Although the impacts of wind variability are sometimes controversial, it is doubtful whether any compelling evidence has been provided to invalidate the substantial amount of work that has been carried out on this topic. This chapter only draws on a fraction of the references that were cited in a very thorough literature survey completed recently (Gross et al, 2006; see also Chapter 4 in this volume), and more information has been published since the report was completed. The conclusions are unchanged: wind variability can be managed, technically and at modest cost. The cost amounts to around UK£2/MWh for 10 per cent wind and may fall as better wind forecasting techniques emerge.
This is only a small fraction (about 5 to 10 per cent) of the generation cost of wind energy, so that the impact of changes in fuel price on backup costs are unlikely to have a substantial impact on the cost-competitiveness of wind energy.
The recent increases in the price of gas have made a substantial difference to the 'total extra cost' of operating the power systems with wind energy. Although future gas price trends are very difficult to predict, it is quite likely that the overall cost to electricity consumers in systems with substantial amounts of wind energy will be small and possibly negative - in other words, savings will be made due to the lower generating costs of wind energy.
As more experience is gained in operating electricity networks with wind energy, it is likely that the additional costs associated with variability will fall. In addition, improved techniques of demand-site management are likely to reduce the costs of managing electricity networks and, as a consequence, the additional costs of managing variability. Last, but not least, worldwide research into improved methods of wind predictability are also likely to reduce the costs of integrating wind energy.
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