As the "Beast from the East" hit Ireland on the 28th February, things were looking good for wind farmers. The east winds were predictable and constant, unlike the variable westerlies that hit Ireland most of the time. Wind energy became baseload power for the first time on the Irish grid. On the 1st March, the capacity factor for wind was 80%, a power output normally reserved for coal or gas generation. However, a problem occurred on the morning of the 28th. The interconnector to the UK (East West interconnector) tripped out. This meant that surplus wind generation could no longer be exported to the UK. High amounts of wind generation would have to switched off or "curtailed".
|Wind generation and forecasted wind during Beast from the East. Note how accurate the forecast was |
with one notable exception (see later)
|East West interconnector fault on 28th February|
|Demand all time peak 2010 Vs Demand during Beast from the East 2018|
|Power cuts on the 2nd March|
|The frequency of electricity, normally static at 50Hz, became erratic during the storm as the grid|
operator struggled to manage high wind penetrations. This is from the 2nd March.
Had the interconnector been in operation, 500MW of this surplus wind could have been exported. Demand, in fact, dropped by 10% on the 2nd March compared with the day before, presumably due to the power cuts.
These are problems that will only intensify as more wind capacity is added and more and more generators are looking to get a piece of the demand "pie". Interconnectors, like storage, seem like an easy solution in theory, but in practice things are often different.