The Problem With Renewable Energy (and how we’re fixing it)

The Problem With Renewable Energy (and how we’re fixing it)

For a few hours in May 2016, for the first
time in more than a century, Britain was burning zero coal to generate
electricity. None at all. All the coal-fired power plants
were turned off. And this here is one of the reasons why. Welcome to the Griffin Wind Farm in Scotland. 68 turbines, more than 150 megawatts of capacity. And the turbines rotate and trim the blades
to track the wind in real time. At full output, this can power entire cities
just from the wind. But as the world moves to renewable energy, we’ve got a little bit of a problem. Because coal, oil, gas, and nuclear stations
are basically just giant boilers. They take water, they heat it up,
that turns to steam, the steam gets forced through a massive turbine
which rotates and generates power. When I say turbine, I don’t mean like the
blades here, I mean hundreds of tonnes of steel rotating
thousands of times a minute. And all those turbines, all around the grid, rotate in sync with each other. After gearing, they all move at
50 cycles a second. 60 in America. All perfectly in time: one slows down, they
all slow down. One speeds up, they all speed up. And that is what stops your lights
from constantly flickering. Because electricity supply has to always match
demand, pretty much exactly. There isn’t a battery in the world big enough
to store power on a national scale. So if a power station suddenly falls off the
grid for some reason, then where’s that supply going to come from? And the answer is the kinetic energy that’s
already in those turbines, in that spinning thousands of tonnes of steel
around the country. Homes and factories will literally suck the
kinetic energy out of that turbine to cover the gap, starting to slow it down. But that won’t cause a problem
for 60 seconds or so, and in that time the National Grid
Control Centre will, I don’t know, throw another nuclear rod on the barbie and up the power output from other stations.
They’ll cover the demand. But, well, that relies on
having enough rotational mass, enough system inertia, as it’s called. And here, in this turbine? Well, you can see. There’s no hundreds of tonnes
of spinning steel, just some blades, a bit of metal, and some circuitry that feeds the power into
the grid at the right frequency. If the whole grid were running on
just wind and solar, there’s no rotational mass.
There’s no grid stability. The minute that supply and demand mismatch,
breakers would trip, and the whole thing would fall apart. Now there are some
possible solutions to this. Pumped hydro storage
has been around for a while, which is where you have two lakes
at different heights. When you’ve got too much power,
you pump water up, and when you’ve got not enough, you drop
it back down again through generators. But that takes seconds or minutes
to kick in. There’s also some experiments going on with
things like molten glass storage, compressed air storage, and flywheels, but they’re all experimental at the minute
and not particularly efficient. The actual solution may come from somewhere
a little unexpected. Because yes, wind is replacing coal and oil, but it’s also replacing petrol, the gasoline
that you put in your car. And as more and more and electric cars
get connected to the grid, well, you’ve got a load of quite large batteries
with computers. Your car could sell power
back to the grid in real-time, second by second, as it’s needed. Combine that with smart appliances and meters
that can watch the grid and work out when would be the best time to
turn on your air-conditioning and fridge is, and you have a grid that does
a lot of the balancing itself. Yes, we will probably always need a
turbine somewhere, some big spinning mass of steel to cover
the little glitches second to second, but the solution to balancing a power grid
is not what we thought it was 20 years ago. It’s not big, monolithic batteries. It’s millions of small ones
up and down the country. Thank you very much to all the team from SSE who have helped get me, and my team,
up on top of this wind turbine. I am incredibly grateful. They have gone above and beyond to help out,
so please, have a look at the links in the description
for more about them, and about the Griffin Wind Farm. [Translating these subtitles? Add your name here!]

100 thoughts on “The Problem With Renewable Energy (and how we’re fixing it)

  1. There's a minor correction to this video: I say that turbines spin thousands of times "per second" when it should be "per minute". Apologies. You can find all corrections on this channel at

  2. Why don't you take a trip to a roller coaster park and put a few minutes aside for something sciency?

  3. Renewables are not able to make enough power. Thorium reactors are the future. Renewables is a step backwards.

  4. "thanks so much to SSE getting me up on this wind turbine, I am ever so grateful……now please help me get down again"

  5. lets say every house has a smart battery pack and what you power you dont need get stored in there because you can be a sleep and wind pick up and the turbines spin harder but there is not that much demand and that energy can just be stored in your house smart battery and can be pulled from when needed

  6. So, as an electric car owner, who dutifully left it on charge, I will not know if it will be charged, when I next need it, or if instead it was busy boiling the kettle for Mrs Miggings down the Street!

  7. Well Tom I am glad you believe the tripe that comes out of your mouth. Wind Turbines will not solve the energy problem even with the help of batteries.

  8. My local Wind turbine industrial estate has failed to generate any electricity since it was erected but the company involved still collected the subsidies, much to the dismay of the local villagers who have the joy of looking out of their front windows at monsters and they have not been compensated for their loss.

  9. Where are all the materials going to come from to make hundreds of millions of car batteries and what is the environmental impact of mining all of the materials we use to make these batteries, like lithium mining?

  10. I hate the idea that I might plug my car in (still think this is an unrealistic expectation I know plenty of people who can’t park their car outside their house for whatever reason so the whole idea of plugging it in is bollocks anyway) but I hate to think I’d plug my car in to charge, probably through some special high tax socket and then have the government take it back from me potentially just when I need it for likely a really poor amount of money …

  11. The windpower must be stopped, its damaging environment and leads to higher co2 outlets because you need backup with coal and gas.

  12. I think another problem with renewables may be that they require an entire underlying fossil fuel infrastructure to exist. Not to mention the global growth-based economy. Silly humans.

  13. I was thinking building satellites outside of orbit, that are massive arrays of solar panels, and then they shoot the energy they collected to receiving stations. The stations would have to be in the middle of the oceans, miles from any flight lanes.

  14. Too much control, too much monitoring with smart grids. In an age where our information security has been violated by those we should be able to trust, its maybe not the "smartest " idea to give the government morw control.

  15. It hurts my brain that a linguist said "burning zero coal"

    I know people use "zero" and "no" interchangeably, but "zero" is a number… it's "zero pounds of coal" or "zero grams of coal" or something like that. If you can't have "three coal" then you can't have "zero coal."

    Don't worry, I still liked the video, because it IS awesome… I just have to express that irksome pedantry.

    You're welcome <3

  16. "Britain was burning zero coal to generate electricity …" hmm.. according to IEA’s Coal Industry Advisory Board "part-loaded coal-fired plants have been able to ramp down by as much as 3 percentage points per minute " .. and "Large-scale power plants take hours to warm up to operating temperature and synchronise their turbines with the grid. "…COLUMN-To survive, coal power plants must become more flexible: Kemp

  17. In Australia car can't travel the distance on a charge and you have to wait hours to recharge. Not work able.

  18. We are using virtually no coal now in 2019 because it has been replaced with gas. On two days in June there was no wind, and all it could muster well below 1% of demand. Even so no coal was used, but gas was producing more than 50%. You can watch the grid every day now and see as wind goes up, gas goes down, and vice versa.

  19. Cannot say that I agree that the future is car batteries.
    Tesla installed a massive mains battery in South Australia and it's the best thing to have happened for the South Aus and national grids.
    The uptake time for the battery is some fractions of a second from zero load to maximum.
    It is also solar/wind charged so costs are very small compared to coal. We don't have nuclear power in Aus….

  20. This video needs to be watched by the Smart meter "deniers" who think that smart meters are the work of the devil and that they only benefit the big power companies. Well their purpose is to help balance the grid by offering tariffs which albeit are more expensive at peak times but will be extra cheap at low demand times. The steel industry has had these tariffs for years including a near instantaneous load shedding system for electric arc furnaces.

  21. Yup. Big bird choppers too. Inconsistent power. Can’t pay for themselves before they are wore out. Reclamation costs are astounding. Lots of negative about free wind power.

  22. 2019: there are liquid metall batteries for large capacities in development. These units will sit between the generators and the grid. Check youtube for that matter 😁

  23. Not true about no coal being used in the UK as both power stations in Northern Ireland are coal or oil sprayed coal fired .And almost half of UK electricity comes from gas fired plants -gas generates CO2.

  24. A better solution than using EVs as storage and having them put power back into the grid would be to just convert excess energy into chemical fuel and sell that.

  25. if we need 1Gw base load power from wind then at a capacity factor of 33% and a 100% storage efficiency then 3Gw of wind power is needed so the 1Gw is supplied to the grid while 2Gw goes to storage. When the wind is not blowing 66% of the time power comes from storage to supply the grid. This means on a 3 day cycle day 1 the wind is blowing day 2 & 3 it is not. but on day 4 if the wind is not blowing then there is no power at all. If storage comes from car batteries then you do not have power to drive home or to work. meaning the size of the battery for the car needs to be a lot larger then it needs to be. So when you drive home you can not power the grid. The cost of the car would be a lot higher because of the needed extra storage. So one would be better off haveing a fixed battery storage building keep the cars light as possable. Otherwize you would have to let your car sit there supply the grid with power and have no power left to drive home.
    Car battery storage to supply the grid
    WILL NOT WORK. sorry.

  26. What a load of wish-casting. All this f**cking around the issue to compensate for a feeble, unreliable, pathetic energy source that will NEVER power a modern economy…

  27. All those windmills are a waste of money. They don't recover their infrastructure costs before they are worn out. The only answer is Thorium Nuclear. Fusion is a pipe dream.

  28. As I can see on this video wind turbines are changing and destroying natural environment,; so many of them just to generate 150 megawatts; so much place to they need and the landscape, is lost …I hope developing nuclear power will convince more people .

  29. Until you stop the stupid from voting for pricks like Trump and Johnston who don’t care about global warming, you’re wasting your time!

  30. The "GREEN" movement is the biggest scam ever. It has been made possible by Liberalism taking over schools and churning out millions of mindless drones.

  31. "There's not a battery in the world big enough to store power on a national scale"
    Tom's other video: "Britain's largest battery is actually a lake"

  32. And the grid will decide for you your energy needs. No thanks. Windmills and Solar Panels needed to drive the USA would take the entire land mass of California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico. If all cars are electric, no one would get to work. Peak Demand

  33. This video was presented by the Chinese wind farm industry. The video failed to mention a key point. They needed to say no 'coal' usage as if wind is saving GB and the world. But…."80% of the UK’s 25 million homes are powered by gas – and around a quarter of the country’s electricity is generated by gas-fired power stations. Gas plants are one of the most flexible ways to generate electricity, as they can rapidly provide power during periods of high demand."

  34. Capacitor banks or a capacitor on every home?
    Maybe the new sand batteries that are in development.
    Oh and I worked on the power grid in America for close to 20 years and never new that all the turbines run at the same speed BUT i do know they don't run at a 1000 revolution per SECOND maybe a minute.

  35. Too bad they can't just mount massive capacitors to the windmills. Given current technology, the reserve capacity would probably be beyond lethal, and yet still be insufficient to cure voltage stability/imbalance issues.

  36. "The grid works right now because of massive steel turbines that act as flywheels"


    "Flywheels are experimental at the moment and not particularly efficient"

  37. Would be interesting to know how expensive it is to run these farms compared to coal/nuclear. From a dollar to power output ratio, I can't help but think it would end up costing consumers a lot more. Also, what's the repair and life of a wind turbine? How expensive are they to fix, maintain? How often do they need to be replaced? ALl of these things need to be realistically considered. It's great to have renewable energy but not at the cost of bankrupting the country.

  38. No electric car is capable of feeding back electricity into the grid. Neither the on-board charging circuit nor the charging post will allow that.

  39. If these wind turbines can power cities….why aren't they, then reducing costs to householders. Energy companies are just harnessing this power and charging the consumer more for it!

  40. Regardless of what these renewable clowns claim it still remains a proven fact that renewable generation will deliver any base load requirement.

  41. What happens when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine ????????? Where's all that power coming from especially as the demand for power is going to go up massively with all these electric cars and so on coming???? and the demise of the humble gas fired domestic boiler being done away with ,NONE OF YOU HAVE THE ANSWERS THOUGH DO YOU.!!!!
    WE STILL NEED CONVENTIONAL POWER STATIONS. most of you lot are just dreaming.

  42. it will be easier to put a driveshaft on that windmil and send the power to the base of the pole then connect it to the generator… this will be easier to,mount the thing and also cheaper… cheaper even for maintenance.

  43. Get these alternative systems working, and prove that they work, and that they're competitively priced compared to the current status quo, and people will be happy to step up to make the change. Until those conditions are met, don't expect anything to change.

  44. Average car does circa 8,000 miles, circa 38 million cars in the UK, average watt hours per mile circa 180whm x 21 miles per day @ 180w = 3.78 kW per day or 3780 Watts, 38 million cars = 143.6 Giga Watts per day. Drax has a capacity of 6 x 660 Mega Watts = 3.9 Giga Watts per hour which equates to 95.04 Giga Watts per day. The whole of the UK could go full electric cars for the addition of 1.5 Drax power stations or with 60 (99 Mega Watt) Griffin Wind farms or 11 (539 Mega Watt) Whitelee wind farms.
    Not impossible dreams as put forward by op-posers to clean transport.

  45. It amazes me how many people in the comments section think they know about this machine but are totally wrong and how miss informs if this video is

  46. But the power outage across England in 2019 acknowledged as caused by wind turbine fault put the grid down for a long time. Where was the backup power then. Germany which relies on wind power has discovered that coal is the go to back up power source. If millions of electric cars are used as backup how will owners get to work when batteries are drained. The current "green renewable" technology seems to be expensive, heavily subsidised wishful thinking – but it does win electoral votes and our politicians never miss an opportunity to virtue signal.

  47. The entire premise of renewables is absurd. They make no economic sense. CO2 is not a pollutant. It's all about controlling the behavior of populations.

  48. Electric cars powering the grid? Are you mad? Give me strength, they're struggling to achieve any kind of useful range for themselves, never mind the bloody grid.
    PS… any cure for those little problems wind turbines produce, you know, vandalism of the landscape and destruction of birds?

  49. Actually, the real problem is that this is not renewable by any means. It uses massive natural resources that are unsustainable even in the fantasy world in which people live.

  50. So, when the wind stops, it'll suck the charge out of your car. Then what? Call an uber? More likely than not, it'll be petrol powered since full time availability and on demand response is required. Imagine being at work, coming out in the dark, and you haven't got enough charge to make it home! Worse, since it is night time, all the power generated is going into homes, so you can't charge until there is surplus the next day! How silly!

    Of course, you argue, the smart car won't let itself get fully discharged. Really? Can you imagine that electric car owners don't want to take that chance, so they won't connect to charging stations while at work. But then, it wouldn't be in anyone who is alive now lifetime when we have a one for one charging stations to vehicles ratio. Did I just convince myself that this was the most disengenuos report ever told?

    Good job, by the way, for eliminating coal plants. Let's hope that doesn't cause power shortages as in other European countries and Australia. China and India will use all the coal you don't want!

  51. rather have one nuclear powerplant than a million windmills that also needs maintenance and has to be replaced every 20-25 years

  52. Disagree. The solution is one magnum battery. It will supply power to every home on earth and never miss a beat, and it will be called THE Z BATTERY.

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