Two wrongs make a right

Posted: January 15, 2015 by Andrew in Energy, Idiots

imageChristopher Booker has today sent us a timely reminder, as the General Election approaches, of the madness that has taken hold in this Sceptr’d Isle, this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.

The solution to the variability of electricity generation from wind turbines, is of course, diesel. Not forgetting obscene amount of Tax payers money.

Occasionally, one comes across a story so mind-blowingly unexpected and out-of-left-field that it seems hard for readers to take on board that it is true. Such is the story I first reported here last month, under the heading, “Our lights will stay on, but it’ll cost us a fortune”, about the scheme being devised by the National Grid to solve what has long been the most intractable problem created by the Government’s plan to see the best part of £110 billion spent in seven years on building tens of thousands more wind turbines – namely, how to keep our national grid “balanced” when it has to cope with all those unpredictably wild fluctuations in the speed of the wind.

The answer National Grid has come up with, only made possible by the latest computer technology and “cloud software”, is to hook up thousands of diesel generators, remotely controlled by the grid, to provide almost instantly available back-up for when the wind drops. As we can see from recent reports, such as the National Grid’s draft consultation on “Demand Side Balancing Reserve and Supplemental Balancing Reserve”, this is now taking off into the weirdest and most ambitious scheme yet called into being by our politicians’ obsession with wind turbines. As uncovered by the tireless research of my colleague, Richard North, on his EU Referendum blog, owners of diesel generators are being incentivised with offers of astronomic fees to make them available to the grid – subsidies equivalent to up to 12 times the going rate for conventional electricity, and even, on very rare occasions, up to £15,000 per megawatt hour (MWh), or 300 times the normal rate of £50 per MWh.

Initially, this “short-term operating reserve” only envisaged relying on existing standby generators, many owned by public bodies such as hospitals, prisons and military installations – which stand to earn hundreds of millions of pounds from the Government, paid for by the rest of us as a “stealth tax” through our electricity bills. But so lucrative is the subsidy bonanza now being proposed that dozens of private firms, with names such as Renewable Energy Generation and Power Balancing Services, are flocking to cash in by building dedicated “virtual power stations”, capable of generating up to 20MW or more, knowing that they can expect up to £47,000 a year in “availability payments” for each MW of capacity, even before they have generated a single unit of power.

This solution to the “grid balancing” problem created by wind was pioneered in the US. The first firm to set up a “virtual power station” in Britain was UK Power Reserve, run by a former governor of Oklahoma, who was amazed to find the British offering subsidies seven times larger than those available in his native state. When last week I asked National Grid, Ofgem and others for an estimate of how much we will all be having to pay for this “balancing” scheme, the general response was that this is still too much a “work in progress” to allow for overall cost estimates – although National Grid has been quoted as suggesting that within two years it could be £1 billion a year, adding 5 per cent more to our already soaring electricity bills. But, without question, we are looking here at one of the most sure-fire moneymaking wheezes of our time – what one firm happily describes as “money for nothing”.

And the final irony, of course, is that those diesel generators chuck out almost as much, per unit, of that supposedly polluting CO2 as any of the coal-fired power stations our politicians want to see taxed and regulated out of existence.

  1. catweazle666 says:

    And the final irony, of course, is that those diesel generators chuck out almost as much, per unit, of that supposedly polluting CO2 as any of the coal-fired power stations our politicians want to see taxed and regulated out of existence.

    Not to mention those evil particulates due to which Boris is proposing to ban diesel cars – not trucks, buses, taxis and trains, note – from London.

  2. Jerry says:

    In my opinion, this situation comes from the failure to analyze the complete system. That includes not only the wind turbines themselves, but also the costs and emissions required to produce and maintain the backup power sources, over both of their respective service lives. Ultimately, the cost of replacement should be included, too.

    As an aside, the technology in the wind turbine field seems to be immature. One example is the spectacular and catastrophic structural failures. These failures seem to indicate under-estimated loads, over-estimated structural properties, or perhaps under-estimated or ignored fatigue. When the reasons for these failures are isolated, the associated costs of eliminating them should be factored into the analysis.

  3. From the schemes I’ve seen, they are not even proposing to install large DGs (such as marine ones) but lots of little ones. Sheer madness, but it’s what we expect from LibLabCon.

  4. tallbloke says:

    The sheer scale of the irrationality and incompetence beggars belief.
    This is what the outline for a sane climate and energy policy looks like:

  5. Andrew says:

    And there’s more.

    Ed Miliband: I’ll see your 80% by 2050, raise you 100%

  6. oldbrew says:

    It’s odd that the public seem to have little idea how crackers these ‘low-carbon’ policies really are.

    Another case of boiling frog syndrome?

  7. oldbrew says:

    Cuadrilla has been granted a permit by the Environment Agency to drill for gas in Lancashire.

  8. manicbeancounter says:

    The photograph is not typical of the generators involved. It shows quite large and new-looking 20 cyl engines probably of 500 litres per engine and generating about 5 MW each.
    There STOR capacity in the UK can be split into three.
    1. The old, large generators that powered the islands before they were linked to the national grid. For instance on the Isle of Man, Peel power station has four 16cyl engines, each producing 10MW from engines weighing 130 tonnes and of 1200 litre capacity.
    2. The backup generators in hospitals etc. These might weigh 10-20 tonnes and produce 1-3MW and 60-400 litres each. Many were originally installed in the 1970s when the mains electricity was at risk from strike action.
    3. Specially-built engine farms with 500kw engines, often housed in mini-container units.

    The older larger engines are about 10-20% more efficient than the smaller 500kw engines, but have a slower start-up – though many can be started in a couple of minutes. The biggest reason for the smaller engines is cost. The capital cost is much smaller, and maintenance much less as well. However, the smaller engines are cheap enough to through away when needing a major overhaul.

    In terms of fuel, the larger engines will consume about 210 litres per megawatt. If red diesel is 40p a litre, that is £84 a megawatt – compared to the recent wholesale price of less than £50.

  9. M Simon says:

    the general response was that this is still too much a “work in progress”

    My eye-brain system is not what it used to be and I at first thought it said “wank in progress”.

    I think my version is more correct.

  10. Kon Dealer says:

    This insanity must be given the “oxygen of publicity” at every opportunity, so that the Public can see just where the corrupt and cretinous “green” policies have got us.

    The b******s are robbing us blind.

  11. Brian H says:

    Subsidized stupidity on steroids.

  12. steverichards1984 says:

    Sadly common, when asked how much this will cost – “We do not know yet”!

    Its only public money so no problem then!

    So very sad.