Author Archives: Roger Andrews

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

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. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Blowout week 164

In this week’s blowout, Scott Pruit to lead the EPA, Tony Blairs intervention strengths the Nationalists hand, OPEC preparing to cut more, shale drillers on a roll, conventional oil discoveries dry up, coal power closure in the USA, Ukraine short of coal, Drax underperforms, China to cut coal production, Toshiba’s nuclear woes, Oroville Dam damaged by floods, hydro power more dangerous than gas, Belgium buys electric busses, BBC to track carbon instead of making decent programs, New Zealand bucks the global warming trend, Winter cold a hazard for Europeans. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Blowout Week 163

This week: Australian blackouts; NOAA plays fast and loose with temperature data; a US carbon tax? OPEC’s production cuts; Horse Hill resource upgraded; North Sea on road to recovery; Vattenfall loses money on nuclear; fire at Flamanville; Nord Stream 2 and Europe’s energy security; do we need Yucca Mountain? radiation from power plants; Bangladesh bets on coal; wind power growth in Europe; the UK capacity auction; Brexit to hold up Anglesey nuclear plant, Russian nuclear in Hungary; Google and renewables; UK solar industry takes dim view of energy storage; climate change to overload US grid; distressed US climate scientists welcome in France and Lord’s cricket ground goes renewable. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Blowout Week 162

We kick off with the exaggerated reporting of blackout risks in the UK and follow up with: Trump gets busy rolling back US oil & gas regulations; world oil and coal demand to peak by 2020; new UK guidelines on North Sea oil, the high cost of “new generation” nuclear plants; Toshiba to pull out of Moorside, Dong & Deutsche Bank to pull out of coal; Japan to build 45 new coal plants; China launches green certificates, Brexit’s impact on Irish gas prices, UK asked to cut biomass subsidies, Npower’s “shocking” price hikes, European solar demand falls; energy storage in California, Australia and Somerset; the world’s largest offshore wind turbine; a wind turbine that flaps like a hummingbird; Google’s 100% renewable energy claim a “gimmick” and a slight increase in global lower troposphere temperatures in January. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Blowout Week 161

We lead with UK Government moves to reduce or remove renewable subsidies and follow with Scotland still pushing renewables, Brexit to delay Hinkley Point, and the Northern Ireland biomass subsidy fiasco. Then on to the rest of the world – Europe losing its status as a world renewable energy leader, EDF to be compensated for Fessenheim shutdown, Gazprom continues to make European inroads, the precipitous drop in oil & gas discoveries, OPEC’s production cuts aren’t working – or are they? Trump revives the Keystone Pipeline, sets out contradictory coal and gas policies and scares scientists, Rio Tinto sells Australian coal assets, Shell sell North Sea O&G assets, China and Saudi Arabia to build a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor, 100% renewables in Massachusetts, Hawaii and Costa Rica, all trains in the Netherlands are now wind-powered and the latest solution to climate change – floating cities. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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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. We continue with, oil production up in Libya and down in China, UK “last hope” for fracking in Europe, nuclear shutdown in New York, California nuclear shutdowns frustrate renewable energy goals, Russia lends $11 billion to Bangladesh to build nuclear plant, Ontario’s failed coal closure initiative, Wyoming to ban utility-scale renewables, Saudi Arabia to become a renewable energy powerhouse, 790GW of untapped wind & solar in SE Europe, Germany can’t admit Energiewende blunder, Scotland targets 66% emissions cut in 15 years, Ikea refuses to invest in more renewables in UK, UK wave power “far too costly”, energy bills and the plight of UK pensioners, too much sun in Yorkshire, the Paris Agreement to cost $100 trillion and reduce warming by only 0.3C and a hydrogen-powered boat plans to circumnavigate the globe. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

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Blowout Week 159

This week’s lead story features Germany’ faltering Energiewende. We continue with OPEC, Iran, Venezuela, more US oil & gas jobs, Rex Tillerson on Paris and subsidies, Norway to increase oil production, Bradwell approval process begins, clean coal in the US, wind in Austria, hydrogen in Australia, nuclear waste in Spain, Fluor’s small nuclear reactor, EC approves Areva restructuring, UAE to go big on renewables, clean energy funding decreases in 2016, Chernobyl goes solar, solar-powered trains in UK, Swansea Bay tidal recommended for go-ahead, National Grid escapes a breakup and what happens when you crash an F-4 Phantom jet into a reinforced concrete wall. Continue reading

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Can Hawaii go 100% Renewable?

Hawaii’s Renewables Portfolio Standard commits it to obtaining 100% of its energy from renewables by 2045, and Hawaii proposes to do this by wholesale replacement of fossil fuel generation with solar. This approach is theoretically possible, but only if there is enough energy storage (approximately 10GWh) to match day-night solar fluctuations of over 3GW to a substantially flat ~800MW load curve and if grid stability can be mantained with dominant solar generation. The Renewables Portfolio Standard also covers only electricity generation, which presently supplies only about a third of Hawaii’s energy needs, so even if it’s met Hawaii will still fall well short of its 100% renewable energy target. Continue reading

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Blowout Week 158

The signatories to the the Paris Climate Agreement, who include just about every country in the world, agree that the world must cut its fossil fuel emissions drastically if global climate catastrophe is to be avoided. Yet according to Exxon’s just-released Energy Outlook (the IEA and EIA outlooks are similar) the world will be burning more fossil fuels in 2040 than it is now. Does this mean that the world is doomed? Or is somebody missing something?

We continue with stories on the fallout from OPEC’s production cut, followed by nuclear in the US, France, Sweden and China, coal in China and Australia, renewables in China, Europe, and Germany, recent events in UK, roads that recharge EVs in Israel, 2016 ties 1998 for the warmest year on record in the lower troposphere and India solves the carbon capture and storage problem.
Continue reading

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El Hierro end 2016 performance update

Because of generally low wind strengths the Gorona del Viento (GdV) plant achieved only 28.2% renewables generation in November and December 2016. Percent total renewables generation since full operations began in June 2015 stands at 37.7% at the end of 2016, down slightly from 38.7% at the end of October 2016. Renewables generation for the calendar year 2016 was 41.1%. Minor improvements are apparently being made in wind turbine performance but hydro generation remains negligible overall. Data on GdV plant layout, operation and capacities are given in the September 2015 review. Previous posts on GdV are accessible through the El Hierro portal. Continue reading

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Blowout Week 157 – New Year’s Edition

We kick of this week with a look at EU gas imports from Russia. And then follow with Russians hack into a Vermont utility; Toshiba’s nuclear business in trouble; nuclear power in Iran, Switzerland and South Africa; uranium in the US and Spain; Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage; coal in China and India; the Energiewende and the “Trump Effect”; Hawaii accelerates drive for 100% renewables; renewables records fall in Europe; Drax secures its future; post-Brexit investment surge in UK; Scotland’s renewable targets; electric vehicle costs; Swansea Bay tidal project adrift; climate change and Arctic warmth; more blackouts in South Australia and climate skeptics hoping to come in from the cold. Continue reading

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Latest El Hierro reservoir images

Rainer Strassburger is back on El Hierro and has downloaded more Gorona del Viento reservoir images on his Cloud site, which is now accessible via the El Hierro portal . Here we take a quick pictorial look at what has changed since he took his last photographs in April. The main changes are a) two flexible pipelines are now delivering water to the Upper Reservoir from the island pipeline network and b) three long graduated poles presumably intended to measure water levels have been installed in the Upper Reservoir, suggesting that GdV may finally be planning to fill it. Otherwise GdV has continued to work with the ~100,000 cu m of water that the reservoirs contained in April. Continue reading

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Blowout Week 156 – Christmas Eve

This week it’s back to OPEC, which recently agreed to cut its output by 1.2 million bpd in an attempt to increase oil prices supplemented by an additional 0.5 million bpd from Russia + other non-OPEC producers. What does this portend for the oil market? Industry opinion is unanimous. No one knows: Continue reading

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The Bingham Canyon pumped hydro project – by far the world’s largest, but still much too small.

Some of the larger-scale options (pumped hydro, CAES, FLES etc.) presently being considered for storing intermittent renewable energy rely on the existence of holes in the ground, often man-made ones, to make them work. In this post I take as a hypothetical example the world’s biggest man-made hole (the Bingham Canyon Copper Mine, Utah, shown as viewed from space in the inset) and fill it with water from the Great Salt Lake 25km to the north to get an idea of how much untapped hydro storage potential Bingham and other holes like it might offer. I find that Bingham has the potential to store about 3TWh, which would make it by far the largest pumped hydro facility in the world. 3TWh of storage, however, is nowhere near enough to support an all-renewables world, and there just aren’t that many more big man-made holes like Bingham around. Continue reading

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