The Problem With Renewable Energy The Bizarre Plan to Drain the Mediterranean: 7 months ago   04:06

Tom Scott
( 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.

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:

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Comments 1806 Comments

Hugo Portella
You are focusing on renewable energies, but don’t forgot that Britain ordered two huge nuclear power plants ! (Sizewell and Hinkley Point C)
Paul Beaumont
Best one yet
Eduard Gispert
Nowadays most of the new thermic electric generator plants have a combined cycle, so they are not only "giant boilers".

They would be a gas turbine that also generates steam with their exhaust gases.
Anthony Almgren
Didnt elon musk solve this with a really big battery in australia
Ilan Smolders
you said second but the subs say minute
Excellent and concise.
Matthew Day
Your missing the energy storage that are being implementing. 2 experimental sites and prob going to go nationwide. Not old massive batteries. New smart batteries that work instantly to correct the grid. Constantly watching and drawing energy and puttting it back when needed. The grid already uses batteries now. And its tech we have now
Paul Hayden
Wind farm take lots of energy to make and have a life that is not very long.

How do wind farms compare on energy in energy out?
James Macleod
It is storage that is a fair problem- but everyone in these videos act like batteries are made of fairy dust and good will.People worry about nuclear waste,but what about the vast amount of toxic waste that all these batteries will generate at the end of their lives. I suppose they'll come up with a different colored recycling bins for them so everyone can feel good about themselves when all the batteries are "recycled" into unregulated toxic waste dumps in third world countries like they do with plastic right now.
Zenas Starchild
You completely took me off guard. I thought you where going to talk about the bird killings.
Robert Amos IV
Orrrr we can just use the most green option available... nuclear. We should be focused on energy density, not incredibly inefficient methods like wind and solar.
Tom Lee
Great video. Shame you didn't show more of the climbing and getting up the wind turbine and more about it's workings
i think the idea is realy unrealistic for many reasons but i wont tell them now if nobodys interested
larry philby
Wind and solar. Virtue signaling boondoggles.
This is fantasy. Electric car battery production is 0,3 terawatt hours a year. Britain uses about 1650 twh of energy in a year. There isn’t enough raw materials, like cobalt, in the whole word to have any meaningful battery buffering. And any large electricity storage would make electricity very expensive = you couldn’t build it. The best and only way is to store energy before generation, like all current coal, gas, nuclear and hydro do.
Sorry I will not sell power to the grid, I need that power, it adds cycles to my batteries, costing me more in the long run than what they're willing to pay me.
Tim Duncan
It’s not the rpm that govern Hz output. It’s the poles in the rotor times the rpm, come on. You’re filming on top of a windmill as if you’re an expert....
Sounds like a stupidly complicated system to me. Almost sounds like we would be crossing our fingers that it worked.
Owen z
But how do you make these so called eco friendly generators and cars. Coal oil and gas. Not so eco friendly is it.
Michael Harrison
You can create virtual inertia for any renewable energy source. With a wind generator this can be achieved with a double fed induction generator configuration. For a PV source virtual inertia can be programmed into the inverter control logic.
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The Bizarre Plan to Drain the Mediterranean: The Problem With Renewable Energy 7 months ago   03:29

Herman Sörgel wanted to create the largest civil engineering project the world has ever seen: a colossal dam across the Strait of Gibraltar, lowering the Mediterranean sea. There were, of course, a few problems with this.

VFX by David 'Hoolopee' Post (
Camera by Paul Curry (@cr3)

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