An Independent Evaluation of the El Hierro Wind & Pumped Hydro System

Guest post by Dipl.-Ing. Benjamin Jargstorf (1) .

In this post engineer Benjamin Jargstorf brings his hands-on experience with other island renewable energy projects to bear on Gorona del Viento. Benjamin’s conclusions are generally but not always the same as mine, but an independent assessment is always welcome, and we are indebted to Benjamin for providing it. Of particular interest to technical types will be his recommendations for improving GdV’s performance.

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UK Electricity 2050 Part 4: Nuclear and renewables cost comparisons

Guest post by Energy Matters’ commentator Alex Terrell. Part 4 of the series on designing a renewable or nuclear electricity supply for the UK in 2050, where parts 1 to 3 were co-authored with Andy Dawson. Here costs of the renewable and nuclear options are compared. The forecast based on BEIS’ median 2030 scenarios for renewables (wind+solar) comes in at £143 / MWh and for nuclear at £84 / MWh, for wholesale costs. Both costs will be a lot lower if the respective technologies improve as their advocates hope.

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Blowout week 164

Scott Pruit, the new head of the US Environment Protection Agency will have to decide if drought or flooding or both in California are caused by climate change and will have to judge if the risks associated with hydroelectric power are worth running. Image shows the breached spillway of the Oroville Dam.

Washington Post: Scott Pruitt, longtime adversary of EPA, confirmed to lead the agency

Scott Pruitt, who as Oklahoma’s attorney general spent years suing the Environmental Protection Agency over its efforts to regulate various forms of pollution, was confirmed Friday as the agency’s next administrator.

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Keeping The Lights On

It’s not very often that Energy Matters gets a mention in the “mainstream media” but last week Roger and I got a mention in UK satirical magazine Private Eye (no 1437). In his column, “Keeping the Lights On”, Old Sparky had commentary on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and says this:

But painstaking tidal analysis by respected energy industry analysts Euan Mearns and Roger Andrews shows there is no practical combination of lagoons that could even out the bursts of electricity from this airily conjured “fleet”.

The whole article is reproduced with consent from Private Eye below the fold.

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New Renewable Energy Targets for Scotland

The Scottish Government recently launched a consultation on a revised energy strategy. The existing policy is to produce the equivalent of 100% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2020. The new policy is to produce the equivalent of 50% of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2030 – in 13 years time. Electricity currently represents 22% of energy consumption and we are now at 59% renewables, suggesting that 13% of all energy currently comes from renewable sources. The new plan calls for renewable output to increase approximately 4 fold. It is also planned that our two nuclear power stations will close in this time frame.

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The proposed US carbon tax – a recipe for disaster

A group of Republican elder statesmen have recommended that the US adopt a $40/ton carbon tax as the “most efficient and effective way of reducing CO2 emissions”. This post reviews the potential economic impacts of such a tax on the US energy sector. It concludes that the impacts on the oil and natural gas sectors would be comparatively minor but that the impacts on the coal sector would be severe. Electric utilities with a high percentage of coal in their generation mix could well be driven into bankruptcy.

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US GDP, Energy Consumption and CO2 Emissions

A review of the structure of US GDP, imports and exports shows that none of these variables has contributed to the fall in US CO2 emissions post-2008 finance crash. The main contributions to reduced CO2 come from high energy prices and recession (36%), gas substitution for coal (20%) and growth in wind and solar (15%) which more or less corroborates the findings of Roger Andrew’s in his recent post on this topic.

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Blowout Week 163

This week we return again to blackouts. We’ve been wondering where the inability of intermittent renewables to replace dispatchable fossil fuel capacity would cause the lights to go out first, and the fates seem to have chosen Australia – a country with abundant coal and uranium resources:

New Daily: Power blackout tipped to spread nationwide

As Australia remains in the grip of a heatwave, the federal government has been warned of potential nationwide blackouts.

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The causes of the recent decrease in US greenhouse gas emissions

Since their peak in 2007 GHG emissions in the USA have decreased more in absolute terms than in any other country. The results of this review suggest that approximately 40% of this decrease was caused by the replacement of coal with gas in generating plants, 30% by improvements in the efficiency of internal combustion engines and 30% by growth in low-carbon renewables. Another major contributor was the 2008-9 global recession, although its impact can’t reliably be quantified. Had economic growth continued at historic rates between 2007 and the present US GHG emissions would now be substantially higher than they are.

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Oil Production Vital Statistics January 2017

Joint post with Neil Mearns who made all the graphs (CV for Neil).

January was the month that OPEC was supposed to reduce production by 1.2 Mbpd and Russia + others were supposed to cut a further 0.6 Mbpd. None of the January production data has been released yet and the only real time indicator we have is the oil price that began the month of January on $55.05 and ended the month on $54.77 (Brent) (Figure 1). The only remarkable thing is how little market response there has been to the feeble OPEC deal.

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Blowout Week 162

This week we return again to the UK, this time featuring the threat of blackouts caused by a shortage of dispatchable capacity. These are allegedly nothing more than scare stories, and we are asked to stop reporting them. The lights haven’t gone out yet and we have it on good authority that they definitely won’t go out in future:

Energy Live News Blackout Britain ‘scare stories’ must stop, says ex-National Grid head

Britain facing blackouts are “scare stories” which need to stop. That’s according to Steve Holliday, former boss of National Grid, who believes the nation has enough electricity capacity to meet demand even during peak times.

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Oil and Gas Production in N America

This post provides an overview of N American oil and gas production utilising the growing mountain of charts to be found in Global Energy Graphed. These charts show the parlous state of the Mexican oil and gas industry that will be the focus of this post. Oil production is down nearly to the point where Mexico will cease oil exports. Gas production is down and Mexico has already become a serial gas importer. Drilling has virtually come to a halt.
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Do the Netherlands’ trains really run on 100% wind power?

This question generated a number of comments in the last Blowout so I thought I would take a quick look at it. I find that the electrified portion of the Dutch railway network (Nederlandse Spoorwegen, or NS) runs on grid electricity that comes dominantly from fossil fuel generation (natural gas and coal). NS claims 100% wind power because it has a contract with various wind farms to produce enough energy to power its rail system, but this is just an accounting transaction. Only a small fraction of the power delivered to its trains actually comes from wind.

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Green Mythology: adding different types of renewables smooths output

A favourite assertion of renewables enthusiasts is that intermittent supply can be smoothed by simply adding different types of renewable resource. How often have you heard “If it’s not windy then we can use tidal instead”. I present a simple renewable supply model for the UK that has 20 GW of tidal, 13.6 GW of wind and 8.8 GW of solar for a total of 42.5 GW installed capacity. When everything is on this outputs a maximum of 22.2 GW of power (52.2% load). When everything is off that falls to 0.9 GW (2.1% load). Those contemplating engineering the UK grid along these lines must surely be mad.

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Blowout Week 161

This week we return to the UK and feature the government’s growing disaffection with renewable energy and the subsidies that go with it, particularly those associated with offshore wind. A “competitive markets” strategy, presumably undistorted by subsidies, will henceforth be adopted in order to lower household energy bills and “ensure that the market is working properly”. Are we witnessing the de facto repeal of the 2008 Climate Change Act?

Telegraph: Household energy bills will fall under plans to cut green subsidies, Government announces

Households will see cheaper energy bills under Government plans to slash green subsidies for projects such as wind and solar farms amid concerns that they are too expensive, it emerged last night.

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Attributing the blame for global warming

Those who believe that man-made greenhouse gases are responsible for global warming are also firm in the conviction that it was caused dominantly by CO2 emissions from the developed countries (inset). However, a little-known analysis from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), concludes that greenhouse gas emissions from the developed countries in fact caused significantly less than half of the global warming through 2000. In this post I briefly review this analysis and its implications.

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Posted in Climate change, Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , | 51 Comments

Green Mythology: Tidal Base-load Power in the UK

Scientists working at The University of Liverpool and the NERC Proudman Oceanic Laboratory have developed elegant computer simulations of electricity generation from tidal barrage and tidal flow power stations deployed in the Severn Estuary and the East Irish Sea. The models show that no combination of tidal system from this area can produce continuous and uniform base-load generation. Despite this, these workers conclude that it can. Adding pumped storage hydro provides an economical and practical way to smooth out daily fluctuations but cuts peak output power by over 50%. Large-scale deployment of tidal stations will modify coastlines that deploying renewable energy is supposed to prevent.

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Blowout Week 160

This week we feature the inauguration of President Donald Trump and what it portends for US (and World) energy policy. After some confusing recent announcements Trump seems to have reverted to form, promising a renewed focus on the development of conventional domestic energy sources such as oil, gas and coal, the elimination of the US’s dependence on foreign oil and a complete rollback of Obama’s climate change policies:

White House: An America First Energy Plan

Energy is an essential part of American life and a staple of the world economy. The Trump Administration is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources, freeing us from dependence on foreign oil.

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The gulf between the Paris Climate Agreement and energy projections

According to the Paris Climate Agreement a rapid decrease in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels is now mandatory if the Earth is to be saved from climate disaster. Projections of future energy use, however, are unanimous in predicting an increase in the world’s consumption of fossil fuels in coming decades. Either the energy consumption projections are wrong or the Paris goal is unachievable. This post reviews the basic provisions of the Paris Agreement, compares them with six independent estimates of future energy consumption and concludes that while the energy consumption estimates are subject to uncertainty the goals of the Paris Agreement are indeed unachievable.

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Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon and Baseload Tidal Generation in the UK

Charles Hendry, former energy secretary, published his long awaited report on the Swansea Bay tidal lagoon power station last week coming down in favour of the project. Hendry’s report is comprehensive but has one key omission. It does not ask if tidal lagoons can provide renewable base-load power in the UK as is often claimed. I set out in a positive frame of mind to show that it could, but failed miserably in that attempt. Facts defeated me.

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Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 131 Comments