Frequency Freak-out: Chaotic Wind & Solar Threaten to Cripple Europe’s Power Grid

Electricity grids are like a living organism and their day-to-day survival is a finely tuned operation.

Balancing supply to match demand on an instantaneous basis, is part of the trick. However, the maintenance of the required frequency (50Hz in most cases) within a narrow and defined tolerance has become a nightmare of continental proportions, thanks to the chaotic and occasional delivery of wind and solar.

A drop or surge in frequency not only fries circuits and incapacitates machines connected to the power grid, but the switching gear and circuits, within it. In that respect, adding more wind and solar capacity over time, only adds to the potential for a total grid collapse.

Last month, after a total collapse in wind and solar output, Europe’s grid was within seconds of imploding – as we’ve explained in earlier posts here and here.

Renewable energy rent seekers and their mainstream media propagandists have, for obvious reasons, played down the pandemonium. Blaming everything but the 5G network for what was a near-run catastrophe.

The result has been enforced Soviet area power rationing across Germany and Austria, with major energy users told to power down on cue and householders told to expect more of the same in future.

Irina Slav attempts to get behind the spin to take a look at where Europe’s renewable energy disaster will inevitably land.

Europe’s Unforeseen Renewables Problem
Oil Price
Irina Slav
31 January 2021

Earlier this month, something happened in Europe. It didn’t get as much media attention as the EU’s massive funding plans for its energy transition, but it was arguably as important, if not more. A fault occurred at a substation in Croatia and caused an overload in parts of the grid, which spread beyond the country’s borders. This created a domino effect that caused a blackout and prompted electricity supply reductions as far as France and Italy. The problem was dealt with, but it’s only a matter of time before more problems like this occur—the reason: the rise of renewables in the energy mix.

Bloomberg reported on the incident citing several sources from Europe’s utility sector. While no one would directly blame the blackout and the increased risk of more blackouts on renewables, it is evident that Europe’s change in the energy mix is raising this risk.

The problem has to do with grid frequency. Normally, it is 50 hertz, Bloomberg’s Jesper Starn, Brian Parkin, and Irina Vilcu explain. If the frequency deviates from this level, connected equipment gets damaged, and power outages follow. The frequency is normally maintained by the inertia created by the spinning turbines of fossil fuel—or nuclear, or hydro—power plants. With Europe cutting its coal and nuclear capacity, this inertia declines as well, exposing the grid to frequency deviations.

“The problem isn’t posed by growing green electricity directly but by shrinking conventional capacity,” the chief electricity system modeler at Cologne University’s EWI Institute of Energy Economics told Bloomberg.

This is pretty much the same as saying it is not the pandemic that is wreaking havoc on the global economy, but the lack of enough healthy people to keep it going. Wind and solar power, for all their benefits, such as a much lower emissions footprint, do have drawbacks, as does every source of energy. In this case, the drawback is the intermittency of generation. This intermittency cannot maintain the inertia necessary to keep the grid at 50 hertz.

Utilities know about the problem. “It is not a question about if a blackout in some European regions will happen, it is only a question of when it will happen,” said Stefan Zach, head of communication at Austrian utility EVN, told Bloomberg. “A blackout might happen even in countries with high standards in electricity grid security.”

But the problem is not being publicized enough to spur those in charge of decision-making into action. The Bloomberg report mentions things like energy storage and batteries, yet batteries—where they are now—cannot replace the inertia-creating turbines of coal-fired power plants, which keep the grid buzzing at 50 hertz. They would help in a brief outage, but they can’t keep millions of households and industrial facilities running. Take the world’s biggest battery to date, currently in construction in Australia: with its capacity of 300 MW/450 MWh, the battery can power half a million households. For an hour.

Problems such as what happened at the Croatian substation highlight one fact that few of those riding on the renewables bandwagon would like to talk about: that solar and wind capacity is maybe being added a little too quickly, while fossil fuel capacity is being retired a little too quickly.

Take Germany: it is fast reducing its nuclear and coal generating capacity. And yet, the country, which is the poster boy for renewable energy in the EU, is currently generating more energy from coal than from wind, simply because the wind does not blow permanently. It is also generating zero energy from solar at the moment because it’s winter, which does not make for the optimal conditions for solar farms.

Or take California and its rolling blackouts last summer when heat waves hit the state that gets a third of its electricity from renewable sources. At the time, officials refused to acknowledge this fact as a potential cause of the blackouts, but with or without acknowledgment, the fact remained: electricity output from solar farms declines as the sun goes down just when there is a surge in demand from households. At the same time, as it retires its natural gas plants, the state did not have enough backup generation capacity to make up for the lost supply.

Or here’s another example: back in 2018, the UK went for nine days with zero power generations from wind farms. Why? Because of something called a wind drought. At the time, this event led to a spike in next-day electricity prices, and forecasts for calm weather for two weeks did not help. The UK government now wants to power the whole country with wind power, which in light of past events might be a little bit risky.

Renewable energy is a great thing. Once they’re manufactured, solar panels and wind turbines do not emit greenhouse gases for the duration of their production life. Solar specifically has become a cheap way to become relatively independent in terms of electricity supply if you happen to live in a sunny part of the world.

Yet solar and wind have been touted as a silver bullet solution to the emissions problem the planet is having, and they are not a silver bullet. There is no silver bullet solution. The sooner decision-makers realize this, the sooner they can start working on ways to reconcile renewables with grid reliability. Otherwise, we might see an unwelcome repeat of what many Soviet bloc countries experienced in the 1980s—timed blackouts lasting months and even years.
Oil Price

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Hi Guys!

    Could you please stop posting the photo with “Soviet queue” at a shop?

    There were queues at shops in Soviet Union, we had many issues with food in the past. But that particular photo was taken somewhere in the beginning of 1950s. It was only 7 years after very bloody war, there were not enough people to produce enough of food and continue to rebuild industries at the same time. And it was happening not to only Soviet Union at that period, the same was to UK – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rationing_in_the_United_Kingdom#Post-Second_World_War_1945-1954 . I am not sure, but it could be the same to Australia in 1950s.
    You may see all original photos at Radio Libery – https://www.rferl.org/a/manhoff-archive-part-two-city-life/28378660.html

    Please dont dance on people’s bones.

    • Yes Australia was the same but you see western countries have no problems and love to pile shit on communist countries like beating your wife. Why point out the truth when Pig Iron Bob Menzies had spent millions on propaganda and the special police, similar to East Germany’s Stasi.

      • No, when it comes to appalling reputations, communist China and Soviet Russia don’t need any assistance from westerners. Mao and Stalin stacked corpses like cordwood.20 million apiece, starved, shot, tortured and exiled. The hard facts get glossed over by their apologists, but not here.

      • To stopthesethings

        None of Communist China and USSR does exist anymore, nobody is piling up millions of bodies. But it doesn’t allow us to use the same style of shit and use photo of people who is not related to the topic.
        Again, that particular photo was taken in 1953, 7 years after the war and the country lost 27 000 000 millions people. It not the time when you should point out as government’s failure to provide enough food for everyone.
        You may find photos of Soviet people in queues at shops in later time, somewhere in 1980s which will be more related to topics on STT and where the Europe is going to find itself if it continue to play this green game.

      • The topic is state ordered rationing consequent upon failed state policies, the photo is relevant to illustrate that. Soviet rationing – which continued throughout – was integral to its command and control structure, which inevitably imploded. Stalin was a monster who killed millions in the 1930s, long before Hitler invaded. You might Google ‘Kulak famine’ and ‘Dekulakization’. Mao was no better. Their model has been adopted elsewhere and since – eg Cambodia, where 1 million corpses got piled up. The CCP has hundreds of thousands of Muslims interned for ‘education’ purposes, many of them are treated as slave labour, so, no, Communist China has not ceased to exist.

        Here’s a couple of pics from the 1970s onwards. We’ll use these from here on to make our point about rationing in order to avoid offence to the sensitive.

        Russian queue

        Russian queue

      • To stopthesethings (I just see no ption to reply to your comment, sorry)

        I would not discuss what did happen to Russian Empire then to USSR and Russian Federation. From what I see, you just using all well-known stamps created by Western Propaganda. Let’s don’t discuss it here as it is impossible and much far away from the STT’s agenda and idea, which I share personally. But it doesn’t mean that I share all other ideas, which pop up here from time to time (you already kicked me off once).
        I would like the content of your blog to be consistent and have no any false info which may turn people out from STT.
        What is confusing in photos your have just suggested:
        – the first photo you suggested is taken at in a department store, people are waiting to get … Italian leather knee-high boots.
        – the second photo – people are in a front of a shop like “Spotlight” or “Lincraft”

        I would use the photo from the link below as it is more relevant to the topic “Energy hunger leads to lack of food supply”
        [ https://www.qminder.com/resources/img/blog/soviet-store-queue.png ]

        Just to let you know – I am a Soviet Russian, so I can bring you many stuff to study about roots of most of issues in RE-USSR-RF. I can give an idea – why didn’t Australia built its own nuclear energy or metal industry? There are no issues with science or engineering. My answer is “We just don’t have enough people here!”. Current Russia has only 146 000 000 population now and stands against the “golden billion”. Yeah, sometime you need just have enough working hands and smart heads.

      • We have updated our photo, based on the one provided in the link in your comment. We hope that satisfies your concerns about accuracy. By the way there was nothing false about what Stalin did to his people, nor Mao, nor Pol Pot.

      • Thank you!

        I hope that you would never forget what Western countries did to their own people as well as to people in Russia, India, China, Iran, Iraq, Libya… Where else? Oops, there is no place on the planet where the West would done the best for natives on a land.

        Anyway, I woudn’t touch the such topics on STT, there are plenty other places for it.

    • RobbertBobbert says:

      ST
      Now explain what the unforgivable adoption of the Lysenko Biology Theory for all Soviet agriculture as opposed to Natural Selection…which was also taken on board by The Soviet Satellites and China …did to The Soviet crops and the number of people that starved or suffered mannutrution as a DIRECT result……

      More than 3,000 mainstream biologists were dismissed or imprisoned, and numerous scientists were executed in the campaign to suppress scientific opponents. The president of the Agriculture Academy, Nikolai Vavilov, who had encouraged Lysenko, was sent to prison and died there, while Soviet genetics research was effectively destroyed. Research and teaching in the fields of neurophysiology, cell biology, and many other biological disciplines were harmed or banned.

      Other countries of the Eastern Bloc including Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the German Democratic Republic accepted Lysenkoism as the official “new biology”, to varying degrees, as did the People’s Republic of China for some years….Wilipedia

      The government of the USSR supported the campaign, and Joseph Stalin personally edited a speech by Lysenko in a way that reflected his support for what would come to be known as Lysenkoism, despite his skepticism toward Lysenko’s assertion that all science is class-oriented in nature…In 1948, genetics was officially declared “a bourgeois pseudoscience….

      Note today’s Cancel Culture and its connection to that era…..

      Communist Czechoslovakia adopted Lysenkoism in 1949. Jaroslav Kříženecký (1896–1964) was one of the prominent Czechoslovak geneticists opposing Lysenkoism, and when he criticized Lysenkoism in his lectures, he was dismissed from the Agricultural University in 1949 for “serving the established capitalistic system,…considering himself superior to the working class, and being hostile to the democratic order of the people,” and imprisoned in 1958.
      Do you think this Pseudo Science as National Policy had someting to do with the Queuing?

      • RobbertBobbert

        I would say that I dont see direct link between Lysenkoism and food rationing and queuing. Lysenkoism was always a political game and had no direct strong impact on agriculture. As I know, USSR was still using natural selection.

        I trust this guy – https://genby.livejournal.com/643202.html, he collected total grain production in Russia from 1918 to 2017. The squares and thin lines are in millions of tonnes of grain after processing. The thick red line is 5-Y average in millions of tonnes. The decline from 1938 – it is not due to Lysenkoism, it is the time which you name as “Red terror” and it had colossal damage to the country. (but the reasons are very different to what you can read “truthful” sources like Wikipedia and don’t try to discuss it here. If you read in Russian, then I can give you good sources to study.)

        I believe that we both trust these guys – https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/previousproducts/1301.0feature%20article212006
        Let’s have a look at yields. Do you see the same as I do – steady linear increase over a time?

        I hope you will not blame Lysenkoism for food rationing in UK and Australia which was ended nearly at the same time when the photo in question was taken.

        To STT

        It might be a good idea to compare Lysenkoism to “green mold”. Exclusively political games without taking into account the achievements of science and technology, knowledge and experience. At the same time it has very strong negative influence on people’s life over the World.

  2. Michael Darby says:

    Dear Stop These Things
    A book is in preparation advising our rulers on how to undo the damage they have done and put us on the road to recovery and prosperity. A key theme is the abolition of subsidies and the removal from grids of all unreliable energy. I invite Stop These Things to contribute a chapter. If you are too busy, please authorise the use will acknowledgement of a selection of your excellent material.

    • Michael, thank you for your several previous comments. Our limited editorial team is flat out with the task of running this blog, so we will not have time to help contribute directly to your book. We have written extensively on the cost of subsidies to wind and solar, and the damage done to power markets and national economies, addressing the topic from the Australian perspective, as well as in Europe and North America, in particular. There is plenty of material on the site for you to work with, including original source material. Feel free to use what appears on our site to your best advantage. We don’t need attribution, but where we are citing the work of others, you should give them the credit where due. Good luck with your book.

  3. “Unforeseen Renewables Problem” I guess if you choose not to see and just plunge off implementing an dogma driven agenda, the yes, you can probably tell yourself it was unforeseen.

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