Guilty: Giant UK Wind Farm Forced to Pay £4.5 Million to Compensate Its Blackout Victims

If unreliable, weather-dependent wind power isn’t a recipe for disaster, it’s most certainly a recipe for chaos. Electricity grids are complex critters, designed around strict tolerances to allow what’s dispatched to them by generators (supply) to perfectly match what’s taken out of them by customers (demand aka ‘the load’). For an explanation of what a finely balanced proposition delivering electricity as and when consumers need it is, see our post: Why Weather Dependent, Intermittent & Unreliable Wind Power is as ‘Useful as a Chocolate Teapot’

With synchronous, dispatchable sources such as nuclear, coal, gas and stored hydro, balancing the grid and satisfying customers is literally as simple as flicking a switch. Thanks to an obsession with wind and solar, all that’s changed.

A spot of calm or cloudy weather, sunset or a few lightning strikes and all bets are off. Stranded commuters, motorist attempting to traverse cities without traffic lights operating, surgeons mid-operation and patients on life support are just a few of those who’ve yet to be convinced that there is anything even vaguely sensible about our so-called ‘inevitable transition’ to an all wind and sun powered future.

Back in August we reported on a mass blackout that struck Britain, when an offshore wind farm decided to down tools: Blackout Nation: Wind Power Output Collapse Leaves Millions of Brits Totally Powerless

Now the operator of that offshore outfit has been forced to cough up £4.5 million to compensate the million or so it left stranded and/or freezing in the dark.

Grimsby-based windfarm operator Orsted to pay £4.5m after huge UK power cut that left a million without electricity
Grimsby Telegraph
David Laister
3 January 2020

Offshore wind giant Orsted will pay £4.5 million into energy regulator Ofgem’s redress fund over the huge power cuts that left more than a million customers without electricity.

The company’s Grimsby-based Hornsea One wind farm, together with an RWE gas-fired power station at Little Barford, Cambridgeshire, did not stay connected following a lightning strike on an overhead transmission line on August 9 last year.

Both will contribute to the watchdog’s compensation package.

Ofgem’s investigation found that the combined loss of the two large generators and the smaller loss of generation at a local level, together triggered the disconnection, loss of power and disruption to more than a million customers.

This included many commuters and rail passengers in other parts of the country with traffic lights down and trains coming to a standstill, along with two airports and four hospitals.

Operators Orsted and RWE have agreed to make voluntary payments of £4.5 million each to the fund.

The regulator also said that UK Power Networks had started reconnecting customers without being asked to by the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) which could have potentially jeopardised recovery of the system.

Ofgem said that this had no impact on the events but UK Power Networks had recognised this technical breach, taken swift action to prevent any future re-occurrence and agreed to pay £1.5 million into its voluntary redress fund.

Jonathan Brearley, executive director, said: “Consumers and businesses rely on generators and network companies to provide a secure and stable power supply.

“August 9 showed how much disruption and distress is caused to consumers across the UK when this does not happen.

“That is why it is right that companies that were unable to keep generating have paid into our consumer redress fund.

“Our investigation has raised important questions about National Grid’s Electricity System Operator, which is why our review will look at the structure and governance of the company.

“As the energy market changes it is vitally important we future-proof the networks to ensure consumers continue to benefit from one of the most reliable electricity systems in the world.”

Hornsea One, set to officially become the world’s largest wind farm when fully commissioned in the coming months, is located off the Humber approaches and operated from Grimsby.

It, and the gas power station operated by RWE, both stopped generating shortly after a lightning strike to an overhead transmission line in Cambridgeshire.

At the same time, approximately 150MW of smaller generation, known as distributed generation, also went offline and stopped generating, it added.

National Grid ESO activated back-up power generators to make up some of the shortfall and distributed generation to balance the system but when there was not enough back-up power generation available, local network operators automatically disconnected some consumers from the grid in order to prevent further system-wide disruption.

All customers were reconnected within 45 minutes of the lightning strike, the regulator said.
Grimsby Telegraph

4 thoughts on “Guilty: Giant UK Wind Farm Forced to Pay £4.5 Million to Compensate Its Blackout Victims

  1. The BBC nightly news bulletin (Broadcast on SBS in Australia), reported on this story towards the end of their program. I guess they were hoping that viewing figures might have dropped a little by then? Fortunately I had continued to watch, and caught sight of some interesting footage of the UK National Grid operations, including a snapshot of some real time grid generation output statistics.

    COAL 34.9%

    GAS 35.1%

    NUCLEAR (Excluding Hinkley Point C. Due to come online in 2025) 10.4%

    OIL 0.0%

    IMPORT 4.6%

    PUMPGEN 2.6%

    WIND 11.1%

    WATER 1.4%

    I have been keeping an eye out for the BBC program, Making Scotland’s Landscape: Water (2010). It has been posted online by Futurescape30.

    The program provides an interesting insight into Scottish Hydro operations, including pump storage hydro, and how this is now sold to the highest bidder at peaks times of demand. The Fort William Aluminium smelter hydro facility is also included.

    If you encounter problems with the video, try searching for ‘Making Scotland’s landscape: Water’

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