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Wind Power Failed Again Last Week

March 8, 2021

By Paul Homewood



During the past week, wind power has contributed just 2.0 GW to Britain’s grid, 6% of demand. Solar power needless to say has been irrelevant.

As usual gas power has done the heavy lifting, with a contribution of 1.1 GW from coal as well.

The grid has also been heavily reliant on imported electricity, with the interconnectors supplying 4.5 GW, clearly an extremely unsatisfactory and worrying situation.

About a quarter of wind power is embedded in the distribution network, so does not appear in the above figures, instead reflecting in lower demand. This would push total wind power up to about 2.8 GW, meaning it is running at 11% of capacity.

The weather last week was not unusual, not especially cold or windless. Indeed it is exactly the sort of weather we see regularly here.

There is currently about 25 GW of wind capacity, and the government plans to raise this to at least 55 GW by 2030. But double nothing is still nothing!

Even with 55 GW, we would still only have got about 7 GW last week. A higher proportion of offshore wind might raise this figure slightly, but equally demand will also be higher in 2030.

It should be obvious now that Britain still needs reliable, dispatchable power to cover most of its demand, regardless of how unreliable wind and solar farms we build.

As Tucker Carlson described them, they are no more than silly fashion accessories.


Interestingly, The Australian newspaper has picked up on Britain’s problems last week, with an article by Terry McCrann. It is behind a paywall, but can be seen here.

He closes by saying:

If the future is renewables, it is a literally powerless future.

I still have a dream. That one day we will wake up from this insane, emperor-has-no-clothes nightmare and start tearing down those useless other than for slaughtering birds monstrosities, and shattering their equally useless bird-frying siblings.

If we want electricity, as Britain has shown so emphatically this last week, it has to come, it can only come, from coal, from gas and from nuclear.

All else is childish, destructive — Rudd-Turnbull-style — fantasy.

  1. trevorshurmer permalink
    March 8, 2021 11:33 am

    I’ve never quite understood how the ‘quarter of wind power is embedded in the distribution network, so does not appear in the above figures, instead reflecting in lower demand’. Could you just remind us plebs, please, Paul?

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 8, 2021 1:13 pm

      Only the largest wind farms are connected directly to the high voltage transmission network, with their output continuously monitored and reported to the grid control room at the substation where they connect to it. National Grid is only concerned with the high voltage network, and doesn’t concern itself with generators that are connected at medium voltages – except when it needs them to cover a shortfall of capacity – then it asks for STOR generators (mostly diesel or open cycle gas turbines) to contribute to distribution grids, reducing the demand that must be supplied via the high voltage network.

      Likewise, wind and solar that are connected to distribution networks supply local demand, reducing the amount supplied via high voltage from large generators. Some of them don’t have continuously reporting smart metering. Meter readings are submitted periodically to ensure they get paid. The smallest, like rooftop solar, have no independent metering of their output at all: the meter just records the net flow, which may be a surplus on a sunny afternoon, or a deficit at night. Assumptions are made about how much was actually exported, which are usually on the generous side, adding to the subsidy the installation gets.

      • Dick Goodwin permalink
        March 13, 2021 11:19 pm

        What I have never understood about Rooftop Solar (and I trained as an electrian many years ago) is where the owners think the electricity produced goes. The often quoted mantra of “I’m selling the excess back to the grid” is surely nonsense.

        It goes into their own installation if Generator B (the solar) is producing enough to keep their system functioning, any produced over and above this is paid to them in subsidies I presume?

        If you have 230V coming in through your supply cable you aren’t going to send any of your excess electricity to the house next door to keep their tele and washing machine going.

        Any corrections to the above will be gratefully received.

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      March 8, 2021 1:51 pm

      Traditionally electricity generators were connected at high voltage t(up to 400kV as in 400,000volts) which allows their output to be available throughout Great Britain over the high tension transmission network (the really large pylons not the small ones). These are under the control of National Grid and the output is metered in real time. This is what is expressed as grid demand and shown on most gridwatch type websites.
      Increasingly in recent times new generation has been connected at lower voltages just to the local District Networks and their output is only available within their locality i.e. “embedded”. These plants are not under NG control and not metered in real time. The output of these plants only registers to NG as representing overall lower demand levels from the DNO than if they were not producing.
      All solar roof mounted panels are embedded injecting power in the 230V (+10/-6%) so their surplus production is only available in the immediate neighbourhood. The remainder of solar is connected to the District networks at varying voltage levels and similarly any surplus is not nationally transmissable. Most of the early onshore wind turbines were of low output and were also embedded and even some offshore ones (such as Kentish Flats) are embedded..
      Other small scale generators are also embedded such as landfill gas plant, biogas units, geothermal etc
      This trend is becoming very destabilising to the system as not all generation is “equal”. Big generators offer huge inertia and are all exactly synchronised and in phase. They supply both real and reactive power services (generation and/or absorption) and hence keep voltage and frequency stable.
      Embedded supplies are non synchronous, notoriously sloppy in phase, cannot affect reactive power levels (unless they supply via a battery with some very sophisticated electronics and even then it is not reliable) and as previously stated are not really any use on a national scale. A surplus of solar or wind power embedded in Cornwall cannot be transmitted to say Yorkshire for example.
      The August 2019 UK blackout was certainly made worse (indeed probably caused by) by embedded generators. It was noted that some load shedding at the time actually worsened the situation by removing embedded generation simultaneously.
      If anyone is genuinely concerned about anthropogenic climate change, the only real solution from an energy perspective is a massive roll out of…..Fast Breeder Nuclear Power Plants.

      • Robert Christopher permalink
        March 8, 2021 3:21 pm

        There are several nuclear solutions to provide power for electricity generation. The problem is that the known technologies have run out of road (eg PWR, EPR), while the new technologies require further investigation and development to determine the best way ahead. They have different risks, investment profiles and ‘probable time to a prototype’ as well as different technologies and political nuances, so there is a need to assimilate all this information and come to some conclusions so that progress can be made. And all this when the STEM expertise in Cabinet and the Civil Service is rare, and Academia has mostly a smattering of old technology to muddy the waters because informed objectives have not been set for them. As building some much needed gas fired power stations is hampered by the state of the energy market, building nuclear, when we know what to build, will need string political will for it to happen.

        At least other countries are investigating.

      • cookers52 permalink
        March 9, 2021 7:33 am

        You could make it all work, but as the Irish say if you want to get there, you really shouldn’t start from here.

        Cost to make it work, several gazillion I guess.

  2. Jack Broughton permalink
    March 8, 2021 11:39 am

    And, even more of our car makers are claiming that they will go all electric soon!!!!

    • March 8, 2021 12:25 pm

      Pretty soon, all highways will be littered with little dead electric cars.

    • March 9, 2021 9:10 am

      Jack, when the idea of banning petrol and diesel was first mooted, the car manufacturers had the chance to push back against it. They might have said that banning the internal combustion engine amounted to banning prosperity. They didn’t.

      They are now stuck. The upcoming tension will be how hard the government tries to prise our clunkers away from us, probably with ratcheting duty rates and pay-per-mile (so that while EVs pay once, petrol cars pay twice).

  3. Devoncamel permalink
    March 8, 2021 11:42 am

    This proves the fallacy of our energy policy. No doubt we will be reminded how well wind and solar are performing when weather conditions are more favourable, daylight is longer and demand is lower. We are setting ourselves up for failure.

  4. JimW permalink
    March 8, 2021 11:42 am

    In the ‘old days’ when the electricity network was viewed as a national asset to be protected, security of supply had as one its main aims the need at all times to provide power within the UK’s shores. Perhaps WW2 was still a clear memory, plus the Russian ‘threat’. Anyway, reliance on interconnectors for meeting basic demand would never be permitted.
    NatGrid now build into their pland future reliance of more and more interconnectors. Besides commercial and political pressures being an unknown quantity, they represent an enormous terrorist liability.

    • Micky R permalink
      March 8, 2021 12:34 pm

      The “Beast from the East” in 2018 highlighted that the UK cannot rely on interconnectors during a short colder snap.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        March 8, 2021 1:18 pm

        That situation will get much worse as Germany and France start closing nuclear and coal capacity.

  5. John Palmer permalink
    March 8, 2021 11:43 am

    Truly ‘The Saudi Arabia … of hot air!’

  6. March 8, 2021 11:48 am

    Southern England has had some anticyclonic gloom in recent weeks, a temperature inversion stopping convection, keeping cold dense cloudy air near the surface: no wind and no solar power, very similar weather in 2013, see this from Reigate Grammar School:

  7. Gamecock permalink
    March 8, 2021 12:12 pm

    ‘This proves the fallacy of our energy policy.’

    The error of your ways is having a policy. Used to be your energy providers took care of it. Now, government is helping.

    ‘It should be obvious now that Britain still needs reliable, dispatchable power to cover most of its demand, regardless of how [many] unreliable wind and solar farms we build.’

    It is self evident that W/S renewable energy can never be more than supplemental.

    • Robert Christopher permalink
      March 8, 2021 3:40 pm

      The policy used to be ‘the energy providers can take care of it, in the market place’.

      The problem isn’t our Government: it’s the supranational bodies, like the UN, the IPCC, the EU … … and the BBC! And most of the West! (And Princess Nut Nut. 🙂 ) At least we are out of the EU, just about.

      Education has been corrupted and the Scientific process eliminated, all for some unspecified goal. It looks like deindustrialization of the Western industrialised nations, but WDIK?

      It’s going to take a revolution to contradict these puppet organisations. And it may come to that. What is the alternative?

  8. David permalink
    March 8, 2021 12:21 pm

    Surely the onus should be put on wind farms to provide a constant supply at a certain level say 15gW. Then it would be their legal responsibility to provide the infrastructure at their expense to provide back up in low wind conditions.

    • March 8, 2021 12:48 pm

      Unfortunately in Scotland at least common sense and logic flew out of the window years ago and the government consents nearly all windfarm applications regardless of community and Council opposition. Caithness, where I live, is traditionally windy so now covered in turbines, in fact with the increasing depopulation (who would want to live here now?) there will soon be more turbines than people. See go to the far north east and zoom in – every dot is a turbine. There are nowhere near enough transmission lines to send the energy where it’s needed, and anyway we’re too far away, so windfarms are paid millions to switch off What other industry gets paid so much to do nothing?.
      As it happens there has been very little wind recently even up here so when the blades are turning it’s because they have to be kept moving so are using electricity.
      You couldn’t make it up!

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      March 8, 2021 1:32 pm

      David – Yes, this is the fundamental issue. If all sources of power were required to provide a guaranteed dispatchable output as part of their contract to supply the grid the wind and solar farms would have to assume the liability for when the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine. They would then have to take on the true cost of intermittency themselves.

      Instead they get a free pass and the costs are pushed elsewhere.

      Dispatchability and inertia both have significant value to managing a reliable grid.

  9. March 8, 2021 12:23 pm

    Terry McCrann’s dream is undone by the consensus of elites.

  10. Cheshire Red permalink
    March 8, 2021 12:41 pm

    Is there a legal angle to be considered here? Government has an absolute moral obligation to provide reliable, secure energy but as I see it, they’re going full steam ahead in the wrong direction.

    At what point does a failing, unreliable and potentially highly dangerous energy policy become legally challengeable?

    • March 9, 2021 9:28 am

      Presumably when the grid fails and its failure can only be ascribed to the penetration of renewables and wishful thinking, i.e. ignoring physics.

  11. Ray Sanders permalink
    March 8, 2021 12:45 pm

    There is a superb film that Leo smith of Gridwatch refers to on his links page.

    It really should be made compulsory viewing especially at the BBC.

    • Joe Public permalink
      March 8, 2021 1:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing.

  12. It doesn't add up... permalink
    March 8, 2021 1:46 pm

    We are moving to a capacity shortage Texas style. You only have to look at the number of electricity margin notices issued by National Grid, and the alarming jumps of prices with £4,000/MWh paid several times recently to cover peak demand. Expensive STOR is being called to provide power.

    I offer a couple of insights. First, an interview with a manager at Kiwi Power, which specialises in managing so called virtual power plants that aggregate small generatos, batteries and demand side response. In an extraordinary interview he relishes the grid being on the edge of falling over, which will lead to volatile and high prices that will be good for his business, if not the rest of us who have to pay higher bills and suffer blackouts.

    Secondly, the penny has plainly dropped at industry consultants Timera:

    “While security of supply maths works in theoretical calculations… it does not necessarily work in reality”

    No kidding.

  13. Mad Mike permalink
    March 8, 2021 1:53 pm

    Paul raises a good point about the amount of electricity we consistently import from France. Didn’t Macron threaten to cut if off recently?

    Even on fairly low demand days when the wind is blowing and the sun is out we still import between 4% and 7% from France. Anybody know why?

    • March 8, 2021 2:21 pm

      The price is probably lower than that of local generation.

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 8, 2021 2:44 pm

      Geographically there is a large shortage of supply in the South and London particularly, and this has been aggravated by power station closures. Without the French supply these areas would be dependent on supply from the North and South Wales, which would require even more beefing up of transmission lines from those areas. So part of the answer is simply network supply constraints on transmission lines. The same applies to the BritNed connector, which really just links to a coal fired power station in Rotterdam instead of the one that Zac Goldsmith prevented at Kingsnorth in Kent where the line comes ashore.

    • Cheshire Red permalink
      March 8, 2021 2:47 pm

      I’d guess those interconnectors took a while in procurement, installation and becoming operational. Likely the process goes back before Brexit, so was intended as another step of EU over-reach across the entire continent before, ya know, democracy intervened.

      It’s a disgrace that we’re not energy independent and remain exposed to threats from jumped-up little sh!ts like Macron.

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        March 8, 2021 3:50 pm

        We used to just run on Interconnexions France Angleterre 1 (IFA1) for 2000MW, but then came IFA2 for another 1000MW. But shortly we will get ElecLink through the Channel Tunnel for another 1000MW.
        and then there will be Aquind at 1400MW
        And then there will be FABLink at 1400MW
        And then there will be GridLink at 1400MW
        So we are now up to 8200MW and that is from France alone.
        Add to that BritNed (The Netherlands) 1000MW, Nemolink (Belgium)1000MW
        So we are up to 10,200MW
        And of course there are the two 500MW connectors to Ireland so that’s going up to 11,300MW
        But why stop there? There is NSN to Norway at 1400MW, North Connect to Norway 1400MW and then VikingLink to Denmark at 1400MW and of course a further link to Ireland GreenLink at 500MW
        So now we are up to 16,000MW
        And not to be outdone even Iceland is trying to get in on the act with the 1000MW Icelink.
        17GW of power from all and sundry.
        It is more than just a disgrace it is insanely dangerous.
        Direct action is going to be needed sooner rather than later to put this right.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        March 8, 2021 6:29 pm

        The idea is supposed to be that we will eventually have lots of spare wind to export. Just at the same time as everyone else, so if we manage to export it, it will be at negative prices. We’ve already had a few trial runs of that. Of course, UK consumers will be on the hook for the CFD subsidies on the exports.

  14. A man of no rank permalink
    March 8, 2021 2:33 pm

    Perhaps we can multiply this ‘electric note’ by a million or more, from a local resident here in Lancashire:
    “To all residents at the top end of — Crescent and those on —- Close. Husband and I from number — are really very sorry for the disruption the Electricity Board have caused today on our behalf. We booked for an electric car charging station to be fitted on our drive before the first lock-down, and they announced they were coming to fit it this week. We did not realise it would be such a big job and cause so much disruption to you all. We are really sorry and feeling a bit mortified! Apparently the electric mains runs along the ‘odd’ side of the street’s pavement (quite shallow too it seems) and those with even house numbers are on loops covering 2 houses each. The car charger draws a lot, so the electricity board have said it could lead to issues with the house power supply flickering etc to the neighbour. So they have had to put an extra feed off the mains to our loop. I came home from work and my jaw dropped at the big hole in the pavement , all the diggers, and the trough they dug down the side of the drive. Once the extra power feed is in place they will re-tarmac etc. To anyone who couldn’t get through in their car today and to the other residents further down the street who have ended up with cars parked in front of their houses – please accept our humble apologies.”

    • It doesn't add up... permalink
      March 8, 2021 2:47 pm

      Now imagine adding heat pumps.?.

      • Tonyb permalink
        March 8, 2021 9:01 pm

        600,000 a year? Can’t see any problem at all. They will all come from china so they can send over their own engineers.

  15. Coeur de Lion permalink
    March 8, 2021 2:44 pm

    There was a steady old contribution from that heavily subsided obscenity, chip fired Drax. It’s called BIOFUELS and worldwide destroys square miles of forest and deprives the poor of food. All in order to reduce, err, increase? CO2

  16. Ray Sanders permalink
    March 8, 2021 2:48 pm

    “Anybody know why?” I may get deleted for this but how does corruption sound? Bizarrely NG have a financial share in most of the interconnectors so whilst they do not benefit from UK generators directly, they most certainly do have a direct financial gain from using the interconnectors as much as possible. Although climanrecon has suggested price that is not the case.
    Think about this piece of pure insanity – last summer in early Covid lockdown Sizewell B which generates CO2 free nuclear energy at low cost was PAID to run at 50% capacity whilst we simultaneously PAID to import coal and gas fired high CO2 emissions from The Netherlands. So we paid for electricity not produced and then paid for more to replace it.
    Staggeringly an even more bizarre reason was given…wait for it… our grid was deemed to be so weak NG could not ensure supply were Sizewell B at full power to trip offline. So the system had such little inertia to keep stable the solution was to further reduce inertia and replace it with non synchronous supply with no inertia.
    Maintaining a power grid is serious engineering and we appear to have let the lunatics take over control instead.

    • Micky R permalink
      March 8, 2021 6:27 pm

      Sizewell B is a single PWR reactor design; therefore a reactor trip could quickly remove 1.2GW from the grid. This could be easily managed with the reliable inertia and reliable capacity available to the grid in the 1980s / 1990s. Sizewell D (the 1990’s version) was intended to be a twin PWR reactor design.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        March 8, 2021 8:22 pm

        Hornsea offshore wind farm is famous for being involved in the August 9th 2019 blackout. Much less well known is that it suddenly cut out to nothing when running at full 1.2GW capacity on October 25th last year, producing a sharp dip in grid frequency. Fortunately some of the measures that have been taken since 2019 meant that this time it didn’t trip out large quantities of other generation.

  17. Dave Couzens permalink
    March 8, 2021 4:28 pm

    And this is before we add home heating and electric cars to the mix

    • Micky R permalink
      March 9, 2021 7:20 am

      It’s been a few decades since I studied grid inertia in detail; I absorbed the information, which was subsequently written onto the exam paper and then the detail was mostly gone. Not certain how technically accurate the watt-logic article is.

      Accurate measurement of grid inertia in real time would be interesting and useful, particularly if it’s in the public domain.

      In my recent experience, people in the electricity generating and distribution sector generally have little understanding of grid inertia.

  18. Mal permalink
    March 8, 2021 5:21 pm

    If we were to change the inside lane of smart motorways to electric only………
    Observations at your leisure.

  19. MikeHig permalink
    March 8, 2021 11:42 pm

    To add to the concerns, a lot of dispatchable capacity is due to close down over the next few years,
    Drax is closing its 2 remaining coal units this month – 3 years early.
    The other 2 coal plants are due to close very soon: West Burton in Sept of this year and Ratcliffe in Sept 2022.
    The shedule of closure of all of the AGR nuclear plants starts next year.

    Paul has highlighted this issue, as have other sceptic websites but the message does not get through. Instead the Great Blatherer waffles on about the UK becoming the Saudi of wind.

  20. Joel permalink
    March 8, 2021 11:54 pm

    The UK had a blocking high over the country for the last week, which caused a dramatic drop in wind power. showed this very nicely. Last week their median wind turbine output was 1.46 GW according to my calculations. The mean was 1.8 GW because they had a small spike one day in wind power as the blocking high moved over the island. That is a pathetic output. The UK is now dependent on imported energy to generate electricity (NG, wood, and high voltage DC) and has one of the highest electricity rates in Europe.

  21. Tym fern permalink
    March 9, 2021 8:31 pm

    But you won’t see this on the BBC

  22. Stuart Brown permalink
    March 9, 2021 9:12 pm

    Wind’s picking up a bit, but that doesn’t matter because we’ve got ‘carbon neutral’ gas from that nice Mr Putin! By offsetting 240,000 tonnes of CO2. Allegedly.

    “The company said the shipment has been made carbon-neutral by offsetting emissions from its production and transport.

    LNG has been delivered to Royal Dutch Shell at the Dragon terminal in Wales.”

    (To Wales. Which technically isn’t in Europe any more btw… )

    So I think I can see how this carbon neutral thing plays out now. We buy all our stuff ‘carbon free’ from China, and get all our energy from ‘carbon free’ Russian gas, American woodchips and interconnects. Solved! Just have to work out how to pay for it.

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