UCL Energy Institute


Measuring significant variability characteristics: an assessment of three UK renewables


1 January 2013

The variability of renewable energy is widely recognised as a challenge for integrating high levels of renewable generation into electricity systems. However, to explore its implications effectively, variability itself should first be clearly understood. This is particularly true for national electricity systems with high planned penetration of renewables and limited interconnection such as the UK. Variability cannot be considered as a distinct resource property with a single measurable parameter, but is a multi-faceted concept best described by a range of distinct characteristics. This paper identifies relevant characteristics of variability, and considers their implications for energy research. This is done through analysis of wind, solar and tidal current resources, with a primary focus on the Bristol Channel region in the UK. The relationship with electricity demand is considered, alongside the potential benefits of resource diversity. Analysis is presented in terms of persistence, distribution, frequency and correlation between supply and demand. Marked differences are seen between the behaviours of the individual resources, and these give rise to a range of different implications for system integration. Wind shows strong persistence and a useful seasonal pattern, but also a high spread in energy levels at timescales beyond one or two days. The solar resource is most closely correlated with electricity demand, but is undermined by night-time zero values and an even greater spread of monthly energy delivered than wind. In contrast, the tidal resource exhibits very low persistence, but also much greater consistency in energy values assessed across monthly time scales. Whilst this paper focuses primarily on the behaviour of resources, it is noted that discrete variability characteristics can be related to different system impacts. Persistence and predictability are relevant for system balancing, whereas statistical distribution is more relevant when exploring issues of asset utilisation and energy curtailment. Areas of further research are also identified, including the need to assess the value of predictability in relation to other characteristics.

Measuring significant variability characteristics: an assessment of three UK renewables. RENEWABLE ENERGY, 53 111-120. 

Coker, P., Barlow, J., Cockerill, T., Shipworth, D. (2013)

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