Europe’s unforeseen (?) renewables problem 

Posted: January 31, 2021 by oldbrew in Energy, Uncertainty
Tags: , , ,

Unforeseen? They must be joking. It has been painfully foreseeable for years to many of us, except maybe some of the more blinkered climate obsessives. The trouble is, as the article notes, ‘there is no silver bullet solution’ (except ones they don’t want to hear about).
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As the share of renewables in the EU energy mix increase, so do problems with grid overloads and blackouts, says

Earlier this month, something happened in Europe. It didn’t get as much media attention as the EU’s massive funding plans for its energy transition, but it was arguably as important, if not more.

A fault occurred at a substation in Croatia and caused an overload in parts of the grid, which spread beyond the country’s borders. This created a domino effect that caused a blackout and prompted electricity supply reductions as far as France and Italy.

The problem was dealt with, but it’s only a matter of time before more problems like this occur—the reason: the rise of renewables in the energy mix.

Bloomberg reported on the incident citing several sources from Europe’s utility sector. While no one [- Talkshop comment: really? -] would directly blame the blackout and the increased risk of more blackouts on renewables, it is evident that Europe’s change in the energy mix is raising this risk.

The problem has to do with grid frequency. Normally, it is 50 hertz, Bloomberg’s Jesper Starn, Brian Parkin, and Irina Vilcu explain. If the frequency deviates from this level, connected equipment gets damaged, and power outages follow.

The frequency is normally maintained by the inertia created by the spinning turbines of fossil fuel—or nuclear, or hydro—power plants. With Europe cutting its coal and nuclear capacity, this inertia declines as well, exposing the grid to frequency deviations.

“The problem isn’t posed by growing green electricity directly but by shrinking conventional capacity,” the chief electricity system modeler at Cologne University’s EWI Institute of Energy Economics told Bloomberg.

This is pretty much the same as saying it is not the pandemic that is wreaking havoc on the global economy, but the lack of enough healthy people to keep it going.

Wind and solar power, for all their benefits, such as a much lower emissions footprint, do have drawbacks, as does every source of energy.

In this case, the drawback is the intermittency of generation. This intermittency cannot maintain the inertia necessary to keep the grid at 50 hertz.

Full article here.

  1. tallbloke says:

    “This is pretty much the same as saying it is not the pandemic that is wreaking havoc on the global economy, but the lack of enough healthy people to keep it going.”

    They had to slip that fatuous piece of nonsense in there I suppose.

  2. It doesn't add up... says:

    ENTSO-E’s version of events:

    Failure at one substation leads to a 6.3GW power imbalance and an islanding separation of the grid with frequency deviation to 50.6Hz in the over-powered area, and 49.74 in the larger, underpowered area.

    The vulnerability to transmission failure via cascaded failures is highlighted. The thing is, that if you are going to rely on transmitting large columes of power from one area to another just because it isn’t windy in the shortage area, you will be wide open to these problems.

  3. saighdear says:

    Tonto! are you listening? Derum derum derum dum dum, Here comes, er there goes..? Oh he’s looking for the silver bullet.

  4. Gamecock says:

    ‘In this case, the drawback is the intermittency of generation. This intermittency cannot maintain the inertia necessary to keep the grid at 50 hertz.’

    Generate to batteries, and send power to the grid from the batteries. Not for ride through, but grid stabilization. Or run motor generators from the renewables to add stability.

    Massively expensive, either way. But when you are killing a country, why care about cost?

  5. We live in a residential caravan park. Many have installed solar to the local grid.
    Last year they were told they might get disconnected if the solar caused malfunction to the grid.
    Stand alone solar is good if you can drum up enough energy to run the air con’ and kettle.

  6. Graeme No.3 says:


    Here in South Australia we know about 3-5 days long blackouts. We now have batteries large and small**. The ‘BIG’ battery has been recently enlarged (total cost about $160 million) and, if charged, could supply about 4 minutes worth, but it is mostly used to stabilise the grid frequency. Also, the grid operator has installed 4 synchronous condensers to help stabilise the frequency (at a cost of $165 million).
    When wind doesn’t blow we rely on imports from Victoria of brown coal generation and local diesel generators. Also the State hopes to have another Inter-State connector up running in a year or two to help stabilise supply (with black coal fired electricity) – a real snip at $2,500 million.
    The “joke” is that all that extra expenditure wasn’t necessary when we had a coal fired plant, but we are told that renewables are cheap (our electricity costs are comparable with Germany).

    **the small batteries are another State Govt. spending splurge; ‘storing’ household solar for peak demand times

  7. Druid144 says:

    Roger, talking of diesel generators, why don’t we hear anything now about all the container farms of backup generators, that were all the rage a few years ago?

  8. oldbrew says:

    “The problem isn’t posed by growing green electricity directly but by shrinking conventional capacity”

    They make holes in the bucket then claim there’s no known solution* to the ‘unforeseen’ leaks.

    *Having shut down or rejected fuel-burning power stations.

  9. Phoenix44 says:

    It’s not that there’s more stupidity that’s the problem, it’s that there’s less non-stupidity than there used to be.

  10. It doesn't add up... says:


    We only get to hear about the diesel farms when they get tripped out by some grid mishap. Because they are mainly connected to distribution networks, rather than directly to the high voltage transmission grid, they are considered embedded generation, and reported by the grid only as demand reduction.

    After the August 9th blackout it was discovered that lots of embedded generation was tripped out by the grid disturbances, and yet more was lost when they started disconnecting portions of the grid when the frequency hit 48.8Hz. So now we have ALOMCP, which is a programme to change the settings on embedded generation (including obviously larger solar parks and most inland wind farms as well as diesel gensets), so they don’t trip out so easily. The quid pro quo is an increased risk of damage, but the grid don’t like to talk about that, but there is a reaso why they are called protection settings.

  11. It doesn't add up... says:

    Perhaps also worth drawing attention to this story

    The grid wants to be able to switch off solar parks and wind farms when there is excess generation that risks over-voltages and burnout of appliances., or causing grid power to flow only in restricted routes that might compromise their capacity and lead to meltdowns and blackouts. Expect the importance of this to grow if embedded generation returns to the subsidy gravy train. The motivation for cutting subsidies from previous generous levels was in large measure to prevent this problem.

  12. oldbrew says:

    In this case, the drawback is the intermittency of generation. This intermittency cannot maintain the inertia necessary to keep the grid at 50 hertz.

    So the greater the percentage of renewables, the greater the risk of a grid failure. And what do the net zero nutters advocate? More renewables, less fuel burning power stations. Hello???

  13. It doesn't add up... says:

    In this case the intermittency of renewables during a period of Dunkelflaute meant that NW Europe was relying on SE Europe to keep the power flowing, because they were getting next to nothing from wind and solar relative to normal levels and it was cold so demand was above normal. So when the transmission lines started flipping out through cascaded threats of overload, NW Europe was suddenly left very short of power (hence the “demand response” power cuts), while SE Europe had to shut down capacity quickly because they couldn’t export it. There was actually plenty of inertia in NW Europe, which only saw a modest frequency dip for a 6.3GW supply loss. The power surplus in SE Europe was relatively larger, and hence the bigger upward frequency excursion – but again, it is perhaps unrealistic to expect them to have to cope with such a large loss of demand. Again, they were not renewables dependent and there was plenty of inertia for normal operations.

    It was the long distance reliance on imports due to lack of renewable generation that gave rise to the problem.

  14. oldbrew says:

    The EU talks up renewables and waffles about a ‘climate emergency’, but buys more gas from Russia – if the pipeline gets completed.
    – – –
    Update: The UK will have similar grid frequency issues. But tonight wind is struggling, giving less power than imports.

  15. It doesn't add up... says:

    Perhaps I should have said due to the lack of generation more generally. This is a problem that will get worse the more dispatchable coal and nuclear capacity is shut down to appease the green gods. The solution is also clear: power cuts.

  16. oldbrew says:

    Net Zero fiasco: Nuclear winter for Britain as power plants close
    Date: 31/01/21 The Sunday Times

    “The reality is that nuclear capacity will come off before it is replaced, which means carbon emissions will go up or won’t come down.”
    – – –
    More grid instability too. What’s the priority: ‘carbon’ emissions or keeping the lights on?