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

  • Published on: 18 August 2016
  • ( 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.

    CORRECTION: I say that turbines spin thousands of times "per second" when it should be "per minute". Apologies. You can find all corrections on this channel at

    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, @cr3, who's written a more experiential post with photos for Buzzfeed:

    I'm at
    on Twitter at
    on Facebook at
    and on Instagram and Snapchat as tomscottgo
  • Runtime : 4:6
  • tom scott tomscott things you might not know Wind power wind energy rotational mass grid stability system inertia wind turbine Griffin windfarm SSE Renewable energy wind farm scotland


  • Tom Scott
    Tom Scott   11 months ago

    There's a minor correction to this video: I say that turbines spin thousands of times "per second" when it should be "per minute". Apologies. You can find all corrections on this channel at

  • Brin Jenkins
    Brin Jenkins   10 hours ago

    We have 24 Gw of installed turbines, today its windy and we see 10Gw being supplied to the grid. What we never see is annual energy produced nationally. It would be good to see real figs monthly of actual generation. I dont much care for smart meters, load will always be balanced and cutting off supplies via your meter might suit suppliers rather than consumers. Modern load balancing looks more like crisis management used in British Leyland just before it failed. At the end of the day why are we doing this? There is no evidence tying any CO2 to Global Warming.

  • Jayan Varsani
    Jayan Varsani   1 weeks ago

    Nice call Tom. Tesla has announced that it has been developing vehicle to grid functionality, along with its autobidder software for management

  • Giotto Laudo
    Giotto Laudo   2 weeks ago

    No offense intended to you, Tom, you're brilliant, and I love your channel. But, in response to the idea you explain in the video, I have to say:The solution to the utterly non-existent system inertia inherent in essentially all renewable/non-hydrocarbon energy sources (aside from nuclear, which is still the very best option for power generation, particularly breeder reactors that produce essentially no radioactive waste) is increasing the number of charge/discharge cycles in consumer electric vehicle lithium ion batteries, thereby requiring them to be replaced sooner. Batteries whose production results in environmental devastation on a truly horrific scale. Yes, I see the wise stewardship of the environment in these plans. /SRenewable doesn't work it's that simple. In the end, renewable energy generation is just not a practical, sustainable means of powering a civilization. Hydrocarbons are suboptimal, but they work. Nuclear is unparalleled in its potential for safe, environmentally neutral, and inexhaustible energy/power generation, and it's the best bet we've got, barring antimatter or something.

  • steelrain 814
    steelrain 814   2 weeks ago

    You said that my ac could turn on when the battery is too high but what if it is the middle of winter

  • mos ab
    mos ab   3 weeks ago

    How are the car batteries going to be connected to the grid continuously?

  • Rash
    Rash   3 weeks ago

    We've had 34 days now since the national grid used coal because of the lockdown.

  • Jan Ilgner
    Jan Ilgner   3 weeks ago

    Every time I'm driving through that park in Forza I look out for Tom now

  • Black wolf 2
    Black wolf 2   3 weeks ago

    “At full output this could power entire cities”. It could also probably kill a critically endangered birds an hour

  • Logan JamesonHatch
    Logan JamesonHatch   3 weeks ago

    When everyone forgets that geothermal is the only continuous renewable power

  • Ti Rax
    Ti Rax   3 weeks ago

    I would like to know the production of your windmills vs time on a year. You speak in terms of installed power. That does not power cities. Actual production does.

  • Muckel Blacki
    Muckel Blacki   1 months ago

    Couldnt u use the electricity to power electric motors to Spin the thousands of tons of metal and when u Need ist just stop the motors ...

  • Trevor Clark
    Trevor Clark   1 months ago

    Maybe no coal fired power being generated, but what about burning woodchips in Drax Power station, according to the corrupt eu wood chip is a sustainable source of energy! Tell that to the USA forests that are being cut down and the millions of tons of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere to produce and transport the so called sustainable energy, this is just BS. There is no climate emergency that's even more BS.

  • Róbert Balázs Lőrincz

    Imagine if electric cars moving at high speed could generate electricity by putting two very smol wind turbines on the back

  • Mitochondria C
    Mitochondria C   1 months ago

    I think nuclear might help. It isn’t renewable, but efficient enough so, as supplementary power, it could be rather clean.

  • Steven Miller
    Steven Miller   1 months ago

    One day, it's going to be obvious just what a scam these turbines really are.

  • Lord_Unknown 27
    Lord_Unknown 27   1 months ago

    Why don’t we use electro magnets to repel the metal and spin it round and control the speed so they can all link up ?

  • Luke R
    Luke R   1 months ago

    Definitely been some good progress on this in the last four years, smart meters are rolling out, EV's and renewables continuing to rise. Unfortunately the majority of EV's on the market right now do not support vehicle-to-grid (V2G), only Nissan's EV's as far as I know. And there still needs to be more research into what sort of effect V2G has on battery degradation.

  • xXTheMustXx
    xXTheMustXx   1 months ago

    Ye nice use duroplastic, which is bad for nature aswell and cant be recycled..

  • tew tadle
    tew tadle   1 months ago

    If you like wind turbines then come to Germany and drive on an autobahn, everywhere hundreds and thousands of wind turbines everywhere.

  • SHEZ4N
    SHEZ4N   1 months ago

    This will be possible when batteries have a large lifespan....with time it might be possible👍

  • Stefan R
    Stefan R   1 months ago

    I still don’t understand, how this is supposed to work in the future.

  • Stefan R
    Stefan R   1 months ago

    I still don’t understand, how this is supposed to work in the future.

  • grant johnson
    grant johnson   1 months ago

    But is there enough lithium in the world to build all of those batteries?

  • ThePixel1983
    ThePixel1983   1 months ago

    What I would like to see explored: Redux flow batteries the size of a refinery. Store "charged" liquid in tanks and use it when the grid needs it.

  • ThePixel1983
    ThePixel1983   1 months ago

    Simple solution : Add spinning mass to the grid, for example at the connection between wind farms and the grid.

  • Zombie69
    Zombie69   1 months ago

    That's not a problem with renewable energy, it's a problem with wind power. Hydroelectricity for example doesn't have this problem at all, as by definition, it stores energy in big water reservoirs at the top of giant turbines, to be released over time or whenever a need arises. In Quebec, hydroelectricity accounts for nearly 97% of all electricity produced, not just renewable, and therefore the network doesn't have the problem you mentioned.

  • Jm56Z
    Jm56Z   1 months ago

    The major problem with wind farms is that they're not controllable. Sure we can prevent wind turbines from turning. But we can't force them to turn when the demand is high. Plus, they are *inefficient*. Like, really, really bad. Most of the time, they output about 2 to 3 % of the installed power. Some spikes reach 20%, but they never last long, and are actually quite rare. The average output is 5% of the installed power. If you install a 100 MW-capable wind farm, you'll produce 5 MW on average, but maintain 100 MW worth of material. They cost a lot, but don't produce nearly enough.Denmark chose to produce 100% of their electricity with wind farms. This costs a lot when there's no wind, because they have to buy electricity from Norwegian nuclear plants. This costs a lot when there is wind, because they have to give their electricity away, at any cost, to avoid damage to the continental power grid. In the end, Denmark has an extremely costly electricity.Also, wind turbine blades are made of carbon fibre, and are not recyclable. This year (2020), it is predicted that Germany alone will stack 30 thousand used blades in fields, because, like tires, we have no idea what to do with these huge old blades.

  • KuruGDI
    KuruGDI   1 months ago

    The problem with "Selling back the energy" is that you will get f*cked by the system. You pay x EUR for one kWh. You could get x EUR back if you deliver the same kWh back to the system. However, when you buy energy you pay taxes, but don't get your taxes back when you deliver energy. I look at this how I look at my photovoltaic cells on my roof. It's better to use the energy myself becuase I not only save the cost for the energy, but also everything that comes along with it and is calculated by kWh used.

  • TheCaptainsquiggle
    TheCaptainsquiggle   1 months ago

    Nuclear is the only solution to global warming imo, of the world went nuclear tomorrow I we only need to find alternatives to aeroplanes.

  • PeterT1981
    PeterT1981   2 months ago

    All I can seem to come up with is a very sincere “you are remarkable”.

  • Alexander Sheppard
    Alexander Sheppard   2 months ago

    Wind turbines actually take more power to build than they produce in their lifetime.

  • JRT Underground
    JRT Underground   2 months ago

    When the trees were felled to make way for the turbines and associated infrastructure it was the largest clear fell site in Europe...