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Go Green, Get Diesel!!

November 23, 2015

By Paul Homewood 


h/t 1saveenergy 




As we know, many operators have been signing up to provide standby generating capacity, for when intermittent renewables fail to supply power.

Many of these rely on parks of diesel generators for this. Now it appears that green power companies are getting in on the act. The Sunday Times (unfortunately paywalled) reports:


BRITAIN’S green energy barons are getting huge taxpayer subsidies to install diesel generators — exactly the kind of polluting energy source their wind and solar farms are meant to replace.

Wind and solar power firms are being encouraged to install the generators, which pour out CO2, a greenhouse gas, and toxic nitrogen dioxide, on their sites in order to provide standby generating capacity and prevent the lights going out during periods of peak demand.

The giant Roundponds solar farm, near Melksham, Wiltshire, is among the first green generators to take advantage. The directors of Hive Energy, which owns it, have won permission to put diesel generators near the solar panels — despite local objections.

Similarly, First Renewable has won permission for a diesel farm next to its wind turbines and solar panels at Kettering Energy Park in Northamptonshire.

Diesel generators are typically built into shipping containers, each producing 2 to 3 MW.


The rest of the article is paywalled, but the local paper, Melksham Independent News has the story of the Hive Energy proposal:


THE company that built Roundponds Farm Solar Farm at Norrington, near Broughton Gifford, has applied for permission to install 10 diesel generators on the site – but the plans have already drawn sharp criticism.

The plans propose a 2,400sqm compound be set up on part of the solar farm, to house five pairs of standby generators, three transformers, an equipment store and three 30,000 litre fuel storage tanks.

The application predicts that the plant, designed to provide emergency electricity when the National Grid is under pressure, could use 218,000 litres of diesel per year.

Broughton Gifford resident Martin Freeman is outraged and concerned that the plan could set a precedent. He said, “This application is outrageous. Diesel farms are dirty, noisy and ugly. They have no place in the countryside.

“Storing 90,000 litres of diesel with no additional protection or drainage looks like a recipe for disaster, especially in an area which is prone to flooding.  It’s bad enough covering green fields with solar panels, but putting polluting power-plants  next to them just adds insult to injury.

“We know from experience that once you build something like this, it will expand and  others will follow. We also know that Wiltshire Council doesn’t enforce breaches of planning conditions. So the only way to ensure that it is safe and not the first of many  is not to build it.

“We are subsidising renewable energy because it is clean and reduces our reliance on oil. Then we pay even greater subsidies for diesel farms because the renewable energy is unreliable.  You couldn’t make it up.”

The applicant, Roundponds Energy Ltd, included an open letter to local councillors and residents in the application, which explains the need for the generators. The letter explains that the fossil-fuel powered generators will provide back-up energy for the National Grid when demand is too high.

It reads, “While derived from sustainable sources, most renewable generation is intermittent and unreliable by nature, so plants such as this new one are required to ensure the lights stay on when, for example, the wind does not blow.”

The letter also tells residents that “realistically the units are only planned to operate for a few hours each year.” The design specification submitted with the application, however, predicts that “the total annual running is estimated to be approximately 110 hours”.



On the last capacity market auction, held by DECC last year, the clearing price awarded was £19.60/KW. Assuming the 10 generators proposed are 3 MW each, they would have attracted an annual payment of £588,000, in addition of course to the revenue generated for any electricity sold.


In total, last year’s auction awarded contracts to diesel and OCGT operators (not split separately) for 2101 MW. Timera Energy believe about half of this could be for diesel, which would imply a cost of more than £20 million.

It is richly ironic that owners of heavily subsidised solar and wind farms, which create the need for back up capacity, then make more money from consumers by supplying it!

  1. November 23, 2015 1:02 pm

    Reblogged this on Petrossa's Blog and commented:
    we need another word than mere ‘hypocrisy’ for this.

  2. November 23, 2015 1:04 pm

    Ed Miliband was on the Today programme, this morning, talking about climate change was the most important thing facing humanity and wants to reduce emissions to zero.
    Stangely the BBC doesn’t seem to have included that part of the interview in this article:
    The whole interview is on iPlayer (about 1hr 48 min) here:
    He seems to have fallen for the propaganda hook, line and sinker, but I don’t know why we should take any notice of him.

    • John Palmer permalink
      November 23, 2015 1:30 pm

      Think positively here!
      With little silly-milly on their side, the alarmist’s case just keeps getting weaker.

  3. NeilC permalink
    November 23, 2015 1:15 pm

    “We are subsidising renewable energy because it is clean and reduces our reliance on oil. Then we pay even greater subsidies for diesel farms because the renewable energy is unreliable. You couldn’t make it up.” Sums it up!

  4. Joe Public permalink
    November 23, 2015 1:16 pm

    Hive boasted their solar park would save 6,020 tonnes CO2 emissions pa.

    At a stroke, a mere 110 hours-running of the derv-burners creates 584 tonnes; almost 10% of the proposed savings.

    But a further windfall harvest of subsidies – achieveable specifically because of the limitations of the plant that generates the original subsidies. Doh!

  5. November 23, 2015 1:29 pm

    “The letter also tells residents that “realistically the units are only planned to operate for a few hours each year.” The design specification submitted with the application, however, predicts that “the total annual running is estimated to be approximately 110 hours”.

    How will this be policed? When the wind falls calm and the sun don’t shine – as they often do in typical autumns and winters – these plants would be on a lot more than that?
    It also looks as if the government, by implementing this, will be able to shift blame when the lights go out.

  6. November 23, 2015 2:26 pm

    Again more hyperventilating by those who have no knowledge. I doubt they would be putting in 3 MW Generators. Those are serious money and whilst people are getting het-up over 90,000 litres of diesel that is not very much, especially for 10 3 MW Generators. To my knowledge only 2 engines are certified at this rating.

    More likely 3 MW is the installed total 10 350KW Generators. Now at this rating you have to be careful, as there is a huge difference in standby set for site backup, and a continuous set for connection to the grid.

    Generators come in 3 ratings, Standby, Prime and Continuous.

    Standby is the full rating of the generator, and can only be used as pure standby for the duration of a power outage in area’s that have a reliable grid. These generators produce low tension 3 phase power in the UK at 415 volts from memory and connect directly to the site.

    Prime Power rating is 90% of the full rating and is for site power when the grid is unreliable. This rating assumes variable load that averages the continuous rating over 24 hours and is limited to a maximum at the prime rating of 1 or 2 hours per 24. Again these gen-sets are all low tension.

    The continuous rating is the equivalent of base load and is about 60% of the standby rating. These sets are for connecting to the grid and come in both low tension and hi tension models.

    Now if these 10 generators are 350 standby sets then they will be powered by less than robust Automotive derived diesels. This a crowded market where the big truck makers and others all compete for some added revenue. Having had a lot of experience with generators I can say without fear of contradiction that they will be run at the prime power rating and not last very long. They will all be certified for emissions unless very old stock. The bean counters are all going to catch a cold over this unless they are never used.

    Also in all probability they use step up transformers to connect to the grid, and this will further reduce efficiency. Ideally to deliver 3 MW to the grid you should run Gen-Sets with a continuous rating of 350 KW but this would entail using industrial engines which cost a lot more money, perhaps almost double.

    But one thing these engines will not be is polluting, unless you are stupid enough to believe CO2 is a pollutant. It is deliciously ironic that this is happening, but is no surprise to those of us that at some time in our working careers been involved in power generation.

    • November 23, 2015 2:43 pm

      The CO2 is one thing but what about the particulates that these engines would emit, if they are ever needed. Surely this is a factor for those that live downwind of them? Or is it no different from what is generated by a few dozen Transits every day in London?

      • November 23, 2015 4:57 pm

        For those who think diesels are responsible for our particulates read this.

        The reality is no only are todays diesel engines very clean, most particulates in the air come from every day activity, and even if diesels were Zero our ambient levels would remain the same. The studies done about the health issue of particulates are also flawed. The Zealots who push the dangers of particulates have been trying for years to find people they can prove have got cancer from particulates so as to start a class action. That they can’t find anyone is telling.

        And for those who are further confused, black smoke is not PM but soot. PM is microscopic and can not be seen. The source of particulates in large diesels were from oil consumption and sulphur in the fuel. Sulphur is now removed from all our fuel and engines have been redesigned not to burn oil. 95% of the problem over.

      • catweazle666 permalink
        November 23, 2015 7:10 pm

        Diesel particulates seem to be the latest doom’n’gloom hobbyhorse ot the treehuggers.

        Does anyone have any numbers for the weight and particle size of of tyre rubber dust that is released into the environment every year? There’s all sorts of good stuff goes into tyre tread construction, presumably the vast majority of it ends up in rivers and the like.

        How about the amount of platinum that is released by deteriorating catalytic converters – now so prevalent that it is profitable to extract it from roadside debris?

        Platinum from road dust, Veolia cleans up on British streets

        I can’t see finely divided platinum being particularly good for the lungs somehow…

    • November 23, 2015 5:24 pm

      The 24 DGs for STOR proposed near me and to which I objected were claimed to be 400kW sets.

      • November 23, 2015 9:45 pm

        400KW standby would be machines at the upper end of the automotive derived diesel market. Connected to the grid these sets would deliver about 280KW. Any more and these engines tend to fail. Hooked into a the grid in continuous mode at a constant 50Hz (1500 rpm) is tough on these engines.

      • November 23, 2015 9:51 pm

        I’ve had a quick look at the decc capacity auction, Peter

        Around 400kw looks to be about max as you say

    • November 24, 2015 1:22 pm

      Peter MG

      Typical dedicated diesel parks being built by the likes of Fulcrum Power and Green Frog consist of containerised 400 or 500kVa units with a total capacity of 20 to 30MW.

      The Fucrum Plymouth plant, for example is 20MW, with 52 units.

      “Green Frog Connect have previously project managed the construction of 214MW of STOR diesel generation sites spread across 14 sites including balance of plant and civil works. Green Frog Connect were the design and construction ICP for four of the sites totalling 80MW of generation”. (Company website).

      Fulcrum Power Ltd (FPL) one of the companies contracting with the National Grid in the Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR) market have stated that,“ National Grid forecast the need for an additional 4000MW of STOR generation over the next decade, which is double the existing market, requiring new capital expenditure of c. £1 billion.” (Fulcrum Power website).

  7. November 23, 2015 3:47 pm

    Reblogged this on Wolsten and commented:
    In a sane world the politicians responsible for this idiocy would be locked up.

    • bit chilly permalink
      November 26, 2015 8:01 am

      i would personally prefer we had a proper revolution and strung them up.

  8. November 23, 2015 5:01 pm

    I see the main link has been removed. Can’t have the truth obscure the story. Search Google for diesel exhaust myths and realities and the PDF is available cached.

    • November 24, 2015 11:04 am

      I had a look at that report. basically concludes on page 43
      “Yes, right diesel fumes are carcinogenic
      but It not really us sir, only 3% .., 97% of the particulates come from them others like household/commercial stuff that we aren’t going to be specific about”
      “Why are we always getting the blame sir ?, you never do anything about them others. We’ll do something cos we are nice kids, but it’s not fair”
      ..The PDF reads like the transport industry wrote 99% of it

  9. November 24, 2015 1:13 am

    PeterMG writes as though he knows what he is talking about. Take notice. You’ll have to decide whether I too have background.

    About all it means is compression ignition and even then things might not be quite that. This, prime movers, is a vast subject.

    In practice these are multi-fuel engines, coal dust, bunker oil, methane, hydrogen, most things, even a mixture but best design and optimise for just one. Usually this is the lowest cost stuff available.

    Can even be gas generators, there is no mechanical output.

    Compounding can be done just like CCGT, rarely is.

    And so on..

    Now lets show the stupidity. If you want a lot of power in a small space, perhaps stuff on gas rigs, wonder what they use? Gas turbine. That too is multi-fuel.

    How about 26MW? And scales.

    Not going to good on thermal efficiency but this is emergency.

    So why the imposition of a solution instead of fixing a need?
    Specifically diesel?
    I’d look at stock, availability, sharks waiting to sell. It stinks.

    Yet there was years of warning, no panic position. Not planning for a strategic necessity? Now pay up except government has no money, we pay.

  10. November 24, 2015 10:59 pm

    The sad thing here is the way the UK is going about this project. Many countries including the US and France use diesel Generators to Top up the grid. Its called Power shaving. It make economic sense every way you look at it. But there is a difference. They don’t contract people to put in dedicated Generators, especially not at the crap end of the market and not out in the green country side.

    What usually happens is every large organisations that have to put in Standby generation for safety or regulatory reasons have an opportunity to contract to supply a set amount of Hours per year of electrical power. The grid will usually call up when they want the power. This way the capital cost of your standby generation can be covered by the power you deliver direct to the grid and a discount on all the other power you use. No direct subsidy per say but more along the lines of a Commercial arrangement.

    Given it is very costly testing and certifying your standby capacity every year, what better way than to make it pay. And given space is tight in Hotels, Banks, Hospitals and data centres etc they don’t use the toy 400KW and below class but proper Industrial engines of 1MW and above. That usually means a big Cummins from Daventry in England, an MTU from Germany or a CAT from the US. (There were others but emissions regulations have seen them off sadly) One of the favourites from this trio of Manufacturers is the 60 Litre V16 QSK60 that has a continues rating of about 1.5MW

    These machines in power shaving generate at High Tension, I can’t recall the actual Voltage, but the danger signs go to an altogether different level on these machines, and they are connected directly to the grid. If the grid fails the power is redirected via a transformer to the site distribution network. This switching happened automatically and very quickly.

    This is the sensible way of using what is otherwise unused capital spend. Now another small point for those that don’t think using diesel generators can ever be sensible or economic. Every power grid has a minimum base load, and a maximum load. It has been discussed here often the folly of running a high capital cost Gas plant at idle waiting for the wind to drop or the sun to go behind a cloud. The same goes for a small power plants with say 5 1MW Generators. What you always have is a 500KW generator in the mix so that you always run your main generators in their most efficient power range, topping up with a smaller unit as the varies and you either switch one of the big units off or on. Power generation using high speed diesels at the industrial end is both sophisticated and economic, and can deliver Zero emissions. And what’s more our Favourite QSK60, can switch from diesel to gas on the fly whilst running generating electricity. It remains a compression ignition engine using small amounts of diesel for ignition but derives the bulk of its power from Gas Our power grid Needs base load, currently coal and nuclear, gas is used for the variable load, and diesel has its place for the fine tuning. Easier to start 50 1 MW gen sets for an hour than have to build a gas turbine station and run it out of its best efficiency zone.

    Don’t you all think its time our engineers are hailed. What ever the requirement they will have a commercially available and cost effective product to do the job.

  11. November 26, 2015 10:00 am

    As an erstwhile Conservative supporter, I have never known such an incompetent government as the current lot.

    There seems to be no consistent strategy in their polices.

    The trouble is, there is no realistic alternative.

    Maybe I am just getting more critical as I get older but I think the country is doomed.

  12. January 28, 2016 9:47 am

    “Dirty Diesel” many STOR operators are increasingly looking to alternative fuels in order to reduce Carbon, Particulates and NOx emissions from their diesel generator plants, GreenD + reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% and is a pour in replacement for Red Diesel. The difficulty for STOR companies in introducing this fuel is gaining approval from generator manufacturers, not engine manufacturers as GreenD + is an ASTM D975 2D compliant fuel and therefore meets with most engine manufacturers warranty conditions.
    There is no doubt that the additional capacity provided from STOR is essential to keep the lights on for all of us and by simply using an alternative diesel fuel, the entire debate relating to “Dirty Diesel Generators” can be somewhat negated.

    For more information visit

    • January 28, 2016 11:18 am

      Is that what we call Biodiesel, Mike?

      What is it made from?

    • catweazle666 permalink
      January 28, 2016 5:10 pm

      From the link, it is hydrogenated vegetable oil.

      Going by the molecular structures shown here:

      comparing them with conventional diesel any and all claims about its carbon footprint, NOx emissions etc would appear to be dubious – at best.

      I’ve been using quite a lot of vegetable oil in my old diesel Merc for years now, and it puts out just as much black smoke as the common stuff, albeit it smells nicer and cuts way down on injector clatter. Plus it can be obtained from your local supermarket for 50p per litre if you shop around a bit.

      One thing I have noticed is that after accidentally filling up one day with the posh expensive diesel due to inattention, the old girl very definitely perked up, and the improvement was still noticeable after all the posh stuff was long gone. So now I give her a treat every few months and stick £20 or £30 in.

      One tip, our local garage flogs 250ml cans of diesel tuneup additive which definitely works, costa about £12 per can. So I had a look at the numbers on the can, transpires it’s a mixture of naphtha (AKA barbecue lighting fluid) and white spirit (as used for cleaning paint brushes). That works too!

  13. August 23, 2016 8:01 pm

    It is richly ironic that owners of heavily subsidised solar and wind farms, which create the need for back up capacity, then make more money from consumers by supplying it!

    Oh yeah how ironic is that eh!

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