Base Load & Peak Load
Demand for electrical power varies throughout the day. Base load refers to the minimum level of power required across a set 24-hour period, primarily from equipment and appliances that require consume power at a consistent rate. This is opposed to peak load, which refers to spikes in demand over a shorter period. These spikes in demand can be difficult to predict, although most happen in the early evening.
For base load, generation is required that reliably produces a steady amount of power over a long period of time. Traditionally, this was achieved by coal generation, and can also be achieved using nuclear, hydroelectric, and other forms of large-scale generation. Peak load, in contrast, requires generation that can be rapidly turned on or scaled up, providing a rapid boost in available power. This is most often achieved using gas turbine generation.
As renewable power generation increasingly replaces fossil fuels, it presents difficulties in managing both base and peak load. The intermittent, changeable nature of wind and solar generation makes them ill-suited to providing base load generation. While they both have the potential to meet spikes in peak load demand, our lack of control over when they generate can make balancing the two difficult.
It is here that, on a grid scale, battery storage will increasingly become a key cornerstone of the UK’s energy strategy. Rather than being reliant on changeable renewable generation, large-scale storage allows power to be stored during periods of peak generation, such as during bright sunshine and strong winds. This stored power can then be used to provide reliable base load and peak load. Fed steadily back into the grid helps to bolster base load capacity, while peaks in demand can also be met.