How much longer will you be paid to balance the grid?Efficient Power Solutions

Tomorrow’s power mix; how much longer will you be paid to balance the grid?

Tomorrow’s power mix; how much longer will you be paid to balance the grid?

If you drive along the A1 motorway past Ferrybridge, you’ll notice building work; not unusual in itself, there have been several changes to the site over the years.

The pile of coal that sat there for as long as anyone can remember has dwindled into non-existence. The building work is closely linked; it is for new biomass generation plants that are replacing the old coal-fired site.

On 21st April 2017, the UK had its first coal free day since electricity was distributed in the 1880’s. Much has been written about UK electricity supply decarbonisation, the process is without doubt a necessity from an environmental point of view.

But, less well publicised are the problems associated with balancing the grid to give a consistent voltage and frequency across the country.

Grid balancing and a low carbon future

When the UK had a small number of generators, things were far simpler. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of generation points in the network, made up mainly of solar and wind installations.

Much is made of the advent of grid scale and load side battery storage across the network; this will undoubtedly help balance the output from renewables to load, especially in parts of the country with an over-availability of energy.

But until then, we are faced with consumers being paid large sums to take the excess power generated. Large scale storage will negate this requirement, and in turn improve the efficiency of such installations.

When the sun doesn’t shine

Given our weather, there will be times where the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow. At present this mismatch is taken up by power stations paid to be on standby, and by various interconnectors to Europe.

When sufficient numbers are installed, battery storage will offer short term security of supply, but only by hours or a few days at best.

Another question surrounds developing low-carbon technologies rather than resourcing the already high levels of solar and wind.

Such technologies include tidal and hydro, but other mature technologies such as pumped storage must play their part. The drawback with these technologies is the initial capital outlay, and the low number of suitable sites.
However, looking at lifespan, these offer far in excess of anything currently available from battery storage.

The drive towards two main types of renewable generation is making it hard to justify large capital expense for systems, which in all likelihood will only be needed for a low utilisation factor.

Likewise as facilities age and maintenance costs rise, big generating companies will be less inclined to keep power stations in a ready to run condition, just in case they are needed.

The right mix for tomorrow’s power

In an ideal scenario then, we should be aiming for a mix of technologies capable of supporting the grid, including battery storage, demand response, and pumped hydro.

Equally, generation from existing and planned biomass plants, tidal schemes and existing nuclear and gas fired stations will be needed to provide sufficient baseload.

The crux remains; sufficient utilisation is required from these to make them financially viable to investors.

For unbiased advice on any of these topics, contact Dave or Kevin at Efficient Power Solutions on 01909 569016.[/vc_column][/vc_row]