Intermittency not a problem for wind power, say reports

Sometimes the wind blows, and sometimes it doesn't. This has, for a long time, been one of the key hurdles for the widespread adoption of wind power but, according to a flurry of reports, it's an argument that does not hold water.

Reports published in the past month by the National Grid, energy consultancy Poyry and a coalition of environmental NGOs all come to the same conclusion – that large scale deployment of wind energy does away with the problems of variable wind.

In short, the more turbines you have the less likely you are to be affected by lulls in wind levels in any particular location – it is like spread betting.

This theme was flagged up by the EU’s grid guru Georg Adamowitsch when he spoke at BWEA’s London conference last month, calling for greater grid connectivity across Europe to take the variability sting out of regional weather patterns.

The NGO report, Managing Variability, published by WWF, RSPB, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, also claims that breakdowns in coal and gas plants generally pose more of a threat to the stability of electricity networks than the relatively benign variations in the output of wind plant.

Maria McCaffery, BWEA chief executive, said: “For some years now BWEA has been saying that managing variability is neither a major technological challenge, nor is it set to significantly impact consumer bills.

“In fact, added renewable energy capacity on the system will ensure against fossil fuel price volatility.

“This report is the final nail in the coffin of the myth of intermittency. We now need to move on and do more to have increased amounts of wind energy on the system, in as short a time as possible.

“As a source of energy wind is free and manageable. Integration costs will be more than offset by insuring ourselves from the inevitable rises in fossil fuel prices, and we could be looking at net savings as we deploy more wind.”

Sam Bond

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