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UK Grid Warns Of Electricity Shortage Due To Drop In Wind

The UK’s electricity grid operator has warned of a short supply over the next few days due to generator outages and a lull in autumn winds.

The National Grid said on Oct. 14 that it was exploring various measures to create a buffer to avoid potential outages, like the one last summer that left 1 million homes without power.

“We’re forecasting tight margins on the electricity system over the next few days owing to a number of factors including weather, import and export levels and availability of generators over periods of the day with higher demand,” the National Grid said in a statement.

“Unusually low wind output coinciding with a number of generator outages means the cushion of spare capacity we operate the system with has been reduced.”

Power outages in the UK are rare. The last blackout was over a year ago and lasted for only one hour.

In an update on Oct. 15, the National Grid said that margins are currently “adequate” and it will continue to monitor the situation through the weekend.

According to the National Grid, last month one-fifth of the power supply came from wind, “in spite of unusually calm British weather during the middle of September.”

The latest announcement may fan concerns about over-reliance on wind power, which critics say is unreliable compared to gas or nuclear power.

Growth in Renewable Energy

Renewable energy has been a rapidly growing source of electricity in the UK. According to government data, 47 percent of UK electricity generation came from renewables in the first quarter of 2020, compared to 36 percent from the same time in the previous year.

A maintenance boat works next to the turbines of the new Burbo Bank offshore wind farm in the mouth of the River Mersey on May 12, 2008, in Liverpool, England. (Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

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

Rolling blackouts in California show how reliance on solar and wind power can backfire

Image: Rolling blackouts in California show how reliance on solar and wind power can backfire
(Natural News) California issued its first rolling blackouts in nearly 20 years last week as the state’s grid operator tried to keep the power system from complete collapse in the midst of a heat wave, and some are pointing out that the situation demonstrates the failures of green energy.

The rolling blackouts affected upwards of 2 million Californians. Many of the outages took place in the afternoon, when power demand peaked as people starting turning up their air conditioning at the same time that solar power supplies started slowing down as the sun set.

The state’s three biggest utilities – Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas & Electric, and San Diego Gas & Electric – cut off power to homes and businesses for roughly an hour at a time until the close of an emergency declaration, and this was followed by a second outage.

On top of that, erratic output from the state’s wind farms failed to make up the gap. Around a third of the state’s electricity comes from renewable sources thanks to state law mandates, and these alternatives proved incapable of keeping up during peak power usage. In the past, utilities and grid operators in the state bought extra electricity from other states when it fell short, but the vast size of the heat wave meant that other states were also reaching their limits and had none to spare.

Governor Gavin Newsom ordered an investigation into the outages seen in the state over the weekend, vowing to uncover the cause. However, Republican Assemblyman Jim Patterson of Fresno, who serves as the Committee on Utilities and Energy’s Vice Chair, said that the problem can be traced to California’s reduced dependence on natural gas.

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

‘A Breath of Fresh Air’: Offshore Wind Power Could Produce More Electricity Than World Uses

‘A Breath of Fresh Air’: Offshore Wind Power Could Produce More Electricity Than World Uses

“Let’s get going!”

Shanghai Donghai Bridge's 100mw offshore wind power project is China's first national offshore wind power demonstration project in the early morning light of morning in Shanghai, Oct. 4, 2019.
Shanghai Donghai Bridge’s 100mw offshore wind power project is China’s first national offshore wind power demonstration project in the early morning light of morning in Shanghai, Oct. 4, 2019. (Photo: Costfoto/Barcroft Media/Barcroft Media/Getty Images)

A new report from the International Energy Agency released Friday claims that wind power could be a $1 trillion business by 2040 and that the power provided by the green technology has the potential to outstrip global energy needs. 

“Talk about a breath of fresh air,” tweeted writer Steven E. de Souza.

The IEA report looks at the business of wind power and opines that as investment increases and the technology becomes cheaper, the sector could explode. 

The IEA finds that global offshore wind capacity may increase 15-fold and attract around $1 trillion of cumulative investment by 2040. This is driven by falling costs, supportive government policies and some remarkable technological progress, such as larger turbines and floating foundations. That’s just the start—the IEA report finds that offshore wind technology has the potential to grow far more strongly with stepped-up support from policy makers.

“Offshore wind currently provides just 0.3% of global power generation, but its potential is vast,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.

It would take a major infrastructural commitment to develop wind power to the point that the renewable energy resource could take over the majority of global energy needs, but it’s not impossible. As The Guardian pointed out Friday, “if windfarms were built across all useable sites which are no further than 60km (37 miles) off the coast, and where coastal waters are no deeper than 60 metres, they could generate 36,000 terawatt hours of renewable electricity a year.”

“This would easily meeting the current global demand for electricity of 23,000 terawatt hours,” added The Guardian.

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

Getting Real About Green Energy: An honest analysis of what it CAN’T promise

Getting Real About Green Energy: An honest analysis of what it CAN’T promise

I want to be optimistic about the future. I really do.

But there’s virtually no chance of the world transitioning gently to an alternative energy-powered future.

These Are The ‘Good Old Days’

I’m often asked where I stand on wind, solar and other alternative energy sources.

My answer is: I love them. But they’re incapable of enabling our society to smoothly slip over to powering itself by other means.

They’re not going to “save us”.

Some people are convinced otherwise. If we can just fight off the evil oil companies, get our act together, and install a national alternative energy system infrastructure, we’ll be just fine.  Meaning that we”ll be able to continue to live as we do today, but powered fully by clean renewable energy.

That’s just not going to happen. At least, not without a lot of painful disruption and sacrifice.

The top three reasons why are:

  1. Math
  2. Human behavior
  3. Time, scale, & cost

I walk through the detail below. I’m doing so to debunk the magical thinking behind the current “Green Revolution” because I fear it offers a false promise.

Look, I’m a huge fan of renewable energy. And I’m 1,000% in favor of weaning the world off of its toxic addiction to fossil fuels.

But we have to be eyes wide open about our future prospects. Deluding ourselves with “feel good” but unrealistic expectations about green energy will result in the same sort of poor decisions, malinvestment, and crushed dreams as fossil-based system has.

As we constantly repeat here at Peak Prosperity: Energy is everything.  

Without as much available, the future is going to be exceptionally difficult compared to the present. Which is why I call the time we’re living in now The Good Old Days.

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

China’s Renewable Boom Hits The Wall

China’s Renewable Boom Hits The Wall

Renewable Boom

When earlier this year China announced subsidies for 22.79 GW of new solar power capacity, those following the country’s renewable energy story must have started to worry. The capacity subsidized is half the amount approved in 2017, at 53 GW. And chances are that solar and wind additions will continue to fall.

Subsidies are one reason. In January, Beijing said it will only approve solar power projects if they are cost-competitive with coal. Judging by the size of subsidies announced in July, more than 22 GW in projects can boast cost-competitiveness with coal.

Yet there is another reason: curtailment. China-based journalist Michael Standaert wrote in a recent story for Yale Environment 360 that China’s solar and wind farms continue to produce electricity that is wasted because there is not enough transmission capacity.

Renewable energy is a top priority for China as it fights one of the worst air pollution levels in the world while subject to an uncomfortably high degree of reliance on energy imports, namely oil and gas. At the same time, it is one of the biggest—if not the single biggest—driver of global energy demand as its middle class grows fast and with it, energy demand. Now, it seems, energy demand is taking the upper hand.

China has substantially increased subsidies for shale gas exploration and methane separation from coal, Standaert writes. He also quotes a former IEA official as saying, “Though China is the largest clean energy market in the world, wind and solar only accounted for 5.2 percent and 2.5 percent of China’s national power generation in 2018.”

What’s more, Kevin Tu, now a fellow at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University, tells Standaert that “Against the backdrop of an ongoing U.S.-China trade war and a slowing Chinese economy, political priority of climate change in China is unlikely to become very high in the near future, indicating great difficulties for Beijing to further upgrade its climate ambitions.”

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

Rethinking Renewable Mandates

Rethinking Renewable Mandates

Powering the world’s economy with wind, water and solar, and perhaps a little wood sounds like a good idea until a person looks at the details. The economy can use small amounts of wind, water and solar, but adding these types of energy in large quantities is not necessarily beneficial to the system.

While a change to renewables may, in theory, help save world ecosystems, it will also tend to make the electric grid increasingly unstable. To prevent grid failure, electrical systems will need to pay substantial subsidies to fossil fuel and nuclear electricity providers that can offer backup generation when intermittent generation is not available. Modelers have tended to overlook these difficulties. As a result, the models they provide offer an unrealistically favorable view of the benefit (energy payback) of wind and solar.

If the approach of mandating wind, water, and solar were carried far enough, it might have the unfortunate effect of saving the world’s ecosystem by wiping out most of the people living within the ecosystem. It is almost certain that this was not the intended impact when legislators initially passed the mandates.

[1] History suggests that in the past, wind and water never provided a very large percentage of total energy supply.

Figure 1. Annual energy consumption per person (megajoules) in England and Wales 1561-70 to 1850-9 and in Italy 1861-70. Figure by Tony Wrigley, Cambridge University.

Figure 1 shows that before and during the Industrial Revolution, wind and water energy provided 1% to 3% of total energy consumption.

For an energy source to work well, it needs to be able to produce an adequate “return” for the effort that is put into gathering it and putting it to use. Wind and water seemed to produce an adequate return for a few specialized tasks that could be done intermittently and that didn’t require heat energy.

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

45 Reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels

45 Reasons why wind power can not replace fossil fuels

Source: Leonard, T. 2012. Broken down and rusting, is this the future of Britain’s ‘wind rush’? https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2116877/Is-future-Britains-wind-rush.html

Preface. Electricity simply doesn’t substitute for all the uses of fossil fuels, so windmills will never be able to reproduce themselves from the energy they generate — they are simply not sustainable.  Consider the life cycle of a wind turbine – giant diesel powered mining trucks and machines dig deep into the earth for iron ore, fossil-fueled ships take the ore to a facility that will use fossil fuels to crush it and permeate it with toxic petro-chemicals to extract the metal from the ore. Then the metal will be taken in a diesel truck or locomotive to a smelter which runs exclusively on fossil fuels 24 x 7 x 365 for up to 22 years (any stoppage causes the lining to shatter so intermittent electricity won’t do). There are over 8,000 parts to a wind turbine which are delivered over global supply chains via petroleum-fueled ships, rail, air, and trucks to the assembly factory. Finally diesel cement trucks arrive at the wind turbine site to pour many tons of concrete and other diesel trucks carry segments of the wind turbine to the site and workers who drove gas or diesel vehicles to the site assemble it.

Here are the topics covered below in this long post:

  1. Windmills require petroleum every single step of their life cycle. If they can’t replicate themselves using wind turbine generated electricity, they are not sustainable
  2. SCALE. Too many windmills needed to replace fossil fuels
  3. SCALE. Wind turbines can’t be scaled up fast enough to replace fossils
  4. Not enough rare earth metals and enormous amounts of cement, steel, and other materials required
  5. Not enough dispatchable power to balance wind intermittency and unreliability
  6. Wind blows seasonally, so for much of there year there wouldn’t be enough wind

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

Utility scale energy storage has a long way to go to make renewables possible

Utility scale energy storage has a long way to go to make renewables possible

What follows comes from my book  When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation , which is also where you’ll find the references backing up what I’ve written below. 

I often get letters from people about energy breakthroughs in biofuels, solar, electric trucks, and so on. This post is about the “record breaking amount of battery storage add in 2018” (go here to read the article). 

To enhance your own evaluation of the constant barrage of happy news in the media, here’s why I didn’t get excited or cheered up and go back to thinking the future was bound to be bright and shiny.

First, let’s go over the four possible ways to store electrical energy. We don’t need to store much now, because we still have natural gas, which kicks in to balance solar and wind power (but not coal and nuclear, which are damaged by trying to do this), and for much of the year provides 66% of electricity generation (along with coal), because wind and solar are so seasonal.

So if the grid is to be 100% renewable someday, which it has to be since the 66% of power coming from fossil fuels now to generate electricity is finite, then utility scale energy storage is essential Let’s look at what it would take each of the four methods to store just one day of U.S. electricity generation, 11.12 Terawatt Hours (TwH). 

The only commercial way to store electricity is pumped hydro storage (PHS), which can store 2% of America’s electricity generation today. But we’ve run out of places to put new dams. Only two have been built since 1995. There are only 43 PHS dams now, and we’d need 7800 more to store one day of U.S. electricity.

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

Mainstream to jetstream

Mainstream to jetstream 

A couple of decades ago, renewable energy was almost an outlier: the new kid on the block. But now, solar and wind are not just mainstream: in both developed and emerging economies, they are the preferred option when it comes to power generation.

A powerful synergy of enabling factors and demand-side attributes is propelling solar and wind to compete against, and win, in competition with even the most cost-effective and flexible hydrocarbon-fuelled sources of power. Renewable energy is now the preferred choice when it comes  to reliable, affordable, and environmentally responsible energy.

A new report on global renewable energy trends from Deloitte Insights charts the astonishingly rapid disruption of traditional energy systems and markets that renewables are causing as the cost of photovoltaic and windfarm power plants continues to fall.  

Clearing the way

Longstanding barriers to the greater deployment of renewables have faded thanks to three strong attributes: rapidly approaching grid parity, cost-effective and reliable grid integration, and technological innovation. Solar and wind can now beat conventional sources on price while increasingly matching their performance. Moreover, the integration of renewables is actually solving grid problems rather than exacerbating them. Wind and solar are now competitive across global markets even without subsidies.

Onshore wind has become the world’s lowest-cost energy sources for power generation, with an unsubsidized levelized cost of US$ 30 -60/MWh, which falls below the range of the cheapest fossil fuel , natural gas—which weighs in at around US$ 42 – 78/MWh. Except for combined-cycle gas plants, the levelized costs of all conventional sources and nonintermittent renewables have either remained flat (biomass and coal) or increased (geothermal, hydropower, and nuclear) over the past eight years, while the cost of onshore wind and utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) plants have dropped by 67 and 86 percent respectively as the cost of components has plummeted and efficiency has increased—trends that are expected to continue.

 …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.


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…

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…

The National Infrastructure Commission’s plan for a renewable UK

The National Infrastructure Commission’s plan for a renewable UK

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) was launched by then-chancellor George Osborne in October 2015 to “think dispassionately and independently about Britain’s long-term infrastructure needs in areas like transport, energy, communication, flood defence and the like.” Well, the NIC has now thought dispassionately and independently about energy and has concluded that the UK can meet its 2050 decarbonization goals with either a mostly nuclear or mostly renewable generation mix, but that “wind and solar could deliver the same generating capacity as nuclear for the same price, and would be a better choice because there was less risk”. Here we take a brief look at this renewables-beats-nuclear option to see whether it might work.

The NIC study was brought to my attention in a comment by correspondent Ed T in Blowout Week 236, so a hat tip to Ed T. The data available to me consisted of the NIC report, NIC’s Power Point presentation, the source of most of the data I use, and a summary article from the Guardian. The power sector modeling work was performed by Aurora Energy Research (Aurora).

The NIC “aims to be the UK’s most credible, forward-thinking and influential voice on infrastructure policy and strategy, producing reports and analysis of the highest quality, written in plain English, independent of government and all vested interests, and making clear recommendations based on rigorous evidence; and developing an evidence base which sets a gold standard in its quality and breadth.” Its conclusions are summarized in the Guardian article:

Government advisers have told ministers to back only a single new nuclear power station after Hinkley Point C in the next few years, because renewable energy sources could prove a safer investment. Sir John Armitt, the NIC’s chairman, said: He argued that wind and solar could deliver the same generating capacity as nuclear for the same price, and would be a better choice because there was less risk.

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

Why The Coming Oil Crunch Will Shock The World

Anton Balazh/Shutterstock

Why The Coming Oil Crunch Will Shock The World

And why we need a new energy strategy — fast.

My years working in corporate strategy taught me that every strategic framework, no matter how complex (some I worked on were hundreds of pages long), boils down to just two things:

  1. Where do you want to go? (Vision)
  2. How are you going to get there? (Resources)

Vision is the easier one by far. You just dream up a grand idea about where you want the company to be at some target future date, Yes, there’s work in assuring that everybody on the management team truly shares and believes in the vision, but that’s a pretty stratightforward sales job for the CEO.

By the way, this same process applies at the individual level, too, for anyone who wants to achieve a major goal by some point in the future. The easy part of the strategy is deciding you want to be thinner, healthier, richer, or more famous.

But the much harder part, for companies and individuals alike, is figuring out ‘How to get there’. There are always fewer resources than one would prefer.

Corporate strategists always wish for more employees to implement the vision, with better training with better skills. Budgets and useful data are always scarcer than desired, as well.

Similar constraints apply to us individuals. Who couldn’t use more motivation, time and money to pursue their goals?

Put together, the right Vision coupled to a reasonably mapped set of Resources can deliver amazing results. Think of the Apollo Moon missions. You have to know where you’re going and how you’re going to get there to succeed. That’s pretty straightforward, right?

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

The Aberdeen Bay Offshore Wind Farm

The Aberdeen Bay Offshore Wind Farm

After about 15 years in planning, the long awaited and largely hated Aberdeen Bay wind farm has taken shape in recent weeks. I seem to recall early reports saying that the turbines, located on the horizon, would be barely visible from shore. Well that was a lie. The huge towers completely dominate the once unspoiled and beautiful scenery of Balmedie Beach. Those who see this as environmental protection have sick minds. And President Trump, who owns a golf course not far away, and who fought this project in the courts, is going to be mighty angry.

Vital Statistics

The wind farm comprises 11 * 8.4 MW Vestas 164 turbines giving a total installed capacity of 93.2 MW. Here is how Vattenfall, the operator, describe the scheme using the all too familiar venacular of renewables ideology:

  • Annually produce 312 GWh.
  • Have an installed capacity of 93.2MW
  • Annually displace 134,128 tonnes of CO2
  • Remove the equivalent of 736,817 cars from UK roads throughout its lifetime
  • Produce enough electricity every year to meet the equivalent annual demand of 79,209 homes
  • Generate more than the equivalent of 70% of Aberdeen’s domestic electricity demand and 23% of Aberdeen’s total demand
  • Annually invest £150,000 to a Community Benefit Scheme

312 GWh per annum translates to a capacity factor of ~38%. Even although England, Denmark and Germany have vastly bigger offshore wind industries, owing to their favourably shallower water, this facility offshore Aberdeen has been christened the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC). €3 million has been allocated to fund research into the environmental impact. There seems to be hope among local politicians and the press that this windfarm is somehow going to transform Aberdeen’s ailing economy that is still reeling from the 2014 oil price crash. Allow me to pour some cold water on this hope.

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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