Saturday, 6 February 2016

World's biggest offshore wind farm to add £5.6 billion to energy bills over 15 years.

The National Audit Office underestimate the cost of offshore wind projects for Britain by 29%.

Hornsea Project One wind farm will see 174 turbines - each taller than the Gherkin - built 75 miles off the coast of Grimsby, spanning an area five times the size of Hull. The 3 phases of the project will build 1200 MW of wind power. Each turbine will be 6.9 GWe. Dong Energy, majority-owned by the Danish state, will build the wind farm and be paid a contract for difference of £140 per megawatt hour (2012 prices). This increases in line with the consumer prices index (CPI). The wind farm will be finished until 2019, and operational by 2020. The contract for difference lasts 15 years. This contract was awarded in 2014, without competition, by former energy secretary Ed Davey in 2014. Since then we've seen competitive offshore wind contracts awards can be as low as £115/MWh

Historically, offshore capacity utilization around Britain has been 33%. These turbines are taller. We should be generous and assume they will harvest wind at a rate of about 35%. That makes the effective capacity of this installation about 420 MWe.

With a wholesale market price of, say £45/MWh, and guaranteed price of £147.1/MWh, we now calculate the subsidy. (147.1 - 45) × 1200 × 0.35 × 24 × 365¼ = £376 million/year. Over a 15 year life that makes a £5,639 billion taxpayer subsidy. For the wholesale price of British electricity. £35/MWh is the minimum, £55/MWh a maximum, and £45/MWh an average.

CPIstrike price (£/MWh)

DECC did their calculations with 2013-14 prices which they think are £144/MWh. I'm not seeing that. Looks more like £145/MWh. Redoing my calculation as (145 - 45) × 1200 × 0.35 × 24 × 365¼ = £368 million/year. £5.523 billion over 15 years. The National Audit Office, NAO, numbers add up to £4.2 billion over 15 years. I calculate the cost at 31.5% more than the NAO.

The table compares my prices with DECC's prices. In the table below I assume DECC 2013/14 strike prices (as shown in the table). My calculations show offshore wind projects to be 29% more expensive than DECC/NAO numbers. DECC/NAO offshore wind total = £11.7 bn; Mine = £15.11 bn.

Table data : page 14 of Early contracts for renewable electricity

The Department awarded contracts to eight projects, commissioning from 2015 to 2019
ProjectsTechnologyTarget commissioning dateContract term or fixed end dateCapacity developer aims to install (MWe)Strike price (£/MWh, 2012 prices)Strike price (£/MWh, 2013-14 prices)DECCMy
cost of support (£bn, 2013-14 prices)
Teesside Renewable Energy ProjectBiomass combined heat and power31/07/201815 years2991251291.91.9
Drax 3rd Conversion Unit (Unit #1)Biomass conversion01/02/201620276451051081.71.7
Lynemouth Power StationBiomass conversion31/12/201520274201051081.11.1
Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm – Phase 1Offshore wind31/03/201815 years2801401441.01.28
Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm – Phase 2Offshore wind31/03/201915 years3841401441.31.75
Burbo Bank Extension Offshore Wind FarmOffshore wind31/03/201715 years2581501541.01.29
Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm – Phase 1Offshore wind01/03/201715 years901501540.40.45
Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm – Phase 2Offshore wind01/08/201715 years2101501540.81.05
Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm – Phase 3Offshore wind01/10/201715 years1021501540.40.51
Hornsea 1st GW Offshore Wind Farm – Phase 1Offshore wind31/03/201915 years4001401441.41.82
Hornsea 1st GW Offshore Wind Farm – Phase 2Offshore wind31/03/202015 years4001401441.41.82
Hornsea 1st GW Offshore Wind Farm - Phase 3Offshore wind31/03/202115 years4001401441.41.82
Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm – Phase 1Offshore wind31/03/201715 years3301501541.31.66
Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm – Phase 2Offshore wind31/03/201815 years3301501541.31.66

Thursday, 4 February 2016

How much Electricity storage would a wind-powered Britain need?

Short answer: 17,464 GWh, or about 654 times more than we currently have.

How much would that cost?

World experience is that hydro projects cost about US$2,000/kW to US$4,000/kW
-- Pumped-hydro energy storage – cost estimates for a feasible system.

At 2 to 4 $bn/GWh. Total storage costs for UK = £2 × 55 bn to £4 × 55 bn = $110 bn to $220 bn. UK hydro could not store the necessary energy, but could provide the power for a short time. We would need storage for 11643 million m³ of water. 11.643 km³. Let's take a proposed example. This massive scheme drowning a large area at Strathdearn in the Scottish Highlands would manage 4.4 km³ of water with a head of only 300 m. This is similar to the head at Ffestiniog. Scaling 4.4 billion m³ we expect 3365 GWh. This will be 20% of the capacity the UK would need to support wind intermittency.

Britain currently has 4 pumped hydro storage plants providing a total of 26.7 GWh of electrical storage. This pumped hydro isn't used for storage in the sense that renewable advocates want - to buffer intermittent generation. It's used to quickly bring peaking capacity online for quite short periods during late afternoon, early evening 4:30 pm to 7:00 pm.

stationpower (MW)head (m)volume (million m³)energy stored (GWh)
Coire Glas300-600500-30.0
Total:3520 - 412026.7 - 106.7

How much extra would a wind-powered Britain need?

I reckon we'd need enough to cover for days of greatest demand, assuming a very low wind period.

A high demand day fell on 12-December 2012 requiring an average of 47.9 GW. Demand varied from a minimum of 37.1 GW (4am) to a maximum of 56.9 GW (5pm). Britain used 1,149.6 GWh of electricity that day. 23 such days would demand 26,440.8 GWh.

A low wind period happened during the first 23 days of Sept 2014. Back then we had 11,187 MWe of wind generation capacity, but it only produced 587.3 GWh for those 23 days, averaging 9.5% capacity.

That gives us a good idea of what kind of day we need to cover for, and for how long.

In Britain average offshore wind power capacity is 33%, onshore 23%, and the average (of both) is 28%. A wind powered Britain would need 171 GWe of wind (assuming 50:50 offshore:onshore). That's because 171 GWe of wind running at 28% generates 47.9 GWe, which is exactly our average demand on a cold winter day (such as 12-Dec 2012).

How much would have 171 GWe of wind made during that 23-day Sept-2014 low wind period? It would've generated 587.3 × 171 ÷ 11.187 = 8,977 GWh. Yet 23 cold, low-wind, days similar to 12-Dec 2012 would require 23 × 1,149.6 = 26,441. The short fall is 26,441 - 8,977 = 17,464 GWh.

The thin green line on the chart shows the expected (or average) o/p, assuming 28% capacity utilization.

Appendix 1 - British Wind output in Sept 2014
Total days 1 - 23 :587.3
Expected daily average of 11,187 MWe wind plant @ 28%75.2

Source: Gridwatch downloads.
Note: The Gridwatch wind numbers show only metered wind, which is about 2/3 the total, so Gridwatch wind values are multiplied by 1.5 to get those shown above.

Appendix 2 - British Electrical power demand on 12-Dec 2012
TimeDemand, GWe

Source: DECC


  1. How much bulk energy storage is needed to decarbonize electricity?, 2015, by Hossein Safaei and David W. Keith

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

No German carbon dioxide emission reductions for 7 straight years.

Germany is held up as a paragon of climate change. We're constantly told how we need to emulate the German example. Yet there have been no German CO2 emission reductions since 2009. In terms of actually reducing global warming, Germany ranks well below nuclear powered France, and even below Britain. So the propaganda from the renewable energy dimwits continues.

The values for 2015 are not included in the table below because they're unavailable from EDGAR, but two other sources confirm that Germany's 2015 CO2 emissions are just a little higher than 2014 [ Germany’s energy-related CO2 emissions up 0.9% in 2015 ]. Green Budget Germany say: German CO2 emissions rise 1.1% in 2015 (ref: pdf). Red coloured numbers show increases, not reductions.

Edit: It gets worse. Since I wrote this there's a even more damning indictment of Germany energy policy here, which shook my faint faith in renewable energies even more!

  • 2015 was Germany’s second warmest year on record, meaning fuel consumed for heating had to have been low
  • About half of Germany’s CO2 reductions since 1990 resulted from the shut-down of former communist East Germany’s inefficient state-run industry
  • In 2016 Germany CO2 emissions increased yet again. 0.9% up on 2015. It was due to rising energy demand of 1.6%.

EU28+2 per capita CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use & cement production 2009-2014
ton (Mg) CO2 per capita and per yearReduction% reduction since 2009
United Kingdom7.
Czech Republic11.011.411.211.010.510.40.65.5%
Source:EDGAR Emissions database (EU)

Nor are we likely to see German CO2 emissions reductions till 2023. Most of Germany's nuclear reactors are yet to close (source: WNA).

Megawatts of German nuclear power closed
YearMegawatts (MWe)
10,728total due

Monday, 1 February 2016

What's wrong with renewable energy (for Britain)?

Solar and wind are clearly viable, in the sense they work. Viable doesn't mean they make good solutions. Two scenarios are proposed for solar and wind are:

  1. "All of the above"
  2. WWS - "Wind, Wave, Solar". A 100%-RE future

Let's consider the 2nd first: WWS. The main weakness of wind and solar are that power sources are:

  1. very dilute. Wind averages about 2 watts per square metre. Solar peaks at about 200 watts per square metre (w/m) and averages 100 w/m. Read the sections on Wind and Solar in Renewable Energy Without the Hot Air.
  2. The sources are variable (or intermittent). There's no sun at night, less sun on cloudy days, and about 5 times more sun in summer than winter (in Britain). The ratio of winter to summer sun depends on one's latitude :- how far away one is from the equator. The further away, the less sun there is in winter. In Britain, solar' weakness is more a case that our maximum electricity demand peaks in mid-winter in early evening (5pm to 7pm) at about 54 Gigawatts. Our maximum demand is at a time when the sun has set, and annual solar output is at its lowest. In contrast, minimum demand is about half that (about 28 GWe): on a summer Sunday. If we make enough solar to wholly power us on that summer Sunday, it will still only make enough electricity to supply a tenth of our winter needs. So are we supposed to over-build 10 times as much solar as we need?

Even windy countries like Britain experience windless (or low wind) periods. For example 20 days at the start of September 2014 when wind was down to about a third its average. Because the sources are intermittent we'd need a lot of energy when there's no sun or wind. Wind-powered Britain would need 2 weeks backup. How much is that? Our average power use is about 40 GWe. Multiply that by 20 days, 24 hours a day, we have 40 × 24 × 20 × ⅔ = 12,800 Gigawatt hours (GWh). A truly astounding reserve supply of energy. We won't be making batteries to store it, don't have enough water to provide for pumped storage. Neither wind nor solar would work for Britain. Nor would any combination. We don't really have lot's of spare land, nor are we willing to damn our rivers. Hydro resources are almost maxed out. That leaves us wave and tidal power. This will be even more expensive than solar and wind but has different intermittency issues.

Renewable energy will not stop us using fossil fuels

The only sensible thing would be to switch on fossil fuel (gas, coal or oil) power stations to solve RE's intermittency issue. So renewable energy will not stop us using fossil fuels. In fact, Germany has seen no emission reductions for 7 straight years : 2009 to 2015 inclusive. Naturally green campaigners now want to stop us using any new fossil fuel resources, such as fracked natural gas. The natural gas we'd (actually) need to power their (imaginary) 100%-RE future is to be banned!

What's the point?

What's the point of RE if it does not really lead to the zero-carbon energy future RE advocates say they want? Is it really just a Trojan horse to con us into de-energizing with more expensive, unreliable energy (followed by consequent deindustrilization). Yes, that's what I believe the RE-agenda to be. People who know what they're doing want to deindustrialize. People who don't know what they're doing are just their useful idiots.

Renewable energy problems are glossed over

All these problems of renewables are glossed over by the promoters. They have basic spreadsheet and computer models which don't address real world concerns. Models which only exist to provide a thin gloss to befuddle critics and con more RE supporters. RE supporters are not serious enough to provide us with models that acknowledge the weaknesses of renewable energy. It is, in fact, a climate change denying crime to say there are weaknesses. Renewable intermittency is said to be a myth in hard-core RE circles. They deny the real world. No wonder they can't be bothered to model their supposed 100%-RE future!

RE is decentralized and trans-national, at the same time!

One set of RE-supporters say that a big reason for supporting RE is that control of energy will, in future, become decentralized. Each community will be able to power themselves and have control over their energy needs. A different set of RE-supporters say that intermittency is a myth at grid scale. That's because when there's no power in Britain, there will be an oversupply somewhere else, from which Britain can draw on, for example, from the Balklands. Nations will no longer be in control - there will be an international grid. How is it possible for one band of RE supporters to believe one narrative and for the professionals to believe an opposite? The answer's simple: RE is whatever you want it to be. It's more an aspiration for an alternative than an actual alternative. People project their dreams onto it. Their RE-future becomes what they want it to be.

So 100% renewable energy is unrealistic and undesirable.

What about all of the above?

Yet what's wrong with "all of the above" : nuclear, wind, and solar? The answer is: the more wind and solar built, the more fossil plant is needed to provide for sunless and windless periods, the less viable that makes nuclear power. Nuclear power plants provide power all the time at a pretty constant rate. The main problem they have is making too much electricity in early morning hours, too little during peak periods. Nuclear plants can be designed to load follow but that's not ideal - it makes nuclear power less efficient. Because nuclear provides constant power, there's no real point in harvesting wind and sun, as we just oversupply. At the moment, oversupplied RE is paid for. RE has priority grid access, meaning the grid must take it (and pay for it) whether or not it's needed. In times when RE is supplying, nuclear power would not be paid for. With RE on the grid, nuclear power would only get a fraction of the revenues it could otherwise get. More RE makes nuclear power less economically viable. In contrast, non-RE baseload power is essential to make RE work. RE needs nuclear power but nuclear power doesn't need RE. The argument against all of the above is presented by Peter Lang, copied to here: Every new investment in renewable capacity is delaying GHG emissions reductions.

The best, most efficient, non-carbon, electricity grid, is to aim for 100% nuclear powered grid like France with plentiful pumped storage. Now that we're 10 to 20 years away from advanced nuclear power designs like molten salt reactors, we will be able to build nuclear to be ultra-safe, and cheap. In the meantime, we have very safe Gen III+ designs such as the Westinghouse AP1000.