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Too many wind farms could jeopardise power supply

BRITISH ENERGY experts this week expressed fears that the National Grid would be unable to cope with fluctuations in supply if the government pursued plans to expand wind generation capacity.

'The difficulties have yet to receive proper recognition, ' said professor Michael Laughton, energy advisor to the Royal Academy of Engineering.

'There is a limit to the amount of intermittent generation that can be connected to the British system of England, Wales and Scotland; what that limit is has yet to be determined.'

The concerns surfaced after Ireland imposed an emergency moratorium on new wind farm projects.

Ireland's Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) imposed the ban last month. It was responding to warnings voiced in a letter to the CER by grid operator ESB National Grid. It said 'a dramatic increase in recent months in the volume of accepted wind farm connection agreements raised concerns for the security, stability and reliability of the overall power system.'

Under Ireland's 'Grid Code' all generating capacity connected to the grid must be able to ride through voltage depressions, often caused by lightning strikes on power cables. Wind farms cannot do this because generators lack the capacity to maintain output levels in such situations.

This has not been an issue for the 166MW of wind power capacity currently connected to Ireland's 2,200MW grid. But the lack of flexibility could cause problems when the additional 566MW of contracted wind capacity comes online in the next three years.

In Ireland a working group led by ESB is developing a new grid code for wind that would allow wind power to overcome technical hurdles. It is due to be completed this summer.

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