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Author Topic: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...  (Read 291262 times)

crandles

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #50 on: May 27, 2013, 11:33:08 PM »
Only because we're not building new centralised installations.  If we did that, only one or two a year, the installation rates of renewables would fall back again.

I guess you might think that for wind. However, more wind installations driving price down towards marginal cost of zero is more of a consideration than new centralised FF plants. More centralised FF plants would provide some comfort that at least you can beat their marginal cost.

I don't see new centralised installations having much effect on rooftop installations. Price of installation versus cost of buying electricity is the consideration in this situation. Cost of buying electric might fall with excess supply but that doesn't seem very likely to me.

So I don't really see your argument. Cost of installation of renewables is falling faster than other costs are changing so I would expect that to be the prime source of change not the number of new centralised installations.


Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #51 on: May 28, 2013, 12:06:51 AM »
Neil, here is what has been happening with solar.  These are accelerating curves and it is expected we'll see even more increase in 2013.





eta:  The following graph is US electricity generated by solar.  The vertical axis should be Thousand Megawatt Hours.  Sorry.

« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 09:02:46 AM by Bob Wallace »

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #52 on: May 28, 2013, 12:11:09 AM »
Here's PV solar without the thermal solar contribution through 2012....


Artful Dodger

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #53 on: May 28, 2013, 07:54:53 AM »
here is what has been happening with wind and solar.




Hi Bob,

1800 Thousand Megawatts of solar capacity in 2011? Are you sure about the units? That's 1.5 Terawatts! Do you have a reference for the data?

At any rate, it's impressive growth! I've enjoyed solar charged electric transportation since May 2000, and my 13 year old panels are still producing electricity at full rated capacity.  :)
« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 09:08:49 AM by Artful Dodger »
Cheers!
Lodger

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #54 on: May 28, 2013, 08:49:41 AM »
1800 Thousand Megawatts of solar capacity in 2011?

Clearly a mistake, sorry.  I grabbed the incorrect graph and the vertical axis is not labeled correctly on this one. 

The second bar graph I posted for solar is US electricity generated from solar panels and solar thermal by year.  The vertical axis should be Thousand Megawatt Hours.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2013, 09:05:18 AM by Bob Wallace »

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #55 on: May 28, 2013, 08:58:16 AM »
Here's global cumulative installed wind capacity by year.  A 19% increase from 2011 to 2012. 



Source:
http://www.gwec.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Global-Cumulative-Installed-Wind-Capacity-1996-20122.jpg                              
               

Artful Dodger

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #56 on: May 28, 2013, 09:06:00 AM »
Thank, Bob. I really appreciate your posts!  ;D

I just did a quick estimate of 2012 global installed wind capacity. I got about 230 GW for the top 10 countries. So sounds good.  8)
Cheers!
Lodger

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #57 on: May 28, 2013, 09:33:53 AM »
Since 1996 we have average a 27% annual increase in the amount of wind capacity installed world-wide.  And since 2000 we've averaged a 43% annual increase in solar installed world-wide. 

I expect we'll see a very large increase in 2013 and the years following.  With solar now under $2/watt, even at the end-user rooftop level, it's going to take off.  Countries which have had little renewable power are starting to install large solar arrays.

We're going to see some real scrambling on the part of utility companies as they devise new business plans.  Coal and nuclear are being hurt and the pain is going to increase.  Midday demand peaks are going to start disappearing in more countries than just Germany.  This will not be your father's utility company.

Artful Dodger

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #58 on: May 28, 2013, 09:45:41 AM »
We're going to see some real scrambling on the part of utility companies as they devise new business plans.
Hi Bob,

I think solar will do to utilities what Netflix did to your neighborhood Video store.  ;)

Companies with a business model based on leased home solar installations will thrive. People want a low capital solution, and business wants a reliable income stream. It will happen.  8)
Cheers!
Lodger

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #59 on: May 28, 2013, 10:03:10 AM »
Yeah, but the Sun doesn't shine 24/365 while Netflix streams around the clock.

We're going to need the grid to supply power when solar isn't and move solar from those who have panels to those who don't.

If you put panels on your roof you generally make about 5x your rate of use when the Sun is shining.  You use 1x, send 4x away to the grid and take that power back when the Sun goes shy. 

(4.5 solar hours / 24 hours = 18.75%. One out of five.))

Optimal solar means that only 1 out of 5 roofs needs solar installed.  That capacity will supply all needs while the Sun is out.  Got to distribute that 4x around town.

The hot, sunny hours has been when electricity generators made the most money, if they were selling into a merit order pricing system.  Now those most profitable hours will be wiped out.

Utilities that own coal and nuclear are going to see more hours when their output has little value.  It's already getting whacked by wind and natural gas during off-peak.

We're going to need other generation (and storage) for the other 4 out of 5 hours.  That, and the distribution system, have to be paid for.  Financial model has to change.  We need the "video store" to stay in business.
--

I'm not sure solar  leasing is going to be a huge business.  With solar dropping under $2/watt installed we're under $10k for a sizable solar system.  I suspect $10k is a financial psychological threshold.  More people are going to be willing to purchase if the price is under $10k and won't opt for leasing.

As solar approaches $1/watt I doubt many will lease unless it's a relatively short 'lease to own' program for people who don't have great credit.
 

NeilT

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #60 on: May 29, 2013, 03:02:44 AM »
The graphs are good Bob, but I spend my days dealing with migrations.  l spend my days trying to get people to understand small scale %'s as opposed to large scale %'s.  So if you do one installation this year and two next year, growth is 50%.  That is feasible when your installed base is very low.  When your installed base is in the hundreds of thousands, 40% or more growth becomes increasingly untenable without billions of $ of investment.  Government investment in solar is withdrawing.  German households who installed solar for the benefit of 200% payback from the input to the grid are now only just breaking even with the reduction in government subsidies.  Eventually it will be a net cost.

In the UK Government subsidies scale back every year now.  We have seen a large bubble in rush installations in 2012 to beat the cuts, but that will not replicate in 2013.  In fact there are significant issues cropping up with people unable to get mortgages to buy houses which have PV fitted due to banks unwillingness to certify an installation which might just damage the structure of the house.

The figures may look good over the last decade, but they are not going to look quite so good over the next.

Personally I still think the materials issues will be the big problem of the next decade of PV.

I will be very happy to be wrong, but I'm not hopeful.
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #61 on: May 29, 2013, 05:07:49 AM »
I don't think anyone is predicting that installation curves will continue to accelerate.  There are physical and financial limits.  As the annual installation amounts reach practical limits acceleration will slow and most likely settle into somewhat constant year to year installation amounts.

I actually expect worldwide installation rates to continue to accelerate for five or more years.  Installations are starting to occur in more and more countries.  Some haven't really gotten started yet.
--

Perhaps you don't understand what has happened to the cost of renewables. 

If one wants to add capacity to the grid there is no cheaper way to do that than building a wind farm.  Natural gas is a slight bit cheaper but prices are artificially low (in the US) and rising.  No one (except those who hype the gas business) is predicting natural gas to remain as cheap as it is now.  If fact, the price of gas is up more than 30% from its low of June, 2012.  The EIA is predicting that gas will rise to a level in 2014 which will cause a small increase in coal use.

If one wants to bring more peak hour capacity on the grid solar has become a major choice.  The price of solar is cheaper than running a gas peaker and installing solar locks in the price of electricity for 3-4 decades.

This is not government money.  This is utility company money.  Government money has pretty much played the role it needed to play.  Like many emerging technologies, prices are quite high at first until the technology begins to mature,  efficiencies discovered, and economies of scale kick in.

US subsidies for residential solar are designed to scale back.  They are based on a percentage of system costs.  They cut the cost by 30%.  There's a point at which the 30% discount will not be necessary to make putting solar on your roof cheaper than buying electricity from the grid.

Right now rooftop solar is being installed in Germany and Australia for $2/watt.  No subsidies, no government money.

Solar on ones roof in Southern California at $2/watt and financed at 5% generates electricity for about 8 cents per kWh.  The average cost of electricity in SoCal is something like 18 cents per kWh.  No government money is needed to make that math work.

The UK just installed a large solar array for $1.60/watt.  A large array in SoCal installed at $1.60/watt and financed at 5% would mean that the utility could lock in electricity at 6.5 cents per kWh for the next 20 years. And for another 10 to 20+ years they would get electricity to sell for the cost of about 0 cents per kWh.  Right now they may be paying over 30 cents per kWh for peak hour supply.

You can't build a new coal or nuclear plant and produce electricity for even 10 cents per kWh, try 15+.  If a utility needs more capacity then what makes sense is a mix of wind and solar then to use your existing gas and hydro to fill in around.
--

Then, there's something else happening, I think.  I think the world's governments have decided that they must do something to curtail climate change.  When you have China rushing to the front of the parade to help lead it you know things have changed. 
---


I don't know how people think in the UK.  Here in the US we value having solar on houses.  A rather large scale study found that people paid more for a house with solar installed.  In fact, the premium they paid often exceeded the cost of the system.

"All those homeowners who have been installing residential solar panels over the last decade may find it was a more practical decision than they thought. The electricity generated may have cost more than that coming from the local power company (half of which, nationwide, comes from burning coal), but if they choose to sell their homes, the price premium they will get for the solar system should let them recoup much of their original capital investment.

That is the conclusion of three researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who looked at home sales — both homes with photovoltaic systems and homes without — in California over an eight-and-a-half-year period ending in mid-2009. The abstract of their study states, “the analysis finds strong evidence that California homes with PV systems have sold for a premium over comparable homes without PV systems.”

The premium ranged from $3.90 to $6.40 per watt of capacity, but tended most often to be about $5.50 per watt. This, the study said, “corresponds to a home sales price premium of approximately $17,000 for a relatively new 3,100-watt PV system (the average size of PV systems in the study).”

And the bottom line: “These average sales price premiums appear to be comparable to the investment that homeowners have made to install PV systems in California, which from 2001 through 2009 averaged approximately $5/watt.”

http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/21/study-finds-solar-panels-increase-home-values/

 

SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #62 on: May 30, 2013, 02:09:56 PM »
Right now rooftop solar is being installed in Germany and Australia for $2/watt.  No subsidies, no government money.
In Germany PV is not paid by government money but by other poeples electricity bill (guaranteed price for solar electricity in the grid). Germans poeple paid the price (and further will for 15 more years), that PV is now brought to the tipping point and is produced in China cost effectively. Now the poeple really would appreciate US-poeple to do something similar to rescue our planet. Any plans allready? And I do not mean plans like "saving some money by buying PV" - I am talking about some effort like several hundered $/year/person nation wide for some decades. It could really help if US would join the Europeans soon. Otherwise poeple will get even more upset here about the increasing unfairness.

NeilT

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #63 on: June 13, 2013, 01:51:51 AM »
In Germany PV is not paid by government money but by other poeples electricity bill (guaranteed price for solar electricity in the grid).

Erm, yes, guaranteed by the government, not the Utilities...  And the guarantee rate is falling, so my close friend who has solar installed tells me.

Bob, you asked how Solar PV is viewed in the UK?  Well first you have to look at the region the studies are in.  In SoCal, aircon, in summer, is a requirement, not a "nice to have".  In winter, comprehensive central heating is not not necessarily a requirement all the time.

In the UK it is the opposite.  In summer aircon is a nice to have.  In winter a good quality central heating system is a requirement.  Now in winter in the UK, you are at your absolute minimum of PV input.  Unless you massively overspec your system, you would be insane to install electric central heating and rely on PV to keep your costs down in winter.

Also you need to understand how the Government subsidies worked and how they were marketed.

Only certified companies were able to install and provide Government backed PV systems in the UK. The last time I looked, there were only 8 companies on that list.  Every other firm who sold and installed the PV under the scheme, did it under license from one of these companies.

Many (or most), of these systems were installed with 100% of the electricity going to the grid for 25 years and a "subsidy" being paid to the owner for their Electric bills.  The worst of these I saw was full installation for free and £100 per year off the electric bill for 25 years.  Simply put, literally billions of £ went into the pockets of companies rather than the homes of the people who had the PV fitted.

In this case you are looking at buying a house which has a pre existing contract, tied to the house for 25 years, which blocks you from getting significant benefit from your PV and may even tie you to a less cost effective supplier.  All in a region which delivers max energy at a time of minimal usage.

Add to that the impact of mortgage companies drawing away from homes which may have questionable installs and you can imagine that personal PV installations are not growing very quickly right now.  Also the Tory Government, well aware that this is a money sink for unscrupulous companies, have been cutting back significantly on the subsidies for PV in the Uk.

That is how it is being seen.

Can you imagine a bigger mess?  Also do you have a similar comparison for PV fitted house sales in, say, Illinois???
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Jim Hunt

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #64 on: June 15, 2013, 06:12:41 PM »
An article from this weekend's Economist, "Tilting at Windmills", about Germany's Energiewende.

In principle, this bold plan brings huge opportunities for Germany, not only to help save the planet but to become a global leader in tomorrow’s energy-efficient and green technologies. The reality has been messier, marked by price distortions, political U-turns, surging costs and inadequate infrastructure.

On sunny days Germany pushes its excess power into the European grid at a loss. Because producers of renewables are paid a fixed price, their subsidy rises as the spot price of electricity falls. On cloudy days Germany relies ever more on brown coal. Last year its CO2 emissions rose.

All this is happening as prices for natural gas and electricity in North America are plunging, thanks to the shale revolution, so Germany’s most energy-intensive industries are now eyeing expansion on the other side of the Atlantic.
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SATire

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #65 on: June 15, 2013, 06:42:30 PM »
On cloudy days Germany relies ever more on brown coal. Last year its CO2 emissions rose.

All this is happening as prices for natural gas and electricity in North America are plunging, thanks to the shale revolution, so Germany’s most energy-intensive industries are now eyeing expansion on the other side of the Atlantic.
You got it - that makes poeple really angy here: That "energy-intensive" industries have allready an exceptional case - they do not pay the extra-costs of the renewables. So "normal" poeple have to pay the share of the energy-intensive industries, too. That is considered as unfair. And since you need your own roof (most poeple in Germany do not have that) to profit from that - poor poeple have to pay the transition to the biggest part now. But fortunately for poor poeple, 5% of roofs are allready used for PV - so costs can only rise by a factor of 20 - so maybe a limit 2.000€/year/person. Politics will change that.

What politics is not willing to change is burning of brown coal - that stupid stuff. The country NRW is governed also by green party - and they do not stop burning the most brown coal and plan new power stations...

So we have paid a lot and the results are still small. "Energiewende" is in a very critical stage due to "double-U-turn" Merkel's politics especially since 2009.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #66 on: August 16, 2013, 12:33:47 AM »
I don't think there's a tipping point. Penetration of renewables will be a continuous process. Getting cost of wind and solar below coal is first step. Next step will be getting cost of short term storage (pumped hydro and batteries) low enough. And last step will be getting cost of interseasonal storage (biofuels, biogas/syn-gas) low enough. Then there will truly be the end of coal.

But at the moment, short term storage is few steps away, and interseasonal storage another few steps away. Only solar and wind with some amount of fossil fuel backup are here. Which is actually not bad, because we could cost-effectively reduce 80-90% of coal and gas (which is huge). Politics seems to be the only problem now.

jbg

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #67 on: August 16, 2013, 03:09:18 PM »
I don't think there's a tipping point. Penetration of renewables will be a continuous process. Getting cost of wind and solar below coal is first step. Next step will be getting cost of short term storage (pumped hydro and batteries) low enough. And last step will be getting cost of interseasonal storage (biofuels, biogas/syn-gas) low enough. Then there will truly be the end of coal.
It would be great if we could solve the storage problem. This past week the very liberal New York Times had a big spread on the issue of the inability of the grid to absorb large amounts of intermittent electricity sources.  The key is being able to store and then re-sell electricity generated by winds for calm periods, or solar for overcast and winter periods.

Otherwise this is a lot of politically correct pablum.

wili

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #68 on: August 25, 2013, 09:35:12 PM »
The storage problems are not minor, but Germany has moved very far toward having a significant portion of their energy come from renewables, so it is clearly possible to do much more than we have done in this country without running into major problems. Also note that the newest generation of wind turbines will have some storage capacity right on site and will respond to the needs of the grid/price points. Maximum insolation also corresponds quite well with maximum use of electricity in the summer.

Oops, never mind. I forgot that you are a denialist troll. ;D
« Last Edit: August 25, 2013, 10:03:36 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."

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #69 on: August 26, 2013, 12:11:26 AM »
domen et. al.
By pulsing hydro generation to come on line only when solar or wind can't keep up with demand the area served by the combined solar/wind/hydro can be greatly expanded simply by increasing the number of turbines at the hydro plant.
No need to resort to batteries or pumps, just make use of the head retained while the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Most of the infrastructure is already in place.
Terry

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #70 on: August 26, 2013, 12:16:52 AM »
domen et. al.
By pulsing hydro generation to come on line only when solar or wind can't keep up with demand the area served by the combined solar/wind/hydro can be greatly expanded simply by increasing the number of turbines at the hydro plant.
No need to resort to batteries or pumps, just make use of the head retained while the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Most of the infrastructure is already in place.
Terry

Absolutely. We need to rethink the idea of energy storage. Batteries are not the only method.

domen_

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #71 on: August 26, 2013, 01:26:35 AM »
It's a good idea, but I think it has some drawbacks. It would require bigger dams and bigger flooding area (which can be a problem), and also many of existing hydro power plants are run-of-the-river type, which don't have dams.

Also, concept of power grid is changing. It's making a huge shift from small number of big centralized generators to high number of decentralized local sources. Local batteries somehow fit better into this story.

Although the most important thing today seems to be cost. And that's why we need price on carbon, to speed up penetration of renewables.

wili

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #72 on: August 26, 2013, 01:34:59 AM »
I think the biggest shift we have to make is to the idea that we should always have access to as much electricity as we want (or can pay for, 24/7/365). Here in the upper midwest we are accustomed to snow days, when the snow fall is so heavy that it can't get removed fast enough, so everything has to pretty much stop.

Why not have low-sun-and-wind days: times when non-essential activities take a break till nature provides the resources to continue? Why must we have a civilization that is almost completely oblivious to the natural world around it? Why not have one that responds to what is provided by the world within its natural cycles and variabilities?

It requires a bit of a shift in thinking, but it's not so far off from some relatively recent European traditions such as siestas.

(Note that many crucial institutions, such as hospitals, already have back up systems.)
"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."

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #73 on: August 26, 2013, 02:10:45 AM »
In Europe winters are problematic, because there can be a week or two without wind (and solar is very limited in winter time), and that's too much. You need power for at least heating and cooking. But if you combine wind and solar with biomass/biogas/hydro then it can be done. It's even economically viable.

So why aren't we doing it? Well, invested coal and gas plants seem to be in the way and there's no political will to really change anything.. Makes me sad sometimes.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #74 on: August 26, 2013, 03:20:18 AM »
It's a good idea, but I think it has some drawbacks. It would require bigger dams and bigger flooding area (which can be a problem), and also many of existing hydro power plants are run-of-the-river type, which don't have dams.

As I'm conceiving it larger dams would not be necessary. Instead of steadily drawing down a foot an hour for 24 hours we shift to drawing down 2 feet per hour for the 12 hours when the sun isn't shining and for the next 12 hours we let the level restore itself. - Extremely simplified, but you get the idea.
The power lines are already in place so the only major costs I see are building and installing extra turbines. Far less expensive than building higher dams.


The river run systems would have to be dammed for this system to work, but almost all hydro in North America already has dams in place. I'd imagine adding turbines would be relatively inexpensive (as compared to any other system of generation & storage).
Terry

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #75 on: August 26, 2013, 01:22:58 PM »
domen et. al.
By pulsing hydro generation to come on line only when solar or wind can't keep up with demand the area served by the combined solar/wind/hydro can be greatly expanded simply by increasing the number of turbines at the hydro plant.
No need to resort to batteries or pumps, just make use of the head retained while the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. Most of the infrastructure is already in place.
Terry
Where does the extra power magically come from?

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #76 on: August 26, 2013, 03:11:11 PM »
We have to move toward houses so well insulated that they need no or hardly any extra heat. We also may have to get used to cooler houses, not heat areas not in use, turn down heat very low at night (investments in warm bedclothes and bed canopies are well worth the expense and are romantic!), have more people per square foot of living space...

Lots of free or cheap solutions that just take a different frame of mind (one that could be helped by some more rational pricing of death fuels).

[removed this, don't be angry, if you don't want to feed, then don't insult either. Let's continue to give jbg some more benefit of the doubt, it's not like he's derailing/gish-galloping or anything that much; N.]
« Last Edit: August 26, 2013, 07:22:11 PM by Neven »
"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."

Shared Humanity

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #77 on: August 26, 2013, 06:11:51 PM »
We have to move toward houses so well insulated that they need no or hardly any extra heat. We also may have to get used to cooler houses, not heat areas not in use, turn down heat very low at night (investments in warm bedclothes and bed canopies are well worth the expense and are romantic!), have more people per square foot of living space...

Lots of free or cheap solutions that just take a different frame of mind (one that could be helped by some more rational pricing of death fuels).

(Oh, and DFT utterly moronic denialist T  :D)

I have set the heat in my house at 62 degrees for the past 20 years. When I am cold, I put on a sweater.

Imagine, wearing sweaters in the winter!

Shared Humanity

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #78 on: August 26, 2013, 06:16:43 PM »
Where does the extra power magically come from?

How is water stored by accumulating rain behind a dam any different than a battery storing excess electricity? You release this stored water in larger amounts which drives the turbines and generates more electricity when demand exceeds the other renewable sources. When the additional electricity is not needed, you slow the flow and reduce the electricity created by the dam. This allows water to accumulate until it is again needed.

There are far more ways than batteries to store energy.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #79 on: August 26, 2013, 07:37:06 PM »
I have set the heat in my house at 62 degrees for the past 20 years. When I am cold, I put on a sweater.

Imagine, wearing sweaters in the winter!

I used to laugh and cry at the same time as in most of the office buildings I went into in the States in the summer half the women had sweaters on and some had space heaters going because the AC was so cold they were freezing.  But building maintenance would not turn the AC down.
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 #80 on: August 26, 2013, 09:24:15 PM »
Where does the extra power magically come from?


The magic is the solar & wind energy added to the system.
Niagara Falls is throttled principally for the benefit of the tourist industry.(More flow over the falls when more people are watching). This particular installation is a river run system that has no reservoir that could be recharged when usage is down.
The much, much larger hydro facilities in northern Quebec don't have tourists to worry about and are fed by the largest man made lakes in the world. Manipulating the flow there on a diurnal basis shouldn't raise any problems and I suspect varying the flow to accommodate seasonal variations could be done in a cost effective manner.
Since most of the electricity is sold in the States where coal generation is a major player the end result might be the closure of a number of the worst polluting plants in the north east.
The beauty of this solution is that the dams are already in place and the high voltage transmission system is already there. The ecological damage has already been done & adding turbines will simply add efficiency to the existing infrastructure.
I'd guess that almost all distributed wind or solar installations on the Eastern Seaboard could be added to the grid without resorting to pumped hydro or battery storage.
If the Colorado generating facilities were upgraded in a similar manner most of the Southwest could accommodate lots of growth in solar/wind generation (as long as the snow pack holds out). The reservoirs wouldn't be quite as inviting to boaters, but they weren't designed for these uses anyway.
To my mind this is a far better solution than building peak load plants that run on (fracked) natural gas. The costs of building new generating facilities has to exceed the cost of adding capacity to facilities already in place. Even if fracking was benign and the gas reserves were unlimited they still pump CO2 into the atmosphere.
Is anyone aware of any installations of whatever size where this is presently being done?
Terry

jbg

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #81 on: August 27, 2013, 01:34:18 AM »
Where does the extra power magically come from?

How is water stored by accumulating rain behind a dam any different than a battery storing excess electricity? You release this stored water in larger amounts which drives the turbines and generates more electricity when demand exceeds the other renewable sources. When the additional electricity is not needed, you slow the flow and reduce the electricity created by the dam. This allows water to accumulate until it is again needed.

There are far more ways than batteries to store energy.
What if there's been a drought? And how fast can a decision be made to release excess water assuming there is any to release?

jbg

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #82 on: August 27, 2013, 01:42:50 AM »
To my mind this is a far better solution than building peak load plants that run on (fracked) natural gas. The costs of building new generating facilities has to exceed the cost of adding capacity to facilities already in place. Even if fracking was benign and the gas reserves were unlimited they still pump CO2 into the atmosphere.
Is anyone aware of any installations of whatever size where this is presently being done?
Terry
How would you meet a peak in LA or Denver during a heat wave under your scenario?

ghoti

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #83 on: August 27, 2013, 02:55:34 AM »
The peaks are already being met. Add solar and there is less demand for fossil fuel generation at peak demand. This is not complicated unless you go way out of your way to make it so.

TerryM

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #84 on: August 27, 2013, 03:27:27 AM »
ghoti
i'm afraid our new friend has a very different agenda than you and I. We seek knowledge and solutions. PDFTT
Terry

wili

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #85 on: August 27, 2013, 04:27:35 AM »
What Terry said.

The thing to keep in mind is how miniscule wind and especially solar is compared to current (not to mention prospective) global energy use/demand: iirc, wind is somewhere around 1%, solar not even .1%. So they have a ways to go to be really significant. The exponential looking curves are hopeful, but policy changes in a few countries could put a big damper on that, though the economics do seem to keep moving in the right direction.

Unfortunately, even at exponential rates of growth, solar and wind are not going to replace coal, oil and NG fast enough to keep us from busting through the (itself too high) 2 degree C internationally agreed upon limit.

To have even a remote chance of staying under that mostly political limit, we have to look at supply as well as demand.

People avoid addressing demand, presumably because it seems more depressing. But when you combine utter waste with consumption that actually makes us less healthy and happy, you have quite a bit we can cut out with no, or actually positive, effects on lifestyles. The highest-level, top global ~20% consumers (yeah, that would include probably all of us) doubtless have to go a bit further and actually mostly give up doing some things we have enjoyed--flying comes to mind (though the airlines have managed to make the experience less and less enjoyable recently).

One point to make here is that top energy consumers, such as Americans, tend to show lower values for general happiness than do some who only consume energy at about a quarter of our level, such as Latin Americans. So in theory, we can slash our consumption by 3/4 and still end up being happier.

But, given that the future survivability of the planet is at stake, would it be really way too much to ask those who have benefited the most to actually make something like sacrifices? The Brits during WWII cut their domestic consumption of petrol by 95% essentially immediately to save their country. They also cut way back on meat and dairy consumption. All of this left them much healthier, on average, with high reports of well being, in spite of the traumas of war, partly because they were engaged in a collective, meaningful pursuit beyond the hollow pursuit of personal gratification that society tries to tell us is the only rational and valid goal of life.

Here's the must-watch video by Kevin Anderson on the need to address demand even faster than we can ratchet up supply. I'm a bit more sanguine about the (at least theoretical) possibility of avoiding the worst consequences of economic contraction. But the main point is that it has gotten to be quite late in the day indeed, and just waiting for renewables to catch up just won't cut it if we want to even pretend to be remotely serious about the crisis now upon us.

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"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."

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #86 on: August 27, 2013, 02:29:06 PM »
A long list of potential storage technologies:

http://www.geni.org/globalenergy/research/energy-storage-technologies/Energy-Storage-Technologies.pdf

Prof. David Mackay (Chief Scientific Advisor to the Department of Energy and Climate Change) on the difficulties of delivering "sustainable energy" here in the UK:

http://www.withouthotair.com/

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ritter

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #87 on: August 27, 2013, 06:01:01 PM »
Where does the extra power magically come from?

How is water stored by accumulating rain behind a dam any different than a battery storing excess electricity? You release this stored water in larger amounts which drives the turbines and generates more electricity when demand exceeds the other renewable sources. When the additional electricity is not needed, you slow the flow and reduce the electricity created by the dam. This allows water to accumulate until it is again needed.

There are far more ways than batteries to store energy.

Shared,

One issue this doesn't account for (typical hubris, and not directed at you) is the needs of species inhabiting the rivers. We didn't give a damn when we built the dams and have, in many ways, since attempted to mitigate the damage we'd done to riparian ecosystems with minimum/maximum/periodicity flows, largely determined by US Fish & Wildlife and NOAA Fisheries due to lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act. It is not as simple to manage a reservoir purely for power needs as it was in the 50s and before. We've got to do what we can to maintain the already degraded habitats of the creatures we share this rock with.

There are also issues associated with the real need for flood control (mitigation) provided by many of the reservoirs. We've currently only got a tenuous hold on disasters related to building out floodplains (bad idea to begin with!). This will be even more necessary as rainfall timing, duration and quantities change over the coming decades due to climate change.

We've built a very complicated system. Unraveling it and/or re-purposing it is not going to be easy.

jbg

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #88 on: August 27, 2013, 06:18:28 PM »
We've built a very complicated system. Unraveling it and/or re-purposing it is not going to be easy.
The problem is that there really is no good way to produce energy.  Even though I am at odds with many on this Board about AGW I think we can all agree on that concept.

Shared Humanity

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #89 on: August 27, 2013, 08:08:11 PM »
Thanks, Ritter. I did not take it personally. I agree there are other considerations but doubt riparian environments will figure heavily in future decisions. If spoiling ground water doesn't stop fracking, driving species of fish to extinction won't matter either.

ritter

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #90 on: August 27, 2013, 08:11:36 PM »
Thanks, Ritter. I did not take it personally. I agree there are other considerations but doubt riparian environments will figure heavily in future decisions. If spoiling ground water doesn't stop fracking, driving species of fish to extinction won't matter either.

Agreed. But there are still currently laws on the books that would prevent the suggested use of water storage/energy production. Those laws likely won't mean much in the coming lean times, as you suggest.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #91 on: August 28, 2013, 11:54:09 AM »
The western USA, that is.

Cost Gap for Western Renewables Could Narrow by 2025
Aug. 27, 2013 — A new Energy Department study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) indicates that by 2025 wind and solar power electricity generation could become cost-competitive without federal subsidies, if new renewable energy development occurs in the most productive locations.

The report, "Beyond Renewable Portfolio Standards: An Assessment of Regional Supply and Demand Conditions Affecting the Future of Renewable Energy in the West," compares the cost of renewable electricity generation (without federal subsidy) from the West's most productive renewable energy resource areas -- including any needed transmission and integration costs -- with the cost of energy from a new natural gas-fired generator built near the customers it serves.

Including wind exports from Wyoming, Montana and New Mexico, solar from California, Nevada and Arizona and geothermal from Idaho...

From Science Daily

I haven't read the full report (133 pages) but a swift glance suggests that they are predicating it on falling renewables capital costs rather than rising costs of gas.

Full report here (pdf)

wili

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #92 on: August 28, 2013, 08:02:56 PM »
Is there any evidence outside (say Germany) that renewables at a global level that renewables are actually replacing rather than supplementing ff? Is there any carbon that has been left in the ground because some renewables have been developed?

If not, I would aver that renewables are in fact part of the larger problem.

Even before GW has really gotten going, we were well into the human caused sixths great extinction event.

So even without excess C we have put into the atmosphere, humans are in the midst of wiping out much, perhaps most, of complex life on earth.

The more energy that is made available to modern industrial civilization, even carbon-free  energy, the faster this annihilation of life on earth will proceed.

Thoughts?
"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."

domen_

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #93 on: August 28, 2013, 08:53:47 PM »
Starting point is 0%, so don't be too hard on renewables because they're only at the start. But they are economically viable and they do make a significant difference where policies allow them to penetrate into energy system (Denmark and Germany are leading examples). But as you may already know, inertia of politics and powerful fossil fuel industry is massively preventing them from being adopted.

However, as you pointed out, renewables are only an answer to energy problem, not sustainability problem. For long term sustainability on this planet we'll have to do much more than just manage carbon cycle. We'll have to manage phosphorus and nitrogen cycle as well, we'll have to stop dumping waste and chemicals into environment, we'll have to stop gambling with planetary life support systems,..

There is zero probability that sustainability issue could be solved in the following decades. Even managing climate crisis is barely achieveable, but sustainability is at present completely out of reach.

I think this problem has been created by traditional religious thinking. We have to stop thinking that "God gave us Earth, that we are something better than other animals, and that because we are something better we can exploit environment without consequences". This kind of thinking that can be seen particularly in european tradition is problematic. We should update our thinking, there are limits in the environment.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2013, 09:01:22 PM by domen_ »

wili

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #94 on: August 29, 2013, 01:19:53 PM »
I think this problem has been created by traditional religious thinking. We have to stop thinking that "God gave us Earth, that we are something better than other animals, and that because we are something better we can exploit environment without consequences". This kind of thinking that can be seen particularly in european tradition is problematic. We should update our thinking, there are limits in the environment.

Nicely put.

Do you see any major movement aiming toward changing these deeper-seated mind set that continue to drive us toward destruction?
"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."

TerryM

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #95 on: August 29, 2013, 05:37:36 PM »
Probably the wrong thread but I'm assuming an uptick in religiosity in the future. As things spin further from familliar patterns people may seek comfort in the absolute certainty that religious fundamentalism provides.
I understand that a few groups are preaching a message of respect for all of "God's Creations", but most are locked into the "He put it there for our use" paradigm. I've never understood the popularity of religious dogma but vast numbers of people are swayed by it and unsettling times often see it spreading as people are ripe for anything that proclaims itself as a universal unchanging truth.
We offer statistical probabilities. They offer clear and certain truth.
Terry

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #96 on: August 29, 2013, 08:59:54 PM »
As another atheist I agree with you, Terry. The blinkered sense of entitlement among many large religious groups, especially more fundamentalist, is alarming and as things get worse there could well be a temptation to cling even harder to doctrine. (I'm reminded of the grim joke of the man on the roof in a flood.) The only crumb of comfort in all this is the present Pope's choice of name and his rejection of ostentatious consumerism and his pronouncements on the environment. When I was looking just now for his comments on the Amazon during his recent visit to Brazil, I came across this group, Catholic Climate Covenant. I don't know how much traction they have. There is one obvious clash between Catholic doctrine and their own admirable objectives. They acknowledge the question of population control, but deflect attention to comparing the relative carbon footprints of those in the developed world with those in poorer countries.

With that important caveat, I'm not in favour of opening up another front against religious so long as we may find allies among people like this, whatever our other differences may be. So I guess I'm an accommodationist, but life's too short to fight absolutist battles. There are plenty of religious people who accept conventional science. As for the fundamentalists, climate change may be the greatest argument but it's hardly the only one, nor are those of us who are alarmed by climate change the only ones who have arguments with them.

domen_

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #97 on: August 30, 2013, 01:03:03 AM »
I agree that opening up another front against religious is not going to do any good.

It's just when thinking about how did we get into this mess, this is something that naturally comes up. Maybe it's even wrong to formulate it in religious terms because not all religions have this kind of attitude. Indians, for example, don't think that nature is there for unlimited exploitation. In today's globally populated world this would be a much healthier attitude.

I agree that when conditions worsen there will probably be an uptick in religiosity. Religion offers comfort and absolute answers, and that's something people will need even more in future climate chaos.

Back to the renewables: I'm afraid that we have massive disinformation campaign not only about climate change, but also about renewable energy. I don't know where massive amounts of myths about renewables came from, but number of misleading claims and half-truths-half-lies is just astonishing.

A couple of examples:
Myth1: renewable energy will always be just a minor part of energy sources.
Reality: Already today Denmark gets over 30% electricity from wind and Germany 25% from several renewable sources, and both of them don't have any real hydro potential.

Myth2: renewables are expensive.
Reality: In sunny parts of the world solar energy is already cheaper than coal (for example New Mexico), in windy parts wind is cheaper than coal (for example Australia), and in many other less ideal parts (or maybe I should say: in most parts) renewables are very close to fossil fuels. Note that if fossil fuels weren't massively subsidized (2.5% of global GDP goes just for fossil fuel subsidies) renewables would be, already at present moment, way cheaper practically everywhere.

Myth3: you need fossil fuel backup for cloudy days without wind.
Reality: that's only half of the truth. The other half is: you also need backup when existing coal plants (or nuclear, for that matter) are shut down for repair/maintenance. So what's the difference? Not much, if any. You can simply use existing backup and significantly reduce fossil fuel use.

wili

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #98 on: August 30, 2013, 01:58:43 AM »
I agree that all these are myths.

But I must point out that, on the global level, wind and especially solar are still very minor players in the mix of sources of energy. IIRC, wind is still around 1-2%, and solar an order of magnitude smaller, or less, as I've pointed out.

That doesn't mean that some countries aren't doing much better, or that they couldn't increase dramatically given time and incentives.

But it is my impression that most people think we already get a much higher proportion of our energy from these sources than we do. This kind of myth can be as damaging, imho, as the kinds of myths you propose. If people think we are right on the verge of replacing all our coal with wind and solar because they have heard so much about these renewables, they may not press hard enough politically and in other ways to get these in place. But if they know that we are globally (and in most countries) far, far behind where we need to be, they may push with the kind of vigor needed.
"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."

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #99 on: August 30, 2013, 09:57:35 PM »
I know that saying I agree doesn't add much to the discussion but I found domen's last couple of posts and Terry's last post very on the mark. 

Wili your comments about the scale of renewables well demonstrates that point one often sees about the rollout time for new technologies.  It usually takes several decades to become dominant over the technology it is replacing.  That certainly does not bode well of us in our current circumstances.  If we could just get all new electricity generating capabilities built in renewables then when we eventually (if ever I suppose) obtain the political will to start cutting back we can much more easily turn off the remaining coal plants first.  I must be dreaming today.
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