Germans in Cologne had a shock last weekend as several areas experienced black outs three times in 24 hours. One outage lasted for 45 minutes. Among other places hit in the region was the popular amusement park Phantasialand.
German blogger Pierre Goslin argued that whilst unlikely that this particular event was caused by sudden drops or surges in renewable contributions to the grid, it is a reminder of the regular instabilities that have plagued the grid over the last 10 years.
The renewables contribution over the weekend was, Goslin notes, relatively stable. However, regular (and largely unpredictable) spikes in wind power routinely make the German grid “far more erratic and uncontrollable”. He highlights one particularly large spike on March the 31st, where an enormous 76 gigawatts of wind energy was suddenly fed uncontrollably into the grid. Such surplus power has to be dumped rapidly – usually into neighbouring energy markets at negative prices.
Britain has experienced similar problems. A significant power cut took place in Scotland in April last year, plunging up to 200,000 homes into darkness. There was speculation at the time that this may have been caused by a sudden drop in the output of Scotland’s wind turbine fleet.