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wili

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #100 on: August 31, 2013, 09:01:51 PM »
OK, I broke down and consulted the Great Oracle, Wikipedia, and found:

'Wind power market penetration is expected to reach 3.35 percent by 2013 and 8 percent by 2018'

Electricity Generation from Solar[29]
Year    Energy (TWh)    % of Total
2005    3.7            0.02%
2006    5.0            0.03%
2007    6.7            0.03%
2008    11.2         0.06%
2009    19.1            0.09%
2010    30.4            0.14%
2011    58.7            0.27%
2012    93.0            0.41%


So recent values of % of total power are a bit better than I had been quoting, according to this source, .4% for solar in '12 and 3.3% for wind by the end of '13, so probably collectively they are over 4% already, or will be soon.

Even better news is that they are on a trajectory that should make them major players in just a few years:

8% for wind by 2018 according to this source. Furthermore:

GE has installed a prototype wind turbine with onboard battery similar to that of an electric car, equivalent of 1 minute of production. Despite the small capacity, it is enough to guarantee that power output complies with forecast for 15 minutes, as the battery is used to eliminate the difference rather than provide full output. The increased predictability can be used to take wind power penetration from 20 to 30 or 40 per cent. The battery cost can be retrieved by selling burst power on demand and reducing backup needs from gas plants.


So if wind keeps doubling about every four years, and these innovations allow to reach 40% penetration, we could get there by about 2027 or so. (And keep in mind that there are other means of getting storage available already, and surely this will not be the last innovation in this area.)

As for solar, if it keeps on its doubling-to-tripling-every-two-years rate it has had for the last few years, it could surpass wind by 2020 or shortly there after, at which point, together they would make up about a quarter of all power sources in the world.

Of course, various factors could come along to slow or accelerate these levels of growth.

"General Electric's Chief Engineer predicts grid parity without subsidies in sunny parts of the United States by around 2015." That could be a major accelerant in the near future.

But none of this makes terribly much difference unless we start actually retiring coal plants in droves and start using much less oil; basically, until we stop UNsequestering carbon at the massive rate of 10+ billion tons per year.

When I starting hearing about discussions of whether the UN or other entities should go in to bomb a coal mine or oil derrick because it operating them comprised a violation of international law, then I will know that we have become serious about reducing (however marginally at that point, since we are starting 40-50 behind schedule) future horrors of ourselves and our children.

I'm not holding my breath.

(It all reminds me of that line from the Dylan song, "You ain't goin' nowhere":

THE BYRDS /// 1. You Ain't Goin' Nowhere - (Sweetheart Of The Rodeo) - (1968)


We'll climb that hill, no matter how steep,
After we're way past it.

ETA: I see that the second line is a variation from the original, which said, "When we come up to it." I find the variation more fitting and more interesting. )
« Last Edit: August 31, 2013, 09:45:08 PM by wili »
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

JimD

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #101 on: September 03, 2013, 10:29:05 PM »
As the world swelters, so will energy demand rise: the heat extremes generated by climate change are likely to raise the global demand for air conditioning by 72 percent. So people will generate more heat and release more carbon dioxide just to stay cool as the thermometer soars.


Right now, the U.S. uses more energy to keep cool than all the other countries in the world combined.....
In all, 87 percent of U.S. households now have air conditioning and it takes 185 billion kilowatt hours of energy annually to keep American homes cool. But other countries have begun to turn down the thermostat. In 2010 alone, 50 million air conditioning units were sold in China. Air conditioning sales in India are growing at 20 percent a year....
.....Out of his top 25 countries, 14 were in Asia, seven in Africa and two each were in North and South America. The U.S. has the coolest climate of these 25 countries, even though it has the highest demand for cool indoor breezes.

Altogether, he reasoned, eight of the world’s nations have the potential to exceed U.S. air conditioning use: India would surpass the U.S. 14-fold if Indians adopted U.S. standards of cooling; China more than five times and the Indonesians three times.

Because 22 of the 25 countries are by World Bank definition low-income nations, demand is currently nowhere near its potential peak. But, he writes, future demand has the potential to exceed demand in the U.S. by a factor of 50.


Consider the impact this will have on trying not to add capacity but to use new capacity to eliminate coal/fossil fuel burning.   Thus we demonstrate another one of the downsides to rising affluence (every silver lining has a cloud).

http://www.climatecentral.org/news/air-conditioning-rise-may-raise-temperatures-16418
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #102 on: September 04, 2013, 09:49:43 PM »
The Alternative Energy Matrix

Another article from Tom Murphy a physics professor at UCSD.

Excellent read.  One of the best surveys of the potential alternative energy technologies and their prospects for impacting our energy needs I have ever seen.  Well worth the read to see how your favorite technology stacks up under analysis.  Note:  he does not take AGW into account in how it could impact the ranking of technologies - probably to hard to determine for a short work like this one.

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2012/02/the-alternative-energy-matrix/
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

JimD

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #103 on: September 06, 2013, 06:31:50 PM »
Ivanpah - worlds largest solar thermal plant in Mojave Desert

(if this has been posted before I apologize but I could not find it anywhere)

Click through the pictures at top of 2nd link page.  Awesome infrastructure.  300,000 mirrors  Note that the link indicates that the workers are installing 500 mirrors a day and at that rate it takes 600 days to install all of them.  wow

A 377 megawatt net solar complex using mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers.


The Mojave Desert is blooming. Construction crews are erecting mirrors —each measuring 70 square feet—at a rate of 500 per day across some 3,500 acres. When completed in late 2013, the $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System—the largest of its type in the world—will power 140,000 California homes.


http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/ivanpah-solar-project

http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/renewable-energy/see-worlds-largest-thermal-solar-plant-370mw-under-construction-mojave-desert/
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

Shared Humanity

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #104 on: September 07, 2013, 02:09:29 AM »
Ivanpah - worlds largest solar thermal plant in Mojave Desert

(if this has been posted before I apologize but I could not find it anywhere)

Click through the pictures at top of 2nd link page.  Awesome infrastructure.  300,000 mirrors  Note that the link indicates that the workers are installing 500 mirrors a day and at that rate it takes 600 days to install all of them.  wow

A 377 megawatt net solar complex using mirrors to focus the power of the sun on solar receivers atop power towers.


The Mojave Desert is blooming. Construction crews are erecting mirrors —each measuring 70 square feet—at a rate of 500 per day across some 3,500 acres. When completed in late 2013, the $2.2 billion Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System—the largest of its type in the world—will power 140,000 California homes.


http://www.brightsourceenergy.com/ivanpah-solar-project

http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/renewable-energy/see-worlds-largest-thermal-solar-plant-370mw-under-construction-mojave-desert/


Whenever I read about these extraordinary engineering masterpieces, I wonder about whether they are built to withstand extreme weather. Fukushima is a vivid example of when these considerations are not taken into account. Any sense as to whether the design is resilient?

Vergent

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #105 on: September 07, 2013, 03:37:56 AM »
Whenever I read about these extraordinary engineering masterpieces, I wonder about whether they are built to withstand extreme weather. Fukushima is a vivid example of when these considerations are not taken into account. Any sense as to whether the design is resilient?
SH,

While I am not a big fan of active mirror arrays, I find your comparison to Fukushima puzzling. There are no kilotons of radioactive waste to make a nightmarish aftermath. At worst, after the f5 tornado, they will have a big non-radioactive recycling job.

Here in California, we also have wind farms. The first small units are still producing and have long past their break even point, they are now making profit. I hope this project reaches that point. But, like you I have doubts. However, the failure scenarios are nothing like Fukushima.

Vergent

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #106 on: September 07, 2013, 06:10:11 AM »
Whenever I read about these extraordinary engineering masterpieces, I wonder about whether they are built to withstand extreme weather. Fukushima is a vivid example of when these considerations are not taken into account. Any sense as to whether the design is resilient?

Since when was anything built to withstand extreme weather - past a point where the architects and engineers expected it to be so exceptionally rare it might as well never happen (if the climate wasn't changing - I'm not sure an earthquake induced tidal wave is precisely the strongest lead into extreme weather here)?

Every country pretty much has built their infrastructure within the parameters dictated to engineering for their climate, and it isn't cost effective to go into the realms of what would've been never never land at the time a lot of the infrastructure was being conceived.

Consider that in the UK during heat waves, the roads can start to melt - even though in much hotter countries they don't. That's because the formulation used in the UK is more suited to cooler and sometimes freezing weather than to very hot weather.

Consider that even in Australia railway lines can buckle during recent heat waves and power sub stations get overloaded. Again - they were built to go up to a certain point and not beyond.

In all cases, our infrastructure stands to be rapidly degraded past a point - even things that people might not usually give a second thought as they view the infrastructure as just dumb lumps of matter - eg railway lines, roads, bridges, etc

Moreover, as resources deplete and costs rise (and other matters occupy the attention of the powers that be) - I think it unlikely it will be fixed as fast as it breaks or rebuilt stronger.

As a global civilisation predicated upon consumption, we are going to eat ourselves - once we have nothing else to consume.

TerryM

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #107 on: September 07, 2013, 09:42:06 AM »
I sailed Ivanpah Dry Lake for years. The winds from the north are strong almost every evening in the summer. When the winds really blowing you have to set the brakes on your pickup truck or it will blow away across the lakebed. Another problem with the local is that it floods badly about once every ten years. When it floods the sand/clay is extremely expensive and extremely soft, walking out you can sink in past your knees, a vehicle will sink to the frame. It generally takes a month before it's solid enough to walk on again. The lake bed is surrounded by mountains and while flash floods don't occur because of the flat terrain it fills with water whenever it rains in the valley or higher on the slopes.
It's not a location I would chose for anything much more permanent than a tent. I have to assume that the people that built this are aware of the unique problems that the area presents & have designed something that will stand up to the conditions that until the recent 20 year drought were regular occurrences.
Terry

Vergent

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #108 on: September 07, 2013, 12:27:25 PM »
What could go wrong? 2,100,000 years of bad luck.

V ;-)

JimD

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #109 on: September 07, 2013, 04:56:27 PM »
Terry

I Google Earthed the plant and it is several miles west of the dry lake bed towards the mountains.  Just north of Interstate 15 about 6-8 miles from Primm, NV.   So it looks like the location is not prone to anything but runoff from rains and there would be no pooling of water there.  I am sure it is just as windy though.

BTW I think you guys might have misunderstood the slant of SH's comment on engineering standards.  I think SH was really wondering if the large engineering projects of today were adjusting their safety factors to take into account the changing climate.  Not that there was a Fukushima type danger if this plant was destroyed by bad weather, but that this is a very expensive development (2.2 billion) and we better make sure it does not blow down in the wind.  This is a good question and, in a way, it isn't a question but rather a statement that all engineering projects should be adjusting their safety factors in light of the changes that are coming.  We are going to be very constrained on resources and we will regret it if we have to spend them rebuilding infrastructure that a good design would have saved from destruction (a la Fukushima).
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

TerryM

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #110 on: September 07, 2013, 10:35:08 PM »
Jim


I took the time (finally) to google the sight & it is to the west of the worst area. We used to sand sail from the present site of the Stateline Casino (formerly a very small bar/casino called The Towers) almost to Nipton. They held the "America's Cup" for land sailing there and many of us practised on most summer weekends. It was a hoot racing up to the Towers, tying your sand sailer to the hitching post and chugging a few cool ones after a day of emulating Ray Bradbury's Martians.
A herd of longhorns returned to Yates Wells in the late afternoon. Zipping through them with a red sail was fun until the wind suddenly died and you were faced with a few hundred aggravated bovines with horns longer than you were tall.
Prim, the resort near the new structure was built on the flat ~25 years ago by hauling in mountains of fill. I don't think they've had a flood that overwashed I 15 since that time although there were several prior to the 90's. The drought in the area has been longstanding.
They had an solar mirror array to the south near the Marine Base at Barstow. It operated for a decade or so, then was removed. They tried a wind turbine near that site also but it was blown down in a gust.
I loved the dry lake beds, particularly Ivanpah, and hate to see the development that's taken place on it's fringe. I am relieved that they stayed west of the freeway & hope they have enough elevation to keep them out of the quagmire when a good rain hits the area.


Forgive the ramble, I'm missing the desert.
Terry




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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #111 on: September 07, 2013, 11:43:00 PM »
BTW I think you guys might have misunderstood the slant of SH's comment on engineering standards.  I think SH was really wondering if the large engineering projects of today were adjusting their safety factors to take into account the changing climate.  Not that there was a Fukushima type danger if this plant was destroyed by bad weather, but that this is a very expensive development (2.2 billion) and we better make sure it does not blow down in the wind.  This is a good question and, in a way, it isn't a question but rather a statement that all engineering projects should be adjusting their safety factors in light of the changes that are coming.  We are going to be very constrained on resources and we will regret it if we have to spend them rebuilding infrastructure that a good design would have saved from destruction (a la Fukushima).

With the exception of the Svalbard seed vault I can't think of much (anything?) that's really climate proofed. I can't see any chance - given the same short term consumer capitalistic thinking driving this major mess - of a conservative and more (short term) expensive attitude being employed towards infrastructure in the context of climate change.

Consequently I expect most nations to continue with business as usual, cut every corner they can, take the IPCC forecasts and plan those in for infrastructure at most (with local modelling where available). This may be expected to result in lots of unwelcome surprises - but again - if they take years of decades to manifest - the original parties who built or decided upon the infrastructure specifications (or surrounding regulations) have likely escaped or can escape culpability.

Shared Humanity

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #112 on: September 08, 2013, 04:43:59 AM »
Terry

I Google Earthed the plant and it is several miles west of the dry lake bed towards the mountains.  Just north of Interstate 15 about 6-8 miles from Primm, NV.   So it looks like the location is not prone to anything but runoff from rains and there would be no pooling of water there.  I am sure it is just as windy though.

BTW I think you guys might have misunderstood the slant of SH's comment on engineering standards.  I think SH was really wondering if the large engineering projects of today were adjusting their safety factors to take into account the changing climate.  Not that there was a Fukushima type danger if this plant was destroyed by bad weather, but that this is a very expensive development (2.2 billion) and we better make sure it does not blow down in the wind.  This is a good question and, in a way, it isn't a question but rather a statement that all engineering projects should be adjusting their safety factors in light of the changes that are coming.  We are going to be very constrained on resources and we will regret it if we have to spend them rebuilding infrastructure that a good design would have saved from destruction (a la Fukushima).

This was exactly my point. Over $2 billion and 2 years to complete. Heaven help us if there is a massive storm with grapefruit sized hail and 90 mph winds.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #113 on: September 08, 2013, 01:20:05 PM »
FERC chairman Jon Wellinghoff thinks "Solar Is Going to Overtake Everything"

There are a couple of provisos though:

If FERC does not ensure the grid is ready to integrate the growing marketplace demand for distributed solar and other distributed resources we are going to have problems with grid reliability and overall grid costs.

Rate structures need to be formulated in ways that fully recognize the costs and benefits of distributed resources. In many utility retail rates, a disproportionate amount of the fixed costs are recovered through a variable rate. That is problematic when a lot of people go to distributed generation.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Albert Einstein

wili

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #114 on: September 08, 2013, 01:25:01 PM »
"if there is a massive storm with grapefruit sized hail and 90 mph winds."

But that could never happen.

Could it??

http://www.businessinsider.com/tornado-and-hail-storm-granbury-texas-2013-5

On Wednesday night, hail the size of grapefruits rained down on Granbury, Texas, right before as many as three tornadoes rolled through the town, resulting in at least six confirmed deaths
"A force de chercher de bonnes raisons, on en trouve; on les dit; et après on y tient, non pas tant parce qu'elles sont bonnes que pour ne pas se démentir." Choderlos de Laclos "You struggle to come up with some valid reasons, then cling to them, not because they're good, but just to not back down."

JimD

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #115 on: September 08, 2013, 05:21:45 PM »
ccg

Don't forget the insurance industry.  They have a big impact on the engineering safety factors used in designs.  I would expect for some years yet that the insurance factor will keep things from being built too cheap.  Look at the changes which occurred in Florida and along the rest of the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Andrew.  All new houses built there since can withstand much higher winds (Cat 4 I believe) than before (so they will be there until slr washes them away).

Looking around a bit I found the following.

Atlanta, GA (May 24, 2011) – Beecher Carlson, an industry specialized insurance brokerage and risk management consulting firm, announced that it has brokered a customized solution to mitigate warranty risk for the solar field components at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS). Construction began in October 2010 on the Ivanpah project in California’s Mojave Desert.

The extended warranty is a product that mitigates long term warranty and serial defect risk.  It is customized to cover defects in design, materials and workmanship for all manufactured solar components and design specifications.  The policy extends coverage for serial defects, as well as costs incurred for research, re-design and re-engineering.


That being said I think ccg has a point also as I found the following as well.

The entire site has been graded and a series of flood protection berms and channels have been created in order to drain rainfall and control flash flooding for the 100 year event.  The average precipitation is 8.3 inches a year and the 100 year rain event is 3.33 inches in 24 hours.  The flood control berms are 10 ft high and the channels are 2 ft deep and 40 ft wide and are designed to take the flood waters and divert them around the site and on downhill to the lake bed.  The roads servicing the site are not up to this grade of protection however.

The point could be made that they should have planned for a 500 year flood vice a 100 year flood.  But there is also the point that climate projections for this area in the future are deep drought and one might expect less rainfall (but why not make the berms 15 ft high and the channel 5 ft deep and 80 ft wide.  It is just moving dirt.

I think the big item we are wondering about is the heliostats (the structure that holds 2 of the mirrors) of which there are 175,000 and whether they might blow down in the wind.  These look just like the structures used all over the southwest to hold the large solar panels.

I note that the world record for land speed by a wind powered craft was set on the lake bed here in 2009 at 126 mph (Terryyyyyyyeee!!!...phft!...wow! Who would have known there were that many pieces in one of those things!).

I spent a fair amount of time looking for wind specs on the heliostat's and could not find any actual design specs but we know they took this into mind.  I did find a very involved mechanical engineering research paper, performed by Colo State for Sandia National Labs, on calculating wind loads on heliostats to cover all situations.  Full of calculus and wind tunnel tests which provides a set of formulas to enter in wind data that return structure load figures for every conceivable situation.  It even include separate formulas for the heliostats which were on the end of the rows or in the middle of the rows.  Comprehensive.  So, unless they were stupid and punched in the wrong wind values they should be able to get the proper design specs drawn up. 
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

ghoti

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #116 on: September 08, 2013, 08:44:15 PM »
I'd like to point out something that's seems to have been left unsaid here. If the engineering projections turn out to have underestimated the severity of some weather event and the site is damaged what are the consequences to everyone in the surrounding area? Practically no consequence. It becomes a business and insurance problem for a few. Shall we compare this with the effects and cost of nuclear plants with problems (eg. San Onofre) or the continuous consequences of coal generation plants.

You can't engineer for every scenario but you can choose the more benign technology options.

domen_

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #117 on: September 08, 2013, 09:16:58 PM »
If whole world would get power from nuclear then all of the uranium reserves would perish in 20 years. And that's only beginning of problems with nuclear. Other significant problems are high cost and radioactive waste.

I don't see any other serious options than renewables. They're cheaper, they're plenty, they're scalable, they can be deployed fast enough (which nuclear cannot), they have very low impact on environment. The only problem seems to be intermittency. But batteries will solve this as soon as mass production kicks in. Germany started subsidies for batteries a couple of months ago and it seems they'll be on the frontier of progress again.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #118 on: September 08, 2013, 11:17:27 PM »
While I doubt that hail will be a problem having never experienced any in the 30+ years I lived in the area I do worry about rainfall and winds. I was never able to coax my sand sailer much above 80 MPH, but speeds in excess of 60 (100 KPH) were very common. I did pilot the craft that had won the America's Cup the previous year and it was capable of 100 MPH speeds with the right combination of wind and piloting skill.
Dust devils are common in the summer but i don't know if their wind speeds exceed the winds that funnel down through the canyons due to pressure differentials. In 1994 winds associated with a thunderstorm did $50 million in damage in nearby Las Vegas. 84 MPH gusts have been recorded in Las Vegas, but Ivanpah's winds are much stronger.

As I see the flooding problem it's that the dry lake bed is the lowest elevation for miles in all directions. When it rains water runs off, races through gullies and finds it's way to the low area. The soil is an extremely expansive mix of sand and clay and when it expands by up to 50% it heaves whatever structures are on it similar to the way structures built on melting permafrost are tossed about in slow motion.
The rail line to the east of the valley carefully stayed at a higher elevation, then raised the tracks about 10 feet from this base. Trains are required to creep through that stretch because of the flexing that the tracks faced whenever moisture is present.
The annual rainfall figures are deceptive in that all the rain generally comes at one time. You will have 51 weeks without precipitation, then one week in which everything is inundated. The Nelsons Landing flash flood was east of this location and resulted in the removal of a community, buildings roadways and people (9 dead?) in the early 70's. The 40 foot wall of water turned a gently sloping valley into a rugged canyon with tall hoodoos standing to commemorate where the surface of the land had been.
Ivanpah dry lake bed is the second valley west from Nelson.
When flooding does occur those who say little damage will be done to anything other than the solar installation are correct. Cactus Kate's and Whiskey Pete's were originally portable structures designed to be abandoned if the water suddenly rose. There's little evidence that paleo people utilized the area since flooding removed whatever evidence might have been found. Nearby dry lakes are replete with stone fishing weirs and at least one huge freshwater clam midden left by people in more pulluvila times. Ivanpah is almost unique in showing no evidence of ancient habitation, in my mind evidence of very destructive inundations in the past.
I recognize that solar is the future and that insolation in the Mojave is among the highest in the world. I do wish that they would build them at higher elevations relative to the local terrain. As weather becomes less predictable building in areas that have in the past been underwater isn't any more sensible than building permanent structures on a floodplain near a major river.
Terry

JimD

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #119 on: September 12, 2013, 05:50:29 PM »
Well!!  This ought to generate some comments.

(disclaimer: I am not advocating for the position the article takes, but it sure points out the other side of the German wind/solar program which we do not hear much about.)

Romantic Germany risks economic decline as green dream spoils

Heading for a train wreck?  Or not?

Chancellor Angela Merkel tied a deadweight around the ankles of her country when she suddenly - and flippantly - abandoned her nuclear policy after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011. “This has forever changed the way we define risk,” she said at the time. “It’s over.”....

....Eight nuclear reactors were shut immediately, the rest to be wound down by 2022. This will cut off a fifth of Germany’s total power. To global astonishment - and the Left’s chagrin - she then unveiled her Faustian “Energiewende”, the grand plan to derive half of all German electricity from wind, solar, biomass and other renewables by 2035, and 80pc by the middle of the century.  The assumption was that Germany would gain a “first-mover” lead in renewables, reaping the reward later. They overlooked the Chinese,  who copied the technology. Chinese firms gouged the German home market with the aid of cheap labour, a cheap yuan, cheap state credit and a global trade system that let them get away with it.

The German solar industry has been smashed. QCells, Conergy, Solon and Solarworld have all gone bust or faced debt restructuring. The subsidies for feed-in tariffs have been leaked abroad. Eight of the world’s 10 biggest solar firms are now Chinese.

......Utilities are turning to coal - and cheap lignite, emitting 30pc more CO2 - to plug the gap. Germany’s greenhouse emissions rose 1.6pc last year.....
....Sudden surges of power - the intermittency effect - are overloading the grid and crippling utilities E.ON and RWE. The pair have threatened to shut down 21,000MW of power plants.....

....Electricity prices are twice as high as in America. Natural gas costs are four times as high, forcing the chemical giants of the Ruhr and the Rhine to decamp across the Atlantic. BASF is building its new site for emulsion polymers in Texas, the latest of a €4.2bn investment blitz in the US.

Günther Oettinger, Germany’s EU commissioner, has called for a top-to-bottom review of the policy and a dash for shale. “We need industry; we cannot be the good guys for the whole world if no one is follows suit,” he said. .... 


Comments?

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/comment/ambroseevans_pritchard/10303285/Romantic-Germany-risks-economic-decline-as-green-dream-spoils.html


Edit  additional interesting link

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/financialcrisis/10295045/Brussels-fears-European-industrial-massacre-sparked-by-energy-costs.html
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

domen_

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #120 on: September 12, 2013, 09:09:09 PM »
Unfortunately there is a massive anti-renewables campaign out there and it's been quite successful at making lots of confusion. It's evil twin is confusion about global warming, and both of them are fueled by fossil fuel industry (which is not really surprising).

I've read the linked article and first thing one should note is that Telegraph has posted dubious articles in the past (like recent pile of ignorance: "Global warming? No, actually we're cooling, claim scientists") so one should take it with a grain of salt. Nonetheless let's take a look at some of the claims. It says:
It was an earthquake and tsunami that caused the Fukushima tragedy. Germany’s nuclear plants are not at risk from such flooding, nor are they built on tectonic faultlines. As a scientist with a PhD in subatomic reactions, Dr Merkel knows that the post-Fukushima panic in Germany was hysterical.
While it is true that Germany is not on major tectonic faultlines, that does not imply that there is no danger. There certainly is a risk from flooding because all nuclear plants are built next to rivers and use water for cooling. A major flooding event can enforce an involuntary shutdown (this happened two years ago in my country, Slovenia, just a little bit south of Germany). Germany also had several nuclear accidents with radiation leaking into surrounding areas and rivers (and also causing lots of economic damage).

Anti-nuclear public opinion in Germany is very strong and it started decades ago, even before Chernobil. They planned to shutdown all of their reactors long before Fukushima and it's wrong to say it's just a hysterical reaction. It isn't. It may have speeded things up a little, but their nuclear plants were planned for shut down either way.
Utilities are turning to coal - and cheap lignite, emitting 30pc more CO2 - to plug the gap. Germany’s greenhouse emissions rose 1.6pc last year.
There are two things to be said about Germany turning to coal. First is this one:

Most of closed nuclear has been replaced by renewables and only a minor portion by coal. Note that the trendline of renewables is speeding up.

And secondly, most of current German coal plants that are being built were planned 5-6 years ago. There are no plans for any new ones. They are only making plans how to phase existing ones out.

It's not a perfect transition, that's for sure. Also, it's not big enough and fast enough to cope with challenge of climate change. But making a claim that coal use in Germany is rising is nonetheless false. It's not rising, it's been more or less steady in last couple of years, and it's planned that it's going to decline significantly after 2015.
The German solar industry has been smashed. QCells, Conergy, Solon and Solarworld have all gone bust or faced debt restructuring. The subsidies for feed-in tariffs have been leaked abroad. Eight of the world’s 10 biggest solar firms are now Chinese.

 As a solar enthusiast, I am grateful to the Germans for their altruism. Roughly €100bn of their money has gone up in smoke - one way or another - developing solar technologies that have helped drive down costs to near “grid parity” in low latitudes. The great prize of market-based solar is within grasp. Sadly for German citizens, they will see no special benefit.
First of all, not just German solar industry has been smashed. USA's also (Solyndra), Chinese also (SunTech), Spain's also,... Numerous bankruptcies were (and still are) a consequence of global financial crisis and market consolidation. It's not just Germany that is suffering from that.

And secondly, German citizens benefited enormously from their renewable program. Renewables have become very cheap (rooftop solar has become cheaper than grid), there 4x more jobs for the same amount of energy in renewable sector than in conventional fuels, there are huge environmental gains and power production is going away from the hands of big utilities into hands of communities and citizens. Big changes there.

SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #121 on: September 13, 2013, 10:32:24 AM »
Hi JimD and domen_,

first comment: In Germany we have election next week resulting in a lot of noise - the current government (Coalition of conservative and liberal party, while "conservative" not try to conserve the planet but the outdated way of life and "liberal" is mainly the lobby of investors interested in efficiently transfering wealth from future to present time) is trying to reduce investment in renewables. So  Merkels "Faustian “Energiewende”" is only words and not a plan - it was just an popular U-turn (Fukushima 2011) after an U-turn (increased life-time of nuclear in 2010). There was no "hysteric panic" in Germany after Fukushima - most poeple just were upset because Merkel killed the "Energiewende" in 2010. It was just very easy  because of Fukushima to find public ears those days, forcing Merkel to react as she always is reacting instead of acting.

The real "Energiewende" from 2000 was a strategy based on broad agreement of industry and consumers. The real thing was nearly killed in the past 4 years - there is no working strategy left now, Merkels Energiewende from 2011 was a proclamation solely.

After election in 10 days we will see, if Germany is willing to work on a strategy again. It is needed, to develop the energy sources based on costs including future costs - everything else would not turn out fruitfull for German population in future.

The future costs of energie sources and costs of consumption of environment are quite well known allready. Only that costs are the reason to invest in renewables. E.g. additional cost of coal in Germany is about 8 c/kWh while PV is 1-2c/kWh additional - so renewables are competetive allready (article in Zeit from yesterday - not online yet. Edit 09/19: now online here http://www.zeit.de/2013/38/energiewende-chaos-wahl). Future cost of nuclear is close to infinity considering safatey costs for the next million years, which has to be paid solely by tax payers (German energy industry was convinced to start nuclear by that promise).
Furthermore - energy price should rise in future anyway, if energy cost shall be constant: That is the way to trigger energy efficiency and reduction of consumption to get sustainable soon.

So - we need a new strategy in Germany. Once renewables are 25% or more, the investion/subvention must not solely depend on amount of energy but on fluctuating demand. That must work on fluctuating price. If that will be done properly, Germany poeple will benefit from from the strategy because of cheap energy costs in future - in 15-20 years the plants produce energy nearly for free and long term costs are minimal for future generations.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2013, 01:09:35 PM by SATire »

Neven

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #122 on: September 13, 2013, 11:07:10 PM »
One thing I almost never read about is that profits generated by renewables aren't paid to tax payers - in form of lower prices, which would be fair because they pay for the FIT subsidies - but get pocketed by the big utility companies. To fully complete the circle of irony, they probably use some of that money to finance the propaganda we see from Der Spiegel etc.
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SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #123 on: September 14, 2013, 12:49:03 AM »
Neven, at least for Germany that is probably wrong: Big utility companys here do not profit from renewables, they lose money because electricity prices droped much because of renewables and the big utility play-ground off-shore wind is not profitable yet. The profits from renewables go to house owners, farmers and the banks (because of risk-free credits).
Now big utility is sitting on fading nuclear and non-flexible old big power plants. They will perhaps not get enough profit to invest in their future - looking much like deceasing dinosaurs http://www.zeit.de/2013/37/energiewende-konzerne-stromversorger.
Perhaps that is the reason why Spiegel forum is flooded by insane posts...

And renewables are not paid by German tax-payers but by normal electricity consumers (the large consumers do not have to pay that fee...). Tax-payers will have to pay the future extra costs for nuclear (storage) and partly for coal.

domen_

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #124 on: September 14, 2013, 01:18:31 AM »
SATire, thanks for sharing, it's great to hear comments from someone from Germany.

I am actually a bit surprised that Germans don't see Angela Merkel's government as a success as far as renewables go. Because renewables really speed up in the last 5-6 years and this is actually time of Merkel's government. Why would you say that this government nearly killed Energiewende? I don't really understand that.
Once renewables are 25% or more, the investion/subvention must not solely depend on amount of energy but on fluctuating demand. That must work on fluctuating price.
What about batteries and other types of storage? And where does this number 25% come from? Denmark has 30% wind power and they can handle it within their existing grid. Germany has 5% of PV and 8% of wind and it seems that there is some space left before you'd need to start managing demand side (not that I'm against it).

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #125 on: September 14, 2013, 07:52:17 AM »
Thanks, SATire, I watched a documentary on the Energiewende a while back, and there they explained that there was some money being made related to the Energiewende, but that utility companies pocketed this money. Can't remember how it worked exactly, but it amounted to energy prices being higher than necessary, and that renewables opposition used it as a populist argument to kill renewables (prices too high because of renewables).

What about batteries and other types of storage?

The German government has actually introduced a subsidy for batteries, partly to compensate for their faster-than-initially-promised reduction of feed-in tariffs.
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SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #126 on: September 14, 2013, 01:20:56 PM »
Hi domen_

First a comment on the portion of renewables from total electricty, after which one should switch from fixed prices to demand driven prices:
I agree, the number of 25% is a bit arbitrary and could also be 30%. But keep in mind that Denmark has the relatively bigger battery Norway next to it while Germany has the small battery Netherland - that is an important practical factor.

Second comment on "why this government nearly killed Energiewende":
Keep in mind, that the EEG from 2000 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erneuerbare-Energien-Gesetz triggered the transition to renewables and it is still working today. In a start-up phase you allways see the greatest absolut increase in the latest years.  It is normal problem in politics, that the fruits are harvested by later governments.

Why this government is nearly killing the thing:
1. By exceptions: More and more big consumers are excluded from paying the fee making the fee more expansive for small consumers. Poeple are normal consumers and thus acceptance of renewables is driven down.
2. By their wording: The government argues only on current price of electricity blaming renwables and is not talking about future costs or consumption of environment.
3. And mainly by refusing to act: The EEG must be adapted to future needs. I need to explain that in more detail here.

The EEG (guaranteed fixed prices for renewables and preference for renewables on the grid) was very good to get renewables past the tipping point. If you include also future costs of the energy sources, that tipping point has already passed in Germany - so a clear "yes" to the topic of this thread.
The next thing to do is to produce as most electricity from renewables as possible. To do that cost efficiently the prices must follow demand. We have days in Germany with allready 60% electricity from renewables and other days with much less.
http://www.topagrar.com/news/Energie-Energienews-Neuer-Weltrekord-bei-erneuerbaren-Energien-in-Deutschland-1183168.html
You may find a lot of detailed numbers in the download area here: http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/renewable-energy-data?set_language=en

To fill the gaps, we need both flexible production and flexible demand. Therefore a new law must link production and demand in a way, that both change to meet each other. This is the task avoided by the current government. In future production and demand must be met cost efficiently. I think, batteries are to expensive and we need all that rare materials to put it in our cars. There are way easier methods than batteries: Power the fridges just when there is much wind/sun and reduce your air-conditioning to more healthy temperatures - I always get a cold in USA or Singapore because I forget to take coat with me when I go shopping...


SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #127 on: September 14, 2013, 05:04:39 PM »
A picture is telling more than words - so attached (need to log in) you see the cost and FIT of PV and how they were brought to the tipping point since 2000. Source: pdf "Recent facts about photovoltaics in Germany" on this site: http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/renewable-energy-data?set_language=en

If you add 10ct/kWh external cost for coal, you see we are well beyond the tipping point for new installed PV and soon also for roof-top. Wind on land is even better.

SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #128 on: September 15, 2013, 11:36:36 AM »
I feel that I have to explain my critics of old EEG a bit more explicite:

In my opinion what we need in Germany to transit to 100% renewables until 2040 or so is splitting the red curve in the picture above in two different electricity products:

1) Electricity delivered on demand by customer: High price, sometimes even very high. E.g. for cooking, lighting, TV, ...
2) Electricty delivered by the time determined by the producer: Low price, sometimes even negative. E.g. for fridges, air-condition, charging the car battery, ...

The customer with a car battery may also become a producer: In very high price peaks, currently met by oil combustion or gas turbines, the car battery could be discharged to some level to earn some money.

Bioenergy (from waste not crops - we need the alcohol from crops for our drinks ;-) is another energy usable for peaks. Furthermore storage in water energy (e.g. Norger, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NorGer) could be extended also in cooperation with Austria and Switzerland. Power-to gas is another way. But in general case politics should not rule the price - the market should do it now under fair guidance. The reason for a different way in 2000 was, that PV was way to expensive but it was assumed, that the cost reduction potential was also greatest. That fully turned out - green party was right those days. So some exceptions make sense.

SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #129 on: September 15, 2013, 01:28:16 PM »
(yet another addition to the former posts as explanation)
The problem of the current system in Germany is, that prices change due to renewables (see picture attached, need to log in). Renewables are allways preferred on the grid, since running costs are lowest. Since you can not tune sunlight or wind, something else must be tuned. Big fossile-nuclear utility typically can be tuned only to 40% and must fade out anyway. So the prices will be increasingly variable in future.

But today in Germany neither customers (fixed prices for households) nor the 1.3 million producers of renewables (fixed FIT for installed systems up to 20 years) can feel the prices at the stock-market. Such system must collapse in the case, renewables shall be succesfull in future, too.   

Source: slide 15, http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/downloads-englisch/pdf-files-englisch/news/electricity-prices-and-production-data-2013.pdf

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #130 on: September 15, 2013, 07:21:52 PM »

2) Electricity delivered by the time determined by the producer: Low price, sometimes even negative. E.g. for fridges, air-condition, charging the car battery, ...

What they call "Demand Response" in the U S of A is essential IMHO. To some extent at least, reduce the demand to suit the supply, rather than increase the supply to meet the demand. "Low cost" storage is essential too. EV batteries, either still in the vehicle or pensioned off?

I actually sit on IEC committees that decide on international standards for this sort of stuff, so if you have any bright ideas do please let me know!  The process is largely driven by the incumbent utilities of course, so I can't promise to deliver anything much I'm afraid, but if you never ask the question you never find out the answer!
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SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #131 on: September 15, 2013, 11:42:30 PM »
Hi Jim,

it is very nice to have an expert here. I am not and expert on standardization but I want to take my chance.

In Germany and Scandinavia or other liberal countries it is important that private data is secure. So private machines must not phone home to companies or governments about their existence or needs. That would not be accepted by poeple and such system must fail.

Instead, the local distributor of electricity (typically community owned) should mail the "day ahead" data of prices to the machines (see blue line in post above). The fridge should be programmed by the owner - since a "class A" fridge needs power every few days, it could decide on that basis and the programming by the owner (e.g. for a -18°C fridge: if Temp >-20°C buy for 20C, if Temp >-22°C buy for 10C...). Similarly for the battery in my car: It should be programmable, that it always has 30km to get me to work and back - the rest can be used to sell expensive electricity and buy cheap one to pay for degeneration and some profit for me.

For all other purposes it would be desirable, that the current price and the forecast for the next hours would be displayed in the home. That would allow the consumer to decide properly.

The local electricty distributor will learn about the flexible demand in his region and can adapt to it in his forecasts and may give this data to broad distributers for their forecasts.

On the producers side, there should be e.g. some extra FIT for PV adjusted to east or west instead of south - resulting in less absolute power but more expensive power in the morning and the evening.

And lastly - the system must be compatible with 100% renewables in future. E.g. see attached picture from: http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/de/veroeffentlichungen/veroeffentlichungen-pdf-dateien/studien-und-konzeptpapiere/studie-100-erneuerbare-energien-in-deutschland.pdf

(translations: Stromnutzung: demand of electricity, -erzeugung: generation, KWK: cogeneration of heat and power, GUD: gas and steam turbine, P2G: power to gas, Wärme Sp.: Heat storage)
« Last Edit: September 16, 2013, 12:06:23 AM by SATire »

Laurent

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #132 on: September 16, 2013, 12:20:42 PM »
Plant-e: living plants generate electricity

A new form of renewable energy !?
Only 0,4w/m2...They expect more in the futur...

It would be nice if the companies that sell the electricity could adjust the production according to the demand real time. Let's give them a 1/4 of the control over the production...!?

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #133 on: September 16, 2013, 12:26:23 PM »
Prepare for the race... vrooom, vrooomm !
Teams prepare for solar challenge across Australian outback

SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #134 on: September 16, 2013, 01:20:10 PM »
It would be nice if the companies that sell the electricity could adjust the production according to the demand real time. Let's give them a 1/4 of the control over the production...!?
Laurent, they can not do that.
Most of the 1.3 million plants in Germany are PV or wind - they can not tune and they do not want to tune, because running cost is about zero.
The nuclear-fossil fraction in high production time is mainly nuclear and brown coal - that can not be tuned below 40-60%. That is why they produce electricity even for negative price (see picture of utilization attached). That is also the reason, why CO2 emission is constant while renewables increase: The brown coal must burn in steady rate - so that electricity must go to export even if they have to pay someone for taking that power... Brown coal is bullshit - it is so cheap only because external costs are ignored.
 

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #135 on: September 16, 2013, 02:00:57 PM »
Agree with the importance of demand response as raised by Satire and also addressed by Jim Hunt.

The market can address the matching of demand with supply if real time pricing is available to the consumer that reflects the instantaneous supply and demand for electricity. For example, the consumer electricity cost could be marked up from the wholesale price by a constant factor.

Doing that would make electricity available for a few cents per kWh for those willing to buy it for off peak use and for those with batteries.

The cheapest 'battery' that I am aware of is well-insulated hot water tanks that can store 24 hours worth of hot water. Hot water accounts for around 30% of total energy usage in a typical household. If that energy is available at only a few cents per kWh then such tanks could play a major role in matching energy demand with supply even for grids with large amounts of renewable energy such as wind power.



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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #136 on: September 16, 2013, 02:55:52 PM »
Some interesting news about a large renewable energy project in the waters off Scotland:

http://econnexus.org/meygen-gets-go-ahead-for-86mw-tidal-energy-project/

It is the largest tidal stream energy project to be awarded consent in Europe and constitutes the first phase of a site that could eventually yield up to 398MW.


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SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #137 on: September 16, 2013, 03:35:56 PM »
The cheapest 'battery' that I am aware of is well-insulated hot water tanks that can store 24 hours worth of hot water. Hot water accounts for around 30% of total energy usage in a typical household.
Hello slow wing, you are absolutely right with that. The brownish color in the picture "Stromnutzung = utilization of electricity/ demand" in post #131 is just that "heat storage=Wärme Sp.". Of course that makes only sense, if the electricty comes from wind (wind on-shore or wind off-shore) and then it is a valuable "battery". For 100% energy from renewables that is the way to heat in 2050.
If electricity is not from wind, it is is way cheaper to get heat by solar collectors. And to burn some fossils to get ~40% electricity energy and to convert that back to heat is absolute nonsense - heat that water better directly by the flame at home, if you really want to burn something.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2013, 03:41:19 PM by SATire »

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #138 on: September 16, 2013, 06:01:26 PM »
Japan turns off last nuclear reactor

Since the 2011 Fukushima disaster Japan has been shutting down its nuclear reactors.  The last one today.  Over 50 reactors which supplied 30% of Japans electricity.

This has resulted in a dramatic rise in demand for natural gas which is putting upward pressure on global natural gas prices.

German businesses have complained that they pay the highest energy bills in the EU following the pioneering decision to subsidise renewable production. Much of the subsidy cost is passed on through higher bills, forcing major manufacturers BMW, Mercedes and Siemens to pay double the cost of electricity in the US. The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has promised to cut subsidies to solar and wind farm operators, but has yet to specify the size of the cut or the timescale.

It is also unclear what will replace the more environmentally friendly forms of electricity if operators are discouraged from further investments by lower subsidies. At the moment Germany and the UK have dramatically increased their consumption of coal and gas to make up the shortfall from nuclear production.


Japan, which ran huge trade surpluses until the Fukishima disaster, has seen its balance of payments thrown into reverse by the costs of purchasing LNG.

Japan consumes about a third of the world's LNG and it is likely that demand will grow to record levels over the next couple of years


Yikes!

As natural gas prices rise I see a few things happening.  One is that renewables will become a bit more competitive.  Two coal will become much more attractive and consumption of coal will likely rise at a several percent.  Three drilling for shale gas in the US will become profitable again (currently they lose money on each well).  One good, one bad, one maybe.

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2013/sep/16/japan-nuclear-shutdown-raises-energy-prices
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SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #139 on: September 16, 2013, 07:13:36 PM »
The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has promised to cut subsidies to solar and wind farm operators, but has yet to specify the size of the cut or the timescale.
[...]
It is also unclear what will replace the more environmentally friendly forms of electricity if operators are discouraged from further investments by lower subsidies. At the moment Germany and the UK have dramatically increased their consumption of coal and gas to make up the shortfall from nuclear production.
Hi JimD, the information you got is very misleading in the 2 quoted points:
1) Even if the FIT would be turned to zero now - it would not change electricity prices much. The high FIT-times are long over - see post #127 - the FIT for new installations is now very close to fossil-nuclear price. We just have to pay the bill for getting solar to the tipping point 15-20 years anyway - after that, we will have it for free. So we give a bit back to our children we have stolen by using nuclear.
2) The coal burning in Germany has not much to do with nuclear. Especially the CO2-rich brown coal is burning for export even for negative prices just because it can not be tuned (post #134).
3) do not blame Fukushima for German Energiewende dated in year 2000 (post #121 and #126) - the exit from nuclear was due to large future prices & risks, which are both not accepted by poeple. Nuclear can not help renewables anyway.

(edit) JimD - the above is not critics to your comment. I assume the source you cited is election campaign. That pretty much explains also, why Merkel "has yet to specify the size of the cut or the timescale". She will tell soon after next weeks election , that solar companies all around the world will have yet another bad year...
« Last Edit: September 16, 2013, 08:10:08 PM by SATire »

JimD

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #140 on: September 18, 2013, 05:31:00 PM »
SATire

I understand the effects that elections can have on reporting and what politicians say and do.  We have the same problem here.

But the big take away from the above article for me is the climbing consumption of coal.  Germany is up 1.6% for whatever reason.  This is a bad number to be getting from the country which is foremost in the attempt to switch to a heavy reliance on renewables. 

There is going to be a continuing upward push on natural gas prices and this will result in coal becoming more competitive price wise.  It is highly likely that coal consumption will continue to increase for a number of years yet. 

I am always looking for the first evidence of increasing capacities of renewables being used to offset fossil fuel use (we turn this coal plant off because we have wind to replace it).  To date I have not seen any meaningful evidence of this occurring.  As far as I know essentially all renewable capacity installed in the world to date has just added to capacity.  It has not been used to retire fossil capacity.  We will know that we are starting to turn the corner on this issue when retiring old  capacity becomes the norm.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #141 on: September 18, 2013, 07:00:18 PM »
I am always looking for the first evidence of increasing capacities of renewables being used to offset fossil fuel use (we turn this coal plant off because we have wind to replace it).  To date I have not seen any meaningful evidence of this occurring. 
JimD - that is ecactly what I am looking for. But as I have tried to explain in all the posts above, in Germany that will not happen with current set-up of "Energiewende". Just look at the graphs - renewables just make the electricity from coal to get exported instead of get it switched off. Therefore, the CO2 emission is not effected by renewables.

Maybe I have to be even more explicit: In Germany the reason for that problem is brown coal.

Why not hard coal? Because it can be tuned down to 10%. So electricity by wind and PV result in less hard coal to be burned. If there is no wind or sun, the hard coal is burned and the plants run according to demand. Just look at the utilization graph.

Why is brown coal to be blamed? It can only tuned down to ~50% of full capacity of the plant. Because of all the water in the brown coal, it can not be tuned lower - the fire would die. So if there is wind and sun, the brown coal keeps on burning for nothing. They even export the electricity for large negative price - they pay someone to take the power while emitting CO2!

Why do they not switch off brown coal plants for a day (since day-ahead prices are quite precise, that would be the way to do - see post above)? Because it takes 15h to start the brown coal plant again - that takes a lot of energy. And because every shut-down and start-up results in serious degradation of the plant. Both reasons translate to large costs for the owner and are avoided by paying someone to get rid of the power while emitting CO2 for nothing...

So you will not see significant reduction of CO2 emissions in Germany before some brown coal plants close (without being replaced by new ones, of course). But new brown coal plants are already planned...

What we need to get arround that are: storage, tunable renewables like water and biogas, and for transition period we need only tunable fossils.
What we do not need are: continuous fossil like brown coal, nuclear (which is also not tunable well, too). Those do not help us to prevent CO2.

SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #142 on: September 18, 2013, 07:29:17 PM »
to give some evidence to my words in the post above please find atached a picture from here: http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/de/downloads/pdf-files/aktuelles/kohleverstromung-zu-zeiten-niedriger-boersenstrompreise.pdf
Be careful - it is election time in Germany and this study was ordered by green party from solar Fraunhofer institute ;-)

top picture: prices in week 12 (large negative price on sunday)

lower picture: where did the energy come from
(translation: Laufwaser = river water, Braunkohle=brown coal, Steinkohle= hard coal, Pumpspeicher= water pump accumulator)

edit: Utilization on that sunday in March at 2-3pm (during the negative price peak) was: river water 32%, nuclear 77%, brown coal 56%, hard coal 12%, gas 19%, wind 55%, solar PV 42% of installed peak capacity. That was for -7 c/kWh and a lot went for export...
« Last Edit: September 18, 2013, 07:44:56 PM by SATire »

dlen

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #143 on: October 05, 2013, 03:33:03 PM »
Satire, I had noticed that electricity export craze in Germany, too - good, You bring the point.
Concerning "tipping point":
Grid parity of a kwh of solar or wind electric energy is not sufficient for a breakthrough.
The cost of the kwh are basically the capital costs of the investment.
And to make large scale renewables workable, there has to be much more investment than just installing all the windmills and pv-panels and tidal turbines (which are great!!):

* storage (both research and investments - for electricity, there is no cheap solution)
* long distance high voltage lines ( which can to a degree diminish the necessity of storage)
* demand modification (which comes also at a price for control technique)
* general decrease of energy demand by efficiency increase and - horribile dictu - just using less

All these costs have to be added to the core windmill-and-panel-costs.
So we are not through for quite a while.
There is still no consistent resolution to tackle climate change anywhere. There is still this narrative "We do it with some better technology and get away without paying the price. Energy has to be cheap to keep the economy running!".

domen_

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #144 on: October 05, 2013, 07:04:59 PM »
Fossil fuels are not cheap. This is rise of reinsurance costs because of increasing frequency of natural disasters:

You have to add these kind of costs to fossil fuels and when you do this, it's clear that renewables are much cheaper no matter how you look at it.

Barriers for wide spread renewables are not costs, but lack of political will, inflexibility and system inertia, some ideological barriers (libertarians come to mind), fossil fuel propaganda,..

AbruptSLR

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #145 on: October 05, 2013, 07:09:37 PM »
The following link leads to a short article discussing some of the hidden costs of renewable energy:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=renewable-energys-hidden-costs
“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
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JimD

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #146 on: October 05, 2013, 07:26:36 PM »
Fossil fuels are not cheap. This is rise of reinsurance costs because of increasing frequency of natural disasters:
.......
You have to add these kind of costs to fossil fuels and when you do this, it's clear that renewables are much cheaper no matter how you look at it.

Barriers for wide spread renewables are not costs, but lack of political will, inflexibility and system inertia, some ideological barriers (libertarians come to mind), fossil fuel propaganda,..

Domen,  One needs to be careful when using stats like this as it is easy to give or take the wrong impression from them.  Your point of view is based upon a "total" cost not on a business cost.  There is a huge difference involved.  While from a societal point of view the total cost is certainly relevant, from a business point of view what is most important is the bottom line of what the costs directly to the business are and how they effect the profitability (often the quarterly profitability).  Thus, if costs which are part of the total are 'external' to the companies bottom line they are not taken into account in making business decisions.

This is a long way of saying that, from a business perspective, it is actually the opposite of
it's clear that renewables are much cheaper no matter how you look at it

You are describing a situation which "should" exist as if it does exist.  Besides the barriers you speak of the most important factor required to change the external/internal cost situation is to assign ALL costs to any activity before evaluating the benefits of that activity.  This would require the complete reorganization of business activity across pretty much the entire world and, as such, is not something we are likely to see any time soon.
We do not err because truth is difficult to see. It is visible at a glance. We err because this is more comfortable. Alexander Solzhenitsyn

How is it conceivable that all our technological progress - our very civilization - is like the axe in the hand of the pathological criminal? Albert Einstein

domen_

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #147 on: October 05, 2013, 08:00:32 PM »
Jim, you are absolutely right. There is huge difference between total cost and business cost. But I think that it is fair to say that when people start talking that storage, grid expansion and demand management costs must be added to solar/wind, then we should also add pollution, health, insurance costs to fossil fuels. In both cases they are externalities which are not included in business cost. In both cases we are talking about total costs.

I don't mind if people point out that solar/wind have some additional costs. But that doesn't imply that fossil fuels don't have them. Policy should deal with these things. In current situation, we need a price on carbon.

SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #148 on: October 05, 2013, 08:28:18 PM »
In current situation, we need a price on carbon.
That is a good point. In Germany the increased use of brown coal in 2012 and 2013 was due to extremly low prices for CO2 emission certificates (source given above). Due to European crisis and the success of renewables prices for CO2 emission dropped so much, that brown coal became competetive again - quite surprising and an ugly thing for global warming.

So we lost some years due to that low emission costs. Since PV is now down to 10ct/kWh (and still getting installed for that price) and electricty prices for households went up to 25-30 ct/kWh and both trends will continue we may argue if we passed the tipping point last year, this year or next year. It will be passed anyway.

SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #149 on: October 05, 2013, 08:34:07 PM »
Concerning "tipping point":
Grid parity of a kwh of solar or wind electric energy is not sufficient for a breakthrough.
[...]

There is still this narrative "We do it with some better technology and get away without paying the price. Energy has to be cheap to keep the economy running!".
dlen, grid parity was some years ago - now PV is getting 10ct/kWh and sold for 25-30 (including taxes, grid and so on).
Storage: As you may see in above projection for 100% renewables in 2050 there is some battery and a lot of power2gas planned for the future. I am not sure, since efficiency for power-gas-power is in the range of 30-50%, that would increase wind power on average by a factor of 2 or so. So it would be a bit more expensive than PV today. Nevertheless - we are going to pay that.

Your last points: Some poeple are aware of the costs - they paid it and will pay for 10 more years. But some other still have to learn that lesson, they did pay nothing and just benefit from the work of others.