Renewable Energy Growth in Perspective

Guest post: Roger Andrews

Renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, continues to set records for electicity generation and installed capacity in many parts of the world, and as shown in Figure 1 wind and solar growth in recent years has indeed been quite spectacular (the data used to construct this and following Figures are from the 2014 BP Statistical Review of World Energy):

Figure 1: Electricity Generated from Solar and Wind, 1965-2013

But Figure 1 doesn’t tell the whole story because solar and wind are only two of the four main sources of renewable energy. Adding the other two – biomass and hydro – puts the solar and wind contributions in better perspective (Figure 2). Electricity generated by renewables has increased by a factor of over five since 1965 but 70% of the increase has come from hydro. Wind contributed half of the remaining 30%, biomass, which in the BP data set includes geothermal and “other”, contributed 12% and solar brought up the rear with 3%.

Figure 2: Electricity Generated from All Renewables, 1965-2013

But while renewables generation has grown, so has electricity consumption, and when this is taken into account we find that increased contributions from solar, wind and biomass have been offset by the declining overall contribution from hydro to the point where the percentage of the world’s electricity supplied by renewables is only marginally higher now than it was in 1985 (BP doesn’t provide global electricity consumption data before 1985).

Figure 3: Percentage of Global Electricity Generated by Renewables, 1965-2013

And because electricity supplies only about 40% of world energy consumption the percentage of world energy consumption supplied by renewables is correspondingly lower. Electricity consumption, on the other hand, has grown faster than energy consumption, so renewables do supply a higher percentage of world energy consumption than they used to – up from 5.6% in 1965 to 8.9% in 2013, with increased “market penetration” by wind, biomass and solar responsible for most of the increase:

Figure 4: Percentage of Global Energy Generated by Renewables, 1965-2013

Figure 4 in fact provides a reasonably good perspective on the actual contribution of renewables to global energy supply since 1965. Expanding the Y-scale to 100%, however, gives a better perspective on the size of the contribution:

Figure 5: Percentage of Global Energy Generated by Renewables, 1965-2013

There’s also the question of where hydro fits in. Unlike solar, wind and biomass its market share hasn’t increased much since 1965 and isn’t thought likely to increase at all in the future (the IEA projects that hydro’s share of global electricity generation will in fact decrease from ~17% to ~14% by 2050). So while we can expect that hydro will continue to provide most of the energy generated by renewables for some time to come it isn’t likely to contribute to decarbonizing global energy generation any more than it already has. If decarbonization is to be achieved by expanding renewables the expansion will have to come in wind, solar and biomass. So let’s take hydro out and see how far growth in wind, solar and biomass has carried us along the decarbonization path so far:

Figure 6: Percentage of Global Energy Generated by Wind, Solar & Biomass, 1965-2013

Clearly they still have a long way to go.

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104 Responses to Renewable Energy Growth in Perspective

  1. peter2108 says:

    Is there any compendious way of looking at the cost of this contribution? For example the cost per TWh for wind and for solar, and the cost of building the capacity. If you need to build a MW of gas fired capacity for each MW of wind you add then what is all this going to cost? Of course you don’t need tyo add exact matching capacity at first, but as the proportion of wind generation rises then at some point I assume you do have to match 1 for 1. It seems that these questions are hard to answer,

    • danskal says:

      German scientists have shown that you can fulfill demand with only renewables, including dispatchable biogas. You need an intelligent grid, and energy storage would make it even easier.

      No one is promising it will be dirt cheap (although prices are already competitive), but at least it won’t cost the earth.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        German scientists have shown that you can fulfill demand with only renewables, including dispatchable biogas. You need an intelligent grid, and energy storage would make it even easier.

        The truth is that new renewables provide 8% of primary energy in Germany

      • Euan Mearns says:

        And 19% of electricity consumed:

        http://euanmearns.com/?p=3098

        Where is your evidence to back up the sweeping claim you made?

        • Bilt says:

          It’s not 2012 any more. It’s 2014.

          Renewables supplied 27% of Germany’s electricity in Q1 2014. It’ll probably be higher across the summer months. And next year even higher again.

          In the next few decades they will reach 100% renewables, which is an amazing achievement given that serious investment in clean energy only began in the early 2000s.

          And Germany is far ahead of most countries in renewable investment, so your attempts to portray the clean energy transition as something of a failure by using global graphs that go back to 1965 is highly misleading. It’s like declaring that aeroplanes are a failed technology by noting there was virtually no growth from 1850 to 1905.

          The renewable energy revolution is just beginning, and the doubters and deniers are going to look increasingly ridiculous as they try to pick holes in it, just like the global warming deniers look so ridiculous today.

          • bit chilly says:

            so why are they building more coal fired power stations ?

          • Euan Mearns says:

            They are going green of course. Brown (lignite) is the new black (hard coal) and black is the new green. Post Fukushima, Germany has resolved to close down its nuclear power stations.

          • Kent Clizbe says:

            Bilt,

            “It’s like declaring that aeroplanes are a failed technology by noting there was virtually no growth from 1850 to 1905.”

            That’s a great point!

            Actually the comparison should have gone back to the 12th century–which is when Europe began using windmills!

            “The earliest certain reference to a windmill in Europe (assumed to have been of the vertical type) dates from 1185, in the former village of Weedley in Yorkshire which was located at the southern tip of the Wold overlooking the Humber estuary.[19] A number of earlier, but less certainly dated, twelfth-century European sources referring to windmills have also been found.[20] These earliest mills were used to grind cereals.”

            That would be an honest comparison of energy sources.

            Next thing you know the progress-hating “environmentalists” will be touting the “sustainability” of heating homes with dung!

            And living in caves!

            Oh, how green can you go?

        • roberto says:

          Euan:

          I can help you with that… the sweeping claim is probably motivated by this recent study:

          http://www.qualenergia.it/sites/default/files/articolo-doc/2050-%20german_energy-system_Henning.pdf

          It is full of errors and wishful thinking… totaly unreliable…just look at the slide no.4, “German GH Emissions”… it projects a 40% decrease in CO2 emission between 2011 and 2020…when the energy sector in 2012 and 2013 has generated INCRESING amounts of CO2, not decreasing ones with respect to 2011!… it is just unrealistic to think that in the 6 years left to 2020 they will decrease even faster and get the 40% decrease.

        • Bob Wallace says:

          “so why are they building more coal fired power stations ?”

          Germany began a program of replacing inefficient coal plants with much more efficient plants several years back. Well before renewables took off and the decision to rapidly close nuclear plants was made. It takes years to bring new thermal plants on line. As these new plants come on line the older, inefficient ones are being closed.

          Initially it was thought that Germany would build 11.3 GW of coal capacity and shut 18.5 GW. With the success of renewables some of that 11.3 GW will not be built and some of the 18.5 GW is being closed early.

          Germany doesn’t have a large supply of natural gas. Germany has to depend on Russia for gas and we all can see how that is not a wise position to put ones country. They’ll need some coal for a while as they finish building out their renewable grid. It is expected coal will be gone before 2050.

      • roberto says:

        The thing that the german scientists (which were all engineers using a bottom-up technique, rather than the more appropriate top-down approach) did NOT show where these humongous quantities of elecricity would be stored!
        PV, in Germany, needs storage over MONTHS (several weeks at least), since as the Fraunhofer Institut monthly updates show, during the 4 full months November-February the production of PV is 1/4 or less of the summer production… it would mean that any “excess electricity” generated by 250 GWp in summer would need to be stored for 4 months of more!… convert that to m3 of water (about 1 m3 over 500 m drop with a pumped-hydro reservoir stores 1 kWh, if I remember correctly… 70% roundtrip efficiency)… Germany simply does not have, not by orders of magnitude the capability to store such a huge amount of electricity (winter consumption now can be 2 TWh/day!)… converting electricity to H2 via hydrolisys would waste even more…
        The difference between using a bottom-up scheme, where one says 1 kWp of PV, or 1 MW of wind generate this many MWh, therefore I simply get the proper number of panels and/or turbines by dividing the consumption by this number of MWh is completely wrong, as well stated by a paper in Energy Policy written by De Castro et al (De Castro published this in a The Oil Drum article, back then…)… vs the wrongly stated bottom-up of, for instance, Jacobson, De Lucchi et al (same journal), where they did what I mentioned above… the equivalent of saying “I can build the replica of the Empire State Building by using millions and millions of tiny LEGO plastic cubes”.

        On the other hand, the farcical run to literally cover the planet with panels and turbines is motivated by the need to reduce the CO2 load to the atmosphere… and one just needs to simulate the necessarily exponential installation and production of PV panels to replace fossils by 2050 (the magic date for AGW-ists) to understand that the net amount of CO2 after considering the energy-pay-back would be NEGATIVE or barely positive, meaning that there would be no reduction in CO2 in the atmosphere.

        By the way.. being german and being scientists doesn’t necessarily mean that they are right!

        Cheers.

        • Ben Vorlich says:

          Your link to Fraunhofer Institut was pointed out to me a few days ago elsewhere by a fan of Solar PV. Unlike him/her I did some investigations and came to the conclusion that he was fooling himself Particularly if you compare winter and summer weeks and include the Import and export data (the default is to exclude the import/export elements).

        • Peter Melia says:

          Hi Roberto, re your post timed July 16, 9.22am; aren’t all of those emissions in your “nice picture”, steam?

  2. Bobski says:

    Considering the amount of damage being done by these “decarbonising” efforts to our economies, our neighbourhoods, and our democracy by global warming loonies like Al Gore, Obama, and Ed Davey, an intelligent observer might wonder what is behind it all.

    This is especially so since a considerable proportion of both solar and wind generation occurs when it is not wanted, and much of it does not occur when it is. This renders sequestration of fossil fuel fired generation impossible; and no effective substitution takes place.

    Even the pitiful degree of penetration shown is proving to be a very considerable financial stretch for consumers, thereby putting manacles on our already desperately over-indebted economies.

    The conclusion one is forced to draw is that “renewables” will never amount to anything not only because of their lack of energy density, intermittency, and consequent lack of efficacy, but because they are unaffordable.

    Putting up increasing numbers of wind ‘farms’ and solar ‘farms’ is the 21st Century equivalent of the South Sea Bubble, only this time heavily subsidised via government policies.

    I cannot help but think that my children’s and grand children’s best option will be to live at the end of a very long road with a conveniently sized Howitzer close to hand. And don’t leave the move too long.

    • Ben Elsworth says:

      “The conclusion one is forced to draw is that “renewables” will never amount to anything not only because of their lack of energy density, intermittency, and consequent lack of efficacy, but because they are unaffordable.”

      It depends what you’re comparing it to. Compared to coal and gas, it’s right. In my view solar and wind will never reach the kind of economic performance (overall grid system cost and impact, not accounting for externality) that is still provided today by coal and gas, even after considerable recent price escalations in those commodities (especially gas).

      If you think gas and coal will become constrained at some point within our lifetimes then you probably need to compare renewables with nuclear and EDF’s Hinkley Point project is the only UK example we have. It’s a 5th (and 6th) of kind PWR so it’s nothing special, but in order to coax anyone into constructing one it has taken a UK gov contract which guarantees an offtake price of £92/MWh indexed to inflation for 35 years of operation (i.e. after the 8-10 year construction period), not to mention 3 government owned utilities (all non-UK), plus £10bn worth of UK government credit guarantees to finance it (even then, it’s still not a done deal).

      The strike price for onshore wind is £95/MWh and for large scale solar it’s £125/MWh dropping to £110/MWh in 3 years time, but crucially these are only for 15 years after which they have to fend for themselves. Hence it’s pretty obvious that especially wind, but also solar, is already cheaper than nuclear, even in cloudy land-constrained UK.

      Energy density, intermittency and lack of socially acceptable sites are, or will become, the real issues with solar and wind in the UK. Cost will only remain an issue for as long as fossil fuel consumption continues on with roughly today’s pricing, security and lack of emission constraint – all of which are already radically different from how things were when the UK’s first CCGTs were built.

      • roberto says:

        ” It’s a 5th (and 6th) of kind PWR so it’s nothing special, but in order to coax anyone into constructing one it has taken a UK gov contract which guarantees an offtake price of £92/MWh indexed to inflation for 35 years of operation (i.e. after the 8-10 year construction period), not to mention 3 government owned utilities (all non-UK), plus £10bn worth of UK government credit guarantees to finance it (even then, it’s still not a done deal).”

        Well… you just need to guarantee a 0.3 pound/kWh for 20 years for each kWh that a nuclear reactor can produce and you’ll see tens of proposals to just build reactors at the 4 corners of the UK.

        The biggest market for PV in Europe in 2014 is projected to be… the UK!… can you believe it???… “Sunny UK”!… it’s just a laughter!… the real reason is just the scandalous amount of money they would pay for each PV kWH… cut the amount and nobody in his/her normal state of mind would even think to install PV over there.

        • Ben Elsworth says:

          “Well… you just need to guarantee a 0.3 pound/kWh for 20 years for each kWh that a nuclear reactor can produce and you’ll see tens of proposals to just build reactors at the 4 corners of the UK”

          I don’t really see how that helps the argument since at that price you could have unlimited amounts of whatever energy source you like. You’d bankrupt the UK of course, but it would be wonderfully remunerative for a developer such as myself, as long as I could get my profits into a Swiss dollar account before our currency collapses. You’ve got me all excited now, I’m going to dream of £300/MWh 20 year contracts tonight!

          “The biggest market for PV in Europe in 2014 is projected to be… the UK!”

          That may be the case, but if so it is due to very temporary factors related to the transition between different renewable incentive structures (the UK has decided to close the old support mechanism early – to new projects – deliberately to constrain deployment and spending in the UK). Developers rush to complete their projects under the old, more profitable, scheme.

          Germany and Italy already have about 37 GW and 18 GW of installed capacity solar PV respectively whereas the UK’s rough expectation for PV deployment is between 9.3 GW and 10.7 GW by 2020 (you can read the UK’s PV solar strategy here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-solar-pv-strategy-part-1-roadmap-to-a-brighter-future) and we will almost certainly stay behind Spain and France as well in terms of absolute deployment.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            In earlier posts we concluded that the load for solar PV in England is of the order 10%, in Scotland much lower, perhaps 7% for those panels pointing N. At those load levels we reckoned that the energy used to make the panels would never be recovered (ERoEI less than 1). The emissions used to make the panels are emitted before any social energy is produced and the lifetime emissions savings never exceed the manufacture. Now I can’t warrant that this is true, but if it is, the deployment of soar PV in the UK (certainly Scotland) is simply bonkers.

          • Ben Elsworth says:

            If that were true you would be right, but I’m quite convinced that it is not. I have seen various estimates, I’m looking at a source that will not become public for another week or so yet that shows energy input requirements of around 18 – 24% of output for UK PV (and about 8 – 15% for Southern Spain).

            Actually I don’t disagree with you that the energy metric for PV, especially in the UK, is a bit too low – but I’m talking about the metric based on the RATE of return (E-IRR) not EROI which is an old bug bear of mine, and my major point of disagreement with peak oil people. Because PV is all upfront energy investment, its energy rate of return is far lower than most other technologies – including biomass, bioethanol and tar sands – and that is a limiting factor, but I also note that the energy cost of PV panels is on a steeply declining curve so it may not always be that way.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            If you live in the financial world (of subsidies etc) that is a derivative of the real world, then confronting thermodynamics can be a real pig. Temperate latitude bio-ethanol has net energy return of about 0±0.2. It is a quite efficient energy conversion, not an energy source. Diesel and nat gas get converted to ethanol using soil and water + subsidies. It is a more efficient energy conversion than, for example, converting coal to electricity.

            The energy cost of solar PV panels is an interesting one. In China the energy cost and economic cost of coal is dirt cheap as is the energy cost of their labour – on average about 2 TOE per annum per capita compared with Germany’s 3.8 TOE per annum. So ERoEI is not a constant. Chinese PV is bringing prices down, but we run the risk of using “slave labour” to access it.

      • “The strike price for onshore wind is £95/MWh and for large scale solar it’s £125/MWh dropping to £110/MWh in 3 years time, but crucially these are only for 15 years after which they have to fend for themselves. Hence it’s pretty obvious that especially wind, but also solar, is already cheaper than nuclear, even in cloudy land-constrained UK.”

        Not according to DECC, which estimates levelized costs for projects starting in 2013 at £90/MWh for nuclear, £101/MWh for onshore wind, £122-129/MWh for offshore wind and £158/MWh for grid-scale solar PV. The wind and solar levelized costs also don’t allow for maintaining backup dispatchable capacity (or energy storage) to fill demand when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

        There are some cases where renewables make economic sense, such as wind turbines on remote Hebridean islands or my rooftop solar PV system. Otherwise growth in renewables depends on hefty government subsidies and on market pricing mechanisms that heavily favor renewables over conventional generation. To verify this all you need do is look at the balance sheets of the major European electricity providers.

        • Ben Elsworth says:

          OK fair point, but as someone who has spent months pouring over those models and their inputs at various times, I can’t say I have a lot of faith in them. I’d rather see the market reaction to the prices on offer. Ground mounted solar PV gets 1.4 ROCs this year, it’s probably worth around £100 – £110/MWh (including LECs and embedded benefits, net of PPA cost) for 20 years (without guarantee) but as Roberto points out the market is in a crazed fervour trying to deliver as much as they can at that rate, so much so that the government had to close the band early (https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CCgQFjAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.gov.uk%2Fgovernment%2Fuploads%2Fsystem%2Fuploads%2Fattachment_data%2Ffile%2F310431%2F2014-05-13_-_RO_closure_Consultation_IA.pdf&ei=8xfEU4mjKcbH7Abfn4DoBQ&usg=AFQjCNHZS-1fCS2PAyKG0lL_c9-fOf-Eeg&bvm=bv.70810081,d.ZGU&cad=rja).

          In contrast they are offering £92/MWh for nuclear (index linked for 35 years) and so far only 1 project has come forward at that rate, and even that project has not yet gone to FID after a long saga.

          “growth in renewables depends on hefty government subsidies and on market pricing mechanisms that heavily favor renewables over conventional generation.”

          Versus fossil fuels yes obviously, as I acknowledged in my post. Versus nuclear no, that needs subsidy as well. Both low carbon options are more expensive than gas and coal, whether you should support them or not really depends how much exposure to global LNG prices you want your economy to have in the medium/long term. Personally I would like that to be quite limited

          • “I’d rather see the market reaction to the prices on offer.”

            Ah yes, the market. ROCs and FITs and LCEs and LCFs and CfDs and all the other alphabet-soup acronyms that epitomize the impacts of government intervention in a market which used to work after a fashion but which is now totally screwed up.

            I remember the good old days in the US when utilities were treated as monopolies and given exclusive rights to supply electricity in their service areas in return for a guaranteed return on investment. Things were so simple then. How nice it would be to be able to turn the clock back.

    • Bilt says:

      You certainly stuffed plenty of the old, tired, anti-clean energy talking points in to that little rant – even down to “Won’t someone think of the CHILDREN!!!!!”

      In reality, renewable energy is the only sustainable option for humanity that won’t bring with it cancer and devastation. Only blind ideologues and sociopaths who choose their short-term wealth over the viability of the planet to sustain us oppose the clean energy revolution.

      P.S. Ranting about Al Gore does nothing for your credibility. It’s a red flag that you’re a Fox News sheep and not capable of thinking rationally about this subject.

      • bit chilly says:

        the only viable alternative is nuclear . unfortunately your muhti s*** her pants when a poorly designed japanese reactor failed as a result of the tsunami, leaving germany at the mercy of energy rich neighbours . you will pay for the german green appeasement program in more ways than one in the future .

      • Jl says:

        Bilt-and your name-calling, guilt by association, and drama queen queen rants (cancer and devestation!) with no supporting facts does nothing for your credibility. Hint-assertions aren’t facts.

  3. A C Osborn says:

    The main reason for lack of investment in Hydro is Gren Interference, they have prevented many projects in the recent past.

  4. Kit P says:

    “continues to set records”
    Let me remind folks that job of the power industry is providing power when and where people need it. Setting records is not a key performance indicator. I can many biomass and hydro projects that have other benefits besides power production. For example, flood control and irrigation. Like politics, all power generation is local.
    “German scientists”
    First, even if true locally; it means nothing globally. Second, scientists do not know much about making power. Their bad model will not keep the lights on a cold winter night.
    “PWR so it’s nothing special”
    What is big output and tiny footprint, easy to maintain, producing power for a very long time.

  5. Willem Post says:

    Roger,

    Funny you should write this paper, as I just finished a spreadsheet based on a French report.

    Here is the French source for worldwide RE.
    http://www.energies-renouvelables.org/observ-er/html/inventaire/pdf/15e-inventaire-Chap01-Eng.pdf

    RE TWh and share (excluding hydro) were:

    254.2 TWh, or 0.016 in 2002
    612.2 TWh, or 0.030, in 2009
    742.6 TWh, or 0.035, in 2010
    892.2 TWh, or 0.040, in 2010
    1035.8 TWh, or 0.046 in 2012
    I do not have the numbers for 2013. If you do, please let me know.

    The RE is the total for Wind, Biomass, Solar, Marine.

    Note the annual TWh increases and the annual investments in capital, subsidies, etc., required to achieve them.

    In the corresponding years, Hydro TWh and share were:

    2705.9; 0.167
    3329.0; 0.165
    3514.3; 0.164
    3530.8; 0.159
    3663.4; 0.162
    I do not have the numbers for 2013. If you have them, please let me know.

    Hydro held its own, despite increased world energy generation.

  6. Glen Mcmillian says:

    IT MUST be obvious to anybody with the brains that god gave a billy goat that we cannot depend on fossil fuels too much longer given a rising population and consequently rising demand coupled to constantly depleting supplies. It just doesn’t rain oil or natural gas and coal is going to be more expensive as time goes by although there is plenty of it for the next few decades at least that can be easily mined.

    I believe we should build a new generation of nukes pronto but I fear we won’t get started until too late.I am professionally qualified in agriculture and can say with confidence that the biofuels road is the road to hell paved with good intentions.We just don’t want to go very far that way.

    Wind and solar are easily deployed and the cost of both are falling fast.Both return the investment in energy and materials in a reasonable time with no risk of environmental disaster.And both have the potential to reduce our dependence on oil and gas thus extending the supply of both some years into the future.

    The naysayers just don’t want to face up to the facts when it comes to depletion and the nuclear advocates just don’t want to face up to the massive reality of political resistance to new nukes.

    Intermittent power is some thing we can learn to live with to a far greater extent than acknowledged by anti renewables folk.

    In a decade or so it is very likely that we will have new appliances and new houses as well as battery electric cars that will advantageously suck up any excess juice available on windy and sunny days and in effect store it on site.

    A refrigerator for instance can have a couple of gallons of water in it in a separate compartment that can be frozen rock hard when the computer chip indicates doing so. Then instead of the compressor running for the next day or even two or three days only a tiny little fan would be needed to distribute the cold.A couple of ton of sand or stone with heating coils embedded placed in a crawl space during construction would cost peanuts but could store enough excess wind power to heat a well insulated new house for a day or even a week in milder weather.

    Really good rechargeable batteries big enough to carry most of the important small loads in houses heated with gas will be affordable in a decade too and at affordable prices. I expect a lot of new houses even without pv to have them installed so as to trim peak loads and get a discount on the electricity bill.

    Renewables are best thought of as fossil fuel extenders for the present.
    In a decade or two the price of oil and gas is going to shoot thru the roof if not sooner.

    Anybody who thinks coal oil and gas are going to always be cheap and abundant has a head full of rocks.Fossil fuels come out of holes in the ground.I just can’t understand how anybody can fail to see the implications of this obvious fact.

    And anybody who cannot understand the basic black box problem of CO2 forced warming must have either failed freshman physics or majored in business or art or something.Warming is real and all the protestations otherwise are to no effect except to prevent anything being done about it.

    Think of it this way for a minute. The doc tells you smoking and drinking are very bad for you.BUT you do both anyway and from one year to the next you say ” See ?? I am ok.Doc is an idiot!!!””

    But it catches up to you someplace down the road.

    The atmosphere is not warming as fast as it could be right now but it isn’t cooling and recent years have all been warmer than the average for the last century or so.The accumulating heat is mostly going into the sea water an the polar ice caps for now.

    It is going to find its way into the atmosphere with a vengeance in the not so distant future. Doc knows what he is talking about.

    • Billy Liar says:

      You can live out your fantasy world here:

      http://www.antarcticstation.org/station/smart_grid/

      The reality of sustainable energy is here (from the above link):

      Allocate Energy to End Users

      When a user requests energy, he/she has to push a switch located next to the power socket and wait for the system to check for energy availability. If energy can be delivered according to the system’s priorities, the switch turns green, if not, the switch remains red and the user has to wait.

      Good luck.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        Now imagine how many green lights you would get without the storage batteries.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        I bet they have a back up diesel generator, and if they do, it about sums things up. Antarctica littered with windmills and lead acid batteries.

      • Euan Mearns says:

        BL – thanks of for the link. Its an interesting case study in “energy economics” and propaganda. They have 8 wind turbines and large solar array, a ton of batteries and a smart grid. This place is more like a space station than a home for just 25 to 40 people. But its all been done in the name of “zero emissions” BS. It could easily be the case that this makes sense to not be dependent upon diesel generator and back up generator and resupply of diesel – its that cost benefit analysis I’d like to see. They are driving around on diesel powered scooters and tractors, FF built all the infrastructure and they all got there on FF powered boats and planes. Where exactly does emissions free fit in here? And why would anyone care? And they have a solar array that is on for half of the year and off for the other half. And wind that is on and off. And then you can’t watch a movie when you want to if someone wants a cup of coffee at the same time. I’d really like to see a cost comparison between this and the alternatives, including a small nuclear reactor.

        • Billy Liar says:

          I think the Princess Elisabeth Antarctic Station is a microcosm of a sustainable future. Note how, despite lashings of money spent on windmills solar PV, solar thermal and 15 tonnes of batteries, it is inoperable in winter. Even in summer, with 24 hour daylight, they have to rely on fossil fuels for transport. A ‘smart grid’ is required to ration the renewable energy, and this in one of the windiest parts of the Antarctic.

          I suspect it is not possible to take radioactive material to Antarctica so nuclear power would be off the menu. It is pretty obvious that even including nuclear, fossil fuels are the most compact, portable and reliable source of energy. Some magic will be required to replace them.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            This is a really interesting case study of an isolated renewables system, albeit in an extreme environment. 15 tonnes of batteries for 25 to 40 people! But then again we use about 3.5 TOE per capita per annum. What is of course needed is a trans Antarctica HVDC transmission network to connect all the stations together. That would solve all the problems. (with a satellite microwave uplink to the Arctic).

  7. Euan Mearns says:

    Wind and solar are easily deployed and the cost of both are falling fast.Both return the investment in energy and materials in a reasonable time with no risk of environmental disaster.And both have the potential to reduce our dependence on oil and gas thus extending the supply of both some years into the future.

    Glen, the partial substitution of gas and coal by renewable electricity is an argument I can accept leading to an extension of coal and gas resources. But it is one argument out of a range of arguments for and against and when I look at the balance I fall down on the anti wind side. You are not anti nuclear. The conclusion I have reached is that if we are going to have nuclear we are as well having enough of it. This comes down to local circumstance. In Scotland we can have a country covered in wind turbines or we can have a country with two comparatively tiny nuclear sites.

    Intermittent power is some thing we can learn to live with to a far greater extent than acknowledged by anti renewables folk.

    Based on what evidence ;-) I have been blogging on these topics for 8 years now, and the promise of smart this and that has always been hung out there but never coming to fruition. There are all these theoretical solutions that never materialise. Have you any idea why that should be?

  8. A C Osborn says:

    I wonder why Germany has been building all those Coal Fired Power Stations recently?
    Perhaps Bilt would like to provide an answer as they obviously do not need them for power generation now or in the future?

  9. bernie1815 says:

    Roger and Euan: I just stumbled on your site, though I have been a long time follower of Andrew Montford. Nice article, Roger. It neatly summarizes the real bottom line rather than confusing everybody with capacity rather than actual power generation numbers.
    Well done.

  10. Sid says:

    Hi Folks,

    “If you live in the financial world (of subsidies etc) that is a derivative of the real world, then confronting thermodynamics can be a real pig. ” – Euan.

    Thankfully someone has an ounce of knowledge as to how the ‘real’ world works. Which is more than can be said for the ‘politicos’ who dreamt up the ‘de-carbonisation solution aka the 20-20-20 Climate Package (see: http://ec.europa.eu/clima/policies/package/index_en.htm). This purports to represent a 20% percent reduction on 1990 CO2 emissions by 2020. An impossibility without radically reducing energy consumption/production from fossil fuels. However, in the fog of bureaucracy and market driven economics, the energy companies came up with a brilliant proposal saying they have an effective strategy for installing ‘20%’ or more “boiler plate” capacity renewables by then, if they could have a little subsidy help, and maybe get the public to finance it by paying a little extra on their bills, and encouraging them with a market-driven incentive for them to take out loans to install the things especially PV on their rooftops; repaying the loan with the monies they’d save on the FITs (feed in tariffs). Not only would this make them feel good, it would also improve their house price/saleability as the loan + installation package went with the property (see: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2011/03/11142409 & http://www.carbontrust.com/client-services/technology/implementation). So the upshot is, the energy companies can claim a high ‘installation’ value for renewable energy generation (currently regardless of efficiencies and demand logistics) and get paid for doing so, while reaping the extra profits from high cost ‘standby’ generation charges to keep the grid stable when the renewable power drops out. ‘Every body happy’ – politicians get to claim impressive ‘renewable’ figures, power companies make more money, and Joe public gets to feel good about getting fleeced – ironically if they invested in high levels of insulation which could include natural woollen ‘fleece’, they’d be doing both themselves and the planet a whole bigger favour by actually REDUCING their energy consumption instead of trying to just generate MOAR…

    I mean am I the only one to see that this political grid-tied renewable energy emperor has no clothes?

    I am not against ‘renewables’ and have been involved with off grid systems for years, and have seen the state of twenty year old PV panels (saw some yesterday – complete burnt out) and would hate to think what the latest ‘cheap as chips’ (haha techno pun unintended!) Chinese variety would be like another twenty years down teh line (see: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/29/business/energy-environment/solar-powers-dark-side.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). Solar PV & small scale wind works great OFF GRID if you run a monitored/serviced battery bank and are happy with a 12/24V system or run an inverter system with a good quality inverter sited and sized correctly (see: http://www.yougen.co.uk/blog-entry/1516/Inverters+for+solar+PV+panels%273A+your+questions+answered/). Also if possible always fit a solar hot water heater, its the simplest way to gather solar energy and STORE it, and there are plenty of tried and tested home built systems out there (see: http://www.solarfriend.co.uk/diary.html). Grid tied intermittent renewables generation was invented by someone who does not understand the basic physics of high voltage power transmission; that will include most politicians, bureaucrats, and pretty much everyone who relies on said power transmission. The only way out for our energy future will be some mains supplied nuclear to back up EXTREMELY FRUGAL use of local and/or domestic renewables, which can be built from scrap (see: http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679335/truly-local-power-african-wind-turbines-built-from-scrap). I am well aware of the shift in lifestyles and paradigms that this would entail…

    That’s my (probably insane: http://www.ted.com/conversations/8433/when_does_creative_thinking_be.html) opinion.

    L,
    Sid.

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Sid: Thank you for your comment.

      You say “I am well aware of the shift in lifestyles and paradigms that (decarbonization) would entail.” The recent Royal Academy of Engineering report on wind energy concludes that implementing UK renewable energy targets will in fact be impossible without major societal changes:

      “By 2030, a wholesale transformation of the UK energy system will be required if government targets on carbon emissions are to be met ….. These challenges require a fundamental shift in society’s attitude to and use of energy and will only be met with the support of both domestic and business customers.”

      http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/wind_report.pdf

      My guess is that the rush for renewables will finally hit the wall when the implications of this fundamental shift become apparent to an unwilling public.

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  12. Lichanos says:

    Yeah, the need to maintain base load is, as you say, a pig.

    Nice blog: frustrating that virtually all discussion of energy in the “lay” media is based on fantasy and wishful thinking. Drives me mad sometimes.

    I do think that society will be de-carbonized, at least relatively speaking, but over the very long-term. I don’t know how much nuclear will be a part of it, or other technologies. Of course, it will all be driven by large demographic changes that are only now taking shape.

    One thing that seems likely to me is the de-centralization of power generation, at least for residential users, probably first in the developing world, but again, over the long-term. It seems to me that at some point in the not-too-distant future, the development of PV and storage cell will reach a price-point at which it will be feasible for new homes to be self sufficient power producers, perhaps using electric cars as an adjunct to the system, in much of the world.

    Meantime, we have that existing, and growing, base load to take care of.

    Cheers!

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  14. Roger Andrews says:

    I thought readers might be interested to know how much money had to be spent to bring wind, solar, biomass and other renewables to the point where they now supply 2% of world energy demand.

    According to the Bloomberg Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2014 report (link below) $US1.66 trillion was invested in “biomass and waste-to-energy, geothermal, and wind generation projects of more than 1MW; all hydropower projects of between 1MW and 50MW; all wave and tidal energy projects; all biofuel projects with a capacity of one million litres or more per year; and all solar projects” over the ten-year period between 2004 and 2013. This sum excludes subsidies and includes no expenditures before 2004, so total expenditures to date probably exceed $2 trillion.

    http://www.google.com.mx/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CCoQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffs-unep-centre.org%2Fsites%2Fdefault%2Ffiles%2Fattachments%2F14008nef_visual_12_key_findings.pdf&ei=MOHJU4GMCaiV8gGz4oHYAg&usg=AFQjCNH1ca7y9slbwjN7Z2wpxzqgyQbNCw&sig2=zk6q-wz3L5JRTBIQHyfXOw

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  18. Green Energy’s waste stream of rare earth elements tosses away enough of the super fuel Thorium yearly that can power the entire planet. For the $1 Billion spent daily worldwide on AGW & Green energy, that translates into building 600 MWs a day of Molten Salt Reactors on an assembly line. MSRs are walk away safe, can’t blow up, melt down and are low pressure; they are the perfect fit for a highly distributed grid. The West better wake up, China is busy ripping off the US design from the 1960s ORNL test reactor. http://www.energyfromthorium.com

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  20. Anteaus says:

    I would propose a slightly different unit in which to measure global wind and solar expenditure: ITERS per year.

    ITER is arguably the most expensive fusion reactor project, and not necessarily the one most likely to turn into a commercial success, but it forms a good benchmark for the relative cost of continuing down the renewables route as opposed to looking for a better solution. If we count the number of ITERS we could build in a year INSTEAD of funding renewables -and while estimates vary, it is a surprisingly large number- how long would it likely take to hit success with just one such project? After all, one success is all we need, and we can forget about renewables. Thorium is also an area we should be investigating.

    At current levels of funding, ITER will be complete in 2027. Drop renewables, and that could be reduced to DAYS. Well, figuratively speaking as it will take a while to build, cost notwithstanding, but the funding could be there in a very short time.

    • Roger Andrews says:

      How many would two trillion US dollars have bought you? ;-)

      • Anteaus says:

        By current estimates, 133 ITERs, or over 1,000 thorium tests.
        Enough that the odds of one or more design working is near 100%.

        • Ben Elsworth says:

          Anteaus. Are you really saying that any prototype, if built 133 times, is guaranteed to work?

          This whole thread seems totally surreal. What can possibly be gained from comparing commercial energy infrastructure deployment costs with the costs of experiments that will not even produce results for years?

          I’m a big supporter of ITER, but it’s part of a very long term plan (going back to the 50s) which is hoped to lead to commercial power production. Although I personally subscribe to the idea that it’s only a matter of time and resources before net electrical output could be produced from hot fusion, the important questions are 1. How much time? 2. How many resources (i.e dollars)? and 3. What will be the production costs when we get there?

          There isn’t a man or woman alive who can give you a truthful answer to those 3 questions with regards to plasma fusion. Molten salt fission reactors that can use Thorium are somewhat closer to a point of economic understanding, but it is still fundamentally technology in the research stage.

          In the meantime it is absolutely clear that the deployment of renewables has been part of a technology development curve that has led to an inexorable decline in cost (in the case of PV module costs, quite an astonishing one). Even if plasma fusion and/or molten salt turn out to be useful, they will also have to go through this development curve.

          I have a lot of sympathy with Euan’s blog about the intermittency of solar and wind, it is rather a huge elephant in the room that most of the solar/wind deployment so far has only been possible precisely because the presence of highly flexible fossil fuel generation has been able to compensate for intermittency problems. Life will be completely different when fossil fuels are no longer around, but I’ll write a separate comment about that on the other thread.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            I’ll hopefully have a post on fusion within weeks. I’m still puzzled as to why if molten salt Th is so good it hasn’t already been done?

  21. SomeGerman says:

    I don’t know about Japan, but as a German I can say that I’m very confident that the shutdown of the nuclear reactors in Germany is final. The German people do not want nuclear power.

    Nuclear power was very controversial even before the accident in Fukushima. After Fukushima, there isn’t any political support left. The FDP (a classical liberal party, i.e. liberal in the original sense of the word and not as it is used in the USA) and the CDU were the main supporters of nuclear power. The FDP is no longer in the Bundestag and it’s doubtful that they will return (the amount of mistakes they have made over the past decades may be enough to kill the party). The CDU has abandoned nuclear power. I’m sure that the CDU wanted to stay with nuclear power. Merkel knows that it is just too unpopular. And the way it looks right now, Merkel will stay chancelor for a long, long time. So nuclear power won’t be reintroduced. The only way I can see it happening is if the CDU/CSU ever gets an absolute majority. If they are in a coalation with the SPD, nuclear won’t come back: the SPD is attached to coal. If non-renewable energy sources are in the energy mix, the SPD will argue for coal over nuclear.

  22. Roger Andrews says:

    One thing I should perhaps mention before interest dies is that Figure 6 of my post, which plots the percentage contributions of wind, solar and biomass to world energy consumption, doesn’t allow for the fact that wind and solar are intermittent and non-dispatchable and in many cases hinder rather than help efficient grid operation. When we plot only dispatchable renewables (i.e. biomass) there’s nothing left. Well, almost nothing

    http://oi60.tinypic.com/21b39km.jpg

    • Sid. says:

      Hi Roger,

      Nail. On. The. Head. The current system is an ‘on demand’ system. Solar and wind are weather and seasonal supply led systems. Biomas due to its stockpile-ability behaves much more like fossil fuels and can be used in an ‘on demand’ system, so too is hydro depending upon where it is cited and its storage capacity. Paradoxically only the tapping of flow sources like solar, wind and tide are sustainable in the long term as dams silt up, burning biomas depletes the soil, and fossil fuels form on a time scale of the order of million of years. Even such schemes that utilise energy entrainment into a complex system to slow the rate of entropy ( see: http://www.i-sis.org.uk/DreamFarm2.php) suffer from the very problems that that complexity entails.

      L,
      Sid.

  23. Michael John Elliott says:

    Hello, all of this talk about renewables never seem to mention the reason behind the drive to use them. Its still all about the demonisation of that “Good” gas CO2.

    Once we finally accept that there is nothing wrong with CO2, then all other methods for the production of electricity other than by the burning of fuel, from whatever source, becomes simply a commercial matter.

    When windmills, solar panels etc become cheaper than coal or gas, then the power stations will take them up.

    But while we the poor taxpayers foot the bill, both via direct subsidies, plus the much higher unit of electricity cost, then renewables are no good for the economy of a country. In fact they will in the long term destroy that economy, which via the likes of some of the militant Greenies may well be the “Game Plan” of their movement.

    Perhaps we could send all of the Greenies to a island somewhere, preferably a cold part of the world and invite them to survive by going back to renewables.

    Michael John Elliott.

    • Kit P says:

      Michael

      “…become cheaper than coal or gas ….”

      Reliability is the most important factor and coal and nuke generated electricity is very reliable. Coal and nukes produce very cheap power. Wind and solar will never be cheaper. Wind and solar and solar will never have less environmental impct than even coal. There is several reasons for this. First the impact of ghg gas is very small if any impact at all. Second coal in the US has cleaned up its act. Finally, wind and solar and solar does not work very well. All impact and very little electricity.

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  27. juxx0r says:

    Thanks for that Roger. I didn’t know that renewables were so close to taking over the world. Figure 1 proves that what we have is exponential growth. The growth rate is over 20%, and we’re at about 4% not including hydro according to Figure 6. That puts it at about 18 years for total world domination of wind and solar.

    Cheers.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      I suspect you’re missing a couple of factors in your 18 year estimate.

      The first is the rapid drop in cost of wind and solar. The very recent drop. Prices have plummeted and there has been little time for countries to react. Many new capacity plans are made years in advance and will generally run to completion rather than be massively redesigned. A coal or nuclear plant coming on line this year might have been initiated a decade ago when wind and solar were much more expensive.

      The second is the world’s growing realization that we must do something about our carbon emissions. Many countries are going to put their thumbs on the scale to favor renewable installations going forward.

      Both of these are forcing factors which are likely greatly accelerate wind and solar installs.

      • juxx0r says:

        I was being conservative Bob. With solar having a doubling time of 18 months, that is 10 years till 100% of the electricity being produced in the entire world is from solar. And with wind having a doubling time of 3 years, that’s your 18 years till the same thing happens. Obviously neither of those things are going to happen, but i can’t believe the naivety of someone posting a chart with exponential growth and then saying that makes it immaterial just by changing the scale of the axis.

        We only need 7 doubling of solar for 100% and 6 doublings of wind. So to illustrate that graphically i made a graph using the 2013 growth for solar, and the 5 year average growth for wind that can be appended onto figure 6 above showing the proportion of solar and wind going forward. I only had to go to 2028, because i was already at 117%.

        • juxx0r says:

          My graph didn’t show up, here it is:

          http://i58.tinypic.com/6t2szp.png

        • Bob Wallace says:

          I misunderstood what you were saying.

          My point was that it’s likely much sooner when we reach the point that most new capacity added to grids will be wind and solar.

          I can’t predict how soon we might see the world’s grids largely free of fossil fuels, but if I had to guess I’d put it in the 30 to 40 year range. That could be shortened by very strong climate change signals. Otherwise I think there will be a tendency to hang on to fossil fuel plants until they wear out and need to be replaced.

          Storage costs are another wild card.

          • juxx0r says:

            If i used the 5 year average of the solar growth rate, then we have 100% electricity from wind and solar by 2022.

            The growth rate for wind and solar would have to drop to zero for the premise of this article to be accurate.

            I can’t see the growth rate for solar dropping below 20% whilst ever the cost of solar is reducing and dropping below grid parity for more and more people.

          • Bob Wallace says:

            I can’t put numbers to the growth of solar. It could be far higher than anyone predicts.

            We have 1.2 billion people who currently have no grid electricity. And many hundreds of millions who are paying high prices for their electricity (imported diesel, for example) and living with under supplied grids. Solar is almost certainly going to be something major for those people. The amount of capacity they add to the world’s energy mix may be outstanding.

            For the poorest in the least developed countries (most of the 1.2 billion) we now have micro-solar systems and programs in which they can buy a small solar system with monthly payments less than what they have been paying for kerosene and candles. Bangladesh has installed over 3 million systems so far and the World Bank has started financing these programs. Most of them will start with modest watts but add to their systems as time goes along.

            Solar (and smaller wind turbines) are likely to make a huge impact in places where diesel is the electricity source. Towns and villages can add capacity and pay with fuel savings. They don’t need to wait for connection to the national grid to be made or strengthened as would be the case with a large thermal plant or hydro project.

            We’re turning capacity installation loose and putting it in the hands of millions rather than a few thousand utility companies. Solar could take over as quickly as did cell phones in those countries without a lot of land lines. (And speaking from direct experience, that was damn quick.)

          • juxx0r says:

            For all those who struggle to see where i’m coming from, what i’ve done is to take the historical data, without extrapolating it and plotted it on a log scale on the Y-axis so that it shows a straight line. I’ve then extended the scale of the X-axis so that you can draw your own conclusions. This clears it up that if we continue to see the same growth in renewables as in the past then very soon we will be running on 100% renewables.

            This is the graph:
            http://i59.tinypic.com/vnedqw.png

            Now it would be delusional to think that a linear extrapolation on a log plot would ever happen, i think this shows that the growth that we will see will be staggering and unexpected to most.

    • Roger Andrews says:

      Sorry guys. but US shale gas wins the growth stakes hands down.

      http://oi59.tinypic.com/ou6vc9.jpg

      Good try anyway. ;-)

      • Bob Wallace says:

        Perhaps you can find a more current version of that graph?

        “According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, solar, biomass, wind, geothermal, and hydropower “units” provided 394 MW — or 100 percent — of all new electrical generation placed in-service in November 2013. There was no new capacity during the month from natural gas, coal, oil, or nuclear power. Renewable energy sources also provided 99 percent of all new electrical generating capacity in October.”

        http://www.renewableenergyworld.com/rea/news/article/2013/12/renewable-energy-provides-100-of-all-new-us-electrical-generating-capacity-in-2013

        “Keeping with the steady growth and adoption of renewable energy, the latest Energy Infrastructure Update report just released from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects states that wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydropower accounts for 55.7 percent of newly installed generating capacity in the U.S. for the first half of 2014.

        Of the total 3,529 megawatts (MW) installed, 1,965 MW came from renewable sources, fully one-third of that, 32.1 percent, came from solar, with 1,131 MW of new solar generating capacity installed so far this year. Wind energy follows with 19.8 percent of the total, or 699 MW of new capacity, followed by biomass with 87 MW (2.5 percent of total), geothermal with 32 MW (0.9 percent) and finally 16 MW from hydro (0.5 percent of total).

        According to the FERC report, natural gas provided most the balance of new generating capacity in the first half of the year with 1,555 MW, accounting for 44.1 percent of newly installed generating capacity. There was no new coal or nuclear capacity installed.”

        http://theenergycollective.com/globalwarmingisreal/440536/renewable-energy-provides-56-percent-new-electrical-generation-capacity-f

        • Roger Andrews says:

          “Of the total 3,529 megawatts (MW) installed, 1,965 MW came from renewable sources, fully one-third of that, 32.1 percent, came from solar, with 1,131 MW of new solar generating capacity installed so far this year. Wind energy follows with 19.8 percent of the total, or 699 MW of new capacity, followed by biomass with 87 MW (2.5 percent of total), geothermal with 32 MW (0.9 percent) and finally 16 MW from hydro (0.5 percent of total).”

          Assuming that solar will have a capacity factor of about 15%, the wind about 25%, the biomass and hydro maybe 60% and the geothermal around 90% this 3,529 MW of added renewable capacity will generate 3,810 GWh of electricity a year at an average capacity factor of 26%.

          The 1,564 MW of added conventional capacity will, however, generate a good deal more. Exactly how much more depends on how much fo the 1,564 MW is load following and how much baseload, but if it’s all load following it will have a capacity factor of around 40% and generate 5,480 GWh a year, about 40% more than the added renewable capacity, and if it’s all baseload it will have a capacity factor of around 70% and generate 9,590 GWh a year, well over twice as much as the added renewable capacity.

          So a capacity vs. capacity comparison isn’t valid.

          And what percentage of US electricity demand will the added 3,529 MW of renewable capacity fill? About 0.08%. How much of total US energy demand? About 0.03%. (Note that electricity supplies only about 40% of total US energy consumption).

          The whole purpose of the post was to demonstrate that when you present the spectacular-looking wind and solar growth numbers that people are so fond of presenting in perspective relative to global energy demand it becomes obvious that they really aren’t having any significant impact. The US is a smaller-scale example.

          It would be difficult for me to present a more current version of the graph because I drew the first one only a couple of hours ago. However, the first graph did give renewables an unfair advantage by comparing US shale gas production with worldwide wind and solar production. The graph below, which compares US shale gas production with US wind and solar production, is apples-to-apples.

          http://oi58.tinypic.com/15543lt.jpg

          • Bob Wallace says:

            “So a capacity vs. capacity comparison isn’t valid.”

            That’s correct. But nameplate installation to nameplate installation comparisons give us an idea where production is headed. And where investment is being made.

            Then if we want to look at production/output capacity we’d probably want to use realistic CF numbers for wind and solar. Not “(a)ssuming that solar will have a capacity factor of about 15%, the wind about 25%, ”

            Solar median CF is 20.3%, which likely reflects where most solar is being installed. Median CF for wind is currently 36.75% with much of the new capacity moving into the 40% range.

            Then NG CF. In 2011 NG was 24.2%. In 2012 NG was 28.8%. Those numbers may rise if gas gets used more for baseline.

            “And what percentage of US electricity demand will the added 3,529 MW of renewable capacity fill? About 0.08%. How much of total US energy demand? About 0.03%. ”

            We’ll have to wait to see how much the extra share 2013 and 2014 wind and solar will capture. But looking back to 2012 and 2013 wind grabbed a 0.67% and solar a 0.12% share so between the two they took 0.8% share away from other sources.

            Oh, I just noticed that you switched the topic from electricity to energy. Tricky. ;o)

            The second graph is also pretty. And it also stops at 2012. BTW, did you notice how the gas line falls off from previous year growth?

            Natural gas production was 1,230,708 million kWh in 2012 but fell to 1,113,665 million kWh in 2013. A lot of that seems to be due to rising NG prices which, in turn, increased coal use. But overall coal and NG fell about 1.3% from 2012 to 2013, from 67.8% to 66.5%.

        • Roger Andrews says:

          I should also have mentioned that conventional generation is dispatchable while wind and solar are not, and that at sufficiently high levels of grid penetration backup conventional generation is needed to ensure that demand can be met during periods when the wind doesn’t blow and/or the sun doesn’t shine. The need to retain large amounts of backup generation is finally becoming recognized as an obstacle to large-scale deployment of renewables, but you won’t get to read much about it on the web.

          • Bob Wallace says:

            You could further mention that US grids could accept 35% wind and solar penetration before and backup gen or storage would be required. And that as we add EVs and find more ways to load-shift those percentages will rise.

            You can read a tremendous amount about the need for backup for wind and solar. Mostly from pro-fossil fuel and pro-nuclear people.

            You won’t find them mentioning very often that we have to back up coal and nuclear plants which go off line without notice fairly often.

            You won’t find them mentioning that grid operators find it harder to incorporate thermal plants than wind and solar and that the cost of integrating wind and solar on grids is remarkably low, approaching 0 cents per kWh.

  28. Roger Andrews says:

    Bob:

    Could you please supply some backup for the following statements?

    Solar median CF is 20.3%, which likely reflects where most solar is being installed. Median CF for wind is currently 36.75% with much of the new capacity moving into the 40% range.

    US grids could accept 35% wind and solar penetration before an(y) backup gen or storage would be required.

    grid operators find it harder to incorporate thermal plants than wind and solar

    (in) 2012 and 2013 wind grabbed a 0.67% and solar a 0.12% share so between the two they took 0.8% share away from other sources.

    Thanks

    Juxxor: What are the Y-scale units on your graphs?

    • juxx0r says:

      It’s the same as the Y-scale on your Figure 5 and Figure 6.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      Sure.

      The CF numbers come from the DOE EIA Transparent Data Base. Capacity page – hover for statistics.

      http://en.openei.org/apps/TCDB/

      Percent wind and solar penetration comes from the DOE NREL.

      http://www.nrel.gov/continuum/utility_scale/integrating_wind_solar.cfm

      I’ll copy in a bit about grid integration as I find it interesting…

      “Very large quantities of wind are being used by several grid operators with virtually no increase in the need for operating reserves,” AWEA Transmission Policy Manager Michael Goggin. “The Midwest System Operator (MISO) has over twelve gigawatts. The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has over ten gigawatts. Xcel Energy subsidiary Public Service Company of Colorado (PSCo) has had well over 50 percent wind at times.

      Renewables opponents, Goggin recalled, “have said for years that costs would go up and the grid would fall apart. They have been proven wrong.”

      In ERCOT’s calculations for 2011, Goggin said, “the total cost for integrating wind came out at about $0.50 per megawatt-hour.” And, he added, without 2011’s anomalies in July and August that accounted for 80 percent percent of all costs, the total costs in 2012 for the necessary balancing reserves and other expenses associated with the integration of large amounts of wind are expected to be even lower.

      “Newer research suggests systems can go to 40 percent renewables with no problem,” Goggin said, “using the very efficient grid operating practices being applied by MISO, ERCOT, the California Independent System Operator (CAISO) and others.”

      “They do very fast interval dispatch of all energy resources,” Goggin continued. “because load is continuously changing, the output of fossil-fired plants is continuously changing, and, of course, wind is continuously changing, too.” The closer system operators are to real-time dispatch, he explained, the more effectively supply and demand can be balanced without the use of reserves.

      “They also have pretty large balancing areas,” Goggin added. “If one wind project is going off, another is probably going on somewhere, providing an overall more stable output. Larger areas also simply have more resources to accommodate variability. In MISO, wind’s variability is just something in the noise. It is not showing up in their reserve needs.”

      ERCOT’s data is similar, Goggin said. “The areas of the country that have efficient grid operating practices have shown it is possible to integrate very large quantities of wind very reliably at virtually zero incremental cost. The areas of the country that don’t have efficient grid operating practices, namely, much of the West outside California, are seeing increased costs and challenges.”

      Studies show nuclear and large fossil plants actually have “far higher integration costs than renewables,” Goggin said. “Contingency reserves, the super-fast acting energy reserve supply required of grid operators in case a large power plant shuts down unexpectedly, are a major cost. Comparing the incremental cost of wind to those costs that ratepayers have always paid, the wind cost looks even more trivial.”

      The fundamental issues are more or less the same with integrating solar, Goggin, who specializes in wind, said. “Relative to wind, solar has more minute-to-minute variability, which increases the cost. But forecasting the sun is easier because it is clear when the sun will come up and go down and when the peak is, and that reduces the cost. But grid operators who use efficient operating methods are finding it is no more of a challenge or cost than wind.”

      http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/Grid-Integration-of-Wind-and-Solar-is-Cheap

      $0.50/MWh is $0.0005/kWh

      2012 and 2013 production numbers can be found on the DOE EIA site…

      http://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/

  29. Roger Andrews says:

    Juxxor:

    A close historical parallel to the high rate of growth in wind and solar is nuclear, which grew from a small base at an average annual rate of 22.5% between 1965 and 1985. Projecting this trend gives a line (black) that looks much like your line and which shows nuclear supplying 100% of world energy demand by 2001. The red line shows what actually happened.

    http://oi57.tinypic.com/21llk00.jpg

    • juxx0r says:

      Chernobyl killed your growth.

      So how are we going to have a solar Chernobyl that’s going to destroy the growth in renewables?

      Are we going to have too many nice sunny days? Are smart inverters going to take over the world like in The Matrix?

      What else ya got?

      • Bob Wallace says:

        Cost killed nuclear in the US. New starts had collapsed prior to TMI.

        http://www.vermontlaw.edu/Documents/Cooper%20Report%20on%20Nuclear%20Economics%20FINAL%5B1%5D.pdf

        Chernobyl was 1986. World nuclear reactors coming on line plateaued/stalled in 1989. I would think that builds must have drastically slowed before ’86. The number of years it takes to bring a reactor on line would mean a lot of completions well after ’89.

        Anyone know a source for nuclear construction starts per year?

      • kentclizbe says:

        Jux,

        Clearly your bias skews your thinking. A “solar energy disaster” would not be “too many sunny days.”

        Rather it would be just the opposite–too few sunny days.

        What will the results be for a foolish economy that puts all its bets on solar energy the next time there is a year with no sun?

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year_Without_a_Summer

        “Other large volcanic eruptions (with VEI at least 4) around this time were:
        1812, La Soufrière on Saint Vincent in the Caribbean
        1812, Awu in the Sangihe Islands, Indonesia
        1813, Suwanosejima in the Ryukyu Islands, Japan
        1814, Mayon in the Philippines

        These eruptions had already built up a substantial amount of atmospheric dust. As is common after a massive volcanic eruption, temperatures fell worldwide because less sunlight passed through the stratosphere.[20]“

          • kentclizbe says:

            Jux,

            Great answer.

            Foolish guffaws probably won’t power many voltaic cells when there is no sunshine.

            http://archaeology.about.com/od/medieval/qt/Dust-Veil-of-AD-536.htm

            “According to written records and supported by dendrochronology and archaeological evidence, for 12-18 months in AD 536-537, a thick, persistent dust veil or dry fog darkened the skies between Europe and Asia Minor. The climatic interruption brought by the thick, bluish fog extended as far east as China, where summer frosts and snow are recorded in historical records; tree ring data from Mongolia and Siberia to Argentina and Chile reflect decreased growing records from 536 and the subsequent decade.”

        • juxx0r says:

          Been to Shanghai lately?

          • kentclizbe says:

            I’d be happy to share my travels, recent and past. But this probably is not the place to do that.

            If you have a point, it might be interesting to hear you make it.

            Thanks.

          • kentclizbe says:

            “When volcanoes erupt, they spew plumes of ash and gases into the atmosphere. The ash has the immediate effect of darkening the sky around the volcano, turning it black and hazy and coating the ground with thick layers of dust. Sulfur dioxide gas, mixed with ash particles, enters the troposphere and stratosphere and can spread around the Earth within weeks. The sulfur dioxide mixes with water; together with ash, these volcanic emissions block solar energy from fully reaching the Earth’s surface.”

            http://classroom.synonym.com/examples-dust-volcanic-eruptions-blocking-sun-14361.html

        • Bob Wallace says:

          Only pro-nuclear and pro-coal people talk about an all solar or an all wind grid.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      Nuclear, in the US, started out slower than wind and solar have.

      Then nuclear stalled out, both in the US and the rest of the world, because costs rose rather than fell as the industry matured. Wind and solar have been experiencing large cost decreases with more expected.

      I suppose wind and solar could also stall out in 20 years when fusion arrives.

  30. Roger Andrews says:

    Nuclear growth and wind/solar growth are of course controlled by quite different factors. Nuclear growth fell apart in the 1980s because of a combination of cost overruns, ever-lengthening permit and contruction lead times and TMI/Chernobyl. Wind and solar have a different Achilles heel – subsidies. Certainly neither would have gotten very far off the ground without liberal government handouts. Warren Buffett summed it up with his recent statement: “… on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.”

    And Spain is a good example of what happens to renewables growth when subsidies are removed:

    http://oi60.tinypic.com/2djuiw0.jpg

    So if exponential growth in wind and solar is to be maintained a key ingredient will be the continuation of subsidies in one form or another.

    Another is whether it’s physically possible to deploy the enormous amounts of renewable capacity that would be needed. To match Juxxor’s curve, for example, enough new capacity to fill 20% of world energy demand would have to be installed in 2027. Assuming all offshore wind this works out to roughly a million 5MW turbines covering an area of 750,000 sq km and costing $25 trillion. And that doesn’t allow for the enormous amount of storage capacity that would be needed to smooth out the stochastic power delivery.

    • Bob Wallace says:

      Over its first 15 years nuclear energy got 10 times as much (2010 dollars) in subsidies as did renewables in their first 15. (Most of the renewable subsidies went to corn farms for ethanol, not wind, solar and other renewable electricity technologies.)

      Between 1947 and 1999 nuclear received average annual subsidies of $3.50 billion. (53 x $3.50 billion = $185.6 billion)

      Between 1980 and 2009 biofuel received average annual subsidies of $1.08 billion. (29 x $1.08 billion = $31 billion)

      Between 1994 and 2009 renewables received average annual subsidies of $0.37 billion. (15 x $0.37 = $5.6 billion)

      http://www.dblinvestors.com/documents/What-Would-Jefferson-Do-Final-Version.pdf

      Spain is a unique case. They structured their FiT program incorrectly and created an explosion of installations. Fossil fuels fought back and now it’s illegal to put solar panels on your own roof. The penalties are very high.

      “So if exponential growth in wind and solar is to be maintained a key ingredient will be the continuation of subsidies in one form or another.”

      Probably not. Wind now has no subsidy in the US. Wind is apparently producing at 4 cents per kWh. That makes it competitive with natural gas, the previous cheapest way to bring generation on the grid. As gas price rise wind becomes the cheapest and a PPA locks in a fixed price for 20 to 25 years.

      Solar is now installing for just under $2/watt which means about 8 cents per kWh, US average, without subsidies. We’re on our way to $1/watt or 4 cents. That would make solar the other lowest new capacity choice and expectations are that solar will drop below $1/watt.

      And I don’t think you have realized that grids already have the ability to deal with large amounts of variation in supply and demand. We’re decades away from serious storage needs. Furthermore wind/solar plus storage is cheaper than new coal or new nuclear. Gas is the wildcard in the deck, and we could see soaring gas prices before two decades are out.

      • Roger Andrews says:

        A somewhat different perspective from the guys on the other side of the fence:

        * Today, apart from Japan and France, there is about twice as much R&D investment in renewables than nuclear, but with rather less to show for it and with less potential for electricity supply.

        * Nowhere in the world is nuclear power subsidised per unit of production. In some countries however it is taxed because production costs are so low.

        * Renewables have received heavy direct subsidies in the market by various means, but these are being scaled back or abandoned in some places due to the high cost to consumers.

        http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Economic-Aspects/Energy-Subsidies-and-External-Costs/

        “Wind now has no subsidy in the US”. Yes, and 29 states have set renewable energy targets that force utilities to invest in wind whether they like it or not.

        NREL predicts an uncertain future for the US wind industry if susbsidies are permanently removed. “The National Renewable Energy Laboratory released a report earlier this month affirming the importance of the subsidies to the wind industry. It showed that the (Production Tax Credit) has been critical to the development of the U.S. wind power industry. The report also found: PTC “extension options that would ramp down by the end of 2022 appear to be insufficient to support recent levels of deployment … extending the production tax credit at its historical level could provide the best opportunity to sustain strong U.S. wind energy installation and domestic manufacturing.””

        http://blog.heartland.org/2014/04/the-2014-state-of-wind-energy-desperately-seeking-subsidies/

        “And I don’t think you have realized that grids already have the ability to deal with large amounts of variation in supply and demand. We’re decades away from serious storage needs.” The fact of the matter is that if you have enough load-following backup capacity you can admit as much intermittent wind and solar as you like without any storage. But the more you add the more inefficient grid operation becomes, with increasingly low utilization of backup capacity (and high maintenance requirements resulting from continuous up-and-down ramping) and increasingly low utilization of wind and solar capacity accompanied by increasingly high levels of curtailment. Read all about it at (http://euanmearns.com/how-much-windpower-can-the-uk-grid-handle/)

        • Bob Wallace says:

          “Today, apart from Japan and France, there is about twice as much R&D investment in renewables than nuclear, but with rather less to show for it and with less potential for electricity supply.”

          Huh? The world is decreasing nuclear penetration while wind and solar are growing.

          Spending more on R&D? That’s only smart. We invested a king’s ransom in nuclear and it simply never became cheap enough. Wind and solar are dropping in prices and it makes huge sense to see how far we can push those price downward.

          “Nowhere in the world is nuclear power subsidised per unit of production. In some countries however it is taxed because production costs are so low.”

          Cherry-picking. Look at the total spent to bring each technology to market, not how the support is dispensed.

          “Renewables have received heavy direct subsidies in the market by various means, but these are being scaled back or abandoned in some places due to the high cost to consumers.”

          No, renewable subsidies are being scaled back because they aren’t needed at the levels previously needed. FiT amounts were very high in Germany, that got their industry kicked off and started the rapid drop in solar prices. Now it takes a much smaller amount of support to make solar competitive. It looks like wind may have hit the point of being competitive without subsidies in the US.

          ““Wind now has no subsidy in the US”

          Federal subsidies are gone.

          Heartland site reference? Couldn’t you get something directly from Charles and David?

          There is some point out there at which we will need to add storage but it’s quite a ways away. In the meantime we will have coal and nuclear plants aging out. Wind/solar plus storage are cheaper than new coal and nuclear.

          Dealing with wind and solar on the grid requires less spinning reserve than nuclear and coal. Both wind and solar are very predictable so that grid managers can order up fill-in supply as needed rather than keep large amounts of spinning reserve on hand to deal with a large thermal plant shutdown.

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