Recent cold winters and prolonged periods of low wind speeds have prompted concerns about the increasing penetration of wind generation in the Irish and other northern European power systems. On the combined Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland system there was in excess of 1.5 GW of installed wind power in January 2010. As the penetration of these variable, non-dispatchable generators increases, power systems are becoming more sensitive to weather events on the supply side as well as on the demand side. In the temperate climate of Ireland, sensitivity of supply to weather is mainly due to wind variability while demand sensitivity is driven by space heating or cooling loads. The interplay of these two weather-driven effects is of particular concern if demand spikes driven by low temperatures coincide with periods of low winds. In December 2009 and January 2010 Ireland experienced a prolonged spell of unusually cold conditions. During much of this time, wind generation output was low due to low wind speeds. The impacts of this event are presented as a case study of the effects of weather extremes on power systems with high penetrations of variable renewable generation.
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