Title: Fluctuating Wind in Networks of Stability – The Encounter between the Electrical Grid and Wind Turbines
Author(s): Trine Pallesen
Affiliation: Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Paris
Presented At: STiS 2008
Primary Topic Area: Environmental Policy
Wind turbines are currently being ‘promoted’ throughout Europe through policy initiatives such as purchase obligations and feed-in tariffs in attempts to decrease national carbon dioxide emissions. But for wind power to become a serious alternative to more traditional generation technologies, an integration with the electricity system is crucial; should the technology become more than a simple isolated and modest energy provider, it needs to be coupled with the energy ‘highways’, i.e. the grid, to allow electrons to move from the site of production to that of consumption. However, this encounter is often presented as highly problematic: grid management is essentially a question of maintaining and planning for a precise balance between production and consumption – but the wind cannot be planned for and hardly predicted due to its ‘fluctuating nature’. As a consequence, it is argued, the large-scale presence of wind power in the grid increases the risks of destabilization of the system or even blackouts. Taking this so-called unhappy and potentially destabilizing marriage as the point of departure, the proposed paper follows encounters between wind turbines and the electric grid in Denmark and France, respectively, as they are negotiated and realized. During these encounters, the grid becomes much more than a ‘neutral’ infrastructure, rather the grid is a set of institutionalized parameters and standards for ‘what energy production’ is all about, and as such it becomes an important participant in framing wind power as an emerging economic good.