Blowout Week 147

This week we return to the South Australian blackout. The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) second update on the cause of the state-wide blackout is now out, and it leaves no doubt that SA’s wind farms at least contributed. Opinions as to what the implications are, however, vary:

Reneweconomy: Storm of controversy erupts over AEMO blackout report

In its second update, AEMO has pointed the finger at settings on certain wind farms and fossil fuel generators in the events immediately before and after the state-wide outage last month.

The report dismisses suggestions that it was the intermittent nature of wind energy that was the cause of the blackout. But it also underlines the failure of the market operator to make any preparations for the storm that it could obviously see spreading across the state.

The AEMO makes clear that it was major voltage disturbances – six in 80 seconds – caused by the collapse of three major transmission lines that led to the blackout. But – not for the first time – AEMO’s press release and executive summary differs in emphasis to the detailed report, and focuses on the role of the so-called “self protect mechanisms” in wind farms rather than the major voltage collapse that followed the collapse of the transmission lines. AEMO’s emphasis has horrified many in the wind industry, who suggest that the market operator is deliberately allowing wind to be blamed even though its report highlights a collapse of voltage that could have been the main cause of the outage. They also point to basic errors in its report, and its failure to take any preventative action as the storms approached.“What we see in this report is a concerted effort to focus solely on the wind farms as if the system is perfect and the market perfect,” said one wind farm operator. “I think we are now at war with the system operator.”

We follow up with more stories on the SA blackout, plus Saudi Arabia’s $17.5 billion bond sale, Iran puts up 50 oil & gas projects for lease, the USA’s first nuclear plant in 20 years goes on line, nuclear woes in France, the EU/Canada trade deal falls apart, the world’s largest solar PV farm to be built in Turkey, Vattenfall sues Germany, environmentalists sue Norway, the EPA comes under fire in US courts, UK MPs want more battery storage, UK energy bills to increase, emissions from biofuels, scientists accidentally turn CO2 into ethanol and an apartment block which is a model of sustainable luxury.

Reneweconomy: Blackout report blows away big myths about role of wind energy

The latest report into the South Australia blackout by the Australian Energy Market Operator has blown away two of the biggest myths about wind energy that its critics were using as reasons for the state-wide outage. Within hours of the lights going out in South Australia, mainstream media, state and federal Coalition parties, and anti-wind interests in business and politics were blaming the “intermittency” of wind energy and its inability to generate power when the wind blew too hard. “The most well known characteristic of wind power, variation of output with wind strength (often termed ‘intermittency’), was not a material factor in the events of 28 September 2016,” AEMO notes in its report. “This updated report from AEMO confirms that the intermittent nature of wind energy had nothing to do with the September blackout in South Australia,” energy minister Tom Koutsantonis said in a statement.“There are a number of political opportunists that now owe South Australians an apology for using this event to pursue their anti-renewables agenda.” It is, however, important to note that the role of 18 wind farms in the state – and its capacity of 1,500MW which accounts for around 40 per cent of total demand – was not exonerated by AEMO. AEMO points the finger at the loss of 445MW of wind generation after six voltage disturbances and five system faults (after the loss of three major transmission lines) as the straw that broke the camel’s back for the interconnector, causing it to separate from South Australia and for the state to go “system black.”

Australian Financial Review: Wind farm failure during SA storm worse than thought

The failure of wind farms in South Australia to deal with network faults on the state’s electricity network during last month’s destructive storms was greater than first thought, according to the latest update from the Australian Energy Market Operator. But AEMO is also critical of two gas-fired power stations that failed to kick into to re-energise the electricity network when SA was cut off from the rest of the NEM and plunged into darkness on the afternoon of September 28. An initial report from AEMO earlier this month found that six wind farms disconnected 315 megawatts from the grid once the storm hit after three long-distance transmission lines were blown over by strong winds. But an update into the investigation released on Wednesday found nine of the 13 wind farms online at the time did not “ride through” – or continue normal operations – after the six voltage disturbances, resulting in a loss of 445 megawatts of generation – 130 megawatts more than originally thought. This put increased pressure on the Heywood Interconnector with Victoria to deal with the shortfall in electricity supply in South Australia, which eventually “tripped” to protect the rest of the NEM, plunging SA into a “system black”. “Preliminary discussions with wind farm operators suggest this inability to ride through all disturbances was due to ‘voltage ride-through’ settings set to disconnect or reduce turbine output when between three to six disturbances are detected within a defined time period,” the report found. “Thermal generators remained connected up until the SA system disconnected from the remainder of the National Electricity Market.” The latest findings is expected to provide further ammunition to critics of renewable energy who argue wind and solar do not provide the same energy security as synchronous generation like coal-fired or gas-fired generation.

Wall Street Journal: Saudi Arabia Launches $17.5 Billion Bond Sale

Saudi Arabia launched the sale of $17.5 billion of debt on Wednesday, according to two people familiar with the deal, in what would be the largest emerging-market bond issue. It is the kingdom’s first international bond sale, a bid to support a sweeping effort to keep its economy afloat as oil income dwindles. The sale is the latest example of a Persian Gulf state turning to international markets to offset declining oil revenues. Other oil exporters from the Gulf region such as Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Abu Dhabi earlier this year raised $20 billion in total through international bond issues. The issue would exceed Argentina’s $16.5 billion debt sale earlier this year as the biggest from an emerging-market economy. Orders amounted to around $67 billion, one investor familiar with the deal said. The bonds are expected to be priced and allocated later Wednesday. The large order book suggests there is demand for the deal far beyond the traditional emerging-market investor universe, said Aaron Grehan, deputy head of emerging-market debt at Aviva Investors, adding that he has placed orders for all three tranches. The fresh funds will help Saudi Arabia narrow its budget deficit, which stood at a record $98 billion last year, and ease pressure on a domestic economy that has borne the brunt of a reduction in government spending. Since oil prices started to fall from their mid-2014 highs, Saudi Arabia has been burning through its foreign reserves, raised debt through domestic issues, and secured a $10 billion loan from international banks earlier this year. Saudi Arabia derives about three quarters of its revenues from the export of oil.

Bloomberg: OPEC Spat Over Production Data Grows as Iran Rejects Estimates

OPEC’s struggle with the first step of its new production deal — agreeing on how much its members are pumping — deepened as Iran became the third nation to openly question the organization’s data. Output estimates compiled by OPEC’s Vienna-based secretariat are “not acceptable,” Ali Kardor, managing director of National Iranian Oil Co., said Monday in Tehran. Iran is pumping 3.89 million barrels a day, Kardor said, or about 300,000 a day more than OPEC estimated the country produced last month. Iraq and Venezuela have already criticized the data, which OPEC compiles from “secondary sources” such as news agencies. The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries aims to finalize an accord to cut production, the group’s first reduction in eight years, when members convene in Vienna at the end of next month. Yet as nations squabble over how much they’re producing, it will be increasingly difficult to agree on how much each should cut. The first signs of discord emerged within hours of OPEC’s agreement in Algiers on Sept. 28, when Iraq rejected the group’s assessment of its output. The country has invited media organizations that track Iraqi output for a briefing in Baghdad next week. On Oct. 11, Venezuelan Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino said his country disputed OPEC’s figures as the data exclude a type of heavy oil produced in the Orinoco belt.

Bloomberg: Saudi Arabia Says Many Nations Will Join OPEC Output Cuts

Many nations are willing to join OPEC in cutting production to secure a continued improvement in oil prices, said Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy and Industry Khalid Al-Falih. The minister didn’t name any countries in his speech at the Oil & Money conference in London Wednesday, saying only that negotiations will continue until the scheduled Nov. 30 meeting of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in Vienna. So far, only Russia has said it’s considering an output freeze or a reduction, while other non-OPEC producers that cooperated with past supply curbs, including Mexico and Norway, said they won’t cut. “We are going to work with our colleagues and the decision I think will be fair and equitable to all countries,” Al-Falih said in an interview after his speech. Saudi Arabia will not decide alone how much production it should cut because “this is a collective decision that we have to make.” Al-Falih painted an upbeat picture, telling a packed audience that included the chief executive officers of Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total SA that the oil market is “clearly rebalancing,” bringing the industry to the end of a “considerable downturn.” U.S. crude inventories are declining and supply and demand are coming back into line, he said.

Oil Price: Iran To Offer 50 Oil And Gas Projects In Upcoming Tender

On Sunday, Iran’s Oil Ministry officially invited international E&Ps to start pre-qualifying for bidding. And by Thursday officials said they are negotiating with 16 international oil and gas firms. That’s a lot of interest, coming together very quickly. And another announcement this week from Iran’s government makes it clear why this bid round is turning into such a major event. Up until now, the view had been vague on exactly what fields might be offered as part of this licensing round. Officials had mentioned that the South Azadegan field would likely be the first project to be tendered out — given this field is a priority in terms of size (with output projected at up to 600,000 barrels per day). But Iran’s government this week clarified that Azadegan won’t be the only field on offer. In fact, the Oil Ministry said that a full 50 projects will be available for bids — consisting of 29 oil fields, and 21 natural gas fields. That’s a huge slate of projects to choose from, in one of the most high-upside spots on Earth (Iranian officials also said this week many of the offered projects are economic at $40 oil). Watch for the identities of the 16 pre-qualified firms to be released, and for final results of the bid — with submissions required by November 19, and final awards expected on December 7. Here’s to opening the vault.

Oil Price: The UK’s Oil And Gas Ultimatum: Exploration Or Bust

The number of jobs in the UK’s oil and gas sector has dropped more than 25 percent over the last two years. It brings into sharp relief the real and absolute need for hands to shake on a deal in Vienna on November 30. The information comes from the annual economic report from Oil and Gas UK. It estimates that after two years of severe cuts, 120,000 jobs no longer exist – made up from 84,000 jobs in 2015 and 40,000 this year. Spending across the UK Continental Shelf fell from $34.49 billion in 2014 to $28.14bn in 2015. It’s expected the 2016 sums will add up to around $24.64 billion. With only half a dozen wells being sunk this year in the UK comes a warning of further deterioration in prospects if exploration does not increase. In 2014, £4.3bn was budgeted to open up five new fields; this year it is a measly £100 million for one field. A positive note comes in the form of a realisation that what analysts had feared – large numbers of businesses failing – has not transpired, and is, it says, “a tribute to the companies that have responded to the downturn by differentiating their value offerings and diversifying both into new geographies and new products and services.” As a result of efficiencies in the industry, the cost of extracting a barrel of oil has fallen 45 percent, to an estimated $16. The bonus of what’s believed to be another year of increased production – up 5.7 percent since 2015 – which built on last year’s increase, the first in 15 years, is brought crashing down by this warning. The BBC reported that “For every barrel newly found, four are being extracted from existing fields.” Oil and Gas UK is right – this is unsustainable.

Reuters: U.S. refiners revamp operations as renewable fuel costs surge

U.S. oil refiners, beset by the weakest profit margins in six years, have been laying off workers, revamping operations and ratcheting up pressure on regulators and lawmakers to tweak the renewable fuel program, whose costs have ballooned. The top 10 U.S. independent refiners look set to take a record hit on renewable fuel credits this year. They spent $1.1 billion on the credits in the first half of the year, just short of a record $1.3 billion in all of 2013. Refiners without operations dedicated to selling blended fuels to consumers, must purchase credits to prove compliance with U.S. clean-fuel mandates. These “merchant refiners” are required to blend biofuels like ethanol with gasoline or other petroleum products, or else meet those obligations by purchasing paper “credits” called Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) in an opaque market. Meeting these standards once cost just pennies a gallon. But costs have risen in recent years and become a pressure point for independent refiners and fuel importers. Ethanol RINs are “a much higher cost than they used to be. Add to that this low-margin environment, any which way a refiner can save costs, they are going to be doing it,” said Timothy Cheung, vice president at ClearView Energy Partners in Washington.

Bloomberg: France Burns Coal Like It’s 1984

France produced the most power from fossil fuels for September in 32 years to help meet demand as nuclear generation dropped. Output from coal and gas plants more than doubled as Paris-based Electricite de France SA was forced to keep reactors offline for inspections. French month-ahead power prices have risen to near the highest since 2009. “The availability of French nuclear continues to alarm market participants,” said Bruno Brunetti, managing director of global power at Pira Energy Group in New York. “With the lack of French exports supporting thermal generation, we have revised upward forecasts of coal-fired dispatching by roughly 5 terawatt-hours through 2017 in western Europe.” EDF’s reactors produced 26.6 terawatt-hours of electricity in September, the least since August 1998, prompting “heavy use” of stations burning coal and gas in a trend that has been increasing since April, according to a report by French grid operator Reseau de transport d’electricite. Thermal power generation was 4,132 gigawatt-hours, or 11 percent of the total. France has seven fewer reactors available than at the same time last year after EDF announced it needed more time to carry out inspections to rule out potential anomalies on steam generators at 18 of its 58 units ordered by the nation’s nuclear regulator. EDF cut its nuclear output targets for the year on Sept. 21 after the safety checks were taking longer than expected. Six reactors are due to return this week.

RT: France’s nuclear watchdog wants to shut down 5 more reactors over failure risk

The Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) has asked nuclear power utility EDF to carry out additional inspections at Fessenheim 1,Tricastin 2 and 4, Gravelines 4 and Civaux 1 reactors, according to a press release. The performance of these inspections will require shutdown of the reactors concerned,” ASN added. The watchdog wants to check “certain channel heads of the steam generators on five of its reactors, in which the steel is affected by a high carbon concentration.” According to ASN’s analysis, “certain channel heads of the steam generators … contain a significant carbon concentration zone which could lead to lower than expected mechanical properties.” The watchdog said that it doesn’t want to wait “for the scheduled refueling outage of these reactors” and thus demands safety checks “within three months.” According to the Local, this abnormality could lead to failures in mechanical properties and even to leaks or explosions. The five reactors under scrutiny are among 18 at which ASN found abnormalities in June. Of the 18 reactors ASN says that six could be restarted after inspection. Seven others (Bugey 4, Civaux 2, Dampierre 3, Gravelines 2, Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux B1 and Tricastin 1 and 3) are being inspected and awaiting reboot.

Sunwindenergy: Dong is upgrading Denmark’s largest power plant to use wood pellets

All remaining units for district heating at the Avedøreværket power plant, which is located 10 km south of Copenhagen, will be completely converted to firing wood pellets. The power plant consists of two units: Avedøre 1 and Avedøre 2. Together they have a generation capacity of 825 MW. Dong Energy will now upgrade the entire Avedøreværket power plant to biomass fuel by 2016, making it possible to increasingly use wood pellets instead of coal and gas. Dong stressed in a press release that only biomass from sustainable forestry will be fired at Avedøreværket. For this purpose, the company has designed a system of certificates and audits together with international partners. The wood for Avedøre comes from by-products of industrial timber processing as well as sustainable forest management, and 60% of it comes from the Baltic States. The second largest supplier is Portugal with 22%, followed by Russia in third place with 11%. Even when the processing and transportation of the wood pellets is taken into consideration, emissions are still reduced by approximately 90% compared to the coal and gas that was used previously, according to Dong Energy. During the past nine years, the company has been able to reduce the use of coal by 65%. CO2 emissions have been reduced by 41% since 2006.

Bloomberg: $6.9 Billion Clean Coal Plant Produces First Power

Southern Co.’s $6.9 billion “clean coal” power plant in Mississippi produced electricity for the first time. The Kemper station used synthetic natural gas, converted from Mississippi lignite coal, to produce its first batch of power, Southern’s Mississippi Power utility said in a statement Wednesday. The generation brings Southern a step closer to placing the plant into full commercial operations after years of delays and cost overruns. Once in service, it’ll be the first large-scale power plant in the U.S. to gasify coal and capture carbon before it’s released into the atmosphere. The U.S. Department of Energy provided $245 million in a grants for the project, which the coal industry had been banking on as a potential way toward developing cleaner-burning technologies as pollution limits take hold. “After decades of research and years of hard work at the site, we are thrilled that the Kemper County energy facility, the world’s most advanced coal plant, has generated electricity using syngas,” Southern Chief Executive Officer Thomas Fanning said in the statement. The utility’s now estimating an in-service date by Nov. 30.

Telegraph: Biofuels cause four times more carbon emissions

Green fuels made from soy beans cause four times more climate-warming emissions than standard diesel or petrol, according to a European report into biofuels. The report for the European Commission, released under Freedom of Information rules, looked into the “indirect emissions” from biofuels caused by land use change. The worse example is soy beans in America. Because the land that used to grow soy beans for animal feed is now being used for biofuels, it means that more soy beans must be grown in the rainforests of Brazil to make up for the loss in the domestic market. Soybeans grown in America therefore have an indirect carbon footprint of 340kg of CO2 per gigajoule, compared to just 85kg for conventional diesel or gasoline. Biodiesel from European rapeseed has an indirect carbon footprint of 150kg of CO2 per gigajoule, while bioethanol from European sugar beet is calculated at 100kg – both much higher than conventional diesel because of indirect use of land in other countries to replace the food crops that are no longer grown in Europe. By contrast, imports of bioethanol from Latin American sugar cane and palm oil from southeast Asia have relatively low indirect emissions at 82kg and 73kg per gigajoule respectively. But these biofuels have high direct emissions because although no land for food is being displaced, rainforest it being cut down to grow the crops in the first place. The European Commission insisted that biofuels is a complex issue and further studies need to be done.

Politico: Portugal a “dead market” for renewables

Lisbon agreed in 2012 to roll back generous investment perks to the renewables industry as part of a broad bailout plan to cut spending and keep the country out of bankruptcy. Portugal’s then-burgeoning renewable sector took a hit. Now it risks facing penalties as other EU countries race to meet their binding targets for adding renewable energy by 2020. Portugal is now a dead market for an industry eager to piggyback on the EU’s targets to boost renewable energy generation. “They are killing the business,” António Sá da Costa, managing director of the Portuguese renewable energy association APREN, said of the austerity measures. “Portugal, sooner or later, will come to a stall.” Hydro, wind, solar and other renewables produced an average 52 percent of Portugal’s electricity as of 2015, which is just 8 percentage points shy of the country’s target of 60 percent by 2020. Renewables also accounted for 25 percent of Portugal’s total energy use (including transport, heating and cooling) — the goal is 31 percent. Despite its strong start, the changed incentives mean Portugal may fall short of its 2020 targets, warned Sá da Costa. “Maybe, on this track, we can reach a 54-55 percent share of renewable electricity by 2020,” he said.

Environmental Progress: DOE task force calls for temporary subsidy to save nuclear plants

A Department of Energy (DOE) Task Force has just backed a key demand made over the last eight months by climate scientists and environmentalists organized by Environmental Progress: that the federal government end policy discrimination against nuclear power that is causing our clean energy crisis. Writes the DOE advisory board: ”[E]lectricity markets must recognize the value of carbon-free electricity generation based on the social cost of carbon emissions avoided, either by assessing a carbon-emission charge on electricity generation or, alternatively, by extending a production payment on carbon-free electricity generation of about $0.027 per kilowatt-electric-hour (kWe-hr) ($213 million for a 1,000 MWe reactor operating at 90% capacity factor) for a period of time.” In calling for a price on carbon or the temporary support for nuclear, the DOE task force is acknowledging that energy production tax credits are not the ideal, long-term solution, but should be given temporarily to save America’s largest source of clean power. The federal government has subsidized wind energy production at a similar level for 23 years.

Oil Price: First U.S. Nuclear Plant In 20 Years Goes Online

Roughly 650,000 homes in Tennessee will be powered by the first nuclear power generator to enter into commercial operation in the United States in 20 years, according to a new report by The Hill. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 reactor will produce 1,150 megawatts of power, the company’s announcement on Wednesday said. The Nuclear Energy Institute counts Watts Bar 2, which formally connected to Tennessee’s power grid in June, as the 100th nuclear power reactor to operate in the United States. Before Wednesday, the company said the reactor, which will be the federally owned corporation’s sixth nuclear facility, had slowly been ramping up production. The reactor has taken decades to bring into operation due to changing governmental regulations. In 1973, TVA began building Watts Bar 2, but the project had to be put on hold in 1985. The company restarted construction in 2007 and completed the process last year after spending $4.7 billion on the project. The facility is the first to be approved by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission after Japan’s Fukushima disaster prompted the passage of new codes of operation. The Energy Information Administration expects four more nuclear reactors to begin generating power across the United States over the next four years.

Swissinfo: Poll finds support for Swiss nuclear phaseout

A proposal to decommission Switzerland’s nuclear power plants by 2029 has the backing of a majority of citizens, according to a survey conducted seven weeks ahead of a nationwide vote. Despite this, pollsters believe the initiative is likely to be defeated on November 27. “The political left, women and citizens in the French-speaking part of the country are in favour,” said Claude Longchamp of the leading GfS Bern research and polling institute. “Nevertheless, in a normal scenario, the initiative is set to fail,” he concludes. “The current level of support will most likely slump, unless there is a massive turnout.” However, up to now pollsters have not found any indication that participation will rise above an average of 45% of registered voters. Over the years Swiss voters have been asked numerous times to decide on nuclear power issues, both at national and cantonal level. Of the six nationwide votes since 1979, one ended in victory for anti-nuclear campaigners who were calling for a moratorium on the construction of new plants, while three others resulted in relatively close defeats. These were influenced by serious incidents involving nuclear reactors in Harrisburg, in the United States, and Chernobyl in the Ukraine. However, the last two ballot box decisions on nuclear power in Switzerland saw overwhelming majorities in favour of nuclear power in 2003.

Cleantechnica: Vattenfall suing Germany over nuclear plant closures

According to World Nuclear News, the Swedish utility Vattenfall is suing Germany at the Washington-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes concerning the closure of the Brunsbüttel and Krümmel nuclear power plants. The suit follows the German government’s decision to withdraw from nuclear power in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. WNN has reported the utility spokesman Magnus Kryssare declined to confirm German media reports that the Swedish company is seeking €4.7 billion ($6 billion) in damages. Following the Fukushima accident in March 2011, the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the withdrawal of the operating licenses of eight German nuclear power plants, which included Vattenfall’s Brunsbüttel and Krümmel units. “We believe that we can show those countries who decide to abandon nuclear power — or not to start using it — how it is possible to achieve growth, creating jobs and economic prosperity while shifting the energy supply toward renewable energies,” said Merkel, a prominent researcher in quantum chemistry before entering politics. In the meantime, Sweden’s newly formed coalition government has said it wants this energy powerhouse to quit its expansion of nuclear power in the country. Even facing widespread opposition to nuclear energy, the Vattenfall website states, “Nuclear power plays a vital role in many European countries due to its security of supply and low CO2 emissions.”

Guardian: Norway faces climate lawsuit over Arctic oil exploration plans

A lawsuit has been filed against the Norwegian government over a decision to open up the Barents Sea for oil exploration which campaigners say violates the country’s constitution and threatens the Paris climate agreement. The case is being brought by an alliance including Greenpeace, indigenous activists, youth groups, and the former director of Nasa’s Goddard institute for space studies, James Hansen. Norway is seen internationally as a green role model by many for its pledge of climate neutrality by 2030, its reliance on hydropower and ambitious plans for electric cars. But Conservative prime minister, Erna Solberg, could now be forced to appear before an Oslo city court on charges of violating Article 112 of the country’s constitution, which guarantees every citizen’s right to a healthy, diverse and productive environment. Truls Gulowsen, the director of Greenpeace Norway, said: “Signing an international climate agreement while throwing open the door to Arctic oil drilling is a dangerous act of hypocrisy. By allowing oil companies to drill in the Arctic, Norway risks undermining global efforts to address climate change.” The case hinges on licences handed out to 13 oil companies – including Statoil, Chevron and Aker BP – allowing oil exploration in the Barents Sea, the most northerly point yet prospected. Several exploratory wells are planned to open in 2017, and these could help wreck the Paris climate agreement’s ambition of holding global warming to 1.5C, the plaintiffs say. In a letter to the prime minister seen by the Guardian, Hansen compares Norway’s behaviour to that of a “climate rogue state”. “I will not mince words, Mrs Solberg,” he says. “Your government’s actions are utterly at odds with the scientific consensus that underpins the Paris agreement. Norway appears hell-bent on sabotaging the treaty before it has even come into effect.”

Bloomberg: EPA Overstepping Authority to Foster Clean Power, Court Told

The Environmental Protection Agency is overstepping its Clean Air Act authority to discourage construction of new coal-fired power plants in favor of cleaner generation sources the agencies prefers, opponents of carbon dioxide limits on new power plants said. Mirroring arguments made against the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, states and utilities opposed to comparable standards for new power plants said the rule is illegal because the EPA has exceeded what is allowable under the Clean Air Act by requiring carbon capture technology at new coal-fired units. “If EPA can require emission reductions based on a system that does not exist at commercial scale anywhere in the world, it has the power to deter the construction of new coal-fired plants in favor of EPA’s preferred energy sources,” several states, led by West Virginia said in a brief filed Oct. 14 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The EPA’s new source performance standards for new and modified power plants (RIN:2060-AQ91) effectively require new coal-fired units to install some form of carbon capture to comply. Opponents of the rule say the technology has not yet been commercially demonstrated and the EPA’s reliance on carbon capture projects subsidized by the federal government violates the Energy Policy Act, which bars the agency from relying on those units to determine that the technology has been adequately demonstrated. The new power plant standards, along with the Clean Power Plan, which regulates carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants, are central to President Barack Obama’s domestic efforts to address climate change. The new source performance standards are being challenged by several states as well as utilities and industry groups.

Utility Dive: West Virginia court orders EPA to track coal job losses from pollution regulations

The Environmental Protection Agency has not properly complied with a federal code that requires the agency to account for job impacts in the coal industry and other sectors as it crafts air pollution regulations, a federal judge ruled Monday. Judge John Preston Bailey of the District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia agreed with coal mining company Murray Energy’s argument that the EPA must more thoroughly track job losses as a result of its regulations. EPA had argued that authority was “discretionary” and that existing efforts were sufficient. “In this case, the plaintiffs have alleged that the actions of the EPA have had a coercive effect on the power generating industry, essentially forcing them to discontinue the use of coal,” Bailey wrote. “This Court finds these allegations sufficient to show that the injuries claimed by the plaintiffs are fairly traceable to the earlier actions of the EPA.” Coal and fossil fuel groups welcomed the ruling, but the Hill notes it may be largely symbolic, as any analysis of job impacts may not yield policy changes at the EPA. The court gave the agency 14 days to file a plan to track employment effects in the coal sector.

Daily Sabah: World’s largest photovoltaic solar plant to be built in Turkey by 2018

Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak has announced that the tender for the 1,000 megawatt-photovoltaic solar power plant, which will be established in Konya’s Karapınar district, will be held in December. Poised to be the largest of its kind in the world, the solar power plant will pave the way for a new period in Turkey’s use of renewable energy resources. The United States, China and many European countries aspire to compete in the tender, which will attract $1.3 billion worth of investment to Konya. The solar power plant, which will be constructed on a nearly 2,000-hectare area, will produce 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, which is enough to be used in 600,000 houses. Successful bidding companies will have to establish a solar power plant that is capable of producing at least 500,000 megawatts of energy a year. The power plant will be able to export energy in the upcoming years. The project stipulates using domestic technology, research and development (R&D) studies and employing 80 percent domestic engineers.

Cleantechnica: World-Leading Queensland Solar + Wind + Storage Project Backed By ARENA

A world-leading project that will combine solar PV, wind energy and battery storage, and which could ultimately be one of the biggest power stations in Queensland, has received financial support from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. ARENA announced on Friday that the Kennedy Energy Park will receive $18 million in “recoupable” grants to help fund the $120 million first stage of the project. That first stage will comprise 19.2 MW of solar PV, 21.6 MW of wind and 2 MW/4 MWh of battery storage. But over time, the project may expand to 600 MW of solar PV and 600 MW of wind energy, and more battery storage, and provide the equivalent of “baseload” power to north Queensland, enough to meet one fifth of Australia’s renewable energy target. It would also account for a sizeable piece of the new wind and solar projects required to meet the Queensland government’s own 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030. ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht described the project as “trailblazing” because of its ability to provide to dispatch reliable, affordable power and round-the-clock renewable energy. “Kennedy Energy Park will be the first time a combined large-scale solar, wind and battery installation has connected to Australia’s national electricity market,” Mr Frischknecht said. “Wind will generate power throughout the day and night, while solar ramps up during peak demand times when the sun is shining. Battery storage will smooth out power delivery from both sources, dispatching it when it’s needed most and increasing overall reliability.”

Mic: Climate change never came up during the 2016 presidential debates

The three presidential debates are officially over, and not one question was asked of the two major party presidential candidates about climate change. This is the second presidential cycle in which the presidential candidates weren’t asked about climate change at the debates — the events with the highest viewership during the entire presidential campaign. Climate activists and groups that push for policies to stop the negative effects of climate change are frustrated. They say the lack of questions on the issue shows the debate moderators are not in touch with the American people, for whom climate change is a growing concern. “It’s really a missed opportunity,” Seth Stein, national press secretary for the League of Conservation Voters, a group that lobbies for environmental reform, said. “Climate change is an issue that’s becoming increasingly important to Americans. And especially when it come to the debates, this is an issue that’s especially important to key groups of voters, including millennials and swing voters.”

Institute for Energy Research: What would Hillary Clinton’s 500 million solar panel plan cost?

One of the keys to Hillary Clinton’s energy agenda is to install more than 500 million solar panels by 2020 if she is elected. The United States currently has 22.9 gigawatts (GW) of solar capacity according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Clinton’s plan is to expand that to 140 GW by 2020. To put that in perspective, EIA projects that even if the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan is upheld by the courts, the U.S. is only on pace to have 57 GW of solar capacity by 2020. To achieve Clinton’s goal would require an additional 83 GW of installed solar capacity beyond EIA’s projection. What would Clinton’s plan cost to go from 22.9 GW of installed solar capacity today to 140 GW in installed capacity in 2020? EIA estimates that new photovoltaic solar costs $2,480 per kilowatt (KW). Therefore each new GW of solar costs $2.48 billion. As noted above, Clinton’s goal calls for an additional 83 GW of installed solar capacity by 2020 and each GW costs $2.48 billion. This means that her plans cost $205.8 billion above the current projections including the costs of the Clean Power Plan. According to EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) 2016, an additional 122 GWs of additional electrical generating capacity will be added by 2020 to replace 89 gigawatts of premature retirements due to the CPP and to satisfy new demand in the generating and end-use sectors. However, electric utilities already have plans to add natural gas and renewable capacity totaling 51 gigawatts. Thus, if Hillary Clinton’s plan is executed, the nation will be paying for additional capacity that is not needed just to reach a spurious goal.

BBC: EU ‘not capable’ of signing trade deal says Canadian minister

A trade deal between the EU and Canada is on the brink of collapse because a Belgian region with a population of just 3.6 million opposes it. An emotional Canadian Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland left the talks in Brussels, saying the EU was “not capable” of signing a trade agreement. Belgium, the only country blocking accord, needed consent from the regional parliament of Wallonia. The wide-ranging deal, seven years in the making, was to be signed next week. Speaking outside the seat of the Walloon government, Ms Freeland told reporters: “It seems evident for me and for Canada that the European Union is not now capable of having an international accord even with a country that has values as European as Canada.” She added: “Canada is disappointed, but I think it is impossible.” It was unclear whether the EU would keep negotiating with Wallonia in coming days to solve the impasse. The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or Ceta, was expected to boost bilateral trade, but Wallonia sees the accord as a threat to farmers and welfare standards. The region has a strong socialist tradition. Its fears echo those of anti-globalisation activists, who say Ceta and deals like it give too much power to multinationals – power even to intimidate governments.

Guardian: Green subsidies to push UK energy bills higher than planned

Household energy bills in four years’ time will be £17 higher annually than planned because of the number of windfarms and solar panels installed in recent years, according to the government’s spending watchdog. The amount of money levied on bills each year to pay for renewable energy subsidies is capped under a system called the levy control framework, to limit costs for consumers and businesses. The cap was set at £7.1bn for 2020/21, but government officials warned last year it was on track to hit £9.1bn because so much green energy was being deployed. The National Audit Office revised this down on Tuesday to £8.7bn, or £110 of what is forecast be a £991 average annual household bill by 2020, up £17 on what it would have been if the cap was met. But energy department officials were quick to point out that the new forecast is within the 20% of ‘headroom’ that is allowed over the cap. The NAO said the framework had failed to provide value for money because the expected overshoot meant there was now little money to support further new renewables up to 2020. Spending more later would have been more cost-effective because the price of building green energy is coming down, the watchdog said. Sir Amyas Morse, auditor general of the NAO, said: “The levy control framework has helped make some of the impacts of renewable energy policies on consumers clearer. But government’s forecasting, allocation of the budget and approach to dealing with uncertainty has been poor, and so has not supported value for money.”

Guardian: Energy storage vital to keep UK lights on, say MPs

Large-scale batteries to store energy and devices that switch themselves off are likely to be key technologies for keeping the UK’s lights on while shutting down old coal and nuclear plants, an influential committee of MPs has said. The threat of blackouts has receded for this winter after scares earlier in the year, National Grid said on Friday, citing a reprieve for Yorkshire’s Eggborough coal-fired power station, as well as greater flexibility from companies with big energy requirements. But the respite will be brief unless further action is taken, warned parliament’s energy and climate change select committee. The MPs recommend investment in two major areas: on the supply side, energy storage; and on the demand side, efficiency technologies that smooth out peaks in usage, for instance by switching devices off and on and running them at lower power at times. Angus MacNeil, chair of the committee, said: “The government must get a move on and encourage the energy market to embrace smart technological solutions like energy storage and demand-side response. There is an incredible opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in these disruptive technologies, yet our current energy security subsidies favour dirty diesel generation over smart new clean tech solutions.”

Wired: Chemists accidentally turn carbon dioxide to ethanol in breakthrough study

In a fortuitous turn of events, researchers in Tennessee have turned carbon dioxide into ethanol in what they’re calling a “new twist to waste-to-fuel technology”. Scientists at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory developed an electrochemical process that uses tiny spikes of carbon and copper to turn CO2 into the fuel. In particular, the team used a catalyst made of carbon, copper and nitrogen and applied voltage to trigger a complicated chemical reaction that essentially reverses the combustion process. With the help of this catalyst, the solution of carbon dioxide dissolved in water and turned into ethanol. Typically, this type of electrochemical reaction results in a mix of several different products in small amounts. “We discovered somewhat by accident that this material worked,” said ORNL’s Adam Rondinone, lead author of the team’s study published in ChemistrySelect. “We were trying to study the first step of a proposed reaction when we realised that the catalyst was doing the entire reaction on its own. We’re taking carbon dioxide, a waste product of combustion, and we’re pushing that combustion reaction backwards with very high selectivity to a useful fuel. Ethanol was a surprise – it’s extremely difficult to go straight from carbon dioxide to ethanol with a single catalyst.” The catalyst is unique and effective because of its nanoscale structure, which contains copper nanoparticles embedded on carbon spikes. This approach meant that the researchers didn’t need to use expensive or rare metals, such as platinum, which typically push costs up and make the process less economically viable.

New Atlas: UK apartments will be a Beacon of sustainable luxury

Luxury living, affordability and sustainability rarely go together, but a new UK development shows that they can. The Beacon will, it’s claimed, be the world’s most sustainable residential tower, with residents still able to enjoy high-end specs and annual savings of up to £11,000 (US$13,500). The tower, developed by Lumiere Developments, will be located on a 0.5-ac (0.2-ha) brownfield site adjacent to greenbelt land in Hemel Hempstead, from where it’s possible to get into the center of London in under half an hour by train. It is part of the town’s regeneration scheme and will see 272 apartments spread over 17 levels. Lumiere says enough heat and power will be generated on-site to almost run the building entirely. Ground source heat pumps will be used to extract heat from the building’s basement, while air source heat pumps will do so from its atrium. The heat will be used to provide hot water to the building’s residences. Electricity, meanwhile, will be produced using 860 kW of solar panels integrated into the balconies around each apartment. Additional power is generated by two wind turbines and surplus energy generated during the day will be stored on-site for use in the evening. As a result of the on-site generation capabilities, Lumiere is offering “Free Energy For Life” to residents, with heating and electricity done away with. The firm says that while it may be necessary for the building to draw power from the grid occasionally, the amount will be “negligible,” based on its modelling.

The model of sustainable luxury

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45 Responses to Blowout Week 147

  1. mark4asp says:

    Comment on: ‘Chemists accidentally turn carbon dioxide to ethanol in breakthrough study’

    Also see: ‘First Optical Rectenna – Combined Rectifier and Antenna – Converts Light to DC Current’

    Two technologies I came upon within 3 days which could be breakthroughs for renewable energy. One to provide energy storage, another to give far cheaper solar power. Both using nanotechnology. The same nanotechnology, 12 green NGOs were lobbying the EC to ban in 2014, on the basis of the precautionary principle.

    If successful the greens will impose a moratorium on nanotechnology applications until it is ‘proven safe’. But to ‘prove something safe’ to greens means you must demonstrate experimentally that every possible thought experiment leading to possible serious failure is false. This it does not fail that way. You must be able to anticipate any and every thought experiment they can think of leading to serious harm. You must then demonstrate that the potential serious harm can not happen.

    Fortunately, it looks like the EC rejected the green lobbying to stop nanotechnology. Possibly leading to a far more viable renewable energy future.

    • Leo Smith says:

      I assume you are unfamiliar with te Law of conservation of energy?

      That to ‘store’ energy, you have to firs create it?

      And that adding the cost of storing it to the cost of generating it,. doesn’t make a bad solution better, just even more expensive?

      Renewable energy is dead, and its starting to smell.

      • mark4asp says:

        From the perspective of power density, solar is the only renewable that makes sense to me. But only if we cut the cost (in both the financial and resource sense) of the collectors ten fold. Perhaps using cheap Rectennas instead of expensive solar PV.

        Only cheaper nuclear power can really hit renewables hard. I don’t see that happening until with have reactors operating at near atmospheric pressures. Probably factory built (AKA “modular”), liquid metal or molten salt reactors. In perhaps 20 years time. Fossil fuels other than natural gas continue to cause too much pollution even if you’re not afraid of the supposed global warming or “ocean acidification”. The amount of natural gas is not infinite. All renewables apart from solar are theoretically and practically too limited. Solar is currently practically too limited.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        Leo, interested in your views on Bill Gates’ “New Energy Coalition”.

        Their unsolicited submissions policy makes for interesting reading:

        BEC does not accept or consider unsolicited ideas, suggestions, information, or materials of any nature whatsoever (“submissions”) and we request that you don’t provide submissions to us. The purpose of this policy is to avoid misunderstandings and disputes when BEC’s products, services, technologies or business are similar or even identical to your submissions. If, despite our request, you provide submissions to us or any affiliated entity or individual, regardless of any statements made in connection with such submission, the following terms apply:

        1. BEC will consider the submission to be non-confidential and non-proprietary.

        2. BEC will have no obligation of any nature whatsoever relating to the submission.

        3. The submission automatically becomes property of BEC and BEC may use, disclose and distribute the submission in any manner and for any purpose without compensation to you or any third party.

        Wikipedia also have an interesting take:

        There has been criticism that the coalition was announced too early, before crucial details has been confirmed. At launch, a Gates Foundation spokesman confirmed that investment professionals had yet to be appointed, named investors – other than Gates – hadn’t publicly stated their level of investment and a financial structure hadn’t been confirmed.[7]

        The scale, at US$20bn of public cash over five years and the initial US$2bn of private cash, has also been criticised as inadequate: the World Bank suggests that US$100bn would be needed annually.[8]

        Note the World Bank wants to spend $100 billion a year on this. Sniff sniff.

        • Alex says:

          How do they expect to find investment targets with no solicitation?

          It’s not clear what their targets might be and how they can help. Would companies like Kitegen, Moltex and ThorCon be their targets? Or do they want less certain technologies like the various fusion start-ups?

  2. Leo Smith says:

    The Guardian. Ultimate purveyor of cat belling solutions.

    Obviously the answer to mankind problems is a matter transporter to new planets in the Vega system. I think £50bn a year should just about cover the cost of my research budget.

  3. peter9381 says:

    If the south australian blackout was caused by the loss of transmission towers cutting windpower to Adelaide, then the ride through settings would have been totally irrelevant.

    But the AEMO report says that the blackout was caused by the loss of windpower, causing the interconnector to trip which caused the gas generators to trip. It lays no fault on the blackout to the loss of the towers, most of which had failed prior to the blackout.

    Because of the strong winds, Many windfarms had been surging and auto shutting down in the hours leading up to the blackout, and any competent management would have forced these windfarms to shutdown and ramp up the giant Torrens Island thermal gas generator in Adelaide, but they did nothing.

    • Greg Kaan says:

      The AEMO is not entirely blameless IMO but only due to omission of the fault ride through limits by the wind farms during their NEM registraion.

      One farm (Snowtown 2) shutdown from overspeeding. Surging is normal operating mode for wind farms – just check the AEMO dispatch archives for any stormy period.

      3 of the 4 Torrens B 200 MW units were online at the time of the blackout. The 4 Torrens A 120 MW units were offline due to the market price being low with the large amount of wind generation taking place.

      The only way that the AEMO management of events was not “competent” was to not require the wind farms to register their fault ride through limits as part of their NEM registration. Then they could have assessed the conditions as be subject to non-credible events and forced the wind farms to curtail, making it economically viable for more thermal units to be online.

      Of course the non-credible threshold would then be greatly lowered making the curtailment far more often. This would raise the price of electricity as I believe the wind farms are paid for curtailing their output Meanwhile the renewables lobby (fronted by RenewEconomy) would then go to town on how the AEMO discriminates against wind farms to allow thermal generators to profit from more frequent running.

      The ride through limits of the wind farms that shut down prior to the Heywood Interconnector disconnecting are being adjusted for greater tolerance. How this effects the long term reliability of the wind farms will be interesting – the limits were presumably set to meet the specified lifetime of the turbines.

      BTW back in July the South Australian energy minister lobbied the AEMC to alter the market rules so that South Australia would maintain a higher portion of synchronous (ie thermal since SA has no hydro) generators online whenever wind generation was high by limiting flows on the Heywood Interconnector. Who would have paid for this further distortion of the market pricing mechanism was not mentioned in his proposal.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        Correction for the first sentence – it should have read

        The AEMO is not entirely blameless IMO but only due to not requiring the fault ride through limits by the wind farms during their NEM registration so that non-credible events could be more accurately assessed.

      • OpenSourceElectricity says:

        One point: Wind farms which were at bigger distances from the failures, (like the thermal power plants) also did ride threw, like the thermal power plants. And it is unclear if the thermal power plants would have colsed down in a similar situation or not.

        I guess the ones programming the fault ride threw algorithms assumed that there is not much grid left outside the park when so many voltage dips happen in such a short time, raising the question if more fault ride threw attempts would do more damage than use in such a case.

        Another open question, which will be researched as I understand , is, wether there was any possibility to keep the grid operating with different fault ride threw algorithms with so many transmission lines gone. Or if the grid would have collapsed anyway due to too many failing lines.

    • sod says:

      The interconnector did also fail when coal plants struggled in the past. And they did struggle, under similar circumstances.

      The main difference seems to be a simple one: wind power is a simple scape goat and by trying to be transparent is actually making it eassier to shift the blame.

      It is the opposite with fossil fuels:

      “The first is that fossil fuels are not a panacea as some would wish. The diesel and gas generators paid handsomely to provide black start services to the state both failed, one within 15 seconds, causing the blackout to last much longer than it would have done otherwise. AEMO refuses to name the failed generators, citing “confidentiality” agreements.”

      • peter9381 says:

        A hypothetical.

        If there were no windfarms and both coal power stations at Whyalla were still operational, there would have only been isolated blackouts effecting a small number of customers.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        RenewEconomy is one of the most biased websites in existence – renewables are never to blame when the comes to increasing power costs or decreasing reliability. Don’t try to use Giles Parkinson as a reference source if you wish to have any credibility at all in your statements.

        Yes, both the blackstart services in South Australia failed but that is not the point. There should not have been a need for a blackstart in the first place – the wind farms were less capable than assumed by the market operator and should have been curtailed in the conditions. Then when the interconnector tripped (because 10 wind farms fell off line causing a generation shortfall), the larger amount of thermal generation that would have been online would have given the grid operator, ElectraNet, time to shed load (selective blackouts), preventing the whole grid from going down.

        Of course, the wind farms should have informed the AEMO of their ride through limits when registering for the NEM (one could argue that the AEMO should have required this information). Then the curtailment would have occurred, bringing more thermal generators online to stabilise the grid – the side effect would have been an increase in electricity price.

        The South Australian energy minister had requested back in July that the AEMC change to the market rules to limit flows on the Heywood Interconnector in order to force more thermal generation to be online at any time. The request was made in recognition of the lack of contribution to stability by PV and wind turbines. Of course, he never acknowledged that there were any issues at all with the SA grid in his public statements but that’s typical of the 2 faced approach with renewables support.

        see Appendix A – page 10

        Having the wind farms curtail and limiting flows on the Heywood Interconnector to increase local thermal generation would drive up electricity prices further in South Australia – more renewables success.

        • OpenSourceElectricity says:

          There is no cause to curtail the wind farms just by limits in the voltage ride threw algorithms which were expected never to be reached anywhrere. 3 mayor power line failures on three different lines in less than 2 minutes are quite ununsual.
          Noone knows how the settings in the scada systems of the coal power plants would have been, and when it would haved stopts any attempt to ride threw because it was assumed to cause more damage than useful effect. Or if the stress on the turbine/generator sets during the fault ride threw in conventional power stations would have become too big – the wind farms with their inverters have algorithms which limit the mechanical stress, conventional power statios do not have this possibilities.
          So there is a lot to look at for the australian grid operators.

        • GeorgeO says:

          Agree with comments on RenewEconomy. It is really a vehicle for selling solar and associated advertising. Useful as a news site sometimes but no so good for informed commentary.

    • mark4asp says:

      I don’t wholly blame wind for the blackout. I blame the grid operator.

      Just before the blackout, South Australia was relying on:
      — Wind farms ——————————- 800 MW
      — Gas plant ——————————— 330 MW
      — Imports from Victoria ——————- 610 MW

      Potentially, total local capacity available to South Australia (from Wikipedia):
      — 16 operating wind farms ————- 1473 MW
      — Pelican Point (CC gas turbine) —— 487 MW
      — Other plant (Other gas turbine) —– 779 MW
      — Osborne (CC gas turbine) ———— 180 MW
      — Diesel plant (gas turbine) ————- 113 MW
      — Torrens Island (steam turbine) —– 1280 MW

      1) Why were they running so much wind power going into a storm when they knew there was a high probability that wind plants would exit the grid due to high winds?
      2) It may also have been prudent for them to import less from Victoria, rather than the maximum capacity the line would carry. They seem to have no hydro, so Victoria was the only source they could switch in quickly should anything fail.

      • Depriv says:

        I’m still in the middle of processing the events, but as I see now the reason why those wind farms exit the grid were _not_ due high wind conditions. It was most likely due some self-protect thing (manual or automatic) against grid-side problems. What’s quite interesting, since:
        – thermals did not quit in the same time
        – so far I could not find grid events at those exact times which could have triggered such mechanisms.

        Also, the speed of the collapse of the grid was too fast, there was no chance for any operator response (load cutoff or anything).

        Based on the damage on the lines I would say a large scale blackout was inevitable with or without wind farms: however the severe lack of adequate local spinning reserve (due high wind penetration) had quite dramatic effect on grid stability and fault-tolerance.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        Mark, the grids operate by market rules. One of the rules is that windfarms get priority access to the market with no requirement for guarantee of supply. Outside the market, the wind farms get guaranteed (PPA) or highly subsidised (REC) payments so it is in their interest to generate as much electricity as possible.

        Without capacity payments or a directive by the AEMO for non-credible contingencies, it is not possible for the grid operator, ElectraNet, to force the thermal plants to be online.

        The South Australian energy minister had requested back in July that the AEMC change to the market rules to limit flows on the Heywood Interconnector in order to force more thermal generation to be online at any time. The request was made in recognition of the lack of contribution to stability by PV and wind turbines.

        see Appendix A – page 10

        So the South Australian government was fully aware of the dangers of the way their grid had evolved and was operated and wanted further market distortions to help tidy up the situation. Of course, South Australian energy minister never acknowledged that there were any issues at all with the SA grid in his public statements but that’s typical of the 2 faced approach with renewables support.

        The lack of knowledge of the wind farms’ fault ride through capabilities set the scene for the blackout as the AEMO did not assess the grid to be subject to non-credible events. Due to this, there was no directive for the more thermal generation to come online. The blame can be laid at the wind farms for not providing this information during their registration for the NEM or at the AEMO for not requiring this information. This will probably end up being settled in court due to the damages from the blackout.

        The increase in fault ride through that has been implemented at most of the wind farms makes one ask why were the settings so low in the first place that they could be increased so easily?

    • Alex says:

      The South Australian blackout appears to have been caused by failure of long distance transmission networks. These do seem to be a vulnerability – and I understand the UK-Eire connector is down and the Bass Link are also down.

      Whilst not directly connected to renewables, it seems to urge caution to the “wind is always blowing somewhere” argument. Likewise, we hear that there is plenty of untapped hydro potential in “Europe” that could complement renewables. However, over half of this is in Turkey.

      • peter9381 says:

        The blackout was not caused by the loss transmission networks, it was caused by a loss of windpower. Read the AEMO report.

      • Greg Kaan says:

        BassLink was fixed back in July.

        I do agree that large transmission links are not the panecea to wind generation that is asserted by proponents. And that’s even if you accept the “the wind is always blowing somewhere” argument which I don’t.

  4. robertok06 says:

    “Energy and Natural Resources Minister Berat Albayrak has announced that the tender for the 1,000 megawatt-photovoltaic solar power plant, …

    The solar power plant, which will be constructed on a nearly 2,000-hectare area, will produce 1.7 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, which is enough to be used in 600,000 houses.”


    “Roughly 650,000 homes in Tennessee will be powered by the first nuclear power generator to enter into commercial operation in the United States in 20 years, according to a new report by The Hill. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s Watts Bar 2 reactor will produce 1,150 megawatts of power, the company’s announcement on Wednesday said.”

    Great!… almost the same number of household serviced (but the average US/Tennessee household uses much more electricity than a Turkish one)… not to mention that the US ones will get power 24h/24, all seasons the same… while the Turkish ones only during the day, and 1/2 in winter as compared to summer… with a 1 km2 nuclear power station footprint vs 20 km2 for the PV one.

    Case closed.

    • peter9381 says:

      If you convert the 1.7 billion kilowatt hours annually to average output you get 192 MW which is19% capacity factor fir the solar plant.

      So a solar plant averaging 192MW is equivalent to a nuclear averaging 1150MW? My maths is not that great but if you divide 192MW by 600000 you get about 300 watts per household.

      Appears to me that they based their 600000 figure on the nameplate capacity.

  5. mark4asp says:

    “Environmental Progress: DOE task force calls for temporary subsidy to save nuclear plants”

    Greens have been hoping cheap natural gas will kill nuclear power in the USA for 2 or 3 years now (they literally said so to James Hansen). It’s taken longer. Some people around Environmental Progress imply there’s almost a conspiracy between greens and nuclear plant owners to close nuclear plants. In the case of Diablo Canyon in California that may well be true! Plant owners want higher profits. Greens want more expensive electricity. Prevalent subsidised renewable energy and cheap gas in liberalized markets means nuclear power can no longer command a good base price for all its output. Nuclear power does not respond well to flexible demand. Nuclear plants are most efficiently run flat out. Managing demand just means the plant is run less efficiently. It costs just as much to run the plant flat out as to “manage demand”. The costs don’t change, but revenues are most likely lower when “managing demand”. In liberalized markets, plant owners prefer more flexible plant so they can charge much higher prices in times of high demand, and/or renewables shortage. Natural gas plant is also cheaper to build than anything else. It will be far cheaper for a nuclear plant owner to build a new natural gas plant than upgrade a nuclear power plant : due to tedious regulatory requirements affecting nuclear power. NPPs are closing anyway. “US nuclear plant to close at Ft. Calhoun Station (FCS) on October 24. It is 473 MW, employing 700 people.” 700 people to run a 473 MW plant? Seems a lot. Another reason nuclear power can’t compete is they are less efficient today. In the past 15 years, the efficiency of US nuclear power has fallen. More people making the same amount of electricity. This is, again, certainly due to ever increasing regulatory requirements.

  6. climanrecon says:

    I suspect there is a big story to be told about the National Grid’s recent Winter Outlook report, in which it appears that supply has been exaggerated by various dodgy accounting practices, and expected maximum demand has been dropped to severe recession/warm winter/fuel poverty levels.

    A capacity credit of 21% for wind is at best green obfuscation, because during many recent very cold winter days wind power has all but vanished at times of peak demand:

  7. A C Osborn says:

    Re Dong is upgrading Denmark’s largest power plant to use wood pellets
    “Even when the processing and transportation of the wood pellets is taken into consideration, emissions are still reduced by approximately 90% compared to the coal and gas that was used previously, according to Dong Energy. ”

    Not in the real world is this possible.
    Twice the amount of Wood Chips required for the same output as Coal.
    Which is twice the transportation, twice the storage and Wood produces more CO2 than coal.

    Unless of course you use the totally stupid EU concession that wood chips are “carbon neutral”.

    • jim brough says:

      There is no such thing as “carbon neutral “.
      Wood and woodchips cant be made without CO2 emissioins but there is a trade for wood to take wood pellets from USA to DRAX in Yorkshire to replace local nasty coal.
      Never mind that fossil fuels were used to harvest the wood, dry it and ship it to a “green” project a continent away.
      Environmental nuttiness

    • gweberbv says:

      A C Osborn,

      one of my cousins just finished his job training as a carpenter. Part of the final exam was to fabricate a piece of furniture. Just the raw wood costed a few 100 bucks!
      Therefore I cannot believe that it is profitable to cut down trees just to make little value goods like wood pellets from them. To me it seems plausible that only those parts that are more or less useless for other purposes are converted into pellets.

  8. pyrrhus says:

    A meta-analysis of all these stories indicates that the increasing innumeracy of politicians and the general public is completely destroying the chance of a sane approach to energy policy….

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Every week Roger does an amazing job of scanning the energy headlines and juxtaposes all of the contradictory crap that is out there. The average man on the street probably doesn’t recognise the contradictions. Is simply confused. In my sights I have academia who are failing global society miserably. Unashamedly chasing a few $ here and there to do “research” that supports the official narrative publishing in “peer reviewed ” bull crap journals where the peers are chasing the same grubby $.

      Intellectual ability and scientific understanding are not uniform but it is hierarchical. I had to sweat blood and tears to get my PhD that took me 7 years to get. Personally I would not have given myself a pass. But today all you need to do is show up talk about interconnectors (lots of em), energy storage, demand management and you’re in the club. In Scotland you can choose to pay for it all with free bus passes, free healthcare and free education for everyone who can right there naim.

      • jim brough says:

        I agree with your analysis, Euan.
        Latest idea in Australia and UK is that we can solve the unreliability of wind and solar electricity by building electric batteries.
        That needs more mines, environmental destruction and more CO2 production.
        Nuclear is a proven low CO2 electricity generator completely capable of backing up the intermittency of wind and solar.

        • A C Osborn says:

          Let me correct your last statement.
          Nuclear is a proven low CO2 electricity generator completely capable of replacing wind and solar.

  9. Andre says:

    “Storm of controversy erupts over AEMO blackout report”

    The moral of the story: –

    Associated with every scientific and engineering learning curve is an operational learning curve. You can have every aspect of the first two bases covered, but you haven’t even started until you’ve also covered the third base. Any practicing engineer could tell you this.

    • peter9381 says:

      True, but in this case you also have to factor in the political learning curve which is a flat line.

      • Graeme No.3 says:

        I can see that you haven’t been exposed to many comments from the South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, because you would then have remarked on a declining line direction.
        He believes that turbine electricity is cheap* and wonders why NSW doesn’t build an interconnector hundreds of kilometres through the least populated part of their State to allow SA to send surplus from wind farms to disrupt their grid.
        Some of his other remarks are less logical.

        *Cheap if you ignore the REC subsidy of twice the cost of coal fired in NSW.

        • peter9381 says:

          How true. South Australia now has over 1500MW of windpower capacity and their peak load is somewhere around 2000MW, so when the wind is at optimum conditions there is often far too much power available so they use the interconnector to export it to Vic which in turn exports to NSW.

          There is about 2000 MW of windfarms in the pipeline and as the Vic interconnectors are only capable of 650MW, unless new interconnectors are built, they are cactus!

          So they are desperately lobbying for the feds to pay for another interconnector so they can export heaps of subsidized windpower which gradually forces fossil fuel plants to become unprofitable which then makes state governments pay these plants large amounts of money to stay on standby.

          South Australia already has the highest electricity prices in Australia and probably the western world.

  10. PhilH says:

    Fukushima ice wall “is not working”

    Another nuclear-related story was published this week, about the heroic efforts having to be made at Fukushima:

    • Peter Lang says:

      Is it true there has still not been a single death attributable to radiation leaks or radioactive contamination, and unlikely to ever be any?

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