Monthly Archives: April 2016

David MacKay: the final cut

Sir David MacKay, author of Sustainable Energy – without the hot air died of cancer on 14th April 2016. Mark Lynas interviewed Sir David on April 3rd and has provided a very fitting tribute. The video, is twenty-three minutes long and there is a lot to like. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , | 23 Comments

Decarbonising UK Power Generation – The Nuclear Option

How to decarbonise UK Power generation is a topic of heated debate, with renewables enthusiasts often keen to argue that there are a range of obstacles to the use of nuclear generation to meet more than a small proportion of total demand. Reasons cited are availability of space/sites, grid integration and the challenges of meeting variable demand. So, is an all-nuclear UK grid (with the small sleight of hand of pumped storage hydro in support) potentially viable? Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 67 Comments

Can OPEC “freeze” production, or is it already frozen?

Between June and December 2014 the price of OPEC’s oil “market basket” fell from over $100/bbl to less than $50/bbl, causing considerable hardship to the OPEC countries who rely on oil exports to finance their national budgets – which is all twelve of them. Under these circumstances the logical reaction for a cash-strapped, oil-rich country would be to pump more oil to increase revenues , yet only two – Saudi Arabia and Iraq – actually did so. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

EU and BP Renewable Electricity Accounting Methodologies

Every EU country has a renewable energy target to be met by 2020 where the target is set as a percentage of total energy consumption. Since most countries are using combinations of hydro, solar and wind electricity (primary electricity) to achieve their targets, one needs a way of comparing primary electricity with energy from coal, oil and gas etc. The standard way adopted by the EU and by BP is to convert all forms of energy to tonnes of oil equivalent (toe). If coal, oil or gas is used to make electricity then there are large thermal losses doing so. BP correctly account for this by grossing up renewable electricity by a factor of 100/38 to account for “thermal gain” when converting from primary electricity to a fossil fuel equivalent. The EU do not appear to do this, thus all of EU renewable electricity statistics appear to be wrong. This is no trivial matter given the many billions being spent by countries trying to achieve their targets. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 53 Comments

Blowout Week 121

This week more on OPEC and oil, Russia and Norway struggle to preserve gas market share, China’s floating nuclear plants, Poland’s new wind law, Germany tells Begium to shut down nuclear plants, electronics from coal, there is no Obama “war on coal”, 100% renewables for Australia and for Europe too via the MENA supergrid, SNP wants 50% renewables by 2020, UK shale oil ready to boom, Hinkley delayed yet again, objections to Drax subsidies, the Times says the wrong things about climate change and Subsidy Sam – the answer to Tommy Turbine. Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Net metering and the death of US rooftop solar

“Net metering” allows anyone with a solar installation to sell surplus solar power to the grid when the sun is shining and to purchase power back from the grid when it isn’t. Net metering has been described as the lifeblood of solar in America, and it’s probably true to state that without it there would be few, if any domestic rooftop solar installations anywhere in the country. However, the program is now coming under attack, with Hawaii and Nevada recently rolling back net metering benefits and with a number of other states also considering changes. What happens if enough states impose similar rollbacks, or maybe do away with net metering altogether? This post reviews this question and concludes that domestic solar in the US will slowly wither and die. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , | 69 Comments

More revelations on Venezuela’s “drought” and the Guri Dam

Just when I thought my recent post on the Venezuela drought was dead and buried a comment appeared. It was posted by Miguel Octavio, a physicist by training who lives in Miami but who visits Venezuela frequently, and it linked to a follow-up post on Miguel’s blog that contained a lot of local rainfall and stream flow data that weren’t available to me but which prove beyond any doubt that there is no drought at or around the El Guri dam. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 40 Comments

EU 2020 Renewable Energy Targets: Part I

The progress being made in attaining the 2020 renewable energy (RE) targets is reviewed for 10 EU countries and for the EU as a whole using BP 2015 data. There are two main targets to be met 1) 20% of all primary energy from RE sources and 2) 10% of transport fuel from RE sources. The EU as a whole is projected to narrowly miss the 20% RE target by about 1%. The transport fuel target is less easy to estimate but will likely by missed by a substantial margin. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 37 Comments

Blowout Week 120

To provide a little light relief from weightier issues this week’s Blowout features the extraordinary capacity of the human mind to invent new ways of generating low-carbon energy. We already generate biogas from rotting garbage, waste food, vegetable oils and animal manure, and now we generate it from – cheese: Continue reading

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CO2 Emissions Variations in CCGTs Used to Balance Wind in Ireland

The island of Ireland functions as a single electricity grid linked to the British mainland by two interconnectors with a combined capacity of 1 GW. The Republic of Ireland in the south has set a goal to have 40% of electricity generated from renewables, mainly onshore wind, by 2020. Variable intermittency will be balanced using frame type combined cycle gas turbines (CCGTs). As the level of wind penetration grows the CCGTs need to work harder ramping up and down to compensate for variable wind. This causes increased wear and tear on the CCGT plant and also significantly reduces the energy efficiency of the CCGTs raising their specific CO2 production. During 2014 and 2015, average wind penetration was 22%, the CCGTs produced 575 Kg of CO2 per MWh and the average fuel efficiency was 32% compared with a design specification of 55%. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 106 Comments

Drought, El Niño, Blackouts and Venezuela

It’s fashionable these days to blame everything that goes wrong with anything on human interference with the climate, and we had yet another example last week when President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela fingered drought, El Niño and global warming as the reasons Venezuela’s lights keep going out. In this post I show that his Excellency has not a leg to stand on when he makes these claims, but that because no one ever looks at the data everyone believes him. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change, Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments

Bond Cycles and the Role of The Sun in Shaping Climate

Bond cycles are defined by petrological tracers from core samples in the N Atlantic that link to the pattern of drift ice distribution. They provide a record of shifting ocean currents and winds, in particular periodic weakening of the North Atlantic current and strengthening of the Labrador current. These cycles shape what we perceive as climate change in the circum North Atlantic realm, for example the Little Ice Age and Medieval Warm Period. These cycles MAY NOT leave a significant mark on global average temperatures since cooling one place may be compensated by warming elsewhere. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 114 Comments

Blowout Week 119

The Obama Administration is becoming progressively more strident in its attempts to bring home the perils of climate change to a largely disinterested public. Last week it published the results of a 300-page multi-year study involving “scores of researchers and the work of eight federal agencies”. The study’s conclusion was that climate change could kill tens of thousands of Americans each year by the end of the century. Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Is large-scale energy storage dead?

Many countries have committed to filling large percentages of their future electricity demand with intermittent renewable energy, and to do so they will need long-term energy storage in the terawatt-hours range. But the modules they are now installing store only megawatt-hours of energy. Why are they doing this? This post concludes that they are either conveniently ignoring the long-term energy storage problem or are unaware of its magnitude and the near-impossibility of solving it. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , | 124 Comments

Is ARES the solution to the energy storage problem?

Every so often an item appears in Blowout Week that’s worthy of further discussion, and Blowout Week 118 features one. It’s the article on ARES – Advanced Rail Energy Storage – a simple combination of three proven technologies – railroads, potential energy release and regenerative braking – which reportedly has a number of advantages over its numerous competitors: Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 53 Comments

Oil Production Vital Statistics March 2016

Since the possible double bottom at $26 formed on February 11th the oil price has staged a rally to $40 (WTI). Traders lucky enough to buy at $26 and sell at $40 have pocketed a tidy 54% profit. Very few will have been this lucky. The trade was stimulated by news that Saudi Arabia and Russia had agreed to not increase production this year which is hollow news since neither country could significantly increase production no matter how hard they tried. Profit taking has now driven WTI back towards $37 as of 1 April. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 19 Comments

Blowout Week 118

This week we focus on solar power in the United States. A report by the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory has concluded that the country can fill 39% of its electricity needs with rooftop solar PV alone. And that doesn’t include the “immense potential” of ground-mounted PV units. Is an all-solar America on the horizon? Continue reading

Posted in Blowout | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

A preliminary reservoir balance calculation for El Hierro.

Roger Andrews and the El Hierro team continue their detective work trying to work out what is going on at the Gorona del Viento 100% renewables project on El Hierro, Canary Islands. Published results show the scheme is significantly under performing. This post analyses photographs of water level in the upper and lower reservoirs, taken by Rainer, our man on El Hierro. The conclusion points to the reservoirs containing 15 to 20% of the water they were designed to hold. It appears something is wrong. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 129 Comments

EU to Introduce Two New Time Zones

Earlier today Mr Donald Trunk, EU Commissioner for Social Adjustments, launched an initiative that will see two new time zones introduced before the end of 2017. Mr Trunk explained that spreading electricity demand more evenly across the continent will help integrate the new electricity market and reduce peak demand. What better way to achieve integration than to divide the continent into 5 time zones? Continue reading

Posted in Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments