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Guardian Scoop–It Was Windy In Portugal For Four Days In May!

December 27, 2016

By Paul Homewood




The Guardian must be desperate for some news. Yesterday they rehashed some story from last May!


If you can keep your gaze off the hilltops, imagine away the pylons and forget the occasional tractor of an uncertain vintage coughing along the narrow roads, little appears to have changed in the valleys of north-eastern Portugal for decades, perhaps even centuries.

The gnarled alvarinho vines have been relieved of their fruit to make vinho verde, an old woman in black herds her sheep through a hamlet and hungry eagles hover over the fields, scanning the land for lunch.

But look up, past the villages, the clumps of stout ponies and the wolf-haunted forests of pine, oak and eucalyptus, and the harbingers of an environmental revolution are silhouetted against the December sky.

The 130 giant wind turbines that sprout from the peaks, slicing the air with a rhythmic sigh, have helped Portugal to a remarkable achievement. For four and a half days in May the country ran entirely on electricity from renewable sources: wind, hydro and solar power.

Despite fears of a blackout, the lights stayed on for a record 107 hours between 6.45am on Saturday 7 May and 5.45pm the following Wednesday.

Francisco Ferreira, president of the Portuguese environmental NGO Zero, got wind of what was going on when a friend called that weekend. “He said: ‘I’ve been looking at the graphs and for the past two days we’ve been 100% renewable on electricity production.’ After that, we looked at the data and arrived at 107 hours. We confirmed it with the national energy network, who said we’d had 4.5 days.

“It was great to see that the system was working; to see that we could manage all these renewables even though the circumstances were quite challenging.”

Ferreira and his fellow clean energy advocates hold up those few days as further proof that renewables can reliably replace fossil fuels.


Wow, four whole days! I wonder what happens during the other 361?

A look at the BP statistics shows that things are not as straightforward as the Guardian would like you to believe.



Last year, the vast bulk of Portugal’s power still came from fossil fuels:




Much of Portugal’s renewable energy comes from hydro power, which has been around for many years.

However, it is highly reliant on the weather. In recent years its contribution has varied from as little as 10% to as much as 30%.

There are also big seasonal variations, with more power available in winter months.

Hydro power certainly has its attractions, but can only work with adequate backup from a reliable source.





As for wind, far from the grandiose claims made, output actually fell last year, and is barely above the level in 2010.




The Guardian article unwittingly reveals the real illogicality of all of this, when it says:


But that does not lessen the achievement of linking up hundreds of dispersed renewable power plants instead of taking the easier option of relying on production from one large thermal one.


Yes, why take the easy way out when there’s a much more difficult one!

  1. Bloke down the pub permalink
    December 27, 2016 11:19 am

    In a country heavily dependent on tourism, who could possibly complain about the extra turbines and transmission towers striding across the landscape?

  2. December 27, 2016 11:31 am

    Hundreds of unstable, intermittent and unreliable renewable generators versus one despatchable thermal power plant. It’s a no-brainer; which goes to show that the decision makers have no brains.

  3. Joe Public permalink
    December 27, 2016 11:40 am

    Grauniad commenter ‘wantage’ observes:

    Unfortunately this story is not true. Go to

    select a date and you can download the data showing sources of electricity generated in Portugal for 15 minute intervals. These are the figures used by NGO Zero to calculate the claimed record. There is a class of generation called PRE, which, like wind power in the UK, has guaranteed access to the grid. NGO Zero appear to have assumed that all PRE electricity comes from renewable sources. However if you look at the download of the generation data there is a class of generation called “PRE Térmico” which is thermal co-generation or combined heat and power. In Portugal one third of this is renewable, coming from bio-mass and two thirds is from gas. There were 4 hours on the 9th May, right in the middle of the claimed record period, when they needed this gas fired generation to provide immediate electricity demand. If they did not have access to thermal power they would have had to disconnect 5% of the load.

    [My bold]

    • Climate Otter permalink
      December 27, 2016 12:05 pm

      Thanks for that link Joe! Adding it to my links for UK and Germany energy output.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      December 27, 2016 4:45 pm

      Oh, that’s got to hurt but then at Comment Macht Frei wantage will soon be blocked and disappeared.

    • duker permalink
      December 28, 2016 1:13 am

      Another detail :” After publication, it was pointed out that some fossil-fuel-generated power is used, for example, for pumping in hydro schemes”.

  4. December 27, 2016 11:49 am

    Did anybody see the disgraceful Royal Institution lecture on energy yesterday? It turned out to be mainly a propaganda programme for children about coal is bad and renewable energy is good (to prevent “carbon emissions”). How can a supposed professor of chemistry talk about “carbon emissions”? Mind you the programme did inadvertently show how useless renewables really are.

    • Malcolm Swinbanks permalink
      December 27, 2016 12:35 pm


      I watched it also and was equally appalled. It was completely unclear whether his measure of “number of AA batteries” was meant to represent total energy or average power output. No clarification as to how long the AA batteries would last. For a lecture specifically intended to distinguish between energy and power, it could not have been a more confusing presentation.

      Malcolm Swinbanks

      • December 27, 2016 1:44 pm

        I thought it started off quite well, just like some of the talks I give when I start off by saying energy is conserved, there are many different types of energy and then I explain the difference between energy and power. He did that, but didn’t explain the units, and then he ignored the difference and didn’t say whether he was talking about energy production, power, total amount of energy stored and rate of use of energy. I don’t think the audience would have understood any of it; as you say, very confusing.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        December 27, 2016 4:42 pm

        Yes, I had my concerns that this would become a propaganda episode to disgrace 80 years of lectures. The presenter is a shill for solar panels and did spout the usual lie that CO2 is a problem but then his job depends on the scam. But unintentionally it has shown the lunacy of solar and batteries with the sheer amount of battery needs to power just one building. See what today’s one brings.

    • John Fuller permalink
      December 27, 2016 3:41 pm

      Dear Phillip, Thank you for confirming what I suspected when I read the TV schedule preview last week. It seems the Royal Institute and the BBC will take any opportunity to convert and confuse the impressionable. I wonder what Caverndish would have thought?

  5. Broadlands permalink
    December 27, 2016 1:20 pm

    4.5 days and not a single ppm, ppm? of CO2 was captured or stored.

  6. Hivemind permalink
    December 27, 2016 1:34 pm

    Not just any old windy, though. It was Goldilocks windy:
    – not too slow (that wouldn’t make enough power)
    – not too fast (that would cause the safety systems to kick in & shut the whole thing down)
    – but juuuust right.

    Just like Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

  7. Mike Jackson permalink
    December 27, 2016 1:41 pm

    My first reaction on reading this report — and a smattering of the enthusiastically inane comments underneath it — was pretty much the same as yours, Paul.

    Followed by: “OK, guys, super! Now do it for four months, in mid-winter (even in Portugal!), and try to apply it to your transport systems as well.”

    And yes, Joe, thanks for the link. All grist to the mill. Good also to see somebody at the Graun shouting “no” in their echo chamber!

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