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Blackouts loom this winter

  • 16-08-2021 3:17pm
    Registered Users Posts: 5,895 ✭✭✭

    The €120 million handed over to stave off the crisis could surely have been better spent on renewable power. Now we are entering the phase where handing over these sums of money to (politically connected) cute hoor power suppliers, borrowing and importing becomes commonplace due to decades of under-investment. They could have seen this coming years ago and they did nothing. These blackouts will loom much harder if we get a severe winter and everyone switches on their electric heater

    In the long run is there any renewable source of power they could put in here will keep everything going through the winter? Wind alone won't be enough



  • Moderators, Category Moderators, Arts Moderators, Sports Moderators Posts: 46,935 CMod ✭✭✭✭magicbastarder

    is there any background to this? Ryan signed off on it, but Eirgrid scrapped it; that's as far as the (paywalled) article lets me see.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,831 ✭✭✭dloob

    EP UK Investments, 80% owners of the Tynagh power plant and two plants in Antrim, took a high court challenge against the contract.

    With it not due for an initial hearing until October Eirgrid appear to have scrapped it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,752 ✭✭✭paulbok

    Both the recently closed peat plants in Lanesborough (Ballymahon connected) and Shannonbridge (Athlone) are only a couple of miles from the gas pipeline network, you would have thought one could have been refitted as a backup generation station.

    Weather forecasts could predict fairly well the wind speed and sunshine levels for the following day, and the boilers could be ramped up/down as they are expected to be required.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭garo

    That's complete rot. It's the poor planning and lack of storage and interconnects that has us in this situation. There is zero management of dispatchable loads in Ireland. No mechanisms to provide feedback to the end user about when there is an excess or shortage of power. Renewable is intermittent. we all know that. But with today's technology it is relatively easy to get around that problem by over building renewable and time-shifting dispatchable loads. it's cheaper and better for the environment.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 5,895 ✭✭✭Ubbquittious

    I tried to ask Eirgrid if there was some way to get a Web API to find out when excess power is available but no reply

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,328 ✭✭✭KildareP

    It appears the underlying concern was because two gas plants have been out of action since last year but they expect to have them back online in time for peak demand this Winter.

    Concerns at increasing demands on electricity grid (

    EirGrid also said Covid-19 has delayed annual maintenance and repair to generators, with two gas generators in Cork and Dublin, which comprise 15% of conventional generation, out of service since last winter pending repair.


    EirGrid said a process of "securing emergency generation for this coming winter was instigated ... in recent months."

    However, the outlook for the return of the two gas-fired generators is now "much improved", EirGrid said, and "therefore the need for this emergency generation is reduced".

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,895 ✭✭✭Ubbquittious

    Yes they are. They hadn't a bulls' notion what I was on about when I called. Just sent them another email

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,590 ✭✭✭✭machiavellianme

    That's possibly because you are posing an impossible question. There is no such thing as "excess power" at present. It is generated as it is consumed or it is stored in the Hill. All the batteries on the system are merely providing system services and aren't there to give medium term capacity or balancing benefits.

    By "excess power", I'm assuming you mean that which is curtailed or constrained if locational specific? However, for any curtailed asynchronous energy to be utilised, you also need 30% (or 25% during the upcoming 75% snsp trial) coming from synchronised sources. That means additional conventional plant committed and dispatched upwards.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭garo

    I don't think that's correct. You don't need to dispatch an additional synchronous power plant if you have excess wind. At this point wind is around 50% of output. You need the overall power generation to have a 25-30% synchronous component but curtailing typically happens at a higher percentage of synchronous output.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,590 ✭✭✭✭machiavellianme

    It is correct. SNSP is 70% so wind can be a little higher than that, depending on what other generation is on and exports from the system.

    Excess wind isn't some magical energy that can be put in a bottle and delivered when and where you want it. It still has to use the same transmission and distribution system as all other electricity and hence is bound by the snsp limit, like all other generation on the island. There are a minimum number of conventional generators online at all times to ensure system stability. If wind is high, these may be at their minimum output as long as the SNSP level doesn't exceed 70%. If it does, the wind/solar is curtailed and turned down and the conventional plant is moved up to maintain the frequency. Interconnector flows are slightly different due to the market closure times but they also influence the SNSP.

    Also, in high wind, conventional generators are often brought on to minimise constraints by pushing the power on the right side of the problem. Look at what SONI do in relation to Moyle when there's wind in the SW of Ireland, they push up on Ballylumford, Kilroot etc. It's so hard to model but their explanation previously was that this is the consequence of not building the second North South line. It would be great to see a published network model on this so we could really understand the constraints issue.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,685 ✭✭✭Odelay

    They do manage the load, some of this is done by automatically turning off equipment this is high load, but not time or process sensitive. This is done in industry and there are rewards to the business for it. It seems they are concentrating on the bigger fish as there is a certain amount of equipment needed to be installed to make this possible automatically. Maybe once that is complete they will target domestic users and their appliances.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭garo

    I suppose the question then is at what % SNSP does wind start getting curtailed. If it's at 65% then we have room - assuming no constraints - then there is "excess power" that can be used. If you look at this report SNSP was not the reason for curtailment majority of the time. All of those times there was excess power that could have been used.

    The other source of slack are the interconnectors. We could export less and use more internally if we had dispatchable loads.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭garo

    You are right. There are some large industrial consumers who help manage the load. And I am not complaining about eirgrid. They do a pretty decent job of keeping the grid up and running (except perhaps for more interconnects to alleviate constraints). Its the regulator and the retail side of things.

    For an ordinary residential user there is nothing they can do. Very little equipment needed for a residential customer. All you need is an internet connection and some logic that dispatches loads. Heck I could build an IFTTT system if they provided an API. The UK has already begun to plan for it. Look at this: Around the 15:00-17:00 mark they discuss how the house can respond to a call from the grid when it has extra power or a powr shortage. The Zappi EV charger already comes with inbuilt technology that will allow a network operator to communicate with it. This is what we are missing here.

  • Registered Users Posts: 31,530 ✭✭✭✭NIMAN

    I'm betting the data centres, such huge consumers of energy, won't be getting hit with any blackouts.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,590 ✭✭✭✭machiavellianme

    Fairly sure you are right. The grid code traditionally only accounts for distribution level customers being turned down. I guess we'll see in the next few months.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,590 ✭✭✭✭machiavellianme

    This comment really epitomises how little most people understand about the power system and the market. Yes, sometimes wind is curtailed for system reasons before the SNSP limit is reached, for example, overnight when all conventional plant (less any reserve constraints) have been turned down to their minimum and the frequency is increasing. So what? You increase demand a little till the SNSP limit is reached, thereby not having to match with increased conventional output? Great in theory but if there were signals to do so, you'd need some sort of feedback because otherwise you have a peak at 3am rather than 6pm. Plus consumer behaviour doesn't necessarily want their oven on at 3am or their dishwasher running 6 times overnight (with no refills). What you are talking about is not just a real time price signal, but a forecast real time price signal that is static. However that's impossible since the price is set depending on the generation online to meet the load at a point in time and both are variable.

    Demand response is already a thing and DSUs can (and often do) elect to match the system demand through their pricing.

    As regards Interconnection, we are part of a wider European market. You don't just get to change flows on a whim. They are determined by prices across the region and flows go from the cheapest to the most expensive areas. Dispatchable loads may not change this because if the SEM is particularly windy (0 bid price) our price would go to 0 or even negative. This drives the interconnector flows, which are set BEFORE any balancing market activity. You'd need to change the entire set of market rules across Europe and for what? So that you can turn up Intel's demand when they aren't expecting it? Or turn on residential storage heating in the middle of the summer? There are only so many levers that can be pulled.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭garo

    May I say your comment epitomises how some people are still living in the 20th century as regards technology? Pricing is not the only way to The first is a solvable problem. It's as easy as encoding some random number in the grid signal and the response comes from the customers whose id matches some transformation of that random number. For instance, and this is a very simple example, I could encode a single digit from 0-9 in my signal. All consumers with MPRNs whose last digit end in that number can then dispatch their loads. This was I divide my load and can calibrate the response. No reason why I could not subdivide the load into more granular chunks.

    It is a bit disingenuous to talk of ovens and dishwashers running six times. Of course we need devices which have the capability to respond. And not every load is dispatchable. But that does not mean no load is dispatchable. As we move towards more and more EV penetration we have an excellent reservoir of storage and when we get V2G we'll have two way energy transfer.

    You keep setting up strawmen. Nobody is saying send power to intel when they don't need it or turn on heatpumps in the summer. You keep missing the elephant in the room: EVs with their big batteries which have at least some capacity for discretionary charge. Your last paragraph unwittingly points out where the problem is. Prices are a response to demand/supply and not the other way round. And it is a two way process. If price drops you can increase try to increase retail demand. Why else would a tarrif like this exist: And interconnector flows don't have to be set in stone. Yes it requires a major change in the energy market. But that change is coming whether you like it or not. A market built for steady synchronous generation and predictable will have to adapt when the majority of power is coming from intermittent renewable sources. If there is an unplanned outage at a power generation plant today, what happens with interconnector flows? Do tey remain the same. Renewable energy requires faster demand response. We have the technology to do it. There is little political will to do it and your response is a perfect example. We are faced with a climate catastrophe and you don't want to change the energy market rules.

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,590 ✭✭✭✭machiavellianme

    Grid signal? What on earth are you talking about? I work in power system standards and certification so I reckon I have a better understanding of the present and future state of the art than you do, having spent years researching and lecturing on the topic. There is no mythical grid signal, save for the 50Hz supply you receive. PLC technology is largely phased out at this stage and replaced by fiber so unless you are proposing an installation of costly RTUs at every home, business, farm and factory, your "idea" is unworkable.

    If you are talking about is modulating some sort of carrier onto the 50Hz supply, you'll quickly run into issues with sensitive loads, harmonics and cable amplification that'll put paid to achieving anything coherent. You'd be better off asking Siri or Alexa to do something.

    As far as EVs are concerned, there are far too few of them to impact the potential blackouts this winter, which is what this thread is about. Shifting a few hundred kW to the valley is welcome but its very small in the big scheme of things. If anything, they'll make the problem worse because people use the inefficient heating function in EVs more during winter, often while plugged in and during the morning load rise before they head off to work, which makes for a very unattractive ramp for the system. No point heating a car at 3am for it to be cold again by 7-8am. The same can be said for the return journey at 5pm. As far as bidirectional transfers go, unless battery technology improves, I cannot see many stupid enough to sign up to V2G and erode your battery capacity providing a service for little returns. Especially if the grid runs down your battery just as you need it for an emergency journey. Why invest in an expensive EV if you no longer have control of its state of charge or battery lifetime?

    As for interconnector and network flows - some things do have to be set in stone. The power system works based on predictive behaviour. Obviously unplanned outages can affect that and reserves kick in, till the system is restored within operational limits. Generators are brought online against forecast demand. They take anything from minutes to hours to get up to speed, not milliseconds which would be needed for true demand response. Plus, if there is no forecast of generation and guesstimate of prices, how do you propose to create your mythical signal? How do you achieve it post contingency if something trips? There's no AI out there clever enough to do it yet, nevermind in real time.

    As for changing rules, as I said, I work in this space. It takes years (decades) to make changes as it requires multi jurisdiction coordination. Everything is agreed at EC / Entso-E level, then filters downwards. Then market systems have to be designed, developed and tested before being deployed. There's lots of stakeholders with lots of vested interests from developers, suppliers, traders, all seeking to make returns and consumers / regulators trying to get value. We've had 2 SEMs in Ireland and I suspect the next one won't be till 2027/8. Again, not much use for this winter.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭garo

    Oh come on! By grid signal I didn't mean it has to literally go over the transmission lines. There is something called the Internet you know. Ok let me spell it out for you: By grid signal I mean using the Internet to communicate when there is an excess of power. It is possibly to selectively communicate this information to a subset of consumer devices allowing you to modulate how much demand increase/decrease you request. Of course the response is unpredictable but this is basic systems engineering stuff.

    You original point was that there is no such thing as "excess power". Then you changed your argument to focus on the proportion of SNSP. When I linked you to an eirgrid document that shows SNSP was the reason for curtailment only about a third of the time you glossed over it. Now you are constructing other strawmen.

    I never said that the demand response has to be instantaneous. I understand how power markets work very well. I used to trade power professionally for a while. So go light on the condescension. Loosely speaking when the bid price is close to 0, you can assume that the grid has excess power and would like to get rid of it. Some of this can be done through curtailment or reducing the output of (some) thermal/hydro power generators. But you see the impact in a higher grid frequency.

    At no point did I argue that what I am proposing would solve this winter's problem. It would take several years to set up the things I propose. But we need to get started now! It is clear that on this front the Irish grid is lagging behind some others in Europe. (It leads in other respects).

    Onto EVs. I have never heard of anyone describe heating in EVs as inefficient. A heat pump is more inefficient than what exactly? Diesel? Any idea what the comparative efficiencies of a diesel engine vs an electric motor for moving the car are? Nor have I head of anyone heating their car at 3am. Preheating my car takes about 10 minutes in the very depths of winter and the car draws 3kW. I don't see how that adds significantly to the morning ramp up. Where do you get these misconceptions about EVs? Finally, how much do you know about battery chemistry and what you call "running down the battery"? Can you conceive of a world where I can limit the range my battery will be in for V2G purposes? Do you know how many 55%-65% cycles a Li Ion battery can tolerate while retaining over 90% of long-term capacity?

    If you work in the regulatory space, all I would say is get cracking because the plant is cooking. Your job is to facilitate renewables rather than bad mouthing them on public fora. And stop looking at the gift horse of dispatchable demand that new technology, smart devices and EVs provide in the mouth.

    Post edited by garo on

  • Registered Users Posts: 11,590 ✭✭✭✭machiavellianme

    I don't work for the regulators, I work in standards. Very different things. I could care less about what technologies deliver as long as the power system operates safely and within acceptable limits. It looks like this winter will be a challenge, though its still within design criteria assuming an 8 hour Loss of Load Expectation, its only natural to experience the odd disturbance to supply. However, once RES-E penetration increases, I expect that'll worsen unless new entrants arrive in the market.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,856 ✭✭✭garo

    Agreed. Which is why we need to redesign the grid to accomodate RES-E, RES-H (which will be even bigger than RES-E) and RES-T. We need to start thinking forwards not backwards.

  • Registered Users Posts: 3,822 ✭✭✭Potatoeman

    Data centres have diesel generators and UPS batteries as backup. They can manage unless there are fuel shortages too.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,226 ✭✭✭bullit_dodger

    Electricity outages loom for next FIVE years as Eirgrid issues shortage warning (

    I'm going to call bullshit on the comment....

    "If heading on the same trajectory, data centres could use 70% of all of Ireland’s electricity by 2030."

    Maybe 30-35% at a push (more likely ~25%) but 70% is sheer nonsense.

    Post edited by bullit_dodger on

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,622 ✭✭✭SouthWesterly

    EI have just announced another hike

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,895 ✭✭✭Ubbquittious

    Great! Let the leapfrogging begin! We're so modern and European with all these closed down turf power plants and incoming smart meters designed to fleece us even more. Eamonn Ryan must be delighted getting all these pesky peasants to sit in the cold while he and his American megacorp buddies live the high life.

  • Registered Users Posts: 34,145 ✭✭✭✭BorneTobyWilde


    Coal is suddenly back in fashion. The amount of coal we have burned to generate electricity this year has quadrupled

  • Registered Users Posts: 34,145 ✭✭✭✭BorneTobyWilde

    SRF should be used to fuel power plants, beats shipping waste over to asian to sit and rot in some yard until someone burns it for the laugh.

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