GB National Grid status
It is proposed that in 20 years time all our electricity will come from renewable sources. For an electrical engineer, this seemed at best, optimistic, and at worst a dangerous delusion,but it set in process a long chain of research, which uncovered one surprising fact. Whilst everyone had an opinion on energy, there were very few facts, if any, on which to base their assertions. So whilst there were dozens of sites claiming this, or that, about energy generation, all seemed to base their claims on the results of models and projections, the fundamental assumptions of which were rarely stated, and never challenged.
Two potentially flawed assumptions were rapidly arrived at with respect to renewable energy.
That its wide scale deployment would have no ongoing costs in social, economic or emissions beyond the plant installation and maintenance itself - that is, the social, environmental and extraneous costs of managing its output and deployment could be ignored. That every unit of electricity generated by it would lead directly to an equivalent reduction in fossil fuel usage. These crystallise down to an understanding of the energy density of renewable energy - essentially how big the energy generating plant has to be to contribute anything worthwhile, and intermittency - that is the tendency of the wind, tides, waves and sunlight to not be there in a steady state all the time. The best place for further facts on energy density is David Mackay's web site (and book) "Renewable Energy - without the hot air," and intermittency and for and in-depth discussion on the impact of intermittency this paper. Finally after having expressed a desire for anyone to point me at a site for real world data on power generation, I was referred to the BM Reports website, where real-time - or near real-time - data is available on exactly what The United Kingdom's electricity grid is doing. That was a huge leap forward in actually gathering the data, as it has pages of latest statistics, but the ability to retrieve archived data and perform instant calculations as well its - frankly awful - graphical displays, was a real drawback.
So gridwatch was born, first of all to scrape the data off the BM reports site every 5 minutes and inject it into an SQL database where it would be easy to perform specific searches and do statistical analysis. Then, in a rather retro and humorous way, to display the data in terms of analogue instruments and moving graphs. This is pure personal amusement, I like dials and graphs.