‘Wind farms to shut down once in four weekends in summer’
The combined energy production of nuclear power plants, solar panels, and wind farms leads to an electricity surplus and lower or even negative energy prices. Wind farms risk being shut down this summer on one out of four weekends.
According to Energy Minister Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen), this shows the energy market needs more flexibility, she told the Belga press agency. Plunging prices forced Eneco on March 11th to inactivate its wind farm Seamade despite a strong gale-force wind at sea. This could happen frequently during summer as solar and nuclear energy production is high too.
The surplus of electricity from nuclear power plants, solar panels, and wind farms made energy prices plunge and even led to negative electricity prices in March. The wind was so strong that the energy company decided to turn the turbines’ rotors and limit production capacity.
‘World upside down’
The wind turbines at sea were inactivated because of the inflexible nuclear power surplus. Wind farms have a safety mechanism in case the wind blows too hard. Nuclear power plants don’t have such a system. They cannot easily be switched on and off. They usually run at full power.
“This is the world upside down,” exclaimed Belgian Minister of Energy Tinne Van der Straeten (Groen). “Shutting downwind turbines when the wind is blowing… that’s ridiculous. What we need are controllable (gas) power plants,” the minister concludes.
More surplus, lower prices
On Tuesday, Minister Van der Straeten said in the chamber’s committee this would happen more frequently in the future. She, therefore, referred to a study by grid manager Elia, showing that it will probably be the case on one in four weekends in the summer. The energy demand is limited during summer weekends, while the increasing renewable energy production leads to surplus energy and negative electricity prices.
“What’s an exception today will frequently happen in the future,” Van der Straeten said. “It shows we need more flexibility.” In the meantime, the government is working on more flexibility by introducing a CRM system: a support system for investors to build controllable energy capacity, like gas power plants.