/ Our Government's latest plan- Solar Power

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Blizzard - on 23 Jun 2013
My initial reaction prior to reading this article was:

Do we have enough sun in the UK?

Having read the article I have the following responses:

How can it overload our electricity system when we are decommissioning coal powered stations in future?

Where are they going to put them? They require 75,000 acres of land.

Are the subsidies going to be as great as the Wind power subsidies? (the equilivent of apparently £100K per employee- I read somewhere, highly inefficient in real cost terms)

Where is the sense in shutting down a new solar panel system in summer? (insane or what?)

In our modern age of climate change and the need for alternative energy, I am surprised at the objections to large industrial scale plants. They have to be put somewhere, if we are going to make any progress to combat Peak Oil ( I once read in National Geographic Magazine that a large solar plant factory was suggested to be built in Africa and the power generated transported by pylons to Europe to fulfill our energy requirements)
Jim C - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:
What article ?

Some questions I would be Googling re Africa:-

What is the the load factor of these farms in Africa?

How much cleaning is needed keep them clean and efficient, how much does lack of leaning effect efficiency? ( assume. Dust storm can wipe out all previous cleaning in a day?

It is far away from the best sun areas to where we need the power, what are the transportation losses?

Will it then be cost effective to manufacture and maintain/ clean these farms?( or will it be an other very expensive 'free energy source'

UK options are limited I would have thought . Scotland even more challenging , West of Scotland , don't make me laugh, We have little solar lights and a time waterfall, the lights are not too bad in the summer. The waterfall struggles , it is just too cloudy.
jimtitt - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:
The Desertec project is, to put it mildly, having problems.
Thegypsy - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:
A total of £1,146,614 was handed out to the operators of 13 Scottish wind farms, including almost £300,000 for a development built on land owned by the Duke of Roxburghe.


The money, which ultimately comes from electricity consumers’ bills, was given to wind farm companies to compensate them for not producing power during periods of high generation and low demand.


This can happen when it is too windy so as not to overload the National Grid. Anti-wind farm campaigners fear the payments will only increase thanks to Alex Salmond’s drive for a large expansion in the number of turbines north of the Border.


According to figures provided by the Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), a charity that publishes information on the energy sector, more than £1 million in such “constraint payments” were paid out on April 29.


The largest sum paid out on that date was £348,349, which was to shut off the Crystal Rig II wind farm operated by energy company Fred Olsen in East Lothian.
The Lemming - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

How about covering Scafell Pike in solar panels and then storing huge batteries inside Coniston before then feeding back into the National Grid?

How about Snowden?
It all ready has a train and cafe at the top, so why not cover the hill in solar panels?
bigbobbyking - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

A nice little TED talk on renewables http://www.ted.com/talks/david_mackay_a_reality_check_on_renewables.html
Good to see how the numbers might add up in a sober way.

His book is available free online too: http://www.withouthotair.com/ A good read.
MJ - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

Where are they going to put them? They require 75,000 acres of land.

Golf Courses.
steelbru - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:
The roof of every government and council building in UK should have solar panels
Fultonius - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Thegypsy: While it's true that the current situation is not ideal. It is not difficult to come up with alternatives for periods of low demand, high generation:

http://fuelfix.com/blog/2013/06/14/hydrogen-plant-starts-storing-wind-energy-in-germany/

The government should be investing in technologies such as these, rather than lining the pockets of wind farm owners.
In reply to Fultonius:
>
> The government should be investing in technologies such as these, rather than lining the pockets of wind farm owners.

Though at the moment wind power is providing 14% of the whole country's needs:

http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php

Personally I think that is quite impressive.


Chris
Fultonius - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs: I think you're missing my [maybe not so clear] point.

What I was trying to say is that there really should be no "periods of overproduction" and subsequent payments to wind farm owners to shut them down. The surplus should be used gainfully (i.e. stored for use when production drops) rather than shutting down. It is actually not a big issue to solve.

Maybe the govt should change the way that they pay for electricity generated by wind farms. Instead of "paying them to shut down" put the impetus onto the producer to be able to provide a steady output throughout the year?



Epic Ebdon - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Fultonius:

I wouldn't necessarily hold Germany up as a shining example. Of course, things need to start somewhere, but Germany's system of solar generation has quite a lot of problems. Hydrogen production is a relatively inefficient way of storing power, it's difficult to keep a tank full of hydrogen, and producing electricity with it again (admittedly not what's happening in your link) adds another tier of losses.

At the moment, Germany's solar farm owners are additionally subsidised by PV collector area. Of course, as a PV farm owner, you want to maximise your profits, minimise your costs, and make you facility as simple to run as possible, so you build huge, cheap racks on farmland along side the autobahn, face it all south, and rake in the profits. Unfortunately, because the facility owners are not encouraged to use their PV farms to track the sun, there is a huge spike of PV power around midday (remember - the big difference between wind and solar is the best-case scenario - with suitable weather, wind farms can produce power 24/7, a simple PV facility will in the best case have a peak around midday). What the network then does, is either turn off the PV farms (and pays the owners compensation when this happens), or, takes the energy, transports it to Austria, and pays the Austrians to take it off their hands. This the Austrians gladly do, and use it for pumped hydro storage (there are a lot more opportunities for that in Austria than Germany due to the landscape), then, overnight, sells it back to Germany, essentially getting Germany to pay twice.

I'd like to see the subsidies to be more intelligently applied, perhaps providing a bigger m^2 subsidy for east/west facing facilities (to offset the reduced production), and still more for those that track the sun (to offset the greater investment and maintenance costs).

There are even greater problems in the subsidies applied to solar-thermal power in Germany - that is done purely by collector area, regardless of the type of collector. This leads to people using bigger, arguably less efficient types of collectors, in order to get the greatest subsidies.
PopShot on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard: It's madness. I don't believe in the whole global warming thing it's a load of rubbish.
itsThere on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs: If you put your mouse over the wind or the total power dial, it says this is only for metered wind. This is showing (unmetered) as a drop in demand. So your 14% is a minimum and the actual value would be higher.
Fultonius - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Epic Ebdon: How's it going Epic?

I haven't the faintest idea of the subsidy/generation/transmission situation in Germany, and I wasn't trying to say we should emulate them.

I was merely trying to point out that paying wind farms to shut down is ludicrous and that there is some technology available for temporary storage of the energy.

I am not a big fan of the use of the word "efficiency" when comparing various renewable methods. In my mind, the only useful metric to compare the multitude of different ways to produce electricity is £/MHW. Because a 99% efficient process that costs £100/MWH, or a 35% efficient process that costs £50/MWH I know which I'd go for...

How's life in Bavaria anyway?

Jim C - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to MJ:
> (In reply to Blizzard)
>
> Where are they going to put them? They require 75,000 acres of land.
>
> Golf Courses.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Best to put them right in the middle of the fairway ,or on greens , then they will quite safe from impact any of my golf balls.
Jim C - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Fultonius:
> (In reply to Chris Craggs) I think you're missing my [maybe not so clear] point.
..
>
> Maybe the govt should change the way that they pay for electricity generated by wind farms. Instead of "paying them to shut down" put the impetus onto the producer to be able to provide a steady output throughout the year?

You are having a joke?

I take it you are not in the industry( please say no)
Fultonius - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Jim C: Wow, didn't expect a reaction like that. I wasn't joking. What's the issue? Genuinely interested, not in UKC bun fight argumentative style...

I was (very briefly) in the offshore wind industry.
Jim C - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Fultonius:
> (In reply to Jim C) Wow, didn't expect a reaction like that. I wasn't joking. What's the issue? Genuinely interested, not in UKC bun fight argumentative style...
>
> I was (very briefly) in the offshore wind industry.

It is just that lack large scale storage and intermittency I are the two main drawbacks that are not as easily resolved as you inferred.

Fultonius - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Jim C: I genuinely don't think it is a huge technical problem to surmount. I think the biggest barriers to development just now are the capital investment in such projects.

I just think it's a bit ironic that we have to pay wind farms to stop operating. Such a waste of money. Money that could otherwise have been put to better use.

A bit of upfront government infrastructure spending on some large scale grid storage facilities would aid with grid demand/use smoothing and inject cash into construction and engineering. I'd rather they did that with my money than bail out the banks!

Fultonius - on 23 Jun 2013
Jim C - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Fultonius:
> (In reply to Jim C) I genuinely don't think it is a huge technical problem to surmount. I think the biggest barriers to development just now are the capital investment in such projects.
>
> I just think it's a bit ironic that we have to pay wind farms to stop operating. Such a waste of money. Money that could otherwise have been put to better use.
>
> A bit of upfront government infrastructure spending on some large scale grid storage facilities would aid with grid demand/use smoothing and inject cash into construction and engineering. I'd rather they did that with my money than bail out the banks!

Well if you don't think it s a big problem, send your technical and costed solution to the Energy Minister, he will be really chuffed to have that sorted, despite what all those National Grid 'experts' physicists and engineers are telling him.

However, I'm afraid despite that you have now resolved intermittency, smoothing, and storage issues, any 'spare' capital money to tackle that is currently being negotiated away on the New Nuclear build with EDF to subsidise that programme.
(despite Cameron being on record saying that it will all be built with private money.)

Generally, this and previous governments , have given up on forward planning and investment by dismantling the CEGB, and leaving our Energy 'strategy' to ,mostly, foreign owned companies to run our power industry, and not surprisingly, they are not too worried if our bills go up, and the current plant dies , as long as they have squeezed as much money out of them,and us, with minimum maintenance, and thought for the future needs of this country.

It is after ll not their problem, that is for a government to plan.....
itsThere on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Fultonius: So what your saying is that they(the wind farm) should have a zero hour contract. So we take what we need. Since the same applies to the rest of the industry (yes power startions have been paid to turn off) I cant see any company wanting to do what is not in there best interests. Also paying them to turn off is cheaper than kepping them on, which saves the end user money.
Fultonius - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to Jim C: I agree with everything you say. Privatisation of the energy grid was, in my opinion, very short sighted. Made the country a quick buck but now we're stuffed because there's no-one who can just make the big decisions (nuclear, storage/grid management etc. etc.)



Fultonius - on 23 Jun 2013
In reply to itsThere: I agree that paying them to turn off is, with the current grid, the cheapest solution for the end user.

What I'm saying is SORT THE EFFING GRID, so that it's cheaper to store the energy or balance the demand than turning them off. Is that not simple to understand??
wintertree - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to Fultonius:

> What I'm saying is SORT THE EFFING GRID, so that it's cheaper to store the energy or balance the demand than turning them off. Is that not simple to understand??

Yes, it's very hard to understand how to make it work *cheaply*. You could equip every household with a smart charger/inverter/deep cycle battery bank to perform the smoothing. Ignoring the bit where we would vastly outstrip global marine battery manufacture you are probably talking about £3k per household or £100 billion nationwide. Add in the cost of the windmills or solar pv causing this problem and you have enough for some shiney new reactors instead.

I
Morgan Woods - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:
> My initial reaction prior to reading this article was:
>

What article?
Morgan Woods - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to Chris Craggs:
> (In reply to Fultonius)
> [...]
>
> Though at the moment wind power is providing 14% of the whole country's needs:
>


Really? Wikipedia says it was 5.8% in 2012. I can't imagine it nearly tripling in such a short space of time.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_the_United_Kingdom#Statistics
kevin stephens - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to Morgan Woods:

Not a contradiction, depends if you mean "right now" or on an annual basis
jkarran - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to wintertree:

> Yes, it's very hard to understand how to make it work *cheaply*. You could equip every household with a smart charger/inverter/deep cycle battery bank to perform the smoothing. Ignoring the bit where we would vastly outstrip global marine battery manufacture you are probably talking about £3k per household or £100 billion nationwide. Add in the cost of the windmills or solar pv causing this problem and you have enough for some shiney new reactors instead.

Or you could incentiveise, god forbid perhaps even directly invest in electric vehicle development by British companies, in Britan. Introduce variable electricity pricing linked to supply to create a properly functioning market traded in by smart (and we're not talking very smart at all) chargers and you end up with a 'grid' that is capable of automatically soaking up excess supply and that automatically reduces non-essential demand when there is a scarcity. No need for inverters to sell it back though there's no real reason why not to, the car carries the hardware required. It kills many birds with one stone and is essentially a joined up, scaled up mix of existing technologies available and affordable today even without the economies of scale that would come were this made actually policy and properly incentiveised.

It's not the whole solution, we still need more and more diverse clean power, we need more large scale storage (could be one and the same with technology like offshore lagoons) and it won't be cheap but from a list of expensive (and now sadly rushed choices) it's the one that gets us cleaner roads, cleaner electricity and a more robust national grid. Done right we also get a cut of the clean energy industry pie rather than ten years down the line queuing up behind everyone else to buy it from China or India or whoever it is that does get on the ball.

jk
jkarran - on 24 Jun 2013
In reply to Morgan Woods:

> Really? Wikipedia says it was 5.8% in 2012. I can't imagine it nearly tripling in such a short space of time.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_the_United_Kingdom#Statistics

Warm, windy and Sunday night: Perfect conditions for big ratios but impressive none the less.

jk
Annoying Twit - on 24 Jun 2013
Pumped storage hydroelectricity. 70-75% efficient. Currently the dominant grid energy storage technique with 99% of large scale grid storage being pumped storage hydroelectricity. Use excess electricity to pump water up when energy is in excess. Then use the water to drive a hydroelectric power station when you need to claim it back.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity
Blizzard - on 26 Jun 2013
andrewmcleod - on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

UK electricity usage per day: ~1000 GWh
Total storage capacity of Dinorwig (the only significant storage in the UK grid): ~9 GWh.

So we just need to build another 100 Dinorwig power stations (which cost £425 million in the 70s, and took ten years to build)...

That said Dinorwig is awesome, and worth a visit if it is pissing it down in North Wales, which never happens of course :P
Jimbo W on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to MJ:
> (In reply to Blizzard)
>
> Where are they going to put them? They require 75,000 acres of land.
>
> Golf Courses.

Good answer!
Jimbo W on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to PopShot:
> It's madness. I don't believe in the whole global warming thing it's a load of rubbish.

Yet another PoopShoot!!
Jimbo W on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to Fultonius:
> (In reply to Jim C) I genuinely don't think it is a huge technical problem to surmount. I think the biggest barriers to development just now are the capital investment in such projects.

I disagree. It is probably the biggest inhibition to progress in this area. If hydrogen production and storage were more efficient and technically feasible it would be a major boost to the hydrogen economy, hydrogen powered travel and provision of energy. For example, there is a huge amount of untappable hydro power available that can be utilised because of distance from appropriate grid connections, and grid capacity issues.
jkarran - on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod:

> UK electricity usage per day: ~1000 GWh
> Total storage capacity of Dinorwig (the only significant storage in the UK grid): ~9 GWh.

And only likely to increase as we move away from petrol/diesel for transport and simply burning stuff for heat.

> So we just need to build another 100 Dinorwig power stations (which cost £425 million in the 70s, and took ten years to build)...

Nothing like that or far more, it really depends on your objective. Why do you want to store 1day of energy? Why not 1/4day, an amount proven to make wind power significantly more capable and compatible with existing infrastructure. Or why not 4days, the sort of dull still period we regularly get. For that matter, why not 10 or 15 to cover those exceptional spells of cold still settled weather we get every year or two.

> That said Dinorwig is awesome, and worth a visit if it is pissing it down in North Wales, which never happens of course :P

Jimbo W on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to andrewmcleod:
> (In reply to Blizzard)
>
> UK electricity usage per day: ~1000 GWh
> Total storage capacity of Dinorwig (the only significant storage in the UK grid): ~9 GWh.
>
> So we just need to build another 100 Dinorwig power stations (which cost £425 million in the 70s, and took ten years to build)...
>
> That said Dinorwig is awesome, and worth a visit if it is pissing it down in North Wales, which never happens of course :P

However, pump storage schemes require a specific geography which has made situating them difficult, and a major expansion in this area impossible. What we really need is the technological solution efficient capacitance and smoothing of electrical production at source.
Jimbo W on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to Blizzard:

> Do we have enough sun in the UK?

I don't understand why the UK is supposedly unique in Europe in its ability to become the solar electric hub?! To me, this should be one of the main reasons for EU participation and cooperation, precisely to produce EU wide infrastructure and energy sustainability that takes advantage of natural geography, maximising efficiency... ...it seems to me that desertifying Spain is the place where the UK should be investing in solar voltaic farms. Of course there are technical problems to resolve associated storage and distribution, but this should be the focus. Wherever it happens, it needs to be associated with tracking to smooth peak yield during the day, along with appropriate smoothing / capacitance.
jkarran - on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:

A major expansion in this area is unpalatable, not impossible.

There are loads of sites technically suitable for pumped storage all over Britain, the problem is we're no longer willing to dam and industrialise our uplands in the same way we once were.

Limited capacity storage at or near source makes a lot of sense. Batteries, flywheels, pumped air, hydrogen generation... they're all options and some of them, maybe all of them will ultimately find applications but there's a real elegant simplicity to pumped storage for large capacity, high power storage. It also comes 'for free' with certain tidal generator designs.

jk
Double Knee Bar - on 27 Jun 2013
Before they should bother with any of this, they should make a serious attempt to reduce energy wastage in business and industry.
Eric9Points - on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to Jimbo W:
> (In reply to Fultonius)
> [...]
> For example, there is a huge amount of untappable hydro power available that can be utilised because of distance from appropriate grid connections, and grid capacity issues.

Interesting, could you expand on that a bit? Could you put a number to the word "huge" for example?

I read the other day that the total generating capacity of hydro power in Scotland is about 1.2 GW. That's the same as Cockenzie power station and most of the other standard stations we have in the UK. I'm therefore a bit curious about what you define as huge. 1 conventional power station = 100s of sq Km of water.

Another observation, there's a table in Without Hot Air which lists sunshine per year in cities throughout the world. Anchorage is bottom and Edinburgh comes next to it. If you're going to build solar generation facilities then the UK is not the place to do it...
SteveoS - on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to Double Knee Bar: I agree.

Also there's plenty of panel space atop of all the buildings in the UK. Could realistically take the majority of houses 'off the grid' for most of the year.

The problem with power stations is you cannot just turn them on/off they take weeks to heat up the water to turn the turbine generators but are good for running all the lights we use at night. Solar panels aren't so great at night and the batteries aren't as efficient as they could be.
jkarran - on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to Double Knee Bar:

Sensible UK energy policy is f****d for another 15 or 20 years by the dash for shale gas. We'll lose our nuclear capacity, neglect our grid and compensate by dotting small unobtrusive gas, stations all over the place. We'll neglect our comparatively expensive renewable resources and get behind the rest of the world in renewable energy research. Worst of all it'll be massively popular with the public because it'll hold down the rate of energy cost inflation for another decade or so and there are no big white windmills required. Our national energy supply, particularly our electricity supply requires a lot of long term investment and commitment to carrying through some pretty unpopular projects, not something our populist governments and privatised generators are capable of doing. It's a depressing situation that will only ever lead to massively expensive short term bodges.

jk
Jimbo W on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to Double Knee Bar:

Actually, business and industry are already very efficient because it is economical to be as efficient as possible, and that's what the figures show. If you want to look to some of the main problems in energy usage, then domestic space heating is one of the major issues that has not been addressed despite the insulation schemes etc.
Double Knee Bar - on 27 Jun 2013
In reply to Jimbo W: I strongly disagree Jimbo. Working in industry myself I get to see a lot of facilities in the uk. Energy is being wasted left right and centre in waste material, wasted power on machinery that's left on because the guy on the next shift will have to restart it again, wasted heating in massive factories with roller shutter doors that take too long to open and close. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some kind of environmental officer, I just think that a lot of this "reduce your personal carbon footprint" is a bit of a farce when you compare it to the amount of waste you see in industry.

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