Sunday 22 January 2017

Cold, Hard Reality Check

Check that top left-hand dial.  I think we all know this, but it bears repeating:  often, during the coldest periods of winter, the wind just doesn't blow


It's been like this most of the week, BTW.



barnacle bill said...

With tomorrow's weather forecast for the SE & East Anglia it could be "interesting times" for the National Grid.

Anonymous said...

Only a nation, presided over and run by a claque of insane eco nutters would close down reliable coal fired generation plant on the say so of various other alien entity not far from Brussels near Berlin, for some arcane premise, a myth actually and instead of replacing said coal generation with new improved coal fired generation technology would spurn, all that know how to shove £Billions into building something the Victorians jettisoned as soon as they were able to..........

Surely....someone tell me, this is only a fable from some blackest imaginings?

What say St Theresa of Westminster.........."more of the bloody same it is then".

Weekend Yachtsman said...

Gridwatch this morning ( shows Coal at 100%, Gas, Nuclear, and BioMass almost so, and wind at 1.28% producing just 0.62GW.

What happens if one of the stations has to go offline for any reason? I think we can all guess.

This is dereliction of duty, by the State, on a truly heroic scale.

Nick Drew said...

could be interesting this evening

they're keeping up the frequency OK so far - calling on the diesels soon (if not already)

L fairfax said...

What do they replace wind with? Do they just turn up gas and coal?
Is it good for the environment anyway as on windy days we reduce CO2 from gas and coal?
I hope that wind power is a good idea but fear that it isn't.

AndrewZ said...

"What do they replace wind with?"

They use the Short Term Operating Reserve (STOR):

Basically, it's a network of diesel generators. It's much less efficient than a proper power station and much more expensive. It's another way for opportunists to get rich off the taxpayer in the name of ecology.

Nick Drew said...

L Fairfax - your fears are well-founded

(a) wind can be fine, provided it is generated in tandem with appropriate back-up, AND the cost and CO2 etc of that back-up is accounted for as part of this package

if, properly accounted for thus, it is still economic, then I'm all in favour

unfortunately in the UK (and elsewhere) it is anything but accounted for properly - quite the reverse: grid operators go to some lengths to obscure the facts. We are left to guess it's not at all economic

[well, since all wind power requires subsidy, we knew that already, but the full extent of the total effective subsidy (taking into account back-up etc) is obscure - and very complex to calculate, a multi-dimensional issue: for example, when wind is generating lots of electricity, it drives down the wholesale price (sounds good); but in so doing, it makes even very efficient, low-CO2 CCGTs uneconomic, so none get built (bad) ... etc]

(b) yes, they turn up gas and coal, and use the ultra-flexible (but limited in suppy) pumped storage for a few hours

then they move onto banks of small diesel generators (very inefficient, polluting and high CO2)

then they start making factories and other large users stop taking power from the grid - initially, those that have pre-arranged to be willing to be made to do that (for a fee, natch). Many of those will themselves be switching to their own diesels when they come off the grid. [This is "Demand-side Response" - another area of serious difficulty when trying to calculate the trade-offs involved]

finally, they'll be just unilaterally doing *whatever it takes* to keep the lights on for homes & hospitals, i.e. switching off factories whether they like it or not

they would like to be able to turn up imports (from France), but the French nukes are in the merde jut now, so that's not any help this winter

Blue Eyes said...

Looks like we need to burn more coal to heat the planet up. Brr!

Anonymous said...

"I hope that wind power is a good idea but fear that it isn't."

It was a good idea in the Middle Ages. Not in the 20C.

Nuclear power is safe, extremely reliable, and releases no CO2. The problem is the high capital cost, which means that profits come only after a long time. Some of the new designs may be cheaper.

Don Cox

Anonymous said...

I was going to rank this post as "Cool" on your voting scale but somehow it didn't seem quite appropriate. How about Brass Monkeys?

James Higham said...

Yes, it does say it all.

Anonymous said...

transient generating is useless without storage or swing production to fill in the gaps.
the challenge as i see it is that the amount of storage needed to fill a calm week is astonishing with current (lack) of technology.

to run some simple numbers. wiki says lithium ion batteries can store about 250watt hours per kilo. fair enough, lets trust that. you could build a big battery and stick it on you house, like tesla famously does with a powerwall. 150kg battery like that would keep you supplied with 3kw for 12 hours or so, and thats nice if you have panels and a working grid.

but scale up a bit, coal is going for 7giga watts on the above piccy. assume 'we' have built heaps more turbines and solar to replace all the coal permanently. how much current tech battery would we need to say provide 7gw x 24 hrs a day for say 7 foggy january days? quite a lot.

tell me i'm wrong, but 7gigaw * 24 hours * 7 days at 250 w/h/kg suggests a quite astonishing 4.7 MILLION tonnes of lithium ion battery needed to act as the nations battery.

or another way of looking at it, >30 years of all the output from the tesla gigafactory at 35gw h per year.

Thats a lot of battery, or some coal kept on standby.

Anonymous said...

All over this fair land, usually tucked away in some rural area (but always near pylons to which they're connected via transformers) are little compounds full of diesel generators and big tanks of diesel. This is our govts emergency strategy since the Blair era.

The only thing I can't understand is, diesel generators and tanks of diesel in a known location usually present an irresistible target to one particular community. These compounds must have amazing security to keep out the sort of people who are happy to smash a digger into a rural shop's cash machine at 3 a.m - either that or they are being looted and HMG is keeping schtum as with Trident.

Anyone know what the security's like? I can't imagine just a camera and locks doing much to stop the sort of people who'll smash a police helicopter to stop it monitoring them.

Nick Drew said...

Anon @ 9:48 - good point, nicely stated. Storage tech has a long way to go ...

(the solar industry, with its excellent track record of cost-cutting, Moore's Law-style, and with lots of new avenues still being very actively pursued, reckons solar will eventually be so cheap, you won't need storage at all. That's a stretch: but their cost-reduction curve is very impressive)

... BUT there's no accounting for government stupidity (exhibit A: the amounts lavished on early-model solar PV in Europe, etc etc etc)

or even just fashion - witness the inane German trend to install a vastly expensive, avowedly uneconomic battery in the cellar (we wrote abt this back in 2014)

Anon @ 11:41 - very good point, and not one I've seen discussed - shall do some digging. What I would say, of-the-top-of-the-head, is:

- Increasingly, the diesels are 'embedded', i.e. a factory that offers itself for Demand-Side Response payments won't actually be switching off its power when called to come off the Grid, it will switch over to its own diesel, third-world style. I could imagine those are mostly quite secure - though I must say the one at my local hospital looks a bit vulnerable (in physical terms: though the place is manned 24/7 and, it being in the Smoke, at night-time there are usually coppers around bringing the wounded knife-fighters in ...)

- some of the genny parks are on industrial estates, often those new ones on old RAF bases. Nothing is totally secure; but some of these used to be Key Points (in military parlance) and, again, are quite secure

- but, to your point, others are in old quarries, which would seem to be very dodgy

Finally: the *aggregator* firms running these sites (that is, from the power management point of view, not ownership) tend to be pretty cute, and not about to put their payments at risk by failing to deliver when called upon (the penalties for failure have recently been beefed up). he security angle might have occurred to them ...

That said, it's probably a scandal waiting to break

Anonymous said...

" solar will eventually be so cheap, you won't need storage at all."

Cheap panels won't make the Sun shine at night.

Intermittent power is good for tasks that can be done at any time, such as pumping water for irrigation, and perhaps splitting water to release Hydrogen for fuel. It is useless for running a city.

Don Cox

Nick Drew said...

won't make the Sun shine at night

Don, what they mean is, the sun shines somewhere all the time and the electricity can be transmitted from light unto dark

it is of course hyperbole (transmission losses over the distances involved would kill any simple approach to this) but it is stated for effect - another way of saying 'solar power will get very cheap indeed'

fact remains: "if you invent an efficient means of storing electricity, you can name your university after yourself!"

as they say ...

Anonymous said...

I'd have thought any chemical means of storing mega-large quantities of electricity will be inherently dangerous because of what happens in a short - even those house batteries might be vulnerable in a flood. And how would a battery capable of storing say 10 GigawattHours stand up to a missile hit? Not sure it can be done, but there are some clever people in the world.

Safest would be to use the electricity plus some input of carbon/hydrogen (like?) to produce long-chain hydrocarbons i.e. synthetic heating oil that's fairly safe to store.

Anonymous said...

Get the carbon from the air (how?), split water and pinch the hydrogen to make your long-chain hydrocarbons. Use the captured oxygen for efficient combustion when you're generating at night. But in that case why not just remove the carbon from power station stacks, car exhausts, central heating outlet vents i.e. something that a lot of clever chemists can't currently do viably? Just thinking out loud.

rwendland said...

Re STOR (diesel generators etc backup), looking at National Grid's website it seems they contract options for about 2GW of STOR, priced between £67.50 and £178 per MWh for 8 months of the year, and £67.50 - £220 per MWh for 4 months (winter?).

That doesn't seem that terrible to me for a call-up reserve. The lower end contracts are cheaper than baseload Hinkley Point C, which with inflation would be at around £96/MWh now if it was running.

L fairfax said...

I wonder how easy it is to get the lower end contract. I wonder if it is like those very cheap flights you see advertised which all seem to have sold out when you phone up.

rwendland said...

There is a fair bit contracted at the low end price. Figures 4 to 7a of this doc give a pricing overview. 7a in particular is a good summary, picking out a few points from that chart:

Amount available: Price upper-bound

2016 (I think):

500MW: <= £85/MWh
1000MW: <= £130MWh
1500MW: <= £160/MWh
2000MW: <= £165-200/MWh depending on season
2500MW: <= £230/MWh

2017 forthcoming (bids as at Oct2016 I think, looks like more bidding to come):

200MW: <= £80/MWh
500MW: <= £100/MWh
1000MW: <= £170MWh
1500MW-ish: <= £180/MWh
2000MW (winter): <= £250/MWh

rwendland said...

OT: I see the FT reporting on Toshiba's woes is talking about getting out of new nuclear bids and trimming back its nuclear business to "building turbines and other equipment" and maintenance of plant it already built. Unclear yet what this means for the UK subsidiary NuGen and the proposed Sellafield new Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear.

FT says:

[Toshiba] said on Friday it was “re-examining its relationship” with Westinghouse — the struggling US nuclear group in which the Japanese group bought a controlling stake a decade ago.

Analysts identify the Westinghouse deal, which forced Toshiba’s Japanese management to cope with risks they were ill-equipped to handle, as a pivotal moment in Toshiba’s decline. ...

Mr Tsunakawa used Friday’s press conference to apologise for the “damage caused” to investors from the Westinghouse subsidiary, where delays and cost overruns on nuclear construction projects in the US will now be expressed as writedowns that analysts estimate could be as high as $7bn.

Very good job Gordon sold Westinghouse in 2006 for a vast $4.3 billion profit (400%) over 7 years, otherwise we'd be paying the tab Toshiba is now paying.