Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Wind exajoules

by Jerome a Paris Sun Feb 10th, 2008 at 03:44:40 PM EST

Nuclear energy fan NNadir, sneering at renewable energy, in diaries and comment last year:

I say that it would be thrilling if wind energy could produce as much energy as hydroelectricity (10 exajoules) in the next twenty years but that on the other hand I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for it to happen.  

Did either form of energy, solar or wind, produce a single exajoule of energy on this planet, anything close to the 30 exajoules or primary energy produced by nuclear energy?

Do either have them have a snowball's chance in hell of producing the 120 exajoules of primary energy now produced by coal?

Well, according to the latest statistics from the European Wind energy Association and the Global Wind Energy Council, we're well on our way.

Installed capacity in Europe at the end of 2007 is able to produce 0.43 EJ/y, and the worldwide capacity was about 0.75 EJ. But given that thermal efficiency of coal-fired generation is, at best, 40%, that wind capacity is the equivalent of 1 EJ of primary coal energy for Europe, and close to 2EJ for worldwide capacity.

Given that the capacity built just during last year will generate 0.17 EJ/y of net energy, and that yearly installations are growing by 25-30% per annum, we'll be close to  the 1EJ/y line by the end of this year - again, for net energy.

Wind will have proven its capacity to generate electricity on a large scale - despite still being an industry in its infancy that has yet to be taken seriously by many "deciders" - as proven by how little it has been subsidized...

Note that wind power generation produced somewhere around 200 TWh (or billion kWh) in 2007, so about a quarter of what nuclear generates in a year in the US.

From your post I understand that 'primary energy', as used in NNadirs's post, is gross enrgy production, including waste heat? If so, is there any reason to use this number, except for number inflation?

I can imagine some reasons, such as waste heat used to warm buildings,or a future use of nuclear heat directly for H2 production, but I think these are not really that important on worldwide scale to include.

by GreatZamfir on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:28:48 AM EST
Well, the fact is that primary energy can be used directly or indirectly. If you use coal or gas in your furnace, then the heat content is not "wasted" as it fulfills its mission. If you use it to generate electricity, then a good chunk of the initial energy content is indeed lost.

So it does matter that wind produces electricity kWh, which are equivalent to a lot more kWh in gas caloric value when gas is used to generated electricity...

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:41:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm having a problem with copper... (Coils, cable, dynamos, etc.)!

While I fully agree that wind turbines are great and are still in "infancy" (industrial wise), I feel that some real breakthrough with conductive or supra-conductive materials are needed to get energy wiser !

Most energy producing techniques are there (apart fusion, hot or cold). But the means to carry electricity, or to stock it, are still in "stone age".

Nowadays we can't even get some humble housing works being done without posting guards when we get to copper wires installation !!!

There are still some countries where electricity doesn't go everywhere - still, it's a general wish, that all can have access to such comfort - What happens when all those appliances are used everywhere on the globe ? Use micro-wave transportation as Tesla, and get everyone fried ?

I won't even dare to enter in the Faraday cage protections that starts to show it's nose in people who want's to shield themselves from all those fields... (you don't really need copper there, but the grounding wire in all modern installation multiplies the lenght, etc.)
Nor about electric cars with an "engine" on each wheel (x4)...!

After the "Peak Oil", the "Copper Peak"...?

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 07:29:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Superconductors won't solve your problem. They usually require far, far rarer materials than copper. On the other hand, aluminum is an excellent conductor, and there's plenty of that.

Don't forget that metals are much more 'renewable' than energy. If the price is right, you can reuse them quite well. Not perfectly, but still good.

by GreatZamfir on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 07:43:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But you could store energy in superconducting coils and truck it around :-P

Probably impractical, but it makes for cool SciFi.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 05:22:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, the exajoules mentioned for coal are including coal used for home heating, and blast furnaces etc.? Comparing  total amount of all high-quality wind energy to total amount of all, partially-low-quality coal energy is perhaps even more distorting than just comparing the thermal power of coal plants with the electric power of wind turbines.

I guess it is true wind energy, or any electric form of energy including nuclear, is horrible when used directly for heating purposes, but who is pushing for wind electricity to heat houses? The sensible method would be use the electricity to drive heat pumps, to pump heat from the earth. Large scale experiments here in the Netherlands seem to work fine.

by GreatZamfir on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 07:31:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
House heating, apart for some extreme latitudes is not really a problem ! House cooling is one !
Use of electricity shouldn't be needed, in major part, for either... Industry needs the electricity and is cautious on the wind unstableness !

Wind farms, connected to the general circuit, at a european scale can be the answer (among a few others) and we might be going in the good direction, but the cultural needs of our societies (lighting at night as we work all day,"security" lighting of cities, multiplying appliances as a fashion trend, etc.) that have to be addressed at the same time or it won't work...

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 07:50:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Were do you live? :-) Here in the Netherlands, building heating is the single largest use of energy, even primary energy. Hardly extreme lattitude, is it?
by GreatZamfir on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 07:57:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is here too.... But shouldn't/couldn't ! At least at the present rate...

Anyhow you're far north to me :-)

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman

by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 08:11:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Electricity can be used to power heat pumps. Much more heat for your bang. When fossil fuels get more expensive and electricity relatively cheaper, they get even more attractive than they already are.
Of course, they suffer the same drawback as wind power: costly initial investment, that takes years to pay back.

A 'centrist' is someone who's neither on the left, nor on the left.
by nicta (nico@altiva․fr) on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 04:20:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I mentioned heat pumps in my first post. They are one reason why electricity-based renewables (or nuclear, same story) are a possible competitor to fossil-fuel based direct heating.

Your point about costly investment is good, especially if you keep in mind that to have renewable house heating, you have to have both. Heat pumps to allow efficient electricity based heating, plus wind/solar to have renewable electricity, and this has to compete with a gaspipe+central heating,or even coal ovens.

A question to which I do not know the direct answer: is a heat pump run on fossil-fuel generated electricity more efficient than direct fossil heating? I seem to remember that a heat pump's big savings came from replacing aircos in summer, not from heating in winter.

by GreatZamfir on Wed Feb 13th, 2008 at 09:00:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I seem to remember that a heat pump's big savings came from replacing aircos in summer, not from heating in winter.
That's for the capital cost. As far as energy consumption is concerned, the main criterion is the temperature differential between the heat reserve (usually the atmosphere, but it is more efficient, if available, to tap a swimming pool or dig in tubes to tap the ground) and the desired temperature.
That means that it's probably not very efficient in mid-winter in Alaska. And conversely, places where you are going to need both cooling in summer, and heating in winter, are going to be the places where heat pumps are the most compelling.

A 'centrist' is someone who's neither on the left, nor on the left.
by nicta (nico@altiva․fr) on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 04:01:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Here in Colorado it's sunny in the daytime all year round, and cold at night all year round. There's no reason for using any grid energy for house heating OR cooling, other than laziness on the part of house designers.

On the other hand, we have plenty of coal and natural gas, so we'll burn that all up first.

by asdf on Tue Feb 12th, 2008 at 12:05:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So, the exajoules mentioned for coal are including coal used for home heating, and blast furnaces etc.?

No. The point is, the concept of "primary energy", as originally developed for fossil fuels, means the entire energy release of fuel burning, whatever ratio of it is actually used. Thus when you use the same amount of coal for home heating and electricity generation, the end-use energy will be greater for the first, but the primary energy will remain the same. And the same way, if you increase power plant efficiency, the same amount of fuel will generate a higher amount of end-use energy from the same amount of primary energy.

The concept gets murkier for non-fossil sources of energy. For nuclear energy, one can count the heat generated by nuclear fission as the primary energy, with the electricity generated by the steam taking up that heat as the end-use energy (well, minus grd losses). For wind power, there is no fuel, but one can consider the sum of electricity generated and the consumption of the turbine's own motors as primary energy.

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

by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 08:26:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand this. I was wondering whether the 120 exajoules number above for 'primary energy from coal' was referring to the primary energy output of electric coal plants, or to the total primary energy output of all coal burning, including heating.

To compare the first to wind energy production, be it electric power or 'primary wind power' is of course silly, unless most of the non-electric coal power would be used for useful purposes, which isn't the case AFAIK.

Using the total primary energy release from coal is of course even stronger number-pumping in favor of coal, but at least it adresses a real problem with current renewables: most of them are at least ballpark cost competitive when it comes to electricity generation, but not for low-quality heat generation. But I don't see how this is any different for nuclear energy. It's not as if we are going to use excess nuclear heat to heat buildings.

by GreatZamfir on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 08:36:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I was wondering whether the 120 exajoules number above for 'primary energy from coal' was referring to the primary energy output of electric coal plants, or to the total primary energy output of all coal burning, including heating.

Oh. You have a point: I checked, actually the latter.

Agreed on your points.

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

by DoDo on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 09:04:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]

(click for larger version)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 08:58:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hadn't realized transport used this much energy ( or, I guess I did know it, but never visualized it like this)

The natural use for most current renewables is to replace that 12.5 EJ of elctric grid power, which saves 40 EJ in primary energy consumption. But the 23.5 EJ 'other' energy going to residential and indutrial will be mostly heating, and here we don't have this multiplier effect, in principle 1 EJ in windpower replace 1EJ primary fossil heating, unless heat pumps can be used for most of this heat.

I guess plug-in hybrids could bring the multiplier to transportation, but want to see those driving around before I believe in them.

by GreatZamfir on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 10:06:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The revealing item in the chart above is the amount of government subsidy for nuclear power. It is just the fact that it is so large that makes it attractive to those building and operating such facilities.

The name of the game these days is not capitalism, it's extracting money from the government to favor selected endeavors. So corn and beef get subsidized while fruits and vegetables don't. One has the potential for large-scale production and the other doesn't.

Major industrial firms are not interested in specialty markets, the fight for government largess isn't worth the effort. This is one of the problems with wind, no single installation is worth enough to have any major economic impact.

This is just another instance of the winner-take-all economic system that we see all around us.

I commented yesterday on Jerome's dKos blog that in the battle between Exxon and Venezuela, Exxon was the bigger economic power by a factor of two. We aren't talking about East Timor, we are talking about a fairly large country being outgunned by a private firm. There are no effective international controls over the global monopolization taking place. When China has to ally with Alcoa to fight a consolidation in the mining industry you know that the balance of power has shifted too far to the "private" sector.

Since there are no meaningful attempts to limit monopoly power I don't see the situation getting better in the near future.

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 11th, 2008 at 03:50:58 PM EST
A more comprehensive view of subsidies and R&D support for all energy is

The feed in tariffs have supported wind and solar to the tune of EUR 5 billion/year for the last several years.

A 2006 study from Management Information Services on The US Energy Subsidy Scorecard showed that total federal incentives (of which R&D expenditure is only a part) from 1950 to 2003 (covers pretty much the entire period that nuclear or wind have been a factor for energy, first 1954-1956 for the first commercial reactors) totalled $63 billion for nuclear power, $111 billion for renewables, $81 billion for coal and $87 billion for natural gas (2003 dollars).

All energy gets tax breaks, incentives, R&D funding etc... Wind and solar get plenty and should get plenty of funding. Nuclear should be and is funded. There should carbon/coal disincentives to match the external health and environmental damage of coal.

The spending and research of the past is done and we should pick the development and research projects based on current merit.

For nuclear, MIT annular fuel for upgrading existing reactors by 30-50%, Fuji molten salt reactor, and the venture funded Uranium hydride reactor

For wind Kitegen, FLodesign's MEWT, Superconducting wind generators

$8-22 trillion will be spent over the next 25 years on energy infrastructure. This money can be used for a massive shift to nuclear, wind, solar and geothermal.

by advancednano on Thu Feb 14th, 2008 at 06:46:58 PM EST

The feed in tariffs have supported wind and solar to the tune of EUR 5 billion/year for the last several years.

This is pretty disingenuous.

Germany, with 20'000 MW installed (and just under half of total European capacity over the past few years), and, to use round numbers, 40 TWh/a produced, sees a total payment, under the tariff (@8c/kWh) of EUR 3bn per annum.

But that's the payment for electricity, of which only a small component can be called "support." Given that

(i) electricity prices have been close to 5c/kWh, so nay support could only apply to the difference, ie 3c/kWh;

(ii) that 5c/kWh price exists only because cola and gas-fired plants do not pay (yet) for their externalities. Carbon emissions pricing is likely to add 1-2c/kWh to that market price, which will again need to be deducted from the "support" to wind;

(ii) the wind tariff is a fixed tariff, ie a capped one, and thus has value as an option against higher electricity prices;

(iii) wind is a zero-cost marginal producer and thus lowers the prices of electricity for everybody else when wind is blowing, by moving the balance lower in the dispatch curve (studies in Denmark show that the gain to electricity consumers in that country are already higher than the cost of the subsidy);

:: ::

As to numbers that compare subsidies today to current production, they are just as disingenuous; comparing a nascent industry to a well established one with a huge installed base will inevitably skew numbers against the new industry; it might be more interesting to compare subsidies per MW installed during the period; given that Europe has been installing roughly 50% wind / 40% gas / 10% other (in nominal MW) over the last few years, the numbers will suddenly look A LOT more favorable to wind.

Why should the installed capacity get ANY subsidies today??

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 10:12:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you can call it justified to make up for unpaid externalities but the incremental payment is support. Even Ren21 of France calls it support. Feed in tariffs are paying a subsidy for 20 years on renewable capacity that is installed.
5.3 billion is an older estimate from 2001 and the amount has gone up since then with a bigger program in Spain and other places.

Feed in Tariff's at wikipedia

Feed in tariff is an incentive structure that boosts the adoption of renewable energy through government legislation. The regional or national electricity utilities are obligated to buy renewable electricity (electricity generated from renewable sources such as solar photovoltaics, wind power, biomass, and geothermal power) at above market rates.

Feed in tariff presentation

Not just Germany but Spain and Denmark have big feed in tariff systems. Many other european countries and canada also have feed in tariff systems (they are just smaller programs)

Estimated impact on end use electricity prices (according to european commmission)
Between 4% and 5% for Germany and Spain
Around 15% for Denmark

Back in 2001: The Netherlands (more than EUR 1.5 billion), the UK (circa EUR 1.5 billion) and Germany (circa EUR 1.8 billion) provided substantial off -budget support to electricity consumption. The Feed in tariff support has gone up since then.

European Environment Agency figures in 2004 gave indicative estimates of total energy subsidies in the EU-15 for 2001: solid fuel (coal) EUR 13.0, oil & gas EUR 8.7, nuclear EUR 2.2, renewables EUR 5.3 billion.

Ren21 in France (pro-renewables) calls feed in tariffs support.
The European Environment Agency estimated at least $0.8 billion in on-budget support and $6 billion in offbudget support for renewable energy in Europe in 2001. A large share of the off-budget support was due to feed-in tariffs, with purchase obligations and competitive tendering representing other forms of off-budget support

by advancednano on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 05:43:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
5.3 billion is an older estimate from 2001 and the amount has gone up since then with a bigger program in Spain and other places.

Nah. Due to (1) the rise in the "market" price of electricity and (2) the reduction of the feed-in tariff rate, the surplus part of the feed-in tariff has actually gone down.

And you don't seem to get Jérôme's argument. The feed-in tariff support (yes it's support, you don't need to make such a fuss about a word) is in fixing the purchase price at an above-market price, and making purchase obligatory. But the extra cost for the consumer is NOT the total sum of money paid out under the feed-in tariff (which you quoted for 2001), but the total sum minus what the same amount of electricity costs at then current market prices.

The above is even a static picture. As shown by several studies in Germany (both modelling and practical), taking market mechanisms into account, it is actually the case that renewables brought to the market with feed-in tariffs can decrease prices: when there is a short-term shortage and spot prices shoot up, constant-priced renewables will reduce the price gains.

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 06:33:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So what are the corrected figures that are being proposed ?

The 3 billion Euro/year figure from Jerome.
40 billion kwh X 3 cents per kwh. 1.2 billion.
It only had Germany and not the Spain and Denmark subsidies. Spain and Denmark combined have about the same wind as Germany. So that would double up differential only subsidy. 2.4 billion.

The solar PV tax credit is about 8 times the market rate. So subtracting out that part of the subsidy is not that different.

About 2 billion kwh for solar in Germany at 30 cents per kwh or a 25 cent premium. Some figures I have seen for the solar feed in tariff are 71 cents/kwh. 400 million more including the solar part. Double that for the rest of Europe or triple to get to the world figure.

So 2.4 billion for wind (europe only) and 800 million for solar europe only for the differential above market price for $3.2 billion Europe only feed in tariff estimate. About 30 other countries have feed in tariffs for renewables. US, Canada, Japan and other countries also have subsidies.

Most utilities in the USA charge 2-32 cent/kwh added charges for wind.
Figure from the American wind energy association

Plus there is the 1.5 cent per kwh production tax credit

Wind production incentives

Also, I don't agree with the subtract carbon emissions from that total. The carbon emissions should be counted as an externality or subsidy for coal, oil and natural gas. Otherwise it would be an adjustment for nuclear.

Some estimates for Solar have fairly high greenhouse gas emissions although still better than coal and natural gas

The Solar PV incentives swamp the market price figure.

So solar and wind should be supported, but it is not true that they are not getting enough support. Coal and oil are the things that should be penalized and shifted away from and it will take support for every other energy source to make that happen in a timely way.

by advancednano on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 07:21:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, all the studies that I have seen are that Feed in Tariffs increase prices. If you are talking about occasional spot reductions a few hours on certain days where it is reduced. I suppose that is possible, but as I noted.

Estimated impact on end use electricity prices according to european commmission.
Feed in tariff increased electricity prices between 4% and 5% for Germany and Spain and around 15% for Denmark.

Average retail price of electricity by state

International electricity costs by country based on IEA stats

by advancednano on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 07:56:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]