Posts Tagged ‘Energy storage’

Bleak future for wind power generators in Sweden

November 22, 2010

Swedish P1 Radio had a broadcast this morning where wind turbine owners in southern Sweden were interviewed. Wind turbines in Southern Sweden operate at an average capacity of about 25% but when the wind blows in in Sweden it usually blows in Denmark as well. As Denmark builds more subsidised but intermittent wind turbines they become more dependant upon the import of hydro and nuclear power from Sweden and Norway.

It could be a dark future for wind power, at least for wind power owners in southern Sweden. As wind turbines multiply, the surplus power when the wind blows reduce prices and wind turbine revenues are reduced drastically.

The Marketing Director for Lunds Energi said that they had no plans for building any more wind turbines to add to the 6 small wind turbines they already had.  There was no chance, he said, of the Danes importing wind power from Sweden when the wind was blowing for then they had their own power. And when the wind was not blowing and prices were better there was no power to sell!

Vindkraftverk i Vänern. Foto: Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix

Wind power plant in Lake Vännern. Foto: Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix

Kjell Jansson, the Managing Director of Svensk Energi was also interviewed and pointed out that electricity could not be stored except as hot water. Therefore using surplus wind energy to store in heating systems was at best a partial solution but did not help the fact that industry and people needed electricity as electricity – and not just as hot water. Even the planned Danish solution of using surplus power to “charge up” heating systems for district heating as hot water or for “charging up” electric cars relied on having electricity – from nuclear and hydro power from Sweden and Norway – available to be imported for the Danish electricity system.

Therefore, he continued, when the wind did not blow in Denmark  – and then usually did not blow over the whole of Scandinavia – the high electricity price was an advantage for the hydro and nuclear generators. In any case this would require much more investment in transmission systems and in hydro power generation.

But I can see a situation where Denmark will pay swingeing prices for imported electricity when the wind is not blowing and a cold wave is sweeping across Europe. And if it is a really severe cold wave then there may be no electricity available for import.

Wind stops wind power…..

June 20, 2010

It is sometimes overlooked that the difficulty to store electric energy can make wind and solar power – even if they were competitive enough not to be subsidised – impractical.  Energy storage is still a major barrier to be overcome in the use of renewable power.

The economics of the subsidy mechanisms can lead to strange distortions which in turn can lead to extremely lucrative but ridiculous situations such as:

  1. solar plants using electricity from the grid to produce electricity for the grid since the subsidy makes it worth-while
  2. the intermittent nature of the power leading to inter-connection instabilities which lead to owners being paid not to produce power
  3. wind power – as in this article today – having to shut down when there is insufficient load
  4. solar plants using natural gas at night to heat up the heat transfer medium (oils or molten salts) which then generates steam and runs the steam turbine to produce electricity.

Firms paid to shut down wind farms when the wind is blowing.

A general view of Europe's biggest onshore wind farm, Whitelee Windfarm on the outskirts of Glasgow

Energy firms will receive thousands of pounds a day per wind farm to turn off their turbines because the National Grid cannot use the power they are producing. Critics of wind farms have seized on the revelation as evidence of the unsuitability of turbines to meet the UK’s energy needs in the future. They claim that the ‘intermittent’ nature of wind makes such farms unreliable providers of electricity.

Solar and Wind power have still some way to go before they are anywhere near commercial.

But the area of research which could probably do with more funding is that of energy storage but it is probably not fashionable enough. Instead of subsidising the owners of renewable energy plants (note that the subsidy rarely reaches the consumer), it might be better to conduct more R & D for the storage and recovery of electrical energy.

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