Blowout week 39

Blowout lite this week with 16 links mainly to renewable stories. The story  that caught my eye this week describes a massive $8billion Wyoming wind to Los Angeles renewables plan that includes compressed air storage in constructed salt caverns in Utah. In my opinion, all renewables projects should be mandated to provide load balancing capacity either through storage or fossil fuel based back up.

PennEnergy: $8B renewable energy initiative proposed for Los Angeles (Video)

Four companies today jointly proposed a first-in-the-U.S., $8-billion green energy initiative that would bring large amounts of clean electricity to the Los Angeles area by 2023.
The project would require construction of one of America’s largest wind farms in Wyoming, one of the world’s biggest energy storage facilities in Utah, and a 525-mile electric transmission line connecting the two sites.

Telegraph: Power from wind turbines slumps – due to lack of wind

Power produced by wind farms slumped by a fifth in the second quarter of this year, despite hundreds of new turbines being built – because it wasn’t very windy.
Official Government statistics published on Thursday show that in the three months to the end of June, the amount of electricity produced by offshore wind farms fell by 22 per cent, to 2 terawatt-hours (TWh), compared with the same period the year before.

BBC: EU hopeful of gas deal between Ukraine and Russia

The EU’s energy commissioner is hopeful of a deal between Ukraine and Russia to end their dispute over gas deliveries after three-way talks in Berlin.

Guenther Oettinger outlined a plan which would see Russia supply Ukraine over the winter and into the spring.

Ukraine would pay Russia $2bn (£1.2bn) of its gas debt by the end of October and another $1.1bn by the year’s end.

BBC: Huge turbines for Middle Muir wind farm near Crawfordjohn

The tallest wind turbines ever approved on the UK mainland are to form part of a new project in South Lanarkshire.

Seven of the 15 turbines in the Middle Muir facility, just over a mile from Crawfordjohn, will stand 152m high.

The wind farm, which has been approved by the Scottish government, will have the potential to generate up to 60MW of electricity, enough for 28,000 homes.

Telegraph: Politicians must act for a low-carbon economy

We will not achieve economic growth without tackling climate change — the economic cost of inaction is now greater than action and our politicians must show leadership.
For too long, we have been told that we have to choose between economic growth or climate action. In fact, the opposite is true, as over the next 15 years we will not have one without the other.

Roger’s links

AP: Renewable Energy Plan Hinges On Huge Utah Caverns

A proposal to export twice as much Wyoming wind power to Los Angeles as the amount of electricity generated by the Hoover Dam includes an engineering feat even more massive than that famous structure: Four chambers, each approaching the size of the Empire State Building, would be carved from an underground salt deposit to hold huge volumes of compressed air.

No Tricks Zone: German Power Grid More Vulnerable Than Ever…”On The Brink Of Widespread Blackouts”!

There was a time when Germany’s power was mostly generated by the traditional sources of coal, nuclear, oil, natural gas and hydro. These sources were reliable and keeping the power grid under control was a routine matter. Germany’s power grid was among the most stable worldwide. But then came Germany’s renewable energy feed-in act, and with it the very volatile sources of sun and wind.

Guardian: Europe’s carbon cuts should be subject to Paris climate deal – EU energy chief

Europe should only push ahead with its planned cuts to carbon emissions if the rest of the world agrees to a global climate change deal at a crunch summit in Paris next year, according to the EU’s energy chief.

LA Times: West Coast warming linked to naturally occurring changes

Naturally occurring changes in winds, not human-caused climate change, are responsible for most of the warming on land and in the sea along the West Coast of North America over the last century, a study has found.

Flanders Today: Plan for winter brownouts revealed

The energy ministry has released details of the brownout plan to take effect if Belgium runs short of energy this winter because of the closure of the Doel 4 nuclear facility

Large cities unaffected
The federal government’s plans for selectively turning off the electricity supply to certain areas this winter – the so-called brownout – have been announced by federal interior minister Melchior Wathelet.

Rig Zone: Coming Change in UK Drilling Laws a Benefit to Oil, Gas Producers

The change in UK drilling legislation is on the way if the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), which had been considering a change in drilling law for some time, moves ahead with the change, despite opposition from poll respondents, the DECC said Thursday.

BN Americas: Mexico’s oil, gas reserves could be second only to Arctic – EY

Mexico’s potential oil and gas reserves, including shale, could be second only to the Arctic region in size and scope, and offer a wide range of opportunities for foreign firms in the wake of its reforms, according to a report by Ernst & Young (EY).

Telegraph: Technology revolution in nuclear power could slash costs below coal

The cost of conventional nuclear power has spiralled to levels that can no longer be justified. All the reactors being built across the world are variants of mid-20th century technology, inherently dirty and dangerous, requiring exorbitant safety controls.
This is a failure of wit and will. Scientists in Britain, France, Canada, the US, China and Japan have already designed better reactors based on molten salt technology that promise to slash costs by half or more, and may even undercut coal. They are much safer, and consume nuclear waste rather than creating more. What stands in the way is a fortress of vested interests.

Bloomberg: South Africa Signs Agreement With Russia for Nuclear Power

South Africa signed a partnership agreement with Russia’s state-owned nuclear company that may see Rosatom Corp. build reactors in Africa’s second-biggest economy.

“The agreement lays the foundation for the large-scale nuclear power plants procurement and development program” using Russian VVER reactors with installed capacity of about 9,600 megawatts, or as many as eight nuclear units, Rosatom and the South African government said in an e-mailed statement today. The country also has a draft nuclear cooperation pact with China.

WSJ: Germany’s Coal Binge

Berlin’s “energy revolution” is going great—if you own a coal mine. The German shift to renewable power sources that started in 2000 has brought the green share of German electricity up to around 25%. But the rest of the energy mix has become more heavily concentrated on coal, which now accounts for some 45% of power

Subscriber only

KCET: Massive Solar Power Project for California Desert Scrapped

The consortium of solar companies seeking to build a 500-megawatt solar power tower project in Riverside County has formally withdrawn the project’s application from consideration by the California Energy Commission.

KCET: Power from renewables in Scotland ‘up by 30%’

Almost half of the power generated in Scotland now comes from renewable sources, according to official figures.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change said renewables achieved 46.4% of gross electricity consumption in 2013 – up from 39.9% in 2012.

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9 Responses to Blowout week 39

  1. Phil Chapman says:

    The story by PennEnergy to which you link says “During periods of high customer demand, the facility would use the stored, high-pressure compressed air, combined with a small amount of natural gas, to power eight generators that would produce electricity.” “High customer demand” presumably means any time the wind is not blowing; the “eight generators” must have the capacity to serve the entire load; and the “small amount of natural gas” must be enough to meet that load.

    The “eight generators” will differ from a conventional natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant only in that air for combustion is pressurized separately, rather than by a compressor driven by the turbine. This saves the capital cost of a compressor – but the generators will sit idle, not earning their keep, whenever there is enough wind power to service the load. The annualized cost of the capital needed to build them will thus be spread over fewer hours per year than if they ran continuously, so the amortized cost per kWh of the generators will be HIGHER than in a conventional NGCC system.

    This means that the ONLY purpose of the whole shebang, including the windmills, the HVDC transmission lines from Wyoming to LA and the compressed air energy storage (CAES) is to reduce the amount of natural gas consumed. This makes no economic sense whatsoever.

    This issue was partially addressed in a 2012 study, at The authors made the very optimistic assumption that by 2030 wind would supply 20% of US electricity, interconnected over large distances, which helps to even out the variability. They found that just using conventional NGCC plants to meet the load whenever there was insufficient wind would be cheaper than adding CAES if the wholesale price of gas was $15/GJ.

    The present price of gas is <$4/GJ in the US and <$9/GJ in Europe. .

    The only reason to consider PennEnergy’s proposed system is that California passed a foolish law requiring that 30% of its electricity must come from renewable sources, regardless of the cost. Since the climate is actually cooling (and may get much colder if we are indeed in a grand solar minimum), I don’t believe it will actually ever be built. If it is, I predict that within a few years PennEnergy will retrofit compressors to the generators (or buy electrically-powered ones) and run on gas all the time, instead of paying to maintain the windmills, the HVDC line and the CAES.

    • dennis coyne says:

      Hi Phil,

      For those that think that natural gas will not remain cheap forever, using wind, solar and nuclear, with some fossil fuel backup, makes a great deal of sense.

      Using a physical model (CSALT) developed by Paul Pukite(aka Webhubbletelescope), pretty good agreement with temperature can be attained with a simple model.


      Chart below at link

      note that temperature has declined on several occasions in the 20th century (early and mid 20th century),nobody has claimed that there is no natural variability, for the most part the CSALT model gets the trends pretty well.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        For those that think that natural gas will not remain cheap forever, using wind, solar and nuclear, with some fossil fuel backup, makes a great deal of sense.

        Almost agree with you Dennis but would say nuclear + hydro in wet and hilly countries + solar in sunny countries with FF peaking plants. That system is predictable. Wind just adds noise.

        • dennis coyne says:

          Wind can be predicted, just as loads can be predicted, there are plenty of peaking natural gas plants that can back up wind turbines. A study by a group at the University of Delaware suggests that wind can work quite nicely, though I think a combination of wind, solar and nuclear with some fossil fuel backup is best.

          See link below for U Delaware paper (link for pdf in upper left corner::


          We model many combinations of renewable electricity sources (inland wind, offshore wind, and photovoltaics) with electrochemical storage (batteries and fuel cells), incorporated into a large grid system (72 GW). The purpose is twofold: 1) although a single renewable generator at one site produces intermittent power, we seek combinations of diverse renewables at diverse sites, with storage, that are not intermittent and satisfy need a given fraction of hours. And 2) we seek minimal cost, calculating true cost of electricity without subsidies and with inclusion of external costs. Our model evaluated over 28 billion combinations of renewables and storage, each tested over 35,040 h (four years) of load and weather data. We find that the least cost solutions yield seemingly-excessive generation capacity—at times, almost three times the electricity needed to meet electrical load. This is because diverse renewable generation and the excess capacity together meet electric load with less storage, lowering total system cost. At 2030 technology costs and with excess electricity displacing natural gas, we find that the electric system can be powered 90%–99.9% of hours entirely on renewable electricity, at costs comparable to today’s—but only if we optimize the mix of generation and storage technologies.”

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Phil, the picture you paint of FF plant standing idle is reality in Europe already. The FF producers who provide in invaluable load balancing and back up services are being put out of business by energy policies.

      The CAES combined with nat gas turbine concept is a new one for me.

  2. A C Osborn says:

    Does Scotland have the equivalent of the National Grid readout of it’s power generation?
    Looking at the National Grid Wind generation I find it very hard to believe that it can be supplying as much as stated for Scotland’s usage.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      As far as I know, Scotland is included in BM reports. The Scottish Grid is not part of the National Grid. In Scotland the grid operator is split in 2, with Scottish and Southern Energy operating the N and Scottish Power the S (from memory).

  3. roberto says:


    the link on the news “KCET: Massive Solar Power Project for California Desert Scrapped” is wrong, it points to the following one, on BBC’s site…

    … should be this, I think:



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