC was still operating Plan B, aka the
dash for gas (Eye 1266), the cost of intermittency was defined in
terms of balancing the grid by using relatively clean and cheap
natural gas. Now that the department has been forced to adopt
emergency Plan C (Eye 1344), backup for intermittent windfarm output
will increasingly be provided by dirty, expensive diesel generators.

'Old Sparky'