The Spanish wind power industry has proudly claimed that it has "set a new record" in that it delivered more than half the electricity used in all of Spain for several hours. The "record" is less impressive than it sounds, however. It was achieved during the small hours of a Sunday morning, when electricity demand is lowest. The …
"renewable power sources ...their unpredictability can destabilize the grid"
You mean that we cannot forecast weather days in advance?
When will governments pull out their collective finger
and invest some serious cash in nuclear fusion.
Technically true, but...
LP: "The trouble with that is expense. Wind electricity is very expensive to begin with: only government market-meddling allows turbine farms to be built. In the UK, the costs are passed on to the consumer in the form of price rises - the Treasury pays nothing."
As phrased that suggests the Treasury could - if the mood took it - pay for some of the turbine farms from its own secret pot of money. Sadly there is no such pot, of course, and any lucre the Treasury tossed in would come from one source of taxation or another (i.e. at the end of the cash chain, us).
Really, the choice is whether the cost of turbines are passed directly on to consumers of energy, or shared among the general populace. And given that the general populace do all consume energy, aside from maybe Brian the hedge-dwelling tramp, at best any Treasury intervention would redistribute the cost. Not, sadly, reduce it in any way.
 Well, there is Quantitative Easing, which is arguably magic money out of nowhere, but only in a quantum "it vanishes again after a while" sort of way.
More fissionista propaganda
Renewables will never work we have to go nuke! (forgive me if I paraphrase).
The percentage of renewable energy in the world's electricity supply rises year by year and the nuclear power lobby keeps insisting it will never provide a subsational amout of the grid load. The figures from Spain and Denmark show this is just not true.
Mr Page call support for renewables "government market-meddling" but there is no way anyone would be able to build a nuclear power station without Massive government subsidies.
Anyone out there got the latest decomissioning estimates? Read them and weep!
What a load of complete opinionated bollox...
"the facts that they will be cripplingly expensive to use on a large scale in real life and will mean that the human race is always starved for energy".
er, what facts? Always starved of energy?? The fact is that the human race has been addicted to oil for decades and is only just now putting some meaningful effort into renewables and energy storage. Renewables does NOT just mean wind energy. The UK has massive potential in marine energy (tidal and wave) - great inventions like Salter's Duck have been ignored. Tidal energy is also completely predictable.
I noticed a complete lack of valid alternative proposals in this article. Maybe the UK should just not bother about energy security and carry on importing fossil fuels from unpredictable regimes?? The Reg should stick to IT in my view...
"Energy is water, information, leisure time, education."
You missed out food. A point often missed is that human population growth has not been exponential at any point in recorded history, despite the heroic attempts of our ancestors in the bedroom department. In fact, it is probably true to say that at any point in history, the global population has been perfectly correlated with our ability to feed and water it and that this in turn has been perfectly correlated with our ability to throw energy at agriculture, transport and the like.
Take energy consumption back 50 or 100 years and you almost certainly reduce the *sustainable* global population as well. (We in the West could all go veggie, but the vast majority of the human race already don't filter most of their calories through other animals, so it doesn't change the figures much.) We won't all die immediately, of course, but it is hard to see how the balance wouldn't be restored within one or two annual cycles of planting and harvesting. Eating isn't something you can defer for a few years.
So, we either plan to (at least) maintain current levels of energy consumption or we plan to reduce. In the latter case, if we plan a significant reduction (like double figures percent) we are planning to allow *many* hundreds of millions of people to starve to death. That's quite a big ask.
I don't mind people talking about generating power more cleanly, but let there be no doubt that we do *not* have the option of "maybe cutting back whilst we're at it". These figures from Spain are not in the least bit encouraging.
You didn't mention the biggest threat to windmills:
Make up your mind
>...they will be cripplingly expensive to use on a large scale in real life
Well 50% of Spain requirements, even if it was at a period of low demand, isn't exactly small scale and your this report, one assume, is talking about real life. Where's amanfrommars when you need him to make sense of an El Reg reporter?
Wind Wind Wind
Why is there so little focus on other things like Geothermal or even Hydro. Rivers are much more reliable than wind, water powered the first part of the industrial revolution in the UK so why are windmills the "badge" of the Gereen power movement? (I suppose coz you can put one in your garden and feel sumg)
which part to comment on.
The thing about Spain and it's wind farms is that it's a very large, mountainous country with a wide spread of different climates: from the cold, wet, windy north (relatively speaking) to the hot, dry, windy south. Once you get away from the goegraphically insignificant strip of sand around the edge, there is a lot of unusable, but windy mountain tops that makes wind farming attractive and more-or-less practical. In crowded, power-hungry, flat, NIMBY-obsessed England (note!) those conditions don't apply to the same extent.
Next, so far as lifestyles go, the statement "Better, frankly, to have floods in fifty years ..." is merely a troll (and a rather obvious one at that). What we have to remember is that for the average human, using their "fair share" of the world's sustainable energy resources would be a huge leap UP in quality of life. Now, the author might find it slightly inconvenient to have to wear a pullover over his tee-shirt in the middle of winter, but frankly: tough - get used to it and stop crying about how badly off you are.
Finally, the odd thing about the world's energy equation:
Energy_consumption = average_usage * number_of_people
is few commentards ever consider the third variable in that statement.
Just 'green power' alone is not the answer.
What is needed is a REDUCTION in DEMAND!
I'm trying to live 'responsibly' and in my 65square meter apartment, I used 6000KWh the first year, and 5500KWh the second year.
(I hope to make this drop to 5000KWh... )
No gas for heating.
(I'm not daft enough to have combustible gasses pumped into my home... )
I live 'not that far from the polar circle'...
Today it was -3degrees(Celsius) outside when I left for work.
Thick walls, with lots of insulation.
There's even an 8" layer of insulation in the attic.
(Those who add a 4" layer to the existing 4" on older houses can expect earning it back in 2 - 3 years)
I'm using energy-saving bulbs.
I dropped the room-temperature a few degrees(and wear sweaters and thick, woollen socks)
I have a timer on the heated bathroom floor...
(By switching it off a few hours at night, and during the middle of the day on workdays, I save probably 500KWh/year)
Electrical equipment not in use is switched off, and where practical, unplugged.
Of course, as I live in Norway, a 'secondary' independent heatsource is required, and I have a Dovre CBS250 'clean burning' wood stove.
(A fireplace is approx 30% efficient, and will cool down other rooms, an older stove is about 50% efficient, and modern 'clean burners' are up to 80% efficient. During a long winter that can amount to a lot of firewood)
Of course, I only use it when it drops well below freezing, and even then, usually only on weekends.
I considered an 'air-air' heat pump, but I was told that with my consumption, it wouldn't pay back until well after the projected lifetime of the unit.
(People with bigger or older houses, though, really should get one.)
The icon, because I burn bricks of compressed newspapers in the stove...
Geothermal is the way to go
Wind power is useless, you have to factor in the the equation how much energy did it cost to produce a windmill and how much maintenance it will require over it's lifetime. And even then if wind drops you still need the power stations so what is the point?
Geothermal is more guaranteed power once it is set up, why not use that. I'm pretty sure with new drilling technology you can get geothermal power pretty much anywhere.
Energy is water, information, leisure time, education
Energy is wealth; wealth is energy. Doesn't matter what you earn in pound shillings and pence, dollars or euros. What you are actually controlling is kilowatt hours... whether it's watts to drive your car or wash your clothes or download porn or grow your food, the only wealth is how much energy you control.
And like it or not, once the easily extracted fossil fuels are gone, they're gone. In the longer term, the same applies to fission nuclear supplies... until the Tokomak boys manage to get sustainable fusion with power out somewhat more than power in, that means we're stuck with wind or water. And I can't help feeling that wind is not the way to go, unless it's used to pump water uphill for later use.
And also - what on earth happens to the weather when we start extracting gigawatts of energy from the wind? Ignoring losses, the UK generates (www.berr.gov.uk/files/file43837.pdf) around 1PW/h across a year. If we transfer all the transport energy to electricity, too, you could probably double that or more. If that's taken all from wind energy, that's a hell of a change to climate, even ignoring the carbon reduction.
A bit alarmist...
You may as well have mentioned the fact we will all be killed by the rampaging vampires when the lights go out as well. Seriously could we get something a little less alarmist and for the record running 50% of your overnight supply on wind with the fore knowledge of being able to do it is quite impressive.
Not only does it allow maintenance on other thermal plants as they can shift there loads about between turbines it also means the overall amount of carbon producing fuels burnt that night can be reduced. You normally can't turn off a thermal power station entirely you can however reduce the amount of coal/gas burnt.
Add a beefed-up grid, solar and tidal power
The problems get less if you can bring in more power fron further afield. For this we need a higher-capacity Europe, North Africa, and Middle-East spanning electricity grid. Thinking about wind alone, it's unlikely to be calm everywhere simultaneously. Then throw in tidal power (available only on coastlines, with its own different periodicities to the weather) and Solar power (flat calm in Southern Europe usually means peak sun, though it often means fog in the North where Winter sun is in any case scarce).
Pumped storage can also mean compressed air in large salt-dome caverns. Other forms of energy storage include hydrogen (from electrolysed water) and flow batteries. If the energy one is storing is fully renewable, then inefficiency matters only in economic terms.
I can't help thinking Wind power is ultimately a distraction. We ought to be building that grid, and investing in solar power generation in Southern Europe and the Sahara. In the UK, we need to build the biggest version of the Severn barrage - 15% of our electricity requirements from the tide.
Oh dear, we need standby generators
As an IT-related company, you of course know that power outages happen, and during a power outage your UPS batteries are supplying all your servers with power. When the power is working normally your UPS is sitting in standby, and it costs money to leave it in standby. So by Lewis Logic, the best plan is to forget about mains power and keep trucking in car batteries to drive your UPS, because it's better to keep your standby running 100% of the time...
Back on Planet Reality, might it not make sense instead to keep the standbys but to use something else like wind power when it's available?
@David Edwards: Geothermal has the problem of needing a very deep hole drilling unless you happen to be somewhere with magma close to the surface, and the deeper the hole needs to be, the more likely it is that something's going to go wrong when the earth around it shifts. Rivers actually aren't that reliable either (there's not as much rain in summer), so you'd still need backups, but you're right that mini-hydro schemes do deserve to be more popular than they are.
Not that I don't like wind turbines, to the contrary, but I see that there's a fact that the proud defenders of this Spanish "feat" are not telling: we've had here for several days extreme weather conditions, including winds up to 120-130 km/h. So extreme for here that even two trekkers caught in the blizzard on the Pyrenees that Saturday evening died of hypothermia (the wind made temperature reach -25 C where they were).
So, the "feat" happened on Sunday early morning AND with extreme winds. As I said, I like wind turbines, but I also like reality.
It's almost as if, we need a system of economics that isn't based on money to save the energy crisis... if only one such system existed!
Geothermal is flawed
The Earth's core is molten. If we cool it down by extracting too much heat, it will begin to solidify and, thanks to not being held together with hydrogen bonds, contract. After a few years of the core rattling around like a walnut in a shell, royally screwing with the seasons (the Earth's core is massive enough to hold its orbit fairly well; it's actually the crust which will rattle around the core and so move closer to and further away from the Sun), the fragile crust will break up into pieces and drift off into space.
@ Neil Barnes
Very good points here, I would contend that Earth's weather patterns are driven by winds way above those that wind turbines can reach though. You're right that someone should run the numbers but I'm willing to bet that even with hundreds of thousands of turbines around the UK the effect would be less that of the billions of trees that used to cover these Islands.
How about instead of pumping lots of water up a hill we dangle a big weight down a deep hole? Or winch it up a big tower (like the ones holding the windmills up)?
Matching demand and supply
Matching demand and supply isn't just an issue for the wind power folks.
It is also a big (maybe bigger) issue for the nuclear power folks.
Wherever you are, there is a daily variation in electricity usage. nationalgrid.co.uk is undergoing maintenance right now but from memory UK electricity demand currently varies between roughly 25GW and 50GW during any given day. Other countries will have broadly similar variations.
Nuclear stations cannot be switched on and off to match that daily cycle (or, for those that can, the increased thermomechanical stresses resulting from temperature cycles result in shortened operating lifetimes which result in the stations being nonprofitable and therefore the result is the same, the stations will not be switched on and off to match the daily demand cycle).
So whether it be wind or nuclear, we have a major problem matching demand and supply, and no amount of asserting that "wind power can't cut it" makes the picture any better for nuclear.
Pumped storage as implemented in the UK today stores energy on the timescale of minutes not hours and is really only appropriate for short term infill. A bit of heavy engineering on the existing hydro power in Scotland could expand that capacity somewhat, but probably not enough to smooth out the daily cycle.
Using off peak surplus nuclear electricity to generate hydrogen and then using that stored hyrdrogen later in the day to generate peak time electricity isn't exactly efficient thermally but it would be relatively simple to construct and would be relatively compatible with existing strategies.
There's another school of thought that says once we all have electric cars on our drives we use their batteries for storage too (see Mackay below).
We need a lot more of all of (a) demand reduction overall (b) realtime demand management (c) storage on a timescale of hours not minutes, otherwise we in big trouble. Actually I think we in big trouble anyway.
My other half already has a Dovre woodstove. Marvellous thing. Used to even be made in Birmingham, not now though.
And then there's Desertec's plan for concentrated north African solar electricity transmitted to Europe via HVDC. Go look it up.
See also: www.withouthotair.com but do bear in mind that Professor Mackay is now an official adviser to Her Majesty's Government therefore he has lost some of his freedom of speech (just like Professor Nutt).
Over simplistic article
1. All forms of electricity are subsidised. Fossil fuel is subsidised by not paying the pollution and climate change cost, and nuclear is subsidised by being unable to afford the insurance or decomissioning costs. Government intervention in the sustainable electricity market creates a more level playing field than would otherwise exist.
2. Pumped storage potential is just a fraction of hydro stored energy potential if all existing dams (used for water supply and continuous electricity) are uprated, and used to store some energy for use during wind calms. Water is very unlikely to be in short supply in the UK in the weeks after long winter calms, so there seems little reason why water supply dams can't be dual purposed and existing hydroelectric continuous supply dams uprated to help balance wind output.
3. Hydro stored energy can be supplemented using smart charged transport battery reserve and biofuel reserve to some extent.
4. Biofuel energy can be doubled using the Fischer Tropsch process. Burn it once in a static electricity plant, capturing the CO2 (first use). Then combine the C02 with hydrogen from wind electricity generated during peak wind output to make synfuel for mobile fossil fuel application replacements (e.g. aircraft), also for winter calm backup generators (second use).
5. Others have mentioned tidal potential.
6. Most people will welcome occasional holidays of a few days announced by meteorologists a couple of days in advance when most industrial and commercial electric use will be shut down during an anticipated long winter calm. Because of this fact, we don't really need expensive 3rd level thermal backup to cover depletion of hydro stored energy on perhaps an average 2 - 3 days per annum, if extra holidays can be enjoyed. We will only all benefit from increased automation if we gradually increase holidays anyway, and this will be the optimal way to create extra holidays.
What planet is Lewis on?
"Better by far, ultimately, for the human race to strive to become independent of its mother planet for survival?"
if you're trying to be rational about energy, this comment destroys any remaining shred of credibility. The energy cost of lifting people off the Earth and onto another planet is, literally, astronomical.
Plus, other planets tend not to be very nice. You might think a flooded, polluted, irradiated, famine-ravaged world is bad; but Mars, even with all the terraforming we could throw at it, would be much nastier. Our future is here on Earth, so we have to treat it with care.
Were getting some new nukes soon anyway.
I find it odd how anygry the greenys get about anything that dosen't fit there world view. People who like fission plants don't go out shouting and screaming for them...
We'd need lots of weights, each with its own motor/generator, to store all the leccy.
Well tiitled as 'opinion' ...
The Oil Drum has a far more reasoned look at wind power: http://europe.theoildrum.com/node/5354
if youu're going to take the view that someone is suggesting that wind power on its own is the only way forward, it's a hard target to miss, criticism-wise. However, if you want to make it a bit more nuanced, suddenlt it becomes a less obvious target.
"It's almost as if, we need a system of economics that isn't based on money to save the energy crisis... if only one such system existed!"
Good point. You might want to consider the potential of local currencies (LCs) :
http://www.gmlets.u-net.com/ combined with transaction taxes:
instead of income, VAT and profits taxation. A minor legislation change affecting taxes due on these could enable LCs to grow from currently less than 2% of the economy (mostly barter, some LETS, air miles etc) to transact up to an estimated 50% or so of the current economy.
We'd then be able to figure out how to make the rest of the economy more sustainable.
These ideas and their practical applications are still money, but not money as we know it, i.e. a system designed (in the words of economist John Maynard Keynes) to maximise the accumulation of capital. If you want JMK's justification for why we need to be thinking about changing this historical system optimisation, read his "Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren" 1930 essay :
we could get by with wind if we
ditch all the ipod ps3 xbox crap of individual family members doing their own thing.
Everyone sits in one room wearing jumpers and entertainment is 'talking' or a singalong round the Piano.
End result....massive energy savings and as a bonus an uptight population doing the gardening wearing a suit and tie and also happy to sign up in their thousands to go get killed in a trench somewhere......
just read the pro wind version on the gruaniad
it claims at the peak the power was 11gw . but interestingly this is still just 60% of peak load ( 18gw).. So what conditions are going to be needed for this peak load then?
It's extraordinary to see a tech site so grindingly anti-technology/anti-science (along with some of its readers). If the computer industry had been faced with this kind of retrogressive crap, 25 years ago, most of us would be out of a job today (my apologies to those who are out of a job today).
No-one, not a single soul, is suggesting that wind power will replace everything else - only that it will replace a bit of it. And 11% is a substantial bit (bearing in mind that the UK's nuclear industry only supplies less than 4% of our demand).
Yes, there will be a need for reserve capacity; there is need for reserve capacity now - so, no change there, then. And, just as the wind can drop for a few days (though seldom across the whole Atlantic seaboard), fossil-power stations can be stopped by strike action, transmission can go down because of extreme weather (or cock-up), and oil supplies can be interrupted by war or other unrest. Not even nuclear is immune to problems.
So, Reg, let's have a bit less curmudgeonly grunting, and a bit more balanced coverage (if you must cover a subject you seem to know so little about).
*serious* climate change
"on the surface of one tiny dust-mote until some insignificant accident erases us all."
its just a matter of time...
Wind Electricity is not for storing
I believe Portugal is ahead of Spain in this and Holland frequently goes 100% wind at certain times .. I'm not sure where the writer was coming from .. but the idea that wind power needs back-up any more than conventional power is flawed .. there has not been one MW of back-up plant installed as a result of WTGs the reserve is there already designed to catch the system when one of the large generators trips - which is quite often.
Clearly, there is obvious public anxiety about lights going out and wind with its variable output obviously can not satisfy all of the people all of the time - but fundamentally wind generation is not intended for that. Wind power saves fossil fuel which is expensive and contributes to the carbon burden - the marginal cost of wind is pretty well zero so the last generator you would turn off would be a wind one (if it's running - which is most of the time) - as for storage of wind this is a complete non-sense (unless in remote communities with stand alone power needs). If you have an electricity network with a variety of generation sources you may choose to store some energy through pumped storage but quite a bit 20%+ is lost in the round trip. So imagine, you have a system and you have some "spare" capacity (voltage rising) you decide to lower the voltage by either shutting down capacity or doing some pumping .. if you were shutting down you would choose the most expensive plant first so it follows that if you choose to store it will cost you what you could have saved and some because of the losses in the round trip ..
The advantage of pumped storage is that it can put a very large amount of power on the system very quickly and so has the capability of rescuing the system in an emergency - emergencies that have never been created by wind generators (yet).
We (and those who comment) must learn to live with our wind generators and love them for what they provide not try to will them to provide something they are not capable of or designed for. It is true to say that wind is not the cheapest way to save carbon by any means but I see it is an investment for our future energy needs and of course I would say that I develop WTGs :-) .
So on the one hand...
...we have Orlowski criticising climate scientists for reporting the outcomes of their research, labelling them as doom-saying thermageddon merchants; while on the other hand we have Lewis Page claiming that high penetration renewables would result in the destruction of "modern society and remaking all of humanity as medieval (or if we're really lucky, 18th-century) eco-peasants".
This should be comedy gold, but sadly it isn't.
At least we've witnessed a small step towards balance and editorial credibility with the acknolwedgement of the reality of human induced climate change from The Register. Unfotunately you also demonstrate a disturbing readiness to condemn the developing world to abject poverty in order to maintain your precious, high energy consumption way of life.
If you think that adaptation to climate change will cost us less than overhauling our energy infrastructure you are very, very badly mistaken and you should seriously do some more research.
Stick to I.T.
You are thinking of a wind farm which is small with turbines which only produce a megawatt. The UK is now entering 'Round 3' of wind energy. Massive turbines in massive farms over massive areas in the sea/ocean.
These things don't peak and trough like you seem to think. Wind turbines out to sea range between 1.5 to 2 times more efficient than on land. And I don't think you will ever hear anyone saying that the UK will be powered entirely by windmills, it's all in your head. It is only recently becoming feasible to power the UK without fossil fuels, but unlike what you seem to think - this includes many solutions mixed together.
Even if you don't believe that the gasses and particles we produce in our global expansion are contributing to global warming (We certainly managed to shaft the ozone with cfc's didn't we?), there is little doubt that fossil fuels will run out, unless you believe God is constantly pumping oil into the earth for us.
"No gas for heating.
(I'm not daft enough to have combustible gasses pumped into my home... )"
I assume you are referring to hazards. There seems to be an implication here that combustible gasses are more dangerous than using electricity. In fact, in the UK at least, fires caused by wiring faults or equipment faults cause far more fires than gas leaks. Of course you can also be poisoned by carbon monoxide from a badly maintained gas heater, but you can also be electrocuted. In all, gas is not more dangerous than electricity - rather the reverse.
Also solid fuels (even wood or paper) put rather more noxious substances into the atmosphere than does a gas boiler (albeit the former produces less net CO2 - commercial timber processing uses fossil fuels). Open fires are far more dangerous than a gas boiler.
There is also the point that it is thermodynamically much more efficient to burn gas in a modern boiler than use it in a power station to generate electricity and then use that for heating (something around twice as efficient). if you are fortunate to be in a country where clean sources of electricity (e.g. hydro) are cheap and plentiful, then using that makes sense.
Of course all the issues about insulation still hold true (within limits - even insulation takes energy to make and maintain).
Dear Mr. Page
Repeating your opinions does not make them any more correct. Wind generated electricity is here to stay as part of the mix of which it is becoming increasingly important. It is already economically viable for generating companies to invest in new capacity which is why they are doing so in ever greater numbers. The main reason for this, by the way, s the ability to plan into the future, not through subsidies but in the form of guaranteed minimium prices (already below spot market peaks in Germany and being reduced) are important. As The Economist, a publication not generally considered to be beholden to the green lobby, regularly points out, the economics of renewables are already convincing.
The decision by the German power companies RWE and E.ON to invest substantially in UK off-shore plants http://www.dradio.de/dlf/sendungen/hintergrundpolitik/1004659/ (German only) is at the same time a vindication of renewables and a damning condemnation energy policy and privatisation in the UK. The UK is failing a dramatic shortage in generating capacity as successive governments have failed to provide companies with the necessary investment climate. Fortunately European market principles make it attractive for companies like RWE and E.ON (neither of them angels) to invest in UK capacity with the prospect of selling power and carbon credits. A highly efficient pan-Europen DC distribution network is no longer a mere pipe dream.
Until recently I did not understand your to attack renewables in general and wind in particular but another recent article highlighted the fact that nuclear fission and renewables are not reconcilable. http://www.dradio.de/dlf/sendungen/hintergrundpolitik/1063059/ (German only)
Nuclear energy promises enormous profits for the generators but still has no solution for the waste.
The large fusion projects including the less well-known HiPER (http://www.hiper-laser.org/) is continuing apace and may, one day, provide us with all the energy we need with little downside. It might be nice to read more about this along with your interesting articles on the LHC and other boffinry or your criticism of defence policy. But your windbashing makes you a bit of a windbag.
... the El Reg Straw Man appears to have been blown down.
Utter drivel from someone who clearly has no clue whatsoever. Since when has it ever been mooted that Wind Power would be the be-all and end-all of power generation? Um, never is when. So here we have an awful lot of tosh about a premise that has never even been made.
Wrt to the comment above about the abnormally high winds in Spain at the time... Shurely shome mishtake - I thought one of the anti-turbine arguments that is always, always, always trotted out in response to these articles is that they don't even operate when the wind is too high. Hmmm.
Yes, it was windy.
I was quite amused on Sunday afternoon to see a metal chair from a cafe skittering along the pavement "under sail", as it were.
Odd that Spain should manage this feat.
They have plenty of sunshine but are only starting to roll out solar systems.
Energy security should be every governments business. The ability to transfer electricity across a whole region and having a diversity of generation methods will likely be critical it you plan to deal with climate change issues as well as keeping the lights burning.
BTW Governments *always* interfere in energy markets in one or another. The desire of Mrs Thatcher and her chums to stuff British miners distorted the market so much that only gas fired turbine generator plants were economicaly viable, leaving the UK at the mercy of the Russian gas merchants. However were they to switch to animal derived methane (according to previous El Reg articles) 1/2 of the gas supply could be generated in the UK. Being animal derived it would also be renewable.
I suspect the UK electricity market is very badly set up to allow very large numbers of small generators IE down to the single household. It's a system designed to distributed big power from a few big suppliers to everyone else. Commercial suppliers will always want this. Their business is capital intensive. While no single supplier could meet the needs of a whole country in a more diversified system loosing them as a generator would not cause the power cuts the present system would.
And let's not forget insulation. Bob Symes Shultzman (about 1986 IIRC) said the UK had the worst building insulation regulations in Northern Europe. If that is still accurate then this is a massive wasted opportunity to improve the UK housing stock, given the construction work that has happened over the last 20+ years.
UK Realtime electricity demand (including archive)
For the record, the National Grid demand chart for the last 7 days is at
Right now, last 7 days minimum is around 27GW and maximum is around 52GW so my earlier estimate was roughly right.
Real time charts are also available for last 24 hours and last 60 minutes.
Archived data in spreadsheet format goes back as far as 2006.
Thnaks for this data. It gives an idea of the size of the problem. If you cannot put numbers on it its a bit redundant.
Water is a lot cheaper. Why move anything else? The only advantage of solids is density, but then not much. Rocks are only less than 3 times denser, steel 8 times, lead 11 times, gold, iridium, mercury, uranium around 20 times. The cost to manufacture these weights and build the systems to move them in large quantities (millions of tonnes, i.e. small mountains) would be ridiculous.
Moving water, even if several times larger volumes of water, is far easier and more cost efficient.
@Nigel11 - agreed. Wind power is one of the biggest red herrings ever. We have a large coastline and some of the fastest tides in the world. Why not use tidal power? Absolutely predictable, no blights on the landscape for birdies to fly in to and a much higher power density than air!
@AC - nuclear power stations are designed for load factors that wind turbines can only dream of; 90+%. It's called reliable base load generation. Unlike a wind turbine, which only has a load factor of, AT BEST, 35% nuclear power has a smaller physical footprint, higher energy density and a more reliable delivery.
@AC (10/11 - 13:17) - Nice illustration of the split personality of the greens there: Spain somehow generates 50% of it's power from wind turbines, yet nuclear power in the UK only generates 4%? Try looking up your facts: nuclear power in the UK generates about 20% of our TOTAL electricity demand. Wind power in Spain generated 50% of their NIGHT-TIME demand. Not total, peak time demand, night time demand, when the power draw on the grid is at it's lowest. Typical greenie, always selecting the figures that you want without giving ALL of the facts.
We need a mix of reliable base load generation (yes, including nuclear) along with clean renewables. But the mix is wrong. Water (i.e. tidal power), not wind is the way to go.
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