The ERoEI of High Altitude Wind Power

For several weeks I have been researching and writing a review post on high altitude wind power. It has grown into a 6000 word monster that should hopefully fly on Monday. While doing this it has been difficult to find time to write other posts. Hence this is a preview of one section on Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) which makes a nice post in its own right.
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Brexit and The Simple Solution

An opinion piece: On Thursday 23 June the UK voted to leave The European Union with a majority of 52% . This surprise result has stunned politicians, the UK population and many Europeans. The FOOTSIE ended the day down 3%. The DAX was down 7%. The £ took a bigger hit, down up to 8% that is good for exports and will help fend off deflation.

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Blowout Week 130 – Brexit Special

The news this week is totally dominated by the Brexit vote and so is this edition of Blowout. How will Brexit affect the UK, the EU and the world economies? Will there be a sea change in UK energy and climate policy? How long might it take to complete negotiations for an orderly exit? Will the EU now start to unravel? Will the UK itself start to unravel with a Scottish independence vote? All this and more below:

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Blackout California

The shutdown of the leaking Aliso Canyon underground gas storage facility has caused a loss of about 70bcf of stored gas that Southern California utilities have historically counted on to see them through the hot, high-demand summer months. The California Independent Service Operator (CAISO), which manages the California grid, estimates that as a result all customers should expect to be without power for a total of 14 days this summer. Some 21 million Southern Californians stand to be directly affected.

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Climate change claims its first species – or does it?

This post briefly reviews the demise of the Bramble Cay melomys, a rat-like mammal that is no longer to be found on Bramble Cay, a tiny coral atoll between Australia and Papua-New Guinea and the animal’s only known habitat. The acknowledged cause of the extinction – which appears in this case to be real – was a series of storm surges that inundated Bramble Cay and killed off the vegetation. There is, however, no evidence linking these storm surges to human-induced climate change. The University of Queensland’s claim that the Bramble Cay melomys ….. is the first mammal to go extinct due to human-induced climate change must therefore be considered invalid as well as grossly misleading.

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Blowout Week 129

This week’s Blowout focuses on the distressed UK North Sea oil & gas industry, which according to the people who run it has only two years to go before it goes away altogether. A supreme guiding hand is needed, say industry executives. Even the “N” word has been mentioned as an option:

BBC:  Call for urgent changes in UK oil and gas industry

Senior figures in offshore oil and gas have called for more radical and urgent changes to avoid rapid decline. They say there are only two years in which to secure the industry’s future.

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Solar in Chile

Solar power in 2015 accounted for less than 5% of Chile’s total electricity generation, but because of decreased demand and inadequate grid connections it’s already generating surpluses that have to be curtailed or which result in the power being sold at zero cost . Yet to meet its target of 20% renewable energy from non-hydro sources by 2025 Chile plans to install yet more intermittent solar and wind energy by 2020/21. Development of untapped dispatchable renewables such as hydro – Chile’s cheapest source of renewable energy – and geothermal, both of which Chile has in abundance, is hindered by lack of grid connections and environmental opposition.

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The UK’s Small Modular Reactor Competition

Guest Post by Andy Dawson who is an energy sector systems consultant and former nuclear engineer.

The UK government has launched a competition to select a design of a small modular reactor (SMR) for future deployment in the UK. The idea behind SMRs is that they can be factory built and stamped out like aircraft and transported to location on the back of a truck. With thirty-three companies / designs on the shortlist, this looks like the process could take a while to complete.

In this post, nuclear engineer Andy Dawson provides an overview of SMR technology together with descriptions of the leading contenders.

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BP 2016: Global Energy Production at a Glance

Oil, gas, nuclear, hydro and new-renewables production all grew in 2015 while coal production declined by 4%, the first significant decline for many decades. But global CO2 emissions were still up by 0.1%. Notably, CO2 emissions rose in Germany, Austria, Portugal, Spain, Italy and Ireland.

New renewables (wind, solar, biomass etc) continue their meteoric rise from a feeble base and still only represent 2.8% of the global energy mix (that excludes biomass used throughout developing countries). Fossil fuels still dominate with 86.1% of primary energy in 2015 compared with 86.8% in the year 2000.

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Blowout Week 128

This weeks early bird Blowout focuses on Germany’s Energiewende, which seems to be moving away from its original goal of lowering emissions in favor of a “modernisation shift” in Germany’s macroeconomy involving “industrial growth and social compensation” that will allow it to meet its decarbonization goals by shutting down nuclear plants but not coal plants. At least that’s what Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said last Thursday:

Reuters:  Germany’s Gabriel rejects calls to focus on exit from coal

Germany’s economy minister on Thursday rejected calls for Europe’s largest economy to focus on ending coal use in the way it plans to quit nuclear energy. “I will not call for a commission to deal with a coal exit,” Sigmar Gabriel told a conference of some 1,400 delegates mostly representing power utilities.

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Oil Production Vital Statistics May 2016

The big news in April’s production numbers is the surge in global production by 250,000 bpd that is largely down to a 300,000 bpd surge from Iran that the IEA now deems to be producing at capacity. The oil price rally continued through May into June with Brent now over $50 supported by the Fort McMurray black swan and growing unrest in the Niger Delta that the WSJ reports has knocked 1 Mbpd off Nigeria’s production.

Drilling continues to decline across the board with US oil+gas rigs = 404, a mere shadow of the 2000 operational rigs seen in 2011.

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El Hierro May 2016 update

During May Gorona del Viento (GdV), a “hybrid” wind-hydro plant designed ultimately to provide the Canary Island of El Hierro with 100% renewable energy, provided only 25.4% renewable electricity to the El Hierro grid, thereby lowering the average renewables fraction since project startup last June to 32.8%. This was a result of a change in operating procedures that resulted in even lower renewables generation than usual and which is documented in this post. (Details on GdV plant layout, operation and capacities are given in the September update. Previous posts on GdV are accessible through the El Hierro Portal.)

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Blowout Week 127

This week we feature temperature. UAH global lower troposphere temperatures have already fallen by 0.28C since the peak of the 2015/16 El Niño in February and show every sign of continuing to fall at a rapid rate, just as they did after the 1997/8 El Niño. At what level will they flatten out? And when will the world see record high temperatures again?

Roy Spencer: UAH May 2016 temperature update

The Version 6.0 global average lower tropospheric temperature (LT) anomaly for May, 2016 is +0.55 deg. C, down 0.16 deg. C from the April value of +0.71 deg. C. Cooling from the weakening El Nino is now rapidly occurring as we transition toward likely La Nina conditions by mid-summer or early fall.

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The Energy Return of The Three Gorges Dam

In preparing my previous post on Net Energy Trends I wanted to include a back of the envelope calculation on the ERoEI of hydro electric power using the Three Gorges Dam as an example. But I got my decimals pretty muddled leading to an answer that was implausible. But I’ve now had a few days off to clear my head and I put a new battery in my calculator and so hopefully the calculation is now on the money.

Looking at just the labour and embedded energy of the concrete and steel and assuming a 45% capacity factor and 70 year life yields a partial ERoEI of 147. And so, despite substantial environmental harm and social disruption I must give dispatchable hydro electric power a big thumbs up. See the calculation below the fold.

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The revealing numbers on solar employment in the USA.

Once again the green media are being transported into flights of ecstasy over the fact that the US solar industry now employs more people than the US oil, gas and coal industries. The data, however, show that the solar industry contributes virtually nothing to US energy supply, which is still filled dominantly by fossil fuels. Reviews also show that the problem of accurately estimating annual US solar generation has still not been solved.

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Do clouds control temperature, or does temperature control clouds?

Previous Energy Matters posts that have dealt with the cloud/temperature relationship (here and here) have concluded, as have most other studies, that cloud cover acts as a control on global surface temperatures. In this post I dust off a widely ignored but apparently robust cloud cover series – the ICOADS ocean series – which suggests that ocean surface temperatures may in fact be acting as a control on cloud cover rather than the other way round.

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Blowout Week 126

This week we feature a topic that will become progressively more important and contentious in coming weeks – Brexit and its potential impact on UK energy, which according to Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Bourne would be “massively damaging” to the UK renewables sector:

BusinessGreen:  Brexit would be ‘massively damaging’ to renewables industry

The uncertainty that would arise from having to renegotiate the UK’s position within Europe would be massively damaging to the renewables industry, Energy and Climate Change Minister Lord Bourne has warned.

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Net Energy Trends

In writing Wednesday’s post ERoEI for Beginners, I prepared a number of charts that were not used and these are presented here. Where it has been measured and according to the literature, the net energy of oil, natural gas and coal is falling everywhere. Surface mined US coal has one of the highest energy returns of any fuel and is substantially higher than deep mined Chinese coal. In electricity equivalent (Eeq) form, Chinese coal is marching towards the Net Energy Cliff edge while US coal remains far from it. The image shows part of a 50 km long queue of coal trucks in China.

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ERoEI for Beginners

The Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI or EROI) of any energy gathering system is a measure of that system’s efficiency. The concept was originally derived in ecology and has been transferred to analyse human industrial society. In today’s energy mix, hydroelectric power ± nuclear power have values > 50. At the other end of the scale, solar PV and biofuels have values <5.

It is assumed that ERoEI >5 to 7 is required for modern society to function. This marks the edge of The Net Energy Cliff and it is clear that new Green technologies designed to save humanity from CO2 may kill humanity through energy starvation instead. Fossil fuels remain comfortably away from the cliff edge but march closer to it for every year that passes. The Cheetah symbolises an energy system living on the edge.

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Did Portugal run for four days on renewables alone?

Recently there has been much rejoicing in the green media that the entire country of Portugal succeeded in powering itself with 100% renewables for four straight days from May 7 through May 10, 2016. Here we look into the question of whether this is true (it is) and second the question of what caused it (the weather). Over the period in question Portugal was able to make maximum use of its hydro and wind capacity because of unusually heavy rains (inset) and strong winds, a combination of renewables-favorable weather conditions that has been described as “fantastic”, although the tourism industry may take a different view.

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