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OP

Will British weather provide reliable electricity?

Very interesting article on the Register commenting on work by a wind turbine expert commissioned by the Renewable Energy Foundation:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/03/wind_power_needs_dirty_pricey_gas_backup_report/

The gist of it is that for wind power to work as a national source of electricity generation, you need the wind to be blowing nicely, especially on winter evenings when demand is at its highest. Unfortunately it appears from Met Office data that winter evenings are not infrequently rather calm:

Quote:
... on 2 February 2006 the electricity demand in Britain reached its peak for 2006. The wind power model suggests that the output for the wind farms of Britain at that time would have been zero


As usual the commentary is in the Register's inimitable style, well worth a read.
vegplot

I've only glanced through this but the comparison seems to be wind generation meeting peak demand. I think it's accepted that this is unlikely to happen accept through coincidence. Also, wind is too variable to meet base load requirements.

However, wind is only a part solution it meets some of the demand some of the time. You'd be foolish, i.e. the government, to propose wind as a total solution. The cost of wind power generation is hampered by the proportion of the time when there is no or little wind available compared to when the turbines are going full pelt. This has been known for such a very long time but I somehow think that rhetoric and hype.

Wind power is good but it needs to be managed as a single cog in a bigger machine.
Azura Skye

Why can't we just mix renewable energy sources?
If the wind isn't blowing nicely, then can't we use the sun, or the sea, or if we have to, revert to fossil fuel?
I think we should be harvesting energy from every possible source at all times.
vegplot

Azura Skye wrote:
Why can't we just mix renewable energy sources?
If the wind isn't blowing nicely, then can't we use the sun, or the sea, or if we have to, revert to fossil fuel?
I think we should be harvesting energy from every possible source at all times.


Simple isn't it? Ideally that's the way to do it. We're in the big energy business though. The major producers and the national grid simply are geared to managed renewable resource very well as they're used to base load coal and nuclear with gas powered and pumped storage providing the quick start up.

It seems odd that small scale production is getting just token support when it promises to meet around 40% of the UK domestic needs.

It's a big boys game and they're not keen on seeing their profit margins drop because of variability in the supply chain.
Azura Skye

I see.

Everytime I hear the word 'nuclear' I get the heebeejeebies.
such an awful thing.
OP

So is global warming.
RichardW

I think the main problem is that renewables still need to have a standard power station on line in case they go off line. So not fuel savings are made. Thats why the local pumped hydro plant is popular. It can go from 0 to full production in less than 8 seconds, normal power stations take days & days. You cant just turn them on & off (which is why night time power is cheaper cos they are still producing power than no one wants).


Richard
boisdevie1

If we go for tidal power then it will never go offline.
Stacey

boisdevie1 wrote:
If we go for tidal power then it will never go offline.


Exactly how I feel. What's the problem with tidal/wave power?
Azura Skye

personally I'd quite like a power outage more often, it forces people to talk to one another and stop frantic activity!
oldish chris

RichardW wrote:
I think the main problem is that renewables still need to have a standard power station on line in case they go off line. So not fuel savings are made. Thats why the local pumped hydro plant is popular. It can go from 0 to full production in less than 8 seconds, normal power stations take days & days. You cant just turn them on & off (which is why night time power is cheaper cos they are still producing power than no one wants).


Richard


George Monbiot dealt with this in his book "Heat". When demand peaks (or supply dips) various bits of equipment can be designed to automatically switch off. Best read his book for more info - I am not an electrical engineer.

And in a few years time the standard power station won't work either - seems to be a bit of a problem on the oil supply front!

Me: I'm knitting some more Guernseys for when its cold and Arans for when its very cold. Next year I'm making bed-socks.
Stacey

Azura Skye wrote:
personally I'd quite like a power outage more often, it forces people to talk to one another and stop frantic activity!


Not a vote winner though, is it? Wink
oldish chris

Azura Skye wrote:
personally I'd quite like a power outage more often, it forces people to talk to one another and stop frantic activity!


Apparently, many years ago now, New York had a major "blackout". 9 months later there was a baby boom. Seems a power outage stops people talking and encourages frantic activity Wink
Stacey

oldish chris wrote:
RichardW wrote:
I think the main problem is that renewables still need to have a standard power station on line in case they go off line. So not fuel savings are made. Thats why the local pumped hydro plant is popular. It can go from 0 to full production in less than 8 seconds, normal power stations take days & days. You cant just turn them on & off (which is why night time power is cheaper cos they are still producing power than no one wants).


Richard


George Monbiot dealt with this in his book "Heat". When demand peaks (or supply dips) various bits of equipment can be designed to automatically switch off. Best read his book for more info - I am not an electrical engineer.

And in a few years time the standard power station won't work either - seems to be a bit of a problem on the oil supply front!

Me: I'm knitting some more Guernseys for when its cold and Arans for when its very cold. Next year I'm making bed-socks.


Actually, all joking aside I think we underestimate how being cold impacts on our mental health. Last winter was the first time I couldn't afford any heating during the day at all ( I had the open fire at night) I found it really , really hard to keep warm. By the time the weather started to warm up I was incredibly depressed ( and it hasn't fully shifted) No doubt a few generations on when people are used to being cold in winter it may not be such a problem but being cold is vile and soul destroying when you're from a generation that flicks a switch for fairly instant warmth.
Stacey

oldish chris wrote:
Azura Skye wrote:
personally I'd quite like a power outage more often, it forces people to talk to one another and stop frantic activity!


Apparently, many years ago now, New York had a major "blackout". 9 months later there was a baby boom. Seems a power outage stops people talking and encourages frantic activity Wink


IIRC the same happened after the three day week in the 70's Wink
alice

We've currently got this tidal device thingy going on here...

Look out, look out, there's a link pixie about

Sorry, haven't the faintest idea how to shorten the link Confused
vegplot

boisdevie1 wrote:
If we go for tidal power then it will never go offline.


What about slackwater?
Treacodactyl

Stacey wrote:
boisdevie1 wrote:
If we go for tidal power then it will never go offline.


Exactly how I feel. What's the problem with tidal/wave power?


Probably a huge impact to wildlife to start with.
RichardW

vegplot wrote:
boisdevie1 wrote:
If we go for tidal power then it will never go offline.


What about slackwater?


My basic understanding is that it happens at differing times of the tide at different areas & that also as the tide times are different in each area the load could be spread so when one is slack another is at max power.

Richard
Stacey

Treacodactyl wrote:
Stacey wrote:
boisdevie1 wrote:
If we go for tidal power then it will never go offline.


Exactly how I feel. What's the problem with tidal/wave power?


Probably a huge impact to wildlife to start with.

Well, the surfers are complaining about the one about to happen here Laughing

What sort of problems would be caused? At the moment it seems like every option has a downside so what do we do?
Jamanda

A serious national drive to reduce usage rather than just trying to find a way of matching current demand by changing supply methods would be a good start.

All methods do have a downside. There has to be a price paid for electricity.
Jonnyboy

Jamanda wrote:
A serious national drive to reduce usage rather than just trying to find a way of matching current demand by changing supply methods would be a good start.



Agree, There really should be much more done to help with this. 10 million homes could do with energy saving lights bulbs for a start.
Stacey

Jamanda wrote:
A serious national drive to reduce usage rather than just trying to find a way of matching current demand by changing supply methods would be a good start.

All methods do have a downside. There has to be a price paid for electricity.


I agree but we'll still need electricity of some kind won't we?
Jamanda

Shops should not be allowed to have heating or AC on and the doors wide open. TVs etc with standby should only be available to people with mobility problems. Chargers should stop drawing current when the thing they charge isn't plugged in.
Jamanda

Stacey wrote:
Jamanda wrote:
A serious national drive to reduce usage rather than just trying to find a way of matching current demand by changing supply methods would be a good start.

All methods do have a downside. There has to be a price paid for electricity.


I agree but we'll still need electricity of some kind won't we?


Of course. And I'm sure you try to minimise your use of it, as do we. There is no method I know of which doesn't have a downside. So we need to minimise that downside.
Stacey

Jamanda wrote:
Shops should not be allowed to have heating or AC on and the doors wide open. TVs etc with standby should only be available to people with mobility problems. Chargers should stop drawing current when the thing they charge isn't plugged in.


I was talking about this the other day. Why are manufacturers still allowed to make devices with standby built in? Confused Why isn't more being done about large corporate buildings and shops being fully lit 24 hrs a day? Wouldn't that be more useful than energy saving lightbulbs in the living room?
Stacey

Jamanda wrote:
Stacey wrote:
Jamanda wrote:
A serious national drive to reduce usage rather than just trying to find a way of matching current demand by changing supply methods would be a good start.

All methods do have a downside. There has to be a price paid for electricity.


I agree but we'll still need electricity of some kind won't we?


Of course. And I'm sure you try to minimise your use of it, as do we. There is no method I know of which doesn't have a downside. So we need to minimise that downside.


That's kind of what I was asking about the impact on wildlife for. If it was a choice between wave power and nuclear which would be better?

I know it's not that clear cut but it seems we can argue ourselves out of developing any new energy source....
Jamanda

I don't know. Wave power certainly has an effect on the ecosystems in the vicinity because a lot of the energy has been taken out of the water. But could those ecosystems adapt to the new conditions to be just as diverse, but different?
I would rather see a mixture of wave, wind, hydro and solar than nuclear or biofuels. But I'm not sure this is realistic. I know it isn't unless accompanied by reduction in demand.
OP

Reducing demand is certainly part of the answer. However the government is putting pressure on local authorities to build very large numbers of new houses. In our area the local development framework assumes a 25% population increase within 20 years, so unless individual electricity usage is reduced by a quarter (and there is nothing in the framework to suggest that) demand could still increase. Surely the starting point has to be a sustainable development plan for the whole country.
oldish chris

Stacey wrote:
Jamanda wrote:
A serious national drive to reduce usage rather than just trying to find a way of matching current demand by changing supply methods would be a good start.

All methods do have a downside. There has to be a price paid for electricity.


I agree but we'll still need electricity of some kind won't we?


Absolutely!

I get a tad frustrated when every electricity generating method is opposed for one reason or another: Coal -too much CO2, Oil: CO2, running out, Nuclear: expensive, horrid legacy, Wind: irregular and frightens the seagulls, etc. OK which one of you clowns turned the lights off?

Solution: don't run the dishwasher, boil the kettle and browse the downsizer website at the same time Wink
Treacodactyl

oldish chris wrote:
I get a tad frustrated when every electricity generating method is opposed for one reason or another


My main objection to many of the 'green' energy solutions being pushed by the government is that I feel they don't fully highlight the problems with the technologies and that also makes me wonder what else is being hidden.

With the vast sums of money being mentioned I also don't feel there's anywhere enough money or emphasis on saving energy. Perhaps we need a simple example to help us choose some of the options? So, when the planning for an estuary tidal scheme is looked at we could compare the loss of habitat and perhaps several species to the fact we can now run a few thousand more plasma TVs or whatever.
OP

Reducing demand is a good place to start, but as I think someone else mentioned, personal micro-generation schemes could be encouraged more - rather than these big national high-profile concepts. I think there are grant schemes to encourage individual wind-generation and hot-water heating etc. but for some reason they don't seem to have been that successful.
Behemoth

Until recently they've still involved significant outlay, some upheaval for not much significant return. Also, some are ineffectual. I was talking to our plumber the other day and he was saying that condensing boilers still could make a significant impact but most plumbers oversize the boiler, to be on the 'safe side' and they never reach the operating levels to take advantage of the principle of the thing.
James

I whent to a meeting recently about the development of a new carbon capture & storage power station in Teeside.
A big cheese from N-Power was there. He laid it out very plainly:

- Oil is running out.
- Renewable technology falls extremely short of our requirements, even if we all reduced consumption and had a large renewable drive.
- Nuclear has a lead in time of at least 15 years (thats if we whent full tilt today.
- Our current power stations were mostly built in the post war boom, and are near their end of life.
- In 5 to 10 years time, even if there was enough fossil fuels, we wont have enough generating capacity to keep burning it.
- Therefore black outs are almost inevitable.

They're suggesting a move back to coal (the UK has around 150- 200 yrs of good coal reserves).

The power station uses a new technology that captures the CO2 prior to combustion (all other carbon sequistration technology is post combustion). They effectivly 'crack' the coal, resulting a mixture of methane, hydrogen, CO2, gypsum and clinker. The clinker is being sold into the cement industry, gypsum is already collected from power stations (all gyproc pannels are derrived from power station exhaust gasses), hydrogen & methane are burned for electricity, and the CO2 is compressed into liquid form and injected into old north sea oil wells.

All the energy it takes to do this greatly reduces the deiverable calorific value of the coal, but as an interim measure, its deffinately an option.
Shane

James wrote:
All the energy it takes to do this greatly reduces the deiverable calorific value of the coal, but as an interim measure, its deffinately an option.

CCS drops the output of a power station by around a third, typically.
James

yes, that rings a bell, one third was the figure I had in my head too.
Stacey

How long would it take to build/adapt the power stations needed for that technology?
James

the idea is that by gasifying the coal, the gaseous output can be used in the existing gas turbine power stations. So you'd need to put a load of technology up-front, then the power station itself remains very similar to what we have now.

So I'd imagine not long. The planning application is going throgh at the momment for the one on Teeside. The pipe line to the north sea has been approved & is being built as we speak. The power station should just take a few year to construct.

Having said that, retro-fitting isnt really an option for a lot of stations. as many of them are old and it wouldnt be worth adding this 'patch' for the last few years of their lives.
Stacey

James wrote:
the idea is that by gasifying the coal, the gaseous output can be used in the existing gas turbine power stations. So you'd need to put a load of technology up-front, then the power station itself remains very similar to what we have now.

So I'd imagine not long.

Having said that, many of our exisiting powerstations are getting old now and it wouldnt be worth adding this 'patch' for the last few years of their lives.


It sounds very exciting.

What are people saying are the downsides?
vegplot

Stacey wrote:
James wrote:
the idea is that by gasifying the coal, the gaseous output can be used in the existing gas turbine power stations. So you'd need to put a load of technology up-front, then the power station itself remains very similar to what we have now.

So I'd imagine not long.

Having said that, many of our exisiting powerstations are getting old now and it wouldnt be worth adding this 'patch' for the last few years of their lives.


It sounds very exciting.

What are people saying are the downsides?


Scargill.
James

vegplot wrote:
Stacey wrote:
James wrote:
the idea is that by gasifying the coal, the gaseous output can be used in the existing gas turbine power stations. So you'd need to put a load of technology up-front, then the power station itself remains very similar to what we have now.

So I'd imagine not long.

Having said that, many of our exisiting powerstations are getting old now and it wouldnt be worth adding this 'patch' for the last few years of their lives.


It sounds very exciting.

What are people saying are the downsides?


Scargill.



Thatcher
James

more seriously, though. The big downside is that no-one has actually captured & stored large volumes of CO2 before. Will it be safe? The physics behind it suggests that it will, but I wouldnt like to be around if there's an uncontrolled release...



(also: I edited my previous post to make it a little clearer)
vegplot

James wrote:
more seriously, though. The big downside is that no-one has actually captured & stored large volumes of CO2 before. Will it be safe? The physics behind it suggests that it will, but I wouldnt like to be around if there's an uncontrolled release...


Will we have to replace oil pipes to handle the high pressures (several hundred bar)?
RichardW

vegplot wrote:


Will we have to replace oil pipes to handle the high pressures (several hundred bar)?


Liquid CO2 is not that high a presure. From memory its only 800psi (55.2 bar) ish.

Just checked 860psi at room temp.

Richard
cassy

IMO carbon capture is very similar to nuclear waste storage - we are finding a short term solution with little thought for the future. We have not cleaned up the mess we have made, just put it somewhere out of our way, to be cleaned up by future generations.

The most advanced project already has leaks caused by CO2 acidifying surrounding seawater and eating away at the rock in which it is stored. Even if we manage to keep CO2 levels from rising further using this technology, the climate change problems will still exist if/when the stored CO2 is released.

Similar to nuclear waste, we are creating a ticking time bomb, the consequences of which we are not fully aware.

More dangerously, we can all continue our lives as normal and take no personal responsibility for the problem. Somebody else will sort it out.

[/rant], Sorry Embarassed
James

Cassy,
thats very true, and I find it annoying that we're going to try to keep the party going come what may, instead of greatly reducing our energy requirements.

However, we are going to need a non oil & gas short term fix in the next few years to plug the energy gap until the UK population realise that they must reduce their energy useage. Hopefully by then we may have invested a little more in some novel renewable technolgy (like algal oil)

As a stop-gap technology, I could imagine this working. Its not ideal, but it'll keep the wolf from the door
dpack

we have lots of moving water
heat pumps are good
we waste most energy in futile activities
nuclear is much tidier now than when it's primary use was pu production but has a huge long term downside ,the management of nuclear facilities has been mixed in quality over the last 60 odd years
vegplot

James wrote:
Cassy,
thats very true, and I find it annoying that we're going to try to keep the party going come what may, instead of greatly reducing our energy requirements.

However, we are going to need a non oil & gas short term fix in the next few years to plug the energy gap until the UK population realise that they must reduce their energy useage. Hopefully by then we may have invested a little more in some novel renewable technolgy (like algal oil)

As a stop-gap technology, I could imagine this working. Its not ideal, but it'll keep the wolf from the door


We'd still be relying on fossils fuels with their associated problems and it's something we should/must move away from. Is this type of coal station on the horizon? The the cynical me thinks the technology will be rolled out quickly and 10 years down the road, having missed emissions targets, we'll hear 'we haven't quite got this right and it's not working as we hoped'.
James

yes, we'd still be reliant on fossil fuels. However my points are these:

1) coal is a fuel that the UK has in abundance- giving a level of energy independance we dont have presently.
2) by sequesting the CO2 and capturing the particlulates from the emissions, our emssions targets could be met.
3) its a technology we can impliment today, unlike other low impact energy sources.
4) As I've said previously, I dont think this is a solution to the problems, I think its a stop-gap to give us the breathing space needed to reduce our energy requirements and develop other renewable energy systems.

And yes, its not just on the horizon, its happening now. The plant will be constructed on the western end of the old Britsh Steel rolling sheds in Redcar, near Middlesbrough. I'm presently working with the developer's to ensure the site is cleaned up (de-contaminated) ready for development.
Stacey

I don't see why it has to be an either/or situation - can't we address both issues at the same time? I sometimes feel that there are people who relish the thought of a breakdown in society (cos that's what'll happen when we run out of oil and have no alternative in place) so they can say 'Told you so'. It baffles me tbh. Anyway, the massive price hikes forecast for winter will surely address much of the issue of overdependence on fuels?
cassy

James wrote:
However, we are going to need a non oil & gas short term fix in the next few years to plug the energy gap until the UK population realise that they must reduce their energy useage.


This is what I'm worried about. If we continue supplying enough energy 'to plug the gap', the population will never realise that they need to reduce their consumption. Perhaps, sadly, the only way for this realisation to occur is power outages.

We don't really 'need' much of our energy consumption; we (myself included) just prefer to have it, which is a very different thing. I am frequently amazed/terrified by the number of people who are oblivious to climate change issues despite the fact that is widely reported in the media. What more can be done to bring this realisation about, apart from something drastic like a power cut?

We are asking the wrong questions. It should not be "Will British weather provide reliable electricity?" but "How do we reduce our demands so that we are satisfied with the amount of renewable energy available via the British weather?".
OP

cassy wrote:

We are asking the wrong questions. It should not be "Will British weather provide reliable electricity?" but "How do we reduce our demands so that we are satisfied with the amount of renewable energy available via the British weather?".

That is a very good point, but I think it should be "how will the UK government (not "we") introduce a sustainable development policy that is consistent with the amount of renewable energy available via the British weather?". We can all do our bit, but it is government policy that needs changing first.
Stacey

orangepippin wrote:
cassy wrote:

We are asking the wrong questions. It should not be "Will British weather provide reliable electricity?" but "How do we reduce our demands so that we are satisfied with the amount of renewable energy available via the British weather?".

That is a very good point, but I think it should be "how will the UK government (not "we") introduce a sustainable development policy that is consistent with the amount of renewable energy available via the British weather?". We can all do our bit, but it is government policy that needs changing first.


Exactly. Everything is being conveniently shunted ono the little people whilst the biggies seem to go unchallenged.
vegplot

I was listening to the energy minister on radio 4 the other day and I wasn't at all impressed with his responses to questions posed. More slippery than a Teflon coated ice rink. The Greenpeace spokesman was much more lucid with well balanced view points and put forward some very convincing arguments. Whilst the minister prevaricated and bypassed the important issues. He only reinforced my impression the government 'in the pay' of energy corporates.
oldish chris

orangepippin wrote:
cassy wrote:

We are asking the wrong questions. It should not be "Will British weather provide reliable electricity?" but "How do we reduce our demands so that we are satisfied with the amount of renewable energy available via the British weather?".

That is a very good point, but I think it should be "how will the UK government (not "we") introduce a sustainable development policy that is consistent with the amount of renewable energy available via the British weather?". We can all do our bit, but it is government policy that needs changing first.


I agree with orangepippin and cassy. However, a combination of local planning, NIMBYs and the RSPB means that you can only have half a dozen off-shore wind farms.

With a fifteen year lead time for nuclear, I'm off to calculate how many candles I need to buy!
Behemoth

Stacey wrote:
Exactly. Everything is being conveniently shunted ono the little people whilst the biggies seem to go unchallenged.


Remember the biggies have very big fuel bills and require a reliable supply as well. In part this is spurring a lot of companies to develop their own renewables or change they way they operate.
Treacodactyl

orangepippin wrote:
We can all do our bit, but it is government policy that needs changing first.


But they will do what most people want and most people don't care, or at least will not vote for realistic energy saving policies.

I think we all need to do our bit while the government changes. At the moment the main reason for that will be the rapidly rising energy prices, I bet our CO2 output per person will go down over the next couple of years due to the shortage of money and spiralling energy costs.
vegplot

There may well be move move for even large energy users to downsize or move to independent generation away from the grid, their own security of supply. At present there is no framework to control emissions from independent power stations not feeding into the grid, theoretically we could all use diesel generators. Not a nice thought.

This has drifted somewhat off topic. Apologies.
Vanessa

What gets me with power stations is the "cooling towers". Why oh why don't they USE that heat? Even if it's "just" to provide locals with cheap hot water. SUCH a criminal waste of energy to simply cool it in those giant towers.
Jamanda

vanessa wrote:
What gets me with power stations is the "cooling towers". Why oh why don't they USE that heat? Even if it's "just" to provide locals with cheap hot water. SUCH a criminal waste of energy to simply cool it in those giant towers.


Drax, which is a big power station I used to have the pleasure of seeing out of my bedroom window as a child, use the excess heat to heat greenhouses.
Vanessa

That's good then - at least they put the heat to good use. So many don't ... or at least, don't seem to.
shadiya

Of course, lets not forget that the grid itself is hugely inefficient and I think something like 60% of energy generated at source is lost in transporting it. I think we need a combination of approaches, and more micro generation. I don't mean stick a wind turbine on every roof but local power projects for local people, as it were.

Stacey said (don't know how to do that cut and paste thing properly..... doh!)


I sometimes feel that there are people who relish the thought of a breakdown in society (cos that's what'll happen when we run out of oil and have no alternative in place) so they can say 'Told you so'. It baffles me tbh.

When you've spent 25years trying to get people to realise that earth is a planet of finite resources and have been laughed at, ignored and abused for yr pains, eventually, speaking for myself that is, there is a feeling of f**k em with a dash of "told you so " thrown in....

Personally, I gave up trying to get people to see the bigger picture and take responsibility for themselves and their actions. The writing has been on the wall for quite some time now, if people choose not read, that's up to them. At least in this country there is free schooling so reading is an option, unlike the situation for some 70% of the world.
oldish chris

shadiya wrote:
Of course, lets not forget that the grid itself is hugely inefficient and I think something like 60% of energy generated at source is lost in transporting it.


wikipedia gives a different number:
[/quote]Transmission and distribution losses in the USA were estimated at 7.2% in 1995 [2], and in the UK at 7.4% in 1998.[quote]

ref:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_power_transmission
vegplot

shadiya wrote:
Of course, lets not forget that the grid itself is hugely inefficient and I think something like 60% of energy generated at source is lost in transporting it.


that sounds more like generating losses rather than transmission. the effeciency of processing the potential thermal energy in coal to electricity at the consumers door is around 23% or something of that order. this includes generating and transmission losses. you can google the corect figures.
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