New research from Oxford University suggests that intermittent renewables such as wind or solar power, combined with domestic combined heat and power (dCHP) could dependably provide the majority of UK power demand.

Commissioned by the Carbon Trust, Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute has published new research from Graham Sinden that shows electricity production could be optimised by creating a mixture of 65% wind, 25% dCHP, and 10% solar cells. “By mixing between sites and mixing technologies, you can markedly reduce the variability of electricity supplied by renewables,” says Sinden.

By running computer models of power output based on weather records going back up to 35 years, Sinden found that dispersing generators as widely as possible allowed generators smooth out the supply curve a suggestion that is counter intuitive with current practice being to develop wind farms where the wind resource is strongest.

The approach significantly reduces the need for standby capacity compared with conventional renewable energy thinking. According to the study, if offshore wind alone were to provide an average 3,500 MW

it would need standby capacity of 3,135 MW but by using theproposed mix of technologies, only 400 MW of additional standby capacity would be required.

Together with wave and tidal energy, the study finds that both onshore and offshore wind could realistically provide some 35% of the UK’s electricity, marine and dCHP each 10 – 15%, and solar cells 5 – 10%.