Nuclear Power is Green but Governments prefer Wind Power because its More Costly

Posted by PITHOCRATES - November 30th, 2013

Week in Review

To save the world from global warming we have to go to a low-carbon energy economy.  Say goodbye to coal.  And hello to solar.  And wind (see Energy firm RWE npower axes £4bn UK windfarm amid political uncertainty by Terry Macalister posted 11/25/2013 on The Telegraph).

Britain’s green ambitions have been dealt a blow as a big six energy company has pulled the plug on one of the world’s largest offshore windfarms, with the political storm enveloping the industry threatening the multibillion-pound investments needed to meet emissions targets and head off a looming capacity crunch.

Weeks after warning that the government was treating environmental subsidies as a “political football”, the German-owned RWE npower is pulling out of the £4bn Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel because the economics do not stack up.

The move comes as figures show that energy firms reaped a 77% increase in profits per customer last year, due to bill increases that the big six say are partly due to government green levies…

The Renewable Energy Association (REA), which lobbies for more low-carbon power, said government infighting over subsidies was causing deep uncertainty in the industry…

“We need assurances from George Osborne in the autumn statement about where we stand,” said a spokesman for the REA. “Nick Clegg says one thing about the green levies, Michael Fallon [the energy minister] another…”

RWE indicated that the government might have to raise green subsidies – and thus increase bills or the burden on the taxpayer – after admitting that technical difficulties had pushed the price up so far that it could not be justified under the current subsidy regime.

But RWE has already pulled out of a £350m nuclear-power project, is selling its DEA North Sea oil business and last week disposed of part of its UK gas and electricity supply arm. Developers have been warning for some time that they would need more subsidies from the government if ministers were to realise low-carbon energy targets.

RWE was in partnership to build that nuclear project.  Which cost in total £696m.  Or 17% of the cost of the £4bn Atlantic Array project in the Bristol Channel.  Which they say will power one million homes.  Of course, that would be only when the wind is blowing.  But not blowing too fast.  For there is a small window for safe wind speeds these turbines can generate power at.  Giving them a low capacity factor (the amount of power they could produce over a period of time at full nameplate capacity and the actual power they produced over that period).  About 30% in Britain.  Whereas nuclear power is about 90%.  Which is why we use it for baseload power.  Because it’s always there.  Even when the wind is blowing too slow.  Or too fast.  So that Atlantic Array wasn’t going to provide reliable power for a million homes.  In fact, on a calm day it will provide no power to any home.  Which begs the question why spend £4bn for unreliable power when you can spend £696m for reliable power?

Worse, wind power requires government subsidies.  So much that companies won’t build wind farms unless they get government subsidies.  Something you don’t need to build a nuclear power plant.  And to rub salt in an open wound those subsidies are paid for with levies on the family utility bill.  Or higher taxes.  Forcing these families to get by on less.  While these green energy firms are seeing rising profits.  Because of the money the government takes from the households and gives to the green energy firms in the form of subsidies.  Which begs another question.  Why charge the British people so much more for clean energy when they can get it for far less from nuclear power?  At 17% of the cost for the Atlantic Array project?

When it comes down to it renewable energy is crony capitalism at its worst.  Huge transfers of money from the private sector to the public sector.  Where they turn around and give to their friends in green energy companies in the form of lucrative contracts and fat subsidies.  After taking some off the top for their expenses, of course.  If it wasn’t they’d be building less costly and more reliable nuclear power plants to be green.  Instead of building these green elephants all over the place.

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Texas turns to Gas-Fired Power Plants to meet Peak Electric Demand their Wind Power cannot Meet

Posted by PITHOCRATES - June 30th, 2012

Week in Review

Texas has more wind-generated electricity than any other state in the country.  According to the American Wind Energy Association’s U.S. Wind Industry Fourth Quarter 2011 Market Report Texas has a total installed nameplate capacity of 10,377 Mega Watts (MW).  Meaning these wind turbines can produce 10, 377 MW under ideal wind conditions.  But as wind conditions are rarely ideal these Texas wind farms will struggle to produce half of that nameplate capacity.

Wind power has a capacity factor of about 20-40%.  Wind turbines will only produce electricity for a range of winds.  They have to spin fast enough to produce electric power at 60 cycles per second so they can connect this power to the electric grid.  But not so fast that they could damage the turbines.  For that range of winds variable pitch blades on the ‘propeller’ adjust their angle of attack to produce 60 cycles per second in that wind range.  The ‘propellers’ won’t spin that fast.  But a gear box will gear up that constant rotational motion to spin an electric generator (or alternator) at 60 cycles per second.  Thus creating electric power that we can connect to the grid.

So, of that 10,377 Mega Watts Texas nameplate capacity it will provide at most 4,151 MW (40% capacity factor) of power to add to the electric grid.  Which explains why the state with the greatest amount of wind-generated electric power is turning to coal and natural gas to meet peak electric loads (see Texas prepares for soaring power demand, urges conservation by Eileen O’Grady and Scott DiSavino posted 6/25/2012 on Reuters).

Power demand reached 65,047 megawatts in the hour between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. CDT (2200 GMT), surpassing the June record of 63,102 MW set last year, according to preliminary grid data…

ERCOT [Electric Reliability Council of Texas] said demand may top 66,000 MW on Tuesday. The state’s all-time peak use of 68,379 MW was set in August of last summer during a protracted heat wave and drought…

ERCOT warned that rolling outages could occur this summer given the state’s limited amount of surplus generation…

Several idled power plants have been returned to service to bolster the summer supply after a new coal-fired plant expected to be operational was delayed.

NRG Energy (NRG.N), the state’s second-largest power company, has more generation available this summer than last, after restarting a half dozen older, natural gas-fired units totaling 1,100 MW that were previously in mothball status.

The one thing conspicuous by its absence in the entire Reuter’s article is the mention of all that wind power in Texas.

Texas is the number one wind-power state.  Still, the useable power from all those windmills (about 4,000 turbines in total) is only 6.38% of that peak demand.  Some 4,000 wind turbines to produce about 4,151 MW.  The same amount of electric power some 23 older, moth-balled, gas-fired power plants can produce.  Which is probably why they’re talking about rolling outages.  Because they’ve been building wind farms instead of useful power generation plants.  Fueled by natural gas.  And coal. 

Incidentally the capacity factor for a coal-fired plant is about 90%.  Where the only thing limiting its output is maintenance or low demand.  A nuclear power plant can have a capacity factor exceeding 100%.  For these reasons coal and nuclear power provide a large percentage of reliable power.  During peak demands natural gas-fired ‘peaker plants’ come on line quickly to provide for the extra demand when people come home from work and turn up their air conditioners.  While wind and sun add into the mix as more a novelty than a reliable power source.  With the capacity factor of solar power coming in on average around 12-15%.  In the south they may attain as high a capacity factor as 20%.  Like wind.  Making both of these a poor choice to provide additional power during peak demand.  Which is why Texas is firing up gas-fired ‘peaker plants’ to meet that peak demand.  Because they can.  While they have no way to make the wind blow or the sun shine on demand.

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