Bigger is better, but … so are the unintended consequences

You are all aware that wind turbines have been getting bigger and bigger … and for good reason.  However, nobody seems to be focused on the consequences of these mega machines on the operational reliability and true final costs of the grid to enable and integrate their contribution.  And, no, I am not talking about the bird loss, NIMBY or other obvious concerns.

The key here is the true financial and operational impact.  Power plants have always had economy of scale benefits, but the concern has also been LUOS (largest unit out of service) consequences on reliability and balancing.  Reliability is now more complex because the individual variability of the output of these devices is going to be significant and possibly impossible to meet with the current design of the load following power plants in our electrical system.  Solar has the same concerns and the alarm has gone up about the ramping loads which, if the future solar plants are built according to plans far outstrips our load following generation capabilities.

The problem by comparison here is the sun is much more predictable.  The wind tends to gust and die with almost no warning.

The other problem that no one seems to be asking about is the cost of these load following power plants on the true economics.  It is not being priced into the short term markets so that we can clearly see it.  It is being priced into long term costs with what are called uplift charges … a dull instrument of price correction and evaluation.

When will we learn that there is always more to the story?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *