Will there be a fjord focus*?

I think it is a bit like having a new car – the day after you bring it home, it seems like everyone else is driving around in the same model. They’ve always been there, of course, it is just that now you notice them.

I posted a little while ago about electricity storage, and how it could play a substantial role in balancing future electricity markets, particularly when those markets have a high penetration of wind. I also identified more recently that pumped storage might not be as expensive on a localised cost basis than some believe.

Well, now we seem to be surrounded by nods and murmurs on storage – National Grid mentioned the importance of considering it in future energy markets when I visited their market balancing committee in Wokingham this week. I also spoke to Mainstream Renewable Power a day later, who continue to push the merits of the European Supergrid, though the energies (pun intended) of their indefatigable CFO Eddie O’Connor.  A substantial element of the grid in Mainstream’s view, could be either a direct or a mediated DC connection to Norway – which of course has enormous resources for the development of pumped hydro – raising the vision that inconveniently generated electricity in the UK could be exported for storage along such an interconnector, and returned to the grid when needed almost as quickly as the Dinorwig storage plant presently allows.

And then we had the occasion of the very excitingly entitled “European Committee A” last Wednesday. The Committee on this occasion was discussing the EU Commission’s programme for Energy 2030 – I took the opportunity of asking the minister questions on the European interconnection memorandum signed by 10 EU states (including the UK) last December to develop a schedule for the establishment of an offshore transmissions grid in the North Sea and elsewhere. One of these signatories is Norway (I know pedants, Norway is not an EU member state but it is effectively bound voluntarily by most EU regulations and agreements).

The minister agreed with me that either a bilateral connector to Norway or connection through a grid could open up an enormous storage potential for the UK and seems intent on pursuing this with the Norwegian government. That would, by the way, have considerable implications for stand-by capacity proposals presently accompanying electricity market reform proposals. If a connector was part of a grid, it would also have implications for the present near-crazy system of “separate point to point” cabling to land the product of new offshore wind farms. But that, I guess, is a topic for another day…

*I can only apologise to my staff for the use of this terrible pun

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One thought on “Will there be a fjord focus*?

  1. Pumped storage dominates the market for grid scale energy storage, which is no surprise. It’s interesting National Grid mentioned its importance in future market management. That was their position in 2009 and still it’s seen as a future need, that will ONLY affect them if it involves new grid. Apparently they have no role in creating more efficient ways to balance the grid?! How dumb is that.

    The prospect of not having ANY “inconveniently generated electricity” in the UK is the true vision of the future, I would suggest. Storing marine renewable energy at source is a far more efficient way to balance the grid, simply because you never ‘unbalance’ it in the first place! There are significant economies to be had from not converting electricity twice in order to store it, not to mention transmitting it back and forth over hundreds of miles.

    I got no response whatever to this post:-
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/discussion/comment-permalink/13646704
    Don’t you think that’s a sad reflection on the experts it was addressed to? Do you have any ideas on how to get noticed and influence the decision makers? As Peter Hain said to me once – “It’s like talking to a brick wall.”

    You rightly note, grid connectors to the fjords of Norway would have considerable implications for the present electricity market reforms. I put it to you that having lots of renewable energy you can turn on and off automatically, without any loss, balances the system so well, that surplus capacity could actually be reduced and none of it would need to be fast-start or spinning reserve. Game-changing indeed.

    At least, across the pond, I do get a response, but understanding is sadly lacking. e.g. This very odd comment – “Nothing competes with the HAWTs we have”. (sort comments oldest first)

    http://cleantechnica.com/2011/12/10/why-doe-funded-floating-turbines-may-change-future-of-offshore-wind/

    Best regards,
    Dave Smart

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