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Without grid interconnections to move power away on windy days, or storage facilities to hold the power for weeks, at that point if you add more renewable capacity, you are at best throwing away electrons, at worst, you are blowing up your grid. And this happens at a point where at the very most than a third of all electricity is green. And everything else is gas.

The argument against wind which uses the problems of 100% wind penetration when we are at 5-20% today is a bit unfair. While I understand that we need to think about where we are going in the long term, we can't look at that endpoint on the basis of toddy's system - it will adapt as wind penetration increases and will be a very different animal.

Also, it is highly unlikely that we'll ever get to 100% wind alone - there will be solar, and quite a lot of biomass (which, if you look at statistics, represents a significant chunk of renewable energy generation in a lot of countries), and more than a few countries have more than a bit of hydro to play with. Between that diversity, more grid interconnection and storage (and I fully agree with you that these need to be encouraged) and the residual assets of the current systems, we'll go a long way.

And, ultimately, if you have to curtail wind now and then, it is a pity, but it's not the end of the world either, and it won't represent a material cost unless you've really messed up your system altogether.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 03:55:51 AM EST
I'm always amazed that that we're continually judged as if we were advocating one or two technologies alone, as if we all stood for this hypothetical 100% penetration which was never ever in question.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 04:13:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm always amazed that that we're continually judged

Aren't you personalizing this a tad? Or, who's "we"?

tens of millions of people stand to see their lives ruined because the bureaucrats at the ECB don't understand introductory economics -- Dean Baker

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 05:53:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
We meaning the global workers, supporters and proponents of various forms of renewable energy since the mesozoic.  should have said renewable energies are continually judged.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 06:11:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This isnt a problem of 100% penetration. It is a problem that shows up at 20% - if you have enough renewables to supply a fifth of all the kwh's you consume, then when high output and low consumption coincide, 100% of your current electricity production is renewable, and all else must be shut down. This is the reason Denmark is as tied into the Norvegian and Swedish grids as it is - during wind production peaks, the bulk of the power is exported, and dams further north conserve waterhead, functioning as a pumpless "pumped storage" facility.

Hmm. Let me see if I can be perfectly clear. The vision most people here have of the future grid is one in which at least 90% of all electricity production is low carbon, and supply and demand is managed via a supergrid, storage and demand managment. This is a fair description, yes?

The problem is that the only part of that vision which is seeing RnD done and concrete poured is the generating hardware. Nobody is seriously investing in storage, nobody is working on the problem of continental scale grid interconnection. And these are not problems that can be solved quickly as they come up, - Utility scale storage means rockworks! -  and the actual consequence of building intermittent generation without the other two legs of the tripod in place is either that most of the grid load will have to be supplied by gas turbines, or that the entire project gets scubbered when people revolt against ever increasing electricity prices. Possibly both.

by Thomas on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 07:09:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody is seriously investing in storage, nobody is working on the problem of continental scale grid interconnection. And these are not problems that can be solved quickly as they come up, - Utility scale storage means rockworks!

Demand-side management can be rolled out faster than supply-side management, mostly because there's so much low-hanging fruit. Ammonia synthesis for fertiliser and synthetic fuels can be shuffled around without too much hassle, and to the extent electric cars achieve meaningful penetration in the transport infrastructure you'll have a few GWh of capacity at all points except the morning and evening commutes for the cost of hooking up your chargers to the internet and writing a bit of software. There's a ceiling to how much demand flexibility you can get, but it gives enough time to start with the rockwork.

That aside, nuclear suffers from precisely the same problem, unless you propose to load balance with spinning reserves. Which you can do, in the same way you can load balance a wind-only grid by detuning turbines to varying degrees. But that's a silly way to load-balance.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 08:14:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And UHVDC transmission capacity can be rolled out faster than the volatile sustainable power capacity. The capacity to produce the equipment to produce the power has to be expected to be used over a period of time, so the volatile power harvesting equipment roll-out can't feasibly be, "in 5 years time we will have capacity equal to 150% of average power consumption". The roll out that equipment is going to be over several decades in any event.

But from first serious commitment to a cross-continental network of UHVDC it seems like "catching up" to latent demand for the sustainable power penetration of the day could well be done in five years, and from then on it woud be a matter of keeping up.

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 Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:27:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]

It is a problem that shows up at 20% - if you have enough renewables to supply a fifth of all the kwh's you consume, then when high output and low consumption coincide, 100% of your current electricity production is renewable, and all else must be shut down.

Not really - this would be true if your 20% of renewables were all from one wind farm in one location. The reality is that, as noted, you have many different renewables with different production profiles (not to mention that demand itself is not flat over the day, so "100% of average demand" is actually much less than actual demand a lot of the time) - and even within wind you have different production regimes and thus it is actually quite hard to reach 100% capacity at any time in a wind system - and the larger your sample, the harder that gets.

Now, taking into account existing hydro storage, the difference between solar and wind, the fact that offshore wind is at 40% capacity factor with a production profile closer to that of demand, and so forth, and you get a much higher threshold...

Guess what: Germany is at 20% this year, and as far as I can tell, there were no big tensions in the system...


The vision most people here have of the future grid is one in which at least 90% of all electricity production is low carbon, and supply and demand is managed via a supergrid, storage and demand managment. This is a fair description, yes?

I don't know about 90% myself, but, yes, significantly above 50% should be a target for the next 20 years (in my case, but maybe I'm a minority there, I would not mind keeping a decent chunk of nuclear as base load).
And once this is achieved, we'll have much better visibility on what needs to be done for the rest. Why make that plan today when we don't have all the info?


Nobody is seriously investing in storage, nobody is working on the problem of continental scale grid interconnection.

That's simply not true. The EU has been busily pushing for grid integration and development of pan-European networks (not just for electricity), and the wind and solar industry are the biggest promoters of initiatives like the super grid or desertec. The unbundling of networks pushed by the EU is now almost complete and one does see that independent grid operators are much less hostile to renewable than their former utility owners, who were conflicted in that respect, and grid development is certainly happening more easily when the investor the grid company) is not the main obstacle...

And one other big shoe will be moving private transport to the grid, which will have a major positive impact on the reduction of our fossil fuel consumption as well.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 08:39:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Further, the problem doesn't show up at 20% in any significant way. In fact, the entire business model is adjusting to variable generation, even if enhanced grid buildout is going slower than planned.

Curtailment is a fact of life in energy generation. There have been periods of wind curtailment in Texas and and the Pacific northwest even with minimal penetration. Mostly due to transmission issues, but in the Bonneville Power Administration, federal regulation just ruled that BPA must not curtail to the extent they have.

Germany has also had minor curtailment periods, and while companies may wish for better efficiency within the system, it gradually changes to meet the circumstances.

We've actually come a long way from 8-10 years ago, when utilities didn't want to hook up more than a few percent, because of perceived problems which turned out not to exist.


or that the entire project gets scubbered when people revolt against ever increasing electricity prices.

Latest surveys here show that Germans willingly would pay more to support a renewable-powered grid.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 09:10:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Latest surveys here show that Germans willingly would pay more to support a renewable-powered grid.

Not to mention that wind actually lowers prices in Germany, thanks to the merit order effect.

And never mind that onshore wind is now cheaper than new built nukes, as far as can be ascertained by the cost of Flamanville... both technologies are in the 7c/kWh range cost now.

Wind power

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 09:19:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, but are they willing to pay increased prices for a natural gas grid? Which is where any actual increase in price is going to come from. Gas is expensive, and going to get more so - the price trend on wind goes the other way. If we fail at building enough storage and connections to phase gas out of the system, then it is a real possibility that the public will simply conclude that renewables are a stalking horse for the gas industry raping their pocket book and throw the baby out with the bathwater.
by Thomas on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 03:20:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]

UPDATE 1-Storms produce record UK wind power output

LONDON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - British wind power production reached a record high just before the New Year as storms hit the British Isles and powered onshore and offshore wind turbines, data showed on Friday.

(...)

The storms earlier this week also more than doubled the average load factor -- the ratio of average output over maximum capacity over a period of time -- of wind turbines to up to 66 percent on Jan. 4, compared with an average of around 30 percent, Scottish Renewables figures showed on Friday.



Wind power
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 01:49:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
First point is that the distinct 20% is not an entire renewable energy portfolio, and its not wind from a variety of distinct wind resources, its wind from a particular wind resource.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with 100% of power coming from a single wind resource and having everything else shut down.

Indeed, consider what happens if that gets pushed above 20%. At times, energy is available to be produced but not sold because the available harvest is above total energy requirement. That's cheap power, available to neighboring countries who can build the UHVDC grid to grid transmission to go fetch it.

And we want that.

And of course as the UHVDC grid to grid electricity superhighways are built, the volatility of the energy portfolio are reduced, since they can import during slow volatile renewable power production periods as well as export during high volatile renewable power production periods.

And we want that.

So, where's the problem? It seems the critique of the feed-in tariff system is that there are other policies that also ought to be in place, and if they were in place the whole transition would go more smoothly. Its hard to see why that critique would lead to abandonment of the feed-in tariff system.


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 Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 09:37:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope this isn't taken as being a silly question, for I am serious about this, but I would really like for you, or for Jérôme or Crazyhorse to point me in the direction of resources where I could learn much more about grid interconnectivity, energy storage technologies, the current state of technology, trends and forecasts for future development, in sum , good literature resources for someone who is reasonably intelligent but not an expert on the matter but who might want to become one in the medium term.

I would be much obliged, my mail is johnatlarge (arobase) gmail (dot) com.

Thank you for this discussion and the one in the french presidential primer diary Jérôme posted.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 07:45:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't have a particular site I use, but i'll bet you can be off and running at Claverton Energy Group.

library pull down menu "download files" is a good place to begin.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Jan 8th, 2012 at 05:49:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you!

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Mon Jan 9th, 2012 at 04:33:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Nobody is seriously investing in storage"

I would suggest that anyone with more than a passing interest in this topic might consider gaining access to the IEEE Power and Energy Society. (Probably at your local university library.) Most of the publications are behind paywalls, but at least some material can be obtained at their website http://www.ieee-pes.org/

The reason I suggest this is that the membership of this society, made up of academics and practicing engineers, is really in the best place to consider and communicate the technical aspects of power generation, distribution, and management. They don't talk about politics much, though.

Regarding storage, obviously you need something like pumped storage, which is limited by geography and environmental considerations, or lots and lots of batteries. Batteries are expensive, so how do you get people to buy them? By putting them in cars, which are a consumer product that has 100 years of demonstrated demand, an outrageously short capital replacement cycle, and a price point that is tremendously skewed from what would be considered sensible in an objective analysis. Namely, people are willing to blow tons of money on cars when they could take the bus for a lot less money.

Plug-in hybrids and electric cars are all about energy storage, and they are serious, and there is a lot of investment.

by asdf on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 02:54:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here is a recent IEEE article about battery-based grid energy storage. It's not from the PES, but from the general interest IEEE magazine "Spectrum."
http://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/the-smarter-grid/a-battery-as-big-as-the-grid

There is debate about the reality of this particular installation, and its economics, but the point is that there is interest and activity in the area of grid storage, possibly in proportion to its value and applicability. As the penetration of renewables increases, one would expect that any appropriate compensating systems like this, or other technologies or financial incentives or whatever would also be deployed.

by asdf on Sat Jan 7th, 2012 at 11:43:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is also the issue of the role of any given technology in the storage portfolio.

Running an HVDC grid to grid electricity superhighway is especially interesting when one side has substantial hydropower capacity, since that is a market that has a stockpile of quickly dispatchable power that is able to benefit from the UHVDC transmission capacity in both directions, buying power that is cheaper than the price that effectively ration the available supply of hydropower when available, and in turn being able to sell that hydropower capacity that has been freed up at a higher price.

On the side of that HVDC line where at some times the excess immediately harvested sustainable power is coming from and where at some other times the higher price bid for the hydropower capacity is coming from, there's an incentive to have at some local stored power capacity as well. If some of that local stored power is piles of biocoal by a thermal generating plant, then that seems likely to be complementary with some more quickly dispatched power store such as battery or modular hydro or whatever (eg, compressed air or compressed hydraulic power store), for the time period required between cold start and generating power, with similar production capacity but substantially less total power storage.

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 Tue Jan 10th, 2012 at 02:20:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also needs to be repeated again & again when Tjhomas repeats this again & again: this is a shadow debate, because (1) weather-related intermitrency of generation is not the only significant intermittency, there are also the maintenance and emergency shutdowns of thermal and nuclear plants and the diurnal variation of demand; (2) balancing is a separate question of replacing gas and high-grade coal, something neither wind & PV nor nuclear can do.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 06:00:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... but which dammed hydro, pumped hydro and biocoal would all seem to be able to do.


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 Fri Jan 6th, 2012 at 09:38:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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