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Good question. I think what is driving North stream is to prevent a disruption in gas supplies.

Gas powered plants are flexible and can be turned on or off as the system demands it. It is therefore - together with oil and hydro - very useful as top load, no matter if you are running lots of base load in the form of nuclear and coal, or intermittent in the form of solar and wind.

So even though just above 10% of Germanys electricity is from gas, it is an important part. North Sea gas is running out, UK and Netherlands that owns most of it and uses gas heavily can be expected to prioritise themselves. Pipelines through Ukraine has a political risk. LNG from US is expensive and also has a political price. So North stream it is.

Better alternatives would be pumped storage or otherwise try to eliminate the need for gas, but that is not the course Germany has set.

by fjallstrom on Tue Sep 28th, 2021 at 11:16:02 AM EST
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Another bad result of Brexit.
by StillInTheWilderness on Tue Sep 28th, 2021 at 07:53:53 PM EST
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I think it might be worth pointing out that the concept of "base load" and "variable (top) load" are the result of conscious decisions made during the development of the electrical power system.

If you build a thermal plant (coal, oil, or nuclear energy with steam boilers and turbines), you run into a problem in that the components do not like to cycle from hot to warm to hot to warm. Thermal cycling like that causes them to wear out.

The solution to that is to develop a tariff or rate structure that encourages customers to use electricity during times when there is excess. For example, at night or on weekends, when traditional factories are closed. You end up with a situation where factories operate 24/7 because the cost of the overtime wages is offset by lower electricity cost. You encourage people to charge their electric cars at night "because the cost of electricity is lower then." But that is the result of how the rate structure is set up in order to protect the generating plant infrastructure.

Another way to approach it is to accept that the availability of electricity will vary depending on sunlight or wind, and to develop a rate structure that reflects that variability. Such a tariff encourages customers to deal with the variable supply by implementing demand management. Most factory operations, with the exception of certain types of furnaces (that do not like to be thermally cycled), can be curtailed or modified to align with variable electricity supply. Certainly most households can do the same thing.

The bottom line is that it is important to keep in mind that the idea of "base load" is an artificial construct that is in place primarily to protect a certain technology choice. That is why you need a natural gas supply: to protect the old-fashioned thermal plants that should now be retired.

by asdf on Thu Sep 30th, 2021 at 06:03:57 PM EST
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Comparison of Solar and Wind Power Generation Impact on Net Load across a Utility Balancing Area

For office buildings and utility the type of electric load can be an issue.

LED lighting is quite different from fluorescent lighting requiring load ballast.

by Oui on Thu Sep 30th, 2021 at 07:18:16 PM EST
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Right, there are tons of articles on this topic.

The details of the engineering problem are more complicated than just achieving a sufficient net energy supply. The article mentioned above lists

  • bulk energy
  • frequency regulation
  • primary frequency response
  • secondary frequency response
  • tertiary frequency response
  • inertial service
  • operating reserve
  • system restart
  • voltage support
  • capacity

Even this is a limited list, because it leaves off issues of rate equity, emergency response times, security, and a host of other things...
by asdf on Thu Sep 30th, 2021 at 10:56:16 PM EST
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The impact of growing IT sector electricity demand

IT sector electricity demand is expected to grow by 50 percent by 2030, reaching a total of 3,200TWh, according to a forecast that looks at the main - certain - IT technology developments and considers the progress and challenges on an electricity usage level.

by Oui on Sat Oct 2nd, 2021 at 01:09:52 PM EST
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Another way to approach it is to accept that the availability of electricity will vary depending on sunlight or wind, and to develop a rate structure that reflects that variability.

Replace "electricity" with "energy" and you're talking about the world we used to live in for thousands of years all the way until late 19th - early 20th century. Should be achievable. Again.
by pelgus on Fri Oct 1st, 2021 at 06:24:48 AM EST
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Memory Lane just 80 years ago ...
by Oui on Fri Oct 1st, 2021 at 10:50:02 AM EST
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by Oui on Tue Oct 5th, 2021 at 08:44:37 AM EST
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