Those of us in the UK may have seen the worrying report earlier this week that the grid came close to being at maximum capacity earlier this week. I think we here in UK may start to see rolling blackouts if the weather turns cold. Apparently the France UK Link was at reduced capacity and a few other problems meant we were perelousley close a big blackout. What do you all think??
Let there be no mistake- this is a political issue, rather than a matter of trade competence.
Remember: "Fear" is one of the most successful tools in the political toolbox. Creating and exploiting peoples' fears was very prominently used by every political movement in the last century.
Ironically, the manipulated people never seem to notice that, once in power, nothing is ever done to solve the 'problem.' Rather, efforts are made to keep the pot on a low boil, forever.
Here in the USA, we also are exposed to claims that our 'national grid' is on the verge of collapse, that it can be easily destroyed by foreign hackers, and so on. (There are also ads for even more dramatic crises, such as the supposed coming failure of the farming community).
First off, there is absolutely no way any single event will destroy a 'grid' for any length of time. Such tales ignore the multitude of generating sources, the multiple paths between you and the generating plant, and the millions of skilled workers whose only job is to keep the system working.
That's why the real "reformers" make it a point to undermine these efforts. They stridently oppose the construction of any generating plants. They find fault with any means of generation - today it's coal, tomorrow it's hydro-electric, etc. They create "citizens' boards" and "environmental" concerns, solely to block transmission lines and prevent maintenance until AFTER something breaks.
Alas, at nearly 60 years of age, the guys at work consider me "old." This means that they don't remember the 1960's, when it was routine for utilities to upgrade equipment and increase capacity well in advance of there being a specific need. Those days are long gone.
Instead, the activists blast the 'evil, greedy' utility company today- then criticize the utility when something fails. I must admit, it's a lot easier to be critical than it is to actually deliver power.
Those of us in the UK may have seen the worrying report earlier this week that the grid came close to being at maximum capacity earlier this week.
Which part of the grid? Generation capacity, transmission capacity, or something else?
Here in the US, the interconnects between various areas are programmed to open up and isolate faulted regions. Theoretically, a fault in one area should not take down the entire grid. During times of peak loads, things can get a little dicey, but most rate payers are not willing to pay for 100% up time.
I understand bad things can ripple through the grid in highly interconnected places like the American North East, extending all the way to Ontario. We have had 2 of those blackouts that wiped out that whole corridor. There was also one that really only got New York.
I do wonder how that sort of thing would affect a place at the end of the line like Ft Myers/Naples. Logic says that we have 2 generating stations right here and I imagine we end up exporting power to other places but we should have enough capacity to serve the local customers "offline". There are not many other grid nodes near us and we are not really in the direct path to anywhere.
The open question is how much can be done manually, if the switching computer interface was down. (hacked or whatever)
When you are in the middle of the matrix, you should have very reliable power, as long as the system is working right. It is where grid problems will affect you most tho.
The OPs original point is valid tho. If the grid is running at capacity, it doesn't take much to push it over the edge. That makes me wonder about the addition of solar to the grid. When these things are planned, they assume a 9-5 society where the heavy use is when the sun is shining but we are becoming a 24x7 society and there will still be significant demand after dark. Traditional generation techniques will be needed to serve that load.
While the OP refers to the British grid, the topic is far from limited to the UK. IMO, the issue is the direct result of the exact same factors - and these factors are purely political.
Full capacity? How can that be, in this age of energy-efficient appliances and declining manufacturing?
Very simple: Reduced capacity. Power plants being shut down, and resources being denied. From San Diego's nuclear plant to the mandated shut-down of coal plants, we're losing generating capacity.
Solar? Look at what happened in Nevada: There the PoCo caught grief for using 'too much' of the 'wrong' sort of renewable energy (geothermal). Yet, when they attempted to build a solar farm, the very same 'solar advocates' blocked the plan, speculating that putting acres of desert rock in the shade of solar panels MIGHT somehow cause harm to the environment.
Likewise, the Reno, Nv., area suffered for decades as the direct result of activists delaying the construction of a second power line into the area.
NO amount of technology can fix what is a political problem. Believe me, the PoCo's know how to make and deliver power; all we need do is get out of their way.
The problem in the UK is twofold first yes the green brainers have forced the closure of several coal and oil power stations there was also a major fire at didcot power station which has taken 1000 megawatts of generation away the other 1000 was closed due to afformentioned greenbrainers. Secondly variose stretches of gridlines are at maximum capacity at peak times in winter so any failures of other circuits are a real problem. I agree leave engineers to make all the decisions and all is well let politicians get involved and yourheading for a disaster
Storage has already been the issue with solar and wind since they both tend to be intermittent and unreliable. I doubt it will be electronic and also be cheap enough to be competitive. Even inefficient things like pumping water up into a lake and recreating the electricity as it flows back through the turbines sounds attractive when compared to things like the cost of Elon's battery pack.
I am still hoping they figure out this fusion thing but I doubt I will live long enough to buy fusion power.
OTOH I know I won't live long enough to see the ocean in the Disney World Parking from global warming.