Monthly Archives: March 2016

Estimating life-time costs for Renewable Energy in Europe

To compare the cost of new renewables (wind and solar PV) with other forms of generation the costs need to be adjusted for capacity factor, length of plant life and running costs. For example, nuclear may run for 60 years with a capacity over 80% while solar PV may last 20 years and have capacity of 10%. Making these adjustments suggests that onshore wind may cost 10 times as much as a gas fired plant while offshore wind and solar PV are 40 times more expensive than gas. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , | 108 Comments

One Step Closer to Blackouts

On Thursday 24th March, Longannet Power Station in Scotland closed down. This post examines the policy and politics that led to this event and goes on to consider the social and economic consequences of a nation-wide blackout that power engineers now believe is far more likely than before. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , | 107 Comments

Blowout Week 117

UK coal plant shutdowns, energy price volatility, the bloated US natural gas supply, the OPEC Doha meeting, Brexit backers and Gazprom calumniate Amber Rudd, IS terrorists threaten Belgian nuclear plants, Peabody Coal claims reports of its death are exaggerated, Tesla’s Powerwall battery wins award, EU renewables investment on the skids, Switzerland’s utilities now feeling the pain of low wholesale prices….. Continue reading

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El Hierro – and the water goes round and round ……

Roger Andrews tries to make sense of the pumped hydro component of the 100% renewable plant operated by GdV on El Hierro, Spain. His conclusion is that the upper reservoir has fallen out of use, evidently confirmed by photographs from Rainer, our man on El Hierro. It appears that surplus wind energy is simply used to pump water up the hill and to then let it run down again. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 102 Comments

How oil price volatility explains these uncertain times

The numbers say that these should be the best of times for America. The economy has been growing for five years. Unemployment is low. Inflation is almost nonexistent and gas is cheap. Yet, many Americans feel deeply uneasy about their future prospects. Uncertainty is the catchword of the moment. This uncertainty is contributing to growing pessimism and anger – discontent that is no doubt a factor in the unsettled state of the 2016 Presidential race. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 38 Comments

The looming Nordic energy crisis

Nuclear power in Sweden has become uneconomical. Wholesale prices of electricity in Sweden have been much lower than the breakeven price for nuclear generation. Electricity has been sold at a record low price of €20 per megawatt hour (MWh), while the cost of generating nuclear power has been in the same ballpark, or even slightly higher. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , | 86 Comments

Blowout Week 116

This week: the UK aims for a zero carbon economy, Hinkley point still on the drawing board, oil producers to meet, German utilities in trouble, Peabody in trouble, Russia plans Mars attack, Amber Rudd on a Green NGO called DECC, Venezuela on the brink, and UK’s £11 billion smart meter fiasco. Continue reading

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Can Geology Tell Us What is Warming the Climate?

On Monday this week, and rather late in the day, Dr Colin Summerhayes from the Scott Polar Institute, Cambridge University, left this lengthy comment at the end of the thread on Prof. Richard Lindzen’s post called Global Warming and the Irrelevance of Science. I wanted to respond to some of the points raised…. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change | Tagged , , , | 219 Comments

Is Global Warming Quickening?

On Monday 14th March, Channel 4 News (UK terrestrial news channel) carried a report on catastrophic February warming and involved two distinguished UK climate scientists. What was said was so far away from the physical reality that I experience here on Earth that I was left wondering if they were talking about the same planet. So I have done a little digging. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 56 Comments

How to make El Hierro 100% renewable

Euan suggested that I explore other renewable options for El Hierro to see how they compare with the wind, pumped hydro and diesel option of the existing Gorona del Viento (GdV) complex that cost an estimated €82 million to install. GdV has so far delivered 32% renewables, well short of the 100% that is widely publicised. It is found that a solar photo voltaic (PV) + diurnal storage system could deliver close to 100% but with a price tag of €150 to 200 million. Concentrated solar power (CSP) switches off completely when it is cloudy and is not viable without 100% backup. El Hierro is an active volcanic island sitting on top of a magma (molten rock) chamber. Geothermal could most likely provide a reliable 365day/24hour electricity supply without storage for a fraction of the wind or solar costs, but appears to have never been explored. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 68 Comments

Blowout Week 115

There seems to be a growing consensus that the oil price slump is finally nearing an end. Plus Obama’s plan to cut methane omissions, lawsuits threaten Japan’s nuclear revival, South Africa wants nuclear plant bids, France to close Fessenheim, Indonesia running out of coal, Hinkley finance chief quits, Britain’s “smart energy revolution”, the UK, Ireland and France still lagging on EU renewable targets, the Big Six losing even more money, tidal power from the Shetlands, US considers prosecuting “climate deniers” and the perilous state of the Mosul dam. Continue reading

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The Changing Face of UK Power Supply

UK Grid Graphed provides a graphic summary of daily, monthly and annual UK electricity generation from 2012 to 2015 based on BM Reports as archived by Gridwatch. This post provides an overview of the UK Grid Graphed resource and the key observations to be made from the data. In summary, coal generation is in steep decline to be substituted by rising wind, solar, biomass and exports. Demand for electricity is also falling and government should be concerned about the extent that this is caused by rising electricity prices and policy. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Nuclear capital costs, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl

Lovering, Yip and Nordhaus (Science Direct April 2016) reviewed construction cost data for 349 reactors in the US, France, Canada, West Germany, Japan, India, and South Korea, encompassing 58% of all reactors built globally, and concluded that there is no inherent cost escalation trend associated with nuclear technology. There is however a vast variation in construction costs from one country to another. Some countries like the USA, Canada, Japan and W Germany responded to the Three Mile Island accident by imposing regulations that pushed construction costs through the roof while France, S Korea and India did not. S Korea and India are still able to deliver nuclear power stations for $2 billion / GW ($2010) installed capacity which remains a small fraction of the capital cost of solar PV. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , | 179 Comments

Scotland-England Electricity Transfers

Leo Smith from Gridwatch has been monitoring the electricity transfers between Scotland and England since 30 December 2015. This post presents a first look at these data.

1) The transfers are almost exclusively Scotland to England 2) The transfer peaks define a plateau of 3.5 GW that defines the inter connection capacity 3) The pattern of transfers follows wind supply quite closely. An argument can be made that all of Scotland’s wind power is currently exported. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Blowout week 114

This week: Ocean acidification, OPEC and oil, the Exxon case is referred to the FBI, Congress ups the pressure on NOAA, Germany demands that France shut down Fessenheim, the oil slump undermines the EU’s green agenda, wind power restrictions in Poland, the UK’s first unsubsidized wind farm, UEA abandons its biomass project without telling anyone, Labour wants a Hinkley “Plan B”, the smart energy revolution to save UK consumers £8 billion a year… Continue reading

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El Hierro, January/February 2016 update:

The Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant on the Canary Island of El Hierro is a flagship project designed ultimately to provide the island with 100% renewable electricity. The low-wind conditions that dominated during the last four months of 2015 continued into January 2016, leading to only 22% renewables generation in that month. Much of February, however, was characterized by strong winds, and combined with the 100% renewables tests that were performed this resulted in renewable energy supplying 54% of El Hierro’s grid demand in that month, exceeding the 52% achieved in June/July 2015. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 111 Comments