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Wind slump risks blackouts as Britain goes green

May 24, 2021

By Paul Homewood

WOW!! Who’d have thought?


Prolonged periods of low wind and solar power could trigger blackouts as Britain races to ditch fossil fuels, experts have warned.

The country can expect to suffer a slump in wind known as a dunkelflaute – or “dark wind lull” – every 20 years and the system needs to be able to cope, academics from Imperial College London have warned.

Wind farm output fell to 0.6GW on March 3 amid the longest spell of low wind in more than a decade, they said.

The academics urge greater investment in technologies that can help bridge gaps in power supply when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. Their report was commissioned by the hydro-power and biomass power station owner Drax.

Dr Iain Staffell, of Imperial College London, said: “It’s time for Britain to get serious about the threat of extreme weather events to our electricity system….

Drax highlighted the benefits of its hydro-power stations as a stand-by source of power instead of gas. Its Cruachan facility pumped hydro-power storage site in Scotland has a six-year contract to help stabilise power demand and supply. Drax is planning to expand the site.

Will Gardiner, chief executive, said: “A new generation of pumped hydro storage power stations will allow the UK to decarbonise faster and cheaper.

“These water batteries soak up surplus power from wind and solar farms and then release it to plug gaps during extreme weather events.”

Unsurprisingly Drax, who commissioned the report, are deviously calling for more investment in hydro storage, something that they hope to profit from. However pumped storage is fine for an hour or two, but useless for covering serious shortfalls in wind power for days and even weeks on end, something which the UK experienced only last month.

See here:



So what are your solutions for that, Mr Gardiner?

  1. geoffb permalink
    May 24, 2021 2:00 pm

    mines top comment! 68 likes

    ewest | Oldest | Top Comments
    Geoff Be
    24 May 2021 7:52AM
    Relying on intermittent wind and solar as the bedrock of our electricity supply is going to be a disaster We had 7 consecutive days in May with no wind and little solar, gas took up the slack. Storing the amount of energy we would need to cover 7 days electricity is impossible with batteries, the biggest battery so far in Australia is 0.2GWh, the size of battery we would need today for one days electricity is 600GWh some 3000 times bigger. The Tesla giga battery factory makes 20GWh of battery capacity per year, it would take 30 years to make capacity to store 1 days electricity, its also rather expensive. Hydro storage we just do not have sufficient suitable locations to make this work. Drax are just out to make money and get subsidies, but basically they are right.

  2. Devoncamel permalink
    May 24, 2021 2:02 pm

    Paul, not a direct comment but our local BBC Spotlight has today invited comments about solar farms. My reply is unlikely to feature any time soon but others may wish to contribute; is waiting.

    • May 25, 2021 9:18 am


      I saw that piece and shook my head in despair. Because John Nettles is involved it is likely to get more than usual attention.

      You don’t save the environment by trashing the countryside.

      I think there are a number of attack points of which its vast size, that it is an eyesore that it will not power the number of homes claimed and that most panels are likely to be Chinese with a good proportion being made by the Uighurs are key points.

      Add in that child slave labour is used to mine the rare earths and that there is simply not enough rare earths on the globe to power the green revolution.

      This is a scheme that the GWPF could usefully get involved with and that John Constable could usefully write an article about

      • Devoncamel permalink
        May 25, 2021 1:28 pm

        All valid points, but can’t see the BBC siding with er…reason. Without subsidies, solar farms would not be viable as land owners wouldn’t get paid.
        The West country is ideally suited to sustainable farming and doesn’t need or want ineffective, virtue signalling projects trashing our beautiful countryside. Better to have solar panels installed on every new build house, but that doesn’t attract obscene subsidy.

      • May 25, 2021 1:44 pm

        The flimsy roof of a new build house wouldn’t support a solar panel array. Any way I thought they were supposed to be carbon neutral anyway by about now. Or was I dreaming it?

  3. bobn permalink
    May 24, 2021 2:13 pm

    ‘Wind lull every 20years’!
    More like every 20days. Blackouts and rationing are coming – get your diesel generator ready.

  4. May 24, 2021 2:35 pm

    Instead of solar farms which take up so much good arable land (which we don’t have enough of to feed our own population) why don’t they make a condition of planning that all new build houses and factories should have south facing roofs and solar panels fitted at the build stage with appropriate battery back up installed. Not perfect but it is nothing short of criminal to take good arable land out of circulation. With ever increasing power costs the elderly and others who have little or no earnings or tiny pensions are soon going to have to make a hard choice between keeping warm and having enough to eat. Burning timber on the vast scale practised by Drax and other biomass power generation plants is causing horrendous price increases in the price of structural timber, landscape materials, paper and card. Are enough trees being planted to correct this? I very much doubt it.

    • Julian Flood permalink
      May 25, 2021 8:17 am

      A combined heat and power generator using gas grid methane would be better. It’s major advantage is that it would work.

  5. Mack permalink
    May 24, 2021 2:38 pm

    Blocking highs causing windless days and gloomy cloudy skies are not ‘extreme weather events’, they are part and parcel of our traditional weather in the U.K. To state otherwise displays weapons grade ignorance. Before our headlong rush into wind and solar insanity any experienced engineer could have told the authors of this report that weather dependent unreliables are ill suited to powering a modern economy. Never mind ‘bridging gaps’ in intermittent energy supplies, just return to relying on cheap, reliable and efficient sources like we used to when grown ups were in charge of our energy policies.

    • Julian Flood permalink
      May 25, 2021 8:20 am

      I’d like to see a dozen or so National Grid managers raised to the Lords. It would raise the technological literacy of our ruling class 1000%.


  6. Gamecock permalink
    May 24, 2021 2:39 pm

    ‘Prolonged periods of low wind and solar power could trigger blackouts as Britain races to ditch fossil fuels, experts have warned.’

    Prolonged? Why would it need to be prolonged? How long is a prolong?

    ‘The academics urge greater investment in technologies that can help bridge gaps in power supply when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.’

    CCGT is such a technology. But as renewables make greater penetration into the electricity generation business, the business case for CCGT goes away. The academics, with Drax’ nudging, suggest there will be a business case for pumped storage. Cirrusly, if you can’t support CCGT financially, you can’t support much of anything else financially, either.

    “It’s time for Britain to get serious about the threat of extreme weather events to our electricity system….”

    Like a cloudy day OMG!

    Rich irony in warning of extreme weather events affecting weather dependent generation. Maybe they should have thought of that before they got in so deep.

    • Beagle permalink
      May 24, 2021 6:05 pm

      Yes and no wind seems to be ‘extreme weather’ as well.

      • Gamecock permalink
        May 24, 2021 10:55 pm

        ‘I know it gives a person pause
        But in Camelot: Camelot
        Those are the legal laws’

      • dennisambler permalink
        May 25, 2021 3:24 pm

        I was going to say the same. It really was quite pleasant.

  7. Andrew Harding permalink
    May 24, 2021 3:19 pm

    This should be painfully obvious to anyone who has a modicum of interest in science.

    The Sun is currently going through a quiet period which may or may not last several decades. Lack of Sunspots means that the magnetic field that they generate, that encompasses Earth is absent or greatly reduced allowing alpha and beta particles to enter the upper atmosphere.

    These particles seed cloud formation (Wilson Cloud Chamber), clouds reflect solar radiation, meaning there is less energy reaching the Earth’s surface. Less energy means renewable energy sources produce less electricity, making it even more expensive, unreliable and more intermittent than it is now.

    The exception to this is Tidal Power which stubbornly refuses to be harnessed and is therefore more useless, if that were possible, than the other renewables!

  8. Ray Sanders permalink
    May 24, 2021 3:45 pm

    Of course you could just press the nuclear button.

  9. Joe Public permalink
    May 24, 2021 4:29 pm

    “Unsurprisingly Drax, who commissioned the report, are deviously calling for more investment in hydro storage”

    Perhaps someone should inform Drax:

    • Sobaken permalink
      May 24, 2021 9:43 pm

      This is a study by radical greens, based on some faulty assumptions about decomposition of flooded plant material. Reminds me of those studies that claim that nuclear power kills millions of people. No surprise here though, they oppose anything that isn’t wind and solar. Including hydro. Because hydro can provide reliable energy, and that’s contrary to their plans of destroying industrial civilization.

  10. Ben Vorlich permalink
    May 24, 2021 5:23 pm

    In the English East Midlands it’s quite breezy today, with periods of sunshine. Solar is 9.63% and Wind 15.27% of demand. Gas is at 38.10% and Nuclear 14.42%. So even on a decent day for so called renewables over half of demand is from Gas and Nuclear. We’ve already thrown billions at this nonsense and haven’t even done more than think about moving domestic heating and private transport to electrical power.

  11. Malcolm Skipper permalink
    May 24, 2021 7:09 pm

    Can you put a graphic (jpg, for example) into a post?

  12. John Cullen permalink
    May 24, 2021 7:23 pm

    Those of us who are old enough to remember the summer of 1976 will recall that it was hot, dry and (because of the high pressure system) windless – for 66 days according to the link below.

    Standard engineering practice would be to add a safety margin of (at least) 50% – so let us say 100 days without wind for planning purposes. That is a lot of electricity to store. Or we could use nukes and/or fossil fuels to end this monstrously expensive unreliables nightmare.

    IIRC the winter of 1962/3 was very, very cold and windless too. So not just summer wind-free months have to be catered for. High baseload winter days must be covered too!


    • 01 Cat permalink
      May 25, 2021 12:43 pm

      John, I do indeed remember the summer of 1976, very fondly in fact, and how everyone at the time saw it (and enjoyed it!) just for what it was; an unusually warm, dry, summer!

      That was when common-sense was still reasonably prevalent in the country, of course!

      • dennisambler permalink
        May 25, 2021 3:32 pm

        We had a Mister for Drought, Denis Howells:
        This report is from 2008 and they were comparing the very wet weather with 1976:

        “Small Heath MP Denis Howell was appointed Minister for Drought during the baking hot summer of 1976. He was charged by the Prime Minister with the task of persuading the nation to use less water – and was even ordered by No. 10 to do a rain dance on behalf of the nation. (No Boris wasn’t PM then).

        The appointment provoked much public mirth, but in true Brummie style, the Lozells-born MP responded by inviting reporters to his then Moseley home where he revealed the solution to water rationing was sharing the bath with his wife!

        As luck or design would have it, Mr Howell succeeded in getting the heavens to open within a few days of his appointment. And, as the heavy rainfall continued, he soon became known as the Minister for Floods.

        The future Lord Howell, who also served the Government as the Minister of Sport, modestly greeted his new-found success as Mr Rainmaker with the comment: “It’s just a knack I have.”

  13. May 24, 2021 8:28 pm

    There is no question: come back, fossil fuels, we desperately need you!
    (Anyway, since our ghg including CO2, output is nearly zero already, completely opting out of renewables makes the most sense, along with disbanding the CCCommittee, a costly sham)

    One must infer ignorance/madness in some of our great and good in charge and corruption in the rest.

    Ultimately, corruption and child cruelty in Greta Thunberg’s case explains but, by Jove, how the money rolls in !

    There is no reasonable excuse for those supporting net zero, at least in UK, but probably worldwide, since the case for AWG is so dubious and natural climate variability so likely.

    • Julian Flood permalink
      May 25, 2021 8:25 am

      CCC, a costly sham? Costly for some maybe. Some people are doing very nicely from it.


  14. May 24, 2021 8:38 pm

    Wind power lulls are remarkably absent from academic studies of wind power, which mostly focus on other aspects, but there are a few, such as this work of Prof Socolow of Princeton:

    Socolow advocates that widespread lulls in wind should be treated in the same way as hurricanes, with advance warnings, due to their potential for devastation of the economy. How amusing it would be to have such warnings on the BBC weather forecast.

    An obvious partial solution would be to spread out the wind farm locations, but that would require sub-optimal income for some of them, clearly a no-no for the Green Blob.

  15. May 24, 2021 10:42 pm

    The academics urge greater investment in technologies that can help bridge gaps in power supply when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining.

    I predict the sun won’t shine for at least 12 hours a day on average. All governments should be alerted immediately, to avoid further waste of money and resources 🙄

  16. Julian Flood permalink
    May 25, 2021 7:46 am

    The minimum output I saw from the UK’s wind turbines in March /April was 0.20GW. The blocking high pressure extended from Norway to Spain with the National Grid kept from collapse by nuclear power from France, oil-fired generation in OCGTs (wasteful and expensive) and even using some of the emergency pumped storage water at Dinorwic which should be saved to coldstart the Grid should it collapse.
    COP26 is going to be very interesting as the wheels come off the Green bus.


    • Julian Flood permalink
      May 25, 2021 7:51 am

      Meant to mention Gridwatch Templar for real-time readout of National Grid output. The very low nuke output is telling, the result of decades of neglect and wishful thinking – – and choosing EPRs as the next generation of reactors, an almost impossible design to build.

  17. May 25, 2021 3:43 pm

    The people who came up with that totally stupid idea should be sacked immediately and sent on a severe regime and sacked at the end

  18. Steve permalink
    May 25, 2021 4:22 pm

    All of this about storage during a long wind lull with little solar is analysed very thoroughly in MacKay SEWTHA. Apparently, none of these Drax managers and consultants have read it. The whole reason for his book was to save the mistakes and calculate correctly.

  19. Gamecock permalink
    May 26, 2021 10:50 pm

    Day after day, day after day,
    We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
    As idle as a painted ship
    Upon a painted ocean.

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