The wind always blows somewhere in Europe

As seen in previous post, Belgium experienced a dunkelflaute (a period of low solar and wind power production) on November 29 and, depending on one’s definition of dunkelflaute, it may even be longer. Belgian politicians envision a situation in which Belgium relies more on import of electricity, so I wonder what those neighboring countries did during this event and whether they would be able to help us in such a situation. My expectation (based on previous posts like here, here, here and here), is that they all went through the same or at least a similar event.

Let’s start with what happened in Belgium from November 28 until December 2:

Dunkelflaute Belgium

Production by solar and wind slowed down on November 28, then a plateau with very low production until production picked up steam in the Morning of December 2.

Let’s now continue with the eastern neighbor of Belgium, Germany:

Dunkelflaute Germany

This looks pretty similar to the Belgian grid. There was a strongly diminishing production of solar and wind on November 28, then production practically went flat during the following three days.

Some parts of Germany apparently got it pretty rough. Network operator TransnetBW called its customers in Baden-Württemberg to reduce electricity consumption between 2 pm and 3 pm on November 30 because of a “tense situation” on its grid.
Our politicians consider Germany as their guide country when it comes to future energy and we are following in their footsteps (decommissioning nuclear power plants, focusing on increasing solar and wind and not building the necessary backup to accommodate for the intermittency that is added to the system), so what is happening there might be a glimpse of our future.

I also found data from the UK grid (Belgium also has an interconnection with UK) :

Dunkelflaute UK

It gets a bit boring: a diminishing production on November 28, then very low production for three days and flaring back up at the beginning of December 2.

This is how it looks like when combining the three:

Dunkelflaute Belgium/Germany/UK

Belgium, the UK and Germany went, as expected, through the same event at the same time, so if Belgium would have to rely more on import, then UK and Germany would have difficulties providing that. They both were scrambling to maintain their own grid to counteract the very low production of solar and wind that they experienced themselves.

I don’t have data from the Netherlands, but it is very likely that the same happened there. The Netherlands is a neighboring country bordering Belgium to the north, also situated between Germany and the North sea/UK.

In such situations in the past, it was France that came to our rescue. France has a large fleet of nuclear power plants, so can better handle such events (however, this time France had many of its reactors offline). Let’s hope that France keeps focusing on nuclear power in the future.

That is not how our Minister of Energy sees it. In the article from which was quoted in previous post, she claims that the wind is always blowing somewhere in Europe and therefor she wants more interconnections. She mentions additional interconnections with Denmark and Norway.
Denmark is situated just north of Germany, so these unfavorable wind conditions will likely affect Denmark too.
Norway has much more potential, it has lots of hydropower and, together with neighbor Sweden, it allows for Denmark to achieve higher shares of wind power. Belgium only has a small grid with relative low demand, so Norway could help in that regard, but when Belgium experiences a dunkelflaute, bigger neighbors like The Netherlands and Germany will be too. Not sure if Norway and Sweden have enough electricity available to provide to the rest of North West Europe in case of a Dunkelflaute…

I can understand to some extent that interconnection can be helpful in counteracting the effects of dunkelflautes. Taken over a large enough area, it will diminish the effects of dunkelflautes, but that will be easier said than done. Sure, the wind blows always somewhere in Europe, but to counteract dunkelflautes, countries that don’t experience it will have to overproduce at the same time to somewhat compensate for the other countries that do experience it. This also means that future grids will need to be strengthened considerably in order to be able to handle this amount of excess power and to get this power where it is needed. We are talking about interconnecting with many more countries and transporting excess electricity over vast distances.

Our Minister of Energy is rather optimistic about the energy future based on primarily solar and wind. Let’s hope that she has a good basis for this optimism, not just ideology.


3 thoughts on “The wind always blows somewhere in Europe

  1. Jens Hultgren

    The cost of the grid necessary added, plus the backup you need (fossil and nuclear), tell us that wind power is a really bad idea.
    Add to that – the largest wind farm in the world, with the best wind conditions – Dogger Bank, is unprofitable according to a report from Norway government.
    And the major producers Vestas, GE and Siemens are reporting multi billion losses this year.
    How long will this travesty go on?


    1. trustyetverify Post author

      The travesty could go on for quite a while. Politicians don’t look at those pesky things like backup costs, infrastructure requirements,… and they want to go zero emissions at any cost. Then wind (and solar) become really attractive options.


  2. Pingback: The wind always blows somewhere in Europe - Climate-

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