About the Gridwatch Site


My interest in energy matters was sparked initially by a chance remark on the Internet, that in 20 years time all our electricity will come from renewable sources.

As 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.

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 webs 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 BMreports 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.

The site then rapidly gained popularity (and bandwidth!) to the point where it had to be transferred to a centrally located server, which is where it now resides.

Recent changes in the way Exelon and BM reports are sharing their data have led to a slight revamp, with dial gauges more accurately reflecting acual capacity limits, and the addition of estimated solar output.

This site is entirely privately and personally funded. It takes no donations or grants from any government, quasi non-governmental or commercial organisations whatsoever. It exists simply to provide and present the data as is, not to attempt to make a point with it - that is done elsewhere.

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