Thanks to Fukushima the Germans are Returning to Coal

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 15th, 2014

Week in Review

Germany was going green.  Between renewables and nuclear power they were really shrinking their carbon footprint.  But then along came Fukushima.  And the melting of the core in a nuclear power plant.  Sending shockwaves throughout the world.  Causing the Germans to shut down their nuclear reactors.  Of course, that created an energy shortage in Germany.  And how did they fill it?  By building more new wind farms?  No (see Germany Is Relocating Entire Towns To Dig Up More Sweet, Sweet Coal by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan posted 2/14/2014 on Gizmodo).

Most of us think of Germany as one of the most energy-progressive countries in the world. But in recent years, it’s also increased its dependence on a form of energy that’s anything but clean: coal. And it’s demolishing or relocating entire towns to get at it.

While Germany has some of the largest brown coal deposits on Earth, a valuable chunk of it resides underneath towns that date back to the Middle Ages. Most of these are located in the old East Germany, and in the 1930s and 40s, dozens of them were destroyed to make way for mining. The practice ended when Germany established its clear energy initiatives. But now, dirty brown coal reemerging as a cheaper option than clean energy. And the cities are in the way again.

Sunshine and wind are free.  They may be unreliable but they are free.  But to capture that energy requires an enormous and costly infrastructure.  That could still fail to produce the electric power they need when the wind doesn’t blow.  Leaving them but one option to replace those efficient nuclear power plants.  Efficient coal-fired power plants.  Which is the only option they have.  Because renewables can never provide baseload power.  The power that is always there and can be relied upon.  Like nuclear power plants.  And those big, beautiful coal-fired power plants.  Rain or shine. Night or day.  Wind or calm.  Coal is always there for us.

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Green Energy Policies raise the Cost of Heating this Winter in the UK

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 19th, 2013

Week in Review

You can either fight ‘manmade’ global warming or you can have low energy prices.  But you can’t have both (see British Gas to raise prices by 9.2% posted 10/17/2013 on BBC News Business).

British Gas is to increase prices for domestic customers, with a dual-fuel bill going up by 9.2% from 23 November.

The increase, which will affect nearly eight million households in the UK, includes an 8.4% rise in gas prices and a 10.4% increase in electricity prices.

The company said it “understands the frustration” of prices rising faster than incomes. The average annual household bill will go up by £123 [$198.89]…

The company said that the cost of buying energy on the global markets, delivering gas and electricity to customers’ homes, and the government’s “green” levies, were all factors in the decision to put up prices.

With a focus on renewables we bring fewer fossil fuels to market.  Coal, oil and natural gas.  And with the war against clean nuclear power we’re shutting down our reactors.  So instead we focus on the more costly wind and solar power.  Because it takes a lot more costly infrastructure to capture the ‘free’ energy from the sun and the wind.  So much that the taxpayer has to subsidize them.  To bring us that ‘free’ energy.  When the sun is shining and the wind is blowing, that is.  Which brings us to that costly distribution system.

People can put solar arrays on their home to use that ‘free’ solar power during sunny days.  But what about cloudy days?  And night?  Wind farms can generate ‘free’ wind power when the winds are blowing right.  But what about when they are not blowing right?  Either too fast?  Too slow?  Or not at all?  What then?  Fossil fuels.  That’s what.

Baseload power (typically coal that takes hours to bring on line) is a funny thing.  To be cost effective power plants run at full capacity 24/7.  When demand rises they can bring on some ‘peaker’ units (typically gas that are quick to bring on line) to add additional capacity.  So power companies have to maintain baseload power even if the people aren’t buying any to be available when solar and wind aren’t.  And if all the homes disconnected from the grid and ran on solar power during the day the power companies would still have to keep them physically connected to the grid.  So these homes can use their power at night.

This is why energy prices are rising.  Revenue at power companies are falling due to that ‘free’ wind and solar power while their expenses are not.  And because they are selling to fewer customers they have to charge them more to cover their expenses.

Affordable energy for the people lies with fossil fuels.  Not renewables.  Governments have to choose.  All the people.  Or their liberal base.  Less costly power from fossil fuels.  Or more costly power from renewables.  It’s that easy.  For you can fight ‘manmade’ global warming or you can have low energy prices.  You just can’t have both.

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With a Great Trust in Technology Germany may go all Green in Power Generation

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 7th, 2013

Week in Review

In 2003 one power plant went off line for maintenance in Ohio.  As their electrical load switched over to other power lines the extra current in them caused them to heat up and sag.  Coming into contact with some tall trees.  And the electric power flashed over to the trees.  This surge in current opened some breakers and transferred this electric load to other cables.  Overloading these lines.  More breakers opened.  More lines disconnected.  And with the electric load switching around it caused some electric generators to spin a little wildly.  So they disconnected from the grid as designed to protect themselves.

Eventually this cascade of failures would cause one of the greatest power outages in history.  The Northeast blackout of 2003.  Affecting some 55 million people.  And taking 256 power plants offline.  Apparently there was a software bug in the computer control system that didn’t warn them in time to rebalance the grid on other power sources before this cascade of failures began.  Once the event was over it took a lot of time to bring the power back online.  Three days before all power was restored.  Because you have to reconnect generators slowly and carefully.  As you are connecting generators together.  If these generators are not running in phase with each other fault currents can flow between them.  Damaging them and starting another cascade of failures.

So the electric grid is a very complex network of generators, cables, switches and computer control systems.  The more generation plants added to the grid the more complicated the switching and the computer controls.  Which makes having large-capacity power generation plants highly desirable.  For it reduces the complexity of the system.  And their large power capacity makes it easier for them to take on additional loads when another plant goes offline or a cable fails.  It provides a safe margin of error when trying to balance electric loads between available generation.  In Germany, though, the politics of green energy may take precedence over good engineering practices (see Linked Renewables Could Help Germany Avoid Blackouts by Paul Brown and The Daily Climate posted 4/5/2013 on Scientific American).

Critics of renewables have always claimed that sun and wind are only intermittent producers of electricity and need fossil fuel plants as back-up to make them viable. But German engineers have proved this is not so.

By skillfully combining the output of a number of solar, wind and biogas plants the grid can be provided with stable energy 24 hours a day without fear of blackouts, according to the Fraunhofer Institute for Wind Energy and Energy System Technology (IWES) in Kassel.

For Germany, having turned its back on nuclear power and investing heavily in all forms of renewables to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions, this is an important breakthrough…

Kurt Rohrig, deputy director of IWES, said: “Each source of energy – be it wind, sun or biogas – has its strengths and weaknesses. If we manage to skillfully combine the different characteristics of the regenerative energies, we can ensure the power supply for Germany.”

The idea is that many small power plant operators can feed their electricity into the grid but act as a single power plant using computers to control the level of power…

The current system of supplying the grid with electricity is geared to a few large producers. In the new system, with dozens of small producers, there will need to be extra facilities at intervals on the system to stabilize voltage. Part of the project is designed to find out how many of these the country will need.

The project has the backing of Germany’s large and increasingly important renewable companies and industrial giants like Siemans.

If you are a heavy electric power consumer in Germany you might want to build your own power plant on site.  For if they go ahead with this they are going to create one complex and costly monster.  Which is why IWES and Siemens no doubt are on board with this.  For it would give them a lot of business in a recession-plagued Eurozone.  But the amount of switching and computer controls to make this work just boggles the mind.

Just imagine a night of high winds that shuts down all wind farms.  Which is something a wind turbine does to protect itself.  You can’t switch over to solar at night.  So you will have to switch that load over to the remaining power lines that are connected to active generation.  Heating those wires up.  Causing them to sag.  Perhaps flashing over to a tall tree.  If these lines disconnect from the grid will those small producers be able to pick up the demand?  Or will they disconnect to protect themselves from an overload?  Once the event is over how long would it take to bring all of these generation sources back in phase and back online?

If they move forward with this chances are that the Germans are going to learn a very painful and costly lesson about green energy.  It may make you look like you care but it won’t keep the lights on like a coal-fired or a nuclear power plant can.  Which they may learn.  The hard way.

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The Army is looking to use Unreliable Renewable Energy to provide Reliable Energy Security on their Installations

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 12th, 2012

Week in Review

The Army Corps of Engineers is following orders and going green.  Putting their installations at greater risk of electric power interruptions.  Even though the reason to go green was the complete opposite.  To minimize power interruptions.  As well as to lower costs (see Army’s Logic for Developing Wind and Solar Energy Makes No Sense by Daniel Kish posted 8/10/2012 on U.S. News & World Report).

The Army Corps of Engineers recently put out a request for proposal for renewable energy developers to build energy facilities on Army bases. The Army says building renewables such as wind and solar on Army bases will promote “energy security,” however this claim fails to acknowledge the inherent problem of reliability with intermittent sources of energy like wind and solar…

It is important to remember that under our system of civilian control of the military, political appointees direct the branches of the military to carry out administration policy, and the military salutes and carries out the orders. It would appear that politicians working to promote renewables is the reason the Army is making this move, because its proposal would essentially accomplish the opposite of what it says it intends to do…

The mission of the military is to kill people and break things.  And to deter others from killing Americans and breaking American things.  Two assets that have been very good at meeting these objects in the military’s arsenal are the B-52 bomber and the nuclear-powered sub.

Have you ever seen a B-52 take off?  A whole wing of B-52s in a Minimum Interval Take-Off (MITO)?  Their engines leave behind a thick black fossil-fuel-made cloud.  Yeah, that’s right.  Air pollution.  And those subs?  They use nuclear power because it lets those subs stay under water forever. The only thing that brings them up is the fuel the sailors need.  Food.  The B-52 pollutes.  And the nuclear sub uses the fuel the Left hates over all other fuels.  Radioactive fuel.  So given the choice the military will pollute and risk The China Syndrome in their subs.  Why?  Because the B-52 and the nuclear sub are the best assets for the mission.  And they will keep using them until their civilian commanders order them not to.  Just like they have ordered these Army installations NOT to use the best power source available but one that matches the current administration’s green agenda.  Unreliable renewable energy.  To help fight global warming.  A battle outside the mission of the military.  And will only weaken the military in their ability to fulfill their mission.

Wind or solar would make power production on military bases more secure if disruptions to the grid only happened when the wind was blowing or the sun was shining, and that will obviously not be the case…

Despite the fact that wind and solar are not reliable sources of energy, the Army’s request for proposal explicitly calls for proposals for wind and solar (see pages 6, 7 among others). Hammack’s [Assistant Secretary for Installations, Energy, and the Environment] argument that producing wind and solar on Army bases with increased “energy security” does not hold water, since the obvious alternatives, coal, and natural gas, are abundant in the United States: The United States has over 450 years of coal at the current rate of consumption, for example…

The Army also claims that the purpose of the renewable energy projects is to shield Army bases from electricity price hikes. But like the energy security argument, the Army’s assertion that its proposal will save money is rooted in fallacy. One of the reasons electricity prices are rising is because of regulations imposed by the Obama administration, and the Army could simply ask Congress to waive them for the military if high prices were the only issue at hand.

If you’re worried about cost you can make the electricity a coal-fired power plants produce less expensive by ending their war on coal.  But they won’t do that.  So it’s not about cost.  Besides, wind and solar power are some of the most expensive sources of power out there.  Yes, the fuel is free (wind and sunshine), but the infrastructure to capture it and use it is vast.  And costly.  Because each unit that captures these fuels is small.  So you need a lot of them to equal a fraction of what a coal-fired power plant can produce.

Electricity powers a hospital.  Without it their emergency rooms and intensive care units would go dark.  And people would die.  Because it is so crucial they have redundancies.  They will have a row of primary switchgear (4,800 volts or higher) fed by two different feeders going back to two different substations.  There will be an equal number of circuit breakers on each side separated by an open ‘tie breaker’ in the middle.  They will evenly (approximately) split the electrical load of the hospital on either side of the tie breaker.  Dividing the load evenly across the two primary feeds.  However, if one feed goes down (tree falls on wire, substation explodes, etc.) the breaker going to the down line will open and the tie breaker will close.  Putting the entire hospital on the one good primary feed.  It can do this because they size both primary feeds large enough to carry the full load of the hospital.

But redundancy doesn’t end there.  If an electrical event is great enough to take out both primary feeds the hospital will have backup generator power available as well.  Powered in most cases by on-site diesel fuel.  Some may use natural gas but they have to prove the reliability of their gas service.  As the last line of defense in a power outage, they want backup generator power self-contained and independent of all other municipal power sources.

This is redundancy.  And wind and solar simply do not provide this.  They are unreliable.  And they cannot carry the full electrical load of a hospital.  Or other large consumers of electricity.  At most these supplement baseload power.  They can’t replace it.  If these installations want true energy security, true power redundancy, they would be better off installing a diesel-powered turbine with onsite diesel storage for when their electric grid goes down.  Or a natural gas-powered turbine with a reliable (not connected to the local gas supply but a high pressure main) and secured gas feed to the base.  In other words, if they want true energy security they’d better be willing to pollute the air like a wing of B-52s taking off in a MITO exercise.  Because if you want true energy security you are going to have to pollute.

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