Does a wind farms unpredictability lead to a waste of energy in other power plants?

  • Thread starter boreilly
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Main Question or Discussion Point

I came across a report entitled "Wind Farms Provide Negligible Useful Electricity" by Richard Courtney. You can google it its just available free on the internet.

What I wanted to know, if anyone here works in the power grid industry, was it true or should it be taken with a pinch of salt?

It discusses the fact that during a high amount of wind the other thermal power plants are not turned off but put in spinning standby,(well the entire power plant is not put in spinning stanby), to allow them to kick back into action as soon as wind drops. And during this spinning standby, energy from whatever fossil fuel is being used is just being wasted(for example the water is still being heated but allowed to cool in the cooling towers instead of doing work).
I knew that in power plants it can take a few days for it to start up and i knew that it takes alot to ramp the power plant up and down to meet the demands when running. However this report suggests that wind power is in actual fact a waste of time.

How close to the truth is this report? does anyone work in this line of work? is it really this big an issue dealing with the wind changing quickly? or is it a problem that we are able to overcome?
 

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  • #2
AlephZero
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I haven't read the article, but from your summary, and his title, I suspect he is trying to make a "political" point rather than being objective.

Wind power can be forecast with the same sort of accuracy as the weather - i.e. very well over a timescale of say 6 to 12 hours, but less well over 3 or 4 days. The idea that the wind is suddenly going to take everybody by surprise and suddenly stop blowing seems rather far-fetched.

All your summary really says is that you can't just "add wind power" (or solar, or tidal) to an existing working network, without considering consequences of that change on the rest of the system. But there are lots of people on Internet who seem to think they are the only person on the planet who has realized something as obvious as that.

A sensibly designed power generation network already has generators that can be switched on and off in a timescale of minutes not days, to handle the normal "peak loads" that arise when a popular national TV event starts and stops, for example. Sure, the "base load" generators like nuclear or large coal fired stations are much less flexible than that, but if there is adequte "fast response" generation capacity they don't need to be. If you need to add more "fast response" or "fairly fast response" capacity as a consequence of adding renewable generators, then big deal, you can just do it. If the problem is that the complete electricty network is too fragmented (e,g, different companies operating under different legislation in different states, etc) then solving those problems is a matter of politics, not engineering.

As an example of how this situation already exists "in reverse", the company I work for operates a test rig which takes up to 40 Megawatts of electrical power when it is running. That is no big problem for the national electricity network to handle, though we do have a direct telephone line to the nearest power station control room so we can give them a warning when we are going to start it up. The way we operate that rig is MUCH less predictable on a minute-to-minute basis than the power output from a large wind farm would be!
 
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There are regulations telling companies how much power they have to have on spinning standby anyway. That way if something suddenly happened at one power plant, another would be able to take over a significant portion. A lot of this stuff got revised after 9/11 when threats to infrastructure became a big deal.
 
  • #4
D H
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The cited article does not appear to have been published in a journal. I couldn't get past the abstract and one sentence executive summary because they are one long string of obviously and blatantly false statements. It clearly does not meet PF standards.

Thread locked.
 

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