Grid Services from Wind Generation


“Wind is the most flexible generation on the network. Once the market gets to the level of pricing where it makes sense, wind will provide all of the services you can imagine, pretty much.”

“We need better communication and knowledge to match the services that can be provided [from wind] with the services that are required, or can be created.”

[Quotes extracted from research conducted for MSc Thesis: Grid Services from Wind Generation: Impacts, Opportunities & Challenges for Regulation. Thomas (2016)]

In 2015, ERP released a publication called ‘Managing Flexibility Whilst Decarbonising the Electricity System’, exposing some of the challenges faced by National Grid in balancing a system with ever increasing penetrations of wind and solar PV.

Many studies discuss the issues that increasing levels of renewables can create for system operability, but fewer consider how renewables themselves can present solutions to the issues they are deemed to create.

Over the past two years, in addition to my full time role as an Analyst at ERP, I undertook a part-time MSc in Renewable Energy within The University of Reading’s Engineering Department. This thoroughly enjoyable (but exhausting!) experience culminated in August 2016 in a thesis that assessed the capabilities of wind energy for the provision of grid (ancillary) services.

The work provided insights in three main areas; first, confirmation of the challenges and impacts that renewables can of course bring about for grid management. This is largely due to their variable nature, which makes them harder (or perhaps just different!) to control; second, around the capabilities of wind for providing a range of grid services; and third, that a number of non-technical barriers limit the full participation or potential of grid services from wind.

Wind energy can indeed provide a range of services, some of which are already mandatory and provided as part of The Grid Code. These are mainly voltage control, reactive power and frequency response. There are also a range of other services that wind turbines can provide, at least from a technical perspective, including:

  • Synthetic Inertia – currently undemonstrated in the UK but an available service
  • Black Start – dependent on wind availability at time of black out
  • High Wind Ride-Through*
  • Power Boost*
  • Island Mode*
  • Reactive Power at No Wind*
  • Fast Reserve or Spinning Reserve
* These (and associated names) are turbine manufacturer dependent but are certainly available from mainstream wind manufacturers.

However, some services such as reserve from wind don’t naturally make economic sense as power production (with its high upfront capital cost) would need to be held back. This in part reflects the asymmetric nature of wind power production, only making a reduction in output possible because turbines can never produce more energy than that available from the wind.

Many of the non-technical barriers are linked to aspects such as economics and the current market situation, such as the prices of bids and offers.  But by far the greatest barrier is the lack of awareness, communication or knowledge-sharing among key parties regarding the capabilities that exist.

It is widely acknowledged that positive changes regarding regulatory or grid management adjustments are largely underway. Nevertheless, further changes are needed to shift away from the ‘status quo’ and reflect the more modern situation by fully adopting available services from wind.

For more information regarding this work, please contact – MSc results due out in early November. Other key works in this area are the EU REserviceS project and the Irish DS3 programme.