Wind Turbines and Spinning Reserve

When the supporters of wind turbines run out of wishful thinking they usually try disparaging the legitimate concerns of those of us who view these ineffective monstrosities with the contempt they deserve.

It has long been pointed out that due to the vaguaries of the wind, there needs to be a backup ready to take over when they stop turning. The latest jolly wheeze our dreamworld compatriots have come up with is that there does not need to be any more backup as there is already enough spinning reserve.

For those who do not know the jargon: We have our power supplied mainly by base load generation. That is power stations running on full load. Nuclear power is particularly good at this. This is then backed up by spinning reserve. This spinning reserve can provide small corrections to the power requirement in which case it is said to go from spinning reserve and into generation. But is there mainly ready to kick in if anything goes wrong, like a major grid failure or power station failure. Spinning reserve power stations are using fuel but providing no electricity. The energy used is dissipated in the cooling towers.

The pro wind turbine lobby assert that as the spinning reserve is bigger than any single power supply unit then it should also be quite capable of coping with any drop of output from wind turbines. On a (very) shallow level that sounds like a good point but really we need to look at what the spinning reserve is there for.

Spinning reserve is an emergency backup. Its  size is calculated to allow the grid to cope with major failure of otherwise reliable and predictable components.

And that is the point. 

The major failure of a power station is a crisis and the spinning reserve is there to ensure there are no power cuts. The spinning reserve currently built into the system is most certainly not there to iron out the erratic output of wind turbines as well. 

If (god forbid) anyone actually builds another of these off-shore wind farm abortions and it then suffered a major grid failure, well: Yes. That is what the spinning reserve is for.  

But  it is most certainly not there to cope with the wind suddenly dropping. If you want to cope with that you need more spinning reserve.

The most shocking aspect of the pro-turbine dreamers is their sheer propensity to be at best, economical with the truth and at worst, lie through their teeth.

One day we will look back on all this lunacy and view it with derision. I just hope and pray that when that day comes the lights will still be working. 

4 comments:

Dioclese said...

What they really need to invent is a way to store electricity. AC can't be stored.

What we are really saying here is that if the turbines stop turning there is enough spare capacity to cope with the sortfall - or in other words, as you can't simply turn power stations on and off at a moments notice (hydro being the exception), the wind turbines are completely pointless as we generate the lecky then throw it away again!

BilloTheWisp said...

That is about the long and short of it. Storage is the BIG problem

Dougal Quixote said...

What no one says about Hydro is that it is effectively only available for 30% of the year. Suggestions that pumped hydro is a method of storage with wind to push it back up hill? Pumped hydro only works due to the availability of very cheap coal power at night. To use wind energy with subsidies to produce a short term power supply(pumped hydro is very limited in the hours available-check it out)would make pumped hydro, already very expensive, financial suicide. To build a wind farm and a pumped hydro is mind numbingly expensive and yet that is what SSE plan at Coire Glas. They can only afford this with the ROCS subsidy which you and I will have to pay!

BilloTheWisp said...

Yes Dougal you are right. Pumped storage has a very useful niche to provide "instantanious" power when a sudden surge occurs. To suggest that it can be usefully and economically used to level out wind is laughable. That is, unless you are getting paid 2 or 3 times for the electricty you produce due to ROC.