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

Britain’s biggest wind farm companies are to be paid not to produce electricity when the wind is blowing.

From The UK Telegraph.

By Robert Mendick

Published: 9:00PM BST 19 Jun 2010

Britain's biggest wind farm companies are to be paid not to produce electricity when the wind is blowing.

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 Photo: ALAMY

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.

The National Grid fears that on breezy summer nights, wind farms could actually cause a surge in the electricity supply which is not met by demand from businesses and households.

The electricity cannot be stored, so one solution – known as the ‘balancing mechanism’ – is to switch off or reduce the power supplied.

The system is already used to reduce supply from coal and gas-fired power stations when there is low demand. But shutting down wind farms is likely to cost the National grid – and ultimately consumers – far more. When wind turbines are turned off, owners are being deprived not only of money for the electricity they would have generated but also lucrative ‘green’ subsidies for that electricity.

The first successful test shut down of wind farms took place three weeks ago. Scottish Power received £13,000 for closing down two farms for a little over an hour on 30 May at about five in the morning.

Whereas coal and gas power stations often pay the National Grid £15 to £20 per megawatt hour they do not supply, Scottish Power was paid £180 per megawatt hour during the test to switch off its turbines.

It raises the prospect of hugely profitable electricity suppliers receiving large sums of money from the National Grid just for switching off wind turbines.

Dr Lee Moroney, planning director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, a think tank opposed to the widespread introduction of wind farms, said: “As more and more wind farms come on stream this will become more and more of an issue. Wind power is not controllable and does not provide a solid supply to keep the national grid manageable. Paying multinational companies large sums of money not to supply electricity seems wrong.”

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DaveF

Even better would be if there were a temporary oversupply of electricity from a gas-powered generating station, they could feed it to the windmills to make them go round and round and produce lots of lovely wind! I don’t know why we didn’t think of this decades ago.

singularian

@DaveF Lololololol

Pingo

You couldn’t make it up.

dr.bill

Dr Lee Moroney: “Paying multinational companies large sums of money not to supply electricity seems wrong.”

“seems wrong ????????”  I am rendered speechless (and as my friends and colleagues will gladly tell you, that doesn’t happen a whole lot).
/dr.bill

Phillip Bratby

Sheer lunacy. And we electricity consumers are being fleeced to pay for this scam. It’s even more lunacy because wind turbines actually cause an increase in CO2 emissions. See http://www.masterresource.org/2010/06/subsidizing-co2-emissions/

Methow Ken

This would be funny, if it wasn’t so seriously absurd:
Wind farms had to be highly subsidized in order for them to be built and run, and now the U.K. government is going to subsidize them to NOT do what they were subsidized to do in the first place. Only in the government (and not just the U.K.: ours too).
Given the people currently in control of the our National government in D.C., I shudder to think that it probably won’t be long before this type of bureaucratic lunacy makes it over to our side of the big pond.
SIDEBAR: Governments in Western countries seem chronically stuck on continuing to shovel out large subsidies to multi-national corporations to build UNcompetitive wind and solar installations that CANNOT be used as base load; when what they SHOULD be doing is fully supporting Gen-III+ and (a little further down the road) Gen-IV nuclear plants.

Peter H

Lets just read what the article says…
The National Grid fears that on breezy summer nights, wind farms could actually cause a surge in the electricity supply which is not met by demand from businesses and households.” – so it’s not happened yet.
Further: “Whereas coal and gas power stations often pay the National Grid £15 to £20 per megawatt hour they do not supply, Scottish Power was paid £180 per megawatt hour during the test to switch off its turbines.” but, windfarms only generate a tiny proportion of UK electricity so the cost is going to be….tiny, and remember, it’s not even happened…
So, the article is reduced to this pure scaremongering “It raises the prospect of hugely profitable electricity suppliers receiving large sums of money from the National Grid just for switching off wind turbines.” raises the prospect! We’re all gonna be taxed to death by ‘raising the prospect of’ something happening? I think not.
So, this is the usual WUWT scaremongering about either tax or big Govt – this time it’s tax.
Don’t buy it people, I don’t, I’m not going to be sacred by such propaganda.

Rhoda R

Sad. Absolutely sad.

dave ward

And if that’s not crazy enough many councils are replacing street lights with more efficient ones, and also intending to turn many of the lights in quiet residential areas off completely after midnight. Thereby reducing the base load even more.
That will make it difficult to export “green” energy from the solar panels in my front garden after dark….

Al Cooper

DaveF says:
June 20, 2010 at 12:38 pm
Think of the boon that would be on hot, windless, summer days!
We could use windfarms that way to keep sailboats going on the lake!

Tony

Even with this latest development, Real virtual wind farms have a relatively poor return on capital compared to my Virtual virtual windfarm. They pay me whenever they are not in a position to take my output. Which is OK by me, because my wind farm is offline 24/7.
I also have a profit-booster, which consists of a pair of jump-leads. When I want some extra cash for Christmas or say a trip to Vegas, I connect the mains from my utility meter to my windfarm power meter which is the only thing on my windfarm that is not virtual. See those meters whizz round! At the end of the month there is a whopping electricity bill for sure … but an even more whopping cheque!

Bruce Cobb

This pretty much lays bare the notion that wind power was ever supposed to reduce fossil fuel use and thus “carbon” output. The people have been scammed, and scammed good.

Peter W UK

Peter H Writes
“So, this is the usual WUWT scaremongering about either tax or big Govt – this time it’s tax. ”
Could I point out Mr H that WUWT is just repeating a story which already appeared in the Uk’s daily telegraph.
Its more like the usual UK MSM scaremongering about tax or big Government.

Ralph

Which is why Denmark, Europe’s largest wind generator, has NEVER USED any of its wind power – it sells it to Scandinavia instead.
http://incoteco.com/upload/CIEN.158.2.66.pdf
.

jim hogg

Peter F – Glad someone else read this. So far there’s only been a test, so at the moment it’s classic Telegraph scaremongering. However, a precedent has been set: money has changed hands for a trial switch off. I’ll wait and see, and hopefully the facts will surface as the summer passes. As to whether I think we should have wind turbines on such a scale in the first place, that’s another story entirely. Wind power is like wave power: unlikely to deliver when we most need it – in the middle of winter during an extended frost. It is also ridiculously expensive. But it makes a fortune for certain companies and individuals. The much more obvious option,of reliable and potentially profitable tidal current generated power doesn’t seem nearly so attractive to companies whose only concern is easy money, regardless of the rights and wrongs of it. HEP at sea is the option that’s sitting up and begging to be exploited – especially in the fast moving water round Scotland’s coasts but even that is likely to be reduced to subsidy milking and consumer abuse.

DirkH

Results like this are the logical consequence of political prize-fixing. Similar things happen in Germany – the electricity prize on the Electricity Exchange in Leipzig went negative several times already. It doesn’t happen theoretically as Peter H said, it does happen in reality and will continue to do so as long as the market is rigged.

Troels Halken

This site is usually worth the read. But as an engineer I find you reporting on energy simplified if not plain stupid. The article above is clearly copy/pasted from a newspaper, who’s readers is not among the brightest and who know almost nothing of electricity production, consumption, grids and gridcontrol. Oh, and there is nothing new in the article. We have done so for some time here ind Denmark, simply because wind turbine are the cheapest to turn of. And even with 20-30% wind power in our grid, it does not happen often. The real problem is that when the government made the laws on wind power subsidies, they did not take into account that a few days a year there is to much power in the grid, and hence they should have made the law taking this into account, as the penetration of wind power in the grid grows. Then this situation would have been avoided in the first place. But as it rarely occurs, it is hardly a big problem.
It’s the same when Jeff Id rant with his right wing-rhetoric: Taxes and big government.
Here in Denmark we have a saying that in rough translation goes like this: “Carpenter, stick to you trade”. That is also my advice for this blog.

Veronica

Then why don’t they temporarily turn off the coal fired ones? Or does it take 24 hours to stop them in their tracks?

Ralph

>>dave ward says: June 20, 2010 at 12:59 pm
>>That will make it difficult to export “green” energy from the solar
>>panels in my front garden after dark….
That’s a real problem. The Greens were depending on night generation from solar panels to make them twice as efficient as they are now.
.

Layne Blanchard

Peter H says:
June 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm
Peter, we’re not scared. We’re outraged. And it isn’t propaganda. It’s fact. Spain has answered that question. So has California. The Foo Foo pie in the sky green dream has failed.

Veronica

Ralph. Denmark is IN Scandinavia, I think you’ll find.

Ed Caryl

Only the Liberal Greenies can invert sanity and logic in this way.

Friar

I agree with you Peter H with respect to the article being couched in terms which amount to scaremongering.
However, the problem of intermittent supply which is inherent with power generation using wind is real. Further, the fact that the National Grid is contemplating the scenario which is set out in the article does indeed invite a sense of the ridiculous.
It seems that wind power will not in the long run replace anything but an insignificant amount of CO2. It is no answer to the wider problem (if there be a problem).

Peter H says:
June 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm
Lets just read what the article says…
“The National Grid fears that on breezy summer nights, wind farms could actually cause a surge in the electricity supply which is not met by demand from businesses and households.” – so it’s not happened yet.
Further: “Whereas coal and gas power stations often pay the National Grid £15 to £20 per megawatt hour they do not supply, Scottish Power was paid £180 per megawatt hour during the test to switch off its turbines.” but, windfarms only generate a tiny proportion of UK electricity so the cost is going to be….tiny, and remember, it’s not even happened…
–end quote
Thanks, Peter, for the advice that we should read what the article says. which you obviously did. However, reading the article is not all. We also need to understand what the article states, which you — also obviously — did not. Therefore the irony of you stating that nothing has happened yet while tens of thousands of pounds were already paid out, even though it was just a trial, so far.
By the way, it will not just be electricity consumers who will be forced to pay for the impracticality of wind-power generation, and that alone is a substantial amount of money. No, every good and service that requires electricity to be produced or provided will have the price of wind-powered energy production added on to the end-consumer price, plus whatever taxes can be raised through all intermediate stages of production.
Electricity, whether we are direct users or not is as essential to modern life as is eating food, drinking water and breathing air. We are all being taxed, many times over, for any and all inefficiencies deliberately being built into energy production and distribution.
The governments of developed nations don’t mind. The more inefficiencies there are, the bigger their tax revenues will become. That is one of the main reasons why governments of the developed nations actively promote any and all hare-brained schemes for increasing tax revenues through making the electricity industry inefficient.
The Government of Alberta, Canada, actually contemplated (and perhaps still does) to replace the provincial income tax through the taxes that can be raised through energy production and distribution. It was assumed (and perhaps still is) that “The People” would gladly accept that method of energy-based taxation because of the promise of unlimited funding for “free” health care.
It would be wrong to call that government business-principle a conspiracy. Those in power have no need to conspire. They just do.

Troels Halken says:
“It’s the same when Jeff Id rant with his right wing-rhetoric: Taxes and big government.”
You say that like there’s something wrong with being against more taxes and big government.

Ralph

>>Troels Halken says: June 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm
>>There is nothing new in the article. We have done so for some time here
>>in Denmark, simply because wind turbine are the cheapest to turn of.
Since you never use any of your wind power anyway, you might as well turn your windelecs off completely.
http://incoteco.com/upload/CIEN.158.2.66.pdf
.

DirkH

“Troels Halken says:
June 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm
This site is usually worth the read. But as an engineer I find you reporting on energy simplified if not plain stupid. The article above is clearly copy/pasted from a newspaper, who’s readers is not among the brightest and who know almost nothing of electricity production, consumption, grids and gridcontrol. ”
Troels, is that Danish humour? You confirm everything the Telegraph says and at the same time insult their readership, plus WUWT for re-publishing it? Now if i take what you say about the situation in Denmark then i would say the Telegraph has written a rather good article – it describes the situation correctly. That’s better than most journalism i would say.

Tom in Florida

jim hogg says:{June 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm}
“Peter F – Glad someone else read this. So far there’s only been a test,”
Perhaps the test is not about shutting down windmills but rather a test to see how the public will react to payments for not using them. If there is little negative reaction, they know they can get away with it. As you can tell, I don’t trust anyone involved on either side as long as they are spending OPM.

rbateman

So, this is the Brave new Green World:
Praise the savings and pass the checkbook.

Del

Peter H calls this scaremongering? More like ironymongering. Dreams of windmills replacing big oil are silly.

Ralph

>> Veronica says: June 20, 2010 at 1:49 pm
>> Ralph. Denmark is IN Scandinavia, I think you’ll find.
Scandinavia Storre.
.

Troels Halken

Smokey, or whatever your name is:
Being for or against big government and taxes is a matter of opinion. It is not a fact we can measure or in other way determine the truth of. If I was interested in opinions I would visit blogs discussing peoples opinions.

The Ghost Of Big Jim Cooley

Oh but our governments have done worse than that here in the UK! We sold off the national rail companies to private concerns – then send them a cheque once a year as well! We’re actually paying MORE now for our entire rail network than we did when it was a nationally-owned company – but it’s mostly privately-owned! I’ve run out of exclamation marks now.

There are sound reasons why wind farms will need to be swithced off in the future, as more and more are built. The energy produced cannot, with current technology, be stored. I believe that the energy from wind turbines is so variable – it varies as the cube of the wind velocuty _ that it cannot be used to directly drive things like electric motors. The only way, currently, that it can be used is to feed the power into an existing, STABLE, electric grid. The problem is, that the varying power of WFs, if it gets to be too large, destabilizes the grid. There is a limit as to how much wind energy a stable electric grid can take; I believe the figure is about 15 to 20%.
This means that if WFs are able to generate so much electricity that they just dont destabilize the electric grid when power demand is high, they will almost certainly destabilize the same grid when power demand drops. So if during the day, the wind energy just does not destabilize the grid, what happens at night? Clearly, if the wind turbines generate the same amount of power, they will have to be “turned off”, otherwise the grid will become unstable.
This does not matter for conventional ways of generating energy. Down time conserves “fuel”, and can be used for routine maintenance. It is part of normal practice and is already costed in to how electric grids are run.
Wind farms add a problem, which means there are going to be more and more occasions when generators will be paid to turn the wind turbines off in the future.

DirkH

“Troels Halken says: ”
Hey, i remember you from an older Wind Energy thread – i think you said you work for some Danish Wind Power company, right?

Troels:
“Being for or against big government and taxes is a matter of opinion. It is not a fact we can measure or in other way determine the truth of.”
Of course it can be measured. Polling organizations do it all the time, with error bars in the ±3% range.
In the U.S., Conservatives outnumber Liberals by about a 2 – 1 margin. That’s why people here are so upset with the hijacking of our formerly excellent economy and the massive new taxes that are coming.

Oh Boy, it looks like a true nerve has been touched with this article, for the sacred cow of wind power has been shown to be pure bunk.
When I’ve driven through the passes in California where the windfarms are there, I’ve been frequently wondering why so many of them simply are not running. This explains it, perhaps we should see if the California utilities are in a similar situation…

Atomic Hairdryer

Troels Halken says:
June 20, 2010 at 1:45 pm
Here in Denmark we have a saying that in rough translation goes like this: “Carpenter, stick to you trade”. That is also my advice for this blog.

Isn’t yours as a business developer for the wind industry though? In the UK we have a saying “Never trust a salesman”. You are right about our crazy climate laws in the UK though penalising business and consumers, but the wind industry lobbied hard for those subsidies.

tty

“Ralph. Denmark is IN Scandinavia, I think you’ll find.”
No it isn’t. Scandinavia is the peninsula where Sweden and Norway are situated.

JPeden

Peter H says:
June 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm
So, the article is reduced to this pure scaremongering “It raises the prospect of hugely profitable electricity suppliers receiving large sums of money from the National Grid just for switching off wind turbines.” raises the prospect! We’re all gonna be taxed to death by ‘raising the prospect of’ something happening? I think not.
Then why did “The National Grid” do the test? Moreover, don’t you think the “prospect”, which you agree is in fact frightening, could be better eliminated simply by making it legally impossible to pay Windmill Farms for not producing energy? Why is the “prospect” even at all possible in the first place?

crosspatch

“but, windfarms only generate a tiny proportion of UK electricity so the cost is going to be….tiny, and remember, it’s not even happened…”
So, then, Dave H, following your line of logic you seem to be saying that wind power will always be “tiny” so it will never be a problem to worry much about. So if that is the case, what is the point in building them in the first place?
We waste money to build them, we waste money to operate them, for a “tiny” amount of power. So basically, we have substituted money for coal and now have a power generator that burns cash instead of fossil fuel.
Marvelous. Just marvelous.

Stephen Brown

Windmills don’t work. End of.
Our Energy minister here in the UK, Chris Huhne, wants to build another 2,600 of these monstrosities to provide the power that a couple of nuke-powered stations could do and much more efficiently. Who is is going to pay for the 2,600 windmills? The UK taxpayer, that’s who. I cannot opt out of paying for something I know does not do what it claims to do. A portion of my earnings is going to be taken from me whether I like it or not to pay for something which has been proven to be useless.
What to do?

Troels Halken

Smokey:
“Of course it can be measured. Polling organizations do it all the time, with error bars in the ±3% range.”
You didn’t get it: You can’t measure or otherwise determine if big government is ultimately good or bad.
But I can tell you this: The Danish citizens are some of, if not the happiest in the world year after year. That you can measure and you can find it on the website of the Economist. And we have what you term big government and high taxes compared to the US. As I said: You cannot objective determine if big government and high taxes are ultimately good or bad.

Troels Halken

Atomic:
“Isn’t yours as a business developer for the wind industry though? In the UK we have a saying “Never trust a salesman”.”
Then it is good that I’m a business developer and not a salesman, don’t you think?

TerryS

Re: Veronica

Then why don’t they temporarily turn off the coal fired ones? Or does it take 24 hours to stop them in their tracks?

They can and do turn off coal/gas power stations. They know roughly how much electricity they will need at any time of the day and arrange the production accordingly. So they will therefore tell some power stations to reduce their output to a certain level at a certain time. If there is an unexpected spike in demand they have the likes of Dinorwig power station which takes 75 seconds to get to full power from a standing start. While they are using this power the traditional gas/coal stations can bring more power on line. They will also have a certain amount of power on standby just in case of emergency (eg. a power station failing, unexpected increase in demand). By standby I mean ready to generate electricity with minimum startup time.
The problem with the wind is that they do not know with any degree of certainty when it is going to blow. They therefore can not go to the wind farms and say they want X amount at this time and Y amount at that time. It also means that no matter how much electricity is generated by wind power, they have to have enough of the coal/gas stations on standby to cover all electricity generated by the wind turbines just in case the wind decides to either stop blowing or blow to hard.

Alex Buddery

“The trial demonstrates that wind can help balance supply and demand just like other generation types: this is potentially useful to us on warm but windy summer days when generation outstrips the low demand – and a higher proportion of generation is made up of wind and inflexible nuclear.”
Does this guy even know what is coming out of his mouth? What about on still summer days? On a breezy summer day you can open a window, that’s smart wind energy. He’s basically saying that wind energy is only good as a suplement. An unreliable supplement at that. Also why is there a higher demand for energy on hot summer days in the UK?

BillD

One might expect that the British will get better at using the available mix of electrical sources with more experience.

JPeden

Troels Halken says:
June 20, 2010 at 2:03 pm
Being for or against big government and taxes is a matter of opinion. It is not a fact we can measure or in other way determine the truth of.
Wrong: it’s well established fact that Communism doesn’t work, and Socialism’s outcomes are not far behind…and counting. I take it you’ve just awakened from about, say, a 200yr. nap?

Peter H June 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm :
Lets just read what the article says…
“The National Grid fears that on breezy summer nights, wind farms could actually cause a surge in the electricity supply which is not met by demand from businesses and households.”
Peter: – so it’s not happened yet.

Peter – have you ever actually watched as the change in demand on ‘the grid’ and seen how there is a constant battle to maintain 60 Hz (or 50 for most European countries)? First there is a ‘phase lead’ situation followed by a ‘phase lag’ and generating stations interconneceted on the grid are constantly as it is adjusting speed (or phase) and the amount of 60 (or 50) Hz energy being fed into ‘the grid’.
This isn’t like paralleling automobile batteries with a pair of jumper cables.
Adding ‘wind’ exacerbates the situation to the point well, where “power system security” (as the industry phrase puts it) cannot be maintained (it becomes unstable and can collapse) … think changing torsional forces acting on every rotary machine (generator) in the system … and wildly so in an unstable system …
.
.

Here in the Pacific Nothwest, Washington and Oregon is supplied by the Bonneville Power Authority, which increased their windmill generation capacity last year from 1695 MW to 2692 MW (a 58 % increase). Yet the amount of power produced by the windmills decreased by 29 %.
See: http://www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/WindEnergy.htm