Grid operator welcomes wind

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The French electricity network will have capacity enough to carry the output of 7000 MW of installed wind power in 2012 and to handle the national target of 17,000 MW in 2015, reports grid operator Réseau de Transport d'Electricité (RTE). In a reports covering the period to 2020, RTE also acknowledges that wind power on the grid helps with balancing supply and demand and reduces the need for conventional power plants.

Not surprisingly, given that France has the second best wind resource in Europe, RTE says the productivity of wind plant in the country is above the European average. In 2006, the average capacity factor for mainland France was 24.8%, equivalent to 2170 hours of production at full capacity, though RTE notes this figure will fall slightly in future as most of the best sites have already been developed.

The grid operator also found that production is largely in synch with demand: higher in winter when most power is required and lower in summer. Strong winter winds blowing in the Mediterranean region compensate for the typical calm, high-pressure systems in the north. This means it is important to maintain a wide geographic spread of wind plant to "compensate for regional variations and to even out production over the country as a whole."

RTE also acknowledges that wind power on the grid helps meet spikes in demand: "Despite the variability of wind, the installation of wind plant reduces the need for thermal plant as back-up." The 17,000 MW targeted for 2015 will replace around 4000 MW of thermal output, says RTE.

But to cope with all this wind power, the grid will need reinforcing, particularly in the two most windy regions of Brittany and Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur. Decisions also need to be made now as to exactly what other measures should to be taken to prepare for higher proportions of wind power.

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