One of the most persistent arguments against the rapid deployment of wind in both the U.S. and the UK is that the intermittent nature of wind could undermine the reliability of the national grid, forcing expensive upgrades and conventional "backup" power plants.
But according to a report by commissioned by WWF UK, Greenpeace, RSPB
and other nonprofit organizations, this in fact is not true. The UK national grid can handle much more intermittency than originally thought up to a 40% mix of wind versus other power sources in the UK.
Another interesting finding is that wind power is actually shown to increase, not decrease, the stability and reliability of the grid. As the report says, "thermal plant breakdowns generally pose more of a threat to the stability of electricity networks than the relatively benign variations in the output of wind plant."
The U.S. grid is another story. A patchwork of state, local and utility run grids mean that wind power could have a much harder time and require more infrastructure upgrades in order to gain rapid adoption.
But the overall finding is encouraging and indicates that the mathematics of variability could, in the long run, benefit and strengthen the distribution of electricity.