Posts Tagged ‘Renewable power’

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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