May 18, 2005

"Utilities put cap on wind power"

An article in the May 18 Asahi Shimbun:
Just when it looked like smooth sailing for wind power generation, electric power companies, its main buyers, have placed limits on their purchases, citing the unreliability of the clean energy. ...

Until recently, regional utilities have cooperated by purchasing all of the electricity generated by wind power suppliers.

But introducing too much of the electricity, whose supply can fluctuate wildly, can cause problems for utilities' power grids.

According to Tohoku Electric, which purchases about 40 percent of wind power generated nationwide, wattage can change between zero to 80 percent of its capacity within a single day.

Electric power companies worry a supply shortfall will result in blackouts, while excess supply may destabilize frequencies, which could cause malfunctions at factories, for example.

To avoid such risks, utilities control supply by monitoring shortages and sufficiencies and compensate by raising or lowering supply at thermal generators by means of computer-controlled systems.

If there is no wind, the utilities must rely entirely on other facilities. And even when wind power can satisfy all of the demand, they must continue operating thermal generators to be ready for any abrupt shortfalls in wind power. ...
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