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 back into the UK grid. It will be interesting to see how it works out.
The first vehicle-to-grid (V2G) trials are set to take place in the UK that will see energy stored in the batteries of electric cars being ceded back to the National Grid. The V2G trial is being led by Nissan and energy company Enel and will see 100 electric cars installed with the technology being connected to the grid.
The automaker said that once V2G is scaled up, owners of its electric vehicles could be-come a key part of the UK’s electricity network. It is hoped the V2G system will turn EVs into clean mobile energy units that could store unused power from renewables that can be sent back to the grid to power homes and offices. Renewable energy generation from wind and solar is currently hampered by the difficulty in storing and releasing it to provide a steady electricity supply. “Smart energy management is one of the biggest challenges any nation faces for the future, which is why this trial is so critical in assessing the feasibility of using variable, more flexible energy sources,” said Paul Willcox, chairman of Nissan Europe.
To follow up we have stories on the recent UK power crunch, China and Russia want a slice of Hinkley Point, Danish wind turbine workers sickened by chemicals, France’s 1000km solar road, Tasmania turns off backup diesel generators, solar set to take off in Scotland, Alaska’s “surprising” solar potential, the UK’s “insane” fifth carbon budget, oil & gas bankuptcies surge, global energy consumption to increase 48% by 2040, Germany pays consumers to use electricity and global warming shrinks seabird beaks.
Telegraph: National Grid issues supply crunch warning
A series of power plant breakdowns and the partial failure of a key electricity import cable forced National Grid to issue an urgent call for more power to keep the lights on on Monday night. A Nism alert has not been issued in summer months since 2008 as the warm weather means power demand is normally lower. But the combination of a large number of power plants being shut down for maintenance, the series of unplanned shut-downs and wind power being lower than expected together forced Grid to take the unusual step. Experts said the multiple breakdowns – believed to be primarily old coal and gas plants – showed the urgent need for more investment in reliable new power plants. National Grid said about 1,700 megawatts of capacity was unexpectedly taken off the system yesterday. In addition, a problem forced the part closure of a National Grid-owned interconnector cable importing power from France, with the loss of another 500 megawatts.
Telegraph: Birds scupper offshore wind farm
A £2bn offshore wind farm project on the verge of construction could be scuppered because of an unresolved legal challenge over fears it will kill too many birds. The 450-megawatt Neart na Gaoithe wind farm would see up to 64 turbines, each up to 646 feet tall, built nine miles off the coast of Fife. It was one of only two offshore wind projects to win a crucial subsidy contract from the Government last year. But that deal could soon be revoked unless a judicial review brought by the RSPB against planning consent for the project is resolved. The charity argues the wind farm, together with three other proposed projects in the Firths of Forth and Tay, would be among “the most deadly for birds anywhere in the world”. Andy Kinsella, of project developer Mainstream Renewable Power, said it had lined up investors and financing to cover the full £2bn project cost and was “ready to go and reach financial close” but could not take “the last step” while the legal threat remained, since this could result in the planning consent being declared “null and void”.
The Neart na Gaoithe windfarm, based in Scotland’s outer Forth estuary, would have a capacity of about 450MW of power and was originally planned to cost £1.4bn to build, though that is likely to rise to more than £2bn. But reports from the Financial Times and BBC on Thursday suggested that the contract for the windfarm was to be terminated. The Low Carbon Contracts Company (LCCC) had sent a notice to the developer, Mainstream Renewable Power, effectively withdrawing the subsidy. Mainstream Renewable Power has taken legal action over the notice and said it “strongly disputed the validity of the termination notice”. In a statement, that it said had been agreed with the LCCC, the windfarm developer said: “Neart na Gaoithe Offshore Wind Limited are currently in arbitration with the LCCC over the terms of its contract for the Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm in the outer Firth of Forth.” It added: “[We] continue to work hard to ensure that this significant energy infrastructure project will be built as planned.”
The Colorado Supreme Court struck down attempts by two cities to ban or delay fracking on Monday, a major victory for the oil and gas industry. The court ruled that a ban on fracking in Longmont and a five-year moratorium in Fort Collins are invalid because they conflict with state law. State officials and the industry argued the state has the primary authority to regulate energy, not local governments. The courts may not have the final say, however. Fracking critics hope to get at least five measures on the November ballot to amend the state Constitution to restrict the industry or allow local governments to do so. The industry has said it will fight those proposals.
International Business Times: China ‘secretly’ drawing up plans to take over Hinkley Point.
The delayed Hinkley Point nuclear power station project may have received a much needed boost after it was reported that the Chinese were waiting by the sidelines to take over the nuclear project if the French deal does not go ahead. EDF, which runs the project, had said on 12 May that the project’s price could increase from £18bn to £21bn ($26-$30bn; €22.9-€26.7bn). It also cautioned that the project would not be completed before 2027 —ten years later than initially scheduled. There are now concerns that EDF may hand over the nuclear site to another developer. Lord Howell of Guildford told the House of Lords that the Chinese government was drawing secret plans to build two nuclear reactors at Hinkley point if the existing deal with EDF does not go ahead. He claims that the Chinese government has a ‘plan B’ to bypass EDF. China believe that it can build its own reactors faster compared to that proposed by EDF, The Times reported.
A Russian nuclear group is hoping that the potential meltdown of French plans to build new European pressurised reactors at Hinkley Point could offer an opportunity to break into the British nuclear market. Recent talks have been held between state-owned Russian nuclear group Rosatom and the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) despite the chilly political relations between London and Moscow over Ukraine, Moscow sources claimed.These discussions centred on whether Russia could help Britain with removal of uranium from old reactors – but Rosatom is understood to have a wider agenda of trying to resuscitate earlier plans to build its own reactors in Britain. “There is still an appetite to enter the UK market,” said a senior Russian nuclear industry source who claimed Rosatom’s London-based representatives still maintained contacts with the Department of Energy and Climate Change. “EDF has been pushing the [UK] government to consider a portfolio of reactor designs, not just Areva’s [EPR] but Chinese technologies. So why not use Russian designs? Technically speaking it’s doable.”
Following substantial rain, Hydro Tasmania on Thursday confirmed the state is now powered entirely by renewable energy for the first time in 2016. “We may require some bursts of diesel and gas generation over coming months,” Hydro boss Stephen Davy said, adding that there is currently enough hydro and wind energy to power the state. “The past 10 days have been very positive. We’ve had more rain than predicted and our storages have risen strongly,” he said. “There’s currently enough hydro and wind energy available to meet all Tasmanian demand. For the first time in months, our island is being powered solely by renewable energy. Tasmanians can be assured that we’re monitoring and managing the situation flexibly to ensure the rain isn’t wasted and our major storages, Lake Gordon and Great Lake, can start to recover.” Emergency diesel generators imported to Tasmania to deal with the energy crisis were switched off throughout the week and the combined cycle gas turbine generator at the Tamar Valley power station was turned off on Wednesday.
Business Insider: Venezuela extends 2-day work week to save electricity
Venezuela’s socialist government has extended a two-day workweek for public sector em-ployees for another two weeks because of a drought that has sapped hydroelectric power generation in the OPEC country. The South American country’s 2.8 million employees al-ready have Fridays off during April and May. President Nicolas Maduro in late April gave them Wednesdays and Thursdays off too, and canceled school on Fridays. Maduro’s rivals have called the shortened workweek foolhardy, arguing that sending employees home will not solve the power crunch and halting activity will merely worsen Venezuela’s deepening recession. But the ruling Socialist Party said on Monday the measures would last until at least May 27. Drought has reduced water levels at Venezuela’s main dam and hydroelectric plant in Guri, which covers about two-thirds of the country’s energy needs, to near-critical levels.
DR reports that up to 64 workers at Siemens Wind Power in Denmark have developed chronic illnesses after prolonged exposure to dangerous chemicals over the last decade. DR yesterday revealed it has access to reports from the National Board of Industrial In-juries in Denmark dealing with 64 compensation cases brought by employees against the company. According to DR, the National Board of Industrial Injuries has reached the de-cision that the illnesses developed by the employees in question, including asthma and eczema, are a direct result of exposure to the toxic chemicals epoxy and isocyanates. The chemicals are known allergens, and they are on the EU’s list of carcinogenic substances. According to DR, Siemens has confirmed it illegally used isocyanates during the manufacturing process for wind turbines from 2003 to 2011.
YourStory: France’s 1,000 km long solar road
In February this year, the French government announced that it wants to pave 1,000 Km (621 miles) of road with solar panels over the next five years. The first tests will be done in March next year, according to French infrastructure company Colas, which has developed the photovoltaic road surface (called “Wattway”) to be used in the trials, 1-km-long section of road will be able to power public street lighting for a town of 5,000 inhabit-ants. This means that, once the project is completed, the new roadways will be able to supply electricity to 5 million people, or about 8% of the French population. Colas’ tech-nology is innovative, compared to other photovoltaic solutions, in that it does not require to rip out the existing road infrastructure, or make any kind of civil engineering work. Wattway panels are composed of cells inserted, in superposed layers, inside a thin film of polycrystalline silicon which can be applied directly on the pavement. The cells are encapsulated in a resin substrate, to keep them rainproof, and the composite material is just 7 mm thick, making it possible to adapt to thermal dilation in the pavement.
Herald Scotland: Sturgeon “takes flight from reason” over fracking
Nicola Sturgeon has “taken flight from reason” after cynically hardening her stance against fracking in a move that will damage the case for Scottish independence and be warmly welcomed by Vladimir Putin, a former Government advisor has claimed. In a blistering attack, Professor Paul Younger, who was appointed to a Scottish Government taskforce to examine unconventional oil and gas extraction, said the SNP “need not be surprised when any scientist who respects the most basic norms of professional integrity” refuses to work with its ministers in future, following comments made by the party leader in the recent election campaign. Professor Younger said he was “flabbergasted” that all but one of Scotland’s main parties were “trashing” an industry that would re-employ North Sea workers “in a far safer environment”. He added: “The Scottish offshore workforce will simply be abandoned to unemployment or, at best, to far less skilled, less lucrative jobs. The only real winner in all of this is Vladimir Putin, who cannot wait to add Scotland to the list of countries that will shortly come to depend on importing gas from Russia. I remain utterly baffled as to why a party that claims to want independence for Scotland is happy to forego jobs and indigenous energy security when both are in peril, placing Scotland in precarious dependency on England for both.”
On Sunday, May 8, Germany hit a new high in renewable energy generation. Thanks to a sunny and windy day, at one point around 1pm the country’s solar, wind, hydro and bio-mass plants were supplying about 55 GW of the 63 GW being consumed, or 87%. Power prices actually went negative for several hours, meaning commercial customers were be-ing paid to consume electricity. Last year the average renewable mix was 33%, reports Agora Energiewende, a German clean energy think tank. New wind power coming online should push that even higher. “We have a greater share of renewable energy every year,” said Christoph Podewils of Agora. “The power system adapted to this quite nicely. This day shows again that a system with large amounts of renewable energy works fine.”
Solar Power Portal: Solar set for growth in Scotland says SNP energy spokesperson
Solar deployment is set to ramp up over the next decade according to the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) energy and climate change spokesman, who said Scotland represents a huge opportunity for solar. Speaking at the launch event of Solarcentury’s Sunstation yesterday evening, Callum McCaig said the re-elected SNP would be focusing on solar following a prolonged period of wind deployment. “There has clearly been a huge deployment of onshore wind in Scotland in the last decade or so and perhaps to a degree that has constrained the ability to which we can see solar coming,” he said. “But the re-elected SNP government has the target of having 100% electricity produced from renewables and clearly the broader mix that we have in that the better. That means there will be a huge opportunity for solar deployment over the next five to ten years or so.”
What the “Fifth Carbon Carbon Budget” proposes is terrifying. It talks of how 60 per cent of our cars should by then be electric. We must look forward to abandoning use of gas for heating and cooking. As, within five years, we are due to stop using the coal that until recently supplied more than a third of our energy), we must nevertheless double our electricity consumption, for cooking, heating and transport. And most of this will come from a huge expansion in “renewables” and new nuclear plants: only one of which is yet in the pipeline, already billed to be the most expensive power station in the world and which we were told last week will not be on stream until 2026. Even the committee is aware that, due to the intermittency of wind and solar, to keep Britain’s economy running we would need a great many new gas-fired power stations to provide backup when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. But as this is a fossil fuel, they propose it should carry an increased “carbon tax” (four times higher than its present level, already four times higher than anywhere else in the world), which will make its power so costly that this might somehow make wind farms seem “competitive”. It must also, they repeatedly insist, be fit-ted with “carbon capture” to bury all their CO2: using a technology not yet developed and which probably never will be.
In oil-rich Alaska, where there’s little sunlight in the winter, solar power isn’t an obvious option. But it is a promising one. A recent study from the U.S. Department of Energy looked at the potential of solar in 11 remote Alaskan villages and found that in many areas, it’s cost-competitive with diesel. Overall, thanks to Alaska’s sunny, radiant summers, the solarscape looks more promising than you might expect given those dreary winter months. The DOE study compares the state’s solar potential to that of Germany, the world’s current poster child for all things solar and wind, which isn’t particularly sunny, either. The image below compares how much solar radiation shines down on both regions in terms of kilowatt-hours per square meter per day. Looks like solar’s not just for sun-drenched California anymore.
China is expected to raise its power storage capacity by ten-fold to 14.5 gigawatts by 2020, as the world’s second-biggest economy tries to cut massive waste from renewable energy projects, an industry association said. China is the world largest wind and solar power producer, but some regions are estimated to be losing more than 40 percent of their power because of technical restraints and bottlenecks in the grid, alongside weak power demand growth. Storage technologies, such as pumped storage hydropower or lithium ion batteries, are expected to play a critical role in improving the China’s capacity to make better use of renewables. China currently has 105 megawatts of storage capacity after a 110 percent increase over the previous five years, but that represented just 1.7 percent of total generation capacity by 2015, according to a report released this week by the China Energy Storage Alliance, an industry body.
The offshore wind-energy industry will soon be flooded by competition as big oil companies join utilities and small renewable players in the growing sector, said the chief executive of the world’s biggest offshore wind company, Dong Energy. Henrik Poulsen also said some new investment in offshore wind energy was coming from companies primarily associated with traditional oil and gas markets, like Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Eni SpA of Italy and Total SA France. “They have been hesitant,” said Mr. Poulsen in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “But I think they’ve come to a point where they’re thinking ‘Gee, maybe we should start mobilizing behind renewables, maybe the green transformation won’t slow down.’” Dong was once one of Europe’s most coal intensive utilities but the state-owned enterprise has steered its business away from coal and oil and gas extraction in the past decade toward offshore wind. The move has helped lift profits thanks to Europe’s significant wind power subsidies.
The wave of U.S. oil and gas bankruptcies surged past 60 this week, an ominous sign that the recovery of crude prices to near $50 a barrel is too little, too late for small companies that are running out of money. On Friday, Prices have bounced back to $46 a barrel from February lows in the mid-$20s, but the futures market shows investors do not expect U.S. benchmark crude to rise above $50 for more than a year. That will not help smaller producers built for far higher prices. These companies have largely exhausted funding alter-natives after issuing more equity and debt, tapping second-lien loans and shedding assets over the last two years to stay afloat as banks trimmed credit lines. Some companies are in more acute distress, faced with the expiration of derivative contracts that had allowed them to sell oil above market prices. “Everybody was able to hold on for a while,” said Gary Evans, former CEO of Magnum Hunter Resources, which emerged from bankruptcy protection this week. “But once the hedges roll off you can’t support that debt.”
The oil hub of Fort McMurray, where 2,400 homes and businesses were destroyed and more than 500 damaged, is still off limits after the evacuation of almost 90,000 people from the region. Officials need another 10 days just to come up with a plan for residents to return to the city, so the industry is relying on camps such as Noralta’s to house the thousands of workers needed to get plants up and running. Companies will lose about 14 million barrels of output during the emergency and gradual resumption of production, according to Goldman Sachs Group Inc. While producers haven’t disclosed the financial impact, a rough calculation suggests the shutdowns will lead to more than $450-million (U.S.) of lost revenue, based on current prices for Alberta crude. The lost volume since evacuations began on May 3 also pulled prices for Canadian natural gas down to an 18-year low, as producers curtailed use of the fuel used to power and create steam for oil sands facilities.
Oil and Gas Investor: Energy Consumption Set To Soar 48% By 2040
Economic growth in China, India and other parts of Asia are expected to play a big part in driving the world’s energy consumption up by 48% within the next three decades. Growth toward 815 quadrillion Btu by 2040 is forecast to come as renewable energy’s slice of the energy supply pie gets bigger but not nearly enough to overtake fossil fuels, which will be the dominate energy source. Petroleum and other liquids will lead the way, followed by natural gas, the fast-growing fossil fuel. Coal consumption is expected to fall just about everywhere, except India, amid continued efforts worldwide to reduce emissions. The U.S. is still expected to be the leader when it comes to unconventional production, and production is set to grow in OPEC and non-OPEC nations with the exception of OECD Europe. All of this is according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), which released an updated version of its International Energy Outlook on May 11.
Penn Energy: Militants continue attacks on Nigerian oil terminals
Shell declared force majeure on Nigeria’s benchmark Bonny Light crude oil and was evacuating workers from a threatened oil field as renewed militant attacks cut production in Africa’s biggest petroleum producer, the company and a union leader said. Shell began evacuating workers Wednesday from its offshore Bonga oilfield following a militant threat, said Ojobor Cogent, zonal chairman of the NUPENG oil workers union. He said oil production was continuing there. Shell spokesman Precious Okolobo refused to confirm the evacuation, saying only that the company is “taking all possible steps to ensure the safety of staff and contractors.” Okolobo said Wednesday that Shell declared force majeure on Bonny exports effective 1100 GMT the day before citing a leak on the Nembe pipeline. Pipeline operator Aiteo Exploration said the trunkline was damaged in an attack. Nigeria’s production was down to 1.68 million barrels a day from 2.2 million, Eurasia Group risk assessment said before Bonny’s closure. A bomb last week closed Chevron’s Escravos oil and gas facility. Shell’s Forcados export terminal has been shut since an undersea export pipeline was attacked in February.
Herald Scotland: Cluff gives up on coal gasification
Entrepreneur Algy Cluff has said he has switched his focus to the North Sea after giving up on a controversial plan to create gas by burning coal held under the Forth for the time being. The Cluff Natural Resources business run by the North Sea veteran said it has written off the £337,000 value of its nine UK underground coal gasification licences after concluding there is no current prospect of developing any. The London-based company noted politicians on both sides of the border had imposed moratoriums on such gasification schemes, which have attracted fierce opposition from environmental campaigners. After posting a £1.9 million loss for 2015, Cluff Natural Resources said: “The Company is confident that the existing evidence base and pressure to support the UK’s energy intensive industries will eventually result in the emergence of policies which are supportive of the development of UCG projects in the UK.” However the company said it will invest no more in gasification projects beyond paying fees to renew licences for now.
While Brussels talks about ending Gazpom’s gas monopoly in Europe with the first LNG supplies arriving from the US, the Russian energy company has announced that it’s significantly boosted gas supplies to its biggest Western market – Germany, which last year broke the record of supplies from Russia, which grew by 6.6 billion cubic meters (+17.1 percent). The upward trend continues to become stronger this year – 2 billion more cubic meters as compared to the last year (+19 percent) were already exported in the first four months of 2016,” the Russian company said after the meeting of CEO Aleksey Miller with German Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. Russia and Germany also discussed the importance of Nord Stream-2 pipeline for Europe.“The creation of a new gas pipeline will not only increase security of supplies, but will also contribute to the development of the European gas market,” Gazprom stated. Last year, Gazprom exported 45.31 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Germany, which is almost 30 percent of Russian gas supplies to Western Europe and Turkey. Overall, the Russian company covers about a third of European gas consumption.
The amount of electricity generated from coal in the UK has fallen to zero several times in the past week, grid data shows. In what green energy supporters have described as a “historic turning point” for the UK’s power system, coal-fired electricity first fell to zero late on Monday night and for the early hours of Tuesday morning, according to data from BM Reports. On Thursday, there was no electricity from coal for more than 12 and a half hours, more than half the day, with it making no contribution to the UK’s power supplies late at night when demand was low and for a period in the day, the data shows. It is thought to be the first time the UK has been without electricity from coal since the world’s first centralised public coal-fired generator opened at Holborn Viaduct in London, in 1882, according to the Carbon Brief website which reports on climate science and energy policy.
Discovery: Global warming shrinks seabird beaks
In a new study published today in the journal Science, an international team details how the warming of the Arctic by climate change could be responsible for drops in the population of a sub-species of red knot bird (Calidris canutus canutus). As the Arctic has warmed, red knots — which breed in Siberia — have grown smaller with shorter bills. When the birds arrive at their winter feeding grounds in tropical West Africa, their bills are too short to reach the best food, resulting in higher mortality among the juvenile population, the researchers found. They suggest the red knot’s experience could hold the key to understanding declining populations worldwide of migratory shore birds.