Do wind turbines need backup?
It is common for opponents of wind power to state that wind
turbines need substantial 'backup' plant on the grid for
periods when there is no wind. This is far from true, as this
report shows. Main factors necessitating significant
reserve plant capacity are: (1) all forms of generation stop
sometimes (e.g. unexpected and sudden outages of nuclear
plant), and (2) the demand changes, sometimes suddenly (e.g.
at the end of televised national sporting events). The reserve
in place already is more than sufficient for UK wind power now
and for the next 10 years at least.
See also related article in Wind
Power Monthly. Key points:
- Back-up is always provided for
all power plants on a system, with or without wind
- There is no need to build back-up
for wind; existing power plants in any system provide the
required back-up for all plants
- Wind generation displaces
fossil-fuel generation and some of those plants can be
taken out of operation
- As the penetration of wind
increases in any power system, the volume of capacity that
is operated at part load, ready to ramp up or down
according to peaks in demand or unexpected generation
shortfalls, increases slightly to maintain a consistent
probability of security of supply
- Since the volume of extra reserve
when adding wind is modest so is the additional cost.
Savings from wind replacing other generation are likely to
more than cover that extra cost
- The emissions saved by wind
displacing fossil-fuel generation are far greater than any
extra emissions from increased spinning reserve.
Further reading (in no particular order):
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updated 20 January 2015