Inertia Is A Good Thing, Really

A minor hiccup in power supply threw the south east of England into an unplanned “Earth Hour.” And it was all caused by wind generators.

Just before the blackout, the National Grid reported that fully 47.6% of the nation’s power was being generated by wind. Suddenly two small generators- one wind and the other gas- went offline. These generators account for less than 3% of power demand.

Immediately, the grid frequency fell from 50 Hz to 48.9 Hz and the power grid shut down to protect itself.

What is this Hz thing? Well, electricity mains systems use alternating current which in simple terms means that the electrons that flow to give us power are oscillating backwards and forwards at 50 times per second. If the frequency changes by a significant amount the whole grid can become unstable. In order to protect transformers etc, there are automatic switches that shutdown parts of the grid when the frequency gets out of a very narrow range.

This is what happened in London, and in South Australia three years ago.

In a traditional coal fired power system, electricity is produced by forcing high pressure steam past enormous turbines, which weight 200-800 tonnes. They are huge things and, once started, maintain a very steady speed even if there are changes in the rate of steam flow. Their inertia keeps the whole grid stable, so that if something goes wrong somewhere else, they still keep pumping out their power at 50 Hz.

But when smaller, more dispersed power generators dominate the grid, there is much less inertia to keep the power supply stable and things turn to custard very quickly.

The giant battery in South Australia is not there to keep the quantity of power flowing- it only has enough storage for a few minutes of power demand. It’s main role is to keep the frequency stable. Now power companies have to pay the battery for a service that coal powered generators provide for free- that’s progress.

H/T to Jo Nova for this analysis

All of this talk of grid stability and inertia made me think of how unstable our society has become, particularly over the last decade. What was once unthinkable has become normal, and it seems that every week there is some new perversion being promoted. Pornography is everywhere, families are disintegrating, and an epidemic of fatherlessness is being played out in mass shootings, suicide and violence.

The reason for this, I believe, is that we have bought into the lies of individualism. People think they have the right to do whatever they like, to indulge whatever desires and whims they might have, and all without any consequences.

Individualism has been around for a long time. Some people trace it back to the New Testament and the idea that ever single person is loved by God.

Previous generations had the church as the equivalent of the steam turbine. The morality and ethical standards of christianity have been taught, and continue to be taught, unchanging through the centuries. The word goes out steadily year after year, Sunday by Sunday, moderating the wild impulses of human flesh.

Then in the 1970’s people stopped going to church.It was deemed to be irrelevant and oppressive. People decided they could set their own moral codes. Everyone can do what they like without reference to anyone else, and it is all coming unravelled.

Without the steady inertia of the church, the moral grid of the nation has slowly turned to custard. The lights are going out, and we call it progress,

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