Generating electricity from the sun and wind is great for the planet, but the infrastructure necessary to deal with these intermittent power sources is tricky. Too much or too little power can upset the balance of the grid, which has to be finely tuned to keep the voltage of the electricity it delivers to customers stable.
Without a means of storing renewable energy or handling huge variations in production, too much electricity surging into the grid can damage appliances or even cause outages. This is the problem that the UK may face this summer, the country’s grid operator says. When electricity demand naturally falls during the summer months, it is thinking about paying wind farms to stop generating so much power.
For the past few years, the UK has been ramping up renewable-energy production—especially wind power—in order to reduce its carbon emissions. Government subsidies have also encouraged homes and businesses to install rooftop solar panels, which can bypass the grid altogether.