The Anonymous Widower

What Happens When The Wind Doesn’t Blow?

In Future Offshore Wind Power Capacity In The UK, I analysed future offshore wind power development in the waters around the UK and came to this conclusion.

It looks like we’ll be able to reap the wind. And possibly 50 GW of it! 

The unpredictable nature of wind and solar power means that it needs to be backed up with storage or some other method.

In The Power Of Solar With A Large Battery, I describe how a Highview Power CRYObattery with a capacity of 500 MWh is used to back up a large solar power station in the Atacama desert in Chile.

But to backup 50 GW is going to need a lot of energy storage.

The largest energy storage system in the UK is Electric Mountain or Dinorwig power station in Wales.

  • It has an output of 1.8 GW, which means that we’d need up to nearly thirty Electric Mountains to replace the 50 GW.
  • It has a storage capacity of 9.1 GWh, so at 1.8 GW, it can provide that output for five hours.
  • To make matters worse, Electric Mountain cost £425 million in 1974, which would be over £4 billion today, if you could fine a place to build one.

But it is not as bad as it looks.

  • Battery technology is improving all the time and so is the modelling of power networks.
  • We are now seeing large numbers of lithium-ion batteries being added to the UK power network to improve the quality of the network.
  • The first Highview Power CRYObattery with an output of 50 MW and a capacity of 250 MWh is being built at Carrington in Manchester.
  • If this full size trial is successful, I could see dozens of CRYOBatteries being installed at weak points in the UK power network.
  • Other battery technology is being developed, that might be suitable for application in the UK.

Put this all together and I suspect that it will be possible to cover on days where the wind doesn’t blow.

But it certainly will need a lot of energy storage.

Gas-Fired Power Stations As A Back Up To Renewable Power

Last summer when the wind didn’t blow, gas-fired power stations were started up to fill the gap in the electricity needed.

Gas-fired power-stations normally use gas turbines similar to those used in airliners, which have a very fast startup response, so power can be increased quickly.

If you look at the specification of proposed gas-fired power stations like Keadby2, they have two features not found in current stations.

  • The ability to be fitted in the future with carbon-capture technology.
  • The ability to be fuelled by hydrogen.

Both features would allow a gas-fired power-station to generate power in a zero-carbon mode.

Carbon Capture And Storage

I am not in favour of Carbon Capture And Storage, as I believe Carbon Capture and Use is much better and increasingly engineers, researchers and technologists are finding ways of using carbon-dioxide.

  • Feeding to tomatoes, salad vegetables, soft fruits and flowers in greenhouses.
  • Producing meat substitutes like Quorn.
  • Producing sustainable aviation fuel.
  • An Australian company called Mineral Decarbonation International can convert carbon dioxide into building products like blocks and plasterboard.

This list will grow.

Using or storing the carbon-dioxide produced from a gas-fired power station running on natural gas, will allow the fuel to be used, as a backup, when the wind isn’t blowing.

Use Of Hydrogen

Hydrogen will have the following core uses in the future.

  • Steelmaking
  • Smelting of metal ores like copper and zinc
  • As a chemical feedstock
  • Natural gas replacement in the mains.
  • Transport

Note that the first four uses could need large quantities of hydrogen, so they would probably need an extensive storage system, so that all users had good access to the hydrogen.

If we assume that the hydrogen is green and probably produced by electrolysis, the obvious place to store it would be in a redundant gas field that is convenient. Hence my belief of placing the electrolyser offshore on perhaps a redundant gas platform.

If there is high hydrogen availability, then using a gas-fired power-station running on hydrogen, is an ideal way to make up the shortfall in power caused by the low wind.


Batteries and gas-fired power stations can handle the shortfall in power.

January 2, 2022 - Posted by | Energy, Energy Storage | , , , ,


  1. On a cold winters day UK uses 1TWH/day so that’s over 100 Dinorwics and given a blocking low depression over Nth Sea can last 2-3 days that’s 300 Dinorwics. The monies not relevant we just don’t have anywhere suitable for them. Yes you could build out alot of batteries but your going to need a lot of them and thats going to cost a fortune as well. For the foreseeable future as you observe we are going to need gas as a backup and i do hope the politicians are educated to realise that and not to seek photo opps of blowing them up like they’ve done over the coal stations.

    Comment by Nicholas Lewis | January 2, 2022 | Reply

    • Look at the published details of Keadby 3. The politicians should talk to SSE.

      I would also offer a large prize for the best use of carbon dioxide.

      Comment by AnonW | January 2, 2022 | Reply

  2. I thought this July article from the BBC entitled “The massive green power projects stuck in limbo” shows that there are schemes and suggests some of the problems.
    Off hand I can’t recall it but there are two plans for more pumped storage, one in Scotland and lastly yet another in North Wales.
    As for Dinorwig a now deceased friend of mine had the role of coordinating engineer for the delivery of the turbines. As I recall that ended in 1984-85 so any construction costs should use that a base date.

    Comment by fammorris | January 2, 2022 | Reply

    • There is another project in North Wales and I thing Drax might be extending theirs.

      Just read the BBC article.

      It does look like the government needs to develop a way to make it worthwhile to invest in storage. They did this for windfarms and they have sprouted ever since.

      Comment by AnonW | January 2, 2022 | Reply

  3. I saw a report a couple of months ago that the current pipeline for grid-connected battery storage is some 80GW. As the article said, not all of that will actually be installed, but that is a serious amount of power, and the pipeline is likely to increase substantially.

    The Grid is very keen on setting up vehicle2grid. Most cars famously sit around doing nothing for 90+% of the time. If they all have a battery and are all connected to the grid when not in use, then that also provides a large amount of potential storage – and a revenue stream for car owners.

    In any case, thinking of electricity as something produced by distant power stations is outdated. Renewable power is decentralised. There needs to be a major push for all buildings in the country to be (a) better insulated, and (b) have solar+storage. This would substantially reduce demands on the Grid. For consumers, cost of energy effectively moves from time of consumption to time of installation.

    Relying on gas when the stuff came out of the N Sea was a sensible policy, but N Sea production has declined by 90% over the last 20 years or so. The problem in recent months has been that there hasn’t been enough to go around, leading to very high prices; and I don’t think relying on Putin and his cronies to fill our energy needs is a sensible strategy. Reliance on gas needs to be wound down asap.

    I also can’t see H as being viable for energy storage. Using electrolysis and then converting it back to energy uses some 50% or more of the input energy. You can’t use sea-water, so if you’re off-shore you have to add desalination, which uses up another chunk of the input. Add the energy you need to pump the stuff around (and H is light, so needs more energy to pump around than natural gas), and there’s not much left. Compare with HVDC cable, which reportedly loses some 3% over 1000km.

    Fortunately, there are alternatives to highly unpredictable wind. For GB with its long coastline and high tidal range, marine power has a lot of potential. Tides are entirely predictable, and it’s good that tidal projects have now been included in the Contracts for Difference scheme. I hope this can provide a substantial boost to development. On pumped hydro, uses specially treated water to enable production in much smaller sites. I have a small investment, and I’ll be interested to see how that pans out.

    Comment by Peter Robins | January 3, 2022 | Reply

    • I am also a small investor in Rheenergise. I mentioned this to a Physics professor and he invested too. He can’t understand why it’s not been done before.

      Comment by AnonW | January 3, 2022 | Reply

  4. Of course part of our future base load will have to be generated by gas turbines, probably fuelled by hydrogen, or small modular nuclear solutions but to see pumped storage as part of that equation is to misunderstand the purpose of such systems. Apart from providing frequency stability to the network, pumped storage can only offer short to medium energy storage. I read that Dinorwig can only generate at full capacity for about 5 hours or for a proportionally longer period if generating at lower rates. We could benefit from more pumped storage but it was never built to provide the 40-odd GW every hour that you mention.
    Without proven, responsive storage alternatives, as we run a base load closer to the bone the need for pumped storage to provide frequency will become evermore important, you only have to recall the impact of the combined loss of two large generators, as well as the smaller loss of generation at a local level, which together triggered the subsequent disconnection, loss of power and disruption to more than one million consumers in August 2019.
    There’s a good 2020 report by Jacobs with the title Strategy for Long-term Energy Storage in the UK.

    Comment by fammorris | January 3, 2022 | Reply

    • I do think that Rheenergise has a future as it has a smaller footprint than conventional pumped storage. I wonder the pipes between the high and low reservoir could be run up the side of a steep railway. Think Buxton, Merthyr Tydfil or East Kilbride. Linked with something like Bivarail’s charger it could make for an interesting zero-carbon battery-electric railway.

      Comment by AnonW | January 3, 2022 | Reply

  5. There are some proposals for very large pumped storage schemes in Scotland one is for 6,800 Giga Watt hour storage using a high glaciated valley

    Comment by Ben Oldfield | January 3, 2022 | Reply

    • I’ve seen those and I doubt they’lol go down well with the shooting fraternity.

      Comment by AnonW | January 3, 2022 | Reply

      • Shooters will like it – they can hunt waterfowl instead – ducks, geese, teal…

        Comment by R. Mark Clayton | January 4, 2022

  6. Hydrogen does not need pumping or transporting around. It can be created using electricity on site, directly where is is needed. That is why it is being considered for trains. The hydrogen can be created at the depot then fill up the trains in the morning with 600 miles of range. The lack of transportation infrastructure and costs aids.

    Comment by John | January 3, 2022 | Reply

    • I know a lot about hydrogen, as my first job on leaving Liverpool University in the 1960s, was as an engineer in ICI’s hydrogen factory at Runcorn. That knowledge meant I put a proportion of my pension into shares in ITM Power and they of course provide electrolysers for bus depots, the hydrogen-powered trambuses made by Van Hool and anything that needs hydrogen.

      Comment by AnonW | January 3, 2022 | Reply

      • I suppose that with Electrolysis providing only 2% of the world’s hydrogen production, the only way is up

        Comment by fammorris | January 4, 2022

  7. On the subject of grid-connected storage, I’ve just been looking at the recently formed – basically a group of providers and other companies involved in the industry. The report on their website reckons “By 2040, LDES need to have scaled up to ~400x present day levels to 1.5–2.5 TW (85–140 TWh). 10% of all electricity generated would be stored in LDES at some point.” It also estimates this will cost USD1.5-3 trillion.

    It defines ‘long-duration’ as ‘hours, days, or even weeks’. It also distinguishes LDES from Li-ion, hydrogen assets, and pumped hydro, and discusses the various emerging technologies. The conclusion is that the industry will governments to help create the market framework, but “All the evidence suggests that this could be a highly attractive market for investors.” The summary gives the essence if you don’t have time to read all 76pp. 🙂

    Comment by Peter Robins | January 4, 2022 | Reply

    • Sounds good!

      Comment by AnonW | January 4, 2022 | Reply

    • and talking of attracting investors, KPMG has just released a report recommending a cap and floor mechanism.

      Comment by Peter Robins | January 10, 2022 | Reply

      • I thought the following from the Drax Press Release on this subject was telling
        “With no new long-duration energy storage projects built in the UK since the 1980s, enough wind power to supply more than a million homes was wasted in 2020 as excess renewable power could not be stored anywhere.”

        Comment by fammorris | January 10, 2022

  8. Remember that Drax own Cruachan pumped storage station, which has a capacity of 7.1 GWh and is capable of handling a black start of the National Grid.

    Drax are seeking to more than double the capacity at Cruachan, but reading about it, it seems that it might have got stuck in the planning process.

    This is the description on the Drax web-site.

    Comment by AnonW | January 10, 2022 | Reply

    • don’t think so. According to they aim to submit their application in Q2, with a decision in 2023.

      Comment by Peter Robins | January 10, 2022 | Reply

      • Yes I read that Drax had organised their second public consultation in the first half of December 2021, having made a number of committments to subjects raised in the Summer.
        It talked about project starting in 2024 if all went according to plan.

        Comment by fammorris | January 10, 2022

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: