Sunday, June 29, 2014

What the UK grid status data tells us about the renewable energy sources?


Thanks to the data available at the UK National Grid Status website, we are able to watch the evolution of the wind power generation in the United Kingdom from May 2009.

Over the last three years, the peak wind generation exceeded 20% of the total country electricity demand.

Even that this is lower than over 50% in Denmark, this number still looks impressive. However...




When using the three months moving average of wind production vs. electricity demand, wind turbines actually provided between 5 and 10% of the demand:


While electricity demand (black) fluctuates substantially, it never goes to zero (the lowest demand is around 40% of the maximum demand). Unlike the wind power generation (red), which sometimes stops completely:

Note: y-axis shows relations to maximum levels of electricity demand and wind power generation

Adding more wind farms most probably won't solve the problem of periodically disappearing wind power generation for the intermittent nature of the resource (fuel) used in the production.

Based on the National Grid status data, wind power generation in the UK was especially weak over the summer months (June-October). Even that the electricity demand was also weaker in summer, wind was able to provide less than 5% of the demand.

Legend: 
black solid line - average electricity demand met by wind power
red, green solid lines - demand met in the oldest and in the most recent 12 months - visible improvement
blue dotted horizontal line - average wind power generation share
grey vertical bars - electricity demand in particular months (scaled)

The wind's weakness in the summer months suggests that complementing wind power generation with solar may be one of the mitigation strategies. This makes even more sense, since on average wind is stronger at night, when there is no sun:

Legend: 
black solid line - average electricity demand met by wind power
red, green solid lines - demand met in the oldest and in the most recent 12 months - visible improvement
blue dotted horizontal line - average wind power generation share
grey vertical bars - electricity demand in particular hours

Since wind power generation is stronger at night when electricity demand is weaker, this also hints at the need for the energy storage

The energy storage is also critical for grid balancing issues. While the amount of the renewable energy  raises, their dynamics sometimes lead to unexpected growth in supply and - as a result - strange electricity price actions.

The UK data suggests that in order to better integrate the renewable energy sources into the electricity system, three issues should be addressed:
  • renewable sources mix
  • energy storage
  • production forecasting methods

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