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No Desertec for Europe

by DoDo Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 04:12:34 AM EST

Desertec started ten years ago as a Club of Rome initiative to involve major energy companies in a project to build solar thermal power plants in North Africa to supply Europe with electricity. With the establishment of the Desertec Industry Intitiative (Dii) in 2009, it seemed closer to reality. At first glance, as a project relying on capital-strong companies to construct where the resource (sunlight) is the most plentiful, this seems to be a great contribution to the de-carbonisation of the EU electricity supply, while also providing development aid. I have long argued, however, that it can be none of that, more a distraction.

Clouds did begin to gather over the project in the past 12 months, with the exit of major technology project partners Siemens and Bosch, scaled-back export prospects due to grid issues, and increasing local opposition. And now Dii gave up on exports to Europe:

In a telephone interview with EurActiv, Dii CEO Paul van Son admitted that the project's initial export-focus represented "one-dimensional thinking".

Although the industrial alliance was set up to develop renewable energy supplies in the Maghreb to feed up to 20% of European electricity demand by 2050, Dii now concedes that Europe can provide for most of its needs indigenously.



The article continues with the actual quotes:

"If we talk about renewable energy from North Africa, only a small fraction will ultimately supply the European market," said van Son, adding that the European market could supply up to 90% of its own power demand.

"Frankly, four years ago Desertec was all about bringing energy from North Africa. We abandoned that one-dimensional thinking. It's now more about creating integrated markets in which renewable energy will bring its advantages ... That's the main objective," he said.

Let me re-iterate my bones of contention with the idea of power from the Sahara.

First, let's look at solar potential.

One half of this is whether we need the Sahara in terms of surfaces available for the deployment of solar collectors. There are studies on this; the crux of it is that there are still plenty of roofs and dump sites and abandoned developed sites and highway sound barriers and semi-desert areas to be covered even in areas in Europe where solar development is already strong (for example, in Baden-Württenberg state in Germany, still only 21% of suitable roofs is in use; rooftop potential estimates for all of Germany range from 116 to 161 GWp).

Another half is the yield one can expect at a site. Just how much better is North Africa compared to Europe? First a map based on NASA data of annual solar irradiation on the surface (edited from one from DLR):

Here is another map from the EU's ACP observatory (click to enlarge), where the scale is double, with solar panel yield also shown:

You can see that in the region where plants would be most likely to be built (Morocco, Tunisia, the north of Algeria), potential is about the same as in southern Spain, and most of Europe is no less than half of that.

If the resource is not limited by available surface, then, of course, the reason a site's yield counts is economics. (Desertec's original focus was on solar thermal power plants, which have yet to show that that can compete with photovoltaics in unit costs; but let's ignore this difference now.) Yield isn't the only site-related cost factor. First, local weather conditions (sandstorms, large diurnal temperature fluctuations) influence availability and maintenance costs. Second, transmission costs count, too. Grid losses and operating costs are smaller factors, but there is the need to construct new infrastructure, too (a key problem indicated in the Euractiv article, too). Building new grid connections across Europe for Desertec would not only bring high expenses, but based on how other grid connection projects fare, they would take a lot of time, too. In fact, real or imagined grid capacity problems are presently used to attack renewables (forgetting about other producers contributing to over-production, like new coal).

Delays in grid connection construction also constitute a risk premium. Further risk premiums come from security. On one hand, there is the natural risk stemming from the centralisation of supply: any disruption of the few grid connections taking electricity from Africa to Europe would have major consequences. On the other hand, there is the political risk: both construction and supply could be disrupted by sabotage or government action in a dispute.

This brings me to the issues of financing and power.

Risk premiums obviously impact financing, making banks ask for higher interests or not be willing to lend at all. But, even without the risk premium, thinking of the large profits and credit-worthiness of large companies is deceptive: small-scale renewables in Europe can mobilise investors Desertec can't, like the owners of all the homes and company and public buildings with suitable roofs resp. suitably windy farms, or local governments, or small utilities.

As for power, one part of this is the relationship with the host country. Will there be technology transfer? Even solar thermal involves high-tech components, thus IMHO significant parts of production would stay in Europe, not to mention Western companies giving away technology to local partners (something central to Algeria's scepticism). Once production for Europe is running, who owns the plants, who owns the grid, and how much of the profits go to the locals? A smaller benefit could be supplying local demand, which originally wasn't a goal, which is no wonder when considering that the business case was made with European electricity prices. But now, in view of local demand explosion and following Morocco's preferences, local supply seems to have turned into the only goal. Based on the past record of oil and mining companies in the developing world, there is also the issue of large companies with more economic power than an entire state corrupting the host state. In short, the risk of economic colonialism.

Power is also an issue on a market, where companies vie for market share. Onshore wind and photovoltaics, with their relatively small plants and moderate economies of scale, can be developed by investors ranging from home-owners through local utilities to energy giants – inevitably resulting in a market share decline for the energy giants who monopolised production with traditional power plants. Now, while solar thermal (like off-shore wind) is already something for larger companies, Dii is for the largest companies only. Paired with more or less successful attempts to choke on-shore wind and rooftop solar in Europe, I think Desertec if built as promised would have constituted an operation market share conservation, rather than a technocrat solution for a technical problem.

The above still assumes that Desertec achieving the goal of investing €550 billion and supplying 15-20% of the EU's electricity was ever a realistic goal for players like RWE or Siemens. Before the end of Desertec as an export project, I think predictable financing and grid connection difficulties and lack of strong enough commitment meant that there wasn't ever a prospect for much after a first few plants. With a few plants, Desertec wouldn't achieve much market share impact, but it would still be able to showcase a record-sized plant, which will have more media impact than hundreds of thousands of small installations with a higher combined capacity – in other words, there is a potential for greenwashing.

Display:
Meanwhile, just another day in presently partly clouded Germany (from EEX)...



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

by DoDo on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 09:56:24 AM EST
There is a sustained assault on the feed-in law, and solar power in particular, from members of the conservative-neoliberal federal government of Germany, and the EU got serious about tariffs on Chinese solar cells and modules. Thus I thought it's worth to look at the current state, based on the latest Federal Grid Agency figures:

  • New in April 2013: 367.7 MW
  • New in 2013 to date: 1,144 MW
  • Reference annualised new additions (Q3/2012–Q1/2013 * 4/3): 5,309 MW (this is compared to the "target band" of 2,500–3,500 MW, with an overrun resulting in faster feed-in rate degression)
  • Total on-line at the end of April 2013: 33.5 GW

The new strong monthly degression of the revised feed-in law of June 2012 did away with rate-change bubbles without killing the market. (The last rate-change bubble peaked in September and was due to the elimination of the rate for 10-MW-plus plants.)

Distribution of new capacity in January–April 2013 according to rated power of plants:

  • (P > 10 MW): 0.0%
  • (10 MW ≥ P > 1 MW): 33.6%
  • (1 MW ≥ P > 40 kW): 31.4%
  • (40 kW ≥ P > 10 kW): 17.4%
  • (10 kW ≥ P): 17.6%

The share of the (1 MW ≥ P > 40 kW) bin was pretty much stable at one-third from 2009 to this year, but there was a decline for smaller plants (still about half in 2009) and a boom for larger ones (peaking at 41.9% last year). This is now a bit reversed, and withdrawing support for 10-MW-plus plants (from last October) killed those off totally.

Current (June 2013) feed-in rates (monthly degression jumped to 1.8% from May):

  • (P > 10 MW): none
  • Non-rooftop on arable land (10 MW ≥ P): none
  • Non-rooftop excluding arable land (10 MW ≥ P): 10.63 €-cent/kWh
  • Rooftop (10 MW ≥ P > 1 MW): 10.63 €-cent/kWh
  • Rooftop (1 MW ≥ P > 40 kW): 12.99 €-cent/kWh
  • Rooftop (40 kW ≥ P > 10 kW): 14.56 €-cent/kWh
  • Rooftop (10 kW ≥ P): 15.35 €-cent/kWh

All of these values are now well below wholesale prices, even subtracting the surcharge due to industry 'exemptions' from the feed-in law.

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

by DoDo on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 07:32:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow. All well below wholesale prices.

France's anomalously low electricity prices are going to come to a fairly abrupt end. The current consumer rate is about 9.5 cents a kWh. This will rise to at least 11 by 2015.

This is being dressed up in fancy accounting, but fundamentally it's about integrationg some of the hidden costs of existing nuclear plant (while still not provisioning its dismantlement, of course)

The bright side is that most of France will now hit grid parity within a couple of years.

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

by eurogreen on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 10:03:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, France is already not doing badly on the PV front. From the IEA-PVPS report, here are the top 10 countries in both new installations and total installed capacity:

The missing GW countries in total installed capacity: UK (1,830 MW), Greece (1,536 MW) and India (1,205 MW).

It's interesting that of countries under the austerity dictate, while worst-hit Greece managed to increase its total by 912 MW or 146%, Spain added a mere 223 MW (4.6%).

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

by DoDo on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 10:30:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's interesting that of countries under the austerity dictate, while worst-hit Greece managed to increase its total by 912 MW or 146%, Spain added a mere 223 MW (4.6%).

Does combined property tax and electricity bill affect photovoltaic installations in Greece?

by Jute on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 03:51:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do you mean, reducing the tax by reducing consumption? One would need to know whether (1) most of Greece's new installations were grid-connected or not, and (2) whether the income tax on electricity bills law (which AFAIK was struck down at the end of last year) made a distinction for power meters that can run backwards due to feeding into the grid. I don't know the answers :-) At any rate, in the case of Spain, the explanation must be the murder of the feed-in law.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 11:32:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
LOL. The late Hermann Scheer, who headed a number of international solar associations and was a pro-renewables energy expert of the SPD's left wing, wrote this almost four years ago:

Hermann Scheer - European power from the desert is a Fata Morgana

The Desertec project "Power for Northern Europe from the Sahara desert" is a Fata Morgana. The initiators know: There is no prospect of success. But for all that Desertec could be a good idea indeed. If the aim were to enable the Sahara countries to make the transition to energy generation completely from renewable sources, I would fully agree to the Desertec plan.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 07:55:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Japan's new Feed-in Tariff -
Japan is well situated for this policy.

"Until I retired in 2008, I worked for a Japanese-corporation-controlled high-purity, silica glass crucible manufacturing company. Our 'division' championed the standard solar-cell market within our corporation, and the corporation profited from our leadership; because, as the ICs became more data-dense, the silicon wafer business volume declined. The increasing solar business made up the volume.

"During the mid-oughts, the Japanese solar corporations (Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Sharp, and Kyocera, primarily) grew very quickly, until they temporarily made Japan the leading producer nation, passing German production (GE went from 1st to 10th in that time-frame). Then China passed everyone, due to their investments, as outlined in a 5-year plan that was published and implemented in 2007. And here we are.

"Point is that Japan has the manufacturing expertise and infrastructure to ramp up quickly and substantially. All that they needed was the political will, which was suppressed by the nuclear-related industries.

"Also, my reading of the new policy is that it decrements the FIT, as costs go down and deployment rises. So - they're making an investment. Considering the potential life of solar-power devices, it should pay off very well in the longer run. And it may well be that the powers-that-be - largely corporations and their semi-feudal leadership families - recognize that the avoided costs of nuclear power must be paid sooner or later.

"As to paving the countryside, that's simply not going to happen. Roof-top may contribute a small amount, but it fits with distributed, small-scale generation that can decrease the power losses associated with long transmission lines. The countryside of Japan is largely forests on the hills and farm fields along the valleys, associated with villages. Rooftop, plus a 'fence' of solar modules bordering the north edge of the fields or the road - or the railroad tracks - could make these villages self-sufficient, as far as electrical power.

"From what I've seen of Japanese technological capabilities, I expect that they will soon be in close competition with the Chinese for leadership in all phases of renewable-energy systems."

I think that their strategy relies on the same sort of analysis as yours - security, lower transmission losses, lower capital costs for infrastructure. Of course, in the past year they also engineered a change in the international exchange rate for the yen that puts them in a position to compete in the photovoltaic-device export market. And they managed to do that with tacit approval from their trading partners. They really are quite brilliant imo.


paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 11:36:28 AM EST
Japan Solar Investing

It looks like silver will be an integral part of Japan's push for solar power, especially as the metal has recently entered into a bear market; Japan is using this to its advantage, providing greater incentive to push for solar throughout its nation.

Most photovoltaic cells - the cells that generate electrical power by converting solar radiation or sunlight into a direct current of electricity - use silver paste, Bloomberg points out. In fact, about 90 percent of all photovoltaic cells use silver.

And of the world's total demand for industrial silver, about 7 percent of that comes from solar panels - just to give an idea of how important silver is to solar energy.

Dowa Holdings Co. (OTC: DWMNF), Japan's largest producer of silver, will be there every step of the way to ensure Japan has plenty of its precious metal to go around. The company has increased production by 40 percent this year to meet demand, adding to Japan's overall increase in output by 2.4 percent.

Dowa unit Dowa Electronics Materials Co. specializes in silver powder for solar cells, and the company has expanded its overall capacity 38 percent since the nuclear disaster.

the only reason i wanted desertec was to hopefully prove solar could pump out reliable MW on a large scale, enough to thwart any northafrican plans to nuclearise.

of course there are the downsides DoDo mentions, like grid vulnerability, but it's also silly in the sense of shipping coal to Newcastle.

i am glad it's bringing up the discussion of resilience through distributed power generation, the real gorilla in the room, centralised power and the utter inefficiency baked right into the model.

of course we kmow why that's the last thing they want to consider, but the discussion helps to highlight the retro logic at work, and how a sustainable future depends on 'small is beautiful' models to survive/thrive-

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 01:27:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Two ways of seeing it as a symbol:

European Tribune - No Desertec for Europe

With a few plants, Desertec wouldn't achieve much market share impact, but it would still be able to showcase a record-sized plant, which will have more media impact than hundreds of thousands of small installations with a higher combined capacity - in other words, there is a potential for greenwashing.

melo:

the only reason i wanted desertec was to hopefully prove solar could pump out reliable MW on a large scale, enough to thwart any northafrican plans to nuclearise.

I think that if built it would be notable thing, one around which narratives would be spun. The narratives could either be green-washing ones or renewables are the future ones. But that depends more on the narrators (and their backers) then the thing itself.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 02:42:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
During the mid-oughts, the Japanese solar corporations (Sanyo, Mitsubishi, Sharp, and Kyocera, primarily) grew very quickly, until they temporarily made Japan the leading producer nation, passing German production

When was that and in what category? Checking IEA-PVPS reports, in both cell and module production, the USA led until the nineties, Japan took over in 1999, and China took over in 2007. Germany never led, although it did overtake Japan in both cell and module production at the same time China did. Also see Fraunhofer ISE (page 11).

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

by DoDo on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 04:00:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
top-producer status, but 2 or 3 German companies were in the top 10, as I recall. You are probably correct that Japan took over from the U.S.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 04:15:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
After the nitpicking, now some data for your main message, Japan's resurgent photovoltaics sector. Again from IEA-PVPS, some 2002 numbers:
  • new installations: 2 GW (a record for Japan)
  • total installations: 7 GW
  • production capacity as percentage of 2012 total consumption: 0.77% (still a long way to go to catch up with leaders Italy and Germany at above 5%)

As for production, no 2012 data yet, only 2011, when Japan was far behind China and Taiwan, but almost caught up with Germany (in both cells and modules).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 04:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The reason I had hopes for desertec boil down to one word. "Winter". A grid plan that does not work during winter is not a grid plan, at best it is greenwashing on top of a coal or gas based grid. And that is just not good enough.  

At this point, I am thinking that we may be quite screwed unless one of the close-time-horizon fusion projects pan out. Fission is technically viable, but politically problematic, and if large distance grid links are off the table - and that is what this diary is saying! Then none of the renewable plans work.

by Thomas on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 03:54:56 PM EST
The reason I had hopes for desertec boil down to one word. "Winter".

The reason I and others have dismissed your "winter" arguments several times is that it is based on an absurd assumption that each mode of production is to be evaluated on the basis of supplying 100% of electricity. There is wind, too, and wind production's seasonal trend is negatively correlated with that of solar power.

large distance grid links are off the table

Not off the table, but costing lots of money and time. And let's not confuse grid links for the sole purpose of channelling electricity from a single source to consumers 3,000 km away, and grid links distributing electricity mostly near but also far from surplus producers that are spread out but at changing locations.

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

by DoDo on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 04:08:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
co-generation, and biomass. The latter could be saved for seasonal use.

paul spencer
by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 04:18:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Biomass produced for the purpose of power production is not green at all. Incredibly wasteful use of land. There is a minor stream of food production waste that can, and should be turned into fuel with no increase in footprint, but using this for any purpose other than fuel in niches where electricity fails to substitute would be criminal.
by Thomas on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 12:40:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Wood pellets from forestry waste, used in home heating, is an eminently sensible use of biomass, and Europe's principal biomass resource. Co-generation looks good in urban-heating setups.

But running power stations on biomass leads to aberrations : cheap Canadian wood pellets are imported, apparently, which is no better than importing Indonesian biodiesel, or Brazilian ethanol.

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

by eurogreen on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 04:22:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
considering the source. Eurogreen hits the correct spatial scale. There is also time scale to consider. Biomass is part of a distributed-power strategy on the former; it is part of a life-cycle in the latter.

It's criminal - in my opinion - to let forests in the western USA die en masse in the worst known insect plague in our history. It's criminal to let fuels build up in our forests until we experience wildfire at historically unprecedented scale. And if you'd rather let it burn on the ground with no combustion control and no pollution mitigation, I'd say that you're insane.

Nobody is calling for strip-raking the forests, but we can definitely make use of some of the material that is literally littering the forest floor. We can definitely make use of some of the slash from harvests - thinning or regeneration - leaving the green and sufficient woody debris behind. We can definitely remove some of the stems removed to thin over-dense young stands for purposes of increasing growth rates and improving overall stand health, rather than leaving jack-straws that make travel difficult for all of the large forest mammals.

Yes - the benefits are optimized with a concise range of capture and operations. And yes, we have to make sustainable management more important than revenue.

paul spencer

by paul spencer (spencerinthegorge AT yahoo DOT com) on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 11:49:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Depends what you mean by "quite screwed." I believe people lived in Europe before there was electricity...
by asdf on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 04:27:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also I would think that housetop solar energy would work in large areas of southern Europe even in the middle of winter, without any grid at all.
by asdf on Wed Jun 5th, 2013 at 04:30:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you would have to kill about 60-90% of the population in order to return to that state of affairs. You first.

Future timelines in which we give up electricity are apocalyptic - It would be politically acceptable to no-one - And by that I mean "Any government that tries it deservedly ends up on pikes" and would increase landuse in spectacular and destructive ways - down that path, everything and everyone in europe dies.

And if renewable cannot cover 80% of the power demand year round, that is profound failure. Down that path, greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere is not halted, it is merely slowed slightly and both we, and the planet are just better off building reactors, because those demonstrably can deliver on that degree of penetration.

So if you do not like fission reactors, either work out a renewable plan that can cover power demand - real power demand, not just whatever amount of megawatts you fancy we can get by on - or invest some money in General Fusion in canada.

by Thomas on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 12:56:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Simple: Overbuild capacity and use interruptible industrial processes to load-balance.

After all, that's the plan of an all-nuclear grid.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 07:57:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To put it another way, renewables aren't yet anywhere near 80% to warrant desperation about the last 20%, while nuclear as it is now is a 65% solution (ignoring resource supply issues).

Thomas also mentioned fusion power. This throws up a question: how suitable would fusion power be for the provision of variable output at day-long and minute-long timescales?

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

by DoDo on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 02:40:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The specific design I mentioned? Extremely. It heats a liquid lead reservoir, which means you can use it for any degree of loadfollowing or balancing you care to.
by Thomas on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 05:04:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I meant fusion in general, including but not restricted to General Fusion's.

I take the lithium content contributes more to heat storage than the lead content. But what heat storage capacity are we talking of? (Amount and composition of liquid, allowed temperature variation of recycled liquid?) I suspect you can use this for short-term variability only. However, their homepage notes a different means of regulating output, which would be good for all timescales from minutes to days:

General Fusion | Technology | Energy Capture

Each fusion pulse will result in approximately 100 MJ of net electrical output. Varying the cycle repetition rate will control the overall power plant output; if repeated once per second, the net output will be 100 MW.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 11:11:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While that may be technically feasible in the brave new world of nuclear fusion, the "overbuild and load balance with spinning reserve" strategy has even worse economics than the "overbuild and load balance with interruptible industrial processes" strategy.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 12:51:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Then again, there is an inherent conflict between "economic" and "supply security".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 01:59:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Csp-storage could be used for load balancing during winter even in less import oriented system.

During winter the storage capasity of csp-plants is larger compared to their production than in summer so they could more freely to choose their operation time. At the same time Euroean wind power production increases which increase the need for storage capacity.

It may be possible for African and Arabian countries to store heat and import power while there is high wind in Europe and export electricity during low winds in Europe like Scandinavian countries do with water power plants.

by Jute on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 02:07:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And you would have to kill about 60-90% of the population in order to return to that state of affairs.

Which state of affairs?... I smell straw man.

if renewable cannot cover 80% of the power demand year round

When? Now? 2030? 2050? Ever?

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

by DoDo on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 08:10:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Your argument is a straw man, because there are multiple proposals out there for how to run the western world on 100% sustainable energy, without nukes.

http://woods.stanford.edu/publications/directory has extended discussion on the topic, for example.

by asdf on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 01:16:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
While your link lists plenty of interesting research topics, I don't see any particular paper which addresses a proposal of 100% sustainable energy.
by Bjinse on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 01:46:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
http://woods.stanford.edu/news-events/news/wind-could-meet-global-power-demand-2030

http://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/january/jacobson-world-energy-012611.html

Or, you could go into, say, Google, and search for something like "can we achieve 100% sustainable energy" and get a few ideas. There is a confirmation bias issue going on here: If you don't want to see that there is a solution, then there is no solution to be seen.

by asdf on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 10:20:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the second source, this is a more ambitious programme for replacing all primary energy (but I take that "electrising" a lot of fuel consumption would make balancing easier):

The world can be powered by alternative energy in 20-40 years, Stanford researcher says

The world they envision would run largely on electricity. Their plan calls for using wind, water and solar energy to generate power, with wind and solar power contributing 90 percent of the needed energy.

Geothermal and hydroelectric sources would each contribute about 4 percent in their plan (70 percent of the hydroelectric is already in place), with the remaining 2 percent from wave and tidal power. 

Vehicles, ships and trains would be powered by electricity and hydrogen fuel cells. Aircraft would run on liquid hydrogen. Homes would be cooled and warmed with electric heaters - no more natural gas or coal - and water would be preheated by the sun.

Commercial processes would be powered by electricity and hydrogen. In all cases, the hydrogen would be produced from electricity. Thus, wind, water and sun would power the world.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 11:24:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is an expectation embedded in the discussion that we will "replace" existing fossil fueled systems with electric systems. But that only applies in some cases. When we "replaced" horses with cars, a lot of other stuff changed as well--the growth of suburbs, for example.

So the question is not one of "how do you make a one-for-one replacement of a container ship that burns bunker oil with one that uses batteries," it's a question of how will manufacturing, trade, and consumption habits change in the face of an evolving energy supply and distribution system.

My favorite example is the one about using electric car batteries to fill in for darkness and calm periods. That is not a one-for-one replacement of the conventional car with an electric car, it is a change to the energy management model that intersects with a change to the transportation model.

The same thing applies to my wisecrack above about how Europe didn't have electricity in the past. The goal is not to provide electricity, it is to provide an environment for humans to live in. If LED lights can replace incandescent lights, you get the same illumination with a lot less electricity. If a carbon nanotube microfiber insulated sweater the thickness of a t-shirt can provide the same insulating capability as an expedition-class down parka, then you don't need to heat your house to 20C, maybe. If you can do your job with an iPad and a seat at the coffee shop, then you don't need a PC and a cubicle at company headquarters...

by asdf on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 02:00:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What I'm thinking is that these scenarios for 100% de-carbonisation are good to have, but they are getting a bit ahead of themselves.

It's easy to assume that electrising the transport and heating sectors will add regulated consumption of a sufficient magnitude to do all the balancing. But there are still limits: there may be periods of sustained wind resulting in an amount of excess energy exceeding the storage capacity of all batteries, or there might be a mismatch between production and consumption at the seasonal timescale, and there might be economic and weather patterns with a strong but negatively correlated influence on both overall consumption and generation at a seasonal or multi-year timescale.

This only means that for a stable system, the best option is relying on several different kinds of balancing at the same time. Which, and in what ratio, will depend on the unforeseeable future development of several factors: the economics of these technologies, the structure of production and consumption – in particular with view to the interplay you emphasized –, climate, the regulatory framework.

The good thing is that there are several candidates for the role other than hydro and smart consumption with electric vehicles and heating, from fixed batteries and fuel cells through pumped air storage and geothermal to fusion; and we have time to develop those by the time we manage to replace baseload production first.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 08:01:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It also depends on where you live. In the American southwest, solar power is about as reliable as you can imagine. In Colorado, we have at most two or three days of overcast weather in a row, even in the worst cases. Living off grid here is pretty easy and not hugely expensive. People don't do it now, mainly because of the low cost of Wyoming coal, but the conversion cost to a 100% solar system is not too extreme and the reliability of the supply is not really in question...

It's a desert. It's about a quarter of the U.S. land area and of the total population.

by asdf on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 10:46:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What I'm thinking is that these scenarios for 100% de-carbonisation are good to have, but they are getting a bit ahead of themselves.

Precisely. But I am afraid that the reason these scenarios are developed is to counter the often heard denialist claim that "it cannot be done". Reactive behaviour, that is.

Even worse is presenting scenarios where electricity-only is produced in a carbon-free fashion, but nothing is done about the non-electric part of energy use: this is seriously sub-optimal, but again may adequately address the high-school debating argument "it cannot be done".

It is as you say: once we start deploying renewable power sources on the scale that would seem indicated,  the cost calculation for high penetration but based on current prices is instantly obsoleted by economy-of-scale effects. And as deployment to 100%-plus would anyway take decades, there will be technology surprises along the way.

The reality of the thing is that complete de-carbonisation using current technology is not possible. Not even with nuclear. If you think otherwise, I want to see your atomic car ;-)

(Of course that would be an electric car. Future tech which is coming closer as we speak --- but not specifically nuclear.)

by mustakissa on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 02:13:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the links. As there were over 150 sustainable energy scenarios by summer 2011, and probably more by now, it helps to be specific. Anyway, it's good practice at ET to provide proper evidence to claims, I don't always have time to do other people's digging.

I'm aware of the work of Jacobson and Delucchi (2011), and it is not without extensive scientific criticism. (See also here). So far their work doesn't seem to satisfactorily explain to me reasoning how the world's energy demand can just stay level at around 11.5 TW.

Of course there's also the IPCC's SSREN, which doesn't get to 100% and its reliability is hindered by the fact it heavily promotes a scenario drawn up by Greenpeace-activists.

So far I've found this a decent overview, but could always use others.

by Bjinse on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 06:48:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm aware of the work of Jacobson and Delucchi (2011), and it is not without extensive scientific criticism. (See also here).

I find a copy of the first link not hidden behind a subscription wall here. Let me note my dismay at the 'scientific' sources social scientist Ted Trainer is using to claim wind intermittency is an insurmountable problem, from REF to web pages. (The critique was critiqued, too, but the reply is behind the subscription wall, too.) Your second link is more or less an op-ed by a journalist which doesn't even address Jacobson and Delucchi (2011) specifically.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 09:00:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, I noted that two links were buggy in my first post.
Jacobson & Delucchi
SSREN

The critique of the critique was also critiqued, and so the world turns.

While the op-ed is directed to yet another J&D paper, wherein the authors usefully adapt their scenarios to a slightly smaller scale, the points raised are equally valid for both papers - and appear equally unanswered.

by Bjinse on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 01:05:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the points raised are equally valid for both papers

Which points in particular carry weight for you?

The op-ed's first gripe is with scenarios involving significant energy conservation bringing demand down below current levels. This seems true for the New York state study, but not J&D2011, which uses the EIA forecast (reducing it only with the higher efficiency of using electricity) and states that there is no supply-side problem for much higher demand. District heating, the energy-saving possibility which the New York state study is criticised for, doesn't feature in J&D2011.

Kevin Bullis's second point is about the cost-competitiveness of fossil fuel during the renewables push: he argues that both basic fuel price and internalised externalities will fall as fossil fuel demand falls. This would only matter if J&D would advocate an entirely market-based transition. They don't, they only bring up prices to argue that their plan would still mean affordable prices, and their point would still stand if fossil fuel would become even cheaper than affordable renewable power.

The last two points are too vague to address, but I note the contradiction of talking about balancing and then suggesting that nuclear (which gives almost constant power) may be needed for the mix.

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

by DoDo on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 01:49:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks.

reducing it only with the higher efficiency of using electricity) and states that there is no supply-side problem for much higher demand.

Can efficiency actually be increased that way that much? Is there truly no supply-side problem? How do we know?

Not yet raised is the question how scalable renewables actually are, and reports I've found so far are terribly conflicting. If you've pointers, I'd be grateful.

Ultimately, how realistic is a solution of over 100 trillion dollars which relies on a non-market-based transition? Apparently, opening a nuclear reactor each and every day until 2050 results in a similar effect - but no one seems to find that a feasible solution. So why would this solution be?

by Bjinse on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 07:14:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it's not.

But you don't find the limits until you start pushing the envelope of current capacity. Hard and repeatedly.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 08:39:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some of the limits can be calculated from first principles - the wind resource, for example, is insufficient in densely populated areas - you would have to harvest a significant percentage of the available energy in the air flows, and.. uhm, isnt the point to avoid climate change? Solar is extremely plentiful. At the equator. Seasonal variation is not your friend.

It gets rapidly worse from there - The best bet really seems to be getting the price of long distance power transmission the heck down, because the price and viability of all renewable resources is extremely sensitive to location. You cant run civilization trying to harvest energy resources in places where they just do not reliably occur.

On the third hand, it seems like it ought to be possible to make long distance electricity production a lot cheaper. For one thing, does it really need its own dedicated right of way? If one is, oh building high speed rail, burying some power lines along with the tracks ought to be economic...

by Thomas on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 11:09:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If by "densely populated areas" you mean areas the size of individual cities, then sure. But I'm not clear on where in a city you'd find room to put up MW-range turbines anyway. Nor am I clear on why it would be desirable to reduce the intercity transportation capacity of our power grid from today's standards...

If by "densely populated areas" you mean something on the scale of a small country, then no. We will run out turbines before we run out of wind resource, and we will run out of fun things to do with electricity before we run out of turbines.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 11:29:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The best bet really seems to be getting the price of long distance power transmission the heck down

The problem is not the price, it's the institutional obstacles. That's why so many HVDC interconnects run over the sea floor. Zoning laws are a good thing in many ways, but they're a godsend for politically-motivated wreckers.

by mustakissa on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 11:37:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Also the 100 trillion dollar number is probably an exaggeration. There are various estimates out there of how much it would cost, and there are obvious problems in comparing the cost of a system that relies on capital plus fuel to one that relies on capital plus sun or wind, but the number probably isn't that high.

In any case, the U.S. of A. recently spent close to 2 trillion dollars to blow up a couple of countries, and we aren't completely broke yet. So if there were an actual global emergency, perhaps spending ten or twenty trillion dollars to solve it might be achievable.

by asdf on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 11:03:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Can efficiency actually be increased that way that much?

If I read the Scientific American summary you linked right, J&D consider primary energy, not net consumption. For fossil fuel-using transport, heating and thermal plants (and if I'm not mistaken nuclear, too), you have to consider the thermal efficiency of converting fuel into electrical energy. For wind and solar, the conversion efficiency doesn't count towards primary energy. This should be the bulk of it, on top of that, there is braking energy re-use in transport.

Is there truly no supply-side problem?

What I meant is that their calculation showed a practical average power potential of 40-80 TW for wind and 580 TW for solar, against the 11.5 TW in their scenario and the 16.9 TW in the original EIA scenario.

how scalable renewables actually are

What exactly do you mean? Just thinking of wind: turbine size and power, turbine size and cost per production, farm size and farm total power, wind shade, intermittency over changing geographical areas? I think you can find studies on any of these; or did you mean something else?

Ultimately, how realistic is a solution of over 100 trillion dollars which relies on a non-market-based transition?

Do you mean politically? As things stand, not at all. But making such studies is one of the ways to make it happen. Another is to let renewables expand under current conditions until their political clout vs. energy dinosaurs grows.

no one seems to find that a feasible solution

I don't think that the main reason for the infeasibility of the idea to have a magnitude faster and global version of the Chinese nuclear programme is the broad incapacity for large-scale government initiative. Slow construction, the bottleneck of fuel extraction (where, again, the issue is less the size of reserves and the cost of their extraction but how fast you can extract from ores of ever lower grade), safety in areas like China, and its baseload nature (which makes it an at most 65% 'solution') are bigger issues.

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

by DoDo on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 03:50:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Another angle on the "realistic" question, which connects J&D with the subject of the diary. J&D foresee both a major expansion of large solar thermal plants, and grid interconnection at a scale larger than continents (albeit not for one-way supply but for balancing). In other words, effectively an alternative version of Desertec would be part of their plan, sharing some of the key difficulties, which would draw out the timescale. A key aspect here, however, is that while the difficulty for Desertec would be to ramp up suppy into Europe from a few percents to the planned 15-20%, for the J&D plan or anything similar, the difficulty would be to eliminate the last few percents of non-renewable supply.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 04:15:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding the Ted Trainer piece, I found the critique of the critique here (choose five-minute rent and then printscreen). I note J&D didn't waste time criticising Trainer's astroturfer sources on intermittency, only point out which part of their own research was misrepresented and ignored in Trainer's account. The critique of the critique is a point-by-point rebuttal. The critique of the critique of the critique doesn't even attempt that, it's a re-statement of points in criticising three source articles, with lots of hand-waving and innuendo. I mean,

Included in this is 75 GW of gas generating capacity, but this will be needed very rarely to plug gaps in renewable supply.  In fact it is stated that its capacity will be 2.6% (p. 2283) and it will provide only 5% of annual demand.  This means 75 power stations will sit idle almost all the time.

Yes, and? Ever heard of peaker plants? And J&D want this replaced with demand management anyway.

Or:

Thus Fig. 3a reveals the way renewable energy proposals are typically misleading by setting out annual average contributions.  It shows that (for minimum emissions) solar is to provide 100,000 of the total 410,000 GWh required over a year.  This gives the impression that only enough solar plant will be needed to produce 100,000 GWh in a year.  But when winds are low far more solar input (or gas input) will be needed to plug the gap, and vici versa, meaning that far more solar plant will be needed than Fig. 3a might suggest.

Does this even make sense? Why does he want to deduce capacity from GWh numbers, and who claimed solar has a 100% capacity factor?

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

by DoDo on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 02:49:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There's the rough sketch from the german PHOTON energy monthly from approx. October 2012.

It basically says: overbuild, convert surplus to methan and store it in the gas infrastructure. It would be a bit expensive, but it would be 100% renewable around 2035 for Germany. And probably not that much more expensive than hitting the fossil brick wall in the next 20 years or so.

The draft is on the website of solar-fuel.net, the startup (recently renamed to etogas.com) from Stuttgart which develops this technology.

One year to go !

by pi (etrib@opsec.eu) on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 05:07:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
wow, read the article on solar-fuel.net you mentioned. Excellent! It is one of the most thought out pieces I have read on the topic of 100% renewable / storage and market design in a looooong time.

It would almost be worth a diary of its own with some more depth on the market design stuff.

I will share that with everyone I know!

by crankykarsten (cranky (where?) gmx dot organisation) on Wed Jun 26th, 2013 at 09:46:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
convert surplus to methan and store it in the gas infrastructure

I read the article only now, and found that they concentrate on this due to the existing infrastructure's storage capacity of 200 TWh. Wow, that's enough for even seasonal storage!

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

by DoDo on Thu Jun 27th, 2013 at 07:03:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thomas:
real power demand, not just whatever amount of megawatts you fancy we can get by on

this oft asserted idea presupposes that we don't waste energy, also that 'progress' depends on us continuing to do so.

it's as if you believe that if we cut back on the wasteful practices we'll be back living in the dark, and if we turn to nukes we can continue to waste as we are wont to.

equally absent from your logic is the rising costs of dealing with nuclear waste, and the future price of the water needed to cool these toxic behemoths, for centuries.

a nice camping holiday at chernobyl may alter your blithe prescriptions, better bring your geiger counter for enhanced thrills as you tour the deserted towns, pondering the future you authoritatively endorse for us all. you may bump into a greenpeace scientist up there for a fun chat, as he/she risks danger trying to inform us better so we don't fall for more propaganda.

of course chernobyl could have been avoided if we had been smarter, and we could handle the tricky waste issue by creating plutonium, no need to worry, whew.
meanwhile you continually put down efforts to harness the power of the great grandaddy of all nuclear power plants as futile. the one at a safe distance from those you love and wish to keep in good health.
(while pointing to fusion as likely solution... the carrot on the 50-year stick)

the fact that with what the public know about the dangers now it would take a police state to enforce building and protecting nuke plants also is conveniently missing from your arguments...

but hey, we're all gonna die anyway, why not continue enriching our nuke industry while we can, the possibilities are glowing. let's nominate TEPCO for the sierra club environment award too!

my uncle used to make films extolling the harmlessness of smoking, his son does the same for the nuke industry. my partner's father, a german nuclear engineer, died an agonising death at 32 from thymus cancer, and told his family how laxly the safety rules
were followed.

it's personal... as it should be for all of us who ever plug in anything to a wall socket, drive a car, or dump plastic. the bogeyman of coal should drive us forward into an environmentally responsible future, not sideways into the SOS.
jeez...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 10:03:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have had this debate many times. It gets frustrating.

But the core issue is, if society is supposed to become less carbon intensive and more energy efficient then as close as possible to one hundred percent of our energy use must be electricity. That in itself implies a large rise in electricity consumption, even with huge efficiency gains overall.  Further, if we wish to stop wasting raw materials then the recycling industry must be made larger, and capable of dealing with as much of our waste as possible. Which, again, will need electricity. So when people suggest we can get by on less electrons, I personally blow a minor fuse. Not going to happen in any future which is actually green, and if your vision for power production relies on it, it will never clean up our actual energy use. There is limited point in getting the power for our computers from solar cells if our cars still burn gas.

by Thomas on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 05:00:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Its kinda hard of having a decent debate about some issues, they raise too much emotion. Point in case: nuclear.

I am still trying to understand the viability and sustainability of nuclear (next generation reactors, not the old stuff). Apparently new designs allow for orders of magnitude less duration of radioactive waste (and even the consumption of old - longer lasting - waste). And then there is Thorium...

But to understand the realism of such approaches is almost impossible (without deep commitments of time for personal research): any "debate"/"question" immediately becomes ideological and an attempt to extract information is lost...

by cagatacos on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 05:52:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've made the point before that the core (ahem...) issue with nuclear isn't technical, it's political and managerial - specifically that plants are ultimately run by corporations or bureaucracies, and corporations and bureaucracies are run by people who reliably cut corners and risk lives in search of profit and status.

So next gen nukes are only a good idea if they're safe enough to withstand bad management decisions.

TEPCO, Sellafield, Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are all examples of what happens when they aren't.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 08:38:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
China is set to triple its nuclear capacity by 2015, adding another 26 reactors. Even post-Fukushima, the target construction time of a plant is 5 years. Now what this reminds me of is the super-charged high-speed rail construction and operation up until the Wenzhou accident. The Wenzhou accident of the nuclear programme would be another Chernobyl/Fukushima.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 11:19:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Though in a way that is also true for most of the chemical industry. If we can't solve our management problem we'll probably find some silly way to kill us all.
by generic on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 02:44:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
that's very true...

at heart the whole fossilfuel nightmare is a chemical issue, from mercury to methane, ocean (and blood) acidosis to SO2, benzene, asbestos and plutonium...

if only we could go back in time and redo the industrial age with prescience and foresight.

we have been like testosterone addicted bulls in a porcelain atelier.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 05:55:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Comments - No Desertec for Europe
I am still trying to understand the viability and sustainability of nuclear (next generation reactors, not the old stuff). Apparently new designs allow for orders of magnitude less duration of radioactive waste (and even the consumption of old - longer lasting - waste). And then there is Thorium...

We had some interesting discussion on the topic two years ago. Here you go.

I think Starvid nailed the reason why they won't be any nearer then 20 years off (no need, from the nuclear industries perspective) and DoDo why it is perpetually brought up (greenwashing).

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 01:55:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And it will ease the demands on the existing grid.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 12:56:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Gulf states are investing heavily in solar energy so maybe we will start to import electricity instead of oil from Saudi-Arabia.
by Jute on Thu Jun 6th, 2013 at 05:32:53 AM EST
Do you mean this?

Total, Abengoa See Mideast Solar Boom as Largest Generator Opens - Bloomberg

The new $750 million concentrated-solar plant, which Total and Abengoa developed with Abu Dhabi's Masdar, will produce 100 megawatts of power by harnessing the sun to heat liquids and create steam to turn turbines. That differentiates the facility, called Shams 1, from a photovoltaic plant, which uses panels to convert sunlight directly into electricity.

The Middle East's most extensive renewable-energy program is in Saudi Arabia. The country is seeking about $100 billion in investments to generate about 41,000 megawatts, or a third of its power, from solar by 2032. That compares with about 3 megawatts now, which puts it behind Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and the United Arab Emirates in capacity, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Total will study concentrated-solar power, or CSP, and photovoltaic projects in Saudi Arabia and neighboring Qatar, Boisseau said. While PV is "probably the most economical technology for solar generation," CSP allows energy to be stored because operators can stockpile heated liquids for use when the sun isn't shining, he said.

This is definitely in the right direction, but it is a long way from being able to export. In fact, I suspect even the Saudi plans will be about on the scale of the increase in local demand. (BTW, another journo confusing energy, power and maximum power = capacity.)

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

by DoDo on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 02:12:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
For the Saudis, renewables are all about substituting for oil domestically so that they can export more of it (or rather, maintain exports while production declines)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Fri Jun 7th, 2013 at 05:52:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When tue infrastucture for building solar plants is created it won't be too hard to build more for export if there is a value proposition for selling energy during winter or using csp for load balancing.
by Jute on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 03:14:45 PM EST
Do you mean before or after meeting 100% of local demand? If the latter, there is still the issue of a grid connection into Europe (which, I emphasize, is not merely about crossing the Mediterranean, but getting all the way to the north because existing infrastructure doesn't have the capacity for the extra transit), the high price of electricity from the Sahara, and high wind power in Europe during winter.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 03:27:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Grid connection issue may be largely solved before Arabia or North Africa are self sufficient of renevables for a less grandious sceme because European countries are building new interconnections for domestic use.  If the price differential between high and low winds is large enough it may be profitable to import energy and stop csp-plants to save stored heat and use the heat to generate electricity for export during low winds. Round trip efficiency seems to be comparable to other storage technologies.
by Jute on Sat Jun 8th, 2013 at 05:09:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I submit that a less grandiose scheme focusing on low-wind winter periods might make sense. But, regarding CSP, I haven't yet commented: what is the potential in storage capacity and decay for this method of heat storage? AFAIK CSP normally uses this to extend generation for not even the whole night, that is a sub-day scale of storage. For wind, you'd need something longer-term.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 04:18:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thermal losses seems to be at the scale tenth of per cents per hour. (www.nrel.gov/docs/fy10osti/45833.pdf, p.10)

There doesn't seem to be any obvious size limitations for two tank thermal storages systems but the choice for smaller storages is based on economic considerations.

Could a storage for a shorter time frame be useful even with wind energy if it could allow more time to ramp up or down electricity production and consumption or replace more inefficient forms storage?

by Jute on Tue Jun 11th, 2013 at 03:03:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Probably not help wind specifically. Wind is already predictable enough that the peak load balancing problem is driven by the demand side. Wind's real challenge is the scheduled load-following part of the merit order.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Jun 11th, 2013 at 06:27:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China is working pretty hard on the long distance grid problems. It is a combination of political and technical difficulties.

Contrary to the quick development of wind power, the planning and construction necessary for transmission system improvements are proceeding slowly.

The main reasons are:

  • Missing incentives to build transmission to deliver the wind power... and there is no compensation program for the ancillary services provided by other resources necessary for operating the wind generation, such as reserve service, load following, frequency control, and voltage regulation.

  • The transmission projects approval process...

  • The structure of the power grid industry in China...

Consequences

Because of the fast and uncoordinated development of wind power and the lagging development of the transmission system, as of 2010 approximately 30% of Chinese installed wind power capacity has not been interconnected with the power grid.... For example, the MengXi area, which is rich in wind and coal resources, runs its own power grid, and there are only five transmission lines interconnecting it with State Grid. Due to the limited outlet in this area, about one-third of the thermal units cannot run on full power and about 42% of the installed wind capacity is wasted.

Large-scale wind power also adversely affects the real power balance of the system... In China, coal units comprise a large percentage of the resource mix, but historically they did not provide frequency control because of their slow ramp rates...This has caused a serious system frequency problem under some circumstances.

Finally, large-scale wind power causes problems in reactive power and voltage control. Large-scale wind farms are normally located at the remote reaches of the power system. The wind power needs to be delivered to load centers through long-distance transmission lines. Quick and large variations of wind output cause swift changes of system voltage and tie line flows, both of which can lead to voltage stability issues and jeopardize the security of the power system.

http://magazine.ieee-pes.org/marchapril-2012/by-leaps-and-bounds/

But the point is that by working on it, they are gaining experience and developing regulatory and technical solutions.

by asdf on Sun Jun 9th, 2013 at 11:16:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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