Monday, 30 November 2015

Wind Energy Debate : Who is right - Alex White or Fred Udo ?

Image result for alex white

Alex White, lawyer and Trotskyite                                             Fred Udo, distinguished Dutch engineer

Ireland's Energy Minister, Alex White, was interviewed by RTE radio yesterday. It can be listened to here :

RTE Radio 1, This Week: Ireland and Wind Power

It was a groundbreaking interview in a way, as it was the first time the technical nuts and bolts of wind energy policy was discussed in the mainstream Irish media :

Richard Crowley, interviewer : What is the ratio of wind energy to CO2 emissions savings ?

Alex White, Energy Minister : We reduced CO2 emissions by 2.6 Megatonnes.

Lo and behold, our energy minister does not know this crucial ratio ! The answer (for 2012) is that for each kWh of wind generated, associated emissions and fossil fuel savings are 0.33 kWh* due to increased ramping and cycling of gas plants (well below 1MW wind to 1MW savings as often claimed). This ratio will get worse with very high penetrations of wind. Recent analysis by Irish Energy Blog shows that wind reduced gas imports by just 2% year on year in 2014.

His lack of technical knowledge was shown once again when the minister referred to two Canadian reports into health effects of wind turbines but could not say what the setback distances were that were used in these reports. If anybody knows which reports he was referring to please do let me know.

These are just a sample of our Energy Minister's lack of in depth knowledge of his brief displayed during the interview (e.g. comparing cost of biomass with wind). Have a listen yourself.

Fred Udo's excellent reports can be read here :

Oh and by the way it's Udo - not U.D.O !

*Correction to original ratio of 54% by Fred Udo

54% is the part calculated within the framework of SEAI.
Additional losses: 
Self energy plus extra HV lines: 10%
The SEAI calculation takes only the static behavior of the generators.
Indication: The CO2 emission calculated by SEAI/Eirgrid is 7% too low.
If one attributes one third of this to wind and the other ⅔ to the daily ramping, one loses another 10%
The total efficiency of wind is then 33%.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

SEAI release more poor quality energy information

SEAI released some press releases in the past few weeks which were published without question by most of the Irish media :

  • In 2014, wind generation accounted for 18.2% of electricity generated and as such was the second largest source of electricity generation after natural gas. Without wind in 2014, power generation related CO2 emissions would have been 16.2% higher. (This includes accounting for the ramping and cycling of fossil fuels plants associated with supporting wind generation.)
  • Renewable electricity generation in 2014, consisting of wind, hydro, landfill gas, biomass and biogas, accounted for 22.7% of gross electricity consumption.
  • Without renewables, power generation emissions would have been 23% higher.  

  • Joe Wheatley's research has shown that for each kWh of wind generated, associated emissions and fossil fuel savings are 0.54 kWh due to increased ramping and cycling of gas plants.  So if Wind generated 18.2% of electricity, the power generation emissions would have been 9.8% higher, not 16.2%. 

    • The carbon intensity of electricity generation fell to a record low in 2014 of 457 grams of CO2 per kilowatt-hour of electrical output, half the level in 1990.
    • Renewable energy use continued to grow with 23% of electricity now from renewables, this resulted in the lowest ever carbon content of electricity generation.
    The implication is that renewables were the biggest contributor to this reduction in carbon intensity. In fact, the East West interconnector (EWIC) was a more significant contributor. The interconnector provides about 8% of Ireland's electricity but is dispatchable, which means a power station can be pretty much closed down and replaced fully by EWIC. In this case, one of the CCGT power stations in Huntstown has been lying idle since the EWIC has come into use. Our 2,500MW wind fleet can never do this as it's capacity credit is too low.

    EU regulations dictate that carbon emissions are counted in the country of origin, so emissions from electricity imported from the UK are counted in the UK, not Ireland, even though we use the electricity here.

    We didnt have any interconnectors in the 1990s. We also had a higher percentage of oil generation which has been mostly replaced by cleaner gas. This is another significant factor in the reduction of our carbon intensity. Attributing it all to our renewables is not technically correct.

    The upshot of all this is that the Government are basing long term energy policy on the likes of the above information released by SEAI. The last time Government based long term policy on bad information was during the Celtic Tiger when ESRI informed long term economic policy.

    And we all know how that ended..........

    Monday, 23 November 2015

    Storm Barney - Too Strong for Wind Turbines

    Storm Barney hit Ireland's shores last week bringing strong winds, the fuel for our wind farm fleet. But a noticeable thing happened. Between 1pm and 6pm, wind energy output dropped by as much as 44% :

    Let's have a look at wind speeds during the day. As you can see below, the highest wind speeds occurred during 12 and 6pm, the period when wind energy output began declining. Wind speeds reached between 30 and 50 knots, or 15 and 25 metres per second. Air pressure went as low as 980 hpa. Not as low as The Night of the Big Wind in 1839 where it went down to 920hpa or the hurricane in 1988 where it went down to 950hpa.

    Dublin Airport

    Cork Airport


    Mace Head

    The diagram below shows the cut in and cut out speed of a wind turbine in metres per second :

    Typical power curve

    All stations in Ireland record wind speeds at 10m above ground level. Wind turbines are 8-15 
    times higher than this. So at station level, we are still within the cut out speed, but higher up
    at hub height, the wind speeds are stronger and most likely outside cut out speed. 

    So this might explain why during the highest winds of the storm, wind turbines were being shutdown. 

    Which means we need back up dispatchable power stations during storms aswell as calm 

    Wednesday, 18 November 2015

    Wind Energy is NOT the same as Conventional Energy

    A response to American Wind Association Blog :

    Wall Street data: successful PTC cuts wind’s costs, job not done

    It is a commonly held belief that wind energy is the same as energy from other sources. But this is not the case. Take this article for example :

    Say you deposit $20 in the ATM near your office. A short time later, you withdraw it from the ATM near your house. You now have a different bill than the one you deposited, but that’s irrelevant; you still have $20. 

    This aspect of the banking system is analogous to how the electric power system works: it aggregates all sources of electricity supply and demand over a large geographic area, allowing one to add wind energy in one area and use an equivalent amount of electricity somewhere else on the grid. 

    Just as it would be impossible and pointless to insist that the $20 bill you withdrew in the banking example be the same one you had deposited earlier, it would be impossible and pointless to require an electricity user to specify the exact power plant they receive energy from.

    Wind energy is not dispatchable. Conventional power stations provide dispatchable power. You can dispatch up a power station when there is extra demand for electricity. You cannot dispatch up a wind farm. You can dispatch down a wind farm but this is obviously not as useful as dispatching up. For this reason, you cannot build a grid around wind energy, but you can do with conventional generation. So 1MW generated by conventional sources is many times more useful than the 1MW generated from wind sources (In addition, the 1MW from the former provides synchronous power crucial to the stable running of the grid).

    So to use the above example, you deposit 20 Lira and then later you take out $20. No country in the world could or would allow such transactions to take place. But this is exactly what happens with wind energy.

    The integrated nature of the grid allows companies who wish to use wind energy to add it where it is most cost-effective to do so, even if the location of their primary demand center is in an area that is less suitable for wind generation. Many large companies are now using this strategy to increase the percentage of clean energy on the grid, adding supply in one area and using an equivalent amount of electricity in another. Purchasing wind energy in this way allows these companies to meet their sustainability goals while saving money.

    The wind energy provided by a company may be of little use to the grid. Most of its power may occur when demand is low. The result is an over-supply of power when what is required is supply that can match demand and effectively replace older supply. Wind energy can never do that and it's capacity credit diminishes with each MW added.

    So it may make these companies and their customers feel happy but actually there is little benefit added. Fast acting plant must be built to back up wind once capacity reaches high levels thereby negating any benefits due to the wind.

    Another myth is perpetuated in the same article :

    American wind power opponents also claim that because wind is a variable resource, it can’t generate electricity at 100 percent of capacity. But the truth is that no energy source runs at 100 percent capacity 24/7, 365 days a year; and wind’s percentage is actually comparable to the average hydroelectric or natural gas-fired power plant’s output factor.

    Powering a data center on a single fossil or nuclear plant would not work either, because those plants experience unexpected shutdowns or maintenance outages about 10 percent of the time (and often cannot or do not run flat-out the rest of the time). Nuclear and most fossil plants also cannot easily change their output in response to changing electricity demand, so they alone couldn’t meet the facility’s needs for this reason as well. In almost all cases a data center or factory is a poor place to build a power plant of any type, whether it be fossil, nuclear, or wind, as most sites lack the fuel source and other services needed for operation.

    First of all, data centres do build power generation units onsite. Indeed, the Apple centre in Galway will have large reserves of diesel generators which can quickly switch on in the event of loss of power.

    The writer mistakes intermittency with outages. A power station requires back up in the event of an outage. Outages occur between 10 and 15% of the time. Somewhat ironically, outages occur more often in a system with large amounts of intermittent energy, like wind, due to the increased cycling that generators are forced to do with wind on the system. Hence, the need for more fast acting, but inefficient generators to act as back up.

    Wind energy is intermittent but can also suffer from outages. A recent problem that occurs in larger turbines is that of axial cracking in bearings which has not been solved. There are other technical problems, particularly with larger turbines. When these break down, that's an outage, the same as when a power station breaks down. But a wind turbine's fuel source is intermittent, hence it's output varies with the weather. This means when a turbine is fully functioning, it still can't be depended on to cook the turkey. This is not a problem for conventional generators unless there is a fuel shortage, which is not a problem for the foreseeable future.

    And no, storage does not solve this problem !

    Monday, 16 November 2015

    Germany: 350,000 households had electricity disconnected last year

    Germany has the second highest electricity prices in the EU, after Denmark and ahead of Ireland who are third. The following is taken from an article in Der Spiegel from yesterday which reports that the highest number of disconnections was recorded last year. Is this a sign of things to come here in Ireland ?

    Because of rising prices, more and more German citizens are unable to pay their electricity bills. Exactly 351,802 residential customers in primary care, the current was 2014 temporarily disconnected, report the Federal Network Agency (BNetzA) and the Federal Cartel Office in its new monitoring report. The paper is to be adopted on Wednesday in the Cabinet, it is SPIEGEL ONLINE excerpts before.

    Yet far more households have problems with their electricity bill.
    According to the Federal Network Agency supplier threatened its customers a total of 6.3 million times, the power to cut.The number of power cuts is therefore increased to the highest value ever recorded. In 2013 344.798 barriers had been imposed, in 2012 there were approximately 320,000.

    Households pay more, industry profits

    The main reason for the increasing number of barriers are the rapidly rising electricity prices. Since 2002, the costs for consumers almost doubled, partly because the levy for renewables rose, on the other hand because the big power utilities reduced costs not passed on to consumers.

    Victims are the households. Your electricity costs are around 45 percent higher than the EU average of 20.52 cents per kilowatt hour. Adjusted for taxes industrial electricity price however is 6.27 cents per kilowatt hour, well below the EU average of 9.37 per kilowatt hour.

    Further increases are expected to be announced in the coming week.
     The power companies need their customers to be notified no later than November 20 planned price changes for 2016th Experience has shown that many send the unpopular increase letters at the last minute.By 2016, several utilities have already announced further increases. On average, this will be just over three per cent, which would mean a four-person household an additional cost of approximately 40 euros per year.

    The Greens Group Vice Oliver Krischer keeps developing at the current locks for worrying. "Consumers who are threatened with electricity and gas barriers, need special counseling and support services," he says. "The fact that a government has undertaken with the participation of the Social Democrats to this day nothing about this issue, is an indictment."

    Sunday, 15 November 2015

    The Spokes of the Wheel (New Film Project)

    Reblogged from The Law is My Oyster

    The Spokes Of The Wheel‘ is an exciting new film project that explores proposed renewable energy plans in Ireland, as our country strives to reach its 2020 target, of 40 per cent energy, generated from renewable sources.
    The film exposes the proposed plans to expand large scale wind generation in Ireland, with details of the enormity and proliferation of industrial wind farms in all parts of this beautiful country should these plans go ahead.
    You might remember that glorious film “Windfall”, which documented the devastating effect of a wind farm on a small previously closely-knit rural community. Despite being filmed in the rural community of Meredith, Delaware County, New York; viewers all over the world recognised or learnt about the underhand tactics of the wind industry, which appear to be the same the world over, with the only difference seemingly being the strength of their ties with organised crime.  In Ireland, the strong ties between the wind industry and one particularly despised individual, who has caused so much human misery he may as well be organised crime, confirms the universality of the misery caused by the wind industry.
    It is for this reason that I am asking the thousand or so regular readers of this blog in more than twenty countries for your help. If we each contributed 20 euro/dollars/pounds to this worthy undertaking we will make a significant contribution to Alan’s most worthy project. Of course if you want to contribute more than that, go for it! You will receive a free copy of the film which you can show in your community and help spread the word in combatting Big Wind.
    ‘The Spokes Of The Wheel’ Director, Alan O’Callaghan, has a broad professional background in the film and television industry, with experience working for BBC Broadcast on multiple productions and running his own production company based in Ireland.
    The shoe-string budget of this documentary is made possible with most of the time required being volunteered by industry professionals along with equipment and other resources.
    Film making is a costly business, especially when it comes to obtaining rights to archive footage and music.
    With your support we can help Alan make this non-profit documentary and create mass awareness of the issues we are facing from an industry that seems hell-bent on destroying our environment and the communities within.
    Scheduled completion of this project is 6 months from successful funding.
    Upon completion ‘The Spokes Of The Wheel’ will be released to the public at no charge.
    Please support this campaign by following this link   Where you can pre-order a direct copy of ‘The Spokes Of The Wheel’.

    Friday, 13 November 2015

    ESB call on energy regulator to cap subsidies to wind

    Electric Ireland, the supply part of ESB Group, the largest electricity generation company in Ireland, has called on the Energy Regulator (CER) to cap and even reduce subsidies to wind energy. The letter was sent to the CER during consultations on the PSO Levy in July this year. 

    Electric Ireland welcomes the proposed reduction in the overall PSO levy for 2015/16 period of c. 9% compared to the current period and notes the positive impact this will have on all electricity customers. However the proposed PSO levy of €304.8m will continue to be a significant burden for all electricity customers and adds considerably to the overall price of electricity. 

    Electric Ireland also notes that over 50% of the proposed PSO levy (€173.9m) relates to Renewables and suggests that every effort be made in future years to cap, and ideally reduce, this amount. The wind market in Ireland is at this point a mature and well established market and we believe it does not warrant any further subsidy beyond current commitments. The hardpressed energy customer cannot sustain further subsidisation through the PSO and we would urge policy makers to ensure no additional subsidies are created beyond existing PSO commitments.  

    It is difficult to see how the Government can justify increases to subsidies to wind generators, although Energy Minister Alex White seems committed to fulfilling every wish of the wind industry.

    Review of Switch (2012 film)

    Recycling of nuclear waste in France now means that waste materials are relatively small - above is an
    example of one such waste storage facility in France.

    Last night I attended a screening of Switch, directed by Harry Lynch and featuring US Geologist Scott Tinker. It gave a quite unexpected, but welcome, balanced view on the future for energy.

    I was a bit disappointed when a speaker told us before the screening that we were reliant on Putin for our gas needs - in fact, we import our gas from Norway. And how been 95% reliant on imports was a bad thing - nobody seemed to have told him we import 100% of our cars. But anyway, back to the film.

    First of all, the negatives. It failed to deal with losses in efficiency. It mentioned the need for fast acting gas plant to back up intermittent renewables but failed to mention the loss in efficiency as a result of countries moving away from CCGT and towards less efficient OCGT. Thereby, increasing emissions and fuel consumption from the gas power generation sector.

    Likewise, with electric vehicles, power stations are less efficient than regular petrol engines at converting oil to mechanical energy so you end up burning more fuel.

    The film also gave the fairly standard view of Denmark as a renewables success, albeit with some qualifications. We were told that Denmark's wind exports were a valuable commodity when in fact, as Irish Energy Blog has shown, the export prices there are next to nil. There was also no mention of the high electricity prices in Denmark.

    On the plus side, the film showed us the inside of a nuclear plant. It was not so nasty after all with radiation levels inside the plant lower than outside.  The amount of nuclear waste per person in France was the size of a 20 cent coin and recycling of the fuel meant that only a tiny proportion of the waste had to be dumped. The entry fee to see the film was worth it for this part of the film alone. It also dispelled alot of the myths around fracking - no contamination of water had been found in America (although we were later told afterwards that Ireland's geology was different to America's).

    The film also explained very well the volumes of energy involved in powering the modern world and the small amount of energy that intermittent renewables, like wind and solar, could contribute to this in reality.

    The film finishes on the topic of energy efficiency and the importance of conserving energy and demand side solutions rather than investing in more electricity generation (as the Irish government are committed to doing).

    Thursday, 12 November 2015

    The Impact of Wind Turbine Density on Wind Farm Performance

    Mount Lucas and the proposed Cloncreen Wind Farm - The Impact of Wind Turbine Density on Wind Farm Performance

    by John Dooley, an industrial engineer

    Building larger and more efficient turbines mean fewer turbines overall. For some larger commercial turbines, a 10-15% increase in turbine height can increase the energy yield by up to 50%. These more efficient turbines increase our ability to meet targets, reduce the amount of turbines needed and reduce the amount of raw materials required. When delivering the least cost solution to society, the grouping or clustering of wind projects in relatively close proximity on sites with suitable resource is crucially important to reducing cost to both developers and consumers. Well planned cluster developments enable developers to achieve lower average connection costs and reduce the costs and timelines of infrastructure delivery for the Grid Operator - IWEA, 2013.

    On July 2nd   this year, 2015, I attended an Information Presentation on the proposed Cloncreen Wind Farm. I had a particular interest in Cloncreen Wind Farm as I suspected that I suspected that BNM would populate the proposed wind farm with a similar density as they had done in Mount Lucas. In April 2014 I went to observe Mount Lucas to confirm to myself that BNM were actually going to commission wind turbines with over 100 meter diameter hub 500 meters a part. This was a surprise to me as the rule of thumb for most wind farms on the Continent was 8 times the hub diameter. This would have meant that the wind turbines on Mount Lucas would have been over 800 meters no matter what size wind turbine was installed. However these multi megawatt wind turbines with larger extended blades to extract more wind energy in lower wind speed areas have different spacing requirements. 

    Research carried out by Johns Hopkins University and the Catholic University Louvain concluded that to get larger wind turbines to operate to the Manufacturers specified output curve the separation distance between wind turbine’s  should be 15  times the hub diameter or at least 1.5 kilometers apart in the case of Mount Lucas. This research has recently being reinforced by research into the impact of wind wake on wind speeds, carried by the Jena- Max Planck Institute, in Kansas, and published by The National Academy of Sciences in the USA.   It was discovered that wind hitting the first wind turbine at 7 meters per second had dropped to 1 meter per second at the wind turbine in the lee of the first.  Other research, carried out by Texas Tech University using Doppler Radar discovered that the wind speeds can drop to minus figures for wind turbines in the lee of the first wind turbines.

    The cut in speed for the Mount Lucas wind turbines is apparently 3.5 meters per second. If wind turbines are too close together they are impacted by wind wake and can lose up to 40% of their output. Wind turbines so close together are also afflicted by wind shear and can be severely damaged by reverse torque. Reverse torque can wreck the drive train and usually happens in extreme wind conditions when the wind turbine reaches cutout speed and is stopped by the braking system. This has recently been recognized as the main reason for a significant increase in O&M Costs. Had Bord Na Mona populated the Mount Lucas wind farm as recommended by The Johns Hopkins/Catholic University Louvain research just over 9 wind turbines would have been commissioned on the site costing in the region of €38m. Instead 28 three megawatts wind turbines at 84MW were commissioned at a cost of  €115m. This means that €77m was over invested in the site.

    The recently published Environmental Impact Statement indicates that 75 megawatts of wind turbine capacity, or 25 three megawatt wind turbines, are to be installed on Cloncreen Bog. Cloncreen bog is slightly smaller than Mount Lucas suggesting that BNM are sticking to what they call as the Irish Standard Separation. Which they consider to be 500 meters. This suggests that the construction costs of Cloncreen will be in the region of €105m at that density. However if the density was informed by recent research, the construction costs would be in the region of €35m. The total actual likely investment by BNM in these sites is likely to be close to €220m. Had the density been informed by research, the total investment would be €73m a difference, adding in something for inflation, of €150m+. 

    Wind Over Power Ratio (WOPR)

    The failure of BNM to apply research findings to their layout has other significant implications for these sites. The wind turbines installed in Mount Lucas and likely to be installed in Cloncreen have a Wind Over Power Ratio of 9. This ratio quantifies the ability of the wind turbine to dissipate the force of the energy/output  to be reduced caused by the wind turbine having to stop at cut out speed or at an emergency stop. These larger wind turbines with increased blade size generate more energy but at emergency shut down or at cut out speed you also have increased energy to loose or dissipate.  The correct WOPR for wind turbines with large blades that exceed 101 meters should be in the region of 4 or 5 at the highest. Wind Turbines with a high WOPR are more likely to be damaged by reverse torque significantly increasing maintenance and shortening their lives. Much of this wind shear is being generated by the wind turbines themselves.  To get wind turbines, with a rated output of 12 meters per second and cut a out speed of 25 meters per second, down from a WOPR of 9 to 4 to 5 the cutout speed will have to be reduced to 20 meters per second. Unmodified these wind turbines should have a fairly short operational life. The average operating lives of wind turbines, many of them large multi megawatt wind turbine’s, commissioned and decommissioned in Denmark between 2000 and 2014 was 6.2 years.

    References : 

    Two methods for estimating limits to large-scale wind power generation 
    Lee M. Millera,1, Nathaniel A. Brunsellb , David B. Mechemb , Fabian Gansa , Andrew J. Monaghanc , Robert Vautardd , David W. Keithe , and Axel Kleidona

    Wind Farm Operators are going to have to space turbines further apart 
    Johns Hopkins University researcher

    How turbulent winds abuse wind turbine drivetrains
    Paul Dvorak,

    Electric Cars - How Green Are They ?

    Two blog posts today from guest posters - one on electric cars and the other on wind farm layouts.

    Electric Cars - How Green Are They ?

    by David Whitehead. BA(Mod. Nat.Sc.)TCD, FIMMM, C.Eng.

    Electric cars  have to be charged using electricity purchased  from the state generating monopoly ( the ESB) which generates  about   90% of the electricity sold  annually  from  burning fossil fuels ( See SEAI website).

     The efficiency of the Irish fossil fuel plants is published by SEAI every year along with the CO2 intensity  is about 42%, as a lot of plants are Combined Cyle Gas Turbines, which will do 55% efficiency.
     A diesel engine  converts fuel to motive power at the rate of 3.3 kilowatt hours( kWh) per litre  but  a thermal power plant converts only at the rate of 3.0 kwh per litre or  90% of the efficiency of the diesel engine.  Transmission and transformation losses  amount to of about 5% of the electricity generated and  the efficiency of a battery charge/discharge system is reckoned at 84% .  An electric motor   converts electricity  to motive power  at  90% efficiency. Thus the overall energy efficiency  of the electric car in this system is   around 67.6%. 

    Consequently in order to generate the same  motive power the  electrical  generating system has to burn  more  fuel than the diesel engine  - ie  1.48 litres per 3.3 kWh.  In Ireland this results in the emission of  close to 50%  MORE CO2 than would be emitted by burning the  equivalent  amount of  fuel  in a  diesel automobile.  

    For the scheme to be  even  CO2 neutral  every electric car which was brought into service would have to have a shaft horsepower substantially less than a  diesel powered car AND one diesel  car  would have to be simultaneously  be removed  from service. If both of these conditions are not fulfilled  the total CO2 emissions simply increase.

    The benefit to the owner  of an electric car is that he/she  has their road tax subsidised by by the owners of  fossil fuel powered cars. It is just like the users of fossil fuel generated electricity subsidising the owners of wind turbines. Quite apart from that the reticulation of charging points  that will be paid for by all road users/taxpayers whether or not they  make use of  it.

    “the policy agenda on climate change has been driven recently more by ideology and target-setting rather than being informed by a rational assessment of what is possible and what is in Ireland’s interest, given the costs and benefits involved” 

    Wednesday, 11 November 2015

    St.Gallen International Energy Forum IEF - January 28th and 29th, 2016

    This following is an announcement for an International Energy Forum conference in January taking place in Switzerland. 

    The 2016 St.Gallen International Energy Forum IEF will be held on 28th and 29th January 2016 with a roster of distinguished speakers and up-to-date topics. The 8th iteration will prove, once more, to be of utmost relevance and quality - both in regard to the invited speakers as well as to the questions covered. Topics will include inter alia: the Energy Union, energy law at the intersection with competition law, an industry panel with in-house counsel, the future of the energy market structure, as as well as an open discussion on the most current and burning topics. We will welcome more than 20 speakers and presiders - from practice, academia and the EU institutions - from both sides of the Atlantic to present and discuss the hot potatoes of the field.

    Date: 28th and 29th January 2016
    Location: St.Gallen, Switzerland
    Chair: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Carl Baudenbacher
    Registration is possible on our website

    Please refer to the online flyer for a full list of our speakers and the topics covered.

    If you have any questions, please contact!

    Monday, 9 November 2015

    Wind Energy Will Cost Households €227 per year

    Irish Energy Blog can reveal that by 2020, wind energy will cost each household € 227 per year. This calculation includes grid upgrades, another interconnector, new fast acting back up plant and other system costs required to integrate high penetrations of wind into the system.

    The cost for SMEs and large industry is calculated to be higher at around €377 but higher again for large industry users.

    Export prices for wind are considered to be zero or as good as zero as in Denmark. There is no impact on wholesale prices because gas generation will still be required and will be the last form of generation taken under the merit order system (therefore setting the price for everyone).

    So this charge will be equivalent to another property tax charge for most households. By this stage, the plan is to install smart meters in every house which will further push up the cost of electricity during peak times.


    Wind Subsidy

    Electricity Demand by 2020 is estimated to be about 29,000 GW. Wind energy will need to generate 37% of this demand. Assuming it will, (but of course there is no certainty that it will), then wind will be generating 10,730GW by 2020. There is no sign that the price of fossil fuels will recover in the next few years. The low price of gas means that wholesale prices are now about €30-35 / MWh. This means that wind receives a subsidy in the region of € 50 / MWh.

    10,730GW x € 50 / MWh = € 536 million. 

    This is roughly in line with this blogs previous calculation based on how the PSO Levy is calculated :

    PSO Levy could increase by € 550 million by 2020

    Grid 25

    Grid 25 is a new grid to be built around the country primarily for renewable generation. The cost has changed over the years but 3.5 billion is still a good estimate.

    Payable over 20 years - this works out at €175 million per year.

    Transmission Lines

    New lines required for transporting the energy generated by wind to the grid was recently estimated by the CER to be € 1 billion.

    Payable over 20 years - this works out at € 50 million per year.

    DS3 Programme

    The DS3 Programme is a programme designed to enable power stations run on the grid behind high levels of wind energy. It is estimated to cost € 200 million. I have thrown in an additional €100 million for extra wear and tear to generators as a result of increased cycling and running on low loads. These figures are most likely conservative.

    Payable over 5 years - works out at € 60 million per year.

    Constraint Costs

    I have estimated this to be an additional €100 million per year. These are payments made to generators to come offline to allow wind energy priority access to the grid (or to switch on if there is too little wind). There are also curtailment  payments to wind generators when there is too much wind energy for the grid to handle. The former will increase in the future, the latter is expected to decrease depending on the success (or not) of DS3.

    Open Cycle Gas Generators (OCGT)

    OCGTs are fast acting plant but less efficient than CCGTs. Eirgrid are planning to connect two of these to the grid to act as back up for wind farms. I have estimated the cost at € 1 billion.

    Payable over 20 years - works out at € 50 million per year.

    A second interconnector to UK / France - I have put the cost at €600 million. This will be used to export surplus wind energy and import cheaper nuclear electricity.

    Payable over 20 years - works out at € 30 million per year.

    Total costs are € 1 billion per year.

    The CER in their PSO Decision Paper give household energy costs at 37.61% of total bills. So €376 million of this bill will be paid by households and €624 million by SMEs and industry.

    With 1.6 million households in the country this works out at € 227 per household per year.

    Sunday, 8 November 2015

    October 2015 - lowest wind speeds in five to eight years

    From Met Eireann :

    October 2015: lowest monthly mean wind speeds in five to eight years Monthly mean wind speeds ranged from 4.9 knots (9 km/h) at Fermoy (Moore Park), Co Cork to 12.4 knots (23 km/h) at Mace Head, Co Galway. Generally monthly mean wind speeds were the lowest for five to eight years with Newport, Co Mayo reporting its calmest October since 2005 with a monthly mean speed of 7.8 knots (14 km/h). Gale force winds were reported on the 6th, 21st, 22nd and 26th all in Atlantic coastal areas. Malin Head reported both the month’s highest gust and highest 10-minute mean wind speed on the 22nd with 55 knots (102 km/h) and 40 knots (74km/h), respectively.

    The Modern Economics of Electricity Generation - UK, A Case Study

    Hundreds of millions of pounds worth of subsidies will be handed to highly polluting diesel-fuelled electricity generators, under plans to preventpower shortages over the next few years.Companies have registered to provide 4,000 megawatts of standby power under a government auction scheme designed to help the UK cope with the intermittent nature of wind and solar energy - The Times, November 2015.

    In an article written by Irish Energy Blog last June, it was stated that: (The economics of electricity generation)

     So now, we enter into a new era of electricity generation economics where subsidies are required to maintain all generators, not just the renewables. 

    This is precisely what is now happening in the UK. Due to the fact that they have invested heavily in non dispatchable renewable generation, they are facing a shortage in dispatchable generation - that is, generation available on demand. The quickest solution to this problem is to use diesel generators. But these diesel generators will be running intermittently and would not be economically viable.  So the UK National Grid will pay subsidies to diesel generator owners to maintain their capacity available on standby.

    A similar situation is happening in Ireland where DSUs (demand side units) get paid capacity payments. There is now 160MW of these diesel generators in Ireland.

    Had UK invested in dispatchable plant, like CCGT gas plants, they would now be using cheaper and cleaner more efficient forms of generation instead of diesel. Unintended consequences of the Green Energy Rush are now hitting home.

    Friday, 6 November 2015

    Climate Change Update : Winters in Ireland 2009-2015

    Irish climate scientists predicted the following changes to Ireland's winter climate due to carbon dioxide :

    Global warming, driven primarily by emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere, willcontinue;
    Temperatures on land by 2055 will show increases up to 1.5°C in winter and 2.0°C in summer
    • A change in average rainfall by 2055 of +10% in winter and -10% to -40% in summer (greatestdecrease in the south-east);
    • Around the coasts, wetter winters leading to periodic flash floods, increased storm intensity andwave height combined with rising sea levels will accelerate erosion of soft shores and increase theincidence of flooding in low-lying areas.

     - Marine Institute, Galway, 2005

    • Using an approach based on General Linear Modelling, winter rainfall in Ireland by the 2050s is projected to increase by approximately 10% 
    • The main challenges for Irish agriculture will come from wetter winter and drier summer soils. 

     - Climate Change, Refining The Impacts, NUI Mayooth, 2008

    We are often reminded when new evidence fits with climate change predictions but there is always a deafening silence when new evidence does not fit with the climate models. We never hear when this happens.

    So how have the winters been in Ireland over the past few years ? According to Irish climatologists we should see a trend towards warmer and wetter winters. Met Eireann kindly provides us with winter reports so we can see for ourselves :

    •  2009 Winter : Coldest Winter for between 8 and 18 years; dry and sunny. Mean air temperatures for the season were a little below normal for the 1961-90 period; the winter was unusual when compared with recent years for the persistence of cold weather at times.

    Seasonal rainfall totals were below normal everywhere.

    •  2010 Winter : Coldest Winter for between 13 and 18 years in places. Mean air temperatures were around two degrees lower than average for the 1961-90 period and it was the coldest winter since 1962/3 everywhere.

    Rainfall totals were below normal almost everywhere

    2011 Winter : Mean air temperatures were well below normal everywhere, by between one and two degrees generally. December was one of the coldest months on record in Ireland, while cold spells also dominated January.

    Rainfall totals were below normal everywhere and were well below normal in the south.

    •  2012 Winter : Mean air temperatures were above average

    Rainfall totals were below normal for Winter in the Midlands, South and East, with above average rainfalls along the Northwest and West coasts.

    •  2013 Winter : The majority of mean air temperatures were below their Long-Term Average (LTA) with on or above LTA values recorded in parts of the western half of the country.

    Most stations reported above LTA rainfall with the exception of a few stations mainly in the West,
    Southwest, Midlands and East which reported below LTA values

    2014 Winter : Nearly all mean temperatures were near or above their LTA for winter

    Almost all seasonal winter rainfall totals were above average with most stations reporting above Long-Term Average (LTA) rainfall during the three months of winter

    2015 Winter : Winter mean temperatures below average nearly everywhere. The lowest winter
    minimum was -7.9°C at Dublin Airport on Feb 3rd, its lowest recorded during February since 1956.

    Percentage of Long-Term Average (LTA) winter rainfall values were variable, with mainly below average values in the East, Southeast, South and in isolated parts of the Midlands.

    So what is the trend ?

    In five of the past seven winters, temperatures were below average.

    In three of the past seven winters, rainfall was below average with variable rainfall patterns in two winters (2012 and 2015).  This means that only two winters - 2013 and 2014 - had above average rainfall at the majority of stations. Of the variable years, 2012 and 2015, the East, South and parts of the Midlands reported less than average rainfall.

    So there certainly is not a trend towards a warmer and wetter winter. If anything, the trend is towards colder and drier / mixed rainfall winters.

    This shows that the computer models used by climatologists are unable to accurately represent our climate and take account of the many variables which influence it. They certainly should not be used as a basis for climate policy.

    Irish Energy Blog was right ! - Eirgrid revise down demand forecasts

    Back in May of this year, Irish Energy Blog published an article questioning Eirgrid's demand forecasts. It was the only media outlet, as far as I can tell, in the country to do so :

    In Eirgrid's recent capacity statementgiven a recovery scenario, demand for electricity by 2019 is forecast to equal demand at the height of the boom and after this it is forecast to exceed these levels. Ireland, like the UK, has a low energy to GDP ratio. We barely manufacture anything here, most of it is outsourced to China and India, so what exactly are Eirgrid expecting ? Perhaps there will be another industrial revolution, this time in Ireland. But in any event, I will put my blogger reputation on the line, and predict that these demand levels will not materialize. The rising cost of electricity for industry will surely drive any heavy industry out that might consider re-locating here - Irish Energy Blog, May 2015.

    Many, if not all, reputable Irish newspapers published the view that new grid infrastructure was essential for increased demand without any question:

    Others have identified “hidden” network costs they argue are necessary to facilitate wind. It is true that Ireland is currently modernising an electricity network that for many years suffered from chronic underinvestment. Current investments also support traditional generation, increased demand in the regions, and indeed a more responsive, intelligent and modern grid generally - Joseph Curtain, Irish Times March 2015.

    Launched in October 2008, Grid25 is based on energy demand growing in the coming years - Paul Melia, Irish Independent, November 2014. 

    The CEO of Eirgrid has now confirmed that Irish Energy Blog was in fact right :

    Before the crash, construction made up a significant proportion of the GDP growth in the economy. I think we are all acutely aware that before the crash it accounted for more than 20% but now it is below 10%. What is driving economic growth today is very different. That in part is a reason the relationship between GDP growth and energy growth has changed. One no longer gets the close correlation we had in the years between 2000 and 2007 between GDP growth and energy growth. The make-up of the economy is different and cost competitiveness has become a significant focus for industry. Energy has become one of the areas where businesses have become acutely conscious of the need to manage their costs to ensure competitiveness. We only have to look at yesterday's announcement of the unfortunate closure of the Michelin plant in Ballymena to understand the impact of cost competitiveness on the sustainability of businesses. Businesses are much more conscious of managing energy costs. We are seeing the new standards in housing coming through in the new housing stock, so the use of energy per unit of residential housing is not as good. For all those reasons growth rates in energy are now not as correlated with growth rates in GDP - Fintan Slye, November 2015.

    The reference to GDP is very interesting, this blog made that exact same point last May - Ireland, like the UK, has a low energy to GDP ratio.

    The draft strategy reflects the change in economic circumstances and where we as a country, an economy and a society are now. When first developed in 2008, Grid 25, as it was then named, which included plans for the Grid Link project, was designed to ensure the electricity grid would continue to support the Celtic tiger economy with its high economic and energy growth rates. The past five years have changed that reality. There has been demand reduction to the point where estimated demand levels for 2010 will not materialise until 2025 - a 15-year delay - and, even then, growth rates will be less than a third of the rates previously forecast - Fintan Slye, November 2015.
    This blog also pointed out this very fact - Grid 25 was based on the below graph - it didn't take a genius to figure out that things had changed since :

    However, I still wonder whether the pylons will be required for wind farms in this region should they get planning. I would imagine the answer to that question is Yes. Do Eirgrid envisage that these wind farms will not receive planning permission ? The original document from which the above graph was taken is now unavailable and so one can't check but for certain I can remember reading in it that connection of renewables was another justification for the project.

    Eirgrid's current statement on Grid Link seems to confirm that they are still accounting for more wind farms :

    The Irish government committed to the EU that 40% of electricity generation would come from renewable sources by 2020. To achieve this target, EirGrid needs to connect significant levels of renewable energy in the south and east. As a result, we must improve the transmission grid in this area. We can then bring this new power from renewable sources and supply it to the entire country.

    Finally, it's important to note EirGrid's legal obligation to connect electricity generators. As the national electricity transmission system operator for Ireland, we have a statutory function. Subject to direction from the regulator, this statute requires us to offer a connection to the grid for those who request it. When an electricity generator accepts our connection offer, we have to meet their needs. This means we are legally required to develop the grid in response to plans for new electricity generation, such as wind farms.