German Power 2013

The latest summary presentation from Prof. Bruno Burger of the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems arrived in my in box today courtesy of Willem Post and Hugh Sharman. It is a gigantic pdf with 263 slides. I have selected just 7 slides and provide minimal commentary here to illustrate how the Energiewende is going in Germany. Hugh made this observation:

The reality remains that, according to these statistics, the capacity factor of wind and PV in Germany is ummmm…pretty awful

Solar PV capacity GW 35.651
Solar PV production TWh 29.7
Capacity Factor 9.5%

Wind capacity GW 32.513
Wind production TWh 47.2
Capacity Factor 16.6%

Such low capacity factors, especially for solar, may actually push the energy return on invested (ERoEI) to below unity. In other words, more energy may be used to manufacture, install and maintain the units than they ever produce.

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CO2 in, CO2 out

by Roger Andrews

Some time ago I posted a graph showing how the IPCC’s 21st century temperature projections for the “worst case” RCP85 emissions scenario could be replicated almost exactly using the IPCC’s CO2 radiative forcing estimates for the scenario, a climate sensitivity of 2.2C and nothing else. (Note that I don’t claim this as an original discovery. Others, I think Clive Best is one, have presented similar graphs in the past):

Figure 1

Author note, early am UK time August 28th : Dave Rutledge has pointed out that Figure 1 gives a climate sensitivity of around 3.0C when calculated using the present-day CO2 concentration of ~400 ppm and a 2100 concentration of 936 ppm, the IPCC’s official estimate for RCP85. This is higher than my best-fit estimate of 2.2C because I used 289 ppm CO2 in 1750 as the baseline and the IPCC’s official 2100 estimate of 1,233 ppm CO2 equivalent, which includes other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrous oxide expressed as CO2.

Although there’s actually nothing very surprising about this result because CO2 is effectively the only input the IPCC’s climate models receive in the 21st century. Only about half of the ~4 degrees C of warming they project under the RCP85 scenario, however, is contributed by the direct radiative impacts of CO2. The other half comes from positive feedbacks generated by the interaction of CO2 with other model variables, so if the models are to predict the right amount of warming it’s important that they correctly quantify these feedbacks.

And do they?
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North Sea Oil and Scottish Independence: where does the truth lie?

  • How much oil and gas is left in the North Sea? 16 billion barrels oil equivalent (boe) according to Sir Ian Wood or 24 billion boe according to Oil and Gas UK? The correct answer for official proved+probable reserves is between 8 and 9 billion boe, a figure that both DECC and Oil and Gas UK agree on. With over 9 different classes of reserves, this debate is sterile and this is not the correct question to ask.
  • How wealthy will oil make Scotland? In 2013, the direct tax take from oil and gas production for the whole of the UK was £4.67 billion and falling. This compares with annual spending of the Scottish government (plus UK spending on Scotland) running at £65.2 billion. Hence, direct taxation of oil and gas production may account for less than 7% of the Scottish budget. What we should be asking is where the other 93% is going to come from?

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Blowout week 34

I had only 5 stories this week, but luckily Roger dug up another 26 cracking stories in this bumper issue of Blowout with 31 stories below the fold.

BBC: Glacier-like hazards found on Ben Nevis

Hazards common in arctic and alpine areas but described as “extremely unusual” in the UK during the summer have been found on Ben Nevis.

A team of climbers and scientists investigating the mountain’s North Face said snowfields remained in many gullies and upper scree slopes.

On these fields, they have come across compacted, dense, ice hard snow call neve.

Neve is the first stage in the formation of glaciers, the team said.

HT Wattsupwiththat

Does this fate await Spean Bridge at the foot of Ben Nevis? Scientists say that the advance of the Rhone Glacier in 1890 to 1900 was down to natural causes but that its subsequent melting back to prior levels is down to man made global warming.

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Hydro Balancing Wind in the UK

There’s nothing that renewables advocates like to discuss more than building power lines, lots of them. And a favourite subject is to build very expensive power lines between the UK and Scandinavia so that we, like the Danes, can balance variable wind generation  off their controllable hydro. Every country in Europe wants to do this.

The UK of course has its own suite of hydro dams with 1.7 GW capacity, most of it in Scotland. And so you would think that before we begin to dream about balancing our wind power off Scandinavian Hydro we would start by utilising our own hydro to maximum effect before hand (Figure 1). Nothing could be further from the truth.

Figure 1 If UK hydro were being used to balance wind, a negative correlation between the two would be expected since hydro generation should be turned down or switched off altogether when the wind blows. If anything there is a positive correlation suggesting that UK hydro is not being used to balance wind power at all. Data points are 5 minute intervals for the whole of 2012. Data sources BM reports from Gridwatch. Continue reading

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How cheap is “cheap” oil?

By Roger Andrews

Everyone seems to agree that the world is running out of cheap oil. But how cheap is cheap? Until we know it’s hard to say exactly what the world is running out of, or indeed if it’s running out of it at all.  Clearly what is needed is for someone to put a dollar value on cheap oil, and here I do my best to come up with a number.

Before we can start we need a definition of “cheap”. Webster’s defines it as “worth more than the price paid”, which is probably as good a definition as any, so we will use it. But how do we define when oil is no longer worth more than the price paid, i.e. not cheap? When the world stops buying it. There is of course no exact point at which this occurs; in theory oil will become progressively less “cheap” as the price rises and consumption growth will decrease progressively as a consequence. However, there will come a point at which the oil price becomes high enough to turn consumption growth negative, and for the purposes of analysis I’ve picked this as the “cheap” oil threshold.

Using this criterion we will now look briefly into the question of where this threshold might occur.
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The Clair Oilfield – distilling facts from fiction

In an email last week:

Recently a number of friends of mine have been telling me that the largest oil field in the world has been discovered encompassing BP Clair Ridge. They further tell me that the UK government has ordered BP to stay quiet about this until after the independence referendum. Now this seems unlikely to me to say the least but I wonder if you have any comment.

I agreed to write a short post setting out the facts as I understand them. I do not own any shares in BP, but many years ago I was involved in geochemical and mineralogical characterisation of the reservoir that led to the development of techniques still used today. Continue reading

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Blowout week 33

18 stories this week below the fold.

The UK had some weather this week as the remnants of hurricane Bertha passed over. This caused flooding, and perhaps coincidentally, another major power cut took place during strong gusting winds. Image BBC.

BBC: Parts of Scotland affected by ex-hurricane Bertha

Parts of Scotland have been badly hit by high winds and heavy rain in the wake of what was Hurricane Bertha.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) has almost 40 flood warnings in place, covering Aberdeenshire, Speyside, Moray, Caithness and Sutherland, and Tayside.

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The Laschamp Event and Earth’s Wandering Magnetic Field

A few weeks ago, commenter Phil Chapman left this comment in a remote corner of the blog:

It is not quite correct that changes in the geomagnetic field have been unimportant in the time frame covered by your post on solar influence on glaciation. It is true that the last major pole reversal was 780 kya, but lesser geomagnetic excursions are more frequent. The last one, known as the Laschamp event, was only 41 kya. It involved a full reversal, but the whole thing lasted only 440 years. During the change, the field dropped to 5% of its former value, and the cosmic ray flux more than doubled.

The scary thing is that we now seem to be in the early stages of a similar event. The N magnetic di pole has left the Canadian Arctic; it is now at 86 N and barreling towards Siberia at 60 km/yr. This is as fast as the maximum speed during the Laschamp event. If it continued, compasses would point at some point on the equator only 180 years from now — but it will probably break up long before then. The very recent data from the ESA Swarm satellites indicate that the field is becoming disorganized and decreasing in intensity by 5%/decade.

It seems quite likely that we will lose the protection of the geomagnetic field within decades to perhaps a century, exposing satellites, communication systems and terrestrial power grids to serious damage, and requiring much heavier shielding for astronauts in Earth orbit (and perhaps for people at high latitudes, such as Scotland). Moreover, if the field weakens substantially while we are still in the coming Grand Solar Minimum, the climate may become much colder than the Little Ice Age.

This prospect demands immediate serious attention, including objective studies of the connection between GCRs and climate, close observations of the evolving solar and geophysical phenomena, and preparation of contingency plans to counter the effects on agriculture, public health, the economy and living conditions.

Phil Chapman (Sc.D., physics, MIT, long ago)
Scottsdale, AZ

This was in response to my post on Solar influence on glaciation in Greenland where I examined the co-variance of the cosmogenic isotope 10Be with Dansgaard–Oeschger events (D-O events). It is not every day that a retired NASA astronaut calls by to share his knowledge and I decided to dig a little deeper into what he had to say. Continue reading

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Germany – the rural power station

Most readers will be aware that I have been on vacation for two weeks. Many thanks to Roger Andrews for keeping the blog running and everything under control in my absence. I will have a big post on Earth’s wandering magnetic field in the next day or two, but before that I wanted to share some experiences from last week that I spent in Bavaria, southern Germany.

It has been about 25 years since I last travelled through rural Germany. With the Energiewende I was expecting to find a rural landscape desolated by wind mills and solar farms. Quite the opposite! We drove about 1000 kms through southern Bavaria and the Bavarian Alps and in that time we saw only 1 wind turbine, and that was just outside off Munich airport. I am aware that further north there are forests of wind turbines, but the Bavarians have by and large protected their beautiful rural landscape from the ravages of the Energiewende. There is a lesson for Alex Salmond to learn here.

The Bavarian Alps. No wind turbines here!

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Large scale grid integration of solar power – many problems, few solutions

by Roger Andrews

On Sunday, July 7th, 2013, a day of unbroken sunshine and low demand, solar PV generated approximately 200 GWh of power, over 20% of Germany’s total electricity production for the day. (I’m indebted to CleanTechnica for the bar graphs):

And because peak sunshine and peak demand are more or less coincident on summer Sundays in Germany there was no serious problem admitting all of this solar electricity to the grid:

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Blowout week 32

by Roger Andrews

Business Week: Ukraine threatens oil and gas cutoff

Ukraine threatened to block Russian oil and gas supplies to Europe in new sanctions against Vladimir Putin’s government. Ukraine, which no longer receives any gas from Russia but acts as a conduit for its neighbor’s European customers, is considering a “complete or partial ban on the transit of all resources” across its territory, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told reporters today in Kiev.

Twenty-plus more stories below the fold:
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Three Nails in the Coffin of Peak Oil

This post was first published on The Oil Drum one year ago.

This post is based on a talk I gave as an “undistinguished speaker” to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) oil finders lunch in Aberdeen a few weeks ago. This will be one of my last posts on The Oil Drum. There should be enough controversy below the fold to keep a hoard of Oil Drummers satiated for weeks;-)
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Are we running out of oil, gas and coal?

by Roger Andrews

In March 1956 M. King Hubbert delivered the landmark paper in which he predicted that US oil production would peak around 1970 and then begin to decline. No one took much notice. It was, after all, difficult to see it happening:

Figure 1: US Oil Production 1920-1956 (EIA data)

But happen it did:
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Blowout week 31

By Roger Andrews:

A non-bumper Blowout Week during Euan’s absence. Twenty or so more stories below the fold:

Energy Live News:  Ferrybridge fire cuts UK backup capacity

In a sign of how serious the damage may be, the energy company doesn’t expect unit 4 (500Mw) to return to service this financial year, suggesting it will need months of repair work. Unit 3 (also 500MW) could be back at work before 1 November. SSE said it will investigate the full extent of damage in due course.

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Is “ocean acidification” a threat?

By Roger Andrews

One of the many potential threats posed by rising CO2 and climate change is “ocean acidification”, a term I put in quotes because with a pH around 8.1 the ocean is still a very long way from becoming acidic. I’ve chosen it as the topic for this post for three reasons: first because the basics can be handled briefly, second because some comments on recent threads have expressed concern about it, and third because the way the data are usually presented gives an exaggerated idea of the rate at which the oceans are being “acidified”. Here’s an example:

We see CO2 in the atmosphere rising at a rapid clip, we see CO2 in seawater rising with it and we see ocean pH decreasing at what appears to be about the same rate.
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How to cut emissions, and how not to

Guest post: Roger Andrews

The world’s efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions began with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, were formalized in the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and have since mutated into the hundreds of “XX percent of renewables by 20YY” targets adopted by groups of countries, individual countries and regional jurisdictions. They have spawned, among other things, innumerable bureaucracies, countless climate conferences, forests of wind turbines, patchwork quilts of solar panels and a billion-dollar-a-day climate change industry.

And they haven’t worked worth a damn.

Figure 1: Global CO2 Emissions and Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations, 1965-2013

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Blowout week 30

I am on holiday for two weeks. And so expect fewer posts. Roger Andrews has the keys to the site and will be keeping an eye on things and maybe even posting a couple of posts.

35 stories this week below the fold.

BBC: The EU’s nuclear links with Russia

Following the loss of the Malaysian airliner last week, European leaders are once again wrestling with the question of how to respond to Russia over its role in the Ukraine crisis.

They are reluctant to get tough, much more so than the United States.

The EU could easily end up doing itself a lot of economic harm, most obviously if Russia were to respond by turning down the gas.

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Scotch on the ROCs

“The Scottish Government’s targets are for renewable sources to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption by 2020.” What will the consequences be for the Scottish People?

This post models Scottish electricity production and consumption in 2020 and compares this with 2012. It is assumed that Scotland’s two nuclear power stations remain operational in 2020. The reader is asked to always recall that the numbers are based on models and the conclusions therefore carry uncertainty. The consequences of this energy policy may be:

  • A large electricity surplus of about 15 TWh may be produced in 2020, worth about £2.5 billion at 17p / KWh.
  • There are currently many ideas but no certainty about where this surplus might go. It seems possible that a large part may simply be wasted.
  • Assuming that marine renewables remain negligible and hydro output remains unchanged in 2020 then the bulk of the expansion in renewables to meet the target will most likely be met by wind that will require a 5 fold increase relative to 2012.
  • In an independent Scotland the subsidy payments currently made to renewables companies by 63 million UK citizens would fall pro rata on the shoulders of 5.3 million Scottish citizens. This, combined with the 5 fold increase in wind capacity may mean a 25 fold increase in the level of renewable subsidy born by Scottish electricity consumers. Electricity bills may double.

In summary, the Scottish Government energy plan may result in a large electricity surplus that at present has nowhere to go, the number of wind turbines may increase 5 fold and electricity bills may double.

Figure 1 Scottish renewable electricity growth according to Scottish Government data [1]. It has proven difficult to reconcile exactly the Scottish Government data with DECC data and BM reports / Gridwatch. Electricity produced from landfill gas and biofuels are not included in the models presented here. It is clear that the vast majority of the growth in recent years has come form wind. Hydro periodically suffers from low rainfall. Continue reading

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Energy and Mankind part 3

If you look back at the history of Energy and Mankind,  in 1950, nuclear power was the energy source of the future. The only power source that could not just rival FF but was superior to it. The future has not yet arrived and we need to hope that it has not been cancelled altogether.

My essay on Energy and Mankind grew to over 5000 words. In this the third and final part I look into:

  • The concept of energy slaves
  • Past energy transitions
  • No such thing as a free lunch in the energy world

Part 1 of the essay is here.
Part 2 of the essay is here.

Energy Slaves

Early in the development of human society, Man discovered that if “he” could harness the work of others “he” could live in greater comfort than living by the sweat of his own brow. Slavery has been an endemic part of human society for thousands of years, as rife today as at any time in the past. The trouble with slaves is they need to be fed and cared for and over the centuries Man subsequently learned to use draft animals to work fields, to haul timber or carriages and to use early machines to harness the natural energy flows of wind and water. A man with a horse and plough could, theoretically, do the work of 21 men (Figure 8) and this laid the foundation of harnessing energy to create a food surplus in society. It was no longer necessary for everyone to work at tending fields or gathering fire wood creating time for individuals to engage in other activities: the soldier, the merchant, the teacher  the scholar and so forth. Throughout the second millenium AD wood still provided most of the energy used by Man for heat and for cooking and material for construction of buildings and ships (Figure 9). But trouble was brewing. Mankind’s success and mastery over his environment was leading to ever-greater numbers of Men (and women) putting pressure on the supplies of trees upon which prosperity was based. Continue reading

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