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Bob Wallace

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Renewable Energy
« on: April 24, 2013, 04:40:41 AM »
“The apocalyptic views about what it will cost to shift the world to renewable energy simply aren’t true,” Liebreich said in an interview. “Three years ago, we thought wind and solar would be cheap as chips, and they’ve even gone below that.” What this suggests, he says, “is that we are beyond the tipping point towards a cleaner energy future.”

Global annual investment in renewable energy is set to grow by anywhere from two-and-a-half times to more than four-and-a-half times between now and 2030, leading to a future energy mix that would see renewables accounting for between 69–74 per cent of new power capacity added by 2030 worldwide, according to a new report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

The research, published today, suggests that the most likely scenario for the renewable energy market outlook – a scenario BNEF is calling the “New Normal” – will see a jump of 230 per cent, to $630 billion per year by 2030, driven by further improvements in the cost-competitiveness of wind and solar technologies, and an increase in the roll-out of non-intermittent clean energy sources like hydro, geothermal and biomass.

The result will be renewable energy projects including wind, solar, hydro and biomass accounting for 70 per cent of new power generation capacity between 2012 and 2030, the report said. By 2030, it finds,  renewables will account for half of the generation capacity worldwide, up from 28 percent last year.

“It’s a strong forecast, but it’s believable,” said Guy Turner, BNEF chief economist. “That represents compound annual growth of 6.7 percent, and many industries have grown faster than that at this stage of their development.”

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/04/23/investment-in-renewable-energy-set-to-triple-by-2030-costs-plunging/#comment-873751701
« Last Edit: May 17, 2017, 10:52:24 AM by Neven »

TerryM

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2013, 08:16:49 AM »
Bob


Cheap renewables & their rapid utilization is good news but will it serve to decrease the rate at which fossil fuels are burned or simply augment them?
I can't conceive of a situation in which valued, buried assets are going to be left unexploited by those wonderful philanthropic corporations that now count these resources on their balance sheets. - Nor can I concieve of the governments that these organizations have purchased passing laws which will cause their owners financial inconvenience.
If local legislation should prevent the use of the most odious sources, will it at the same time halt the exportation of say brown coal or tar sands oil?


Terry

Jim Hunt

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #2 on: April 24, 2013, 12:00:45 PM »
Bob - We've be been through this in various places now over the months, but I've never received a plausible answer to the following point.

My focus is UK centric, whereas yours seems to be US centric, but over here planning applications for "wind farms" are currently being rejected left, right and centre, and the sun is below the horizon when demand peaks.

Even if Terry is overly pessimistic and all the renewable generation you anticipate/hope for gets built, how will the grid cope? A "Tipping point" for renewables becomes a "Breaking point" for grids?
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Albert Einstein

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #3 on: April 24, 2013, 07:14:21 PM »
The article is about global investment in renewables.  And rapidly falling prices are global.

Let's look at the UK.

The UK has good tidal potential.  About 20% of its electricity could come from tidal.

https://www.gov.uk/wave-and-tidal-energy-part-of-the-uks-energy-mix

The UK has excellent offshore wind.  I can't find the study right now but I recall that the UK has could generate more than 100% of its electricity needs from offshore wind.  (I'll keep looking.)  I did find this report which lays out a path to the UK getting 50% of its electricity from offshore by 2050.

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48279/4467-tina-offshore-wind-summary.pdf

It looks to me that the UK could power itself with wind and water.  Of course the wind component is variable so some system of storage or power trading would be needed to match supply to demand. 

The UK is already connected to continental Europe via HVDC transmission lines to the Netherlands and France.  These allow shipment of surplus electricity to the continent in exchange for electricity when needed.  Europe is on its way to be one big connected grid, most likely stretching from Iceland to Eastern Europe, from the edge of the Arctic Ocean to North Africa.  The UK could well ship nighttime wind electricity south to Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy, or Morocco and get some of their excellent solar supply back during UK peak demand hours.

We've got a major job ahead of us.  One which will not be completed in a couple of years but will take a few decades.  We will need new transmission lines in order to bring electricity from where it is easiest/cheapest to generate to where it is needed.  Those transmission lines are already being worked on around the world - in Europe, in North America,  in Asia.  There's a new HVDC line between Leinster, Ireland and Anglesey, Wales, UK which was scheduled to be completed in 2012.

Average solar capacity for the whole of the UK is about 15% (some counties have 20% capacity).  That is not terrible.  At Germany's current $2/watt installed price and 15% capacity PV solar would produce electricity for about $0.12/kWh (about half the current price of electricity?).  The price of solar is expected to fall much lower.  And solar delivers during peak demand hours which makes it more valuable. 

And let's throw one more thing into the mix.  Enhanced geothermal is starting to look like a viable technology.  It's far too early to put any numbers on the potential, but it could be major. 

"How will the grid cope?"

I expect it will cope quite well.  It's functioning now to carry electricity to homes and businesses.  It will have to develop new, clean sources for its electricity and run transmission lines from those new sources into the existing grid.

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #4 on: April 24, 2013, 07:50:56 PM »
Jim - found this...

"The Centre for Alternative Technology prepared a plan entitled Zero Carbon Britain 2030.  The report details a comprehensive plan through which Britain  could reduce its CO2-equivalent emissions 90% by the year 2030 (in comparison to 2007 levels).  The report proposes to achieve the final 10% emissions reduction through carbon sequestration.

In terms of energy production, the report proposes to provide nearly 100% of UK energy demands by 2030 from renewable sources.  In their plan, 82% of the British electricity demand is supplied through wind (73% from offshore turbines, 9% from onshore), 5% from wave and tidal stream, 4.5% from fixed tidal, 4% from biomass, 3% from biogas, 0.9% each from nuclear and hydroelectric, and 0.5% from solar photovoltaic (PV) (Figure 3).  In this plan, the UK also generates enough electricity to become a significant energy exporter (174 GW and 150 terawatt-hours exported, for approximately £6.37 billion income per year).


Figure 3: British electricity generation breakdown in 2030

In order to address the intermittency associated with the heavy proposed use of wind power, the report proposes to deploy offshore turbines dispersed in locations all around the country (when there is little windspeed in one location, there is likely to be high windspeed in other locations), and implement backup generation consisting of biogas, biomass, hydro, and imports to manage the remaining variability.  Management of electricity demand must also become more efficient, for example through the implementation of smart grids.

The heavy reliance on wind is also plausible because peak electricity demand matches up well with peak wind availability in the UK.


 (Figure 4, UK Committee on Climate Change 2011).

http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?r=374

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2013, 08:10:57 PM »
Bob


Cheap renewables & their rapid utilization is good news but will it serve to decrease the rate at which fossil fuels are burned or simply augment them?
I can't conceive of a situation in which valued, buried assets are going to be left unexploited by those wonderful philanthropic corporations that now count these resources on their balance sheets. - Nor can I concieve of the governments that these organizations have purchased passing laws which will cause their owners financial inconvenience.
If local legislation should prevent the use of the most odious sources, will it at the same time halt the exportation of say brown coal or tar sands oil?


Terry

With adequate amounts of wind and/or solar on the grid in some locations coal plants are already encountering financial difficulties.  If you've got wind or solar able to sell for almost nothing due to their low operating expenses coal has to sell at a loss, it can't turn off and back on quickly.  Selling at a loss means having to increase your price during other hours. 

Then, at least in the US, there is cheap natural gas.  If wind eats up coal's (or nuclear's) nighttime market, forcing them to sell at a loss then NG can produce at a lower price during less windy times.  Over time gas prices will rise and solar prices will continue to fall.  At some point in the not too distant future their lines will cross and NG will be reduced to a fill-in role for wind and solar.  And, hopefully, NG will be replaced by cheaper storage.

We're seeing the fossil fuel industry attempt to use legislation to hold back renewables and they've largely failed.  The fossil fuel industry was just defeated in Germany in the last couple of days.  Legislation to hamper renewables in conservative, red US states has failed.  Renewables are starting to get their own political power and renewables create more jobs and local income than fossil fuels.

Canadian tar sands will most likely be defeated by the development of an adequate EV battery.  When/if we have a battery that lets us drive about 180 miles at highway speed and grab a 90% recharge in less than 20 minutes, oil is finished.

The high cost of EVs is due to low manufacturing volume.  When we have an EV that can drive 500 miles with only two modest stops people will loose their range anxiety, manufacturing volumes will increase, prices will drop.

When presented with a choice between two identically priced vehicle except one an ICEV and the other an EV people will pick the one that costs 1/4th as much to operate.  Oil use will plummet.  The most expensive to extract and refine (tar sand oil, for example) will be the first to shut down.


Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2013, 08:16:20 PM »
Terry, you might find this interesting reading...

"Australian based analysts at Citigroup says fossil fuel reserves in Australia face significant value destruction in a carbon constrained world, with the value of thermal coal reserves likely to be slashed dramatically if governments get serious about climate action. It says fossil fuel asset owners could be best advised to dig the resource up as quickly as they can.

In a further sign that the idea of carbon budgets is gripping mainstream investment and business discussion, Citi recognises the potential impact of “unburnable carbon” – where decisive climate policies will force the bulk of the world’s fossil fuels to be left in the ground. It says the declining cost of renewables could have the same impact.

The Citi report – lead authored by Elaine Prior – downplays any immediate threat to these fossil fuel investments, and is warning its clients not to bail out of fossil fuel investments too early. But it concedes that half  of the value ascribed to the thermal coal assets of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto and specialist coal miners could be lost if the world took decisive action on climate change by 2020."

http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/dig-baby-dig-citi-says-coal-investments-at-risk-20942

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #7 on: April 24, 2013, 09:39:32 PM »
Jim, I have not found the research paper I mentioned earlier, but I think this will do in its stead...

The UK has the best offshore wind resources in Europe. Recent independent
analysis for DECC suggests that the UK can maintain its place as global leader
in offshore wind with the potential to deploy over 40 GW by 2030. Such significant capacity, enough to power the equivalent of all the homes in the UK,
can play a vital role in increasing our energy security and decarbonising power
generation


https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48128/2167-uk-renewable-energy-roadmap.pdf

A bit of back of envelope math -

In 2008 the UK used about 950 GWh/day. 

40 GW of offshore turbines running 24 hours per day at 45% capacity (what Denmark's more recently installed wind farms are producing) would produce about 430 GWh of electricity.  That's getting close to half of what the UK uses.

That, of course, does not use up the UK's offshore potential.  Then add in onshore wind, tidal, solar, geothermal and biomass along with residual nuclear.

TerryM

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2013, 09:58:41 PM »
Bob


I suppose my primary concern is that as renewables lower the per unit costs of power people and businesses will use more energy, possibly so much additional energy that even though the percentage of FF (fossil fuel) drops the units of FF energy actually increase.


If FF prices were to drop when supply exceeds demand, wouldn't poor countries simply buy up the excess on the cheap and enter into the burn baby burn phase while richer nations convert to renewables? Tar sands may be priced out of the market, but most other FF will simply be less profitable per unit requiring more units to be exploited to keep the companies (and countries) in the black.


Do you remember the studies from a few years back finding that adding more and better freeways actually increased congestion? People simply moved further out along these arteries causing longer, slower commutes and more traffic jams. I see the same thing happening as energy costs decrease because of cheap renewables. Rather than using less FF, people simply increase energy usage until they've burned through the renewables and require more dirty energy to meet their now higher demands.


Terry

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2013, 10:36:57 PM »
That's pretty much the Jevon's Paradox argument, but I don't think it holds when it comes to energy.

In the developed world we use pretty much as much as we want now.  If the price of electricity or oil dropped significantly consumption wouldn't change very much, if at all.  And we are at the same time continuing to increase our efficiency. 

People might make an extra long driving trip or two each year, but they will be doing that with a more efficient car.  They might leave an extra light on, but it will be an 18 watt LED/CFL rather than a 100 watt incandescent.

The less developed world is going to install a lot of new capacity.  They will install what is cheapest.  New wind is roughly 5 cents, new solar dropping below 10 cents, geothermal less than 10 cents, coal at least 12 cents, nuclear as high or higher.

Those are US prices.  Many less developed countries would have to pay even more for new coal or nuclear because they would have to import fuel at a higher price than we pay. 

And do remember, the developing world understands climate change.  Many of the developing countries are in greater danger than are the developed.  Their food supplies are more tenuous, their water supplies often stretched thinner. 

crandles

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #10 on: April 25, 2013, 12:02:43 AM »
That's pretty much the Jevon's Paradox argument, but I don't think it holds when it comes to energy.

The set up costs of renewables are still substantial so energy doesn't suddenly become much cheaper due to lack of fuel cost.

There is a bit of an effect of cheaper when there is lots of surplus and more expensive when no surplus. But storage systems will grab the cheap power so it doesn't get too much cheaper. If there is insufficient storage then it is more of a problem.

Less developed countries have less infrastructure so often easier to install excess local renewables than lots of grid infrastructure. Also do poor countries have the ability to pass on cheap prices to consumers when there is excess supply? That doesn't seem to happen in developed countries unless you are something like a hydro pump up storage / generator so why would you expect it to happen in less developed countries?


Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #11 on: April 25, 2013, 01:04:08 AM »
Cheaper electricity is both here now and longer term.

We pay a tremendous amount because of the health damage caused by burning coal.  Probably over 15 cents per kWh.  Tax dollars and health insurance premiums.

In the US we've cut our percentage of electricity from coal from over 50% to about 35% in the last few years.  That's less coal pollution and fewer health problems to treat.


Surprisingly small amounts of wind/solar are reducing the wholesale cost of electricity in Germany.  Those savings are not being passed on to end-users, but that's a market problem not related to renewables. 

Wind has lowered the cost of electricity in Texas.  There is some data that suggests that solar has lowered the cost of electricity in San Diego.

People in Hawaii and other parts of the US are saving money by installing rooftop solar.  As are Walmart and Ikea.  The same is happening in Australia and parts of Europe.
--

The long term savings comes when we reach the "20 year" payoff for wind turbines and solar panels. 

Our first generation wind turbines at Altamont Pass worked for 30 years before repairs made it more profitable to replace them.  Our newer tech wind turbines should last much longer.  Many are being built without gear trains which is the wind turbine weak point.  Additionally they are able to detect sudden shifts in wind speed before they arrive and adjust their pitch in order to lower the impact which will extend their useful life.  Twenty years to pay off, twenty-plus years of almost free electricity.

Our first generation solar panels are now reaching 40 years and are still producing at about 80% of their original output.  Twenty years to pay off, twenty-plus years of almost free electricity.
--

Less developed countries often use diesel to generate power.  India certainly does.  Installing solar and using it when the Sun is shining allows the generators to be turned off for several hours per day, saving expensive fuel.

As we get better storage places which have high fuel costs will be among the first to switch to renewables + storage.



Glenn Tamblyn

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #12 on: April 25, 2013, 01:49:44 AM »
It has actually been amazing to watch the price of PV Solar plummet in the last few years. I worked in Solar Energy research 25 years ago and back then everyone said that if the were a large enough market for them, prices would crash - the hope then was that large government involvement would provide the initial 'orders' to kick start things.

Fast forward 25 years and the Chinese have done it.

The pressing need now is actually to get the some impetus in energy storage technologies. A lot of good stuff in prototype but nothing really mass market yet. That is really the missing ingredient now.

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #13 on: April 25, 2013, 04:15:29 AM »
There are several interesting storage technologies that seem about ready to exit the lab.  Here's a new one that's still in the lab that I found out about today.

"Among the most promising batteries for intermittent grid storage today are "flow" batteries, because it's relatively simple to scale their tanks, pumps and pipes to the sizes needed to handle large capacities of energy. The new flow battery developed by Cui's group has a simplified, less expensive design that presents a potentially viable solution for large-scale production.

Today's flow batteries pump two different liquids through an interaction chamber where dissolved molecules undergo chemical reactions that store or give up energy. The chamber contains a membrane that only allows ions not involved in reactions to pass between the liquids while keeping the active ions physically separated. This battery design has two major drawbacks: the high cost of liquids containing rare materials such as vanadium -- especially in the huge quantities needed for grid storage -- and the membrane, which is also very expensive and requires frequent maintenance.

The new Stanford/SLAC battery design uses only one stream of molecules and does not need a membrane at all. Its molecules mostly consist of the relatively inexpensive elements lithium and sulfur, which interact with a piece of lithium metal coated with a barrier that permits electrons to pass without degrading the metal. When discharging, the molecules, called lithium polysulfides, absorb lithium ions; when charging, they lose them back into the liquid. The entire molecular stream is dissolved in an organic solvent, which doesn't have the corrosion issues of water-based flow batteries.

"In initial lab tests, the new battery also retained excellent energy-storage performance through more than 2,000 charges and discharges, equivalent to more than 5.5 years of daily cycles," Cui said."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130424140603.htm

It's not clear what would wear out in this battery.  The barrier on the piece of lithium metal?  If so, that sounds like a quick, low cost rebuild job.

2,000 cycles might be something shorter than 5.5 years.  Most likely there would be a lot of '2 cycles per day' days.  One to move night wind to morning, another to move solar to afternoon/evening.

--

eta:  Here's a better page/description along with a video.

http://phys.org/news/2013-04-battery-solar-power-grid.html
« Last Edit: April 25, 2013, 04:22:49 AM by Bob Wallace »

Artful Dodger

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #14 on: April 25, 2013, 07:13:48 AM »
It's not clear what would wear out in this battery.  The barrier on the piece of lithium metal?  If so, that sounds like a quick, low cost rebuild job.

2,000 cycles might be something shorter than 5.5 years.  Most likely there would be a lot of '2 cycles per day' days.  One to move night wind to morning, another to move solar to afternoon/evening.
Hi Bob,

In a battery, ions flow between a cathode and an anode. Charging a battery forces ions from the cathode to the anode; discharging the battery reverses the flow.

This process wears out the cathode, resulting in reduced capacity. A typical lithium-iron-phosphate battery loses about 20 percent of its capacity after 2000 charge cycles.

BTW, 2000 cycles is 5.5 years since a cycle is one complete daily charge  & nightly discharge routine. When large battery banks have replaceable cathodes, or better yet self-repairing cathodes, things will get much better from the economics pt-of-view.

Biological sciences, nanotech, future developments, they're all fine. But we can not wait. It's time to switch to today's tech, right now!
Cheers!
Lodger

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #15 on: April 25, 2013, 07:36:58 AM »
Jim, re: your concern about a bunch of renewable capacity and the grid.  Just saw this today...

A European research consortium, supported in part by the European Commission, has launched the e-Highway2050 project with the aim of developing a long-term planning methodology for the necessary expansion and conversion of the European electricity transmission grids. The resulting approach will propose a Modular Development Plan for the pan-European transmission network from 2020 to 2050. The development of an integrated European electricity market emphasises the importance of increasing interconnections between existing and future transmission networks. This research project paves the way for an integrated pan-European grid, able to meet European commitments such as integrating large quantities of electric power generated by renewable energy sources (wind, biomass and solar) and transporting it over long distances to consumption sites. Such a complex and networked transmission system at a pan-European level raises interest in the innovative concept of “electricity highways”

If you check at the bottom of the article it looks like almost all of Europe is aboard, including the UK.

Read more at http://solarlove.org/e-highway2050-electricity-highways-for-europe/#y0cFhb4VYtC9TXr9.99

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #16 on: April 25, 2013, 07:54:20 AM »

In a battery, ions flow between a cathode and an anode. Charging a battery forces ions from the cathode to the anode; discharging the battery reverses the flow.

This process wears out the cathode, resulting in reduced capacity. A typical lithium-iron-phosphate battery loses about 20 percent of its capacity after 2000 charge cycles.

BTW, 2000 cycles is 5.5 years since a cycle is one complete daily charge  & nightly discharge routine. When large battery banks have replaceable cathodes, or better yet self-repairing cathodes, things will get much better from the economics pt-of-view.

Biological sciences, nanotech, future developments, they're all fine. But we can not wait. It's time to switch to today's tech, right now!

In this case the cathode is a polysulfide solution.  It's not clear what would "wear out" over time.  And if it does it would seem to be simple to do a quick solution exchange.  It's cheap juice.

Yes, one cycle per day does make a 2,000 cycle battery good for 5.4 years.  I suggested that in actual use batteries may be cycled twice per day.  Night/wind + day/solar.
--

BTW, the Toshiba SCiB is rated at over 6,000 100% DOD cycles before it reaches the 80% level.  Honda and Mitsubishi are using them in their EVs but, I think calling them 4,000 cycle batteries.  (4k cycles at 80 miles per = 320,000 mile battery life.)

Trojan has  a new lead-acid battery on the market (T105 RE) which can be drained to 0% for 1,000 cycles.  If held to 20% discharge as most offgrid applications do, it's good for 4,000 cycles.

There's some pretty sweet stuff already on the market.  But not the low, low priced solution for massive grid storage.  We also aren't needing that kind of storage for several more years, so all is fine. 

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #17 on: April 25, 2013, 08:07:20 AM »
Another very promising grid storage battery which is further along than the newly announced one from Stanford is the Ambri (MIT) liquid metal battery which is apparently working well in prototype size.  They say that they are currently scaling it up for grid use.

"Ambri’s liquid metal battery technology is distinct from other storage options on the market today. Each cell consists of three self-separating liquid layers — two metals and a salt — that float on top of each other based on density differences and immiscibility. The system operates at elevated temperature maintained by self-heating during charging and discharging. The result is a low-cost and efficient storage system.

Liquid electrodes offer a robust alternative to solid electrodes, avoiding common failure mechanisms of conventional batteries, such as electrode particle cracking. The all-liquid design avoids cycle-to-cycle capacity fade because the electrodes are reconstituted with each charge."

http://www.ambri.com/

"avoids cycle-to-cycle capacity fade"

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2013, 06:19:43 PM »
Hi Bob,

I'm familiar with the "predictions" and the "plans" and the "potential" and the "projects" and the "technology". By way of example, in the early 1970s my supervisor for my 3rd year project at the University of Southampton left to become the first ever technical director of The Centre for Alternative Technology. He's reminiscing about it on the BBC this weekend if you're interested:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01s393k

I've been discussing the pros and cons of building solar PV "farms" on Britain's best agricultural land with the ZCB2030 team for quite some time now:

http://econnexus.org/a-brief-view-of-the-bowhay-farm-solar-pv-public-information-evening/

The UK's very own EcoIsland isn't, because nearly all the planning applications to build wind farms on the Isle of Wight get refused:

http://www.infinergy.co.uk/news_detail.asp?item=103

I hear from all directions about how "the market" will fix the problem real soon now, but CO2 will race past 400 ppm long before that happens. My business card says I'm a "Smart Grid Consultant" and in that capacity I went to the "Seizing the Smart Grid Opportunity" conference in London last week, along with a couple of hundred other experts in the field including speakers from the EC, OFGEM and a variety of standards bodies, as well as "the industry". I asked them all if they'd heard of eMIX. Only one person in the whole room had, and he was on the panel with his IEC hat on.

IBM's Director of Smart Grids said:

The need to replace ageing infrastructure is a massive issue for DNOs

Then the CFO of UKPN (a DNO)  said:

EVs will drive that change, if it happens. Investment will be "bottom up" and not "top down" until the next funding round.

That starts in 2023:

http://www.ofgem.gov.uk/Media/FactSheets/Documents1/RIIO%20factsheet.pdf

What do you suppose CO2 will be up to by then? How much sea ice will be left come to that?

My understanding is that the US grid(s) are older and even less "smart" than in the UK. Your mileage may vary of course.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one - Albert Einstein

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #19 on: April 25, 2013, 10:02:50 PM »
"What do you suppose CO2 will be up to by then? How much sea ice will be left come to that?"

I have no doubt that CO2 levels will continue to rise for some time.  I have very little doubt that we will see the Arctic sea ice melt out soon.

I also have little doubt that the world, in general, will sit around and wring hands, pull out hair as opposed to working on preventing the worst.

I cannot predict how bad things will get and perhaps we've waited too long and done too little.  But it is very clear to me that efforts are increasing and many, many people are getting serious about getting the work done.

CO2 has peaked in Europe and the US.  China has set a goal for hitting their peak and so far every renewable energy goal that China has set has been reached early and a new, higher goal set.

Yes, the US grid needs work. But it is being worked on.  Individual grids are getting "smarter".  We're building new HVDC transmission lines to move wind-electricity from where it is best generated to where it is needed.  All the new capacity that came on line in March in the US was renewable.  82% of all new capacity in Q1, 2013 in the US was renewable.

I think the UK might be stalled out a bit at the moment.  There has been a large amount of pressure to build new nuclear but the realities of price seem to be killing that idea.  Get the nuclear issue put away and the UK should pick up the pace on renewables.  (They are leading the world in offshore wind.)

What we didn't do in previous decades is not an indicator of what we will do going forward.  Renewables have become cheap.  Awareness of climate change has risen.  Awareness that we are currently getting our butts kicked by climate change is something new.


Neven

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #20 on: April 25, 2013, 10:37:07 PM »
There's a good piece on ClimateCrocks:

Dave Roberts: The Renewable Threat to Utilities

This is happening in Germany as we speak, also mentioned by Roberts.
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Jim Hunt

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2013, 11:01:07 AM »
Here's a brief clip from the BBC Radio 4 programme a bit later on this morning (BST) about the genesis of the Centre for Alternative Technology:

The 'crazy idealists' who energised environmentalism

It includes a still of Bob Todd "stringing cables across trees all around the site. If we'd had to have health and safety I don't think we could have done it"
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Jim Hunt

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #22 on: April 28, 2013, 12:57:21 PM »
Sue MacGregor asked Bob Todd:

Zero Carbon Britain 2030. Is it realistic? Can it happen?

Bob replied:

Technically and economically it IS feasible.

That just leaves "politically" I guess?
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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #23 on: May 02, 2013, 05:22:03 AM »
I expect it will cope quite well.  It's functioning now to carry electricity to homes and businesses.  It will have to develop new, clean sources for its electricity and run transmission lines from those new sources into the existing grid.
How will one secure the grid from terrorists or even pranksters?

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #24 on: May 02, 2013, 08:27:19 AM »
I expect it will cope quite well.  It's functioning now to carry electricity to homes and businesses.  It will have to develop new, clean sources for its electricity and run transmission lines from those new sources into the existing grid.
How will one secure the grid from terrorists or even pranksters?

Like with everything else, we'll have to try to anticipate what someone might do to interrupt the grid and attempt to prevent if from happening.  If someone does manage to mess with it then we'll have to clean up the mess and learn from what they did.

It's no different than when some guy tried to take down some transmission towers with explosives a while back.  Stuff will happen.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #25 on: May 02, 2013, 08:57:27 AM »
I expect it will cope quite well.  It's functioning now to carry electricity to homes and businesses.  It will have to develop new, clean sources for its electricity and run transmission lines from those new sources into the existing grid.
How will one secure the grid from terrorists or even pranksters?

Like with everything else, we'll have to try to anticipate what someone might do to interrupt the grid and attempt to prevent if from happening.  If someone does manage to mess with it then we'll have to clean up the mess and learn from what they did.

It's no different than when some guy tried to take down some transmission towers with explosives a while back.  Stuff will happen.


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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #26 on: May 24, 2013, 04:21:14 PM »
Apologies I didn’t intend this to go on so long, but I’ve been looking at this from inside and out for a long time now.

Just to add a little bit of additional reality to this.

I've been studying PV for my home in France for a good 7 years now.  It comes down to a few basic things, some of which I was discussing with an engineer in power production back in 2000 on a flight to Stockholm.

1. Store and forward.  We have to be able to store terawatts of power generated by renewables at inconvenient times (middle of the night/day) and be able to draw on it afterwards.  Ditto with tidal.  Tides don't come in and out at the same time, they vary with the moon cycles.

2. Generation is OK but we have to have conversion.  Line loss on DC is horrific. So we need to produce AC at acceptable voltages to reduce line loss

3. Economies of scale and protectionism.  China, for better or worse, is the manufacturing hub of the world.  Scale up with China and it will undercut everyone in the market.

4. EV  is going to triple our energy requirements or even more.  We can’t shift the calorific energy content of vehicle fuels to Electric and expect the same supply to support it.  That simply won’t work.


So for 1, we have no technology to store terawatts of power.  We can't store hundreds of gigawatts. The best solutions, so far, thought up by the power engineers is things like lifting weights and using friction motors.  OK new advances such as super frozen air are a possibility, but they have losses too.  Certainly there's no way of using traditional lead acid which is readily available. Already lead prices are skyrocketing due to power storage demands of off grid installations.

For 2, we have the issue of inverters.  Most are Grid Tie, but, still, if you want to store your DC in local storage and then draw it back out, then you need a heavy inverter.  Most homes have a supply of 12kw – 18kw.  That is at least 70kg of Copper.  Copper is becoming scarce and prices are skyrocketing.  Even then, an 11 kw inverter is now available for around £1,200.  By weight I’d say it’s probably not aluminium.

Yes we could go Aluminium but they are not reliable.  So we can’t go off grid and we can’t store the energy we create and we can’t just transmit it somewhere else it’s needed.  Although there is some really smart thinking going on around your EV being your power buffer, but that simply doesn’t work when you may need to get in it and drive it 300 miles without charging it…

For 3, we have an even bigger issue.  The US and the EU have accused China of dumping solar products on them.  Erm, I humbly submit that this is economy of scale and not dumping.  If you want to lead in the world, you have to pay to trailblaze.  Pharma has been doing it for decades.  However that’s not the point.  The point is the EU just slapped a 45% tax on Chinese PV products.  Which means the UK and the rest of the EU just saw their PV plans set back a couple of decades.

For 4, just what are we going to do?  It’s only cars which are EV, nobody has even mooted a truck for EV.  EV cars are made of very light construction to reduce the power draw as much as possible.  Trucks are designed to haul great loads.  Are we going to move to Hydrogen?  That’s even worse.  Currently I’m working for the company that has the largest production of hydrogen in the world.  It’s created by using massive amounts of electricity, so much so that the company has a very sophisticated command and control centre in the southern hemisphere which manages cost by source of electricity.  Electricity almost totally produced by coal.

The only possible way I can see renewables filling the baseload power equation is if we use HDR Geothermal and I’m not talking steam powered from fracture chamber, which you have to move every decade as the lost water saturates the hot rock strata. I’m talking about insulated thermal conduction.  Which as far as I know doesn’t even exist today y but it’s so obvious that they will get there in a decade or two.

Then let’s think about renewables  such as hydrogen and ethanol replacing traditional fuels.  Not only would we have to create fuel processing to generate the same calorific value as we use for transport today, but we would also have to transport and store it ready for vehicles.  OK hydrogen can be piped, but, probably, only in liquid form as it’s way too hard to seal the pipes against hydrogen gas.  That requires a massive investment in transport infrastructure.

Even then we desperately need to produce a much more efficient IC engine for our cars and trucks. Something which will be a good stopgap in reducing emissions today and will radically reduce the amount of renewable fuels we need to produce and transport in the future.

Is anyone even listening to any ideas for an improved IC engine?  The answer to that is a resounding NO.  Everyone is on EV and the “next new thing”.  Nobody is thinking about transition.  Current Turbo Diesel engines, at absolute maximum efficiency, waste 59% of the potential  fuel energy put into them.  Let alone mechanical advantage, the IC engine is all mechanical and thermal disadvantage.  Also less than 5% of the vehicles on the road in any country are running at maximum efficiency for more than 60% of the time.  My journey to work in the morning, by car, averages about 22mph and I reach >70mph in some stages.  I bought a large motorcycle.  It does 50mpg on average…

Add to all of that, the fact that EU governments are pulling subsidies from PV installations faster than you can say “what no return” and the idea of renewables hitting a tipping point is risible.  Yes they are making gains, but, as Jim says, they are hitting serious resistance in the UK now.  People don’t’ like them, don’t want them and are willing to stand up and fight to stop them.  They’re even willing to stand up and fight to get rid of them.

If we work extremely hard to solve the core problems we have, then renewables may play a large part in the future of electricity generation.  However, in the UK today, the funding is following a more traditional path.  Biomass is getting a lot of funding and we’re putting in straw burners (and other burners), around the country.  Sweden produces 73% of its baseload power with biomass.

I’d think my ideas for tidal positive/negative buoyancy power generation or my (totally off the wall), ideas for a gravity engine would be quite useful in this. But I have neither time not space to play with them and everyone is too busy to even listen to an unknown.  They’re all busy running around trying to convince people that wind and PV is the only way to go….
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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #27 on: May 24, 2013, 07:00:28 PM »
That's a long one, Neil.  Let me start with only one part - EVs.

4. EV  is going to triple our energy requirements or even more.  We can’t shift the calorific energy content of vehicle fuels to Electric and expect the same supply to support it.  That simply won’t work.

First, we don't have to replace the energy now used in ICEVs, we have to replace only the energy that does work.  About 80% of the energy in liquid fuels is turns into wasted heat.  ICEVs are about 20% efficient, EVs are about 90% efficient.

Then, there is a lot of energy used in extracting, refining and distributing petroleum.  Some of it electricity.  With EVs we don't need to use fossil fuels for the extracting, etc. stuff and we could send the electricity directly to EVs.

EVs are going to mostly charge at night.  In the US were all cars and light trucks to magically turn into EVs overnight we could charge 70% of them with existing capacity and transmission. 

EVs on the grid will create more market for off-peak power which will make wind farms more profitable.  Onshore wind in the US tends to blow harder at night when the wholesale price of electricity is low.  Increase off-peak demand and wind turbine installation will accelerate.  (And that means more less-expensive electricity for the daytime grid.)

We're also seeing that people who drive EVs and PHEVs are more likely to put solar panels on their roofs.  That's a second way that EVs create more renewable energy capacity.

There are electric trucks on the road right now.  You can buy an electric delivery van if you want one.  Large companies such as FedEx, Pepsi and UPS are testing EVs trucks in their delivery fleets.  A 100 mile range is fine for in-town deliveries.  We've got battery powered buses on the road now.  We're using electric trucks to move shipping containers in our ports.  We're doing heavy work in mines with electric machinery, some battery powered.
--

If you were a normal 13,000 mile per year US driver doing your miles in a Nissan LEAF and using 0.3 kWh/mile you'd need about 2.5 kW of solar panels to produce all the electricity you'd need for the next 40+ years. 

Germany is installing rooftop solar at less than $2/watt.  That's $5,000 for something close to a lifetime supply.  About $10 a month for "fuel".  Wind is even cheaper.

EVs make so much financial sense that we'll install plenty of capacity to charge them.
« Last Edit: May 24, 2013, 07:48:20 PM by Bob Wallace »

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #28 on: May 24, 2013, 07:22:14 PM »
For 3, we have an even bigger issue.  The US and the EU have accused China of dumping solar products on them.  Erm, I humbly submit that this is economy of scale and not dumping.

This is probably something we shouldn't get too worried about.  Panel prices are so low that adding even a 45% penalty is not likely to slow installation very much.  It would be a move from 60 to 87 cents per watt.  Studies in the US have found that the US trade penalties would have little effect on installation rates.

Plus China, the US and the EU are in talks which will probably smooth all this out.

And if it doesn't, solar panels have a very low labor input.  They can be manufactured about as cheaply in Europe or the US as in China.  If China is creating an unfair advantage for their panels we can block them and ramp up production in our own plants.  Our production cost would be very similar to China's.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #29 on: May 24, 2013, 07:33:57 PM »
2. Generation is OK but we have to have conversion.  Line loss on DC is horrific. So we need to produce AC at acceptable voltages to reduce line loss

No, DC works better for long distance transmission.  We lose a bit at each end with the AC/high voltage DC conversion and DC/AC but HVDC is an excellent way to ship electricity long distances.

Inverters are very efficient, going from solar panel DC to grid AC.

You also get into off-grid in your #2 discussion...

Going off-grid doesn't make sense for most people.  I've been off-grid for over 20 years, I have some experience.

Off-grid makes sense when 1) the cost of hooking to the grid is expensive ($300,000 for me) or 2) the cost of grid electricity is extremely high (Hawaii, for example).

Off-grid means having a backup generation method.  Purchasing enough batteries to carry one through several days of cloudy weather would be extremely expensive.  Few people want to deal with a generator.

Off-grid is not cheap electricity.  Battery storage costs at least $0.18/kWh.  Add in solar system costs and backup generation costs.  I'm going to guess going off-grid means electricity costs of well over $0.20/kWh and probably over $0.25.

 

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #30 on: May 24, 2013, 07:40:20 PM »
1. Store and forward.  We have to be able to store terawatts of power generated by renewables at inconvenient times (middle of the night/day) and be able to draw on it afterwards.  Ditto with tidal.  Tides don't come in and out at the same time, they vary with the moon cycles.

It's not as bad as you imagine.  There are a number of studies that use real time supply and demand data to model what a renewable grid would look like.  You can access some of them here -

http://cleantechnica.com/70-80-99-9-100-renewables-study-central/

Let me paste in a summary of one that I wrote a while back.  This is a study which took on the claim "You can't run a real world grid with wind and sunshine, they're too variable".  Because of that they limited their inputs to only wind and solar.

(Oops, I'll paste it in later.  Google Drive isn't working.)

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #31 on: May 24, 2013, 09:27:54 PM »
OK, Google got CPR and is back on the job...

This is a "could we run a real world grid with only wind, solar and storage and do it for a reasonable price?".  It's not an attempt to design the efficient/least expensive 100% renewable grid.


Researchers at University of Delaware used four years of weather and electricity demand/load data in one minute blocks to determine 1) if a combination of wind, solar and storage could meet 99.9% of demand and 2) the most cost effective mix of each to meet demand.

The data for 1999 through 2002 came from the PJM Interconnection, a large regional grid that services all or part of 13 states from New Jersey west to Illinois, from Pennsylvania south into Tennessee and North Carolina.  This is the world's largest competitive wholesale electricity market, serving 60 million customers, and it represents one-fifth of the United States' total electric grid.

They used currently available technology and its projected price in 2030.  They included no subsidies for wind and solar in their calculation.  They did not include hydro, nuclear, tidal or other possible inputs.  They also did not include power sales to and purchases from adjacent grids.  They used three existing storage technologies - large scale batteries, hydrogen and GIV (grid integrated vehicles).

They found that by 2030 we could obtain 99.9% of our electricity from renewable energy/storage and the remainder 0.1% from fossil fuels for about what we currently pay “all-in” for electricity.  The all-in price of electricity which includes coal and oil produced health costs currently paid via tax dollars and health insurance premiums.

During the four year period there were five brief periods, a total of 35 hours, when renewables plus storage were insufficient to fully power the grid and natural gas plants came into play.  These were summer days when wind supply was low and demand was high.  The cheapest way to cover these ~7 hour events was to use existing natural gas plants rather than to build additional storage.  Adding in hydro, tidal, etc. would further reduce this number.

After 28 billion simulations using differing amount of wind, solar, storage and fossil fuels they found the best solution was to over-build wind and solar and at times simply "throw away" some of the produced power.  Building "too much" wind and solar turns out to be cheaper than building more storage given the storage solutions we have at this time.  Finding markets for the extra production, selling electricity to offset natural gas heating for example,  further reduced costs.

Budischak, Sewell, Thomson, Mach, Veron, and Kempton   Cost-minimized combinations of wind power, solar power and electrochemical storage, powering the grid up to 99.9% of the time  Journal of Power Sources 225 (2013) 60-74

https://docs.google.com/file/d/1NrBZJejkUTRYJv5YE__kBFuecdDL2pDTvKLyBjfCPr_8yR7eCTDhLGm8oEPo/edit

Remember, this is a "worst case" study.  Add in hydro, tidal, geothermal, and residual nuclear and the price drops because less storage will be needed.  The same happens when there is exchange of power between grids.

And those 2030 wind and solar prices?  The authors used somewhat dated (2010) projections.  Current prices have already brought the cost of wind down to their projected 2030 level and solar is already cheaper than their 2030 numbers. 

We almost certainly will have better/cheaper storage than they used in their study.  It's coming on line now.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #32 on: May 24, 2013, 11:16:59 PM »
Hi Bob,

We've had a similar discussion before. Remember that this isn't actually a "worst case" study. Some simplifying assumptions made by the UD team that aren't actually valid in "the real world":

"We simplify our grid model by assuming perfect transmission within PJM"

"We did not include additional computing-intensive considerations, such as how much additional transmission is optimum, or reliability issues not related to renewable resource fluctuations"
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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #33 on: May 25, 2013, 07:40:02 AM »
OK, take away a few percent if it makes you happy, Jim.

I'm not going to dick around with you over grid transmission losses or other issues outside the parameters set. 

If you paid attention, this is not a "real world best case design for the optimal renewable energy grid".  It does not include other renewable generation such as hydro, geothermal, tidal or biomass/gas.  It doesn't include power exchanges with adjacent grids.  It does not include load-shifting. 

Bringing those generators and options on the grid lowers variability and decreases the amount of storage needed.

These things combined far, far outweigh transmission losses.

It uses projected prices that are already lower than anticipated by 2030.  They use $2,848/kW for PV capital cost in 2030.  A new array just went on line in the UK for $1,600/kW.  They use $1,202/kW for wind capital cost in 2030.  Wind is now being installed in the US as low as $1,130/kW.  Prices will almost certainly continue to fall, especially solar.

Transmission losses are nothing compared to how rapidly renewable prices are falling.

If a couple percentage points of distribution losses is that important to you then pay no attention to this study.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #34 on: May 25, 2013, 01:46:49 PM »
Bob - I am paying attention, and taking away a few percent wouldn't make me happy. I'm not primarily referring to "grid transmission losses", but to a variety of "other issues outside the parameters set" which you continually neglect to address. Another quote from the UD paper:

A single renewable generator at one site produces intermittent power, we seek combinations of diverse renewables at diverse sites, with storage, that are not intermittent and satisfy need a given fraction of hours.

There are technical issues associated with getting such "combinations" of diverse supply and diverse demand to work reliably. Here's an example of the sort of thing that can go wrong, courtesy of the American Institute of Physics:

What's wrong with the electric grid?

You appear to be relying on a "market based" solution to such issues, but even if China gave away unlimited supplies of PV panels free of charge such technical problems wouldn't go away. They could certainly be solved, albeit at non-zero cost, so that just leaves the financial and political problems.

Transmission losses are nothing compared to the price of building a grid that works reliably.
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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #35 on: May 25, 2013, 08:43:52 PM »
Improving our grids so that they work more reliably is an issue separate from whether it is possible to run a grid with only solar and wind inputs.

The Budischak, et al. paper deals with the hypothetical "What if we had nothing but variable wind and solar?  Could we run a grid?"  A worst case for available inputs.

Our grid problems exist now, when most of our generation is thermal, nuclear and hydro.  We are in the process of making our grid "smarter" which will make it more reliable and decrease the current ~6% transmission and distribution losses.

Having large generators on line actually make it harder to make a grid reliable.  When one goes down unexpectedly it becomes a major headache to keep the grid operating.  Wind and solar are more dispersed and they don't go down unexpectedly in large numbers.

Plus, with the future renewable grid it looks like we will be installing storage at the "neighborhood" level with shipping container sized storage units being installed around the grid.  This makes local grids more dependable and will help cut electricity losses. 

(Some transmission/distribution loss comes from heat loss when the amount on power being transmitted overloads the carrying capacity of the line.   If we can store locally and charge up when demand is low then we can pull from storage when demand is high and decrease the amount we have to ship in to the area.)
--

I don't think the market will save us.  At least it won't save us "soon enough". 

We need citizen and government action in order to get fossil fuels off our grids and off our highways quickly.

The market is gearing up to install the solar we need.  Solar has hitting grid parity in more and more countries.  People and companies are saving money by installing solar and utility companies are installing solar in order to avoid more expensive peak demand sourcing.

Walmart, Ikea and other large corporations are putting panels on their roofs because it saves them money.  It increases their profits.

Individuals are installing so much solar in Australia (where the installed cost is under $2/W) that fossil fuel interests are starting to panic.

The market is also installing wind.  Wind is currently slightly more expensive than combined cycle natural gas, but the price of wind is locked in for 30+ years and most expect the price of gas to rise as time goes along.

But we need to accelerate the movement away from fossil fuels.  The market, alone, won't get us there fast enough.  We're already too late to keep climate change from hurting us.  Our option now deals with how badly we are willing to let ourselves be hurt going forward.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #36 on: May 25, 2013, 09:53:50 PM »
Jim, take a look at the sidebar on your link - the chronology of a grid failure on August 14, 2003.

http://www.aip.org/tip/INPHFA/vol-9/iss-5/p8.html

"While Mid West ISO and First Energy controllers try to understand the failures, they fail to inform system controllers in nearby states."

"Many transmission lines trip out, first in Michigan and then in Ohio, blocking the eastward flow of power. Generators go down, creating a huge power deficit. In seconds, power surges out of the East, tripping East coast generators to protect them, and the blackout is on."

The whole episode reads as a series of events which humans can't understand and control fast enough to keep the larger grid from collapsing.  The same thing happened again not long ago...

The Great Southwestern Blackout of 2011 is full of lessons for critical infrastructure protection. We don’t have a lot of details as of this writing about what Arizona Power Service is calling an “employee-generated event,” but it demonstrates that the nation’s power grid is interconnected and fragmented, fragile and resilient, and that we don’t have to wait for our enemies to attack us.

The lights began going out about 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Sept. 8, when the North Gila–Hassayampa 500 kilovolt transmission line near Yuma in the southwest corner of Arizona tripped off line, according to APS. The resulting power outage cascaded into Southern California and northern Mexico, leaving more than 5 million people without power at its peak.

Power had been restored to most if not all customers by dawn Sept. 9, although a nuclear power plant that generates power for San Diego remained offline after an automatic shutdown.

A screw-up in Arizona knocked nuclear reactors offline in California.

Installing smart switches in the grid will allow a computer to open needed circuits and isolate problems like those rather than letting them cascade through the system.  And utility operators will know exactly where and what the  problem is.

Right now if a tree falls across a power line crews have to get in their trucks and start driving routes to find where and what the problem is.  With the smart grid maintenance crews will be informed exactly where to head.  And the grid will have already gotten most customers back on line by move service to different lines. 

All this is totally separate from moving to renewables.  It is a necessary and unrelated cost.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #37 on: May 26, 2013, 03:49:04 AM »
Thanks Bob for pointing this out. I was going to refer to the huge outage in 2003 which occurred long before those pesky renewables were online. Crappy grids and terrible grid management have nothing to do with intermittent renewable power sources. Quebec didn't lose power in that huge outage because they had already effectively firewalled themselves off by using DC transmission to their huge US customers. The power failure stopped at the Quebec border.

The management of supply and demand both of which have always been variable is a normal well understood process. Sure smart grids might make it easier but it is nothing new. Watch this video about the UK national gird for more.



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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #38 on: May 26, 2013, 12:41:00 PM »
Bob - Surely that "necessary and unrelated cost" still has to be paid somehow. Who's going to foot the bill? One of the reasons why I linked to that article is that apart from "the chronology of a grid failure" it also refers to the (perhaps unanticipated?) side effects of changing "the markets". From the "How to fix it" section:

The solution advocated by deregulation critics would revise the rules to put them back into accord with the grid physics.

If "the markets" won't solve the problem unaided, should government get involved and impose revised regulations? In practice that doesn't seem to be what's happening. Another proposed solution:

Change the grid physically to accommodate the new trading patterns, mainly by expanding transmission capacity.

According to the National Grid spokesman in ghoti's video (at around 9 minutes) when asked about "the key thing" needed to integrate renewable generation:

There's no substitute for "wires in the sky". Network reinforcement, getting more throughput through existing overhead lines.

Unfortunately that doesn't seem to be happening. According to the latest ENTSO-e annual report (using slightly strange English!) the cost is actually necessary and related:

Substantial transmission system upgrading and new power lines are indispensable to meet the requirements of the internal electricity market (IEM) and to integrate of ever larger quantities of renewable energy (RES).

Unfortunately they also say that:

Roughly one third of the infrastructure projects planned in 2010 are already delayed. Together with the European Commission, we are
now looking at ways to make the public more aware of the need to invest in the European grid.

Do you think the European public will be happy to pick up the tab? Alternatively should government get involved and fund the construction of more transmission lines?


 
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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #39 on: May 26, 2013, 03:53:26 PM »
Do you think the European public will be happy to pick up the tab? Alternatively should government get involved and fund the construction of more transmission lines?

Not a chance.  Although the very unrepresentative nature of the EU, where the institutions are not directly answerable to the public at large, means that they can pretty much force their will on the EU at large.

Although, as can be seen, the British government is not supporting infrastructural changes for renewables.

Bob, you say that the study shows that renewables could provide all but 35 hours of power which could easily be filled in by natural gas...

OK that's at current power usage.  We all know areas of the US are at almost brown out levels right now.  At home in France if you try and bake a cake or cook Jam at 6-8pm you are stuffed because the power drop is horrific, you simply can't get full power out of your kitchen appliances.  The UK is heading this way too.

So what happens when 1m people come home from work and plug their EV in and cook their evening meal and it's a cloudy day without a breath of wind?

This is what baseload power is all about and these scenarios are going to be very real very shortly.  Current renewables simply won't meet that requirement, no matter how we wish it to be so.  Also people don't want to change.  Asking people to change their lifestyle so that Government's don't have to build the infrastructures that are required for the modern world is a vote loser.  In the end, national politics are driven by votes.

We have to stop producing academia "pie in the sky" studies which we know will never fly and start working on real world broad spectrum clean energy initiatives.  Anything else and Governments will try to do it on the cheap.

It is now common knowledge in that 90% of the windmills in the UK do not even reach the projected 30% of potential power delivered, on an annual basis.  It is also common knowledge that in the UK it is feast or famine with many windmills either dormant due to lack of wind or stopped due to producing more power than the local grid requires at that time.  This is mainly due to the lack of a good power storage device, but this is not going to change on a country wide basis for a long time.

But you simply can’t hold up a vertical study and say this is the pattern for the future.  It is so easy for the deniers to throw reality in your face and say that you are trying to drag us back into the 19th century or even before.  If we are going to have action and movement, we have to have the right action and movement.  We can’t afford to go down the wrong track or we’ll be like China, one new coal fired power station a month, to meet the growing demand.

Britain has plenty of coal and open cast mining is ever more feasible.  All we need is an excuse to use it and Oil/Gas prices to rise enough to make it viable.

If there is no joined up holistic approach then we will wind up with the worst of all possible solutions.  All for the want of a bit of reality and planning for the future.  I don’t see that planning but I do see a lot of noise about how the piecemeal work being done now is “good for us” and how “EV on Coal is better than IC”.  Neither of which, in my opinion, is a recipe for success.
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #40 on: May 26, 2013, 06:06:21 PM »
Jim, I haven't tracked grid improvements around the world.  I can tell you that we are doing grid improvement in the US.  Progress differs from grid to grid, but overall our grid is getting smarter. 

China is also starting to work on its grid problems, which are quite significant.

The need for grid modernization has nothing to do with renewable energy.  It's something that needs to be done, and will be done, regardless of generation method.

It's cheaper to not waste power.

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #41 on: May 26, 2013, 06:27:14 PM »
We all know areas of the US are at almost brown out levels right now.  At home in France if you try and bake a cake or cook Jam at 6-8pm you are stuffed because the power drop is horrific, you simply can't get full power out of your kitchen appliances.  The UK is heading this way too.

So what happens when 1m people come home from work and plug their EV in and cook their evening meal and it's a cloudy day without a breath of wind?

This is what baseload power is all about and these scenarios are going to be very real very shortly.  Current renewables simply won't meet that requirement, no matter how we wish it to be so. 

No, baseload is not how we deal with variable demand.  We need dispatchable generation or storage to meet changes in demand. 

Right now we are largely using natural gas to deal with demand changes.  As time goes along we will almost certainly replace natural gas with stored renewable electricity.  The "pie in the sky" study I summarized is one of many who show us that this a feasible route forward.

(EVs are unlikely to be charged as soon as people get home.  Most likely their charging will be dispatchable load controlled by the grid.  By letting grid managers decide what hours your EV charges you will get the best price.)



Also people don't want to change.  Asking people to change their lifestyle so that Government's don't have to build the infrastructures that are required for the modern world is a vote loser.  In the end, national politics are driven by votes.

You're right, people do not want to change.  I don't think people are going to be required to change their lifestyles. 

They'll get their light from LEDs that use 1/5th as much electricity as incandescents but the amount and quality of light will be the same.

Their refers, washing machines, dryers, TVs and computers will work exactly the same but use less electricity.  (eta:  ...will work better and use less electricity.)

Their vehicles will let them skip visiting gas stations and cost them less to drive, so this will actually be a lifestyle improvement.

Right now in the US we have reduced coal from generating over 50% of our electricity to about 35%.  Wind is now producing 3.5% or more of our electricity.  Some of our electricity is now coming from solar.  I've heard exactly no one complain that the quality of electricity coming out of their outlets is different.

It is now common knowledge in that 90% of the windmills in the UK do not even reach the projected 30% of potential power delivered, on an annual basis.

The UK's good wind is offshore.  Last I heard capacity was in the 50% range.

The UK may need to resize its turbines/blades.  Capacity is largely a matter of putting the correct hardware in a location.  Manufacturers are now building turbines/blades for lower wind areas.  We're past the 'one size fits all' phase.

People in the UK need to abandon their knuckle-headed idea that they need to generate the electricity they consume on a 24/365 basis.  It's too small and area to be 100% self-sufficient at an affordable price.

Use the areas around you.  Trade your extra wind into the European grid and take back southern Europe solar or northern Europe hydro. 

(Read up on E-Highway 2050.)



« Last Edit: May 26, 2013, 10:43:37 PM by Bob Wallace »

Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #42 on: May 26, 2013, 10:38:59 PM »
To return to the point of the thread, that renewables seem to have reached a tipping point, I just ran across come installed solar prices for Australia.

Currently the nationwide average for rooftop solar is $1.88/watt and solar is being installed as low as $1.44/watt.  These are prices that move the cost of solar-generated electricity well below $0.10/kWh.

http://www.solarchoice.net.au/blog/solar-pv-price-index-may-2013/

These prices are knocking the stuffing out of coal plants in Australia.  Large losses are starting to appear and the coal industry is mounting a major counter attack in hopes of killing, or at least slowing, the growth of solar.

http://reneweconomy.com.au/2013/how-fossil-fuel-incumbents-hope-to-tame-solar-juggernaut-57147
(A good read.)

A new large array was just brought on line in the UK for $1.60/watt.  The $2/watt threshold has been crossed.  We're heading for $1/watt before 2020.


NeilT

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #43 on: May 27, 2013, 03:26:21 AM »
The cost of the components have dropped drastically over the last 3 years.

http://www.off-grid-europe.com/solar_cells_and_accessories/solar_cell_kits/1kw_a-grade_3x6_solar_cell_kit_for_diy_solar_panel

But I don't believe that we are near a tipping point for pervasive solar, wind or HDR geothermal.  Mainly due to the issues Jim has brought out and the issues with the way they create HDR today.
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #44 on: May 27, 2013, 05:38:36 AM »
The cells in your link seem to be unmounted.  They aren't really solar panels, they're the cells one uses to make panels.  You've got to provide the cover glass, backing panel (glass/whatever), frame and wiring.

Current panel prices in the US are running from $0.53/watt (low thin-film) and $0.60/watt (low silicon) to an average of $0.65 (thin-film) and $0.73 (silicon).

You can choose to not believe that we are at a tipping point, but world wide installation data suggests you aren't correct.  Installed solar is now cheaper than grid electricity in over 100 countries.  Wind is very close to the price of natural gas generation and installing wind locks in that price for 25 to 30 years.  Gas is almost certainly going to get more expensive over time.


(What's HDR?)

Artful Dodger

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #45 on: May 27, 2013, 07:52:53 AM »
Good points, Bob. Agreed. It's time to join the 21st Century  8)

BTW, HDR (hot dry rock) is a scheme for geothermal energy extraction.
Cheers!
Lodger

NeilT

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #46 on: May 27, 2013, 01:39:19 PM »
Bob, the cells are unmounted. That is the only way to get truly cheap panels in the UK today, make them yourself.

Completed panels in the UK are still running at around £1 to £3 per watt ($1.5 to $4.5).  Then you have to add the EU anti dumping tax which pushes the price up to around $2 a watt (cheapest), which is far and away beyond the prices you are talking about.

If you want to go for used equipment, including batteries which have exceeded their 3 year warrantied life, but are supposed to be good for 10 years, then you can get close to the US prices, but nothing from a leading main supplier.

Even then, if you really want people to go for home solar, they have to have off grid capability tied to the grid.  There simply isn't enough lead or copper, easily available, to do this for everyone.  The price of copper is currently skyrocketing; I know I have buildings to plumb.  This is driven by demand and demand is not going to drop with a huge jump in renewables.

Yes necessity will drive design and there are some interesting innovations out there including very cheap and easy to build square wave generators which don't use any copper at all.  But that restricts you to applications such as water heaters and electric showers.  You can't even use it for cookers, air con or washing machines due to the sensitive electronics now embedded in them.  Also 230v DC is absolutely lethal and square wave generators just switch, they don't transform.

This I have studied for years as I wish to get my home off the grid and into my own control for management of bills and also management of supply in any crisis. I don’t have renewable issues for power, I have a nuclear power station 30 miles downriver.  Yes I know it’s not renewable, but you know what I mean, it doesn’t pollute that much CO2 for the power it generates.

Simply wishing for renewables to hit a tipping point is not going to overcome a very large number of obstacles.  Cost of PV cells is only a very small part of the entire infrastructure.  Not insignificant, but not the critical part either.  Using extremely large generators with a small number of generating sets, transmitted over the country by wire, is one of the most efficient in terms of materials.  If it wasn’t, we’d have done something else a long, long time ago.  Witness Tesla AC won over Edison DC for this very reason.

Try pricing out a system.  Cells, wire, connectors, mounting kits, inverter.  For off grid, batteries, charge controllers, more wire.  Battery duty cycles and maintenance.  Over provisioning for high draw low input events.

Inverter prices, per watt can be two or three times the price of solar cells if you really want to run your home on them and if you are going to build farms, they you need even bigger inverters.  Costs of inverters do not decrease with scale, they increase.  Try buying a 15kw inverter.  Then look for a 25kw one if you can find one.  25kw of solar cells may only cost you $15k but your inverter will cost you $25k to $50k.  Then if you want to push this level of power into the local grid you are going to have to transform it up to thousands of volts or the line loss will kill you.  Care to guess the cost of such transformers on the scale of low density dispersed rural power production???

As I see it today, small scale renewables are already pushing the boundaries of our capabilities. We need a sea change in the way we produce, store and use power and it’s simply not happening fast enough to get rid of the grid and large dirty power stations.

So, as I say, HDR geothermal power stations are a feasible replacement for large centralised power stations, backed by local renewables.  But only if we stop pumping water into the ground and doing a steam dance…
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Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #47 on: May 27, 2013, 06:23:53 PM »
Neil, I've never suggested that people go "off the grid".  I've been off the grid for over 20 years and I very well know that is not the solution for most people.  Going off the grid makes sense only when the cost of connecting to the grid is excessive ($300,000 in my case).

The price of grid-connected solar has reached grid parity in many countries.  Rooftop, grid-connected solar installed at Germany and Australia prices would be cheaper than the price of electricity in more than 100 countries.

Utility scale solar, installed at UK, German and US prices is cheaper than electricity from gas peaker plants.

This is the tipping point.  When electricity from solar becomes cheaper than electricity from other, conventional sources.

Wind crossed this threshold years ago.  New wind generation is very much cheaper than new coal or nuclear.

We've tipped.  Installation rates are accelerating. 

NeilT

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #48 on: May 27, 2013, 10:25:53 PM »
We've tipped.  Installation rates are accelerating.

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.

The reason I mentioned off grid is that it is a storage mechanism which could be fed back at peak times or used at peak times to balance the grid.

But, again, even grid tie inverters use too much copper to make this possible on a truly large scale.

We need better solutions and they are not coming fast enough.  Right now what is happening is that pressure is building for centralised solutions.  As the cap on fossil power continues, that pressure will continue to grow.  As EV expands our power consumption, then that pressure will become even greater.  When the pressure becomes unbearable, words like Joe Romm's "at least coal powered EV is better than gasoline" will be used to create new coal power plants.

That, sadly, is the reality of life.  If we do not solve the material issues bounding local renewables and their link to the grid, then we will fail.  I don't see that being addresses right now.
Being right too soon is socially unacceptable.

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Bob Wallace

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Re: Renewables Reach a Tipping Point...
« Reply #49 on: May 27, 2013, 11:10:42 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.

We are building new centralized installations.  We're building wind farms and large solar arrays.  The reason we're building wind farms and solar arrays rather than nuclear and coal plants is because we reached the tipping point at which wind and solar became cheaper than coal or nuclear to bring on line.

But, again, even grid tie inverters use too much copper to make this possible on a truly large scale.

I do not believe this is correct.  I've been observing the prices of inverters dropping over time.  And, clearly, we are seeing large scale solar come on line both at the utility and roof-top size.  Had inverters become too expensive we would see a decrease in solar installations and not the large increase we have experienced.

The price of copper in inverters is part of the price of an installed solar system.  While the price of copper might be rising (actually it's been falling since mid-2010), the price of installed solar has been dropping quite rapidly.  It's down 50% in Germany in the last two years.

EVs coming on line will almost certainly fuel the installation of new wind turbines, not coal plants.  EVs and wind are practically made for each other.