Angry rebuttal of claims by minister -- Wind not at fault

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Alarmist claims on Dutch TV news that increased German wind energy could lead to power cuts in the Netherlands have been firmly rejected by the Netherlands Wind Energy Association (NWEA). The claims were made by economy minister Laurens Jan Brinkhorst just days after he suspended subsidies for new offshore wind farms. For good measure he also told listeners that wind power was an inherently unreliable power supply option.

His comments came in response to reports from Dutch grid operator Tennet that the construction of some 15,000 MW of wind capacity in northern Germany had on two separate occasions in December and January nearly resulted in blackouts in the Netherlands. This was due, the report stated, to the inadequacy of the Northern European grid and German legislation which gives wind priority access to the grid.

The Dutch wind sector reacted angrily to Brinkhorst's presentation of the facts. By suggesting that the problem was inherent in wind technology rather than the inadequacy of the grid and the rigidity of German legislation, the minister has once again "damaged the reputation of wind power," says NWEA. It is the inflexibility of German legislation which cannot regulate wind's access to the net, says the NWEA's Henk Hutting. More transmission capacity could also help.

Because the primary consumers for the output of Germany's northern wind farms are to the south of the Netherlands in Germany's Ruhr region, in times of peak power production German transmission system operator (TSO) is flowing electricity through the Dutch grid, which is built to cope with peak demand of just 13,000 MW.

NWEA says the German problem with managing its supply and demand lies not with wind power production but with German legislation. It urges its government to pursue an EU level agreement on rules and regulations for system management so it makes sense for TSOs to prioritise wind power as the cheapest marginal electricity. An agreement is needed urgently if the volume of renewable energy production is to continue growing.

Intelligent control

More flexible legislation "would allow the grid operator to intervene immediately in those very rare cases where the weather forecast suggests the likelihood of large fluctuations in energy production. Through intelligent grid control the power balance can be maintained in situations of exceptional supply and demand. At the same time, these weather situations are so rare that they have no impact on the total annual wind power production. The claim that wind compromises the reliability of the power supply is thus false," says NWEA.

Further, wind can actually contribute to grid stability, NWEA argues, if it is considered as an integral part of electricity generation. "There are already practical examples of wind farms being run at reduced output as peaking plants. When there is a sudden surge in demand these can be brought up to full capacity in a matter of seconds. Alternatively, a grid operator can shut down power production in a matter of seconds.

Similar complaints about German wind causing instability on the grids of neighbouring countries were also voiced by Belgium in 2004 (Windpower Monthly, January 2004). On that occasion it was the sudden shut down of German wind and a need to compensate by importing Swiss hydro that overburdened the relatively low capacity of the Belgian network.

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