Sunday, September 23, 2012

Speaking of closing coal plants and 'green' energy,

from Germany and Britain:
...Like all enthusiasts for “free, clean, renewable electricity”, they overlook the fatal implications of the fact that wind speeds and sunlight constantly vary. They are taken in by the wind industry’s trick of vastly exaggerating the usefulness of wind farms by talking in terms of their “capacity”, hiding the fact that their actual output will waver between 100 per cent of capacity and zero. In Britain it averages around 25 per cent; in Germany it is lower, just 17 per cent. 

The more a country depends on such sources of energy, the more there will arise – as Germany is discovering – two massive technical problems. One is that it becomes incredibly difficult to maintain a consistent supply of power to the grid, when that wildly fluctuating renewable output has to be balanced by input from conventional power stations. The other is that, to keep that back-up constantly available can require fossil-fuel power plants to run much of the time very inefficiently and expensively (incidentally chucking out so much more “carbon” than normal that it negates any supposed CO2 savings from the wind).

And one of the other problems: remember various people pointing out the damage that could be done to appliances, a/c systems and such if the electrical companies could screw with the voltage coming in for 'conservation'?
 Now the problem for the German grid has become even worse. Thanks to a flood of subsidies unleashed by Angela Merkel’s government, renewable capacity has risen still further (solar, for instance, by 43 per cent). This makes it so difficult to keep the grid balanced that it is permanently at risk of power failures. (When the power to one Hamburg aluminium factory failed recently, for only a fraction of a second, it shut down the plant, causing serious damage.) Energy-intensive industries are having to install their own generators, or are looking to leave Germany altogether.

Back when Thatcher was PM in Britain, there was a union strike on coal that threatened to shut down steel plants.  Thatcher broke it and got coal to the plants.  Various screaming and moaning was heard about 'attacking poor workers jobs' and so forth, and (for some odd reason...) the media didn't want to report- or talk at all- about the big reason she did it: blast furnaces of that type operate continuously, from the time first fired until they have to be rebuilt; if they have to shut down they have to let them cool completely and rebuild them; that means weeks of downtime.  One thing to deal with when it's planned, one furnace at a time: when they ALL go down(say, due to lack of fuel) it means the NO production, and all the people who work there(except the ones rebuilding the furnaces.  Unless, of course, it can't be done economically and then the whole damn place shuts down permanently) are laid off until the furnaces can go back in production.  It would've been an economic disaster, and the unions knew it and tried to do it anyway.  Here it wasn't planned, but along with aluminum, what other industry can you think of that does not react well to having their power drop unexpectedly?  Even for a few seconds?

We're back to that stuff noted in a post the other day:
I shudder to think of what this is going to do to grid reliability as well. A lot of those coal plants help support the grid during disruptions. They regularly provide both energy and MVARs (Mega Volt-Ampere Reactive) that keep the grid from collapsing when large loads are added or lost. (That’s about as simple as I can make it and still be understood.) Losing these stabilizers will make it very hard to hold the grid. I pity the load dispatchers.
Ignore the 'bird cuisinart' problems of windmills, the territory taken up by solar panels, etc.; the simple fact is that this stuff CANNOT take the place of coal and gas and oil plants.  "But at least it's doing something!" is the kind of response I've had to this; well, got news for you: just because it's 'doing something' does not make it a good idea.


Titan Mk6B said...

Bird cuisinart is pretty good but I like avian cuisinart better.

Luton Ian said...

I was past a new bunch of turbines this morning, they were only commissioned a couple of months back.

The wind wasn't quite gale force, and one of the half dozen or so, shut down as I watched. There's hardly ever a batch of turbines without at least one stopped.

We've got gales and about 4 inches of rain forecast tonight.

You got me thinking, if the wind is strong, and the turbines are all nearing full capacity, there will need to be equivalent capacity warmed up and ready to go, when all of the turbines decide that the wind is too strong and shut down.

for the capacity, the figures I've seen were closer to 12% of capacity for Britain and Ireland, and into single figures for continental Europe (Britain and Ireland get about 90% of Europe's "windpower resource".

With the heavy rainfall forecast, if we'd had a dry summer (it was very wet) the peat on the hills would have dried out.

Disturbance caused by the roads, crane platforms, foundations (wind turbines need huge monolithic concrete block foundations - lots of lovely CO2 from making the cement for them) etc, allows water into the base of the peat, and may have overloaded the lower layers too.

We had some very spectacular peat flows in Ireland, where half a mountainside, and big rafts with trees still standing on them, went flowing off down a river, taking out bridges, suffocating the fish and blocking up water supply intakes.

google Derrybrien, or stacks mountain county Kerry, for some pictures