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So long, and Fanks for all the corrections

More quotes from Sam Fankhauser, carbon economist, and Gordon Hughes, energy economist:

Much has been made of the intermittent nature of wind, which cannot produce electricity reliably on demand. However, the cost penalty and grid system challenges of intermittency are often exaggerated. There are ways of compensating for this variability, such as additional capacity from fossil fuel power plants to meet balancing requirements at peak demand, bulk storage of electricity, greater interconnection, and a more diversified mix of renewable sources, as well as measures to manage demand, like smart grids and improved load management.

Sam Fankhauser, carbon economist

And now Gordon Hughes, energy economist, on additional capacity from fossil fuel backup:

Wind power is intermittent and requires backup sources of power – either gas or coal. These backup sources achieve much lower levels of thermal efficiency – defined as the proportion of the energy content of the fuel that is converted into electricity - than conventional power plants using the same fuel which operate all or most of the time. The loss in thermal efficiency is even greater if the backup sources have to run for extended periods as spinning reserve, using fuel but not delivering power to the grid, in order to smooth fluctuations in either demand or supply from wind sources. Hence, the loss in thermal efficiency when plants run as backup sources may outweigh the reduction in the total amount of power generated from fossil fuels when wind generation is added to the system...

Gordon Hughes, energy economist, on bulk storage of electricity:

The only viable, but politically unrealistic, way of storing intermittent power generation is to build pumped storage schemes in every Highland valley. If onshore wind farms and the associated transmission lines are unpopular, how much more resistance would a commitment to build new pumped storage in every suitable valley generate? Most would have to be in Scotland since locations for large reservoirs with a height difference of 100+ metres are scarce in the rest of the UK.

[One should also note Prof Vahrenholt's calculation that pumping Lake Constance to the top of the highest mountain in Germany would provide that country with just ten days' electricity]

Gordon Hughes, energy economist, on load management:

[T]here have been strong reasons to encourage load shifting for more than 30 years and many efforts have been made to promote it. The practical reality is that the gains tend to be small  while the costs are relatively high. Claims for the savings made possible by “smart” networks are little more than sales talk that ignores the substantial body of evidence based on actual experience.

I wonder if Professor Fankhauser would like a copy of Professor Hughes' report to read?

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Reader Comments (54)

Professor Fankhauser:

... bulk storage of electricity ...

Batteries? Capacitors? Leyden Jars?

Jun 25, 2012 at 9:26 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

I have this soft spot everytime someone quotes Douglas Adams ;).

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

The cost penalty and grid system challenges of intermittency are often exaggerated. Intermittent electric power from renewable sources can be economically stored in the form of phlogiston, which can simply be dephlogisticated during periods of insufficient wind or solar energy.

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterJack Maloney

jferguson, he's talking about big water dams.

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:19 PM | Unregistered CommenterLuis Dias

jferguson said: "Professor Fankhauser: ' ... bulk storage of electricity ... ' Batteries? Capacitors? Leyden Jars?

Mechanical or Hydraulic or Chemical.

The most common, and used for decades, is water storage - typically water is pumped to a high level reservoir at night using surplus electricity, and then turbines are driven by the water as it is released to a lower reservoir during the day. As stated by Hughes, to smooth out the vagaries of the wind a lot of capacity would be required, and is expensive.

However do not rule out developments in Mechanical or Chemical technologies.

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:29 PM | Unregistered CommenterBudgie

Everything Fankhauser says can be used is possible but it all costs money and often huge amounts of it. No one overestimates the cost of wind power. Most including DECC leave out important costs like the additional grid network costs and no one seems to be able to accurately calculate just how much the loss of efficiency in the back up fossil fuel will add to costs.

The bright sparks we have as Government have signed up to 80% renewables so there won't even be back up fossil fuel stations to call in. I can foresee a great market for small deisel generators for reliable home supply and Armageddon for our heavy industry if we continue to live in this dream world.

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterdave

lol: More energy is needed to keep gas/coal standby for when the mickeymouse windmills stop than what the mm windmills actually deliver.

I really would like to see the balanced reporting/business case that was presented to CmDave before he committed himself to this scam.

Can this be FOI'd ?

Or does CmD just, you know, decides something on a jolly day how to compromise our energy for the next 20years?? Has his mgmt reached the intellectual level of a club of empowered females in a chossologee deptmt.

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

Can't you just heat up a big container of CO2 as stored heat, and use that energy later on? I've been told and shown video examples, from Al Gore no less, that CO2 can store heat.

/sarcasm of course.

Truth be told; using excess energy to spit water molecules into Hydrogen and Oxygen might be a better option. The plant has a smaller footprint; the process retains a lot of the energy used to split the molecules in the first place, and allows an easily scalable reconversion back into electricity. Storage is of course dangerous, but this can be accommodated to a degree.

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:43 PM | Unregistered CommenterGreg Cavanagh

the best is to go with the flow and not let it come to your heart..
=> has nobody in the society of dunces thought yet of building mountains in england when there are not enough sites higher than 100m??

We could build a few mountains digging ground up..every spoonful you dig out creates a hole which can immediately play for reservoir as well then.

convince monbiot, article in the graun and indipendent, susan watts can er look at it , and the deal is done. The slopes of the mountain can be used for ski, which is win win.

Jun 25, 2012 at 10:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterptw

When talking of the cost of renewables please note that the cost of the 160 foot pylons they are going to build was not previously included.
Er um if we need these 160 foot pylons through our green and pleasant land in order to get renewable electricity in to our grid, well what have we been doing with it up until now?

Jun 25, 2012 at 11:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterDung

There is another type of pumped storage possible: pumping hot air into underground strata, abandoned mines, salt domes, depleted oil fields, etc., recovery to drive turbines. Especially attractive would be storage in strata under the various parliaments and other governmental establishments like the UN, due to the constant supply of hot air. Even better, if one of these locations were to blow out, it would be a win - win situation.

Jun 25, 2012 at 11:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterEd Caryl

Not only is the storage of wind generated power extremely expensive both financially and environmentally, but it is fundamentally misguided because there is no rational reason for even thinking of doing it in the first place. CO2 is a good not an evil and its increase in the atmosphere is entirely desirable resulting as it does in ever increasing agricultural crop yields.

Jun 26, 2012 at 12:01 AM | Unregistered Commentercerberus

Agreed Mr Cerberus :)

Jun 26, 2012 at 12:32 AM | Registered CommenterDung

Just wondering, does anyone know what the impact would actually be if the current frequency dropped by a few hertz? Old fashioned lightbulbs would brown-out, as would fluorescents, but what about CFLs? A lot of electronic equipment already has dual-mode 50/60hz PSUs, so clearly we could engineer kit for a much greater range of tolerances.

I wonder how much it'll cost to adapt all our usage when they inflict this stuff on us. Better buy shares in power-adapter companies. Still, it'll be cheaper - for the government - to make everyone adapt their electric and electronic devices than to actually build backup generation or storage systems.

Jun 26, 2012 at 2:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterdave

" ' ... bulk storage of electricity ... ' Batteries? Capacitors? Leyden Jars?"--jferguson

I vote for using uranium and eliminating all the Heath Robinson accoutrements.

Jun 26, 2012 at 3:41 AM | Unregistered Commenterjorgekafkazar

From where do people like Fankhauser come? Bulk storage of energy? OK. Fine. Let him build the storage reservoirs or big ass capacitors, or whatever else was in his plans. He did have plans, didn't he?

Jun 26, 2012 at 4:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob

"There are ways of compensating for this variability, such as additional capacity from fossil fuel power plants to meet balancing requirements at peak demand, bulk storage of electricity, greater interconnection, and a more diversified mix of renewable sources, as well as measures to manage demand, like smart grids and improved load management."

Eco babble is I believe a form of address where the addressor parrots long lists of engieering solutions that have no foundation in acutal fact.

I'd be interested to know how much of the output of a 24% efficient power generatore we'd be expected to store for later use. Can't be that much, so maybe capacitors would do the trick, maybe two a couple of 1 farad capacitors is all we need.

Jun 26, 2012 at 6:17 AM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

I don;t know if anyone else has noticed it, but it appears that a key tactic of Agenda 21 has been to exclude professional engineers from the debates over future power systems.

The logic presumably has been that such people would have pointed out the flaws in the thinking such as windmills cause more CO2 to be produced because the thermodynamic efficiency of the rest of the power system is compromised.

I hope the NatWest debacle has concentrated a few political minds on the immense damage power outages will cause to the operation of society.

Jun 26, 2012 at 7:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

There is quite a good report on how the loss of efficiency in running conventional stations as backup to intermittent sources such as wind actually increases the overall CO2 emissions: Hawkins, K. 2010. Subsidizing CO2 emissions via windpower: the ultimate irony. Science and Public Policy Institute Reprint Series, SPPI, Haymarket VA

Jun 26, 2012 at 7:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterThe Iceman Cometh

Dave Cavanagh wrote:

"Truth be told; using excess energy to spit water molecules into Hydrogen and Oxygen might be a better option. The plant has a smaller footprint; the process retains a lot of the energy used to split the molecules in the first place, and allows an easily scalable reconversion back into electricity. Storage is of course dangerous, but this can be accommodated to a degree."

Let's conduct a thought experiment and say that our industrial processes involved in this idea run at 70% efficiency:

Step 1 Electrolyse water and store hydrogen
Step 2 Sometimetime later burn hydrogen and use it to make steam
Step 3 Use steam to drive turbine and generate electricity

If each of these steps runs at this theoretical 70% efficiency, what you get out is 70% x 70% x 70% = 34%

So this isnt actually an energy storage process, it is a device for heating up the environment.

And in the real world 70% efficiency is unrealistically high and would only be achieved in the lab.

There just aint no way round the laws of thermodynamics.

Jun 26, 2012 at 7:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterAsmilwho

dave: 2.14 am: the frequency variation in a synchronous grid is very small; low frequency allows the grid to cope with a shortage of power and vice versa with high frequency. There is a major issue in Germany because the solar cells are designed to trip out at 50.2 Hz. Because there is so much capacity connected to low voltage systems, the tail is wagging the dog.

There is great fear that a cloud leaving the face of the sun will by automatically switching out the solar power source crash the grid. They're retrofitting every solar installation with a centrally-connected soft start/stop facility.

Had professional engineers been involved from Day 1 they would have thought of this. Merkel has sacked her environment minister, a 40-ish greenie lawyer for putting their grid in danger. In the past year it has had 900 'heart attacks': one could be fatal, months with no power.

Jun 26, 2012 at 7:39 AM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

If you are still visiting, I imagine you'll be reading this, I have left a response for you on Delingpole on the Daily Politics.


Jun 26, 2012 at 7:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Synchronous machines regulate the frequency to 50Hz by speeding up or slowing down depending on whether there's too little or too much electrical demand. A control system called a governor is responsible for this. Wind turbines are asynchronous and so do not regulate frequency. You can make them regulate but then you have to curtail them. - they can't maximise their output.

Jun 26, 2012 at 8:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan

Jun 26, 2012 at 7:39 AM | spartacusisfree

Thanks for that information, now stored (unlike surplus wind power) for future reference.


Jun 26, 2012 at 8:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Kevin Myers put it well in the Irish Independent in February:

… windmills are a self-indulgent and sanctimonious luxury whose purpose is to make us feel good. Had Europe genuinely depended on green energy on Friday [early February 2012], by Sunday thousands would be dead from frostbite and exposure, and the EU would have suffered an economic body blow to match that of Japan's tsunami a year ago. No electricity means no water, no trams, no trains, no airports, no traffic lights, no phone systems, no sewerage, no factories, no service stations, no office lifts, no central heating and even no hospitals, once their generators run out of fuel.

Modern cities are incredibly fragile organisms, which tremble on the edge of disaster the entire time. During a severe blizzard, it is electricity alone that prevents a midwinter urban holocaust.

[Wind is] not so much a Renewable as an Unusable, and also an Unpredictable, an Unstorable, and -- normally when it's very cold -- an Unmovable. … Yet you will see nowhere in … the Palace of Westminster, a serious discussion about energy policies … which acknowledges that wind usually doesn't blow when it is very cold, or that even when you have strong and steady winds blowing, you will still have to have created a parallel and duplicate energy supply to provide cover for when the wind stops.

Jun 26, 2012 at 8:41 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

And here's an extract from Ruth Lea's excellent Civitas report (January 2012):

In spells of very cold weather associated with high pressure areas, when there is enhanced demand for electricity, there tends to be very little wind. This analysis was confirmed by BBC weatherman Paul Hudson, who wrote in January 2011:

“...during the recent intense cold weather, it’s been our traditional coal and gas fired power stations that have been working flat out to keep our homes and businesses warm. And for the third winter running, the intense cold has gone hand in hand with periods of little or no wind. This should come as no surprise since prolonged cold is invariably associated with areas of high pressure”.

Wind’s contribution to total electricity output (53,020 Megawatts) on 21 December 2010 was, according to the BBC, 0.04%. This insight is a useful answer to those who say “the wind is always blowing somewhere” in defence of wind-power. In Britain on very cold days it effectively is not.

At present (link) wind is contributing 310 MW (0.8%) to the UK's energy demand (38 GW). Coal is contributing 40.5%.

Jun 26, 2012 at 8:54 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

It is amazing that almost all the authors who say wind turbines are good and no hassle to integrate with the grid are people that don't actually work in the power stations. Their comments would be funny if the situation they are promoting wasn't going to be see tragic.
A grid collapse will cause more than just inconvenience, it will kill people. Unfortunately, it will have to happen before politicians start to listen to the engineers.
Oh and to correct Alan at 8am, the governors are load rather than speed changers. When on the grid, if the frequency drops, the throttles open to increase the load and vice versa. The ratio of speed change to load change is the droop - usually about 5%. Droop is just one of the many things wind turbines can't do.

Jun 26, 2012 at 9:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterChrisM

"not so much a Renewable as an Unusable"

Well put.

WRT pumped storage, this also involves inefficiencies, both when pumping the water uphill and when converting it back to electricity when released, meaning that it loses about a third of the electricity consumed. They're not terribly environmentally friendly to build, either - the Dinorwig project used a million tons of concrete and required the blasting and removal of 12m tons of rock. Oh, and it took ten years...

Jun 26, 2012 at 9:38 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp


"310 MW (0.8%)"

It's getting better, then! For 8 hours last night it was virtually zero.

Jun 26, 2012 at 9:41 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

@ChrisM, I don't think we are in disagreement. The governor increases the mechanical input power when the speed drops (frequency drops). The increase in power will then restore the frequency back towards 50Hz. Wind Turbines (certainly DFIGs and Full-converter types) can provide frequency response, but in order to do this, they have to be curtailed, i.e. they need be operating below their optimum power output, so that they are spilling energy. Then if the frequency drops, they can up their power output. This is a Grid Code requirement in most countries, though hasn't really been used up to this point because the penetration of wind has been pretty low. It could become an issue in the future.

Jun 26, 2012 at 9:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan

"Sam Fankhauser, carbon economist"

Great oxymorons of our time...

Jun 26, 2012 at 9:46 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Dave@2:14 asked:

Just wondering, does anyone know what the impact would actually be if the current frequency dropped by a few hertz? Old fashioned lightbulbs would brown-out, as would fluorescents, but what about CFLs? A lot of electronic equipment already has dual-mode 50/60hz PSUs, so clearly we could engineer kit for a much greater range of tolerances.

I wonder how much it'll cost to adapt all our usage when they inflict this stuff on us. Better buy shares in power-adapter companies. Still, it'll be cheaper - for the government - to make everyone adapt their electric and electronic devices than to actually build backup generation or storage systems.

I've been in electronic engineering for over 25 years. Things like plain incandescant lamps won't be much affected - as the frequency drops you will notice the flicker.

As for everything else, though, a drop in frequency is rather catastrophic. Most devices take the AC power and produce a lower voltage, often DC (CFLs, fluoro lamps... no different story). But every electronic gadget takes the mains, steps it down through the magic of a solid state converter or a transformer, rectifies, and smooths it. The problem is the rectification. You need to go study electronic engineering and understand the peak current pulses - where as frequency drops, peak current pulses go up. This means if the frequency drops enough, you let the smoke out and the product does not work any more (exceed peak current rating).

There is a reason ships and aircraft have their high voltage ac supplies running at 400 Hz: you can make all the power supplies physically SMALLER. (Modern switching regulators have changed this situation a bit bit the general principle still applies.)

However as pointed out by others, frequency changes in a large power grid are catastrophic for other reasons - you can take the grid out before you worry about blowing up Aunty Mabels iPad.

Jun 26, 2012 at 10:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterWally

In an advanced developed economy, affordable reliable energy is an essential: see this one-minute video.

Jun 26, 2012 at 10:57 AM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

"carbon economist" Does that mean well-versed in the black arts?

There is quite a bit more to Sam Fankhauser than this of course.
"IDEAcarbon is pleased to announce the appointment of Samuel Fankhauser as Managing Director (Strategic Advice). Sam, who has worked on climate change since 1990, brings to this position a wealth of both practical and analytical experience. He joins IDEAcarbon from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), where he was Deputy Chief Economist.

A priority for Sam will be the development of CarbonFirst, IDEAcarbon’s premium research product. Modelled on the successful IDEAfirst, CarbonFirst provides senior decision makers with unbiased, high-quality analysis and intelligence from IDEAcarbon’s unrivalled team of analysts and advisors."

As he is also on the UK Climate Change Committee, advising the government on policy, he he can certainly supply the rights sort of market intelligence. He also participated in the 1995, 2001 and 2007 assessments of the IPCC.
"He is a colleague of Lord Stern Chairman of the London School of Economics (LSE) Grantham Institute and author of the influential Stern Review in 2006. He joined IdeaGlobal, the parent company, in 2007, as Vice Chairman. The Grantham Institute was set up in 2008 by Jeremy Grantham, chairman and co-founder of GMO, a $140 billion global investment management company based in Boston with offices in London, San Francisco, Singapore, Sydney and Zurich. He funds amongst others, WWF-US and Environmental Defense. WWF President Carter Roberts and Environmental Defense President Fred Krupp, are both on the management board of the Grantham Institute along with Grantham himself."

The UNFCCC Secretary, Christina Figueres, worked for Idea Carbon before taking up her present job.

Fankhauser is listed as an Acting Co-Director of the Grantham Institute, He is chief economist to GLOBE International, and wrote about climate change legislation last year: "Legislating Climate Change on a National Level"

"Yet national legislation is as critical to combating climate change as a successful international agreement. International commitments have little meaning unless they are underpinned by legislative action at the national level.

More subtly, national legislation can alter the dynamics at the international level. Domestic debate can help to advance national positions and give leaders the confidence to go further in the formal UN negotiations. These dynamics are particularly important at a time when international progress is slow."

A very influential man.....

This is the GLOBE International mission statement:

“Without the burden of formal governmental negotiating positions, legislators have the freedom to push the boundaries of what can be politically achieved. GLOBE’s vision is to create a critical mass of legislators within each of the parliaments of the major economies that can agree common legislative responses to the major global environmental challenges and demonstrate to leaders that there is cross-party support for more ambitious action. All major government policy decisions should be consistent with climate change goals.”

You can read more about them here:
"United (Socialist) Nations"

Jun 26, 2012 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA

the frequency variation is a direct proxy for the kinetic energy stores in the network , which are the vast turbines at one end and the many washing machine motors at the other end, that exchange energy.

What you can expect with the dunces clunking in parasitic windmills is that this sophisticated mechanism will get disturbed and we will get:
1. higher f variations
2. blackouts.
3. investments to prevent blackouts that will equal to the amount invested in the windmills

the only possibility for keeping the energy supply stable and within specs is blackouts.

Jun 26, 2012 at 11:34 AM | Unregistered Commenterptw

If a considerable number of people buy fossil-fuelled generators to home produce electricity then governments will regard this as outright subversion of the great crusade to de-carbonise the economy and will move to stop it by taxes, licensing or prohibition. They will even, if need be, create the post of Generator Finder General backed by a fleet of infra-red seeking helecopters and an army of paid informers.

Obviously it would never come to that. (?)

Jun 26, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterBob Layson

I define people like Fankhauser as anti-Technocrats. Those who from a shared misconception that they can replace experienced engineers because their knowledge is past its sell-by-date, set out from imaginary moral superiority to create a Sunlit Uplands' Power System where they can simply order in technology when needed. After all, we dumped that lot on the coolies to reduce wages!

The excluded grey heads have at last woken up to impending disaster and are confronting the ignorant. I'm pleased Fankhauser allowed a posting telling him the windmills can't work, the programme must stop and we must need efficient CCGTs whilst we develop nuclear, solar, fuel cells and tidal.

However, these people have had 20 years to create this disaster, already happening in Germany where E.ON and RWE have no capital to do what the Greens want: Germany is de industrialising.

Jun 26, 2012 at 12:03 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

The power from a wind generator is proportional to the cube of the windspeed, which doesn't help with power fluctuations on the grid. The wind speed halves and the power drops to 12.5% of the previous value. The wind speed doubles and the power increases to 800% of the previous value.

Jun 26, 2012 at 12:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterAndrewS

Look, you lot - you've got it all wrong about wind power.
The Climate Change Act must be precisely that - there must be a clause in there somewhere which states that, as from 2020, the wind will blow steadily at 25 knots across the whole country 24/7. Stands to reason - otherwise the whole premise is - er - so much hot air.
To quote verbatim from an e-mail from a Mr Shah at the Department of Energy and (see..!) Climate Change:
'Wind will be a key component in meeting the UK's 2020 target for energy from renewable sources and onshore wind could deliver around 15% of the required total.'
Told you - they've got it all worked out in the DECC. Forget these little 'blips' when wind delivers next to sweet FA - they will all be forgotten by 2020 when the Climate Change Act is in full swing.
Now - about the euro....

Jun 26, 2012 at 1:12 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

By the way - got a 3.6kW generator squirrelled away in my garage - just in case this government has REALLY lost the plot on electricity supply security (perish the thought) and we start getting power cuts...

Jun 26, 2012 at 1:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid

It's like witnessing a motorway pile up in slow motion, and not being able to do a thing to stop it.

Jun 26, 2012 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterfenbeagle

Very true: the pile-up was orchestrated by Denmark which by 2004 knew windmills increased CO2 emissions when coal power ramped up and down. So, they keep them at constant output and dump wind above ~10% to Nordic hydro. They kept quiet and got Hedegaard to repeat the lie. As she is non-technical she was easy to fool. The Danish Energy Agency funded slander against Svensmark.

The Germans were involved because of Siemens and have come a real cropper. It's because the lawyer environment minister didn't know what he was doing and Merkel was too busy with the Euro. Closing the nukes led to them having to dump excess wind energy to Poland. When the Poles stopped it to save their grid, the German grid went unstable. They fix it 3 times a day. Last month, Merkel sacked the lawyer and the Grid Committee announced the crisis. if it grid fails, Europe shuts down.

We have a desperate race against time with the Germans negotiating pump storage in Norway so they can save any CO2 and own the potential energy. Denmark and Holland give the wind surges away.

Jun 26, 2012 at 4:13 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

The Texas electric grid (ERCOT) has spent $5 billion reinforcing the high voltage power grid to bring wind generation located in remote west Texas to the load centers. The cost is "socialized" to all end users and presently hidden by the decrease in natural gas prices occuring across the U.S. from the boom in shale gas production. The coincident on-peak summer contribution of wind generation capacity in ERCOT is less than 5%..

Jun 26, 2012 at 4:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterTomH


Germany's problem was highlighted last week by the news magazine FOCUS asserting that its energy policy "is unaffordable and threatens to ruin the country". Describing renewables as having “highway bridges without highways”, it warns that Germany’s once super stable power grid, once a model of stability and reliability, is now on the brink of collapse:

If next winter turns out to be a harsh one and the power fails and leaves citizens out in the cold, then there are going to be lots of angry people. Germany’s social powder is tinder dry.
Senior SPD official (and leading "green"), Sigmar Gabriel, having described Germany’s handling of its power system as being as precarious as “operating on an open heart”, added, “900 interventions to prop up the power grid in what was a relatively mild winter makes me nervous.”

Jun 26, 2012 at 6:09 PM | Registered CommenterRobin Guenier

Agreed, and what makes it worse for the Germans is the realisation that Rahmsdorf and PKI have systematically deceived Der Volk and are pushing for a return to fascism to counter the Sky Dragon!

We face these challenges next year. Part has been offset by extending the nuclear plants but the loss of coal plants will create a price spike and lack of supply.There is a potential fix but if Hollande closes down half French nuclear, we'd have to develop the factories on a war-time command economy basis.

And no, the factories won't make windmills......

Jun 26, 2012 at 6:33 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree


Jun 26, 2012 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterRobin Guenier

Let's conduct a thought experiment and say that our industrial processes involved in this idea (electrolysis for energy storage) run at 70% efficiency:

If we are storing intermittent energy via electrolysis I woudl expect the energy recovery to be through a fuel cell, or something similar, not combustion either in a conventional boiler or turbine. Figures I saw some time ago indicated a round-trip efficiency somewhere in the low 80% range, although I believe that was for a mobile application: that is, a home electrolyser would create H2 and O2 which could be pressurized and used to fuel a vehicle powered by a fuel cell. Understandably, the electrolyser supplier was somewhat... reticent on the subject of losses and efficiency. No doubt, some of the losses came from pressurizing the H2 and O2, which is at a premium for a mobile use. In a stationary application you don't have to get to the same pressures - but you still have to trade of compression losses versus capital cost of tankage...

That's not much different for pumped-storage losses (in the 85% range), but your energy source has to be very cheap indeed if you are willing to throw away ~20% of it - and that's the best case! No storage technology makes an intermittent resource into a 'flat block' - it just makes it (slightly) less horribly intermittent. On those three or four windy days when the H2 tanks (or the upper reservoir) are all full you go back to wasting even more energy, and on the eight or nine calm days when the storage is all empty you wish there was some way to get the losses back!

Jun 26, 2012 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered Commenterdcardno

Possibly huge clockwork spring activated machines could be built into the nacelle of each windmill and left to tighten up until there is a desperate need for electricity. The mechanism could then be remotely activated to operate the generating engine to supply badly-needed electricity. The additional noise created by these mechanisms could operate as a safety warning to the rare species of bats and birds endangered by these windmills. Alternatively we could just regain our senses and switch to concentrating on solving real-world problems again.

Jun 26, 2012 at 9:26 PM | Unregistered Commentern w tesdorf

The best efficiency you get in electrolysing water is ~50%, being developed commercially in Sheffield. With a Ni cathode and a RuIr oxide anode, it's much lower. For 80% you need a fuel cell in reverse because the higher the temperature, the lower the irreversible/entropic losses ['overvoltage'].

It's far better to catalytically reform methane or burn coal in steam to get hydrogen and to store off-peak nuclear power in pumped storage, which is 70% efficient. However, Dinorwig took 12 years to build , uses 1 million tonnes of concrete and they had to shift 12 million tonnes of rock. Anyone who thinks such massive civil engineering is easy is clueless in the extreme.

Jun 26, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterspartacusisfree

Simple soloution to all this

Germany England and pretty much the rest of Europe
Buy your Nuclear power in from France
Mercy beui coup

Jun 26, 2012 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterJamspid

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