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« Fire up the document shredder | Main | Round the bend - Josh 271 »
Thursday
Apr172014

Wind speculation

There was a major power cut in the north of Scotland at 8:30pm yesterday. At one time, as many as 200,000 homes were affected. According to the Scotsman, the current theory is that there may have been a problem in power lines near Inverness.

Teams of engineers are today out checking the thousands of kilometres of power lines across the region.

A spokesman for energy firm SSE said a helicopter was also assisting in the search for the cause.

He said: “Our engineers are still investigating the cause and location of the fault. It is a large geographical areas these guys have to search.

“Some times you really need to go out an inspect the lines by eye.”

It is understood engineers are concentrating their efforts on an area between Moray and Inverness.

However, over at the Scotland Against Spin Facebook page, speculation is rife that it may be something to do with the wind turbine fleet.

...having looked at yesterdays wind data something very strange happened at about 20.27.... that may have been the power cut which triggered it .. but wind dropped sharply.

Seems to me that [National Grid] were expecting a rise in wind speeds (which did come afterwards) and started to ramp down gas & coal in expectation of it, when the sudden lull arrived.

Intriguing!

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Reader Comments (46)

Possibly a standing wave downwind of the mountains. If the position of the wave shifts slightly it can cause dramatic changes in wind speed.

Apr 17, 2014 at 1:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterIan Wilson

Glad to see that "teams of engineers" on the case. Hopefully all chartered. If chartered, would clearly see the fallacy of depending on the wind like that.

Apr 17, 2014 at 1:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterRob Schneider

"... the current theory is that there may have been a problem in power lines near Inverness.

S.L.B.T.M.

Apr 17, 2014 at 1:13 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Of course it will cause problems. So why do it?

Apr 17, 2014 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered Commenterfenbeagleblog

Hmm, the graphs at Gridwatch do not show a wind drop yesterday evening.

Apr 17, 2014 at 1:19 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

Are there any tree huggers reading this who would like to share with us just how much they enjoyed the few hours without electricity last night?

Apr 17, 2014 at 1:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Hi Paul. Definite wind drop. Never mind the forecast. I was out feeding the cattle. One minute I could hardly get the barn door closed and then no wind at all. Just went inside and the power went off. 08.20pm

Apr 17, 2014 at 1:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Graham

Wind electrical data from yesterday evening

ID --------Date ----- Time ---- Wind
303071 2014-04-16 19:00:02 1982
303072 2014-04-16 19:05:03 1991
303073 2014-04-16 19:10:04 2012
303074 2014-04-16 19:15:02 2060
303075 2014-04-16 19:20:02 2118
303076 2014-04-16 19:25:01 2190
303077 2014-04-16 19:30:03 2280
303078 2014-04-16 19:35:04 2331
303079 2014-04-16 19:40:01 2366
303080 2014-04-16 19:45:02 2019
303081 2014-04-16 19:50:04 1879
303082 2014-04-16 19:55:02 1871
303083 2014-04-16 20:00:02 1841
303084 2014-04-16 20:05:07 1830
303085 2014-04-16 20:10:03 1862
303086 2014-04-16 20:15:04 1923
303087 2014-04-16 20:20:03 1950
303088 2014-04-16 20:25:01 1970
303089 2014-04-16 20:30:04 1988
303090 2014-04-16 20:35:02 2010
303091 2014-04-16 20:40:01 2049
303092 2014-04-16 20:45:03 2073
303093 2014-04-16 20:50:03 2087
303094 2014-04-16 20:55:03 2128
303095 2014-04-16 21:00:04 2173
303096 2014-04-16 21:05:03 2189
303097 2014-04-16 21:10:06 2204

There was a peak and then fall off at 19:40.

Apr 17, 2014 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

@ Paul Matthews

Hmm, the graphs at Gridwatch do not show a wind drop yesterday evening...

If it was of short duration it may not figure in a graph. But if the problem was indeed a dispatchability one, surely:

1 - it would show in generation/demand data or the frequency record...
2 - Scottish and Southern Energy would know, and wouldn't bother commissioning a helicopter...

Apr 17, 2014 at 2:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

I'd be surprised if this was wind related. Sounds like a major fault on the Aberdeen - Inverness Line, but it is odd that the outage affected 200,000, right across the whole of the north. In the old days the grid control engineers had to write a letter of apology and explanation to the Secretary of State for Scotland whenever there was a significant outage. Not sure if they still do.

Apr 17, 2014 at 2:10 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

There was indeed a sudden drop in UK wind power at 8pm last night. After a short drop the power rose slowly rose from about 2GW to 4GW. The drop was preceded first by a ramping down of coal power and then a fast restoration of coal output.

see: this snapshot here

I keep a live monitor of the last 24 hours of UK power delivery updated once an hour. It uses the same data source as gridwatch. see- this live graph

Apr 17, 2014 at 2:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterClive Best

On the subject of energy policy madness, I have just remembered a comment I read last night on a thread at Tallbloke's, about a recent Canadian power outage, possibly related to the closure of a perfectly good coal power station in Ontario, so it can be converted to biomass:

DD More says:
April 16, 2014 at 9:57 pm
“The enhanced bio-mass, according to sources, will come from Norway by ship. ”
So Thunderbay will get wood chips from Norway and Draxs in the UK will get wood chips from North Carolina. See anything strange in this picture?
As someone who has worked around larger wood burning boilers, they will not get temperatures hot enough to match the turbine requirements, lots less power and we had to mix a little coal to keep the wood chip fire hot enough to keep running.

It is difficult not to conclude that the people running energy policy in Canada and the UK are complete and utter f*ckwits.

Apr 17, 2014 at 2:23 PM | Registered Commenterlapogus

"...the current theory" is, there is no current. Duh.

Apr 17, 2014 at 2:27 PM | Registered CommenterHarry Passfield

@ Rob Schneider Apr 17, 2014 at 1:10 PM

"......engineers on the case. Hopefully all chartered. If chartered, would clearly see the fallacy of depending on the wind like that."

Rob, you don't need to be 'chartered' to recognise the fallacy of so-called 'Global Warming / Climate Change'.

Apr 17, 2014 at 2:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

lapogus, you took the words right out of my mouth[;-)].

[...] a bit strange that power outages, many lasting just a few tenths of a second, have been on a hockey stick increase lately ever since Germany started force feeding the uneven supply of wind and solar power into its grid and switching off an array of nuclear power plants. - A similar event in Northern Scotland recently - maybe?

Apr 17, 2014 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

The drop in the wind was the result of Global Weirding brought about by Climate Change. So we need more wind turbines.

'Sobvious, innit?

Apr 17, 2014 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterdearieme

@lapogus


So Thunderbay will get wood chips from Norway and Draxs in the UK will get wood chips from North Carolina. See anything strange in this picture?
...
It is difficult not to conclude that the people running energy policy in Canada and the UK are complete and utter f*ckwits...


I don't conclude that the people running energy policy in Canada and the UK are complete and utter f*ckwits. i conclude that the people running energy policy in Canada and the UK have a lot of money invested in shipping lines...

Apr 17, 2014 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterDodgy Geezer

انفلونزا الانتقام > bird revenge

It could have been a group of bird guerrillas attacking the wind generators. They were seeking revenge for the wind turbine massacre of their species. It could be the beginning of Wind Wars.

Apr 17, 2014 at 3:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Lapogus

Here in Ontario we have the Provincial Liberal government to thank for our hair brained power generation policy. We are in the midst of a scandal in which 2 natural gas power plants which were under construction were cancelled about the time of the last election. It is alleged that the plants were cancelled by the liberals so they could curry favour with the locals to win two hotly contested seats in those ridings. The cost to Ontario tax payers is estimated at $1 billion.

Some of their other brilliant policies include signing a $20 billion dollar deal with samsung a few years back for wind and solar power and cutting funding for nuclear reactor development. The attempt to phase out nuclear power really is a shame given the world class nuclear technologies which were developed in Ontario since the 1950s.

Needlessly to say, as a result of there policies Ontarians are facing increasingly expensive electrical costs. But it's all okay, a couple of months ago the government launched a PR offensive to tell us how the CEOs of the power companies were making too much money (alluding to this being the reason why our power rates were getting so expensive). So it looks like they have everything under control!!!

Apr 17, 2014 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterKilroywashere

Looking at Clive Best's chart there appear to have been a couple of brief outages on the French interconnector - a loss and recovery of ~2GW - which if genuine must have been destabilising. It's possible that the grid in England managed to cover them while dumping the problem on Scotland unwittingly. Kirchoff's laws can produce some highly unusual power flows which can be difficult to anticipate the more complex the grid network and numbers of generators. It's no longer possible to simulate the loss of power for all the possible combinations.

Apr 17, 2014 at 3:06 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Hope the good people in the deprived northern English city of Hull and their local MP Alan Johnson are taking notice of this

Apr 17, 2014 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterjamspid

... getting word from Central Park, NYC that TWO butterflies flapped their wings..

Apr 17, 2014 at 4:02 PM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

@ lapogus 2:23

The folks in charge of our power generation in Ontario are even crazier than you think! The report excerpts below will show you the level of planning that goes into these politically driven decisions:

"Many of Thunder Bay's conversion details (to advanced biomass), such as the price tag, have yet to be finalized.....

“The tradeoff is the fuel is going to be more expensive.”

"How expensive per tonne is not known since no supply contracts have been signed."

"There are only two current sources for the type of specialty pellet earmarked for Thunder Bay; Zilkha Biomass Energy of Texas and Arbaflame of Norway."

"OPG will launch a competitive bidding process in the coming months to scope out other potential pellet suppliers. But the plant will require only 15,000 tonnes of pellets a year, a volume too low to provide incentive for a local producer."

“That's one of the larger impediments as far as our ability to make something work up here,” said Fralick, “but we want to explore that certainly.”

The overall "reasoning" of the Ontario Liberal government goes like this:

1. We made a high profile commitment to get out of coal.

2. We need the votes from Northern Ontario in the upcoming election and can't just shut the plant down because jobs would be lost. We actually have a surplus of energy in Ontario because we shipped manufacturing to China, but hey, this is about winning seats.

3. Conversion to "advanced biomass" is a relatively low capital cost item.

4. So, the power will be more expensive by an unknown unpredicted amount - but who cares, we'll just let the consumers pay by burying the cost into their future bills, just like we do with wind and solar. The frogs in the pot are too stupid to jump out and elect someone else.

This government blew over a billion dollars in the last election to save two seats by cancelling unpopular gas power plant construction projects in heavily contested ridings.

We in the former colonies can easily match, and often beat, the idiocy of the planners in the U.K!

Apr 17, 2014 at 4:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

Political Junkie:

Zilkha hired Huhne when he came out of jail. Small world for these green ex ministers.

Apr 17, 2014 at 4:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

I don't know if it was just a coincidence but there was a power cut in part of Exeter on Tuesday morning and again on Wednesday morning. I have no idea what caused them so they may have had nothing to do with wind. However, it would be nice if future power cuts could be concentrated in those areas, if there are any, where most people want wind turbines.

Apr 17, 2014 at 5:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Political Junkie,

As an Ontarian I agree completely (see my comment above) that the Liberal energy policy in Ontario is ridiculous and your examples illustrates this nicely. Ontarian politics is going through some interesting times, so it will be interesting to see where things will lead to.

However (at the risk of stirring the pot), I dislike your description of Canada as a "former colony" even though it is technically correct. At least you used the word former, all to often I hear "the colonies". In my opinion Canada has earned the right to be viewed on par any of the "best" countries in the world. It may have been a colony in the past, but it is no longer, and it is a descriptor which would be better left in the past. Bish feel free to snip if this is way too far off topic (although, maybe as a Scottish resident you may see my point).

Apr 17, 2014 at 5:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterKilroywashere

Kilroy,

Agree with your comment on the "colonies" term.

It's risky to try humour on blogs - I'm a slow learner on that point.

Apr 17, 2014 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

My fellow Ontarians.
I think the time is near when the lunacy of the Ontario Green Energy act will become clear to all - not just those of us who have been paying attention.
I suspect we may indeed be living under the worst government of all wrt this nonsense.

In fairness to our glorious leaders though, they did bring us 'Wear a Sweater Day'...
http://news.ontario.ca/ene/en/2014/02/protecting-the-environment-one-sweater-at-a-time.html


"Putting on a sweater and turning down the thermostat. If every Canadian turned down their thermostat in the winter we could save 2.2 megatonnes of carbon dioxide per year -- equal to taking 350,000 cars off the road."

That day (Feb 6th 2014) it was -22C where I live.

Apr 17, 2014 at 5:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJud

Good one Jud!

I also enjoyed the ridiculousness of a CBC radio program I heard a little while back. Callers from low income households were saying they could not afford the hydro (for everybody outside Ontario hydro = electricity) rate increases. They were told by some public servant, with a completely straight face, that they should upgrade their insulation, replace their windows and make any necessary repairs to their basement.

Apr 17, 2014 at 5:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterKilroywashere

Jud, let's do the math:

2200000 tonnes / yr x 0.0000000000015 deg C / tonne = 0.0000033 deg C / yr

By putting on sweaters Canadians could avert one degree C of global warming in a mere 303,000 years.

Yup, count me in!

Apr 17, 2014 at 6:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterPolitical Junkie

PJ, not me! After the winter we just had, I'll take all the warming I can get!

Apr 17, 2014 at 6:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterKilroywashere

I suspect that as with a lot of accidents, this will turn out to be a combination of a number of factors. Included in the mix will be the non-dispatchability of wind power, though I doubt that will get much publicity from politicians, especially those north of the border.

Apr 17, 2014 at 8:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterBloke down the pub

Why didn't the Met Office alert them to the wind drop? Surely well within the capability of their new terror-flop computer. Come to think of it, with more solar and wind on stream the running of the national grid would fit nicely with their capabilities in predictions projections and could be based there?

Apr 17, 2014 at 8:23 PM | Unregistered Commenterssat

Teraflop.

Oh, hang on......

Apr 17, 2014 at 8:35 PM | Unregistered CommenterRightwinggit

What have the people of Ontario done to deserve these dopey and suicidal policies? In that climate, I would have thought that messing with energy supplies would be so politically risky that no politician in their right mind would go near it. Oh,wait ...

Telling people to put on another jumper and turn down the themostat when it is -22 is like something out of Monty Python.

It is also depressing to read that people in the UK now routinely get power outages for various reasons, and seem to be accepting it with typical stoicism. In Australia, politicians get lynched (metaphorically) if the power fails for reasons other than extreme weather events. In my entire life here, which is more decades than I care to mention, I have experienced only 2 or 3 outages that lasted for more than an hour, and they were due to storm damage. It seems that in the UK, people are getting desensitised - which is a pity. Zero tolerance is the way to go!

Apr 17, 2014 at 10:00 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Lack of wind seems to be a good reason to me and another good reason not to use wind generation.

Apr 18, 2014 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

There's no final word from SSE on the causes of their power outage. A couple of their recent news items seem relevant.

Dated 11 April:

http://news.ssepd.co.uk/listing/2014/04/using-innovation-to-further-improve-our-service-to-customers-during-a-power-cut/#.U1DzsFczLZk

Did someone decide to test the system?

An April Fool?

http://news.ssepd.co.uk/listing/2014/04/she-transmission-awards-%C2%A3450-million-of-contracts-to-upgrade-the-electricity-network-in-the-north-of-scotland/#.U1D0HlczLZk

Or an admission that the network is simply not beefy enough...

I note their are two lines from Keith to Inverness - one cross country, and the other dropping off power in towns along the way nearer the coast. The former does pass a number of wind farms - see p4 here:

http://www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A1055080.pdf

Apr 18, 2014 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Seems that Eck has the situation under control after all so we can all rest easy ...

http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Power-outage-update-ba1.aspx

Apr 18, 2014 at 12:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterLinda Holt

Re 'Engineers' - yep, I'm one and chartered - no doubt the good folks sent out to look at power lines were very competent TECHNICIANS...
British Gas will send a 'boiler engineer' to fix your boiler - gets a shoe thrown at the telly...
Been battling this mis-use of the title for - well, I recently received my '50 years a Member' diploma from the IMechE.

Apr 18, 2014 at 1:13 PM | Unregistered Commentersherlock1


On Thursday afternoon, SSEPD told a second meeting of the Scottish Government Resilience Committee (SGoRR), which is activated in the event of widespread or complex emergencies, that the fault was transient (non-damaging to the lines) as the system came back on line with no issues.

Such faults can be caused by foreign objects striking the lines such as debris in windy weather, lightning strike, pollution or equipment failures, it said.

Questions have been asked about how one fault could knock out so much of the country. Engineers say that to ensure quick recovery from a significant event large parts of the network can shut down to protect the infrastructure.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-27058766

accompanied by lots of pictures promoting the "power cuts are fun" meme - doubtless considered essential for the future.

Apr 18, 2014 at 1:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

"Questions have been asked about how one fault could knock out so much of the country. Engineers say that to ensure quick recovery from a significant event large parts of the network can shut down to protect the infrastructure."

A bullshit answer.

Something failed somewhere, causing overloads elsewhere, resulting in a cascade of successive disconnections. Sounds like a system that was incorrectly designed/provisioned or incorrectly managed to be susceptible to knock-on effects from a single failure somewhere.

So what actually happened? Are they still trying to figure it out?

Apr 18, 2014 at 4:49 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

When Rianovosti, Russia's largest news agency, picks up the story, it makes you wonder. Suddenly Salmond's official statement that the problem was “transient” and “such faults can be caused by foreign objects striking the lines such as debris in windy weather, lightning strike, pollution or equipment failures” seems utterly ludicrous: is Scotland's electricity supply really that insecure? If Russians can see through this, why can't Scots? The juxtaposition with the recent spat about the respective energy situations for iScotland and rUK is suggestive - was the outtage a Unionist malevolence? Or a harbinger of things to come? Or indeed both?
http://en.ria.ru/world/20140418/189256050/Scotland-Left-in-Dark-About-Cause-of-Massive-Blackout.html

Apr 18, 2014 at 11:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterLinda Holt

The Gridwatch data for the 16th shows that the reported national wind electricity supply fell by 416MW in the 30 minutes leading up to 8:20pm. This is not a particularly steep fall, but maybe the local effect was much more significant. Local farmer John Graham (see 1:47 above) reports that the wind fell from very strong to nothing at all within a couple of minutes, followed immediately by the power cut. Could this local perturbation have triggered a local shutdown which for some reason escalated into a regional shutdown? We are still waiting for a believable explanation, see http://windfarmaction.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/north-of-scotland-power-cuts-16-04-14/.

Apr 19, 2014 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoug Brodie

Now an MSP is calling for an inquiry into the power outage. What's the betting the First Minister will wave this aside, or make sure any inquiry vindicates wind and SNP energy policy?

https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2014/04/19/msp-wants-blackout-inquiry/

Apr 19, 2014 at 7:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterLinda Holt

More from Linda Holt's source on the possible blame:

https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2014/04/22/were-turbines-behind-power-cut/

Apr 23, 2014 at 1:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterIt doesn't add up...

Good distribute Definitely. Thanks connected with talking about.

Apr 29, 2014 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterWindtech Consultants

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