Obviously if wind and solar power are good then more means better. Sure we need a bit of firming capacity from gas but we just need more windmills and acres of solar panels and things will get better. What could go wrong?
The Germans are well ahead of us on this path. See my previous pieces we have to talk about Germany and we need to keep talking about Germany. One of our great threadsters came up with a nice piece on the stability of the German grid, not something that I tried to spell out before because my main points were the cost of the exercise and the failure to reduce emissions.
Still, grid failure is of some interest to people who like the lights to stay on, not to mention the wheels of industry, ATMs, cash registers, petrol pumps and traffic lights.
The German story is depicted in four charts. The bottom line is that more unreliable energy makes the grid less stable.
“Power collapses within minutes”
The first chart shows the performance of wind energy for 15 European countries and that of Germany for the period May, 2018:
Vernunftkraft writes that with wind energy in Europe, “power generation [goes up and down so rapidly that it] collapses within minutes.”
Yet wind proponents and lobbyists like to counter by telling us that the problem will be manageable by simply adding more capacity, some storage and using a smart grid.
The second chart shows that doubled the German installed capacity for wind over the past 8 years only made things worse.
Note that the peaks are far greater and that the instability has become far more extreme. Yet, this is not stopping green energy activists and lobbyists from calling for doubling, tripling or even quadrupling the country’s installed wind capacity.
On top of that, the best locations are taken first and clustered windmills interfere with each other so doubling the rated capacity only produced a little extra power. They report that the German turbines feed in an average of 15% of their rated power.
The third chart of wind and solar production for the month of July 2018 purports to show that they were AWOL far more often than they were on the job. That is not really clear to my reading of the chart but the fourth display is in numbers and this is a killer.
Less than 10% of rated capacity almost half the time
The table above shows the wind ran a total of 744 hours in June 2018. Some 320 hours, or 43% of the total time, saw wind turbines running at a measly 0 – 10% of their rated capacity. The turbines ran at 40% or more of their rated capacity for only a totally lousy 1.5 hours (0.2% of the time)!
That is much worse than the Australian figure of 29 days in the year delivering less than 10% of capacity but the Australian performance will deteriorate with the best sites taken and the first machines getting older.
The picture is clear, more does not mean better for grid stability.
Of course the German grid has managed to stagger on without collapsing yet, an ongoing nightmarish task for the operators. You could say they have maintained reliability if not stability. But reliability depends on the availability of practically 100% of baseload from hydrocarbons and hydro (and nuclear in Germany). We come back to the image of wind and solar as expensive ornaments attached to the grid but even that does not do justice to the damage they do, on top of the ludicrous expense of dual power systems.
UPDATE. The joy of insomnia, at 1.40 am Sydney time wind is down to about 0.6GW that is 13% of Wind capacity and 2.4% of Demand in SE Australia