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Why Increasing Offshore Wind Sevenfold Can’t Work

December 26, 2018

By Paul Homewood


 ‘There is no option but to radically transform our economy,’ said Rebecca Long-Bailey.

It is worth taking a closer look at one of Labour’s options to decarbonise – increase the UK’s installed offshore wind capacity sevenfold.


Currently offshore wind capacity in the UK is 8 GW, so we would be looking at 56 GW by 2030. Add to that the 13 GW of onshore capacity, and we would have 69 GW.

Given that average demand during the year is about 38 GW, it is apparent that we would frequently have large amounts of surplus power. To make matters worse, we can expect to have at least 5 GW of nuclear capacity in 2030, which simply cannot be switched on and off, and would be utterly economically unviable if it was.

What will happen to all of this spare power? Will wind farm operators be paid to switch off as they are now? If so, the cost would be billions every year, not tens of millions as at present.

There is talk of selling surplus electricity to Norway, but the interconnector currently being built is only 1.4 GW, tiny in comparison to the size of the problem we are facing. In any event, Norway already buys in cheap electricity from the continent when it is windy, so there would likely be little demand. Certainly the price would be rock bottom, raising the question of who foots the bill for the loss.

The Committee on Climate Change did some modelling for its Fifth Carbon Budget in 2015 of what surpluses could look like. The chart below is, I believe, based on 25 GW of offshore capacity. (The graph is sorted in order of demand).


Committee on Climate Change – Fifth Carbon Budget

 Even based on 25 GW, it is evident that we would end up with surpluses for maybe a third of the time. The situation would of course be exacerbated in summer, when demand is low and solar output high.

Increase that offshore capacity from 25 GW to 56 GW, and the grid would end up in chaos.

We are told that these suggestions have come from a “team of experts including leading industry figures, engineers, scientists, consultants and academics”. I suspect they are the usual bunch of climate loons, Marxists and rent seekers.

If this is typical of the rest of the advice they give, we can kiss goodbye to cheap, reliable energy.

  1. December 26, 2018 11:59 am

    Reality is still a long way off for these buffoons.

    • Bitter@twisted permalink
      December 27, 2018 5:21 pm

      Long-Bailey has a worrying similarity to Occasional Cortex, over in the USA.
      Both are equally deluded and dangerous.

  2. A C Osborn permalink
    December 26, 2018 12:49 pm

    “If this is typical of the rest of the advice they give, we can kiss goodbye to cheap, reliable energy.”
    That is the intention.

  3. December 26, 2018 12:52 pm

    Rebecca Long-Bailey needs to look at the graph of energy cost plotted against the Intermittent to reliable generation ratio. Is is exponential in nature. But I doubt her team of purported experts know how to produce such a graph without gross manipulation of the facts.

    • Mack permalink
      December 26, 2018 10:33 pm

      Long-Bailey seems to be the ‘go to’ muppet send out by Labour high command for regular interviews with both the Beeb and Sky. Mostly of the uncritical nature as we have come to expect. Sadly, she comes across as an over elevated sixth former with no grasp whatsoever of how a grown up industrialised economy is actually supposed to function. She’s not alone. If she’s clueless, she only has to ask Claire Perry for advice. Oh dear, perhaps not.

  4. December 26, 2018 1:39 pm

    “If this is typical of the rest of the advice they give, we can kiss goodbye to cheap, reliable energy.” We already have kissed it goodbye due to the existing crazy policy.

  5. Ben Vorlich permalink
    December 26, 2018 2:11 pm

    If the long term is the decarbonise UK energy then the use of electricity will likely triple. However it is unlikely that 69GW of off shore windmills will be the answer.
    It has been something that has puzzled me for a long time – why has no-one ever asked about no wind days.

    • dennisambler permalink
      December 26, 2018 2:51 pm

      The Greenpeace answer is usually the fatuous, “it’s windy somewhere, some of the time.”

      • dennisambler permalink
        December 26, 2018 3:06 pm

        Myth: The wind does not always blow, what then?

        “Actually, the wind always blows somewhere (particularly off shore and at heights), so this issue is largely irrelevant with a proper electrical grid to move power from one place to another. Modern power grids already transmit electricity over hundreds of kilometres, and cope with significant fluctuations in both demand and supply.”

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        December 26, 2018 7:26 pm

        I have looked at this at European scale using data from Collins et al. 2018 that covers over 30 years of data estimated from satellite observations and calibrated with actual wind outputs. Although there is reduced correlation for Southern countries such as Romania and Greece, there is overall positive correlation which is quite high across Northern Europe. There are significant periods when the pan European average capacity factor is below 10% as a daily average.

        I have also added in solar from the same source. It doesn’t solve the problem, since days with little wind occur in winter when there is also little sun. The claim is bogus.

      • A C Osborn permalink
        December 27, 2018 10:38 am

        Total Wind and Solar in the UK at the moment is less than 2GW.
        That is 1000 miles by 400 miles of useless generation.

      • Bitter@twisted permalink
        December 27, 2018 5:24 pm

        Gridwatch is worth looking at tight now.
        Should be compulsory viewing for Greenp1ss and their running dogs- the BBC.

  6. dennisambler permalink
    December 26, 2018 3:02 pm

    In 2005, the Eon-Netz wind report for Germany described exactly the problems that have since come to pass, but no-one listened. It is well worth re-visiting.

    The Windwatch commentary is here and has a link to the original document:

    “Graphs in this report (and the similar 2004 report) show that half of the time, wind power infeed is less than two-thirds of its annual average. It is greater than its annual average only a third of the time.”

    Perhaps Labour’s experts read this and thought “no problem, we’ll just keep upping the number……sorted”.


    “As wind power capacity rises, the lower availability of the wind farms determines the reliability of the system as a whole to an ever increasing extent. Consequently the greater reliability of traditional power stations becomes increasingly eclipsed.

    As a result, the relative contribution of wind power to the guaranteed capacity of our supply system [Germany] up to the year 2020 will fall continuously to around 4%. In concrete terms, this means that in 2020, with a forecast wind power capacity of over 48,000 MW, 2,000 MW of traditional power production can be replaced by these wind farms.”

  7. Gerry, England permalink
    December 26, 2018 5:53 pm

    South Australia clearly shows how the cost rises rapidly the more wind capacity is increased. And it makes thermal generation less and less economically viable – although Comrade Corbyn and pals will nationalise that anyway to add to the trillions of public debt. The UK will become a banana republic without even the benefit of being able to grow them.

  8. Jamie Nash permalink
    December 26, 2018 7:00 pm

    Sorry, but the author clearly doesn’t understand the concept of storage or even how exactly the grid is going to become far more intelligent. It’s scientists and engineers who see the logic and benefit of this and those are the people who make the world function and work. Another ignorant fool.

    • December 26, 2018 7:29 pm

      Battery storage is fine for an hour or two. The technology does not exist to store the huge amounts of electricity for days and weeks on end that would be involved here.

      As for “intelligent grids”, their use is again extremely limited, helping to switch demand away from peak periods.

      Neither solution addresses the fundamental problems created by such vast amounts of intermittent renewable output

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 26, 2018 7:47 pm

      Sorry, but you have just revealed that you have not done any calculations on the quantities of storage required to handle not just the odd day of reduced output, but extended periods of unfavourable weather, and seasonal variations, let alone the economics of storage. Across Europe the requirements are in the hundreds of TWh, with much of it only needed to handle a one in twenty bad year.

      It is possible to reduce the amount of storage required by grossly overbuilding renewables generation, but even at five times required energy output – and therefore more than five times the cost, since you must invest to handle the curtailment required – you are still left with substantial storage requirements.

      The storage must also be capable of redelivery at a rate that is a significant fraction of peak demand, and also of absorbing power for storage as needed.

    • MrGrimNasty permalink
      December 26, 2018 8:28 pm

      Sorry Jamie, but the ignorant fool is the person that doesn’t understand the ruinous environmental damage of ‘your’ solution, the insane cost, the fragile complexity, and the complete impracticality.

      All for nothing but socialist dogma.

      We have(had) a robust and economically acceptable solution for power, and it is the bedrock of our economy, our food production, our medicine and health, our prosperity and societal stability.

      You don’t smash up the wheel because you irrationally resent the fact that it is round, and then try to make something that is almost round by sellotaping lots of tiny triangles together.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      December 27, 2018 11:20 am

      Jamie is a typical greenie Troll, comes on to a forum with no facts, no data and insults the host.
      Come back when you have grown up.

  9. Matt permalink
    December 26, 2018 9:47 pm

    “We are told that these suggestions have come from a “team of experts including leading industry figures, engineers, scientists, consultants and academics”. I suspect they are the usual bunch of climate loons, Marxists and rent seekers”

    Keep attacking the people Paul. Reading your earlier blogs, half of the progress we’ve made to date on renewables was impossible to contemplate. You’ll be wrong about this too.

    Btw, the Dutch are already tendering zero-subsidy offshore wind. CfD round 3 is going to below the forecast average merchant price most years. Not too much rent seeking about that.

    • December 26, 2018 10:42 pm

      What progress?

      About 15% of electricity coming from wind and solar at a cost of £10bn a year? And all of it having to be backed up by proper, dispatchable power.

      I don’t call that “progress”!

      As for “zero-subsidy”, when wind farms are truly competitive, they will not need CfDs at all. Don’t you find it curious that new onshore wind developments have dried upto virtually zero since subsidies were withdrawn? And they supposedly are much cheaper then offshore.

      I do find it weird that renewable enthusiasts keep arguing about how “cheap” their offerings are, whether wind mills or EVs. In the real world, it is the market place which picks the cheapest, most efficient products, not “arguments”.

      BTW – I have challenged my local Labour MP on these very points, and she has failed to respond. She clearly has less confidence in Labour policies than you!!

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 27, 2018 10:20 am

      I have spent a lot of time looking at actual systems with high renewables penetration such as King Island and el Hierro. The practicalities are that they require dispatchable backup, and the cost of energy is high. Going beyond about 65% renewables proves to be uneconomic, or barely practicably achievable.

      I have also looked at several studies that claim to use hourly resolution data in forecasting the feasibility of a high renewables penetration future. Blakers’ work on Australia relies on model weather data that is visibly different in character from real weather, and statistical analysis shows it appears to have been “fixed” to produce the desired result. Other studies suffer from selecting favourable weather years, inventing completely uneconomic levels of interconnection and overcapacity, or simply assume that meeting one difficult day (often by curtailing large chunks of demand) is proof that the system is viable,while ignoring that you can’t shut down like that for a fortnight just when underlying demand is skyrocketing because the weather has turned very cold, unless you are planning for record excess winter deaths.

      Storage requirements for high renewables systems escalate rapidly unless you permit close to 100% dispatchable backup capacity. The cheapest form of storage is pumped hydro, but few countries have the geography to permit much more hydro capacity than they already possess. Even so, schemes like Snowy II in Australia wouldn’t make a meaningful indent on the requirements for renewables based supply.

      These issues are on a current plane altogether from the issues of stabilising grids due to flicker or rapid ramping in the output of renewables generation. Feel free to opine when you have done your omework, as I have.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      December 27, 2018 11:28 am

      Matt, between them Wind & Solar could possibly generate 33GW of energy, in reality at the moment they are producing about 2.5GW between them.
      Solar has produced about 2GW for about an hour per day for the last month from 13GW of possible generation.
      Nuclear by comparison has produced around 7GW 24 hours per day, every day for that last year.
      That is what is base load is all about.

    • Bitter@twisted permalink
      December 27, 2018 5:28 pm

      Matt, do you now or have you ever worked for the BBC, or read the Guardian?
      If so you have my deepest sympathy.
      But it is time to get real.

  10. Craig Murphy permalink
    December 27, 2018 9:44 am

    I believe one important factor may have been missed here. If we link this additional 31GW of proposed capacity with the increase in electric cars, the plan then becomes more viable. If all cars on the road at the moment were electric, the impact of charging them would cripple the grid. I’m not saying all cars on the road will be electric in 2030, but the percentage is likley to be considerable. Couple this extra demand with the possibility of using the car batteries for surplus storage and the figures start to look sensible.

    • December 27, 2018 11:24 am

      How will we charge the cars up when there is no wind?

    • A C Osborn permalink
      December 27, 2018 11:31 am

      So on a freezing cold night you would be quite happy to wake up in the morning to find your car battery drained completely flat because Industry needed to keep running and there was no Sunshine & no Wind.
      How are you and millions of other s going to get to work and the kids to school?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      December 27, 2018 2:05 pm

      No, the figures do not start to look sensible. 20 million vehicles with 100kWh batteries is a theoretical 2TWh of storage. We consume 100,000 tonnes a day of motor fuels, which is gross energy consumption of about 1.2 TWh. Allowing for efficiency, that is equivalent to about 350GWh per day of added demand for electric vehicles. However, peak demand on the grid occurs during prime rush hour, when vehicles are going to be in transit rather than being hooked up to top up a power shortage. In a cold snap we consume over 4TWh a day in gas heating, and electricity consumption reaches about 1.2TWh a day. In any cold spell, battery capacities can easily halve. Using electric vehicles as storage is simply impractical for handling windless cold winter conditions, especially if you seek to heat electrically, bearing in mind that heat pumps become essentially useless in a cold snap. Their storage would last just a few hours, after which you would have to wait before recharging would be possible.

      There may be some limited role for vehicle batteries in grid stabilisation, where the grid decides on limited charge and discharge patterns. However, these reduce battery life, which makes them a less attractive option for vehicle owners. In reality, it is largely a fantasy.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        December 27, 2018 8:29 pm

        IDAU: I’d love to see the response you’d get from Perry if you sent her those numbers. Her head would explode – and then she’d get one of her muppets to write you a patronising letter (I have a few in my collection).

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        December 28, 2018 12:19 am


        The really silly thing is that a primary school child could do the same maths on the back of an envelope as I have presented with only a small amount of research required to provide the figures needed.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 27, 2018 8:33 pm

      Craig: you only get to use the energy once: it’s either charging cars, lighting lights or running industry.

  11. December 27, 2018 11:08 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

  12. December 27, 2018 11:48 am

    The Neart na Goithe wind farm lately leapt over a planning hurdle erected by the RSPB, worried that the gannets of nearby Bass Rock would be made mincemeat of.

    It is a pity that RSPB took so long to realise where endorsing offshore wind leads: to more and more until their expansion passes beyond any form of sense into nonsense, and then they oppose, but too late. They should have shouted loudly at the very start. Even now they say they are in favour of wind farms “in principle” but as wind farms are now being permitted in Special Protection Areas, they are increasingly opposing them – albeit to little or no effect.

    Ironically, when the gannets of Bass Rock are gone, their demise will be blamed upon the warming of the North Sea leading to developmental time changes in their principal prey or something of that ilk, finding the blood-stained whirling blades entirely innocent.

    Neart na Goithe is going to be less than half a gigawatt. To add 56 GW would be to add another 124 Neart na Goithes.

  13. A C Osborn permalink
    December 27, 2018 4:13 pm

    I know I shouldn’t say it, but just look at that face in the photo, sucking a lemon comes to mind.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      December 27, 2018 8:20 pm

      When she sucks lemons the lemons whince!

  14. martinbrumby permalink
    December 28, 2018 12:21 am

    Ah yes.
    An energy ‘expert’ from the Labia Party.

  15. J Martin permalink
    December 28, 2018 7:02 pm

    The whole point of installing wind power is to reduce global warming via reducing co2 output. Neither wind (nor solar) achieve either in practise. Further increases in renewables once coal has been displaced mean that nuclear must be shutdown which means that gas output must be increased since nuclear can’t load follow as quickly as gas, hence, increasing renewables directly increases fossil fuel use, as effective local energy storage will not become available for decades if ever.

    Bottom line is more renewables increases co2.

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