Despite reaching impressive milestones in recent years, there’s a massive problem with the wind sector — power wastage. In 2022, it was reported that Brits paid millions to switch off wind turbines as networks were unable to deal with the levels of power generated.
Why Are Wind Turbines Being Switched Off? - Power Transmission is Just as Important as Generation
Simone Bruckner, Managing Director | Cressall Resistors
UK windfarms hit an all-time high in wind power last year, generating more than 80 thousand gigawatt hours (GWh) and enough power for over 22 million homes. Yet, reports also came out of wind turbines being switched off due to overcapacity — at the expense of customers. Here, Simone Bruckner, managing director of resistor manufacturer Cressall Resistors, explores.
Despite reaching impressive milestones in recent years, there’s a massive problem with the renewable — and particularly wind sector — power wastage. In 2022, it was reported that Brits paid millions to switch off wind turbines as networks were unable to deal with the levels of power generated.
The UK has set ambitious goals for renewable energy sources for the next few years, aiming for a more sustainable approach while reducing dependency on both fossil fuels and external suppliers. As the past 18 months or so have highlighted, the volatility of global markets means it’s essential that the country is able to secure its own energy supply.
Fortunately, the UK does have the natural resources to do so. With the greatest wind energy potential in Europe, it’s clear why wind power has been a preferred route for planners and developers to take. So why are wind turbines still being switched off, and why is this energy being wasted?
Distance from the grid
Offshore wind farms are often a significant distance from the Grid. Typically, these farms are connected to the Grid with a specialist, individual cable connection through a converter and into the transmission network, allowing the farm to distribute power.
The issue with this setup is that the offshore system will typically have fewer connections readily available than an equivalent farm on land. Because of this, there are less options available when it comes to distributing power during surges or when there are problems with the on-land network.
Distance from demand
Furthermore, many of these wind farm installations are being built in remote areas of Scotland or in the North Sea, where winds are stronger. Though this is certainly positive when it comes to power generation, the issue is that the local area isn’t where the demand is.
More power is needed in the south of the country, far from where the electricity is being generated. And while the transmission networks can transport electricity great distances, without efficient connections and cable routes a lot of power can be lost before it reaches crucial areas.
A focus on infrastructure
It's clear from these issues that improving power infrastructure is just as vital as delivering new power generation projects. Reassuringly, there are developments underway to address these issues. One such example is the ‘Eastern Green Link 2’ (EGL2), which involves the manufacture and installation of a high voltage direct current (HVDC) subsea cable from Peterhead in the North of Scotland down to Drax in Yorkshire.
A crucial element of these power transmission systems is the host of resistors within that help to facilitate the safe movement of electricity. Pre-insertion resistors, for example, can absorb and control transient magnetising currents within transformers throughout the network. This control helps keep voltages consistent with minimal dips, reducing potential disturbances for users of the power network. They can also help mitigate against temporary overvoltages, such as those caused by exceptionally strong winds.
Discharge resistors are another vital component, particularly in terms of safety. These can reduce the risk of sudden overvoltages from capacitors and inductors that have become isolated from their networks or in situations where an emergency shutdown is required. In offshore farms that are far from other connections, the inclusion of discharge resistors is essential in having a sufficient ability to remove excess electricity when required.
Implementing resistor technologies as new projects are built helps both to ensure safety from dangerous overvoltages, as well as safeguard electricity on the Grid from fluctuations and dips.
So, as the UK continues to invest heavily in the renewable energy sector, considering how we’ll transport this energy will be just as important as thinking about how we will generate it in the first place. With projects like EGL2 on the horizon, it’s clear that the industry is taking the right steps to secure a reliable network from the turbine all the way to our homes.
Cressall has extensive experience supplying a variety of resistor types to projects within the power generation and transmission sector. For more information on available products or to discuss your next project, get in touch with the team on +44 (0) 116 273 3633.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
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