The variability of renewable energy sources such as wind, often cited as the sector’s Achilles’ heel, does not have to be a problem, according to a new report from the National Gridational Grid, which owns and operates the electricity network in the

UK, says that increased wind generation and large nuclear power

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stations are manageable and can be accommodated.

Critics of

renewable energy claim that the intermittency of sources such as wind

and solar will require significant – and potentially costly – balancing

in the form of storage or extra back-up generation.

The report,

which is now open for industry consultation, says new network

technology could play a strong role in managing renewable energy

variability instead of back-up generation alone.

“This most

comprehensive view yet of how Britain could balance electricity supply

and demand in the future moves the debate firmly beyond the simplistic

view that we just need more back-up generation,” says Chris Bennett of

National Grid.

Smart meters and grid would allow electricity

demand to be actively managed – for example by automatically shifting

demand to off-peak times. Smart grid technology could allow fridges and

freezers in homes and businesses to turn on and off throughout the day

to save energy.

Electric vehicles could also be used as a storage option or another block of demand that can be moved to off-peak times.

The

report also cites other new technologies such as batteries and

supercapacitors, which could make it much easier to store large

quantities of electricity, and even large flywheels or compressed air.

Increasing

interconnection with the rest of Europe could also have advantages,

says the report, by allowing intermittency from wind power to be

balanced over a much larger area.

Environmental and renewable energy groups have welcomed the report.

“It’s

great that National Grid has produced a report that shows that

variability need not be seen as a stumbling block in the journey

towards a low carbon power sector,” says Keith Allott of WWF-UK.

“It

knocks on the head the myth that large amounts of capacity of “hot”

standby is the only way to deal with the variability of wind,” adds

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association.

For further information:
www.nationalgrid.com/uk/Electricity/Operating+in+2020
www.nationalgrid.com
www.wwf.org.uk/
www.bwea.com/

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