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UK Wind Power "Debate" : Latest

by afew Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 03:53:23 AM EST

This diary is a joint effort by DoDo and afew

The UK Parliament's Select Committee on Energy and Climate Change held a hearing on the economics of wind energy last July (transcript here). Evidence was brought by, among others, Professor Gordon Hughes of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and Dr Robert Gross of Imperial College, London. Hughes later contributed supplementary written evidence, to which Gross et al responded a couple of weeks ago with further supplementary evidence.

What's at issue is how much wind generation capacity should be brought into the energy mix in view of the UK's renewables targets for 2020, and what the economic effects of an increasing share for wind would be. Britain has the largest wind resource in Europe, yet policy has veered wildly from planning for a very considerable wind build-out to outright discouragement.

The deceptively-named Global Warming Policy Foundation (often mentioned on ET, try here and here) think-tanks on climate change (obfuscation), renewable energy (opposition), and conventional energy sources (support). In this case, the Imperial College team (from the Centre for Energy Policy and Technology plus the Business School, and help from the Department of Electrical Engineering) refute the main planks of the GWPF's testimony before the Committee, and in passing present some interesting arguments and new research data.

(Added to the Wind power series.)



Deflating the numbers

The Imperial College (IC) paper wastes no time in bringing down to size exaggerated numbers presented by Hughes for the GWPF. As for the wind capacity needed to reach renewables targets for 2020, Hughes calculates it at 36 GW.

IC reduce that to 27 GW, on the basis of existing capacity (7 GW) and on- and offshore projects in the pipeline (20 GW), citing also estimates from National Grid ("gone green" scenario (pdf)), Department for Energy and Climate Change (roadmap for renewables), and the Committee on Climate Change (estimate pdf), none of which come close to 36 GW.

The importance of this becomes apparent when estimating capital costs. Hughes comes up with $124 bn for installing 36 GW (including the already built 7 GW!...) + transmission upgrades. On the basis of 27 GW, IC calculate overall capital costs as under £60 bn. Because of the 9 GW difference, but also because

Prof Hughes appears to have costed the entirety of his 36 GW at current offshore wind costs. His costing of transmission upgrading is not consistent with National Grid. For reasons discussed below, his estimate of `back-up' costs is questionable... (his estimate) appears to be some £64 billion above what the available evidence suggests, even without allowing for the possibility of cost reductions. (IC, p4)


Refuting the constraint fallacy

Prof. Hughes states that wind will "begin to impose increasingly heavy costs on system operation as the share of wind power in total system capacity approaches or exceeds the minimum level of demand during the year (base load). This threshold is due to be passed in the UK shortly after 2015."

Prof. Hughes makes a further contention that wind would need to be permanently constrained, to the effect that no more than 20 GW of 36 GW could be fed into the grid at any one time.

His calculations of wind farm economics are predicated on the basis that wind would therefore need to be substantially curtailed, which affects the load factor assumptions he uses.


Both comments show a fundamental misunderstanding of the statistics of wind output, and the means by which engineers assess power system balancing requirements. (IC, p4)

The IC paper argues that neither side of the equation is correct: the practical maximum of wind power is well below peak power, and the practical constraint on it is higher than the lowest demand during the year.

  • Wind speeds are mostly to be found in the low to middle of the operating range, with the result that "wind farms most often operate at a range of outputs between 10% and 50% of peak output". Anything above 75% of nameplate capacity for the UK fleet of wind turbines is quite rare, thus even if such an event were to coincide with a demand minimum and wind would have to be spilt, it would not be a significant loss. (This point is based on research shown in Annex 3 of the IC paper, also covered at the end of the diary.)
  • A key point is that there is more wind when demand is higher (the winter half of the year) and less when demand is lower (the summer half). As the IC paper says, the likelihood that it is extremely windy across the UK on a warm night in August (the lowest demand during the year) is close to zero.

In very simple terms, we can therefore assume that with 30 GW installed, wind power will produce, for much of the time, between 3 GW and 15 GW of power. Peak British demand exceeds 60 GW. Daytime demand in winter is typically about 45 GW, peaking to above 60 GW in the early evening. Minimum night time demand in winter is usually above 35 GW. In summer, daytime demand is usually around 35 GW and minimum night time demand about 25 GW. Wind speeds tend to be lower in summer, and higher in winter and autumn. Simply put, when wind data and demand data are looked at carefully we find that there is very seldom any need to spill wind. (IC, p5)

Further, simulations of the UK system run by the Department of Electrical Engineering at IC indicate little need to waste or "spill" wind (ie reduce turbine output compared to wind-speed potential; it's an old sailing-ship metaphor for taking wind from a sail because too strong or in an unwanted direction) up to 2020 and beyond. Note that all this considers the British grid only, without considering increased international balancing or energy storage (more on that later).


And now for back-up

After overestimating capital costs and problems caused to the system by (largely imaginary) excess output, Hughes got on to the familiar ground of the supposedly massive need for dedicated (and inefficient) back-up to take over when there is less wind output.

...wind needs 21 GW of dedicated gas fired back-up, all of which would be `open cycle' plant...

Open cycle gas turbines (OCGT) are peaker plants, easy to turn on and off. Their marginal costs are high because of fuel costs and low efficiency (compared to combined cycle gas turbine plants, CCGTs). "Whilst they are also cheaper to build, the capital cost savings are quickly overwhelmed by increased fuel costs, for anything other than the most short term uses." As a result, they are used for very short periods, generating small amounts of electricity when called on to meet a peak in demand or to back up in emergency situations. Current capacity in the UK stands at about 1.5 GW, they contributed less than 25 GWh to the British grid in 2011 - "the equivalent of running a mere 16 hours at full load over the whole year" (a load factor of just 0.18%!).

As the IC paper notes, it would be "economically absurd" to imagine them displacing the output of more efficient CCGTs, used for baseload or mid-merit generation. Systems operators are not going to call on OCGTs when they can get cheaper balancing power from more efficient plants. In other words, different plants produce according to their place in the merit order, and it makes no sense to consider wind power and a dedicated backup capacity separately from the rest of the power system.

Modelling by IC suggests that OCGT capacity needs to rise (to 10 or 12 GW) in response to occasional back-up needs with regard to increased wind but also phasing-out of some oil and coal plant used for peaking. Even so, they would generate electricity, as before, at a low capacity factor ("producing for an average of 30 full-load hours per year": a load factor of 0.34%) – in other words, they would continue to be used as peaker plants. The bulk of the balancing would be provided by CCGT plants and remaining coal-fired power plants: that is, mid-merit plants. (There is more detail, with power curves, in Annex 2 of the IC paper, which is also summarised near the end of the diary.)

This compares to the 21 GW, running for long periods, that Prof. Hughes cites in his evidence. We are not able to determine the basis on which Prof. Hughes calculates his estimate for the Committee.

The above outlandish scenario assumes that wind and its dedicated backup would replace existing baseload while all other generation would remain equal. If that weren't absurd enough, Prof. Hughes also has two even weirder scenarios of wind and its dedicated back-up replacing mid-merit resp. peak load (which we won't waste time on, but if you're interested, the IC paper takes them apart in its Annex 1).

It seems that in his supplementary evidence, Hughes revised the 21 GW figure to 13 GW. Perhaps plucking figures from a well-known bodily orifice doesn't always work. But the need, in terms of supporting data for a narrative, of a high capacity number and of higher marginal-cost OCGTs, is fairly clear when we see that Hughes pretends that a wind+gas scenario would be more costly, be less efficient, and emit more CO2, than a gas alone scenario. This kind of up-is-down narrative (You thought wind was low-carbon? Think again!) is often successful in impressing the media and public opinion, and this one has had a fair amount of play in Britain. Of course, it depends on specious assumptions, in particular that OCGTs would be turned on for long periods when in fact they would not.


Any other questions?

Looking beyond 2020, integrating a considerably larger share of wind power in the UK energy mix, as elsewhere, calls for adaptation of the system: transmission upgrades, storage solutions, smarter demand response. Hughes, for the GWPF, suggests that : "if the economics of such options were genuinely attractive, they would already be adopted on a much larger scale today".

The IC paper replies that, to some extent, they are – and points to grid connections between France, Germany, and Scandinavia that permit better integration of nuclear, coal and hydro. Also to time-of-day metering in France to help smooth inflexible nuclear output.

But, above all, why should one expect practices that were not previously called for to be already adopted?

Analysis by colleagues at Imperial College indicates that the potential for storage, transmission upgrade and demand response to reduce costs increases considerably as we look out to the longer term, to 2030 and beyond, and to a largely decarbonised power system. The BritNed interconnector to The Netherlands opened in April 2011, and the EirGrid East West Interconnector to the Republic of Ireland in September 2012. National Grid is proposing a line to Belgium that would be ready in 2018.

It may be that several decades of North Sea oil and gas windfall have restricted the British capacity for reasoning beyond the national sphere in matters of energy policy. Or at least, that a think tank that wants to put out a plausible but specious line can believe it may count on British insularity?


The merit order at work

Annex 2 of the IC paper discusses how the different modes of power generation contribute to the provision of variable power according to their merit order. This is illustrated by real and simulated power diagrams for Britain, all of which are reproduced below.

The first diagram shows the actual situation in the first week of November 2011, showing data for all plants directly connected to high-voltage transmission lines of Britain's National Grid. Wind doesn't appear significant because many smaller wind farms are connected to lower-voltage distribution networks. The production of OCGT plants is unnoticeable, while CCGT plants contribute to the provision of daily variation (mid-merit or intermediate load). The IC paper notes that this variability actually comes from the older, less efficient CCGT plants, so from the viewpoint of the merit order, it would make sense to separate CCGT plants into two categories.

The second diagram is based on a simulation with a few conservative assumptions: demand is scaled up for expected 2020 demand, wind power is the simulated total output of the 7 GW installed today (more on this in the summary of Annex 3), "other" (which included some international balancing) is ignored, and older and newer CCGT plants are now separate categories. The result: OCGT is still almost never used, instead, most of the extra balancing (above what older CCGT, coal and hydro plants provide) comes from throttling newer CCGT plants. But the newer CCGT plants still have a lot of balancing capacity left.

The third diagram shows the situation with the projected 30 GW of wind capacity. The time period includes an extreme case of high wind power during low demand, showing a small volume of over-production when wind would cut into nuclear's share. Meanwhile, there is less OCGT use than in the previous scenario:

The IC simulation model omits the consideration of some factors, most of which would further limit wind over-production and lower-efficiency gas plant production:

  • import/export (although new transmission lines are being laid or projected, as quoted from the paper earlier);
  • the capacity limits of transmission lines across Britain (but elsewhere in the paper they say there are projects for new domestic lines, too);
  • the predictability of wind (which could be used to power down baseload plants);
  • solar power (which would both shave off part of the daytime demand peaks and show some negative correlation with wind).

Wind load factor distribution

Annex 3 of the IC paper shows real and simulated load factor distributions for wind power in Britain, of which only the last is reproduced below.

The authors point out that data from the National Grid (which some anti-wind tracts have used recently) is only for wind farms connected to transmission lines managed nationally, and this data set is heavily skewed towards Scotland (where lower voltage National Grid lines provide direct connection for a higher fraction of wind farms). So they first simulated output for all of the 7 GW wind power capacity currently installed across Britain, based on real wind speeds. Then they went on to simulate the projected 30 GW capacity in 2020, with its higher share of off-shore.

The strongest change compared to the National Grid data (they used data for 2009-2011) is that low wind generation occurs much less often: the hours per year in the bottom two load factor bins (0–2.5% resp. 2.5–7.5%) are significantly reduced, with that for the lowest (0–2.5%) dropping from around 550 hours to around 150 hours. This result confirms the long-held contention that wind intermittency does indeed reduce with increased area.

It would be interesting if the Imperial College scientists were to redo the above analysis separately for different seasons, or for areas wider than Britain and the surrounding seas (whether just the entire Atlantic climate zone from Ireland to Poland or an expansion to the Mediterranean).

Display:
While the attack on wind power is on-going in Britain, an attack on the feed-in law is on-going in Germany. The argument is basically: renewables increase electricity prices because they decrease electricity prices!

Sounds bizarre? Here is how it goes:

  1. The feed-in law guarantees fixed rates for renewables producers which are above the average market price.
  2. At the time the feed-in law was first adopted, to make it acceptable to Big Industry (and its backers in politics), there was a compromise: energy-intensive industries would be exempted from sharing the extra costs of the feed-in law.
  3. This exemption was implemented in practice the following way:
    • At the end of every year, network operators prepare a prediction of electricity demand, market prices and renewables production for the next year.
    • Next year's surplus cost of electricity under the feed-in law is calculated, and the difference of the calculated and real surplus cost for the current year is added.
    • This cost is then divided by the predicted consumption of private homes and small business, which is then added as a surcharge to their electricity bills.

  4. This year, renewables (especially solar power) heavily reduced demand for variable power with a daily variation. This depressed wholesale electricity prices, in particular spot market prices at the  at the European Energy Exchange (EEX) in Leipzig. The effect is expected to be even stronger next year. (This is the merit order effect at work, discussed several times on ET.)
  5. For existing plants, lower spot market prices mean a higher difference between the rate guaranteed by the feed-in law and market price. Now, network operators expected higher EEX prices for this year and now expect even lower prices for next year, thus they doubled the feed-in law surcharge for normal consumers.

In a fact-based policy discussion, this would be a good opportunity to attack the exemption of energy-intensive industries: the system actually provides a virtual subsidy to them (they benefit from lower wholesale prices due to the merit order effect). It would also be a good opportunity to attack the profit-taking of utilities, because announced electricity prices don't reflect the reduction in spot market prices.

Instead, the crescendo in the media is all about renewables making energy bills more expensive, and the usual suspects (FDP, the business wing of the CDU, established power companies) demand an end to the feed-in law (ignoring the fact that to be built new plants with their degression-reduced rates would contribute little to the total surcharge).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 05:22:27 AM EST
I posted an article below directly relevant to your comment.

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 05:28:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Instead, the crescendo in the media is all about renewables making energy bills more expensive, and the usual suspects (FDP, the business wing of the CDU, established power companies) demand an end to the feed-in law"

But yesterday the CDU lost another election in the blackest of black states, Baden-Württenberg. Middle class voters increasingly find their interests represented by the Greens, and this is no good news for the energy establishment.

by Katrin on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 07:40:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean the Stuttgart mayoral election, where the CDU did not even run with an own candidate (hiding behind an independent instead).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 07:54:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Right, that's what I mean. I expect that those in the CDU who argue against green topics will meet more resistance from now on.
by Katrin on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 08:47:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had to check op-eds in conservative media. No deeper conclusions yet:
  • FAZ: one excuse is the resurgence of Stuttgart 21 criticism (after the latest cost increase), another the CDU failure to mobilise own voters (although total turnout actually grew...): no drawing of consequences (instead some ridiculing of the Greens).
  • Die Welt: their columnist focuses on the conservative failure in cities, with only two CDU mayors in the 20 biggest German cities (Dresden and Wuppertal), and blames the lack of proper candidates on the part of the Baden-Württenberg CDU. But when analysing the Greens' success, it's not about topics but the personality of Baden-Württenberg's Green PM Kretschmann.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 10:02:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Süddeutsche interprets it as an general sign of CDU trouble in the cities and a CDU in Baden-Württemberg still adrift after the loss of power in the last state election.

http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/cdu-schlappe-in-stuttgart-abseits-vom-urbanen-lebensstil-1.150250 3

by IM on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 10:47:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
All this is right but there is more: The Swabian housewife wants green energy. The CDU should better stop to seek alliances with energy dinosaurs. If there is anything the CDU has to fear, it's not the left, but conservative Greens. Merkel probably understands that now. The left wing of the Greens will probably learn that too, fairly soon.
by Katrin on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 11:28:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That is more or less the interpretation of Kuhn too. He said something of (cultural?) hegemony of the greens and their success among conservative voters.
by IM on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 11:44:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But then Kuhn is former Maoist; so knows all about long marches.
by IM on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 11:44:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting - there are still people who use the word 'conservative' to imply 'preserve, maintain, steward'.

(And not 'fire sale, everything public must go'.)

-----
sapere aude

by Number 6 on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 09:34:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not the Tories
Michael Gove, the education secretary, is writing to all MPs in areas where schools are said to be underperforming - mainly schools in Labour-led authorities - demanding that they side with him to open up the education system "to the new providers who can raise standards".

Gove has started his campaign against "the forces of conservatism" by writing to MPs in Leicester and Derby on Tuesday asking them whether they want to "keep the door closed to new solutions and stick rigidly to the status quo, which is failing the children in their areas".

by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 09:50:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hmm, 'New solutions', does that mean 'more money' or 'less money'. Tricky to predict.


-----
sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 10:03:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh, the internal debate started now. With inputs from the usual suspects. Heiner Geißler, former CDU general secretary and more recent Attac member:

"Es gibt immer noch zu viele konservativ-neoliberale Kräfte, die altmodischen Positionen nachhängen. Mit einem antiquierten Familien- und Frauenbild, ständiger Kritik an der Energiewende und der europäischen politischen Einigung und einer marktradikalen Wirtschaftspolitik kann eine Volkspartei nicht erfolgreich sein", sagte Geißler den Ruhr Nachrichten. Der Widerstand gegen Frauenquote und Mindestlohn müsse endlich beendet werden."There are still too many conservative-neoliberal forces who cling to old-fashioned positions. With an antiquated image of family and women, permanent criticism of the energy revolution, the European political union, and with radical free-market economic policies, a popular party will not be successful", Geißler told the paper Ruhr Nachrichten. Opposition to quotas for women and minimum wage should finally be given up.

Then he went on to attack the FDP and called on the CDU to differentiate themselves more before it is pulled into the abyss with the falling liberal party.

A usual suspect on the other side, Wolfgang Bosbach (leader of the interior commission of theBundestag) told that he doesn't want a separate CDU [profile] for cities and rural areas, and that it wouldn't make sense for the CDU to copy the Greens because voters will choose the original (interesting twist on the argument on how to deal with right-populist success). Armin Laschet, the new leader of the Northrhine-Westphalia CDU (in opposition after the re-election of an SPD-Greens state government) spun that further and claimed that the Stuttgart Greens copied the CDU.

Well, that's how far internal debate went so far. FAZ moans that "yet again" no consequences have been drawn.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 03:13:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nice summary!

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 05:24:22 AM EST
I add two minor criticisms here:
  • The Imperial College paper explicitly expresses total faith in the efficiency of markets (in causing production according to the merit order);
  • There is no discussion of the sensibility of the government's plans for new nuclear capacity.

These issues don't significantly affect their arguments regarding wind power and the absurdity of Hughes's points, though.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 05:32:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the first point, I didn't notice them say "markets" without adding "and regulation"... At least, they often said that.

On the second, I think the discussion is very focussed on wind, no doubt as per the Select Committee remit.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 06:05:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo,

I only scanned the paper, but I didn't see this. Rather, they followed their remit: accepting the government's plans on nuclear as a baseline makes sense as you have to have some baseline, and theirs is not to question what is a largely orthogonal issue.

As to their "total faith in markets", I think it is more a case of assuming the merit order because it is optimal, market or no market. What they are demonstrating is that Hughes' argument amounts to "if you build a large amount of wind power and also behave stupidly, then..."

;-)

by mustakissa on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 02:37:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hear hear. I've come across this professor Hughes's handiwork on climate blogs I hang out on, and got the distinct same impression of a 'bodily orifice' as the source of his numbers. Good to have a systematic explanation with lots of references.

BTW incredible that nonsense this thick actually made it to the 'mother of parliaments'. Not even Monckton managed this -- though he pulled off the lesser act of so fooling the Yanks. We're doomed I tell ya, doomed...

by mustakissa on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 09:25:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In today's FT:


Hot air over wind power

It must be odd to be in the renewable energy business at the tail-end of 2012.

In the US, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney wants to kill off wind subsidies. In Scotland, Donald Trump has shelved plans for a hotel because he says its views will be wrecked by "industrial monstrosities" of bird-butchering wind turbines. In Canada, authorities are studying claims that living near a wind farm can give you anything from high blood pressure to headaches. Worldwide, the blogosphere pulses with indignation about solar subsidies.

But the peculiar thing about all this wrath is how rarely it is directed at what is becoming a remarkably destructive aspect of renewable energy: its ability to drive down wholesale electricity prices.

For anyone rendered slack-jawed by the latest monthly power bill, this might sound like good news. But it is not quite that simple, especially for companies that derive a lot of profits from generating power via conventional fossil fuels such as coal or gas.

Some utilities risk having as much as half their power generation profits wiped out by 2020 as renewables reshape energy markets say analysts at UBS, which recently downgraded RWE, the German power company, EDF of France, and the Czech Republic's CEZ Group as a result. Other effects are only starting to be understood as the growth of renewable power soars.

(...)

In countries such as Germany, where green generators delivered more than a quarter of electricity in the first six months of this year, there is now so much renewable power available at certain times of the day that it meets a sizeable chunk of demand.

When this happens, market prices can crash because renewable power generators, which have large subsidies, low operational costs and free fuel, can offer cheaper prices than owners of plants running on conventional fossil fuels.
One fine day in May this year, average wholesale prices during peak hours in Germany were only €26 per megawatt hour - a third of what they were on the same day in 2008, according to research by Zouk Capital, a London-based private equity firm focused on the clean-tech market.




Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 05:26:29 AM EST
But the peculiar thing about all this wrath is how rarely it is directed at what is becoming a remarkably destructive aspect of renewable energy: its ability to drive down wholesale electricity prices.

Yes, the business cycle is driven by profits. Declining profits are destructive in that they lead to past investment not being validated by current (and currently forecast) revenue. So the wholesale electricity production sector is either in crisis or looking at one, due to the excessive investment in gas powered plants over the past decade.

Because there's lower demand for gas power, gas prices have also collapsed, hurting gas prospecting companies. See the weekend Salon.

None of this is a bad thing for energy infrastructure, it is bad for energy business.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 05:31:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait. I. Um.

<shifts mindset>

THOSE POOR COMPANIES! THEIR PROFITZ! THE PAINZ!

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 05:41:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jerome a Paris:
renewable power generators, which have large subsidies, low operational costs and free fuel, can offer cheaper prices than owners of plants running on conventional fossil fuels.

Not to forget the large subsidies fossil fuels benefit from?

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 08:34:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The subsidies are completely irrelevant to the fact that they have low marginal cost - only the low operating costs and absence of fuel costs are relevant here.

Certain support regimes (like tax credits) which are totally disconnected from the power markets can give an additional incentive for renewable energy producers to bid negative prices on the markets to have certainty of dispatch in massive generation surplus periods (as the separate revenue flow ensures positive cash flow despite negative prices) - which just goes to show that all the complex "market" support regimes easily create perverse incentives just as much as - if not more than - the simpler (but 'socialist') FiTs.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 09:30:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If I am reading this right, UK wind output varies by a factor of four as a matter of course. That does not favor open cycle gas all that strongly, but it does favor combined cycle gas a bunch, and implies a serious problem getting the total wind penetration above.. 30 odd percent? Definitely need a bigger catchment than this if wind is the plan.
by Thomas on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 08:50:18 AM EST
Demand varies by a factor of 3 between the lowest point and the maximum. So when you say 30%, it's 30% of what? GW, GWh, average GW, max. GW, something else?

Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 09:26:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
GWH. It being the only measure that means a damn.

Diurnal variation is an additional problem any clean grid has to address somehow. I am optimistic about the potential to shove consumption around within the day-night cycle - particularly if the shift is consistent.

That is, I do not think either a "All our electricity comes from desertec" or "All our electricity comes from  reactors that do not have throttles at all"  grid would face insurmountable problems. Ask people to charge at a given hour every day and that is not going to be a difficult habit to follow  
 But asking people to not go to work today because it has been a quiet week? That is not going to fly. So large variations in daily supply either require storage that can hold weeks of electricity, or the grid has to get bigger until the variations go the frack away.

by Thomas on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 12:07:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am optimistic about the potential to shove consumption around within the day-night cycle - particularly if the shift is consistent.

So am I. Chargeable hybrid cars can do most of that.

About the longer term (synoptic) variations, what's left of those after the European supergrid, can be taken care of by gas turbines, but burning electrolytically produced hydrogen from excess wind. Yes, an inefficient solution, but if we're talking about 10% of production we can live with that.

I see you didn't mention the annual cycle: it's a biggie, and nuclear isn't very good at following it. Wind -- or rather, a suitable mix of wind and solar -- is much better. And I'll say again what I said before: most of our energy use that produces CO2, like 3/4, does not involve electricity. Like space heating, where there is a huge savings potential through better building, heat pumps etc. Also, process industry and metallurgy. Bringing down these uses will involve electrification, which will raise electricity consumption, something I do not see in most plans. Something to be aware of.

by mustakissa on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 03:07:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Annual cycle: do you mean more work/energy use in 'winter'? More solar available in 'summer'? Or something else completely?


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sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 09:52:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's an awfully long supply line. You better hope none of the countries providing transport have energy shortages (think : Ukraine)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 04:05:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It isn't really that long, in HVDC terms... but anyway, I don't expect it will be needed. Before long the Sahara will come to us.
by mustakissa on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 05:04:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Or have a problem with local read-the-Koran-too-much rebels. Not that this happens quite regularly in the region.

Now I understand why the Saudians are happy about funding AQMI, obvious self interest against solar...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misčres

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Sun Oct 28th, 2012 at 12:14:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes. Real time cost, or cost published in advance: charge at this time of night at this cost.

('Real time' feels like it would lead to Enron-style scenarios, so perhaps monthly or so updates would be better.)

-----
sapere aude

by Number 6 on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 09:50:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Seems to me that the problem is not so much in getting wind penetration above 30 percent, as in what to do with the over-production that will become increasingly more common then. Spillage is not nice, and you can only export so much to neighbouring countries (where there will tend to be high winds at the same time).

Actually it's an interesting situation: "free" electricity nowhere to go. In Germany (where the same problem is already seen due to grid limitations) they are experimenting with electrolytically producing hydrogen, to be added to the natural gas network. Hmm.

by mustakissa on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 09:54:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In a broader regional grid, where the "need to spill wind" is a net over Northern and Western Europe, and so a fraction of the "need to spill wind" in the UK alone, time-shifting Scandinavian conventional hydro-power and a modest amount of added reverse pumped hydro capacity seems like it could cope with quite a lot of storage capacity.

And then there are consumer side technologies to take advantage of a smart grid, which would all kick into top gear when "surplus" power is offered for little more than a transmission infrastructure surcharge.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 12:06:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What's wrong with spilling a bit of excess wind?

Suppose the wind segment cost was zero; in that case, whether you spill or not doesn't matter at all, right? So the importance of utilizing every Watt of wind blowing by is going to depend on the relative cost of the total wind infrastructure compared to the conventional infrastructure...

by asdf on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 11:46:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas:
implies a serious problem getting the total wind penetration above.. 30 odd percent?

It means that incorporating up to about 30% is pretty straightforward, and would involve minimum curtailment; and that additional measures need to be taken for penetration above 30% (penetration here being mean wind generation divided by mean demand, on a multi-year basis).   As long as within-country transmission capacity is built to suit the 21st century rather than the 1960s-1990s.

and (looking down...) Thomas again:

So large variations in daily supply either require storage that can hold weeks of electricity,

Which we've already got in Europe. Of the order of hundreds of TWh of storage hydro.

and (looking further down...) mustakissa wrote:

Seems to me that the problem is not so much in getting wind penetration above 30 percent, as in what to do with the over-production that will become increasingly more common then.

It's a brand new ecological niche in the market, where wholesale prices are zero or lower for periods. It will therefore take a bit of time for innovation to fill those niches. And it will: see, for example, the Danish district-heating providers buying big resistance heaters to run at such times. And Highview's cryo-storage, Audi's synthetic methane production, and so on ...

by LondonAnalytics (Andrew Smith) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 11:23:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]

for example, the Danish district-heating providers buying big resistance heaters to run at such times

Tut-tut, how wasteful. Haven't they heard of heat pumps?

District heating/cooling by heat pumps

by mustakissa on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 02:22:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by mustakissa on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 02:29:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If it is wasteful depends on the need to handle spillage and the capacity to store the heat. If they for some reason can't store more then they get from resistance heaters and the need to handle spillage is great, well then resistance heaters makes sense as combined heat/waste mechanism.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 03:50:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course they've heard of heat pumps. And in many cases a heat pump is entirely the wrong solution.

The much under-rated resistance heater has many attributes that make it ideal for this purpose.

They can be turned on and off quickly.
They're very cheap. So when they're used for hundreds of hours a year, rather than thousands, their cost per kWh is much much lower than heat pumps.
They're very reliable, and need minimal servicing.

So, a heat pump would be terribly wasteful in this situation, of being a backup to the main boiler, to be used in emergencies or at times of very very low electricity costs; and a resistance heater is perfect.

by LondonAnalytics (Andrew Smith) on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 08:06:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]

solar panels and wind turbines shape chanel runway at paris fashion week

at paris fashion week, chanel took a bit of a 'green' turn, whereby the french fashion house's spring/summer 2013 runway was composed of solar panels, with two rows of wind turbines - 13 in total - lining the length of the stage, sending a surge of sustainable energy throughout the historic grand palais venue.

the scenographic idea came to lagerfeld while he was sitting in central park and wanted a bit of fresh air. 'it's more about the mood of the times, not something you have to translate,' said the designer. 'it's all about the wind, it's in the air,' he said to british vogue.

the runway's backdrop responded to the voluminous, but airy collection presented in which lagerfeld carried out the solar and wind themes through some of the designs, including a dress which appeared to be composed of miniature solar panels, mimicked using black and blue sequins, as well as a sweater with a wind turbine graphic knit.



Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 22nd, 2012 at 05:17:19 PM EST
Karl Lagerfeld denies calling French president 'idiot' - Life & Style - NZ Herald News

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld denies having called French President Francois Hollande an "idiot", suggesting the purported remark reported in a magazine came from a mistranslation.

"Obviously I did not say that. So I don't have to apologise because I didn't say it," the Paris-based German designer told France 2 television.

"Unfortunately I do not speak Spanish, so I don't really know what they said," said the creative director of French fashion-house Chanel.

According to an interview with the Spanish edition of Marie Claire, Lagerfeld called Hollande - who famously said he does not like the rich - an idiot for imposing a 75 per cent tax on incomes exceeding one million euros (NZ$1.6 million) annually.

Lagerfeld said he had a roaming, three-hour conversation with the magazine, covering topics including the press's "horrible" treatment of Bernard Arnault, who heads the LVMH luxury giant, after he applied for Belgian nationality.

The designer refused to criticise Hollande's new fiscal policy but said he regretted the luxury industry was "treated almost like it is plague-ridden", even though it "brings a lot" to France.

Langerfeld later said it was "frankly absurd" that he could have insulted Hollande, saying he found the president "funny, spiritual and very, very intelligent".

On Friday, Hollande's former companion and a one-time presidential contender Segolene Royal led the charge against Lagerfeld, demanding an immediate apology.



It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 04:12:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is no journalist capable of looking up directly what they claimed he said? I can't find it online in Marie-claire.es . Maybe someone in Spain can pick up a copy at a newsagent?
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 04:42:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
He hearsaid-she hearsaid is much more fun. Factchecking is so 18th century.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 04:47:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For some of us, the idea of you (or are there other Spaniards here?) going to a newsagent and asking for a copy of Marie-Claire is even more fun....
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 04:54:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll sacrifice myself for the advancement of science.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 08:23:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You should put up a paypal tip jar.

-----
sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 09:54:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I already have the Marie Claire. I located the offending quote before dishing out the €1.95

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 10:18:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually it's like assassinating Abraham Lincoln.

-----
sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 10:32:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Lagerfeld:

"Unfortunately I do not speak Spanish, so I don't really know what they said," said the creative director of French fashion-house Chanel.

Marie-Claire

Así es nuestro número 302, digno de coleccionista y plagado de temas que no olvidarás jamás. Karl Lagerfeld, famoso por sus excentricidades (ya no acude a museos porque los teléfonos de los turistas le molestan y bebe Coca Cola Light en jarras de cristal Baccarat) es, además, el fotógrafo de la portada de este número especial y del reportaje interior protagonizado por los supermodelos Jon Kortajerena, Heidi Mount y Kati Nescher.

"He aceptado este proyecto porque quería hacer algo en España, ahora que las cosas no están muy bien en el país. Algo optimista, mostrar mi apoyo".

Que aceptara ser nuestro editor invitado es todo un sueño hecho realidad que no te puedes perder. Ha modernizado el concepto de prêt-à-porter, es el gurú de la moda y ahora más que nunca forma parte de Marie-Claire.

My Spanish may not be much better than his, but aren't they claiming that he's a guest editor of an issue of a magazine that he hasn't even seen?
by gk (g k quattro due due sette "at" gmail.com) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 08:06:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So it appears. And photographer for the cover and a feature on top models...
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 08:14:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here's an interesting article debating the use of natural gas or electricity for powering state-owned fleet vehicles in Colorado. Even though electric cars are both less polluting AND less expensive to operate, energy-company-backed politicians are planning to purchase 'merican-made CNG vehicles instead.

Colorado officials -- poised to spend $21 million to replace 585 state vehicles — are wedded to cars and trucks that run on made-in-Colorado compressed natural gas. Various electric, hybrid and CNG vehicles -- not including the Chinese-made E6 -- are being reviewed after 271 bids were submitted to supply nongasoline vehicles to the state before an Oct. 1 deadline.

It's a complicated situation because Republican state legislators have intervened and tilted the market away from electricity toward compressed gas. A law that took effect in 2010 restricts state purchases of alternative-fuel vehicles to CNG vehicles -- unless any increased costs are more than 10 percent above costs of gasoline vehicles.

While these pollute less than gasoline counterparts, electric vehicles do not pollute directly at all and are cheaper to operate. A new Southwest Energy Efficiency Project analysis concludes that "EVs provide potentially greater benefits than CNG vehicles after a conversion of the fleet is complete -- if the generation of electric power is converted to non-polluting renewable sources."
Colorado's production of electricity, which would be used to recharge electric vehicle batteries, is shifting from coal to natural gas -- relatively cleaner -- in an effort to cut greenhouse-gas emissions that scientists have linked to climate change.

China-based Build Your Dreams [BYD] -- 10 percent owned by U.S. billionaire Warren Buffett -- has won federal approval to sell its E6. Larger than Nissan's Leaf and the electric Ford Focus, the E6 is being promoted to fleet managers in Denver, on the West Coast and in Florida. State officials say they're aware that industry data show electric vehicles are more cost-effective per mile than vehicles running on compressed gas. But compressed gas is "the most cost-effective fuel," and using it "will save money and increase economic development in the state," said Denise Stepto, spokeswoman for the governor's energy office.

"Electric vehicles are significantly less expensive than any compressed-natural-gas bus or taxi or any gasoline vehicle -- when you look at the total cost of ownership," said [Michael Austin, vice president of BYD America]. "Fleet managers who have any sense are going to convert."


http://www.denverpost.com/environment/ci_21832304/pricey-electric-car-is-draw-but-officials-want-tap -colorados-natural-gas#ixzz2A8W27wSA
by asdf on Tue Oct 23rd, 2012 at 11:40:58 AM EST
About those countries, notably Scandiwegians, which have considerable hydro capacity :

Can they retro-fit to provide pumped storage?

i.e. when wind would otherwise be spilled, dammed hydro is not running. Can it be "run backwards" to soak up the wind? Is this not a cheaper option than new pumped storage facilities?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 08:11:21 AM EST
Interesting question.
Wikipedia suggests 70% efficiency. Not bad.


-----
sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 08:24:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oooh, cool option: a giant underwater balloon!

-----
sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 08:25:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In many cases they could. But the economics aren't that great. The storage hydro already provides pseudeo-pumped storage, becase they're seasonal, and they meet primary domestic demand.

So, whenever, say, Denmark's got a surplus of energy (and that's almost always because they're running their thermal plant so high; it's only due to too much wind for a few dozen hours per year), they can export to Norway/Sweden, who then turn down the output from storage hydro a bit, and use Danish power instead.

So, let's say Norwegian demand is running at 15GW, and that's supplied by 15GW of hydro - some run-of-river, some storage hydro. If Denmark's exporting 1GW, they can just turn down the storage hydro by 1GW. That way, their storage hydro acts as a pseudo pumped-storage anyway, because it's time-shifting its output.

So, they'd only need to consider building actual pumping facilities, once their total power imports exceed domestic demand.  They're not there yet. But if a dozen countries each fancied a few GW of interconnector with Norway, such that net imports to Norway might exceed domestic demand frequently, then the business case might start stacking up for retrofitting pumping facilities.

by LondonAnalytics (Andrew Smith) on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 12:03:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So 'reduce' before 'reuse'?


-----
sapere aude
by Number 6 on Wed Oct 24th, 2012 at 12:06:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if the UK looked like routinely producing multiple-gigawatt power surpluses on windy days, then you would need to justify the cost of the interconnect and of the pumps. It could run the other way, of course, on cold windless days.

That cost might be a bit high if it's only a matter of extreme peaks and troughs, a few hundred hours a year? But if the Scandi hydro pumped storage benefited all Europe, that would mutualise the costs.

Would UK excess wind be characterised by season? Mostly in winter? In that case it wouldn't seem to be a good fit for longer-term smoothing: dams already full I suppose.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Thu Oct 25th, 2012 at 05:50:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can I just point out that the Imperial College paper summarized above makes a good case for saying that over- and under-production (from wind) are not major problems, for the years to 2020 and looking immediately beyond?

The discussion (of what to do with excess wind output) seems posited on a vague future state first (I think) evoked in this thread by Thomas.

Not that the uses excess output could be put to is not a valid debate.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Oct 25th, 2012 at 06:13:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
if the Scandi hydro pumped storage benefited all Europe

As LondonAnalytics pointed out, it mostly isn't at present and doesn't have to be pumped storage.

That cost might be a bit high if it's only a matter of extreme peaks and troughs, a few hundred hours a year?

I think using interconnections for smoothing can be cost-effective in times of less extreme wind peaks and throughs, too: that would still mean less use of gas. This depends of course on how much of a phase shift there is between wind peaks and throughs passing the western shore of Ireland and the Netherlands (at least).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Oct 25th, 2012 at 07:25:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mostly in winter? In that case it wouldn't seem to be a good fit for longer-term smoothing: dams already full I suppose.

See page 29:

http://webby.nve.no/publikasjoner/rapport/2012/rapport2012_19.pdf

Actually winter/spring seems OK for sending electricity over there.

by mustakissa on Thu Oct 25th, 2012 at 10:45:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, looking at the amount of water (which they conveniently measure in gWH per week!) which the dams absorb in May and June (graph page 28), I guess that means that they can be used for soaking up any amount of excess wind -- through production and/or reverse pumping -- for ten months of the year!

And as the graph on page 29 shows, they never get more than 90% full...

A gold mine.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Fri Oct 26th, 2012 at 04:10:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It should be noted that under the current system for organizing international electricity trade, a gold mine is exactly what this is - Denmark does exactly what is proposed here already, and while the net trade in kwh sums to near zero, the net trade in kroner favors the storage vendors. A lot.

.. Which actually causes me a good deal of puzzlement. Selling timeshifting is currently a heck of a lot more profitable than selling intermittent electricity is, yet investment in intermittent generation capacity appears to be running ahead of investment in grid and storage quite badly.

by Thomas on Fri Oct 26th, 2012 at 04:31:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It should be noted that under the current system for organizing international electricity trade, a gold mine is exactly what this is - Denmark does exactly what is proposed here already, and while the net trade in kwh sums to near zero, the net trade in kroner favors the storage vendors. A lot.

It should. They're taking lower-quality electricity and selling higher-quality electricity.

Selling timeshifting is currently a heck of a lot more profitable than selling intermittent electricity is,

That's not obvious from your example: Since there's no net trade in MWh in that example, you can't get a relative price from it.

- Jake

Austerity can only be implemented in the shadow of a concentration camp.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Oct 26th, 2012 at 05:26:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You can, if you buy at a lower price and sell at a higher price. But indeed I'd like figures on that.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Oct 26th, 2012 at 03:08:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas wrote:
the net trade in kroner favors the storage vendors. A lot.

And there's typically a profit-sharing arrangement in place between both nations

investment in intermittent generation capacity appears to be running ahead of investment in grid and storage quite badly

Errrm, no.  Investment in grid storage was there decades before the investment in wind and solar.

by LondonAnalytics (Andrew Smith) on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 01:42:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
eurogreen:
And as the graph on page 29 shows, they never get more than 90% full...

That might be a safety feature. Since inflow from rain is not safely predictable on a longer time frame then about a week it might be prudent to keep some space clear for controlling downstreams conditions. Spilling water at times of massive rain is simple enough for the dam operator but has more externalities then spilling wind.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Oct 26th, 2012 at 10:02:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here I read that the Norwegians could find an extra 20 GW generating capacity, without spoiling their nature too much. Sweden would be less than that. About storage capacity (TWh), I understand that it would be "plenty" :-)

http://www.cedren.no/Portals/Cedren/Pdf/HydroBalance/1_HarbyA_Balancing%20power%20from%20Norwegian%2 0hydro.pdf

This is a slide show. There was a real report by CEDREN somewhere but I cannot find it now.

by mustakissa on Thu Oct 25th, 2012 at 10:33:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by LondonAnalytics (Andrew Smith) on Sat Oct 27th, 2012 at 02:26:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by mustakissa on Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 07:08:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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