Skip to content

Wind Power Drops By A Third As Storm Ciara Arrives

February 10, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Pancho Plail




During Sunday’s Storm Ciara, Pancho noticed a dramatic spike in wind output. During the morning, wind output fell rapidly from 11GW to 8GW, before recovering just as sharply again.

Presumably this fall reflected the shutdown of windmills as the wind became too strong.

Fortunately CCGT was on hand to quickly fill the gap, and turn down again as wind output ramped back up:



Just imagine the problems the grid will face when wind capacity is quadrupled and CCGT shut down!

  1. GeoffB permalink
    February 10, 2020 10:10 pm

    My mind is made up, do not confuse me with the facts.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      February 11, 2020 8:17 am

      Time Boris had a girl with A level physics, or an engineering degree. This policy is insanity.

      • dave permalink
        February 11, 2020 8:56 am

        ‘She who must be placated’ has a degree in theatre studies and thinks climate change is ‘a gigantic problem.’ We are all doomed to listen to the same old rubbish for eternity.

        When that Canadian psychologist pointed out the desperately sad fact that one sixth of the population is actually born too stupid or short-tempered to ever find a steady job in the modern world, he forgot about Luvvie-world and House-of-Commons-world.

  2. LeedsChris permalink
    February 10, 2020 10:37 pm

    This is a point I have made before – our electric system is underpinned by and is secured by CCGT. Without CCGT there is not a functioning system of electricity that can meet demand. What this article shows for days when wind varies, is also true on EVERY single day of the year because EVERY morning demand rises as people wake up, shower, breakfast and go to work – it is ONLY the ability of the CCGT stations to swiftly up their output that makes this all work. Take CCGT away and our system would collapse and have to be based on a system of rationing.

  3. Mack permalink
    February 10, 2020 10:51 pm

    Not only CCGT. Obviously, due to government diktats, coal will be exiting stage left shortly. And our nuclear fleet is on it’s last legs. Hunsterston is almost kaput, Hunsterston ‘B’ has serious issues and 2 others are problematical, which may explain why Centrica can’t sell them. Never mind the great green nirvana of 2030-35, when the country is meant to transition to electric heating en masse plus electric transport, we don’t seem to have the energy capacity to keep the lights on even before we start to transition to a total electric economy. The good news is, hopefully, that when the system starts to fail before the great green transition takes place, some grown ups might actually take charge and steer the nation away from economic suicide. Alas, Boris doesn’t seem to be the ‘one’!

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      February 10, 2020 11:38 pm

      Yet Boris is looking into building a bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland. Not much energy input required there! 🙂 And I thought nothing could be worse than HS2!
      Electric Bin-Lorries do not have enough energy to do their rounds because they need energy to squash the load every so often as well as propulsion. And haulage companies must be thinking everyone has gone stark raving bonkers, especially those with refrigerated lorries.
      Do shop keepers wonder how they will make a living, and the public worry about an adequate food supply?

      • Adrian, East Anglia permalink
        February 11, 2020 8:30 am

        Watched the HS2 segment on BBC Breakfast. Loads of massive excavators and dumpers charging around modifying the landscape. I hope they are all electrically powered, but I do admit to harbouring some doubts!!!

      • Phoenix44 permalink
        February 11, 2020 12:01 pm

        Yet we have utterly fantastic scare stories about Brexit! A bit of queuing at Dover means a return to the Dark Ages but removing the ability for passengers and freight to travel long distances by road will be just fine.

    • dave permalink
      February 11, 2020 10:29 am

      “…grown ups…”

      One definition: people who never believe anything they are told and only half of what they see!

      I know a certain MP of normal intelligence and with a legal background.

      He honestly and truly believes that in a few years the UK will be selling to China our expertise in how to make a smooth transition to an economy without fossil fuels!

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 11, 2020 1:49 pm

        Perhaps adding ‘MP’ after a person’s name results in the draining away of their intelligence – it certainly seems that way. True, that most have very little to drain away in the first place.

      • Tim. permalink
        February 11, 2020 3:55 pm

        MP = Myopic Prognosis

  4. It doesn't add up... permalink
    February 10, 2020 11:42 pm

    We saw exactly the same kind of thing with storm Ophelia in Ireland a couple of years back. They relied quite heavily on the interconnectors to the UK to adjust their supply, witching from export to import as the wind farms had to feather their output, and back again, before going for maximum import in the lull that followed the storm. Excess wind pushed prices to very low levels across the Continent, including periods of negative prices. Which perhaps makes this story easy to understand:

    Consumers will be forced to subsidise unwanted production at way above market value.

  5. Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
    February 11, 2020 4:31 am

    What were the wind speeds? Likely hard to get for the specific locations. Regardless, too fast is as bad as no wind at all. [ My bold, below. ]

    In central Washington State a wind facility has the following on its web page:
    Its turbines can produce electricity at wind speeds as low as 9 mph. They reach their peak of production at 31 mph and shut down at constant wind speeds above 56 mph.
    The total height of each tower with blades fully extended is 351 feet; total weight is approximately 223 tons.
    Towers are 221 feet high and weigh 104 tons.
    Each turbine blade is 129 feet long and weighs over 7 tons.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 11, 2020 11:38 am

      I have a couple of spreadsheets that contain power curves for an assortment of turbines. Most have a high wind cutout at 20 or 25m/sec (the latter is 56mph). Maximum power is reached at speeds that vary between 10 and 13 m/sec, after which they start to feather their blades to maintain constant output. Bigger ones are supposedly designed to survive gusts of up to 75m/sec, though I suspect this is only a modelled assumption. Cut in speeds at which they actually start to generate are usually at least 3m/sec. Variations in design seek to optimise economically (see discussion below!) against different expected distributions of wind speeds and costs of construction.

      Most have a peak conversion efficiency of the energy in the wind in the swept area of about 45%, compared with the Betz limit of 16/27ths, or about 59%, which is attained only for wind speeds in a band below the maximum power level. That is about 75% of the theoretical maximum.

      The economics can be weird. At spot market prices, there may be zero or negative value to full output when wind becomes an important element of supply. Yet the very limited output at low wind speeds is typically much more valuable per MWh produced. Offering guaranteed prices as per CFDs radically changes the economic choices for design. Offering a large fixed payment per MWh to help offset otherwise negative prices (as with Renewables Obligations) also gives highly distorted market effects. Then add in the curtailment payment gravy train on top: there is evidence that some windfarms have been built to maximise that potential.

      • Nancy & John Hultquist permalink
        February 11, 2020 5:16 pm

        That’s a nice summary, thanks.
        The place I mentioned calls itself a wind and solar facility, not a farm or a park. It is a corporation, Puget Sound Energy (PSE) and doesn’t share some of the information I’d like to see. They do have a nice on-site visitors center. At over 1,000 m., it is very cold and windy there in the winter, so no tours then.

  6. Immune to propganda permalink
    February 11, 2020 6:36 am

    I can’t understand the stupidity of our political classes, they are supposed to be well educated and yet they are completely void of knowledge or any common sense about energy supply or what UK citizens require.

    Do they seriously think that shutting down the whole country on a regular basis and bankrupting it’s businesses and people whilst restricting their movements is a great idea?

    Their ignorance and stupidity is epic.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      February 11, 2020 12:02 pm

      Thatcher apparently hated wishful thinking more than anything in her cabinet. Now that’s all we have.

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      February 11, 2020 12:34 pm

      What makes you think that our political class is well-educated?
      Large numbers of them aren’t.
      Diane Abbott with her 2:2 in History?
      Mhairi Black, a 1st in Politics?

  7. February 11, 2020 6:37 am

    The real problem is that the influential positions in most companies involved in electricity supply (e.g. National Grid, Ofgem, the big five) are now occupied by members of the Greenblob. Their first priority should be ensuring a reliable supply (“keeping the lights on”) and their second priority should be providing an affordable supply. In reality their first priority is to provide a “renewable” electricity supply regardless of reliability, cost and intermittency (but don’t mention the word nuclear). Anybody who talks sense about providing a reliable electricity supply and who warns about the disasters that lie head with the current policy of shutting down all despatchabe power stations is ignored.

  8. Ivan permalink
    February 11, 2020 8:36 am

    Who – with any authority – is proposing to shut down the CCGTs? That’s not in the Future Energy Scenarios, and I’m not aware of any other authoritative proposal currently.

    • February 11, 2020 10:22 am

      Yes, even the CCC agree that we will still need as much gas fired power as well, but it will have to be carbon captured. What happens if we can’t make that work, heaven knows!

      • Ivan permalink
        February 11, 2020 11:19 am

        This morning I had my attention drawn to this academic study on how to achieve “Absolute Zero” by 2050, while avoiding use of technology that cannot be relied upon to exist in time. (free download) It seems to suggest such substantial interference in our life that I wonder if it intended as a Modest Proposal in Swiftian fashion.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 11, 2020 1:42 pm

        The other question is will it be economically viable for companies to run the CCGTs? No takers for building new plant at the moment as there don’t see a payback. How much will it cost us to tempt them?

    • February 11, 2020 11:21 am

      Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy – Updated energy and emissions projections 2018 updated 16 May 2019. Shows CCGT down from 125 to 25 TWh by 2035

    • Gamecock permalink
      February 11, 2020 1:24 pm

      “Who – with any authority – is proposing to shut down the CCGTs?”

      Friedrich Hayek*. At some level of penetration – I estimate 30% – you can’t use your backup enough to justify the expense. Your fixed cost is the same at 5% utilization as at 95% utilization.

      Wind power exists because of free backup. At Net Zero levels of penetration, it will have to pay for its own backup. Which it can’t do, but that realization isn’t out there, yet.

      *Insert name of your favorite economist.

  9. Harry Passfield permalink
    February 11, 2020 9:37 am

    Sent this to the DT the other day. Probably been spiked…


    Quid-pro-quo: if the government (and the climate elite – that’s you, Prince Harry) want us proles to scrap our more efficient gas central heating and replace it with an electrical system costing four times the price, then let them show us the way: scrap their private aircraft and climate-destroying (in their eyes) life-styles first. Anyone coming to disconnect my boiler will be given short shrift; many, many more people might just feel the same. The government should be very worried.”

    • dave permalink
      February 11, 2020 11:57 am


      Try telling them that Environment Canada says that there are seven-hundred-thousand-million extra tons of snow on the ground in the Northern Hemisphere than is usual for this time of year.

      See how quickly that gets ‘spiked!’

      Perhaps, men in HazMat suits will appear to destroy the dangerous news before it spreads into peoples’ minds.

      • jack broughton permalink
        February 11, 2020 1:51 pm

        Sadly, it will simply be used as more evidence of climate change and “consistent with the models”. BB has everything in control.

      • dave permalink
        February 11, 2020 4:32 pm

        “…it will simply be used as more evidence of climate change…”

        I expect so.

        We, however, will scoff, along with our national poet:

        “He draweth out the thread of his verbosity
        Finer than the staple* of his argument.
        I abhor such fantastical phantasms!”

        (Love’s Labour’s Lost Act V. Scene 1)

        * In Shakespeare’s time, a staple was a short fiber. So he avers
        the pedant’s argument is merely twisted-together nothings.

  10. February 11, 2020 10:37 am

    So looking forward to 2025 ( only 5 years away ) on days such as we have had recently when wind and solar have been around 5% the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy projections show zero coal, CCGT down by 40%, nuclear probably the same as some stations are closing as Hinckley comes on line, and renewables the same but if more people use electric cars then demand may well rise, say to at least 45GW but probably more. We cannot count on the interconnectors as those countries may need all their supply as was the case recently.

    So what do the projections show for such a windless, solarless day? Generation only capable of suppling about 2/3 rds of our requirements, so if it’s winter how many excess deaths will there be? In the 2017 to 2018 winter period, there were an estimated 50,100 excess winter deaths in England and Wales so can we look forward to 60,000, 70,000, 100,000?
    See the figures here

  11. James Broadhurst permalink
    February 11, 2020 11:56 am

    At about 11:30 this morning almost 40% (14GW) of the UK’s power demand is being met by windmills. Gas CCGT is generating 9GW and coal for heavens sake is generating 2GW. The Grid is run by maniacs; the spinning reserve must be colossal and if the Western Link is still down the constraint payments to the Northern farms will be high. Does nobody care about the risks we’re taking?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      February 11, 2020 12:20 pm

      Last month constraint payments at £31.2m were the second highest on record (they were £31.4m last March) Already this month the first 10 days has cost £15.2m.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        February 11, 2020 12:28 pm

        Modelling suggests that as we increase wind generation capacity from this point, the amount of curtailment will start to increase sharply, because wind plus other generation required to be kept running (nuclear and grid stabilisation from conventional generators) will exceed demand with increasing frequency, and by larger amounts when it does so at times of lower demand.

      • Ivan permalink
        February 11, 2020 3:59 pm

        That is in part due to the fact that the Western HVDC link broke again on 10 January. The problem has been located on a land section of the line. This is the third major outage since the line fully opened in October 2018, the other two being Feb/Mar 2019 and April/May 2019. Previous such mends have taken about 5 weeks, and have been attributed to cable manufacturing faults. Ofgem is investigating.

  12. Howard Mawer permalink
    February 11, 2020 12:19 pm

    Greta Thunberg: Climate activist gets her own TV series
    This bit made me lol:
    “Rob Liddell who is the Executive Producer for BBC Studios said:

    “Climate change is probably the most important issue of our lives so it feels timely to make an authoritative series that explores the facts and science behind this complex subject.

    “To be able to do this with Greta is an extraordinary privilege, getting an inside view on what it’s like being a global icon and one of the most famous faces on the planet.”
    Facts and science? That would be a first from the BBC, featuring a girl who claims to see CO2 in the atmosphere?

    • Teaef permalink
      February 11, 2020 1:14 pm

      Wonder how much of our licence fee they are giving her?

      • Gerry, England permalink
        February 11, 2020 1:44 pm

        So glad it isn’t my money they will be using.

  13. February 11, 2020 1:59 pm

    Let’s just shut down everything but wind and solar NOW and see how it works……

  14. Dibnah permalink
    February 12, 2020 6:52 am

    Pumped storage and open cycle gas turbine were used to stabilise the grid as wind generated power fluctuated, this could be seen on Gridwatch. Neither pumped storage nor OCGT are as effective as traditional rotating machines in dealing with initial frequency drops.

    Does the national grid still publish detailed frequency data?

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      February 13, 2020 7:10 pm


      You can find UK frequency data on BMReports too, along with lots of other lovely data. I like this one to see how wildly out wind forecasting can be:

      Right now, 8.8GW promised, 5.5GW delivered

      • February 13, 2020 8:06 pm

        Do we know how far in advance the original forecast is?

      • Stuart Brown permalink
        February 13, 2020 8:31 pm

        Paul, based on what is under the info button on the link, I think it’s 2 days. I’ve no deeper insight than that. This is what they say:

        “Based on historical outturn data and detailed local wind forecasts, National Grid forecasts likely levels of wind generation for windfarms visible to National Grid, i.e. those that have operational metering and that are included in the latest forecast process. The forecasts are produced for the period from 21:00 on the current day (D) to 21:00 D+2.Wind Generation forecasts are produced by National Grid’s own second generation windpower forecasting tool. The predictability of the wind varies with atmospheric conditions and so there may be periods where National Grid’s forecast and outturn values differ significantly. Please note that the downloadable data will contain gaps for Original and Updated Forecast values in Settlement Periods that National Grid do not provide forecast values for.”

      • Dibnah permalink
        February 16, 2020 10:01 am

        Thanks Stuart, this link is now being updated
        I’m sure it was missing several months data when i previously checked

  15. MrGrimNasty permalink
    February 12, 2020 9:12 am

    IMO strong winds are not the real problem with well distributed wind mill industrial complexes. Winds strong enough to cause shutdown in UK weather systems are very localized and very transient – feathering is generally sufficient to keep operating.

    I know some were expecting output to drop to near zero for the last storm. The output remained very healthy (for windmills) and the 1/3 dip was nothing compared to normal wind variation and operation.

    Their shortcoming remains large anticyclonic weather systems when country wide, even continent wide, you can get near zero generation for days on end. potentially weeks. The UK has ridden it’s luck in that respect and it is only a matter of time before this glaring inadequacy is exposed by the weather.

  16. Dibnah permalink
    February 13, 2020 3:25 pm

    Strong, fluctuating winds can create instability that cannot always be dealt with by pumped storage, OCGT or CCGT. An extended period with minimal wind can be dealt with by CCGT, assuming sufficient CCGT capacity,

    There is a potential issue with parasitic loads in calm conditions, where the wind turbines place a net demand onto the grid, This link refers to “> the operational parasitic load (about 7-8% for 10 MW offshore and 30% for 3 MW onshore turbine parks). <"

Comments are closed.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: