MetalMiner — January 26, 2015
Here at MetalMiner, we are enthusiastic about renewable energy schemes. It seems like common sense to develop energy sources that are not based on depleting reserves and that are sustainable from an environmental perspective.
What we take issue with is the payment of massive subsidies to support them. We would be the first to give recognition to the fact that not all technologies hit the ground running in terms of financial viability, whether because the science needs support to be developed or the industries need volume to achieve critical mass, there can and should be a role for the state (usually it’s the state) to get such developing technologies off the ground. But when there are competing technologies in various stages of development we get a bit hot under the collar at politicians committing us, the consumer, to footing the bill for what look like pet projects. Wind energy is one such energy source that gets us in a flap.
With 12 gigawatts of installed wind power generating capacity in the UK the country should be able to meet about 22-23% of its peak demand from wind. On a chilly day this week, the UK saw demand hit 52.54 GW between 5pm and 5:30pm, according to the UK’s National Grid, as reported in the Telegraph.
With mid-winter cold, you might expect the wind to have been howling and those turbines spinning, right? Not a bit of it. Wind contributed just 0.573 GW during the same time, just over 1% of the total. In stark contrast, the paper reports, gas accounted for 42%, coal for 29%, nuclear for 16%, pumped storage and hydro for 5%, and interconnector imports for 5% (the total doesn’t quite add up because of rounding).
Not surprisingly, at that time in the afternoon solar didn’t contribute anything, but that can be planned for as there are other times when the angles for catching the sun are better and solar will contribute. The failure is wind, which even at an average 28% of it’s installed capacity should have been contributing 3-4 GW. To be fair, on 2 other days during the month wind achieved a figure of 18% of peak demand for a while but here’s the issue; it’s that very unknown variability that’s the problem.
As a result the UK (and most other mature energy markets) have to maintain an array of back up power sources, usually older, more polluting and expensive coal and natural gas generating plants. For this reason when Germany closed it’s base load nuclear plants in reaction to the Fukushima accident not only did power generation cost go up but so did CO2 emissions. Continue reading here…