Wind power predictable enough to help keep lights on - IPPR
LONDON (Reuters) - Wind power in Britain is predictable enough that the grid can rely on it to help keep the lights on, despite spells of cold, calm weather, while it cuts carbon emissions significantly, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said.
Critics have said wind power cannot be relied upon at times that demand is the greatest, cannot be stored and does not cut enough carbon to make large investments worthwhile.
Earlier this year, over 100 members of parliament urged the prime minister to cut support to the onshore wind industry and spread the savings to other forms of renewable energy that they saw as more reliable.
"The reliability and security of wind power does not depend on the variability of wind but instead on how well changes in wind power output can be predicted and managed," thinktank IPPR said in a report on Thursday.
Carbon savings from 15.5 terrawatt hours of wind energy in Britain in 2011 amounted to at least 5.5 million tonnes, or around 2.5 percent of the emissions the UK has promised to cut over 2008-2012, the report said.
In July, the UK cut subsidies for onshore wind by 10 percent from 2013, but some investors expected a greater reduction of 25 percent.
GRID CAN COPE
Wind farm output can be forecast 24 hours ahead.
Statistical analysis shows that the most extreme changes in output amount to around 20 percent of total wind generation capacity in half an hour, the report said.
In the worst case, wind production could drop as electricity demand is rising.
"However it is important to reiterate that changes in wind production are to a large degree predictable: the operators can see rapid changes coming, or at the very least, be forewarned of the risk of rapid changes," the report said.
"On the rare occasions when this could cause difficulty, electricity system operators can instruct the wind generation segment of the system to limit the rate at which its output increases or to reduce its output gradually in advance of a reduction in wind speed."
Extended periods of low wind speed and cold, when power demand is high for heating, also could pose problems.
The electricity system has enough fossil fuel capacity in reserve, however, that it should still manage to provide secure supplies to meet that demand, IPPR said.
The National Grid has said it can accommodate 30 gigawatts (GW) of wind power by 2020, slightly more than the 28 GW the government expects to be online by that time to help meet its carbon reduction targets. About 5 GW are online currently.
More efficient energy use in homes and businesses, smart meters, electric vehicles, better energy storage and the use of natural gas to make up a capacity shortfall during a long, cold calm spell could help the grid adapt, IPPR said.
Interconnections between electricity systems should also be improved to allow the grid to tap wind resources in other parts of Britain or elsewhere in Europe when cold and calm periods occur in one area.
"International evidence shows (wind is) wholly viable, and yet we're still not taking full advantage of it in terms of deployment," lobby group RenewableUK chief executive, Maria McCaffery, said in response to the report.
"British families are still being hit hard by rising wholesale fossil fuel prices."
(The story is re-filed to remove stray character in paragraph 3)
(Reporting by Nina Chestney; editing by Jane Baird)
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