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The Analog Tipping Points Lurking in Tech’s Future

The Analog Tipping Points Lurking in Tech’s Future

This is a guest post from John Andrews. John is 30-year plus veteran of the banking industry. For the last 23 years he was the Head of Investor Relations for Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Citadel, Citigroup and Deutsche Bank. He makes the point that explosive tech growth, which has had a significant impact on renewable energy growth, has been achieved in the absence of regulatory oversight, and that this is likely to change in the future as some of its less desirable impacts become more obvious.

Too Much Tech in Tech

There is too much tech in tech. That sounds counterintuitive if not a bit crazy. Innovative ideas and great engineering have been the foundation of the tech industry’s extraordinary success for decades. And those who drove that success – the engineers, programmers and mathematicians – rightly dominate the industry’s leadership today.

But that success has created a myopia in the industry, particularly in senior management. This will increasingly become a problem as lurking in the future are meaningful challenges that the tech sector is only now beginning to confront. These challenges are largely not technical in nature,and they do not play to the industry’s traditional strengths. And as we’ve seen in a string of recent scandals, they are challenges for which tech companies appear completely unprepared.

This flat-footedness is not surprising. A less remarked-upon contributor to the tech sector’s success has been its singular lack of scrutiny. The industry has lacked any meaningful regulatory or legislative constraints, and until recently, has not endured messy congressional or parliamentary hearings, skeptical media coverage, or meaningful public outcry. Even the occasional anti-trust action or the dot.com boom and bust left little lasting effect on how the tech industry does business.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Gyle Premier Battery – The Loch Ness Minnow of energy storage

The Gyle Premier Battery – The Loch Ness Minnow of energy storage

The Gyle Premier Inn in Edinburgh has just installed a 100kW Li-ion storage battery, enough to power about 70 hair dryers. Rarely in the history of renewable energy has a battery so tiny attracted the attention of so many. Here, based on limited information, I make an attempt to scope out the specifications of this battery and how it might assist in cutting the hotel’s costs, if at all, and whether it makes any difference if it does.

Everything we know about the E.On Li-ion battery is contained in these excerpts from the 7 Jan, 2019,  which was reported by numerous other web sites:

Whitbread-owned Premier Inn is trialling a new 100kW lithium ion battery at the 200-room site in Edinburgh. The battery is 3m3 in size and weighs approximately five tonnes. It has capacity to run the Gyle hotel – including powering meals cooked at its Thyme bar and grill – for up to three hours. The battery takes two hours to fully charge and will be used for at least 2-3 hours per day on-site. The battery allows the Premier Inn to avoid increased peak-time energy costs and generate revenue by offering energy support services to the National Grid. The installation is expected to save the hotel £20,000 per year.

In summary:

  • Power output 100kW
  • Charge time 2 hours
  • Discharge time up to 3 hours
  • Full charge-discharge at least once/day
  • Size 3 cubic meters
  • Weight Approx. 5 tonnes

I looked for E.On battery specifications on the web but couldn’t find any. It is in fact now virtually impossible to obtain battery specifications from UK web sites without requesting a quote whether you want one or not.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

El Hierro fourth quarter 2018 performance update

El Hierro fourth quarter 2018 performance update

In 4Q 2018 Gorona del Viento (GdV) supplied only 27.7 % of El Hierro’s electricity and 6.4% of its total energy consumption, down by a factor of almost three from the 74.2% and 17.1% recorded in 3Q 2018. Since project startup in June 2015 GdV has supplied 45.2.% of El Hierro’s electricity and 10.4% of its energy. During 2018 it supplied 56.6% of El Hierro’s electricity and 13.0% of its energy, up from 46.3% and 10.6% in 2017. Whether this is a result of improved practices or stronger winds in 2018 is unclear at this time. There is an ongoing labor dispute at the Llanos Blancos diesel plant, where workers are demanding more money because their work load has quadrupled since GdV came on line.

Performance since project start-up

Figure 1 shows daily mean percent renewables generation since full operations began on June 27, 2015. The data are from Red Eléctrica de España (REE):

Figure 1: Daily average percentages of diesel & renewables (wind plus hydro) sent to the El Hierro grid since startup. The black lozenges show monthly means.

The Table below updates the monthly grid statistics since project startup on June 27, 2015 through December 31, 2018:

Fourth Quarter 2018 performance

Figure 2 plots the REE 10-minute generation data for October, November and December 2018:

Figure 2: Total generation by source, 4Q 2018, ten-minute REE data

During 4Q 2018 the 11.5 MW wind farm generated a total of 4,053 MWh, representing a capacity factor of 16.0%. But because of inadequate storage coupled with the tendency of the wind to blow in gusts only 64% (2,597 MWh) of this generation was delivered to the grid. The remainder was consumed in uphill pumping. Figure 3 shows total wind generation (wind to grid plus wind to pumping) during the quarter. There is no evidence for any significant curtailment of turbine output. The bimodal distribution of wind generation (either “on” or “off”) discussed in the previous report is again evident.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The end of the Little Ice Age

The end of the Little Ice Age

The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a recent and significant climate perturbation that may still be affecting the Earth’s climate, but nobody knows what caused it. In this post I look into the question of why it ended when it did, concentrating on the European Alps, without greatly advancing the state of knowledge. I find that the LIA didn’t end because of increasing temperatures, decreasing precipitation or fewer volcanic eruptions. One possible contributor is a trend reversal in the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation; another is an increase in solar radiation, but in neither case is the evidence compelling. There is evidence to suggest that the ongoing phase of glacier retreat and sea level rise is largely a result of a “natural recovery” from the LIA, but no causative mechanism for this has been identified either.

The Little Ice Age (LIA) was a period of lower global temperatures defined by temperature reconstructions based mostly on tree ring proxies. Figure 1 shows the results of fifteen such reconstructions for the Northern Hemisphere with three instrumental records added after 1900 (data from NOAA/NCDC). The period of lower temperatures between about 1450 and 1900 roughly defines the LIA, but the high level of scatter (cunningly muted by plotting the more erratic reconstructions in lighter shades) makes it impossible to pick exact start and stop dates:

Figure 1: Northern Hemisphere temperature reconstructions over the last 2,000 years

Because of the problems with temperature reconstructions this post concentrates on the European Alps, where long-term instrumental records – some going back to the early 1700s – provide information on temperature and precipitation changes around the time the LIA came to an end. Another reason for concentrating on the Alps is that almost half of the world’s glaciers that have long-term monitoring data are located there.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Powering the Tesla Gigafactory

Powering the Tesla Gigafactory

Tesla has repeatedly claimed in publications, articles and tweets from Elon Musk that its Reno, Nevada Gigafactory will be powered 100% by renewables.  Specifics on exactly how Tesla plans to do this are sparse, but the data that are available suggest that Tesla’s 70MW rooftop solar array won’t come close to supplying the Gigafactory’s needs and that the other options that Tesla is now or has been considering (more solar, possibly wind, battery storage) will not bridge the gap. As a result the Gigafactory will probably end up obtaining most of its electricity from the Nevada grid, 75% of which is presently generated by fossil fuels.

Lest there be any doubt about Tesla’s claim that the Gigafactory will be powered with 100% renewables, here are some tweets from Mr Musk:

July 27, 2016: Should mention that Gigafactory will be fully powered by clean energy when complete

June 8, 2018: Gigafactory should be on 100% renewable energy (primarily solar with some wind) by next year. Rollout of solar has already begun

August 25, 2018: Tesla’s Gigafactory will be 100% renewable powered (by Tesla Solar) by end of next year

Plus this excerpt from the January 2016 Gigafactory tour handout:

(The Gigafactory) is an all-electric factory with no fossil fuels (natural gas or petroleum) directly consumed. We will be using 100% sustainable energy through a combination of a 70 MW solar rooftop array and solar ground installations.

Plus this one from Tesla’s “press kit”:

The Gigafactory is designed to be a net-zero energy factory upon completion. It will not consume any fossil fuels – there is no natural gas piped to the site nor are there permanent diesel generators being used to provide power … The entire roof of the Gigafactory will be covered in solar array, and installation is already underway. Power not consumed during the day will be stored via Tesla Powerpacks for use when needed.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fact-checking the second volume of the U.S. National Climate Assessment

Fact-checking the second volume of the U.S. National Climate Assessment

This recently-issued study (the “Assessment”) was seized on by the media as proof of the massive damage the US will suffer if nothing is done about climate change. The Assessment’s conclusions are based largely on speculative model projections that aren’t amenable to checking, but it also claims that the US is already experiencing some of the impacts of man-made climate change, and these claims can be checked. This post accordingly evaluates them claim-by-claim and finds that they are rarely backed up by any hard data, that in some cases they are contradicted by disclaimers buried in the text, and that in no case is there any hard evidence that conclusively relates the impacts to man-made climate change. The credibility of the Assessment’s predictions can be judged accordingly.

The Assessment is 1,600 pages long and I doubt that anyone has read it from cover to cover – I certainly haven’t. I have obtained my information from the Summary Findings, Overview, Report Chapters and Downloads sections in the boxes that clicking on this linkleads to. These sections themselves contain several hundred pages of text, much of it repetitive, but there is always the possibility that I’ve missed some critical graphic or piece of text. On the other hand, if I’ve missed it the media, who will have read the introductory sections only, will have too.

And how did the media report the Assessment’s results? Here are some excerpts:

Guardian

Climate change is already harming Americans’ lives with “substantial damages” set to occur as global temperatures threaten to surge beyond internationally agreed limits ……… The influence of climate change is being felt across the US with increases in disastrous wildfires in the west, flooding on the east coast, soil loss in the midwest and coastal erosion in Alaska

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Now Spain proposes to go 100% renewable

Now Spain proposes to go 100% renewable

The list of countries, states, cities and towns that have announced ambitious plans to go 100% renewable continues to grow. The latest entrant is Spain, which according to the Guardian plans to switch to 100% renewable electricity by 2050 and aims to fully decarbonize the country’s economy shortly after. Evaluating the full decarbonization option is beyond the scope of a blog post, so here I give Spain the routine Energy Matters treatment to see whether it has any chance of converting its electricity sector to 100% renewables by 2050.


A couple of observations to begin with. First, Spain’s plans are set forth in a draft Climate Change and Energy Transition Law that has yet to pass Congress. The recently installed Sánchez government has a shaky hold on power and will need support from other parties to make it official. But which politician these days can resist the magic catch-phrase “100% renewables”? Even Conservative MPs in the UK are now calling for it.

Second, the data presented here are for the Spanish “Peninsula” – i.e. mainland – only. The Balearic and Canary Islands are ignored.

The table below summarizes Spain’s generation capacity at the end of 2017. The data are from the Red Eléctrica de España (REE) Statistical data of electrical system report 2017:

Two more comments are in order here. First, REE conveniently segregates generation sources into renewable and non-renewable categories as follows:

NON-RENEWABLE ENERGIES: Includes pumped storage, nuclear, fuel/gas, combined cycle, cogeneration and renewable waste.
RENEWABLE ENERGY: Includes hydro, hydro-wind, wind, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal, biogas, biomass, marine-hydro, geothermal and renewable waste.

Segregating the results in accordance with these definitions shows that renewables supplied about a third of Spain’s electricity in 2017. It’s not clear whether distributed generation is included in REE’s numbers, but word searches for “distributed”, “embedded” and “rooftop” yielded zero hits.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The cost of wind & solar power: batteries included

The cost of wind & solar power: batteries included

For some time now we here on Energy Matters have been harping on about the prohibitive costs of long-term battery storage. Here, using two simplified examples, I quantify these costs. The results show that while batteries may be useful for fast-frequency response applications they increase the levelized costs of wind and solar electricity by a factor of ten or more when used for long-term – in particular seasonal – storage. Obviously a commercial-scale storage technology much cheaper than batteries is going to be needed before the world’s electricity sector can transition to intermittent renewables. The problem is that there isn’t one.

Assumptions:

Making detailed estimates of the future costs of intermittent renewables + battery storage for any specific country, state or local grid requires consideration of a large number of variables, plus a lot of crystal-ball gazing, and is altogether too complicated an exercise for a blog post. Accordingly I have made the following simplifying assumptions:

* The grid is an “electricity island” – i.e. no exports or imports.

* It starts out with 30% baseload generation and 70% load-following generation . Renewables generation, including hydro, is zero.

* Baseload and load-following generation is progressively replaced with intermittent wind and solar generation, with baseload and load-following generation decreasing in direct proportion to the percentage of wind + solar generation in the mix. This broadly analogs the approaches a number of countries have adopted or plan to adopt.

* Annual demand stays constant.

* Enough battery storage is added to match wind + solar generation to annual demand based on daily average data. Shorter-term variations in generation, which will tend to increase storage requirements, are not considered. Neither is the option of installing more wind + solar than is necessary to meet demand, which will have the opposite effect but at the expense of increased curtailment (see this post for more details).

* Transmission system upgrades are ignored.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How to save the world from climate catastrophe – the IRENA study

How to save the world from climate catastrophe – the IRENA study

IRENA, the International Renewable Agency, has just published a study showing how the world can meet the not-to-exceed-2°C emissions goal set by the Paris Agreement. It’s not a 100% renewables study – it still includes a little oil, gas and nuclear – but it concludes, unsurprisingly, that a massive expansion of renewable energy in all sectors will be needed between now and 2050, along with major improvements in energy efficiency, to keep the Earth within its allowable carbon budget. The study provides information on the changes that will be needed to meet this goal but provides no specifics on how they are to be met. It estimates the costs of the changes at $120 trillion (~$4 trillion/year from now to 2050, or about 5% of total world GDP) but provides no specifics on where the money is to come from. It is nevertheless confident that this massive outlay will be “dwarfed by the benefits”.

The IRENA report contains 73 pages, only 10 of which (Analysis and Insights in Key Sectors, pp. 31-40) deal with the specifics of the changes that are needed to achieve IRENA’s proposed “energy transition”. But no information is provided on how these changes are to be achieved and whether they will work if they are. Simulation models, such as those used in the Jacobson, Lappeenranta and Blakers studies, are normally used to perform this task, but IRENA seems to have by-passed this step. It has simply estimated how much renewable energy and improved energy efficiency is needed to meet the 2°C emissions goal, and the costs thereof, and it presents these estimates as achievable solutions rather than targets.

IRENA considers two scenarios. The base year for both is 2015.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

A brief review of the Buckland, Alaska, solar project

A brief review of the Buckland, Alaska, solar project

Buckland is one of a number of projects in remote Alaskan villages that aim to replace expensive diesel with “cheap” solar. Here I examine how much diesel the Buckland array will actually save and how cheap the solar electricity that replaces it will be. The results show that Buckland’s solar array will cut its annual diesel consumption by 3% at most and that any impacts on electricity rates will be imperceptible. If the array’s capacity is expanded to the level where the impacts do become perceptible then electricity rates will probably increase because solar electricity will likely be more expensive than the diesel electricity it replaces. The rationale for the project is therefore questionable (Inset: Buckland Village, Credit NANA regional corporation).

The article on Buckland solar in Blowout Week 252 attracted some interest, so I thought a more detailed review of the project would be in order. As is usual in such cases a number of assumptions have had to be made to complete the review, so the numbers and graphs presented here should be regarded as approximate.

The Figure 1 Google Earth map shows the location of Buckland relative to:

  • Three nearby native villages. The monthly electricity consumption data from these villages were used to estimate monthly consumption at Buckland.
  • Fairbanks, the closest place with data from operating solar arrays. These data were used to estimate monthly solar generation at Buckland. Fairbanks is 630km east of Buckland but lies at about the same latitude (64° 50’N vs. 65° 58’N).
  • Anchorage, the state capital.

Figure 1: Buckland location map

The Buckland solar array:

No specifications or costs for the Buckland array have been published, so I have made the following assumptions:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Quantifying wind surpluses and deficits in Western Europe

Quantifying wind surpluses and deficits in Western Europe

This post updates my January 2015 Wind blowing nowhere post using 2016 rather than 2013 data. The 2016 data show the same features as the 2013 data, with high and low wind conditions extending over large areas and a decreasing level of correlation with distance between countries. The post also quantifies the surpluses and deficits created by high and low wind conditions in January 2016 in gigawatts. The results indicate that wind surpluses in Western European countries during windy periods will be too large to be exported to surrounding countries and that wind deficits during wind lulls will be too large to be covered by imports from surrounding countries. This casts further doubt on claims that wind surpluses and deficits in one region can be offset by transfers to and from another because the wind is always blowing somewhere.

2016 Wind Generation:

The wind and other data used in this post are from the P-F Bach data base used in “wind blowing nowhere”. Three of the countries for which 2013 data were available – Finland, Ireland and Belgium – have no 2016 data, but three countries that had no 2013 data – Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands – do. As a result we now have a contiguous block of nine countries that extends from Gibraltar to North Cape, a distance of 4,400km, and which has a width of up to 1,900 km (Figure 1). The total area covered by the nine countries is 2.66 million sq km:

Figure 1: Countries with 2016 wind generation data

Wind capacity factors by country are shown in Figure 2 (click to enlarge). Capacity factors instead of actual generation values are plotted to avoid swamping countries with low levels of wind generation with generation from large producers, and daily rather than hourly data are shown for readability. Capacity factors are adjusted for capacity additions during the year:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Scotland’s wind exports to England and the myth of a 100% renewable Scotland

Scotland’s wind exports to England and the myth of a 100% renewable Scotland

Well over half of Scotland’s wind generation between January 12, 2018 and the present was exported to England and not consumed in Scotland. Euan Mearns reached substantially the same conclusion in his review of January and February 2016 data. Scotland’s government nevertheless assumes that all of Scotland’s wind generation is consumed in Scotland, that intermittency is not an issue, and that Scotland is therefore on track to meet its target of obtaining 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2020. The chances that Scotland will meet this target are of course zero, and Scotland’s government is pulling the wool over the public’s eyes by pretending otherwise.

[Inset image: Stirling Castle with environmentally enhanced scenery in the background.]

This post is an update of a number of posts Euan Mearns has written since 2015, with the most recent being Scotland-England electricity transfers and the perfect storm in March 2017. It uses five-minute Scotland-England transfer data between January 12 and October 23, 2018 that are now publically available on Leo Smith’s Gridwatch site. Gridwatch, however, does not break out any other grid data for Scotland, meaning that some assumptions have had to be made. These were:

1. Scotland’s wind generation. According to BEIS data UK wind generation totalled 50,004 MWh in 2017 and Scotland’s wind generation totalled 17,063 MWh, 33.5% of total UK generation. In the first two quarters of 2018 UK wind generation totalled 27,802 MWh and Scotland’s wind generation totalled 9,121 MWh, 32.8% of total UK generation. In both cases Scotland’s wind generation amounts to about a third of total UK generation, so it was simulated by dividing the Gridwatch 5-minute UK grid values by three. This conversion assumes that variations in wind generation were the same in Scotland as they were in the UK as a whole.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Blowout Week 251

Blowout Week 251

We are told that the cost of Li-ion storage batteries is decreasing. Not so with Tesla, which has just increased the price of its 13.5 kWh Powerwall unit plus supporting hardware from $US6,600 ($489/kWh) to $7,800 ($578/kWh). The $100/kWh “holy grail” price considered necessary to support mass deployment of battery storage is obviously still some way off. To follow we have our usual mix – the latest doings of OPEC; natural gas in California; coal in the US, Germany and Finland; nuclear in Japan, Ontario, India, Belgium and Germany; hydro and pot in Canada; 100% renewables in Puerto Rico and Scotland; the Ireland-Wales Greenlink; the UK backs off EVs; car bodies made from carbon fiber batteries and what climate change is going to do to beer.

Greentechmedia: Tesla Hikes Powerwall Prices to Better Reflect ‘Value’

If you looked at Tesla’s Powerwall website earlier this week you might have noticed that the price for “supporting hardware” had quietly ticked up.

That hardware, known as the Gateway, was previously listed at $700. Recently, it climbed to $1,100. Today, Tesla followed up with an official global pricing adjustment for the Powerwall, its famed home energy storage system. In addition to the Gateway increase, the price of the Powerwall itself rose to $6,700 — up $800 from $5,900. The company already increased the Powerwall price once earlier this year, from $5,500 to $5,900. “We occasionally adjust our global pricing to best reflect what we’re offering to customers and the value of our products,” a Tesla spokesperson wrote in a Friday morning email. “The price adjustments made today are the latest example of that.”

Reuters: Saudi Arabia assures OPEC there will be no crude shortage

Saudi Arabia has assured OPEC that it is “committed, capable and willing” to ensure there will be no shortage in the oil market, OPEC’s secretary-general said on Wednesday.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

An update on the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project

An update on the King Island Renewable Energy Integration Project

A number of operating small-scale renewables plants provide advance warning of the potential problems involved in transitioning the world to renewable energy, but only two of them – Gorona del Viento in the Canary Islands (GdV) and King Island, Tasmania (KI) – provide grid data that allow their performance to be checked. In this post I summarize the results of another batch of KI data covering the period from July 15 through September 30, 2018. Over this period KI generated about 60% of its electricity from renewables, effectively the same estimate as I made for October and November 2017 in this earlier post. Like GdV, however, KI will always need fossil fuel backup to fill in gaps when the wind does not blow.

There are three problems with the KI grid data. First, they are available only though KI’s live data site, which because it changes the readings once every two or three seconds leads to huge data volumes (a month generates over a million lines). Second, the site has recently been down for almost half the time. But two Energy Matters stalwarts, Rainer Strassburger and Thinks Too Much, continue to download what they can, and T2M has succeeded in condensing some of the data down to manageable 1-minute intervals, no mean feat. So a hat-tip to these gentlemen.

The third problem is that KI, despite strenuous efforts on my part, have once again refused to send me their data. They claim a) that they can’t release the data to just anybody and b) that they don’t have the time anyway.

A quick refresher on KI. First a location map:

Figure 1: King Island location map

Installed capacity at KI amounts to approximately 9MW. It consists of:

  • four diesel generators (6.00 MW)
  • five wind turbines (2.45 MW)
  • a solar array (0.1 MW); and
  • domestic solar (approximately 0.5 MW)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The IPCC Special Report – mountain or molehill?

According to a number of media sources the just-released IPCC Special Report confirms that climate change is about to fry us (We need massive changes to avoid climate hell says Wired Magazine). In fact it adds nothing of significance to what the IPCC concluded in its 2014 Assessment Report (AR5) and provides no new evidence to support the claim that climate change will fry us when warming reaches 1.5 – 2°C above pre-industrial levels. Effectively all it says is that the impacts of 2°C of warming will be greater than the impacts of 1.5°C of warming. In short, it’s a molehill. Or maybe just a medium-sized cow pat.

The IPCC Special Report:

…. responds to the invitation for IPCC ‘… to provide a Special Report in 2018 on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways’ contained in the Decision of the 21st Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to adopt the Paris Agreement. It will be a key scientific input into the Katowice Climate Change Conference in Poland in December, when governments review the Paris Agreement to tackle climate change.

The results of the report are presented in:

  • A four-page press release
  • A three-page summary of “headline statements”
  • A 33-page Summary for Policymakers, and
  • Complete texts of Chapters 1 through 5, amounting to some hundreds of pages.

Here I address only the first three documents. The Chapters are a little too long for a brief review.

What the press release says

We begin with the more important statements made in the press release, which is what the media will read first and quite possibly all the media will read:

1. Limiting global warming to 1.5ºC would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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