The Role of Distributed Generation in the UK Blackout of 9 August 2019

How far down this track to we want to go?

Reports on recent studies to uncover the roots of the August blackout in Britain are summarised for interested citizens. Not an easy read and the conclusion is disturbing.

Consumers have to do better!

Taken together these studies of the 9th August blackout report systemic fragility problems in the UK electricity supply industry… but the E3C also observes that the consumer sector itself is poorly prepared (p.18ff). As a matter of fact, they are encouraging consumers of all kinds to develop “strong business continuity plans” covering “a range of credible power disruption scenarios”. 

They find that consumer side weakness is the outcome of a long period of robust electricity supply, so consumers never had to test, adapt or even go to the difficulty and expense of developing measures that ensure their lives and businesses are robust in the context of a fragile electricity system. They could rely on the system. That is not the case today.

Suck it up, princesses!

And reach for your wallet.

The costs of a largely decentralised generation portfolio, much of it composed of low inertia generators such as wind and solar, are not limited to the technical athletics of the System Operator, but also involve the need for a forewarned and forearmed consumption market. Thanks to energy and climate policies, British consumers from households to hospitals must now ensure that they are able to handle not only the more extreme grid management measures required by a “smart”, “clean” system but also the consequences emerging when those measures prove inadequate. Taking up the slack, which is what “strong business continuity plans” ultimately means, will not be cost free.

WINDWATCH. Approaching noon today the wind in SE Australia was providing a tad over 4% of electricity demand, at 1pm it was up to 4.5. That represents 15 to 20% of plated capacity.

Choke point watch.

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26 Responses to The Role of Distributed Generation in the UK Blackout of 9 August 2019

  1. Rohan

    To summarise all this into 4 words: Buy a backup generator.

  2. Some History

    The regular idiocy of Ellen Brant

    Imagine a big red button. Press it & you immediately help stop global warming. It also puts some billionaires out of business. And you must find decent, well-paying jobs for a few fellow citizens. You’d press it, right? It exists. On it is written ‘Quit Coal’.

  3. Roger

    How far down this track to we want to go?

    We’re going all the way, brother, like it or not.

  4. We’re already used to regular blackouts our way, many planned and many unplanned. When either happens, we just default to our camping gear and carry on. Today was supposed to be another all day electricity disruption, so we went shopping in the ‘valley’, but the smoke possibly caused OH&S not to allow any work to be conducted.

    This was what the smoke looked like on 2 Jan 2020 and it’s even worse today, the Latrobe Valley was engulfed like a pea souper:

  5. Bazinga

    Weren’t they warned beforehand this would all happen (sarc/)

  6. OldOzzie

    #3293034, posted on January 15, 2020 at 12:51 pm
    How far down this track to we want to go?

    We’re going all the way, brother, like it or not.

    Stupidity Repeats Stupidity – Young People Destroying their and their Children’s Futures

  7. Lee

    And yet we vote people in who want to make electricity unaffordable or unavailable!

    Still waiting for a political party which has the guts (unlike the LNP and Labor) to ditch all subsidised renewables, and ignore AGW alarmists altogether.

  8. Professor Fred Lenin

    The smoke is a mixture of coal fires power stations spewing CO2 and fires caused by the failure of the liberals to obey the orders of the unelected u.n. DenIndustrialists and the altruists who own the renewable industry with their bought and paid for politicians . The u.n. Knows best like the EU unelected bureaucrsts are cleverer than all of us .

  9. Faye

    The recent devastation of the bush fires highlighted to the populace, the evidence of the ongoing mismanagement of our bush and the dangerous “environmental” laws. Huge damage to lives, pets, property and wildlife. Perhaps the same wake-up call needs to happen with our dubious electricity supply.

    Right now the various renewables input and coal backup are choreographed minute by minute to keep the electricity on, however, the day will come when the whole system collapses. The populace won’t be quietened then. The politicians had better grow up and realize that their system is a dud and to stop propping-up of renewables and debunk climate-change while they’re at it.

  10. Perhaps the same wake-up call needs to happen…

    That wake-up call will come when today’s terrified youth can’t charge their mobile phones and the mobile phone towers and internet sites lose power. A day or so without their mobile phone will cause more terror than any reGretable Thunderberg can muster.

  11. Lee

    Right now the various renewables input and coal backup are choreographed minute by minute to keep the electricity on, however, the day will come when the whole system collapses. The populace won’t be quietened then.

    The demonstrations and possibly even rioting Australia has seen in the past will be nothing compared to what happens then.

    Bank on it.

    The climate change people who are protesting now, will also be protesting then, because they cannot use their mobile phones or laptops, or have no power at home.

  12. Whalehunt fun

    These cretins are promoting the use of small petrol and diesel generators while ignoring the wonderful Australian invention – a small household electricity generator that runs on coal.

  13. anonandon

    Heavy industry (what remains) are being asked to throttle their usage and hospitals with their own emergency generation capacity are now being asked on hot days to run their gensets to help prevent a grid failure. Oh the ironing.

  14. anonandon

    BTW I recommend reading The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver. It’s starting to look less like a work of fiction and more like a survival manual for what lies ahead.

  15. Rafe Champion

    Tanks Whalehunt I love the concept and if I had money to spare I would like one for the sheer novelty but I think that a gennie is a better bet. I would need to know about sourcing coal going forward.
    It is probably a joke as well, the kind of thing I might have thought up to piss off the warmies.
    Anyway I will post it on Facebook and see how people respond.

  16. Howard Hill

    Whalehunt fun
    #3293168, posted on January 15, 2020 at 3:09 pm

    Start up Power Miner says the units, which go on sale on Monday for $4,999 including installation, will give households a way to benefit from the unused fuel available following the closure of coal-fired generators in Australia.

    Each unit takes up the space of an average-sized family fridge. The bottom section is reserved for water to prevent the unit from overheating, and small lumps of coal can be fed in through a wooden shaft at the top.

    I don’t see a product, am I missing something?
    The size of a regular fridge they say but no pictures.
    How does it work? what’s its capacity. How’s installed?
    We have regulations governing pressure vessels, it’s a steam generator after all.
    All seems a bit suss to me.

    On another note. Just wait till 30% of your neighbour hood have their generators running all night. How long before they ban them?

  17. Professor Fred Lenin

    Some history,when bandit pushes the big red button all bushfires in Australia go out and never again reappear and the temperature goes down 3 degrees . Its magic I tells ya !
    Power prices drop to near zero ? Well wind and solar are free arent they?

  18. Rafe Champion

    Re the internal coal generator, clearly a joke, didn’t read first time, then we find
    The Tourney family say the installation of the Power Miner has slashed their quarterly bill by over ten dollars. “It’s so great to get an immediate payback,” said Mrs Tourney, who paid nearly five thousand dollars for her miniature thermal plant.

  19. Rafe Champion

    This Facebook response was: This is a better idea (small scale nuclear) But this is serious and a long read for nerds and people who really groove on nuclear plants.

  20. John snowy Bowyer

    Could one of our resident experts find the enquiry launched by the Victorian Government in the 1920’s and lead by Sir John Monash? He decided that a large, dependable power source was needed to supply electricity at the most economic price. Hence Morwell power station was opened, proved him right and all was well, we had the cheapest power in Australia. then some not as talented people decided they had a better idea.

  21. Electric cars “as a thing” predicate the widespread use of small scale nuclear. It is the best option for charging/service stations. That and investment in high capacitance batteries and capacitors, as well as good quality solid state inverters.

  22. Mater

    However, with regard to the story of the blackout, the main narrative has not changed much since last year; a lightning strike trigged the disconnection of, firstly, 150 MW of Distributed Generation, closely followed by the almost instantaneous loss of 737 MW of the Hornsea 1 offshore wind farm. Shortly after that the steam unit at Little Barford Combined Cycle Gas Turbine tripped off. All of this occurred within 1 second of the lightning strike. The consequent drop in frequency triggered further disconnections of Distributed Generators. Additionally, the first of the two gas turbines at Little Barford also now had to disconnect, closely followed by the second of the two gas turbines, and yet more Distributed Generation.

    Not terribly dissimilar to what happened to South Australia in 2016. Wind farms couldn’t/didn’t ride through the faults (also caused by weather), they dropped off instantaneously sending the demand on the interconnector through the roof, it protected itself by dropping off, frequency then went through the floor, the load shedding scheme wasn’t fast enough to save it and then everything else said ‘enough’. Everyone in the state goes black and “South Australian wind farms in court over compliance issues during 2016 black out”.

  23. Nob

    Rafe Champion
    #3293498, posted on January 15, 2020 at 8:30 pm
    Re the internal coal generator, clearly a joke,

    April Fools – check the date of it.

  24. rickw

    I’m thinking of buying an LPG powered genset, main reason is the long term storage properties of the fuel, plus in extremis I could adapt it to run off natural gas with relative simplicity.

    Thoughts / comments?

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