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Pike Research: total capacity of worldwide spinning reserves for the grid to increase 40% by 2022

Spinning reserves are power generation or storage assets that can come online quickly to serve as bridge power for the grid to maintain system frequency stability during emergency operating conditions and unforeseen load swings. A recent report from Pike Research forecasts that the total capacity of worldwide spinning reserves for the grid—including traditional generation assets and energy storage technologies—will rise by 40% by 2022. For the report, energy storage technologies include pumped storage, compressed air energy storage (CAES), and advanced batteries.

Market conditions affecting the technical need for spinning reserves include increased volatility in load and/or generation; the ability of the grid operator or vertically integrated utility to accurately forecast sharp increases in load or significant decreases in generation; and the ability of a grid operator or vertically integrated utility to call upon resources from interconnected systems.

Drivers that influence the technology mix of assets include the generation asset mix and factors that affect the mix (e.g., government policies); business models that bundle spinning reserves with another more high-value application; and fuel prices.

The capacity of spinning reserve systems will grow steadily over the coming decade, as will their value, according to the report Spinning Reserves for the Grid.

In terms of revenue, the global spinning reserves market will more than double in size during that period, from $261 million in 2012 to $578 million by 2022.

The traditional technologies that deliver spinning reserves, including all types of dispatchable power plants, are mature and well-understood. However, energy storage technologies, including pumped storage and newer forms of energy storage, are playing a larger role in this market. As markets begin to differentiate between technologies, such as with pay-for-performance regulations, energy storage technologies will gain market share in the spinning reserves market.

—research analyst Anissa Dehamna

By 2022, natural gas and coal plants will still account for 93% of total spinning reserves capacity, but energy storage will grow to 7% of capacity in the same time frame, according to the report. Of particular interest to grid operators are advances in battery technology, particularly lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries. Li-ion batteries can achieve up to 95% efficiency, but they remain relatively expensive compared to other forms of energy storage. Impressive economies of scale could reduce the cost of Li-ion for grid applications.



Everyone interested this issue should read Renewable Energy Limitations, particularly the parts about the impact of intermittent sources of supply on the requirement for dispatch.


The energy density and power density requirements needed in Li ion for the automobile industry are not such big issues for grid apps and renewable storage. First you don't move the battery except to ship it the first time and so weight is far less of an issue. Volume not so much of an issue either. Cost however is an bigger issue. I think the solar and wind people should think about funding their own battery research, instead of waiting for car batteries. That is, if they really want solar and wind to be successful. Of course, when something is commercial then the government programs die out right? Like the support for fossil energy.

Sean Prophet

I skimmed that report. With respect, E-P, I think it's overly pessimistic. Especially when you look at developments in distributed generation and the smart grid.

A lot of that report assumes that nothing about demand will change. Which is a bad assumption as smart metering enables time of use pricing.

The various V2G scenarios would seem to help, as will the developments in large sodium sulphur flow batteries, etc., compressed air/pumped water storage. Solar/combined cycle gas plants with molten salt heat storage, etc. What the report does get right, though is that renewables have a severe intermittency problem which must be solved. I'm confident it will be by the time enough renewable capacity comes on line in the next 10-15 years. There's no going back.

Sean Prophet

Also, re: the report, the guy's a wackadoodle fossil and nuclear apologist, making snarky comments about wind turbines and climate change. He might not be wrong on his calcs about the costs of intermittency, but his attitude certainly calls into question his objectivity.


Yes, Sean, I caught that, but if his numbers (which I don't have a full grip on yet, but I'm digging through them) work out, he has excellent justification for his POV.  It's up to the advocates and the engineers to address the issues, or admit that the proposed "green" energy economy will require wrenching changes (which will probably be synonymous with "won't work" in most people's minds).

The greater penetration of RE on the grid is going to drive the need for spinning reserve, and if those reserves require the expenditure of fuel then the savings (and GHG reductions) will be far smaller than the naïve analyses project.  This is a bigger problem for the AGW responders than the denialists.

I've done a few numbers for V2G scenarios.  Just off the top of my head, absorbing Germany's daily record of 22.15 GW and 189.24 GWH would require charging 43 million Opel Amperas at 4.4 kWh depletion (about half the engineered DoD of the battery).  That's about half a car per capita, and a vehicle count equivalent to nearly 4 years of total US LDV production... to handle production spikes from PV that's already installed.

To put it bluntly, this problem is one hell of a lot bigger and less tractable than the advocates have ever let on—and far worse than 99% of them understand.  Failing to set out a plan to handle these issues is equivalent to planning to collapse the electrical grid.


It is hard to believe that more renewable generation will increase the need for spinning reserve. Engineer-Poet, you call renewable energy 'intermittent', but 'variable' is much closer to the truth. It looks like you're thinking that renewable energy generation will just stop from one second to the next. This can happen to large power plants that can trip without warning.

There is safety in numbers: renewable energy (most notably wind and solar) consists of many small generators, so any one generator failing has a negligible effect.

Now go and look up a few days of wind power generation (the lower green band) in Spain and see how it is NOT intermittent and fluctuates gently.

Now you can do the same for solar power in Germany and see how the fluctuations are even smaller and every day presents a nice and smooth sinusoidal curve.

Add to that the fact that wind and solar power are predictable and the case for spinning reserve is very hard to make. (Do not forget that not all backup power is 'spinning reserve').

As for the 'limits to renewables' that you perceive, they have been preaching that for years, yet every barrier has been broken. I don't believe it anymore. By simply going along, the solutions to overcome these barriers will present itself. This has happened in many other industries too.


'the guy's a wackadoodle fossil and nuclear apologist'

Since I am paying on my electricity bills for solar to be installed throughout the UK, including up to the latitude of Aberdeen where there is a neat 17:1 variance in sunshine between the summer and winter, it seems that many of us have more problems caused by whackadoodle renewables advocates.

I also bitterly resent the desecration of the countryside involved in installing wind turbines and their huge impact on wildlife, not to mention the ecological disaster which is biomass, which is doing so much to wipe out rainforest.


"Desecration of the country side", "Huge impact on wildlife", "Ecological disaster" "Bitterly resent".

Your shrill tone is drowning your message.

Wind turbines do not kill wildlife in any measurable form compared to the killing that is already taking place from traffic, domestic animals, glass facades and pesticides. Beware of the lies pushed by certain interest groups.

Offshore wind (which will become the dominant source) has been shown to have a positive effect on wildlife since they form artificial reefs and enforce no shipping- no fishing wild life refuges.

And the countryside has been 'desecrated' (is it religion for you?) by towns and power lines and roads and industrial farms and and mines and railroads and factories and highways and and canals and golf courses and ..... But these things were already there when you were born, so probably you have become blind to their impact. You have accepted them as 'normal', whereas wind turbines are this 'new stuff' that 'don't belong there'. And so the generation after you will accept wind turbines as 'normal'. Get over it.

There are many areas where the landscape is nearly 100% human generated where your romantic ideas of the countryside have no place. Adding wind energy there is no desecration, merely adding another function.

You've left yourself only one option: nuclear. But nuclear is dead and you know it. It requires vast amounts of government money and others oppose subsidising your pet technology as much as you hate paying for solar panels in Aberdeen. But the difference is that nuclear power is a dead end, it is getting more expensive every year, while the prices of renewable energy are plummeting. Trends do matter.


Anne the only way you can take advantage of numbers to stabilize the "variability" is to have the windmills on their own separate grid, probably DC.. not cheap


Herm, what you are saying is nonsense and you know it. Where HVDC helps is transporting energy over larger distances to even out fluctuations.

Where it does not really help is lessening the impact of an unexpected shutdown. We are talking about generators in the kW size or a few MW's. Even a small area has enough of these smaller generators for one of them to not matter when they suddenly switch off.

Grid operators have had to deal with fossil and nuclear power plants of hundreds of MW going off line from one second to the next. On a much more primitive grid. And they usually coped pretty well.

But of course everything that was normal and accepted for conventional generation technologies is suddenly an unsurmountable problem for renewable energy. That's the game being played.

The small scale, distributed nature of renewable energy makes it inherently more resilient to unexpected failures.


You could try getting some basic facts right.
I can't be bothered to go through all the gross distortions promulgated by the renewables scammers once again, but to pick up on just one of your points:

'Wind turbines do not kill wildlife in any measurable form compared to the killing that is already taking place from traffic, domestic animals, glass facades and pesticides. Beware of the lies pushed by certain interest groups.'

'A boom in the use of small wind turbines could be halving bat numbers in areas where they are put up, new research has suggested.

The Stirling University study recommended micro turbines should not be sited within 20 metres of the animals' habitats.

Research at 20 such sites across the UK recorded a fall in bat activity of up to 54%.

Micro turbines are installed mainly for domestic and farmland use.

Schemes which pay people for creating green electricity are said to have helped fuel a rise in their popularity.

The Stirling research, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, involved halting micro turbine movement at the 20 sites and examining the effect on the activity of birds and two species of bat, the common and soprano pipistrelle.

While bird activity was not significantly affected, turbines did reduce bat numbers, it concluded.'

Case Study theme 2 – Impact on habitats
The main barrier
Wind farms may produce short, medium and long-term negative impacts on environments, habitats,
biotic communities and species. It is possible to distinguish two types of impact:
Direct: habitat loss and destruction; soil erosion; collisions with animals (in par ticular with
turbine rotors); Indirect: Loss of available habitat due to fragmentation and dis turbance-displacement of (species) individuals; barrier effects.
When assessing the suitability of a potential site it is impor tant to identify the direct and indirect impacts
on the habitat which may be caused by the project both during construction and during operation.
Examples of impacts during construction phase include:
Permanent destruction of vegetation in the area of the foundations, assembly area, underground services and roads.
Cutting, felling and moving of tree species, with the associated risk of destruction of nests or
nesting sites or the diversion of trophic (nutritional) sources;Removal of deadwood substrate trophic for protected invertebrates (e.g. Lucanus cervus,Cerambyx cerdo );Destruction of rare or protected species;
Dis turbance or destruction of sensitive habitat types such a peat.

'Wind farm noise causes “clear and significant” damage to people’s sleep and mental health, according to the first full peer-reviewed scientific study of the problem. '

I do beware of the lies of certain interest groups, and I wish you would stop spreading them about.


PS if noise causes significant health damage to people, it seems fair to assume that it creates even more stress on wildlife, which may be in even closer proximity.

It is hard to believe that more renewable generation will increase the need for spinning reserve.
Only if you don't want to believe it.  If you think about it a little bit, resources like wind which are subject to full-farm cutouts due to overspeed shutdowns at the point of maximum power production need more spinning reserve than small plants which do not have correlated outages.
Now go and look up a few days of wind power generation (the lower green band) in Spain and see how it is NOT intermittent and fluctuates gently.
I did (looking at 2012-11-10), and the thing that jumps out at me is that wind was 3.1 GW at 21:00 yesterday at the demand peak, and 5.8 GW last night at the demand trough.  The latest is over 8 GW.

The sources which are modulated to match supply with demand are the combined-cycle plants (more than a 3:1 variation over the graph period), hydro (which goes negative, suggesting pumped storage), and international exchanges.

On the graph, nuclear and coal vary about 10% but they follow the demand curve.  Wind does what it does.  It's obvious that expanding wind to replace coal and nuclear will place very large demands on hydro (esp. pumped storage) and gas-fired generators.  This is not a small issue, and any good-faith promotion of RE requires that it be addressed (including discussion of costs).

Now you can do the same for solar power in Germany and see how the fluctuations are even smaller and every day presents a nice and smooth sinusoidal curve.
I just did that above.  The results are not encouraging, to say the least; you have very high hourly ramp rates even in the absence of factors like weather fronts moving rapidly across the area.  Buffering the generation curve using PHEVs requires a level of penetration several times the most optimistic projections for 2050.

This is not a small problem and cannot be solved by hand-waving.  It will require a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, including (I believe) dump loads to consume immediate excesses.  Ideally they'd perform some useful task, but the requirements for rapid cycling are going to restrict the list of feasible uses and/or add capital costs.

As for the 'limits to renewables' that you perceive, they have been preaching that for years, yet every barrier has been broken.
The analysis I've seen suggests that the "records are broken" by not actually displacing fossil fuels; generation is cut, but turbines and furnaces are kept hot to add more power at a moment's notice.  Not only is this limited, it's counterproductive.

Sean Prophet

Another thing not mentioned here would be the penetration of grid-tied net zero energy homes. Also, since solar and wind tend to vary throughout the course of the day in inverse proportion, their intermittency cancels each other out to some degree. Geothermal is excellent for baseload and doesn't get enough attention. It's every bit as reliable as coal or nuclear.

All this discussion about unforeseen difficulties in RE should simply motivate us to sharpen our pencils. There really is no other option. We cannot continue to burn carbon, and nuclear is both too expensive and too dangerous. I know there's all kinds of people chasing new reactor designs and all kinds of claims being made about how safe they are--which reminds me of what was said about current nuke plants in the 1950s "electricity too cheap to meter." And we know how that worked out.

Here's what nuclear power needs to do to become practical: convince private insurance companies to take them on as clients. If they can do that, it will be far more important than any engineering feasibility study. If you have to rely on government insurance for a power plant because no one else will touch it, it's a dead technology.

Which leaves RE as the only option.


Anne may have to teach those guys one or two facts about the reliability of diversified future Wind Power?

A recent study in our area concluded that the current 48,000 mega-watt of installed hydro (potential of up to 95,000 mega-watt) could easily be combined with adjacent, very wide area, (up to 90,000 mega-watt) of very high quality Wind Power, all around Labrador, Ungava and Eastern Hudson Bay shores.

Maximum effectiveness and efficiency could be achieved by using Wind Power as base load and easily variable hydro for peak and fill in loads. The large hydro reservoirs would be used to stock excess energy when Wind Power is on high total production period and/or when demand is low.

The idea is to use as close as possible to 100% of the Wind Power energy produced at all times and to with adjacent hydro plants as fillers.

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