The German Association for plant construction this month have issued a warning about the damage that increased cycling of power plants, due to balancing of renewables on the grid, is having on generation equipment :
The FBDR is the German association for process plant construction in the energy, environment and process industries. Their press release of the 6thOctober 2014 below lays it bare in that that thermal power stations remain as a central factor for a reliable electricity supply and that existing plants are not technically laid out for the operational requirements of today, which naturally is being altered due to the highly intermittent input of increasing amounts of solar and wind energy on to the grid. As the press release points out even if Germany was to meet a 100% renewable potential, it would still need to guarantee it through a back-up performance of 80 GW by means of conventional power stations.
This rapid increase in renewables in recent years in Germany has put operational demands on existing gas and coal power plants, which are simply not technically designed for it. The plants must be more frequently switched on and off in order to be able to compensate for the fluctuations, which are associated with electrical inputs from sun, wind and water. The degree of load change is partly more than 200 times higher than that permissible for the power station. As a result the danger of lasting damage to the power plants grows – along with increasing risks to the security of electrical supply. On their own the plant operators cannot come up with the necessary investment for the technical conversion of thermal power plants. Already we have reached the situation where the operation of conventional gas and coal power plants is barely profitable, even to the point that the regulated maintenance is more and more being postponed. Correspondingly the political process is being called upon, not only to promote pumped storage and transmission systems, but also to integrate the existing power stations into their planning. “If you want the Energiewende (energy transformation), you must also provide for your back-up cover”.
And the UK National Grid have issued a report stating that they are facing a capacity shortage this winter, with emergency measures including "load shedding" of heavy industrial users where factories will revert to their own sources of electricity generation i.e. diesel generators, in order to reduce peak demand (essentially a transfer from coal to diesel power) :
So will the new 400 million euros East West Interconnector be lying idle over the winter as a result ?