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Why Solar Power is Useless in Winter

November 29, 2022

By Paul Homewood

image

https://www.solar.sheffield.ac.uk/pvlive/#

Today, when there has been very little wind power, how much has solar power provided?

5.46 GWh.

Just let that soak in.

In total we use about 840 GWh a day at this time of year. So solar has contributed less than 1% of our power, and little at the times of peak demand in early morning and evening.

Solar capacity is now 14 GW, which means that today all of the solar farms up and down the country have worked at just 1.6% of their capacity.

A chocolate teapot would be more useful.

71 Comments
  1. November 29, 2022 6:42 pm

    Anyone with solar roof panels knows the payments are trivial from November to March. Dull weather and darkness can’t be wished away.

    • Hewan Ormson permalink
      November 30, 2022 5:51 pm

      When I respond to people on Twitter who are suggesting that more solar panels are the answer, it gives me great satisfaction to state that my solar panels generate only one third of the amount of electricity in the 6 winter months that they generate in the 6 summer months. I then get no further response.

  2. Thomas Carr permalink
    November 29, 2022 6:48 pm

    Nothing we did not anticipate. If it was not for the corruption of the open market with its grants , allowances etc. could PVs ever gained any traction? At least there is some prospect of hydrogen falling away before too much front loading with grants and capital gets any serious following.
    Perhaps it is time to list the turkeys starting with driverless cars.

  3. GeoffB permalink
    November 29, 2022 6:52 pm

    It is end November, struggling to keep the lights on, no solar, no wind, gas expensive and in short supply. We have another 3 months of winter, just why are MPs campaigning for inefficient(17%) on shore wind and rejecting fracking?
    Are they really that thick? Roll on power cuts. Its the only way that the folly of Net Zero will be exposed.

    • November 29, 2022 7:26 pm

      But power cuts will be blamed on something else, today it was problems in France that almost resulted in voluntary/forced demand reduction.

      Wind lulls are like lockdown/vaccine sceptics, banished from the media.

      • Chris Phillips permalink
        November 29, 2022 8:22 pm

        Unfortunately, I think that we’ll need to suffer some serious and prolonged power cuts, and even some unfortunate people perishing from them, before our scientifically illiterate MPs and Govt ministers will finally see the absurdity of their so-called energy policies

      • November 29, 2022 8:49 pm

        Sadly “not enough wind power” will always satisfy most MPs and the poodles/zealots in the media.

    • Bertie permalink
      November 29, 2022 7:47 pm

      Hear Hear

    • Chris Phillips permalink
      November 29, 2022 8:18 pm

      Unfortunately, I think we need some fairly serious and prolonged power cuts, and maybe even some unfortunate people dying because of them, before our thick and scientifically illiterate MPs and Govt Ministers will final take notice of the absolute folly of our so-called energy “policy”

    • Mr Robert Christopher permalink
      November 29, 2022 8:29 pm

      “Are they really that thick?”

      They are nearly all Law, Arts or Humanities graduates, so they overwhelm the few STEM graduates that might have raised questions.

      In addition, they think Intelligence is a substitute for Education, Training and Experience, so they are not that intelligent at all.

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        November 29, 2022 9:46 pm

        I disagree Robert. There’s no reason why a law, arts or humanities graduate shouldn’t understand the basics. I have an MA in law, qualified as barrister and have no technical or scientific training whatever. In other words, I’m scientifically illiterate. Yet I think I can understand in some detail why net-zero for example is unachievable, potentially disastrous and, in any case, pointless.

        Nor do I think our ‘leaders’ are thick. No, I believe they’re hopelessly frightened of not following the prevailing green/woke agenda. In other words, they’re weak, irresponsible cowards.

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        November 29, 2022 10:00 pm

        Robin, because you can understand that doesn’t make it universal amongst Law, Arts or Humanities graduates. They don’t have to be thick to be naive and gullible, there are many wisest fools in christendom in our leaders in today’s crop

      • Mr Robert Christopher permalink
        November 29, 2022 11:09 pm

        Robin, give me a better reason, then. Until then, my suggestion stands.

        You have the luxury of many sources for your information: ministers don’t. Because they have no basic STEM knowledge, all their relevant knowledge is relative, unsuitable for an expert witness. Once you know Ohm’s Law, energy losses between power station and a domestic socket isn’t easily dismissed.

        Instead, they are given experts, mainly from the climate hysterical academic world, with the help of the Civil Service, who are similarly STEM challenged and are likely to pick those that have an EU perspective on Climate Change. Just review the EU stance on it, especially Germany! And they do meet Engineers and Scientists, but they are part of the salesforce, selling their products, like windmills, because their jobs depend on that!

        Then, some find it difficult to make the right choice when their job depends on letting things slide, but becoming a martyr is often completely ineffective, especially as your opponent’s will write the obituary of your career, with the BBC helping, of course. Eventually it becomes groupthink, with any doubt considered not being a team player, and we end up with what we have in Parliament: total dysfunctionality in every area they touch.

      • bobn permalink
        November 30, 2022 12:45 am

        I agree with Robin. They are cowards and willfully ignorant. They could read and learn if they wanted. They have the ability but put their heads up their a_____s. I did my degree in history (but included a maths unit) then flew fighter jets in the RAF (some physics needed there) and now make and sell wine and spirits commercially (self taught chemistry and mechanics needed). An arts graduate has the ability to learn most subjects if they have the WILL to look and read with an open mind. Open minds are not restricted to STEM grads. Micky Mann the hockey stick man is STEM, as are many climate alarm scientologists like Phil Jones.

      • CHRISTOPHER GOATCHER permalink
        November 30, 2022 10:08 am

        My brother was a Uni lecturer got his degree with Honours.
        He thought Tony Blair was going too save the country, took him 4 years to realise just what he was/is.
        Two years ago he said ‘I think this Global warming lark is a scam’
        Two years ago he also took two Jibby Jabbies too save granny.
        Intelligent ? Well Educated ? Hmmm

      • November 30, 2022 2:46 pm

        When I throw facts at my MP, he comes back with quotes from Defra, or the HoC library. They are convinced by the “experts” and they do not perceive that scientists will push a political agenda. Policy is not science driven, science is policy driven.

        Worth a 35 minute listen, Judith Curry:
        https://wattsupwiththat.com/2022/11/26/theres-no-emergency-dissident-climatologist-dr-judith-curry-on-climate-change/

      • Mr Robert Christopher permalink
        November 30, 2022 8:11 pm

        It’s a good video, as is William Happer’s:

      • Mr Robert Christopher permalink
        November 30, 2022 8:37 pm

        bobn: An arts graduate has the ability to learn most subjects if they have the WILL to look and read with an open mind.

        But those in government have been made to look totally stupid, and brought the country to its knees with its Energy Policy. But they are not stupid, or are degrees in History so easy to acquire that being stupid is no impediment to attaining this qualification? I don’t think so: these graduates have so little knowledge of the subject, Energy, that they go-with-the-flow. Maybe some Scientists would, like you have suggested, but at least many would see a contradiction to what they have learnt and, very importantly, understood. And how many Engineers or Scientists with Industrial Experience (Physics, Chemistry, something Industrial) are there in Parliament? Not many at all, and what about the Civil Service, and willing to show their knowledge of such a subject? And so many graduates don’t even know what a woman is, that the old idea of liberal education has been and gone, unfortunately.

        For those who think it is easy to find alternative views from which to judge the Climate Fraud need to remember that when members of government, who only rarely venture outside Politics, have their advisors chosen by those in greater positions of influence, with no need to seek others elsewhere. It is how it is arranged. 🙂

        It was set up by David Miliband (Lab) and handed over to his brother (Lab) to enact.

      • Sapper2 permalink
        December 1, 2022 7:31 am

        Further to the issues concerning our parliamentarians’ qualifications and understanding must be the reaction of the professional institutions of which I subscribe to two. They are equally fixated with the Climate Change/Global Warming/Net Zero scam, and all their prime efforts is directed to carbon (in its variant colours as I have recently learnt from my MP eg Green!) reduction and sustainable development.
        Being a chartered civil engineer I read of the considerable effort being expended on finding alternatives to the high energy demands endemic of that profession such as concrete and asphalt production, the basics of our built infrastructure needed for renewal as well as the new.
        Sometime, the now-engrained group-thinkers will come to realise the fool’s errand this direction is taking our nation, especially when the other half of the world is increasingly sceptical of the UN-driven agenda as poverty really strikes home.

      • Mr Robert Christopher permalink
        December 1, 2022 10:06 am

        Here’s the reason why we have the Climate Emergency Agenda, though he is talking about the jab:

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        December 1, 2022 12:59 pm

        If you want an example of lack of understanding consider this article and comments at Conservativehome (where I got banned for telling energy truths, as if censorship makes the real problems go away).

        https://conservativehome.com/2022/11/30/john-stevenson-we-should-legislate-to-mandate-that-every-new-home-incorporates-solar-panels/

        Does he assume that everyone lives on gently south sloping hillsides in the SW? Has he understood the problems that South Australia are now having with so much rooftop solar that it can produce more power than the grid demands on sunny summer days, creating such problems that the grid has to devise ways to force solar to shut down by overvoltage? Does he understand that having such intermittent massively variable generation kills the economics and operability of baseload power such as nuclear? Does he understand that it requires the use of gas to provide backup generation, and is indeed practically useless in winter?

        Most of the comments are very ill-informed. Those who have solar systems don’t even mention the FiT subsidies they have been enjoying, smugly claiming they are getting a good return on their investment. No-one alluded to the grid scale consequences. Someone claimed that the Gridwatch solar data doesn’t include domestic rooftop. No-one was able to point to the fact that they use the only half viable source for solar data from Sheffield University (as does this article), which does include domestic solar, relying on extrapolating from a sample of monitored locations around the country, so a myth is created that it doesn’t. Idle talk of batteries doesn’t begin to look at the realities of cost and capacity limitations.

        Some of the best comments discuss the realities of PV manufacture, and that it will never be an industry in the UK, while embedding lots of undesirable unseen environmental and social damage in China.

        Our media are to blame for poor education. Even Ross Clark doesn’t get everything right in his article for the Mail:

        https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-11483689/ROSS-CLARK-Rishi-Sunak-caves-wind-turbine-zealots-lights-Britain.html

    • Adam Gallon permalink
      November 30, 2022 6:26 am

      Yes, the majority are thick.
      They’re selected by their constituentuency parties, or parachuted in by Conservative Central, to troop through the Divisions as instructed by the Whips.
      Also, everyone knows that wind & solar are cheap and fracking is the work of Satan.

      • Chaswarnertoo permalink
        November 30, 2022 8:22 am

        The majority are thick, arrogant and badly informed. See Charles the Turd for details. Dunning Kruger will end our civilisation.

  4. November 29, 2022 7:04 pm

    ***Typo alert Paul***

    “Solar capacity is not 14 GW, which means that today all of the solar farms up and down the country have worked at just 1.6% of their capacity.”

    Maybe your software’s spellchecker changed ‘about’ to ‘not’? 😉

    • John Hultquist permalink
      November 30, 2022 3:33 am

      One of the hazards of being a touch typist.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      November 30, 2022 10:18 am

      I think it’s
      Solar capacity is now 14 GW

  5. November 29, 2022 7:07 pm

    This is too stupid for words…….

  6. November 29, 2022 7:19 pm

    There was anti-cyclonic gloom today in Southern England, killed off solar PV, but much more significant for the early evening demand peak was the near total absence of direct solar heating of houses via sunshine through windows, increasing the heating demand.

  7. Mal permalink
    November 29, 2022 7:33 pm

    No government could be this stupid. This has to be deliberate. Parliament is not fit for purpose.

    • catweazle666 permalink
      November 29, 2022 7:54 pm

      Many years ago when I was unfortunate enough to be a member of committees, it never failed to astonish me how a group of educated, intelligent individuals each of whom separately exhibited excellent judgement, could collectively come up with decisions so ridiculous that I felt like banging my head on the wall, and it was extremely difficult to convince them how misguided and potentially damaging they were.
      Strange…

      • Crowcatcher permalink
        November 30, 2022 7:20 am

        There’s an old saying “Designed by a committee”!!!!!!

      • November 30, 2022 9:21 am

        There’s education and then there’s experience.

  8. Ben Vorlich permalink
    November 29, 2022 7:38 pm

    A chocolate teapot to every household in the country will probably provide more energy than Solar PV today

  9. November 29, 2022 7:39 pm

    There are many problems with solar at our latitude including that they don’t work when most needed-on long cold winter nights.

    They need to be coupled with large scale battery storage but here we reach problem two-no such thing exists.

    It would help to garner what power is available if solar panels directly tracked the sun. On my own (summer) experiments, a panel generating 60% of its stated power capacity, when directly facing the sun and at the right angle (I used portable panels) generated only 15% once the sun had moved and changed the angle of inclination.

    There are devices that allow this tracking but they are very expensive and cumbersome.

    Incidentally, on the same experiment, when light cloud arrived, the 60% became 10%.

    They are hopeless things and need all the help they can get as they are here to stay unless our idiot elite see the light, which seems very unlikely as they are part of a fervent cult

    • November 29, 2022 8:34 pm

      Paradoxically a cloudless day can give LESS solar PV output than a cloudy one … when the panel is not pointing at the sun, due to much lower reflection from the atmosphere. Since the panel spends most time not pointing at the sun the total energy produced on a cloudy day can be not nearly as low as might be suggested by the cloudy/cloudless comparison for a perfectly aligned panel.

  10. Gary Kerkin permalink
    November 29, 2022 8:07 pm

    No Paul. A chocolate teapot would not bet good enough—it would melt in the furnace thereby wasting good chocolate! 😇

    • Tammly permalink
      November 30, 2022 9:13 am

      Could use Galaxy of Milka chocolate tea pots, that would be ok to waste!

  11. November 29, 2022 8:07 pm

    Worth remembering a few years back that a blocked weather system over Scotland resulted in no sun and no wind for days.

    As the blogger Slog said way back – “Why don’t we rise up and slaughter them?”
    Why indeed

    • November 30, 2022 9:24 am

      We’ve now on the edge of one of those blocks, centred over western Russia and/or Scandinavia, likely to persist for several days.

      • Dave Andrews permalink
        November 30, 2022 5:23 pm

        In the summer and early autumn of 2021 a long period of low wind speed badly affected wind power generation across the whole of Europe. In the UK SSE said its unreliables produced 32% less power than expected over the period

  12. liardetg permalink
    November 29, 2022 8:09 pm

    In SW France ran into a very large tri axial square solar panel device. Checked it out for directional sensors. Saw none. Hah! It had been told where it was on the globe and where the sun would be at any date and time. Piece of software. Aren’t I THICK? (But UK is too far north and too cloudy)

    • Carnot permalink
      November 30, 2022 9:10 am

      I installed a solar tracking array in 2013. It does produce more power that a fixed array but is far from perfect, and mine does has sensors to control the elevation and orientation. It is now connected to a large battery storage. I was exporting about 70% of the output to the grid. Now most stays in the property. Financially it does not make much sense, even though I did the civil works myself. You can save more money by better insulation.
      The real rub though come in a few years when we will not be allowed to install gas boilers in new housing, and from 2035 in existing housing, if the House Clowns has its way.
      When the socialists take over in 3 years then we can expect an even greater level of ineptitude than we currently have which takes some believing. The magic money tree is already barren so you can expect them to mine the pockets of the rich yet again, under the guise of fairness. The only problem who will be “rich” by then. The Reeves and Raynor duo strike fear in my heart. Two clueless individuals.

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        November 30, 2022 12:13 pm

        This might interest you. CH boiler manufacturer BAXI came up with unit that had a 1kW Stirling engine generator built in. Given heating systems run about 6 to 8 hours per day in the UK , if coupled to a fairly modest battery it could supply a typical house with all its electricty during the heating season. (providing cooking was by gas as well)
        There were even plans to run an absorption heat pump system off the waste heat to act as a hybrid water preheat system.
        The first system was scrapped shortly after launch as no gas fitters would train up on it for so little work in return.
        The further option was ditched as being too expensive given low fuel prices at the time making it never give a financial return.

  13. Graeme No.3 permalink
    November 29, 2022 8:43 pm

    Here in Adelaide in the driest State in the driest (inhabited) continent on earth we have been short on solar power lately. Lots of overcast weather as we come into our summer. The TV has constant advertisments for ‘cheap’ solar panels (from China although that isn’t mentioned possibly because they have a poor reputation and often need replacing after 9 years) and batteries (which would supply about 6 hours of average household use).
    What came as a shock to some recently is that said BATTERIES DIDN’T WORK DURING A BLACKOUT.
    South Australia leads the country in renewables and in blackouts.

  14. Harry Davidson permalink
    November 29, 2022 8:53 pm

    Britain is surrounded by seas with large tidal differences. I have never understood why we didn’t focus on getting energy from this reliable resource that we have lots of, and instead copied the windfarms of the Danes and the Germans who lack it.

    • Dave Ward permalink
      November 29, 2022 8:59 pm

      Check out the posts by Euan Mearns & Roger Andrews describing how tidal power would produce even more extreme spikes in output than the current solar & wind setups:

      http://euanmearns.com/?s=tidal

      • Harry Davidson permalink
        November 30, 2022 2:58 pm

        That reference is mainly about the Swansea Tidal lagoon, which was a scam. The whole of South Wales knew it was a scam from the start, given the author. But still you talk about it a some sort of meaningful thing.

      • It doesn't add up... permalink
        December 2, 2022 7:07 pm

        Harry there is a lot of material at the link (scroll down), including this, which looks at potential tidal sites around the country and operating them in tandem

        http://euanmearns.com/green-mythology-tidal-base-load-power-in-the-uk/

    • November 29, 2022 9:27 pm

      Back in the 1970’s I was involved with wave energy.

      the device actually worked but the Government folded the project.

      https://era.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/37268

      • Ben Vorlich permalink
        November 29, 2022 10:07 pm

        Aren’t surface waves created by the wind? So when wind strength dies so does wave energy, possibly not by the degree or at precisely the same time. But you’re left with the same problem.

      • Ray Sanders permalink
        November 29, 2022 10:53 pm

        Wave energy is just a proxy for wind energy and suffers from the same issues. It never failed to surprise me in my working career in coastal areas from Cornwall to Kent how frequently the sea is actually flat calm.
        Just ask an “asylum” seeker at Dover!

    • November 29, 2022 9:29 pm

      It is also horribly expensive, much more so than nuclear

    • Ray Sanders permalink
      November 29, 2022 10:41 pm

      Harry, tidal is incredibly intermittent. From the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon’s own website
      ” we can generate power for up to 14 in every 24 hours.”
      http://www.tidallagoonpower.com/tidal-technology/what-is-a-tidal-lagoon/
      Now spin that statement around to reality and you get ” we can guarantee to generate zero, zilch, nil, nada, for a minimum of 10 hours per day, every single day of the year”
      Now add to that the huge variation over the lunar cycle from apogean neap to perigean spring tides and you get even greater variation.
      Probably the most damning statistic is the proposed capacity factor of less than 19%. Even a badly sited onshore wind turbine will do better than that.
      To get the same annual output as Hinkley Point C (with a capacity factor of 92%) would require almost 60 SBTLs which are estimated at over £2billion each. Think nuclear is expensive? Tidal is truly astronomical.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        November 29, 2022 11:39 pm

        Ray S:
        And the Rance River station in France despite now running for nearly 50 years hasn’t tempted them to build another.
        Although I heard in 2016 that they only generated one way (instead of the original tide in & out) and had problems with seaweed clogging turbines.

      • Harry Davidson permalink
        November 30, 2022 2:54 pm

        The Swansea Tidal lagoon was never more than a scam. Pointing out that an absurd design is an absurd design is, well, absurd.

  15. Dan permalink
    November 29, 2022 8:55 pm

    Time to elect different people that have not bought into the global-warming nonsense.

  16. Harry Passfield permalink
    November 29, 2022 9:48 pm

    There is a solar farm near me, and another planned even nearer and larger. I recall writing to the useless Claire Perry that solar farms, much like petrol stations, should have large illuminated signs on the road nearby to tell everyone passing by just how much electricity – current and percent of design – being generated and the price per unit being charged. She – obviously – turned it down but I wish it was required.

    • Roy Hartwell permalink
      November 30, 2022 2:02 pm

      We used to live in Ivybridge in Devon. They had a large community centre called The Watermark which boasted solar panels and had just such a display inside. Embarrassingly except in the height of summer, the outputs were all below 1Kw despite the huge panel areas ! Winter time was more often in the low hundreds !

  17. Ray Sanders permalink
    November 29, 2022 10:59 pm

    The sadly late, great Sir David Mackay strongly advised the Government against any form of subsidy for solar power. But who needs experts eh?
    Strewth even the scum at the Graun published his views
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/may/03/idea-of-renewables-powering-uk-is-an-appalling-delusion-david-mackay
    But then again what would a real scientist know, after all he hardly kept quiet about his views.
    https://www.withouthotair.com

  18. MrGrimNasty permalink
    November 29, 2022 11:33 pm

    Looks like we’re going to get the first significant length spell of weather colder than average in December too. Unlikely to be enough to save England from the warmest year evah CET mean.

    The main reason solar in the UK is useless this time of year is short day length and low sun angle. Capacity factor is 10/11% annually, obviously in winter the contribution will be tiny.

  19. Sandy McClintock permalink
    November 30, 2022 12:23 am

    Thank you Paul.
    It’s the identical story in Australia on a micro-scale. I have enough solar panels to generate 3 times more than I need in summer months.
    However, in winter time, these panels do not generate enough to meet my needs. I have to buy some grid power during 4 of the gloomiest winter months (about 12KWh/d) but in the worst month (July in Australia = December in UK) this increases to about 22KWh/d

  20. November 30, 2022 7:07 am

    Of course it doesn’t help when the BEIS briefs the PM with “Large-scale ground mount solar is the cheapest form of electricity generation …. Below are a set of policy options that could accelerate deployment ….”. Not a single mention by BEIS of how useless solar is at times of peak demand or how it produces most electricity when we least need it. No wonder with this type of civil service our energy supply is in such a mess. Of course it doesn’t help when we have yet another energy minister (Grant Shapps) who doesn’t know the difference between energy and electricity.

  21. November 30, 2022 8:50 am

    Philip.

    I have long been asking how government advisors are selected, in the case of BEIS it seems not on their knowledge?

    My other long standing critisism is of the media who continually print articles that are so wrong in many ways. The real problem is that the lay public get a totally distorted view of renewable generation, it’s effectiveness and it’s cost.
    Thus public perception is that renewables are good, effective and worse cheap.
    On the other hand fracking generally recieves negative media attention.

  22. mwhite permalink
    November 30, 2022 9:21 am

    Someone has to explain this?????????????????

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      November 30, 2022 10:32 am

      Politicians are the 21st century equivalent of the younger sons of the aristocracy going into the army as officers, think Lions led by Donkeys, or becoming MPs in Rotten Boroughs. Those that went into the army are now in the humourously named “Think Tanks” or quangos. In all major parties there are leaders privately educated and qualified at degree level in non-practical subjects.

  23. November 30, 2022 10:27 am

    UK Government strategy to Secure Energy Independence published yesterday 29th November. I had to reduce the URL link as too long. Link: https://tinyurl.com/mr2x5bws

    • November 30, 2022 12:35 pm

      They want to replace gas with nuclear, but they haven’t got that long because we’re running short of power station capacity *now*.

  24. HotScot permalink
    November 30, 2022 10:34 am

    Solar electricity, not power.

    Power, like energy, suggests it includes everything. The ONS tells us that in 2015 electricity was some 9% of our ‘power’ needs.

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