Monthly Archives: May 2016

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. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change | Tagged , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Blowout Week 126

This weeks’ stories include Brexit and investment in renewables, oil discoveries at their lowest level since 1952, Saudi strategy paying off, nuclear in Egypt and South Africa, coal in Japan, Nigeria on the brink of collapse, nuclear workers strike in France, oil breaks $50/bbl, yet another setback for Hinkley Point, the EC to lend Spain 2.13 billion to shut down coal plants, the EIB forks out 525 million for the Beatrice wind farm, energy independence for Israel, G7 nations to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025, Australia opts out of latest UN climate change report, goodbye El Niño and hello La Niña, the CERN cloud experiment casts doubt on global warming predictions, the “internet of things” and how climate change is poisoning our food. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 50 Comments

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. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , | 213 Comments

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. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , | 59 Comments

Blowout week 125

Fire at Ivanpah Concentrated Solar Plant in California, Trump to renegotiate Paris climate deal if elected, Portugal runs on renewables for 4 days, the Saudi bond issue, Anglesey nuclear plant moves ahead, EU plan causes nuclear uproar in Germany, Japan lagging in divesting coal, South Australia running on renewables, Tory MPs favor Swansea Bay tidal, Nigerian militants control the global oil market, a cabinet shuffle in Scotland, Portland, Oregon bans “climate change denial” books in schools, possible blackouts in Southern California, Google’s human flypaper and Pakistan digs mass graves for anticipated future climate change victims. Continue reading

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The Energy Return of Solar PV – a response from Ferroni and Hopkirk

Last week’s post on The Energy return of Solar PV caused quite a stir. Yesterday I received a response to some of the comments from Ferroccio Ferroni and Robert Hopkirk answering some of the queries raised by readers. There response is given below the fold. But first I have a few comments to add.

Let’s kick off with the unshakeable enthusiasm for renewables of every flavour from the Scottish National Party. Member of the Scottish Parliament Callum McCaig:

I think Scotland is very much leading the way…. Continue reading

Posted in Energy, Political commentary | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments

El Hierro – a change in operating procedures

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 and to demonstrate that hybrid wind/pumped hydro systems can be used to generate 100% renewable electricity in other parts of the world. This short post documents a change in operating procedures at Gorona del Viento (GdV) that occurred shortly after 7am on May 16th (yesterday as I write). Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 42 Comments

Commercial Measures to Reduce the Cost of Wind Integration in the Island of Ireland

Guest post by Riccardo Carollo of Incoteco ApS

This report provides a comprehensive description of the Irish electricity generating system and how it is evolving to cope with ever higher levels of intermittent wind power. Of particular interest, the report contains information on actual generation for specific power stations and shows how their use has declined between 2010 and 2015. The report also describes commercial / technical solutions to efficiently deal with the load balancing issue. Neither I nor Energy Matters have any commercial relationship with the companies involved: Incoteco ApS, Rolls Royce plc or Ormat inc. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , | 72 Comments

Blowout Week 124

This week’s Blowout features one of the storage options for intermittent renewable energy – the electric vehicle that discharges back into the grid. Nissan and Enel are about to launch a 100-vehicle pilot project that will charge from and discharge … Continue reading

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The World’s First “Climate Refugees”

As one of the lucky winners of the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s $1 billion National Disaster Resilience Competition, some 60 Native American residents of the Isle de Jean Charles in the Mississippi Delta will shortly be relocated to a place safe from the relentless sea level rise that has supposedly destroyed most of their island. This will make the island’s residents the US’s – and arguably the world’s – first certified, card-carrying climate change refugees. This post addresses the questions of a) whether they really are victims of climate change and b) whether we might now see a rapid increase in their numbers. The conclusions are a) no they aren’t and b) no we won’t – moving people is far too expensive. Continue reading

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Periodicities in solar variability and climate change: A simple model

The Sun is a variable star and periodically changes its activity levels producing variations in radiation emission, magnetic field intensity, magnetic polarity, particle emissions, and surface convection. These changes affect the Earth in several ways that manifest through auroras, magnetic storms, changes in galactic (GCR) and solar cosmic rays, and a generally agreed small climate effect. Solar variability is included in some coupled general circulation climate models. Continue reading

Posted in Climate change | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

The Energy Return of Solar PV

A new study by Ferroni and Hopkirk [1] estimates the ERoEI of temperate latitude solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to be 0.83. If correct, that means more energy is used to make the PV panels than will ever be recovered from them during their 25 year lifetime. A PV panel will produce more CO2 than if coal were simply used directly to make electricity. Worse than that, all the CO2 from PV production is in the atmosphere today, while burning coal to make electricity, the emissions would be spread over the 25 year period. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 302 Comments

Blowout Week 123

A few careless campers who forgot to extinguish their campfire, or maybe a few kids playing with matches, or a cigarette, or an arsonist, a piece of glass, whatever, have in the last few days done more to bring the global oil market back into balance than OPEC and the rest of the world’s producers put together. Continue reading

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Oil Production Vital Statistics April 2016

Most regions experienced production losses in March with the exceptions of Iran (+80,000 bpd) and Europe (+90,000 bpd compared with a year ago). Total liquids were down -260,000 bpd for a loss of -990,000 bpd since the peak last July. The oil price rally has continued with WTI on $44 as I write. While many signs point to the worst of the rout being over it remains premature to declare that it is over.

Drilling continues to decline across the board with US oil+gas rigs = 420, this is the lowest level of US drilling for over 20 years. Two strongly opposing forces control the near and medium term destiny of the oil market. The collapse in drilling must surely lead to an acceleration of production decline near term. Offset by the ever present risk of shale drillers returning to action on the back of a continued price rally. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , | 32 Comments

The Tasmanian “energy crisis”

In August 2012 Australia imposed a carbon tax on fossil fuel generation, and almost immediately Hydro Tasmania took advantage by shipping large quantities of cheap hydropower to the mainland via the 500MW “Basslink” interconnector (image). But the shipments combined with a lack of rainfall in 2015 depleted the volume of water stored behind Tasmania’s dams – and then the Basslink interconnector failed. As a result Tasmania has now had to purchase diesel generators and reactivate its only gas-fired plant to avoid potential power shortages. Tasmania’s case is a classic example of how misguided government attempts to decarbonize electricity generation can seriously distort an electricity market. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , , | 101 Comments

El Hierro, March/April 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 and to demonstrate that hybrid wind/pumped hydro systems can be used to generate 100% renewable electricity in other parts of the world. GdV comprises a wind park with 11.5 MW capacity and a pumped hydro storage plant with 11.3MW capacity, installed at a total cost of €84 million. This is the fifth in a series of operational updates that began in September last year. 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. Continue reading

Posted in Energy | Tagged , , , , | 25 Comments

Blowout Week 122

In Blowout this week: oil companies getting back in the black, China to fund Yamal, France to issue “green bonds”, Colombian imports cut Australian coal prices, Venezuela’s energy crisis gets worse, biodiesel increases EU emissions, storage batteries in Germany, solar in Ireland, the US solar scandal, UK solar firms face insolvency, Sturgeon says “yes” to fossil fuels, tide power off the Isle of Wight, red meat in Denmark, insects in Sweden, a weasel shuts down the Hadron Collider and a green energy expert who consorts with extraterrestrials. Continue reading

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