The Problem With Renewable Energy (and how we’re fixing it)

The Problem With Renewable Energy (and how we're fixing it)

( This isn’t a sponsored video, but I am massively grateful to all the team at SSE! Go look: , and pull down the description for more. )
As the world switches to renewable energy – and we are switching – there’s a problem you might not expect: balancing the grid. Rotational mass and system inertia are the things that keep your lights from flickering: and they only appear in big, old, traditional power stations. Here’s why that’s a problem, and how we’re likely going to fix it.

Thanks to all the team at SSE! FULL DISCLOSURE: This is not a sponsored video, no money has changed hands, and SSE did not have editorial control. But they did go out of their way to arrange access and support for me and my team, including giving us safety training for working at heights. I am incredibly grateful to all the team: Paul and Ed for arranging it all; Bob and Scott who helped us at the turbine; and Calum, Head of Operations, who was keeping an eye on safety throughout.


The drone footage is from Cyberhawk, they normally do turbine inspections and land surveying, so I’d like to thank them for getting some artistic shots for us too!

And finally, my camera operator was Paul Curry, (at)cr3, who’s written a more experiential post with photos for Buzzfeed:

I’m at
on Twitter at twitter: #tomscott
on Facebook at http:// FACEBOOK /tomscott
and on Instagram and Snapchat as tomscottgo
Video Rating: / 5

20 thoughts on “The Problem With Renewable Energy (and how we’re fixing it)”

  1. I like your style, it's like every adventurer's dream to just go out in the world and be where stuff is happening. I appreciate your reports on them.

  2. "throw another nuclear rod on the barbie"

    Yes, I remember that episode of Citation Needed.

    I've never had a size reference for wind turbines before. They're somehow both bigger and smaller than I thought they'd be. Thanks for the video, Tom!

  3. so if one turbile slows down the frequency of the power supply goes down in entire country? I don't think you have any clue about things you've talked about.

  4. Turbines DO NOT all rotate at 50 or 60 Hz. In actual fact the speed of rotation depends on the number of pole pairs on the generator; the rotational speed of the generator is then Fs/N where Fs is the frequency of the grid and N is the number of pole pairs.

  5. Tom, you probably want to talk a bit more about the state of the current distribution networks and how investment is required to transform them into a smartgrid in order to cater for electric cars to be used as storage.

  6. been watching some of your videos from across the pond and this one made me want to say 'impressive' something I had no clue of and its actually in a field I care about and have actually done research on in the past. I just wish the USA could jump on renewable energy as well. Keep up the good work. I personally appreciate it.

  7. This is why I like the idea of molten salt based solar power. You get simple heat based solar, turbine based power to cover the second to second stuff, and you can store excess hot salt when you're over generating.

  8. What about the energy stored in the magnetic fields of transformers? They smooth out the fluxuations in demand.

  9. You can't adjust nuclear power output in a matter of minutes, can you? I thought it took hours, or days on some of the older models.

  10. don't forget that one time in Germany on May 8th, 2016 when there was so much renewable energy the price of electricity went negative for a few hours

  11. How about splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen when there's too much and burning it when there's too little..?


Leave a Comment

6 + nine =