Weather-Dependent Power Generation

Originally posted at edmdotme

The primary policy to combat “Climate Change” in the West has been to install and heavily subsidise “Renewable”  Wind and Solar power generation.  The recorded productivity history of European wide “Renewable” Power generation since 2008 is shown below.

The impact of the 2021 Wind drought can be seen clearly in terms of reduced 2021 productivity.

The 2021 European Wind Drought and Weather-Dependent power generation

For the last 10 years as “Renewable” installations have become established in Europe they have achieved on average the overall productivity percentages as shown below.

Note that Conventional power generators are rated at ~90%, that is the full potential achievable when un-encumbered by the political interventions that prioritise the mandatory imposition of power input from Weather-Dependent “Renewables”.

It is unlikely that any advances in the established “Renewable” technologies can provide further significant improvement from these current average productivity values.

Gas-fired power

The most cost effective, reliable and incidentally the least CO2 emitting means of fossil fuel power generation is the use of Natural Gas.  Gas-firing produces:

  • CO2 emissions 1/2 that of burning Coal or Lignite
  • CO2 emissions almost 1/4 of the use of imported Biomass.

Over the past 20 years, the cost-effective use of Fracked Natural Gas for power generation, replacing Coal in the USA, has reduced USA CO2 emissions / head by about 1/3.  In the 1990’s the UK’s “Dash for Gas policy” contributed significantly to the UK’s reduction of CO2 emissions by about 40%.

Global Man-made CO2 emissions 1965 – 2020: BP data

Power generation costings compared 

Except for Offshore Wind power generation, the comparative basic capital and long-term costs are roughly comparable between fossil fuel and Weather-Dependent generators. However, Gas-firing is particularly cost effective.

The comparative costs above show the costs of installing and running the generation technologies:  the picture changes radically when the productivity achievable by the various technologies is taken into account.  This then shows the comparative costs of actually delivering a Gigawatt unit of energy to the Grid.

It is only when their actual  productivity contributing power to the grid that true cost comparisons of the power supplied to the Grid can be made: these are summarised below.

So, when not accounting for productivity, the US EIA comparative power generation costs for the installation and running of:

  • Onshore Wind power is roughly twice the cost of Gas-firing
  • Offshore Wind power is 5 – 7 times the cost of Gas-firing.
  • Solar Power is about 1 1/2 times the cost of Gas-firing

But taking into account productivity for the same power output the installation and running of:

  • Onshore Wind power is ~7 times the cost of Gas-firing
  • Offshore Wind power is ~16-20 times the cost of Gas-firing.
  • Solar power is about ~10-12 times the cost of Gas-firing

A 2020 model of comparative costings for power generation technologies

Any assertion that “Renewables” are reaching cost parity with conventional power generation is patently false.

These comparative values show how the irrational political obsession with nominally reducing CO2 emissions, (UK at 1% of Global CO2 emissions), increases the costs and reliability of power generation for the Nation.

The appalling delusion

As Professor David Mackay FRS, (eminent Cambridge physicist and former chief scientific officer at the UK Department of Energy), said in an interview just before his untimely death in 2016, that the promotion of

“Renewable Energy” was driven by an “appalling delusion”.

The delusion has been perpetrated by people who have no understanding of the mathematics, engineering and practicalities of Energy technologies.

Would anyone sane ever buy a car costing between 8 – 20 times the normal price that only works one day in five, when you never know which day that might be ?  And then insist that its technology is used to power the whole economy.

The comparative figures above are underestimates of the true costs of mandating Weather-Dependent “Renewables”.  These comparative results only account for the cost comparisons for capital and running costs of the generation installations themselves and the actual electrical power generated accounting for their measured productivity capability of each generating technology.

The other Cost implications and CO2 emissions penalties of Weather Dependent “Renewables”

The significant ancillary costs, not accounted for in the calculations above, inevitably also associated with Wind power and Solar PV generators result from:

  • their unreliability in terms of both power intermittency and power variability.
  • the non-dispatchability of Renewables:  the wind will not blow, the clouds will not clear away and the world will not stop rotating to order, whenever power is needed by Man-kind.

Weather-Dependent generators do not run 24/7:  they do not achieve 90% productivity. 

  • the poor timing of power generation by “Renewables”, it is often unlikely to be well coordinated with demand:  for example, Solar energy, as has been seen recently in California power falls off in the evening, at times of peak demand, leading to rolling blackouts.  Winter Solar output is virtually absent even in Southern European countries, ~1/7th of the output than in the summer, the periods of lower power demand.
  • the long transmission lines from remote, dispersed generators, incurs both power losses in transmission, further infrastructure  and increased maintenance costs.
  • requirement for the sterilisation of large land areas, especially when compared with conventional electricity generation, (Gas-firing and Nuclear).
  • much destructive additional engineering infrastructure is needed for access.
  • the continuing costs of back-up generation, which is essential to maintain continuous power supplies, but which may only be used on occasions and has to be wastefully running in spinning reserve and emitting some CO2 nonetheless.

It should always be noted that if there has to be sufficient back-up capacity using fossil fuels to support the grid whenever wind and solar are not available.  Such support is costly to run continuously, then there is very little point in doubling up the generation capacity, to be available 24/7,  with comparatively non-productive and much more costly Weather-Dependent generators, which might conceivably substitute some CO2 emissions but they certainly still emit substantial levels of CO2 for their manufacture, installation and maintenance. 

Comparing Performance and Costs of power generation technologies: 2020

  • any consideration of electrical storage using batteries, which would impose very significant additional costs, were long-term, (only a few days), battery storage even feasible economically.  This makes any idea of long-term seasonal power storage impractical.
  • unsynchronised generation with lack of inherent inertia essential to maintain grid frequency.
  • Weather-Dependent generators cannot provide a “black start” recovery from a major grid outage.

Importantly in addition these cost analyses do not account for:

  • the inevitable environmental damage and wildlife destruction caused by Weather-Dependent generators.
  • the “Carbon footprint” of Weather-Dependent generation technologies:  they may never save as much CO2 during their service life as they are likely to require for their materials sourcing, manufacture, installation, maintenance and eventual demolition.
  • when viewed in the round, all these installation activities are entirely dependent on the use of substantial amounts of fossil fuels both as feedstocks for the materials and as fuels for manufacturing.
  • the technologies used in Weather-Dependent generators are also highly dependent on large amounts of scarce materials giving rise to very extensive mining demands.
  • the Energy Return on Energy Invested:  Weather-Dependent generators may well produce only a minimal excess of Energy during their service life as was committed for their original manufacture and installation.  They certainly do not provide the regular massive excess power sufficient to support the multiple needs of a developed society.  Accordingly, they are parasitic on the use of fossil fuels for their existence.

None of these imposed supplementary costs are assessed in the Cost comparisons above.

via Watts Up With That?

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May 22, 2022 at 08:51AM

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