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May 8, 2008

Winter Storms + Wind Farms = Falling Electricity Prices

[Originally published at CleanTechnica on 4.18.2008] The powerful winter storms that moved across Europe in March precipitated a considerable spike in electricity supply on the European grid, thanks to continental wind farms.

Wind speeds of 100 mph were recorded across Europe and topped 135 mph at the Czech Republic’s highest mountain, Snezka. The surplus electricity on the grid, produced mostly by German and Danish wind farms pushed prices down by 12% on the spot market.

Traders buying and selling round-the-clock power reported that the ‘day ahead’ price in central Europe’s power market dropped to €49.5 ($76) per megawatt hour compared with €56 at the end of the previous week, according to a piece at Planet Ark. Unfortunately, the article also suggests that sudden drops in electricity prices on the spot market have little effect on end-use rates.

This story points out one of the most persistent ‘problems’ of large-scale wind energy development- how do we address the peaks and valleys on the grid presented by wind power, and how do we reconcile those with power plants which cannot be easily adjusted to deal with those peaks?

Several options of dealing with the storage issue have emerged including compressed air, hydro pump-backs, and more efficient flywheel designs. These are all good steps, and more will undoubtedly emerge. That is why it is important that the ‘problem’ of storing wind energy be framed as an opportunity for technological innovation, and not as a justification for more coal-fired power plants.

Photo: © Kamil Sob√≥cki | Dreamstime.com

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