Saturday, April 27, 2013

UK Energy Policy concerns

Copied from: retain for future reference

"First, we are taking action against CO2 before any catastrophe has been caused by CO2. The government is acting as if the most scary of the CAGW projections (which are not predictions) will come to pass. IT is not waiting to see what happens and adapt as necessary.

Second, as regards the UK energy policy, the writing was on the wall before the Climate Change Act was passed. It has been known for 10 years that our long term planning was defective, and the UK was simply kicking the day when 'difficult' decisions had to be made into the long grass. Those decisions were not 'difficult' from an energy production perspective, but rather from a political perspective and this was only so because the government was so beholden to the greens.

Third, our approach to renewables has always been misguided. It was always patently obvious that windfarms woul never result in reducing CO2 emissions since 100% backup from conventional (ie., CO2 producing) generation was required. If the purpose behind windfarms was to reduce CO2 emissions, right from the outset, it was known that they would not achieve that result.

Fourth, as a matter of design, one does not design an energy generator which is at its weakest when demand is at its strongest. In the UK, energy demand is at its strongest in winter, particularly cold winter nights. These conditions are exacerbated when a blocking high is sitting over the UK. In these conditions, wind generation is at its least efficient!

Fifth, the folly and unsuitability of windfarms was patently obvious from the cold winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11. During those winters for periods of some 4 to 6 weeks, wind was out putting for the majority of the time about 1 to 3% of its installed capacity. I monitored wind on a daily basis and I recall that there were only a few days when it reached up to 8% of installed capacity. Now then if the long term goal is for the UK to produce about 30% of its energy from renewables (this will largely be wind since solar cannot produce energy during winter nights, in winter the hours of day light are short, the low incidence of sunlight at high northern latitudes means that solar produces little power exacerbated by cloudiness - the UK is notoriously cloudy being surrounded by water), it means that wind has to produce about 16GW. If during peak demand wind only outputs say 1% of installed capacity, then the UK requires 1,600GW of installed windfarm capacity. If it is 3% then it requires 533GW of installed wind capacity. So the these two winters taught us that if the UK in the future experiences blocking highs leading to cold winter conditions if the UK installs 1,600GW of wind capacity, it will be able to provie the required 16GW to go into the grid. These two winters patently demonstrated that if we want wind to produce say 16GW, we need to install upwards of 1,600GW of installed capacity. The position could be even worse than that since in the period when windfarms were producing about 1 to 3% of installed capacity, they may have been net drainers on the system since in very cold conditions they need to be heated to prevent damage and the energy for this heating has to come from conventional generation and is therefore a drain on this part of the grid.

Sixth, I accept that those winters were 'unusual'. The winter of 2009/10 was claimed to be a 1 in 30 year occurence. The winter of 2010/11 was claimed to be a 1 in 100 year occurence. However, you cannot design a long term energy system (which is supposed to meet energy demands well into the midpart of this century) if it is incapable of dealing with 1 in 30 events. As any gambler knows, you can have a run of such 'bad luck' so it would be no surpise that in the future to see some morr of these winters.

Seventh, global warming is disengenous as a matter of principle. Global warming is not global but rather it is local and certainly the effects of any climate change is experienced on a local (not global) basis. Whatever is happening to temperatures on a global basis (there has been no global warming for approximately 17 years), as far as the UK is concerned it has been cooling this century. Our energy policy is not taking into account the obvious, namely that the UK is currently experiencing a period when cold weather is likely to become more 'normal' and a period when demand for energy in winter months is likely to rise and when conditions over the UK are likely to be less favourable to wind production.

Eighth, It has been known for a long time that even in ideal conditions the average production from wind generation is only about 22% to 28% of installed capacity such that to produce 16GW of power, one needs to install approximately 64GW of wind farm capacity. It has been known for a long tme that governments have very much underestimated the amount of wind turbines required if this form of energy is to actually (ie., in real world coditions) produce 16GW of grid power.

Ninth, for the past few years, it has been known that wind turbines are not mechanically reliable and their maintenance costs are higher than envisgaed and that maintenance is more dangerous than was envisaged. The upshot of this is that for the past few years it has been known that the life expectancy estimates of 25 years is overly optomistic and a figure of 10 to 15 years is nearer the real life expectancy of these turbines. This means that there will be at least a doubling in the costs of wind energy production.

Tenth, off-shore wind energy is even worse. Anyone who has experience in shipping will know the rigours places on machinery in sea environs and the difficulties in safely carrying out repairs. These difficulties (and consequent expense0 has been grossly underestimated by governments. Indeed, no proper consideration has been given to downtime the costs of this. It is difficult to carry out pre-programmed maintenance since you cannot pre-programme weather conditions. Say a windfarm wishes to carry out 10,000 running hour maintenance in mid July. In April it charters in supply vessels and energinners for for 17th July for 10 days. When 17th July arrives, it is stormy and force 4 or above conditioons are experienced and the work cannot be carried out. It incurs standy/daily hire rates on supply vessels of say $35,000 per day and god knows personnel costs. What happens if it has booked that vessel for 7 days and the weather does not ameiliorate until 28th July. The vessel may not be able to attend between 28th July through to say 4th August since the vessel's owners in april when they were contracted by the windfarm have booked employment for their vessel with someone else from 27th July onwards. So that supply vessel may have to go off-site. The upshot of this is that in real world conditions if on shore wind turbines have a cost effective life expectancy of some 10 to 15 years, then off-shore wind turbines will have a cost effective life expectancy of about 5 to 7 years!! The government does not appear to have taken advice from those involved in shipping and/or off-shore rig production/maintenance.

Now all of these points are blindingly obvious even to a school child. Following the winter of 2010/11 at the very latest, the government should have halted all future windfarm development. I would love to know what the government estiments for winter mortality rates would have been for the winter of 2010/11 if we had experienced those conditions and we only had about 34GW of conventional power generation and we were looking to wind to provide the grid with about 16GW of energy. If the government has not made that assessment, it ought to.

I know that some people consider that we will get power from Europe. Think again, Europe was similarly affected by that blocking high. France only has so much surplus energy and it cannot meet the demands of all other European countries. You can bet your bottom dollar that Germany, Belgium and hooland would all receive French surplus power before the UK does. They are richer than the UK and therefore can out bid the UK for this pawer, and, of course, Germany carries big political power 9there is no way the German chancellor would allow German industry to be closed down for 4 to 6 weeks because it is not getting enougn power). Norway of course has hydro but inwinter due tom the cold (water freezes) it has less spare hydro capacity. Further, Norway has very close ties with Skandinavia and politically it would have to supply Denmark and Sweden with their needs before the UK gets any surplus.

I do not understand how the government has allowed us to get into this position. I do not want to see a catastrophic event. However, the government has been so blinkered by its close connections to the greens, I am fearful that this is what it will take before it appreciates something that has been obvious to any sensible 16 year old for years. Mar 22, 2013 at 10:25 AM | Unregistered Commenter Richard Verney"


Mark Wadsworth said...

Where have you been for the past two years?

Clunking Fist said...

Trolling the net, lurking, United Nations. All the usual!