Renewable energy is a blackout risk, warns National Grid after chaos during biggest outage in a decade

From This is MONEY

  • Company has downplayed the role of wind energy in the power cut
  • In April a study warned renewable power sources could risk network’s ‘stability’
  • Half UK’s power generated from wind at one point on the day the power failed

By Helen Cahill For The Mail On Sunday

Published: 18:01 EDT, 17 August 2019 | Updated: 07:10 EDT, 18 August 2019

Boss of the National Grid John Pettigrew said the outage was a ‘once-in-30-years’ event
Boss of the National Grid John Pettigrew said the outage was a ‘once-in-30-years’ event.

National Grid had evidence that the shift to renewable energy was putting Britain’s electricity supply at risk months before the biggest blackout in a decade, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

The company, which is responsible for keeping the lights on, has downplayed the role of wind energy in the power cut that caused widespread chaos earlier this month.

John Pettigrew, chief executive of the FTSE 100 firm, described the outage as a ‘once-in-30-years’ event and said there was ‘nothing to indicate there is anything to do with the fact that we are moving to more wind or more solar’.

Yet in April, National Grid published research warning that using more renewable power sources posed a threat to the network’s ‘stability’.

In a report based on a £6.8 million research project, National Grid admitted that renewables increased the ‘unpredictability and volatility’ of the power supply which ‘could lead to faults on the electricity network’.

The revelations come as energy regulator Ofgem and the Government continue to investigate the causes of the blackout.

A report due out this week is expected to show the outage was caused by a series of failures, including a lightning strike which led to the almost simultaneous shutdown of two power stations.

A gas-fired power station at Little Barford, Bedfordshire, and the Hornsea offshore wind farm in the North Sea both went offline just before 5pm on August 9.

That caused the electricity network’s frequency – the rate at which power is transmitted to users – to drop below 50 Hz. Equipment can be damaged if it is higher or lower than this level.

To maintain frequency, local distribution networks were forced to cut supply in some areas.

Full story here.

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Tom Halla
August 19, 2019 6:06 am

Once in thirty year event? So South Australia was thirty years ago?

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 19, 2019 8:36 am

Different country, same problem … queue call to install lots of battery systems.

Reply to  LdB
August 19, 2019 9:22 am

Battery systems , even large ones, able to supply power for a short period oftime.

Reply to  ColMosby
August 20, 2019 2:23 am

I admit to cheerfully waiting for a lightning strik ON a HUGE battery storage
reckon it would be awesomely powerful and also very useful to wake a few of the lunatics up
roll on stormy weather for Sth Aus;-)

Reply to  LdB
August 19, 2019 4:23 pm

That’s “cue calls …” as any actor knows.

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 19, 2019 9:14 am

That claim is specious, because there is no significant experience in the UK with 50% wind power, the grid WAS reliable before wind power got to such high levels, and solar may have played a part, as its late afternoon output must be quite unpredictable.

Nicholas McGinley
Reply to  climanrecon
August 19, 2019 11:40 pm

There are many false statements in this article, like this one:
“That caused the electricity network’s frequency – the rate at which power is transmitted to users – to drop below 50 Hz. ”

AC frequency is not related to the rate of power output or transmission.

Martin A
Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
August 20, 2019 12:25 am

“That caused the electricity network’s frequency – the rate at which power is transmitted to users – to drop below 50 Hz. ”


“I havn’t a clue what I am talking about here”

Reply to  Nicholas McGinley
August 20, 2019 7:08 am

When the load increases, the generators start to lag.

What you claim to be false, turns out to be 100% correct.

Dave G
Reply to  MarkW
August 25, 2019 3:38 am

I’m so glad you understand what is meant here – perhaps you could elucidate more by helping me understand what “… the generators start to lag” actually means.

Which bit of the generators lags? Why? How? Are you a power engineer?



Steve Keppel-Jones
Reply to  MarkW
August 29, 2019 5:58 am

It’s not too difficult of a concept, even for non-power-engineers. When you apply load to a motor (or generator) of any type, it slows down due to the resistance. If the power that is turning the motor can be increased (e.g. by giving it more gas, or increasing the water flow in a hydro turbine) then the rate of revolution can be maintained at a desired level. If not, then the rate of revolution decreases (and hence, directly, the frequency of the alternating current output).

Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 19, 2019 9:34 am

The 2014 Highland power outage:

I make that a once in 5 year event!

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Mike Haseler (Scottish Sceptic)
August 19, 2019 2:26 pm

Not sure if it’s a DNS problem, but the chart at your link doesn’t show even when I click the link for it.

There was a lot of speculation and cover-up surrounding that even which blacked out most of Northern Scotland. The most plausible answer was a cascade of relay trips across a number of wind farms because of inadequate connection to reliable alternative supply, and an initial trip apparently caused by a very sudden lull in the wind near Inverness.

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 19, 2019 10:31 am

Told you so, about a decade ago.

This issue is not that complicated, despite the nonsensical denials of the National Grid leadership.


Regards, Allan

Wind power is typically subsidized by consumers, who are forced to pay 9 cents per Kwh versus 6 cents for conventional power. This looks like a factor of 150% , but in fact the subsidy is really much greater. Why? Because wind power is paid the 9 cents for 24 hours per day, including those times when the power is not in demand and is in fact worth nothing.

Wind power is grossly energy-inefficient and anti-environmental – that is why it needs life-of-project subsidies, that are paid by the consumer.

Wind power requires, in effect, ~100% backup from conventional power sources, so you cannot effectively increase grid capacity with wind power – you have to accompany it with equal amounts of conventional backup for times when the wind does not blow.

Wind power varies as the cube of the wind speed, so wind power output increases and decreases so rapidly that it dangerously destabilizes the power grid.

In summary:
Wind Power – it doesn’t just blow, it sucks!

Technical notes:

Here is a quotation from Wind Report 2005 by E.On Netz for the German wind power grid. As you can readily surmise, wind power is a huge problem for grid operators.

“Within just two days, the entire generating capacity of German wind power disappeared, necessitating the startup of the equivalent of TWELVE 500 megawatt coal-fired power plants.”

During the steepest drop on December 24, 2004, they lost the equivalent of one 500MW power plant every 30 minutes!

The truth is that wind power requires ~100% backup from conventional power sources, a duplication of resources that makes wind power entirely uneconomic.

The feed-in capacity can change frequently within a few hours. This is shown in FIGURE 6, which reproduces the course of wind power feedin during the Christmas week from 20 to 26 December 2004.

“Whilst wind power feed-in at 9.15am on Christmas Eve reached its maximum for the year at 6,024MW, it fell to below 2,000MW within only 10 hours, a difference of over 4,000MW. This corresponds to the capacity of 8 x 500MW coal fired power station blocks. On Boxing Day, wind power feed-in in the E.ON grid fell to below 40MW.

Handling such significant differences in feed-in levels poses a major challenge to grid operators.”


Richard S Courtney
August 19, 2019 11:32 am

Allan MacRae,

You say, “Told you so, about a decade ago.”

Yes, you did, and so did several others including me, see

The link references and explains that the UK’s National Grid Authority said it, too.


Reply to  Richard S Courtney
August 19, 2019 11:51 pm

Hi Richard,

Nice to hear from you.

Best personal regards, Allan

Richard S Courtney
August 20, 2019 2:26 am

Dear Allan,

Thankyou. I return the good wishes.

I need to reduce my pain relief to return to involvement in these matters and, therefore, it takes something as serious as the ‘Nature Blacklist’ to get me to do it. My abilities are slowly fading and, therefore, I take pleasure in knowing there are worthy people including yourself who continue to champion the cause of real science.

All the best


William Astley
August 19, 2019 12:55 pm


You might be a little harsh, however. Wind power is good for those lucky few. If you live on a windy island, next to a neighbour with piles of hydro electric for storage, wind power is a great option.

In conclusion, Wind power only make sense for the best locations where there are steady long-term winds and only if the grid can handle the increase in random varying power ‘sources’.

…. The random varying power source schemes absolutely fails when there is more varying power than load for greater and greater periods of time every month.

At that point where variable power is shut in due to lack of load, there is no value in adding more random varying power as it cannot be used without power storage.

The death of the random variable power schemes occurs when power storage is required as the there is no longer a CO2 emissions benefit, due to the high energy input to build power storage and power losses associated with any power storage.

In reality, well before any such stage was reached, energy would become horrifyingly expensive – which means that everything would become horrifyingly expensive … ….everyone would become miserably poor and economic growth …

Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear. All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

Reply to  William Astley
August 19, 2019 3:41 pm

I….everyone would become miserably poor and economic growth …

This is not true. Those in government pay themselves and their administrators whatever they need. They continue to set the rules such that those who increase their hold on power and wealth are rewarded and those who oppose are penalised.

We already have the situation in western democracies where the rich are becoming filthy rich and the rest are becoming poorer.

The Church of Climate Change has bestowed wealth and authority on its high priests while its reach geographically and across the global population is far greater than the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages. It could be the greatest religion in the history of mankind.

Russ Wood
Reply to  William Astley
August 24, 2019 5:08 am

“The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.” -And we can’t even bury our Prime Ministers in the completed wind-farms! 🙂

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 19, 2019 11:24 am

Good people of the United Kingdom, just listen to your Uncle Allan, who has never steered you wrong, and has your best interests at heart.

More than 50,000 Excess Winter Deaths occurred in England and Wales in the winter of 2017-2018 – an Excess Winter Death rate more than 2.5 times the per-capita average rate of the USA, and 2.5 to 5 times the per capita winter death rate in Canada.

That is about 35,000 more people who died in just that winter, who would be alive today if the UK had sensible energy and climate policies, instead of hysterical “global warming” alarmist nonsense. Grandpa Bob and Great-Aunt Nan could be enjoying a pint down-the-pub, instead of pushing up daisies. It is a national scandal, a national disgrace.

This catastrophic situation is due in part to destructive, utterly imbecilic energy policies of the UK, which have caused energy costs in the UK to be many times that of Canada and the USA. The UK should “Get fracking”, and allow no more fracking delays by homicidal climate fanatics!

I predicted this debacle in 2013 and earlier, for example in an open letter to The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change, Baroness Verma, here:
I suggest that Excess Winter Mortality, the British rate of which is about double the rate in the Scandinavian countries, should provide an estimate of this unfolding tragedy.
As always in these matters, I hope to be wrong. These are not numbers, they are real people, who “loved and were loved”.
Best regards to all, Allan MacRae
“Turning and tuning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer…” Yeats
[end of excerpt]

Dammit I’m tired of being correct and having these climate ‘scoundrels and imbeciles’ carry on with their murderous policies, killing literally millions every year. I’ve concluded that nobody could be this stupid for this long, and therefore their actions must be deliberately destructive.

Regards, Allan

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 19, 2019 11:43 am

UK politicians have been warned again and again about their destructive and dangerous energy policies, based on false global warming alarmism.

Cheap, abundant reliable energy is the lifeblood of society – it IS that simple. However, green fanatics have destroyed this vital principle with their egregious “green energy” falsehoods.

We wrote with confidence in 2002 during our debate with the Pembina Institute, when we opposed the Kyoto Accord.:

“The ultimate agenda of pro-Kyoto advocates is to eliminate fossil fuels, but this would result in a catastrophic shortfall in global energy supply – the wasteful, inefficient energy solutions proposed by Kyoto advocates simply cannot replace fossil fuels.”

We also wrote in the same debate:
“Climate science does not support the theory of catastrophic human-made global warming – the alleged warming crisis does not exist.”

All of our 2002 statements have now proved correct except one. Our sole remaining prediction from 2002 is for global cooling to commence by 2020-2030. We now think global cooling will be apparent by 2020 or sooner, possibly as early as 2017 after the current El Nino runs its course.

I wrote the UK Stern Commission in 2005 that the UK’s approach to alleged manmade global warming and green energy was ill-founded and would greatly increase energy costs, with no benefit to the environment. I suggest we are now proven correct.

[end of excerpt]

August 19, 2019 3:10 pm

Cheap, abundant reliable energy is what the greens hate .
Partly because they see an energy crisis has given them opportunities, for example who can you justify owning a car if there is not enough power to heat homes.
And partly because of the idea of ‘original sin ‘ that is there was an ‘ideal past ‘ when man was in harmony with nature before ‘evil industry ‘ came along thanks to cheap, abundant reliable energy .
The inability for renewable to work as a reliable power supply source is both known and consider to be a ‘good thing’ by the greens.

Reply to  knr
August 19, 2019 11:48 pm

To knr:

For radical greens, it was never about the environment – the environment was a smokescreen for their extreme-left totalitarian political objectives.

To better understand radical green objectives, see, excerpted below:

• “The common enemy of humanity is man. In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. All these dangers are caused by human intervention, and it is only through changed attitudes and behavior that they can be overcome. The real enemy then, is humanity itself.”
– Club of Rome, premier environmental think-tank, consultants to the United Nations

• “We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination… So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts… Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”
– Prof. Stephen Schneider, Stanford Professor of Climatology, lead author of many IPCC reports

• “Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?”
– Maurice Strong, founder of the UN Environment Programme

• “The extinction of the human species may not only be inevitable but a good thing.”
– Christopher Manes, Earth First!

• “A massive campaign must be launched to de-develop the United States. De-development means bringing our economic system into line with the realities of ecology and the world resource situation.”
– Paul Ehrlich, Professor of Population Studies

• “One American burdens the earth much more than twenty Bangladeshes. This is a terrible thing to say. In order to stabilize world population, we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. It is a horrible thing to say, but it’s just as bad not to say it.”
– Jacques Cousteau, UNESCO Courier

• “No matter if the science of global warming is all phony… climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.”
– Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment

• “I suspect that eradicating small pox was wrong. It played an important part in balancing ecosystems.”
– John Davis, editor of Earth First! Journal

• “We’ve got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.”
– Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation

• “The extinction of Homo Sapiens would mean survival or millions, if not billions, of Earth-dwelling species. Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on Earth – social and environmental.”
– Ingrid Newkirk, former President of PETA

• “The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.”
– David Brower, first Executive Director of the Sierra Club, founder of Friends of the Earth

April 14, 2019
By Allan M.R. MacRae, B.A.Sc., M.Eng.

August 20, 2019 1:42 am

Allen, I came across this which may interest you. The oil companies own oil and natural gas. They do not want coal, their major competitor. They are fully on-board with “Green”.

Remembering When Enron Saved the U.S. Wind Industry (January 1997)

The U.N.’s Global Warming War On Capitalism: An Important History Lesson

In late 1997 Enron Lobbyist John Palmaisano wrote excitedly from Kyoto: “If implemented, [the Kyoto Protocol] will do more to promote Enron’s business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside restructuring of the [electricity] and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States…The endorsement of emissions trading was another victory for us…This agreement will be good for Enron stock!!”
Sadly (for Enron), that was not to be. In a rare spirit  of solidarity, the Senate unanimously passed (95-0) a bipartisan Byrd-Hagel U.S. Senate Resolution (S Res 98) that made it clear that the United States would not be signatory to any agreement that “would result in serious harm to the economy of the  United States”. Then-President Clinton, no stranger to political pragmatism, got the message and never submitted a necessary U.S. approval request for congressional ratification…

Reply to  KcTaz
August 20, 2019 12:41 pm


I would not call Enron an oil company or even a major energy company. It was largely a scam, built from the merger of two relatively minor pipeline companies.

I remember phoning my colleague Rick Watkins, who had moved from Calgary back to Houston to support his wife. He said to me, “Allan, I’ll call you back – my wife is Sherron Watkins of Enron fame, and we are being interviewed right now by Connie Chung.”

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 19, 2019 1:03 pm

Well no. We had 48.8Hz trips in 2008.

Many of the circumstances were quite similar.

Also, I checked up on the recent frequency dips that got close to breaching the statutory minimum frequency of 49.5Hz. July 11th was a CCGT trip of at least 1.1GW – but out of 21.5GW of CCGT operating at the time, so there was plenty of inertia to handle it. June 20th was another CCGT trip of about 750MW, out of 14.9GW of CCGT operational. May 9th, the NEMO interconnector to Belgium tripped out at 982MW, but Dinorwig was able to pick up the slack very quickly, and there was also 20.7GW of CCGT online providing inertia. Our good fortune that these were not sunny, windy days like August 9th, where there was just under 9GW of CCGT running at the time of the trips. We’ve seen even less at weekends when demand is lower.

Now National Grid are getting cautious. They dialed back the individual interconnectors to reduce the risk should any of them have been lost. They have been constraining wind generation. I’m sure they’ll be running with more spinning reserve contingency as well, although there are no easy data on that.

Tractor Gent
Reply to  It doesn't add up...
August 19, 2019 2:22 pm

OFGEM is supposed to be publishing the report tomorrow (Tuesday 20th). I wonder how comprehensive it will be – just the ‘executive summary’ or the whole thing?

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Tractor Gent
August 19, 2019 2:31 pm

I’ve a tab set at their Press Release page…

I do wonder whether they are aware of the extent of discussion in fora around the internet. I’ve tried to interest journalists at the BBC and elsewhere in digging based on the work I had done that demonstrates that their versions of the story were simply wrong. No takers. Bunch of reality deniers.

Tractor Gent
Reply to  Tractor Gent
August 20, 2019 1:53 am

I’m just reading the report. There was a lightning strike that took out a transmission line (Eaton Socon to Wymondley) at 15:52:33.49UTC. Within a second Hornsea went off followed by a unit at Great Barford. The Transmission line came back on within 20 secs but the local mains loss there caused ~500MW of local generation (local wind, solar, diesel) to shut down. The two other units a Great Barford shut down successively because of local steam overpressures caused by the first unit loss. In all they lost around 1800MW of generation during the incident.

What is appalling to me is that there was 500MW of local generation in a relatively small area affected by the transmission line trip – that is, small solar & wind turbine units run privately for subsidy farming (they are only economic if farming subsidies)!

Tractor Gent
Reply to  Tractor Gent
August 20, 2019 3:43 am

Um. s/Great Barford /Little Barford/!

I could understand Little Barford going off as it’s connected at Eaton Socon & would get a voltage wobbly from the lightning strike, but Hornsea is well over 100 miles away. Looks like its safety trips were just too sensitive.

Reply to  Tractor Gent
August 20, 2019 3:39 am

BBC report on this Interim publication initially came down against fossil fuels and Great Barford.
Now, at about 1030 GMT, Tuesday 20th, their story is more circumspect.
Still no understanding of ‘grid inertia’ – and big on a lightning strike – the BBC now seems gung-ho on financial penalties. Well, those companies involved are owned by stock- and share-holders (nasty capitalists), so should be penalised, automatically.
No connection to the cause of the Hornsea windpower unit trip, which appears to have precipitated the whole blackout.
And certainly no implication that unreliables are, well, unreliable (even if some of the BBC pension fund is subsidy farming – aka in wind power and solar)!

I do hope for a reasonably fair final report.
I am not holding my breath that, if it is to be so, the BBC will report it fairly.
Their requirement for impartiality is a very sad joke when dealing with keeping the lights on.
I wonder if this new “Ministry of all the Talents” will see that!


Reply to  It doesn't add up...
August 19, 2019 9:41 pm

This sounds very similar to what is now happening in South Australia after their massive blackout. Wind energy is now constrained to 1300 MW when it can deliver 1700, and gas/diesal plants have to be kept running 24/7 as backup. They blew up their last coal power station.

August 19, 2019 6:33 am

Just think of all this as the new and improved real time Demand Side Management. A whole lot more to come to a renewable grid near you.

Bill Powers
August 19, 2019 6:33 am

They should have used their computer models to predict this, since we all know how accurate they are.

August 19, 2019 6:44 am

Texas came very close to rolling blackouts last week as the wind driving wind turbines dropped off along the Gulf Coast during the hottest days of this year.

ERCOT has projected an 8% factor of safety in this summer’s peak electricity demand and during the past week, wind generated power made up 14 to 20% of base load during peak demand days. Thank goodness the wind was blowing most of the time.

It’s doubtful Texas can continue to so lucky in the future.

Reply to  Katphiche
August 19, 2019 9:17 am

comment image?w=1024

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Katphiche
August 19, 2019 1:05 pm

That’s the other side of the coin: not enough capacity to meet demand because of over-reliance on wind.

HD Hoese
Reply to  Katphiche
August 19, 2019 5:29 pm

TXU Energy (Office in Dallas) requested curtailing usage during prime hours. I just came back from Port Aransas where a ship (Ocean Applaud, Hong Kong) was unloading blades and what appeared to to be the wrapped turbine apparatus across the channel where they are stored on Harbor Island (Historic petroleum facility). Saw one truck with blade and one with apparatus on the road. There are at least three separate ships bringing them in and looked like there are several dozen blades temporarily stored. Interesting to see long truck with escort go through the middle of Aransas Pass (the mainland town, not the inlet). South Texas has been and still is installing a lot of them. The wind will die.

Hard to tell, but guess that each ship holds at least four dozen blades. Wonder what transportation costs are?

Reply to  HD Hoese
August 20, 2019 3:58 am

Shipping (by ship, naturally) is cheap.
Shipping is a low-entry barrier industry, certainly at the bottom end.
It is also very international (many players, all trying to get contracts, mostly on price).
For example, one ship in my last company was
Managed in the UK
By a Japanese Company,
Chartered to a Norwegian company,
Which borrowed from American and Germany banks,
Carried Egyptian gas,
To a French receiver,
With a crew from about five or six nations, including the Philippines, Ireland and Croatia,
Was registered in the Bahamas,
Was insured in London, by a Japanese Insurer,
And was classed by a German-Norwegian Society.

Many of those were not participants in the Drive to the bottom on costs – but some of their competitors probably (hah!) are!!

Given the economies of scale achieved by larger and larger ships (provided the golden teat is not thought likely to run dry) rates will continue to fall.


Patrick MJD
August 19, 2019 6:45 am

So the UK has gone from the stupidity of unions and “industrial action” in the 60’s/70’s to the stupidity of “climate action” from 2008?

Got it!

Kevin kilty
August 19, 2019 6:52 am

I have no idea what are the specific details of the outage, but let’s just suppose that the lightning strike had something to do with shutting down the gas fired station. The frequency droops anbd the remaining grid tries to ramp-up. But how does one ramp up the wind if wind turbines are running, as they generally do, all out? The wind farm is hopeless for stability in this case–it was supplying a huge proportion of power and could supply no more on any reasonable time scale. As the frequency continues to droop the system eventually resorts to disconnecting load to get back to balance and get the frequency restored to working limits.

Because the gas fired station shut down first, people will shift blame to the gas fired station as the cause of the blackout–it had nothing to do with the wind farm according to them. But the pertinent point is that the wind farm was a worthless asset toward rectifying the problem. If events occurred in the other order things might have taken a very different course.

John in Oz
Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 19, 2019 8:34 am

There is also the possibility that the wind generator output dropped off around the same time (as they are wont to do with wind being a fickle source of energy).

With the shortfall of rotating machinery which can usually be used alleviate the wind’s vagaries, there are insufficient resources to keep the voltage/frequency within tolerable limits.

Of course, this os the fault of the rotating machinery, not the wind generators.

Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 19, 2019 8:38 am

It didn’t , Hornsea the off-shore wind farm went off first.
Anyway ‘in my day’ lightening strikes were just something you coped with by switching supply for a bit. Now there are no suynchronous generators to switch to.
Pettigrew has been at NGC since ‘a boy’ , shame on you for lying to protect your overpaid job.

Reply to  JimW
August 19, 2019 1:29 pm

My understanding is that the gas fired station went off first, but it was deliberately taken off-line 2 minutes (not microseconds) before the wind farm output collapsed because of high winds. It was deliberately taken off because the rules required it to cease production if wind farms were satisfying all demand. When wind speed increases, the sequence is therefore as follows: 1. Wind farms generate more. 2. Reliable stations have to turn off. 3. If wind gets too strong, wind farms fail. 4. Grid collapses.
You couldn’t design a more effective way of guaranteeing grid collapses if you tried.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Mike Jonas
August 19, 2019 2:01 pm

Your understanding gained no doubt from the MSM is wrong. The power trips occurred within 40 seconds of each other. Apparently the first technical report from National grid to OFGEM confirms what the evidence of the frequency trace suggests – the wind farm was in fact the first to go.

comment image

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Mike Jonas
August 19, 2019 2:44 pm

1. Wind farms generate more.
2. Reliable stations have to turn off.
3. If wind gets too strong, wind farms fail.
4. Grid collapses.

You couldn’t design a more effective way of guaranteeing grid collapses if you tried.

(formatted for clarity)

This is the money shot. Unfortunately, the Gang Green will never admit this.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Kevin kilty
August 19, 2019 1:15 pm

It was obvious to me that the wind farm lied about the timing of its outage. To judge from the quantity of spin in their only press comment of explanation so far, I think that was intentional, and designed to deflect the blame from them.

Updated statement, 16 August 2019

A project spokesperson said: “During a rare and unusual set of circumstances affecting the grid, Hornsea One experienced a technical fault which meant the power station rapidly de-loaded – that is it stopped producing electricity. Normally the grid would be able to cope with a loss of this volume (0.8GW). If National Grid had any concerns about the operation of Hornsea One we would not be allowed to generate. The relevant part of the system has been reconfigured and we are fully confident should this extremely rare situation arise again, Hornsea One would respond as required.”

Translation: We had messed up the set-up at our substation, which caused the whole wind farm to trip out instantly. We have now fixed the set-up we messed up. Oops.

It made little or no difference which order the events occurred, because they were close together, just 40 seconds apart. The extent to which the first event triggered the second (in whichever order they occurred, although latest reports suggest the wind farm was in fact first to go) will hopefully be revealed when the technical reports are made public. That these events combined to result in load shedding trips is the fault of National Grid, which had inadequate resource to handle the situation lined up, both in terms of inertia and spinning reserve.

John Culhane
August 19, 2019 6:57 am

There is probably more to this than just unreliable power generation sources since there is a lot of expense incurred to design grids to maintain inertia as more of unreliables added. Other sources of power generators may not be willing to step in to provide power unless the prices (margins) are justified.

Who is disrupting the utility frequency?

One theory is the introduction of mixed-pricing methods on the control reserve market. The resulting consequences – quickly-exhausted reserves, waning commitment from balancing groups – are destabilizing the entire system.

Reply to  John Culhane
August 19, 2019 4:35 pm

The UK is heading for exactly the same condition that resulted in the complete blackout of South Australia in 2016.

Since 2016, in the event of forecast low or negative prices in South Australia, the market operator orders the gas plants to stay on line to provide the high inertia needed to support the worst fault condition. They get compensated outside the wholesale pricing for this service. The big battery has reduced the need for some of the spinning inertia. However the number of orders continues to rise as the installed wind capacity increases – now roughly 2X the typical demand. With the wind capacity increasing in Victoria, the opportunities to use Victoria as a 600MW storage battery for SA wind are diminishing because all the wind generators in both States are often in the same weather pattern and Victoria is steady increasing the number of wind generators.

Negative spot pricing is creating challenging conditions for the wind generator operators. Last Sunday was a typical weekend situation where prices in the SA network were forecast to hold negative, at minus $1000/MWh, for 6 hours:!Aq1iAj8Yo7jNgzg4ag6Vql9b7nfL
Such forecast result in rebidding in order to avoid sending out power with a negative price. The actual price went to the minus $1000 for four of the 5-minute pricing intervals and averaged minus $839 for one 30-minute settlement period.

Pre-dispatch bidding has become a seriously complex issue for wind generators. The fundamental problem is that they all have zero marginal cost. That means they all have the same merit order. They initially had standing bids for their entire capacity at the minimum permitted price of minus $1000 but now they need to make bids that maximises their potential output when prices are positive but minimises their actual output when prices are negative.

With wind generators having the output to regularly oversupply the SA network, negative prices often occur. The coal generators in other states are now bidding enough output at negative price to ensure the wind generators will scramble to voluntarily curtail output to avoid paying to generate.

Merit order, based on marginal cost of generation, is not applicable to networks with high proportion of intermittent generation. Coal generators have learnt that they can price a block of energy for each generator that represents the cost involved in taking the generator off line. That means they are happy to force the wind generators to voluntarily curtail in the knowledge that they can force prices higher to ensure a profit when the ambient energy sources are low. As the intermittent capacity increases the coal generators hit a pricing limit where gas gets scheduled ahead of them so another coal generator drops off its perch to ensure other coal generators remain profitable.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  RickWill
August 20, 2019 12:19 am

That’s a very perceptive analysis of the picture in Australia, which I have taken an interest in for some while as a harbinger of things to come elsewhere. It won’t apply in quite the same way in the UK because of the differences in contracts for generators. Wind can be paid for not generating for example, so we rarely see uneconomic prices at the marginal clearing level. For all of us it means rising power bills as companies find ways to recoup the costs of far less than optimal operation.

Steve Borodin
August 19, 2019 7:14 am

I think the National Grid needs a CEO with some knowledge of his subject rather than this idiot.

Steve Taylor
Reply to  Steve Borodin
August 19, 2019 9:04 am

Degree in economics and international banking. Not heavy electrical engineering……

Alan the Brit
Reply to  Steve Taylor
August 20, 2019 12:04 am

Logan’s Run was a great movie wasn’t it? No worries about the oldies there hey? Notwithstanding the presence of the voluptuous Jenny Agutter!;-)

Reply to  Alan the Brit
August 20, 2019 5:03 am

I liked ‘Fantasia’, which looks like the UK’s destination if our brand shiny new Government doesn’t wake up. Pretty smartish!
Present policies have, as a feature, elevated numbers of old folk dying of cold this coming winter.
A feature, not at all a bug.


Reply to  Alan the Brit
August 20, 2019 8:33 pm

Alan…A man of intellectual might to refer to Logan’s Run and my favourite film activist Ms Jenny Agutter. Her character in the film being sceptical of the main social construct of the time…every one gets zapped at 30 to ensure a sustainable society…A concept that readers of The Guardian seem to approve judging by their postings at that site….nothing would improve the planet better than a few billion of us being zapped too.
Fortunately her character Jessica had no qualms with the general dress code of the era but rather than tell of it …go to You Tube…Logan’s Run…Logan’s Party 1976…
Trigger warning …as we are all good feminists here you will be shocked and outraged by the licentious implications of the video smorgasborg at the start of the clip but this is for educational purposes and academic study…Only…
How the Costume department did not win an Oscar is a travesty!

If you hunger for more educational pursuits then Ms Agutter and the film Walkabout…a genuine note here…Jenny was 17 and the director got quite snaky by the public, and later on the internet, concentrating on the nude swim when its meaning was to highlight her innocence…no explanation as to why he hired an actual 17 year old when there would have been plenty of the hot 18 to 21 year olds that could have passed for 17 to do the job…all film directors have only pure motives..(This swim scene may have been taken down due to (Jenny’s age…if so a fair call…)
Of all places The Guardian has an article about this film. Note the mini dress and the story hehind it…pure again…and how 17 year old Jenny got boozed one night…it was an era you could do such things…
…How we made Walkabout…The Guardian…9 August 2916.
However… again…all film directors have only pure motives…just like those who directed the Aussie film …Age of Consent…starring a 22 year old Helen Mirren (next to James Mason) but looking more 17 than Jenny in Walkabout…however the directors motives were pure and innocent just like the female characters in these educational films…Good Call Alan.

View from the Solent
August 19, 2019 7:18 am

And the details on these “giant batteries” mentioned as the solution are?

Rod Evans
Reply to  View from the Solent
August 19, 2019 10:43 am

So glad you asked that question.
Well, what is proposed is that nice Mr. Musk of TESLA, will build a bunch of terra-forming hydrogen thermonuclear batteries instead of sending them off to Mars as originally intended.
Once these are in place, just one quick push of the button and all the problems around blackouts disappear.
Pass another one of those funny cigarettes over, I think I have another good idea coming along…

August 19, 2019 7:18 am

I understand the renewables industry will always blame instability on everything but renewables . In Australia when the state of South Australia was blacked for over a day it was the failure of coal fired back up that was the problem. The stupidity of such comments is so obvious I’m surprised the media don’t take them to task ( in fact knowing how the media is I’m actually not surprised. ) If we had no renewables at all and relied on 24/ 7 coal / nuclear/ gas base load only power we would have a substantially lower cost system and far more reliable. Renewables give you too much or too little power which puts stains on the base load power and make operating base load power more expensive .
The real criminals are those warmist charlatans who have demonised CO2 for their own nefarious agendas. Whether it is a socialist one world government or pure capitalistic greed by renewables rent seekers it is those who are to blame and unless some politicians in positions of influence call them out then the renewables industry will make electricity an unreliable expensive luxury item for most people.

Bill Capron
August 19, 2019 7:31 am

Why is it that when governments investigate, it takes forever, even when the reasons are known to the common man? Is it because getting one’s ducks in a row is more important than reporting the results in a timely manner? It’s the same in the States; investigations are where facts are diddled beyond their informational content, and obfuscation takes precedent over truth. And, too often, the reasons are known ahead of time, but the cost of acknowledgment is too high. And never give results before the sands of time have killed the ardor of those who care.

August 19, 2019 7:46 am

There was a lightning strike (not caused by renewables), then a gas power station went offline (not renewable) and only then did a wind farm go offline. How did renewables cause a problem?

Paul Penrose
Reply to  griff
August 19, 2019 9:43 am

Because using renewables to replace large synchronous sources such as coal and gas plants has made the grid more fragile and thus more susceptible to failure from single common events like lightning strikes. A robust system would be able to ride through such an event, and indeed, the grid did so in the past. But it is less and less capable of doing that as more and more windmills and solar farms are added. This has been explained to you before.

Bruce Cobb
Reply to  Paul Penrose
August 19, 2019 10:08 am

Be gentle with Griff. His grey matter is in fact comprised mostly of silly putty.

Joel O'Bryan
Reply to  griff
August 19, 2019 10:14 am

Are you certain about which one went offline first? This “detail” matters.

In the Real World
Reply to  griff
August 19, 2019 11:01 am

Usual total rubbish from Griff.
The wind farm went offline , [ they are still covering up the reason why ], causing the load on the grid to drop the frequency & the nearest power station , [ the gas fired one ] was then shut down automatically .

The actual report on what happened is supposed to be released on Sept 4th , but the amount of lies coming out before then brings doubts that the real truth will be admitted .

Chris Morris
Reply to  griff
August 19, 2019 11:10 am

Griff is wrong so either a troll or just stupid. Paul Homewood has extensively covered the situation, especially in the comments of his blog.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  griff
August 19, 2019 12:01 pm


The problem was caused by them not being able to ramp up the output power from renewables. All load balancing comes from storage (batteries and pumped hydro) and fossil fuels. The more of the grid (as a % of total capacity) that is not dispatchable, the greater the risk that it cannot respond to normal interruptions which are, of course, inevitable.

You could consider manufacturing cell phones as an analogy. If you have four production lines feeding you parts, and one breaks down, the slack has to be taken up by the others, or all production slows until the fourth is back on line, which is more likely the case. But people don’t die from that.

If the demand for cell phones continues unabated through the interruption, one could use stored parts, one could order from other suppliers if they happen to have spare capacity. If demand is variable and the supply is fixed, the only way to deal with it is to store product in advance (called filling the value chain, and “warehousing”).

In the latter case, the BlackBerry Curve had exactly this problem – sales were so great that it outstripped the supply of processors by more than 100m devices. There was nothing RIM could do – contracts with other chip makers – Intel and Marvel – could not be initiated as they were committed to other products. When launching the net (BB10) device, they over-compensated, over-ordered ahead of weaker demand, and lost $4bn.

Electricity must be sent into the grid immediately as it is needed. Wind and solar can’t do that so expensive (and in the UK, inadequate) measures must be taken to balance the supply with demand.
People will have to get used to power interruptions as a normal part of daily life. In the developing countries, this is the norm.

Walt D.
Reply to  griff
August 19, 2019 1:00 pm

Magical thinking.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  griff
August 19, 2019 1:21 pm

Reports are now confirming that the wind farm went off line first. They have admitted they had messed up the set-up at their substation which caused it to shut down when it shouldn’t have.

The problem was caused by having too much renewable generation on the grid, and not enough inertia providing conventional generation and spinning reserve to be able to contain the losses of generation without resorting to load shedding trips.

Reply to  griff
August 20, 2019 9:33 am

Another outright Lie by Griff, lets add that one to the tally so 23 outright lies, 17 half truths and 11 truths.

August 19, 2019 7:50 am

Some folks think a global grid would be a good idea. link Hmmm, what could possibly go wrong?

Bryan A
Reply to  commieBob
August 19, 2019 9:52 am

A global grid of Solar Only could be made to work … IF … every 4 contiguous time zone slots (local peak solar production times) had sufficient solar panel coverage to create ALL global electricity requirements with no shortfalls…Ever
Can you even fit enough solar panels across 4 time zones to be able to generate enough electricity to supply the entire global demand?

Reply to  Bryan A
August 19, 2019 10:10 am

If the area one can live minus the area with solar panels is great enough to live there, you may be able to supply the demand. in that area… 😀

Reply to  Bryan A
August 19, 2019 10:51 am

“A global grid of Solar Only could be made to work … IF …”
Try looking at a globe (or imagining one). Turn it until almost all you can see is the Pacific Ocean. Now imagine you are the Sun…

Bryan A
Reply to  RobH
August 19, 2019 10:06 pm

Regardless of the Oceanic Expanses making Solar practically impossible in those areas, (aside from a mass flotilla of barges with panels chained together covering the oceans,) you couldn’t fit enough panels on the land portion across 60 degrees of longitude to produce enough energy to supply global demand with 100% electrification of Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Transportation and recharge battery backups for when the sun is obscured by storms. Solar alone is insufficient. Solar alone for NY NY (Manhattan Island Proper) for all aspects of total electrification would require covering an area the size of Connecticut. Low density unreliables simply can’t cut it

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  commieBob
August 19, 2019 1:25 pm

I have been reading up on supergrids. The consensus is that when they fail, they fail big time. System blacks on a continent wide basis take a long time to recover from.

August 19, 2019 7:50 am

Isn’t it obvious? Capricious … is the word that best describes all sun-and-wind based power extraction schemes.

The caprice of large puffy clouds (or fast-moving layers of stratus and cirrus) to suddenly reflect 70% or more of the Sun’s Earthside energy from those hectares of silent blue-black solar panels. In minutes, too. Without any way to predict on a microscale the upcoming jitters-and-jolts of metropolitan-scale output.

Wind is also no slouch for being a capricious energy devil to tame. We certainly aren’t in a new era of zephyr caprice. Remember those prosaic postcard-perfect (yet, oddly, always sail-less) Dutch windmills built to quitely keep the polders nice and dry, being below sea-level and all? In my youth, having a very, very Dutch older engineering mentor (could hardly understand him, so thick the dutch lilt of his cantor), I was regaled on many a lazy summer afternoon about Great Wild Winds that’d come storming without a cloud to show, from the North usually, but often from the West and sometimes South. The prosaic windmills had to have their canvas sheets taken down, lest the clockwork be ripped to flinders. At three o’clock in the morning. By Geert and his brothers.

At other times, the same mills would suddenly, just as suddenly, go windless. Not much of a problem, except after a crazy (but every-bit normal) rainstorm having filled polders with inches-to-feet of water. Windmills don’t move if the wind don’t blow. For a day or two, not a problem. After a week or three … crops rot, mosquitoes proliferate, animals get sick, farmers become unaccountably irate, and so forth.

That’s kind of a mesoscale (time) view.

When operating “a grid” though, the microscale is really what’s at risk. Mostly, the risk exists in that time window bracketed by “seconds” at the low end, to “handful of minutes” at the top. The lower range is particularly hard to handle when unplanned. It is quite complex to adjust in real-time the hundreds of conventional spinning generating assets’ output, and switch-and-break the various substations to keep the AC frequency (proxy for ‘stability’) solid. The upper end — minutes — is defined by how long it takes to get so-called “cold resources” spinning and stable. Generally either building-sized diesel generators, or increasingly-common gas turbines.

For reasons of safety alone, generator gas-or-diesel systems need to WARM UP a bit before being asked for sub-maximal output. If they’re driven too hard, too cold … they tend to suffer hidden cracking and thermal stress issues. Eventually leading to catastrophic (and Youtube photogenic) breakdown. Bad for the grid.

So, without a PhD, but only good ol’ engineering prudence, it is easy to conclude that “system stability” and “renewable energy output dynamics” are at odds with each other. Variability on the same time scale. Bad mojo.

But it takes a 6.8 million quid study to show the obvious.

Wanna bet it went into more salary than testing?

Just saying,
GoatGuy ✓

Robert W Turner
August 19, 2019 7:55 am

Duh, nothing reduces energy use like a blackout.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
August 19, 2019 8:12 am

We could probably do a credible analysis that shows that blackouts increase net energy use. The first thing that comes to mind are freezers full of meat. A lot of energy goes into the production and transportation of meat. Wasted meat means wasted energy. I’m sure there are lots of similar examples.

August 19, 2019 8:04 am

Reading between the lines, it seems that wind, providing DC that must be converted to AC at the right frequency AND phase before it is added to the grid, and MUST have a stable AC signal to align to. The fossil-fueled plants are currently providing that stable signal. When the lightning knocked the ff plant off-line, the frequency-phase timing was no longer available to the wind farm, it became unstable, and had to drop out. Next, amazingly, the grid could not gen-up and cover a 5% loss in available power.

Considering the highly variable of both solar and wind, they have got to have other type plants, whether nuclear, wood pellets, or NG (coal is no longer an option), that will provide for sudden drops in power, and the entire grid must be designed to reconfigure power flows as needed.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  jtom
August 19, 2019 1:29 pm

Grid frequency doesn’t disappear as a signal until there is a blackout! Hornsea are being coy about the precise reasons for their wind farm tripping out, beyond admitting that they had messed up and since have corrected that.

Reply to  It doesn't add up...
August 19, 2019 4:53 pm

If the windfarm was synchronizing solely on the grid frequency coming from the power plant that went down, then they would go unstable and be shut down. What was providing stability for that section of the grid, particularly the electronics at the windfarm? If wind was producing almost one-half of the total demand, was power to that area also being provided from other stable sources – or just windfarms?

Reply to  jtom
August 20, 2019 2:06 am

It seems biomass is far worse in every way, including CO2 emissions, than coal.
The Obvious Biomass Emissions Error
February 7, 2019

Green Shock: Entire Forests Being Murdered to Produce Wood Pellet Biomass

Greens have discovered to their horror that producing renewable wood pellet biomass requires a large supply of dead trees.
Hardwood forests cut down to feed Drax Power plant, Channel 4 Dispatches claims
16th April 2018
A Dispatches investigation has uncovered evidence of hardwood forests being chopped down to provide ‘green energy’ for the UK. Experts say unique habitats rich in wildlife are under threat as Britain’s power stations switch from burning coal to wood…

Hyperlinks not working Mod

August 19, 2019 8:55 am

“National Grid had evidence that the shift to renewable energy was putting Britain’s electricity supply at risk months before the biggest blackout in a decade, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.”

“Boss of the National Grid John Pettigrew said the outage was a ‘once-in-30-years’ event.” /quote

If it is a once in 30 year event, how has there been two in a decade?

Patrick MJD
Reply to  JEHILL
August 19, 2019 6:49 pm

Because CO2 can interrupt the time continuum above 350ppm/v don’t you know?

Dean Fielding
August 19, 2019 8:58 am

So a ‘reliable’ gas fired power station shuts down, and a lightening strike knocks out the sub station connecting a wind farm and instability of renewables is blamed?
If it wasn’t a wind farm it could easily have been a CIA sub station hit by lightening.
Renewables are no less reliable than fossil fuels. In fact due to local and micro generation it actually reduces and spreads the risk of blackout.
It won’t bother me anyway as I have full battery backup and solar on my house, so while you can’t fill up with l fuel in a black out I’ll still be able to drive my electric car.

Reply to  Dean Fielding
August 19, 2019 1:23 pm

It won’t bother me anyway as I have a full tank of gas, so while you can’t recharge your batter I’ll still be able to drive my ICE car.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Dean Fielding
August 20, 2019 12:46 am

Wind farms are massively less reliable than fossil fuels. They can be becalmed for days on end producing nothing at all. Forecasts of their production made just a few hours ahead can prove wrong by enough to mean a conventional power station’s worth has to come on line or shut down to ensure supply and demand remain balanced. Wind farms are not located close to major centres of population, but instead where it is windy and where there are fewer people to object to their intrusive presence. The result is that transmission networks need substantial extra investment to make it possible to send the power to the big cities. The very different configurations of power distribution when it is windy and when it isn’t impose further constraints on the system. Imagine completely making major freeways one way into town for the morning rush hour and then trying to switch over to one way out of town. The very complexity of the grid networks that ensues can lead to other problems, just as traffic will attempt to find a different route when faced with a road closure, but in doing so will create traffic jams somewhere else.

Whilst you are correct that grid faults come in many different shapes and can’t be eliminated, the difference between a conventional grid and one with a high level of renewables is that the conventional grid is much more resilient to problems because conventional generators can make good a loss through the first line of defence from their own inertia coupled to the second line of defence of being able to increase output rapidly enough to take over from the initial inertia response. Neither capability exists with renewables to any significant degree.

Phil Salmon
August 19, 2019 9:04 am

On 10Aug 2019, a blogger called “It doesn’t add up” posted this here at WattsUpWithThat:

“I’ve done a lot of research on this, looking at the data from National Grid at BM Reports, Gridwatch, and a very helpful frequency chart at 1 second resolution from Upside Energy, a small company providing experimental token grid stabilisation services using distributed systems (a potential precursor to such things as V2G). You can see that their effort was very prompt but puny at under 6MW for about 3 minutes in this chart they tweeted

comment image:large

Here’s what I found:
I think the conclusive answer to the question is yes – the blackout’s primary cause was the sudden loss of output from Hornsea wind farm, though the precise cause of that remains unknown at this stage: likely candidates are a failure at the offshore transmission platform where the voltage is boosted to 220kV, somewhere along the cable to shore, or at the grid connection point (at Killingholme on the Humber) onshore. The really damning evidence comes in this tweet that shows grid frequency based on 1 second data:

comment image:large

The extremely rapid initial drop in frequency at 15:52:32Z to below the statutory minimum of 49.5Hz is compatible with the drop in wind generation of about 850MW recorded in grid 5 minute data (although there appear to be timing discrepancies between the frequency and power data – but I would regard the frequency data as conclusive, especially with wind). That is followed by a small bounce as the grid starts to try to recover, before a further smaller collapse in frequency to the nadir at around 48.8Hz, which is entirely consistent with the smaller drop in CCGT output recorded in grid data that suggest that Little Barford was probably operating at about 50% of its 727MW capacity. There is a major grid transmission line that runs from Keadby near Killingholme past Little Barford at St. Neots and on to the transmission ring around the North of London. It is almost certain that this power line was delivering power from the wind farm towards London. When that failed, there would have been a sudden extra demand on Little Barford, which would have caused its frequency to drop and that (if not the already rapid drop in grid frequency) would have tripped it out of operation.

Do not be deceived by the reported outage times on the plants. The formal record shows that Little Barford announced it had zero capacity at 15:55:37Z w.e.f. 15:57:40Z (compare with the chart above). Hornsea is shown as having zero capacity w.e.f. 16:00:00Z – which is a highly unlikely timing, except that it coincides with the start of the next settlement period. That report was not submitted until 16:19:48Z, over 20 minutes after the main event. By 16:00Z the grid frequency chart shows that balance had been restored by the combination of load shedding and running up Dinorwig pumped storage to nearly 1GW, OCGT rapid response, and diesel STOR. It seems that management decided not to report the real time of the loss of power for reasons that might vary between inadequate monitoring systems, or a failure to understand the need to report the true time rather than the next half hour settlement period time, or simply to lie to cover up having reviewed the evidence.

That these disturbances caused such a rapid and severe frequency drop that triggered load shedding is entirely due to the lack of grid inertia caused by the high proportion of generation from wind and solar, which had been running at over 40% most of the day. A 2016 presentation from National Grid has a chart that shows the relationship between the rate of change of frequency that can be expected for different amounts of load loss at different levels of grid inertia: it suggests that they were sailing far too close to the wind. You can think of grid inertia as the flywheel energy stored in the rotating heavy generator turbines. It is measured in GVA.s, which you can think of as gigawatt-seconds. Divide by the level of grid demand, and it tells you how long the energy would last if it instantaneously could become the only source of power on the grid. That gives a measure of the response speed required from backup generation (spinning reserve, fast start, grid batteries etc.) if grid frequency is to stay within limits that avoid blackouts. You have to suspect that at Grid HQ in Wokingham, they will be thinking about having a larger level of spinning reserve, and about curtailing wind to ensure that there is more inertia.

I note that today the formal record of the timing of the shutdowns has magically disappeared. More questions to be answered.”

Another blogger on WattsUpWithThat, “Vuk”, followed up with this:

“Yesterday was a very windy day, earlier in the day the NG was bragging that 50% of electricity was generated by wind farms. A VIP visited the NG operations during mid afternoon. Question is: did the NG take out some other generator out to demonstrate the renewable potential?”

August 19, 2019 9:10 am

“to drop below 50 Hz. Equipment can be damaged if it is higher or lower than this level.”
thats a negative on that one,
it is more often than not at below that level, / it bounces around continually
perhaps the word s `to an appreciable level` would describe it more suitably

Jim Gorman
Reply to  jono1066
August 19, 2019 1:10 pm

That is not a “negative”. When a power plant drops (or increases) its frequency, the phase of its output also quickly becomes different than the rest of the grid. Do you have any idea what this does to generators, transformers, etc.?

Mike McMillan
Reply to  Jim Gorman
August 19, 2019 2:08 pm

If a sector starts dropping below the rest of the grid frequency, it becomes a load on the grid. That pulls everyone down, and is a good reason to disconnect that sector.

Jim Gorman
Reply to  Mike McMillan
August 20, 2019 8:08 am

It not only “pulls them down” but puts numerous equipment items at risk. Imagine when one generator is at max plus on the sine wave and another is at max negative on the sine wave at the same time. How much current flows between them at this time? Can the transmission lines, transformers, and generators themselves withstand this?

August 19, 2019 9:29 am

“Experts have said giant batteries providing instant back-up energy could help.”…

“The costs are sizeable but if there’s a risk of this happening more frequently, I don’t think businesses or consumers will accept a lower standard of continuity of supply.”

I think I can safely defer to the experts’ valuable input and conclusion here when it takes 6.8 million pounds to work that out.

Reply to  observa
August 19, 2019 1:20 pm

A battery the size of Ireland would be perfect!

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Billy
August 19, 2019 1:33 pm

GB is providing Ireland with balancing services at present – taking in their surplus generation when it is windy, and exporting to them when it isn’t.

August 19, 2019 9:39 am

You don’t need an analysis to understand renewables rely on fossil fuels, hydro, and nuclear to back up their intermittency and in most cases provide the base load. The notion we can reliably expand renewable energy is fantasy not grounded in fact.

Reply to  markl
August 19, 2019 10:08 am

Intermittency and shutoffs forced by clean, green, renewable drivers outside of the viable operational range, which they hope can be managed through a smart grid and redistributive change scheme. That said, so-called “green” converters, may still be useful for non-mission critical applications.

Reply to  markl
August 20, 2019 5:35 am

“You don’t need an analysis to understand renewables rely on fossil fuels, hydro, and nuclear to back up their intermittency and in most cases provide the base load. ”

Indeed, more than that, renewables (unreliables) rely on fossil fuels, hydro and nuclear to allow the design, creation, transportation, installation, commissioning, and (presumably) decommissioning and removal, of their means of collecting diffuse energy – namely the aesthetically-challenging solar panels and the bat-battering, bird-chopping industrial wind generators (sometimes producing electricity).

“The notion we can reliably expand renewable energy is fantasy not grounded in fact.”


“The notion we can reliably and cost-effectively expand renewable energy is fantasy not grounded in fact.”
I believe that in the UK, Jeremy Corbyn, the new Dim-Leb woman, and the Watermelon greens – and not a few “Tories” – believe that we can live off wind, solar and unicorn farts – if we have enough collectors, and don’t mind freezing to death in winter.
Open fires, and gas-powered heating are to be banned! It is unclear how their pixy dust collectors will be created, if not by [mostly] fossil fuels. . . .

I gather the US has a GND that will give about the same result.

There was a lovely review on that – here – a few days ago –
Guest post by Timothy Nerenz, Ph.D.

Well worth a careful reading.


Bruce Cobb
August 19, 2019 9:58 am

‘This is not about wind being unreliable.”
Translation: “This is most certainly about wind and all “renewables” being unreliable”.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Bruce Cobb
August 19, 2019 1:36 pm

Well, the wind was reliable (and to prove the point on the Saturday Hornsea operated at a steady 779.5+/-0.5MW continuously for 24 hours – although the couldn’t keep that up on the Sunday). It was their substation where they messed up.

August 19, 2019 10:06 am

We don’t actually have the data to scrutinize this. The electricity system has a lot of parts, not just generators but transmission lines, substations, etc.

There are all manner of devices of different makes, models, antiquity, capacities, etc. that can go wrong also.

Unfortunate but that’s the way it is.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  mhw
August 19, 2019 4:02 pm

It can be an interesting exercise to make use of the information that is available to scrutinize it. Of course, you need to know where it can be found, but a reasonably scientifically educated layman can go a long way with what’s available. I put together my assessment in that fashion in the hours after I became aware of the trip. I posted about that both here and in several other fora. Nothing that has come out since has radically changed that assessment so far. Of course, there are still details to be filled in. But a bit of careful research is enough to completely undermine most of the media versions of what happened.

Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
August 19, 2019 10:40 am

#NationalGridKnew, anyone?

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7
August 19, 2019 1:40 pm

They did.

Key messages – electricity
• Low transmission demand and high volumes of low inertia generation can cause operational issues over the summer.
• We will need to take day-to-day actions to manage system frequency in times of low demand. Usually this will involve working with flexible generation to reduce supply.

Translation: we will need to curtail wind and solar generation to ensure adequate inertia on the system at times of low demand and high renewables output.

son of mulder
August 19, 2019 10:53 am

When did the 30 years begin?

August 19, 2019 11:52 am
Stephen Richards
August 19, 2019 12:01 pm

Wasn’t this the guy that said, several years ago, britain would have to get used to not having electricity at the flick of a switch.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Stephen Richards
August 19, 2019 1:56 pm

That was his predecessor. In January 2017

Mr Holliday told BBC News: “It’s time for the headline of Blackout Britain to end – it’s simply wrong. We’ve been talking about blackouts for 15 years every time it gets cold, but it’s a scare story.

“The lights haven’t gone out yet and thanks to the measures the government is putting in place this week they definitely won’t go out in future. The UK has one of the most stable supplies of electricity in Europe.”

Predictions are hard, especially about the future.

Robert of Texas
August 19, 2019 12:10 pm

So all the U.K. has to do is double their already hugely expensive investment into Green Energy infrastructure to build giant battery farms so that the already overly expensive electricity has instantaneous backup. They have to run all of these green power farms as close to capacity as possible to pay for the expensive infrastructure, and charge outrageous rates for it.

Or… Build real power plants based on nuclear, gas, or coal and run these at lower than true capacity so there is built-in backup – you know the way we have been running reliable power grids for half a century?

J Mac
August 19, 2019 12:14 pm

RE:”Renewable energy is a blackout risk….”
Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

Roger Knights
Reply to  J Mac
August 20, 2019 8:16 pm

“Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you (and others) freek.”

IOW, tell the truth and catch the first bus out of town.

Andrew Harding
August 19, 2019 12:21 pm

Common sense (very much lacking in AGW and renewable energy) means that power generated from stable sources has to be more reliable than power generated from sources where the output is variable. Back up batteries can provide power (at great expense) for about two minutes allowing other sources to kick in. Assuming that renewables are permanently ‘on’ unless the skies are cloudy or the wind isn’t blowing from the right direction or right speed, then I would guess that fossil fuelled power stations could not be brought online in the 2.5 minutes maximum that the lithium batteries can provide auxiliary power. They must therefore be running and producing CO2 in the background. The power cut a week last Friday affected most of England from the South West to the North East (where I live, I was without power for an hour). In a 21st century advanced economy, we cannot afford to have power cuts of any description or duration. People were stranded on trains for hours, because technicians needed to reset their computers. In Newcastle upon Tyne and London all the traffic lights ceased to function as did our Metro and the London Underground.
We are dealing with an incorrect and nonsensical solution to a non-existent problem.

Hocus Locus
August 19, 2019 12:31 pm

“Don’t worry! That was just a…”
[books one way plane ticket out of the country]
“between now and 10 o’clock this Friday event!”

Another Ian
August 19, 2019 1:12 pm

“Just change one rule — so the world can see what Wind and Solar really cost”

Zig Zag Wanderer
Reply to  Another Ian
August 19, 2019 3:14 pm

This is exactly what I was just thinking.

You need to be able to supply consistent power levels. The only solution is ‘spinning reserves’ of reliable power to offset likely outages of unreliable power.

Spinning reserves need time to get up to speed, so you also need battery backup for this time period. In fact, since you don’t want to spin up every time there is a lull in wind, or a cloud passes the sun, make that several times the spin-up tine so you don’t spin up and down all the time. Say 5x the spin up time.

So, to factor all this in, you need the wind/solar farm, an equivalent fossil fuel generator in reserve, and a battery large enough for 5x its spin up time.

Now realise that all you save, above just building the fossil fuel plant, is the fossil fuel not used while the renewable is actually working, less the fossil fuel required to keep the spinning reserves spinning (not inconsiderable).

Costs for these savings are the additional capital of the renewables, and the battery, and the maintenance of both.

Now get an accountant to do the figures. They’ll recommend just building the fossil fuel plant.

If CO2 were a factor, you’d just build nuclear and be done with it, and any Climate Alarmist who disagrees is just a watermelon.

That’s it in a nutshell. Renewables are an economic joke once examined, and an economic tragedy if executed.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  Zig Zag Wanderer
August 19, 2019 3:51 pm

The whole point of inertia is that you don’t need to invest in any expensive batteries, because the generators and turbines rotating at 3,000 r.p.m. (for 50Hz power) are natural flywheels that provide a store of energy that can be drawn on while fuel (including extra water into a hydro turbine) is added to generators operating at part load to increase their output, allowing the frequency to be restored. The demand on those flywheel stores determines how much they slow down (and thus lower the frequency), and obviously the more flywheels you have in operation the slower the frequency drop.

August 19, 2019 2:59 pm

I can understand one or a few individual turbines going offline – but an entire large offshore wind farm? That doesn’t sound to me like a problem with the Grid. More like a problem down on the farm.

Walt D.
August 19, 2019 3:20 pm

This appears to be an interesting article on Renewables in California.

Reply to  Walt D.
August 20, 2019 3:05 pm

The worlds densest form of practical energy storage is uranium. Build 6 or seven nuclear plants and problem solved.

Christopher Chantrill
August 19, 2019 4:26 pm

People have no idea how much the electric system runs on a knife edge.

There is no power storage, so the plants that are doing load-following must adjust their power output from moment to moment. And keep the AC frequency within a very tight band. That would usually be natural gas turbines, sometimes hydro, since nuclear and coal are “base-load” plants that are full on.

The greenies are idiots; they know nothing.

August 19, 2019 4:41 pm

Yep, just need giant batteries; maybe 20 the size of the Pentagon would cover most of London…

August 19, 2019 7:43 pm

So that’s all we need? Get on the blower to Elon quick-

John Collis
August 20, 2019 12:12 am Lightning appears to have been involved.

Reply to  John Collis
August 20, 2019 12:59 am

That sounds like BBC spin to divert attention from a multi-generator wind farm going offline without warning. Lightning happens frequently. Grid brownouts not so much.

It doesn't add up...
Reply to  John Collis
August 20, 2019 1:26 am

But you can never trust the BBC for an accurate report. The precise role of lightning was to knock out some 500MW of embedded generation.

It doesn't add up...
August 20, 2019 1:28 am

We now have the initial report by National Grid – from the executive summary:

At 4:52pm there was a lightning strike on a transmission circuit (the Eaton Socon – Wymondley Main). The protection systems operated and cleared the lightning in under 0.1 seconds. The line then returned to normal operation after c. 20 seconds. There was some loss of small embedded generation which was connected to the distribution system (c. 500MW) due to the lightning strike. All of this is normal and expected for a lightning strike on a transmission line.
However, immediately following the lightning strike and within seconds of each other:
• Hornsea off-shore windfarm reduced its energy supply to the grid
• Little Barford gas power station reduced its energy supply to the grid
The total generation lost from these two transmission connected generators was 1,378MW. This unexpected loss of generation meant that the frequency fell very quickly and went outside the normal range of 50.5Hz – 49.5Hz.
The ESO was keeping 1,000MW of automatic “backup” power at that time – this level is what is required under the regulatory approved Security and Quality of Supply Standards (SQSS) and is designed to cover the loss of the single biggest generator to the grid.
All the “backup power” and tools the ESO normally uses and had available to manage the frequency were used (this included 472MW of battery storage). However, the scale of generation loss meant that the frequency fell to a level (48.8Hz) where secondary backup systems were required to disconnect some demand (the Low Frequency Demand Disconnection scheme) and these automatically kicked in to recover the frequency and ensure the safety and integrity of the network
This system automatically disconnected customers on the distribution network in a controlled way and in line with parameters pre-set by the Distribution Network Operators. In this instance c. 5% of GB’s electricity demand was turned off (c. 1GW) to protect the other 95%. This has not happened in over a decade and is an extremely rare event. This resulted in approximately 1.1m customers being without power for a period.
The disconnection of demand along with the actions of the ESO Control Room to dispatch additional generation returned the system to a normal stable state by 5:06pm. The DNOs then commenced reconnecting customers and supply was returned to all customers by 5:37pm.

It doesn't add up...
August 20, 2019 1:36 am

More detail:

At 16:52:33 on Friday there were a number of lightning strikes on the transmission network north of London. This triggered the transmission line protection to disconnect and clear the disturbance (in c.70milliseconds) plus initiate its subsequent reconnection (automatically after c.20 seconds). This operated as normal and the voltage disturbance on the network from the lightning was within expected limits for such an event.
As would be expected in such circumstances there was the loss of some small embedded distributed generation (totalling ~500MW) associated with the transient voltage disturbance caused by the lightning.
Almost simultaneously, and unexpectedly, two large transmission connected generators reduced their output onto the system.
Power Loss
• The lightning strike and rapid frequency fall caused the loss of ~500MW of Distribution connected generation, likely to be solar and some small gas and diesel fired generation, due to the operation of the generation sources own protection systems (Loss of Mains Protectioni)
• Hornsea One offshore wind immediately lost Hornsea modules 2 and 3, totalling 737MW. Module 1 continued to operate smoothly at 50MW throughout the event.
• Little Barford Gas Power Station – near immediate loss of the Steam Turbine unit (244MW) and then, as a result of the loss of the steam unit, loss of the two Gas Turbine units (total station loss of 641MW) over the following 90 seconds.

I was right about the sequence, although I missed the embedded generation on which there is inadequate information.

August 20, 2019 2:22 am

Never mind – the Chief Executive of National Grid has just had a £1m pay increase – so we can all breathe a sigh of relief – because obviously he has now got everything under control…..

Steve Richards
August 20, 2019 3:20 am

The report is here:

Page 17 states: “To ensure that, in the event of a loss, the rate of change of frequency does not result in the disconnection of users the ESO can decide to increase the total system inertia (which would slow down changes in frequency) or reduce the size of potential generation and demand losses that could credibly occur. A smaller sized loss will result in a correspondingly smaller RoCoF in low inertia conditions.

There we have it, wind reduces inertia, and you can reduce the wind input to the grid, to increase frequency robustness.

Tom Kennedy
August 20, 2019 4:20 am

Pettigrew graduated from Cardiff University, where he earned a bachelor of science in economics and a master’s degree in international economics and banking
They don’t teach power system reliability in economics or banking. Every engineer that has worked on complex systems has dealt with fools like Pettigrew. They are always sure with their grand announcements but not often right.

Johann Wundersamer
August 21, 2019 9:00 am

UK was lucky to NOT to sit in the dark AND having exploding fire alarms throughout the country:

Everybody feel free to correct me where I’m wrong.

hans van dalen
August 21, 2019 9:40 am

The cover-up is complete. When reading through the MSM today they all say in unison: “Blackout was caused by a lightning strike that triggered a series of events”. If this were really true than we can wait for the next blackout very soon, as the National Grid is struck by lightning on average 3 times a day.
When you go into the details, it is obvious that failing of the windfarm Hornsea, in combination with a lack of spinning reserve in the grid, is the main cause for the blackout.
But the spin in the media makes the people think it was “the lightning”. Will we ever hear the truth?

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