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Energy: another mad scheme

Richard North, 04/12/2012  


Spiegel 282-pow.jpg

During the many years that we have been writing about wind factories, one of the main headline issues has been the calm periods, when little power is produced.

Coming up fast on the agenda, though, is the opposite end of the spectrum. The windmills produce power when it's not wanted – the so-called "wrong time" power. And what is remarkable is the sheer scale of the problem, recorded in Germany by the Financial Times Deutschland (FTD) at about 407 gigawatt hours, "enough to supply a city with 100,000 households for 15 months".

As the amount of renewable electricity increases, this problem can only get worse. Thus, we already have the Bornholm experiment and the "EcoGrid EU", trialing systems which they hope will balance supply and demand. Planners also hope to enlist electric cars in the scheme, using them to store surplus electricity.

But such is the desperation that utility companies are even turning to the obsolete technology of night storage heaters. With the story picked up by Spiegel, we learn that energy supplier RWE wants to revive these electric heaters, equipping them with modern control technology (i.e., "smart meters"), allowing their use as energy storage for fluctuating amounts of electricity from windmills.

Domestic systems will be set to allow the heaters to use cheap electricity when it is over-abundant, yet shut them down when the prices increase above pre-set levels.

But it isn't only the "wrong-time" electricity that is the problems. Apparently, as demand fluctuates out of synch with the highly variable wind-generated supply, windmills have to be shut down, making the economics of renewable energy even more precarious. The year 2011 had three times as many wind turbines forced to stand idle then the year previously.  Thus, storage heaters can keep more windmills in use.

FTD admits that it is desperation that is forcing power companies to resort to every opportunity for temporary storage of energy, and even though night storage heaters lose a lot of energy, the loss is deemed preferable to shutting down windmills or unbalancing the system.

It comes to a pretty pass, therefore, when to protect their precious renewables, energy companies are about to promote the wasteful use of electricity, and doubly so when they are also spending a fortune of our money to promote "efficiency".

Even then, this is far from a solution. How consumers heat their homes when the wind is not blowing is a problem which has yet to be solved. This has Felix Matthes, an energy expert at the Institute for Applied Ecology, saying that storage heaters are not suitable as large batteries. He believes such devices, with those in use already set to be banned because of their inefficiency, should remain banned.

Nevertheless, such mad schemes are set to continue – an inevitable consequence of letting the NWO Greens set the agenda for electricity supply. And, what is happening in Germany today will be on our doorsteps in a few years time. There is no end to the madness.

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