The Anonymous Widower

World’s Largest Wind Farm Attracts Huge Backing From Insurance Giant

The title of this post, is the same as that of an article in the Business pages of yesterday’s copy of The Times.

It is not often that three words implying something big appear in the same sentence, let alone a headline! Such repetition would more likely appear in a tabloid to describe something sleazy.

Until recently, wind power was just something used by those in remote places. I remember a lady in Suffolk, who had her own turbine in the 1980s. She certainly lived well, although her deep freeze was in the next door farmer’s barn.

Now, with the building of the world’s largest wind farm; Hornsea, which is sixty miles off the coast of East Yorkshire, wind farms are talked of as creating enough energy for millions of homes.

Hornsea Project 1 is the first phase and Wikipedia says this about the turbines.

In mid 2015 DONG selected Siemens Wind Power 7 MW turbines with 154 metres (505 ft) rotor turbines for the project – around 171 turbines would be used for the wind farm.

Note that the iconic Bankside power station, that is now the Tate Modern had a capacity of 300 MW, so when the wind is blowing Hornsea Project 1 is almost four times as large.

When fully developed around 2025, the nameplate capacity will be around 6,000 MW or 6 GW.

The Times article says this about the funding of wind farms.

Wind farms throw off “long-term boring, stable cashflows”, Mr. Murphy said, which was perfect to match Aviva policyholders and annuitants, the ultimate backers of the project. Aviva has bought fixed-rate and inflation-linked bonds, issued by the project. While the coupon paid on the 15-year bonds, has not been disclosed, similar risk projects typically pay an interest rate of about 3 per cent pm their bonds. Projects typically are structured at about 30 per cent equity and 70 per cent debt.

Darryl Murphy is Aviva’s head of infrastructure debt. The article also says, that Aviva will have a billion pounds invested in wind farms by the end of the year.

Call me naive, but I can’t see a loser in all this!

  • Certainly, the UK gets a lot of zero-carbon renewable energy.
  • Aviva’s pensioners get good, safe pensions.
  • Turbines and foundations are built at places like Hull and Billingham, which sustains jobs.
  • The need for onshore wind turbines is reduced.
  • Coal power stations can be closed.

The North Sea just keeps on giving.

  • For centuries it has been fish.
  • Since the 1960s, it has been gas.
  • And then there was oil.
  • Now, we’re reaping the wind.

In the future, there could be even more wind farms like Hornsea.

Ease Of Funding

Large insurance companies and investment funds will continue to fund wind farms, to give their investors and pensioners a return.

Would Aviva be so happy to fund a large nuclear power station?

Large Scale Energy Storage

The one missing piece of the jigsaw is large scale energy storage.

I suspect that spare power could be used to do something useful, that could later be turned into energy.

  • Hydrogen could be created by electrolysis for use in transport or gas grids.
  • Aluminium could be smelted, for either use as a metal or burnt in a power station to produce zero-carbon electricity.
  • Twenty-four hour processes, that use a lot of electricity, could be built to use wind power and perhaps a small modular nuclear reactor.
  • Ice could be created, which can be used to increase the efficiency of large gas-turbine power plants.
  • Unfortunately, we’re not a country blessed with mountains, where more Electric Mountains can be built.
  • Electricity will be increasingly exchanged with countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Iceland, Norway and The Netherlands.

There will be other wacky ideas, that will be able to store GWhs of electricity.

These are not wacky.

Storage In Electric Vehicles

Consider that there are three million vehicles in the UK. Suppose half of these were electric or plug-in hybrid and had an average battery size of 50 kWh.

This would be a total energy storage of 75,000 MWh or 75 GWh. It would take the fully developed 6GW Hornsea wind far over twelve hours to charge them all working at full power.

Storage In Electric And Hybrid Buses

London has around 8,500 buses, many of which are hybrid and some of electric.

If each has a 50 kWh batttery, then that is 425 MWh or .0.425 GWH. If all buses in the UK were electric or plug-in hybrid, how much overnight electricity could they consume.

Scaling up from London to the whole country, would certainly be a number of GWhs.

Storage In Electric Trains

I also believe that the average electric train in a decade or so could have a sizeable battery in each coach.

If we take Bombardier they have an order book of over four hundred Aventra trains, which is a total of nearly 2,500 coaches.

If each coach has an average battery size of 50 kWh, then that is 125 MWh or 0.125 GWh.

When you consider than Vivarail’s two-car Class 230 train has a battery capacity of 400 kWh, if the UK train fleet contains a high-proportion of battery-electric trains, they will be a valuable energy storage resource.

Storage in Housing, Offices and Other Buildings

For a start there are twenty-five million housing units in the UK.

If just half of these had a 10 kWh battery storage system like a Tesla Powerwall, this would be a storage capacity of 125 GWh.

I suspect, just as we are seeing vehicles and trains getting more efficient in their use of electricity, we will see buildings constructed to use less grid electricity and gas.

  • Roofs will have solar panels.
  • Insulation levels will be high.
  • Heating may use devices like ground source heat pumps.
  • Battery and capacitors will be used to store electricity and provide emergency back up.
  • Electric vehicles will be connected into the network.
  • The system will sell electricity back to the grid, as required.

Will anybody want to live in a traditional house, that can’t be updated to take part in the energy revolution?

Will The Electricity Grid Be Able To Cope?

National Grid have been reported as looking into the problems that will happen in the future.

  • Intermittent power from increasing numbers of wind and solar farms.
  • Charging all those electric vehicles.
  • Controlling all of that distributed storage in buildings and vehicles.
  • Maintaining uninterrupted power to high energy users.
  • Managing power flows into and out of the UK on the various interconnectors.

It will be just like an Internet of electricity.

And it will be Europe-wide! and possibly further afield.


The UK will have an interesting future as far as electricity is concerned.

Those that join it like Aviva and people who live in modern, energy efficient houses will do well.

November 27, 2018 - Posted by | Finance, World | , , , , , , , ,


  1. yeah, a lot of interesting points here. Wind and solar (up to 30% in the UK according to the last figures I saw) are becoming a major headache for the National Grid, as there’s a big mismatch between what is produced when and what is consumed when – effectively, they have to pay people to produce energy they can’t use. Unlike fossil-fuel based energy, where you have fuel costs, the marginal cost of wind/solar is effectively zero, so once you’ve built the equipment, each bit of energy costs nothing, other than distribution costs. As you say, it becomes a bit like telecoms cables, where the marginal cost of an extra connection is negligible, and it makes little difference whether 5 people or 5000 are connected.

    I don’t think the economics of this have been worked out yet, and I don’t think a lot of people realise just how revolutionary renewable energy is. And the technology is not standing still. I can easily imagine newer thin-film PV films replacing the current solar panels: they make better use of ambient light, so don’t have to be installed in direct sunlight. You have only to look at the huge amount of glass in modern cities (or for that matter on things like trams) to know that companies making PV glass are on to a winner; other companies are working on membranes that can be stuck on walls or roofs. Once these technologies are fully tested and mass-produced, they could quickly become standard on new builds.

    I can also see business and households diverging, as businesses are much better able to use solar power produced in the daytime. Leasing companies are also appearing, where businesses can hire storage by the month or whatever rather than buying equipment outright. Maybe they’ll appear for households too.

    Also, don’t forget there are 2 power grids in GB: electricity and gas. Most households use far more gas (for heating) than electricity. The National Infrastructure Commission recently recommended lots of research into converting the current gas network to use hydrogen. Electrolysers aren’t cheap, but like wind/solar once built there’s little operational cost.

    Comment by Peter Robins | November 27, 2018 | Reply

    • The big losers will be those who live in twee country cottages and 1930s semis, which are a nughtmare to heat!

      Modern houses like mine with solar on the roof and when I get round to it, a battery under the stairs, will probably get a replacement electric boiler for the gas one in ten years time.

      Comment by AnonW | November 27, 2018 | Reply

      • I’d recommend holding off on the battery storage until costs come down. I looked into this recently, and found it makes little sense financially, as the cost over the expected life span was more than my total electricity usage! And, even if I could produce all my electricity myself, would I really have the confidence to disconnect from the grid? If not, I still have to pay the standing charge.

        It could go either way: either store energy at the grid level and charge people a monthly rate to connect to it, as with telecoms. Or, if every building has built-in renewable energy, reduce or even remove the need for a grid.

        Comment by Peter Robins | November 27, 2018

      • I feel that capacitors woll eventually be used for houses.

        Comment by AnonW | November 27, 2018

    • and, talking of which, Expect to see more such offers

      Comment by Peter Robins | November 29, 2018 | Reply

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