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back to article Solar, wind, landfill to make cheapest power by 2030

Solar and wind technologies will be the cheapest way to make electricity by 2030, according to a new Australian Energy Technology Assessment from the Australia’s Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics. The report, penned with help from consultancy WorleyParsons and the CSIRO, considered 40 different generation technologies and …

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(Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

Gas?

I thought this was very interesting. From p54:

"Recent and future advances in fracturing technology offer the potential for step change reductions in per-well and therefore – due to the major capital cost of wells – electricity generation costs. Fracturing technologies stand to benefit from the major R&D expenditures in development of vast US and Canadian (and other worldwide) shale gas resources. Improvements in resource exploration and assessment methods will also reduce costs."

So gas will be the cheapest power. But that's the only mention there is. As Simon wrote, factoring in cheap gas wouldn't give the answer the politicians and bureaucrats are looking for. In other words, Aussie energy bureaucrats have done exactly what our energy bureaucrats have done in the UK. If you think your country should cut its carbon emissions, gas is the cheapest way to do it.

I can't help thinking how lucky Aussies are - Western Australia has some of the largest shale resources in the world, you'll be exporting gas, and you've got all that sun. That should be enough to get you through those freezing cold winters.

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Re: Gas?

Nuclear also comes out cheap, although I'm a bit suspicious about this paragraph:

"As noted in Section 2, decommissioning costs have not been included for any of the technologies in the calculation of LCOE. While there is an expectation that decommissioning for nuclear plants will be higher per MW installed capacity than many other technologies, there is very little current experience of actual plant decommissioning. In addition, given the operating timeframes of new build plants, the decommissioning cost will be incurred well

outside the modelled period."

i.e. "our grandchildren will have to pay for it so we don't care".

I agree that there's no current experience of decommissioning outside of disasters, so it's difficult to put a price tag on it, but it's misleading to the overall results to at least not try to factor it in.

Still, it's the sort of research that needs to be done - namely what is the true cost of implementing a particular technology for power generation. I hate to use the buzzphrase "Total Cost of Ownership", but it's something that applies here.

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FAIL

Re: Gas?

and you've got all that sun

I wonder what we could do with that. If only there was some kind of panel available that converted sunlight into usable power. Still, nukes, eh?

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Re: Gas?

Yeah the sentence Brown coal would remain cheaper than wind by 2030 – with an LCOE of AUD$92 – were it not for Australia’s carbon tax did remind me a little of the article that ran yesterday. Translation: the current methods will still be cheaper, except that we're going to price it out of the market (in our case by taxing and reducing supply, in the Aussie's by taxing).

As a society, we need to decide what matters. Given that everything relies on leccy, I'd say we need to be looking at ensuring that we can generate enough of it cheaply. Having people hit the point where they don't use the heating in winter is not a good thing. Yes, it'd be very nice not to ruin the planet, but let's see some hard, scientific (i.e. properly reviewed, properly documented with all datapoints available) evidence before we fuck everything up to save a bit of carbon.

In fact, let's give the green's rifles and have them shoot cows. Methane's not exactly good for the atmosphere, so why not start small and work up eh?

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Re: Gas?

"I'm a bit suspicious about [decommissioning]."

They put the cost of storage of spent fuel at $1 per MWh (p. 56) and note that existing Gen III and III+ is proven technology which can consume long-lived actinides and which is likely to be in use commercially within a decade or so.

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Re: Gas?

and if only the sun shone at night when we need the light

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Re: Gas? @JetSetJim

"I agree that there's no current experience of decommissioning outside of disasters, so it's difficult to put a price tag on it, but it's misleading to the overall results to at least not try to factor it in."

There might be no Australian decomissioning experience, but actually there'a a wealth of global experience in decommissioning nuclear power plants. UK's NDA are doing a sterling job getting to grip with the old British nukes albeit very,very slowly, Germany's already getting rid of its older plants (pre-dating the nuclear exit decision), Italy likewise, but in particular the Americans have a whole host of nukes in decommissioning, with a number of these now back to greenfield status with completion costs for all but ongoing long term waste storage.

One of the interesting things (courtesy of Wikipedia) is that the US Yankee Rowe and Maine Yankee reactors were taken back to greenfield in only 8-11 years and for around USD 600m each, and the Fort St Vrain plant looks to have been even quicker and cheaper. Convention elsewhere is to leave the reactor in situ to cool down for up to 40 years, which (from the commanding heights of ignorance) seems unreasonably slow and expensive to me. Ballpark numbers of around €3.5bn per reactor are being quoted by EdF. UK NDA figures are between the Yankee and EdF numbers, but there's a suggestion that the NDA are leaving the sites for so long before site clearance that economic discounting is a bigger contributor to the final cost than the engineering. You do of course have long term spent fuel storage/disposal, but that's just the very long term cost of puting it in a pit and keeping people out.

You do have to ask why the Americans can have a site returned to greenfield eight yeras after generation finished, but the UK NDA will be decommissioning the Wlfa plant that ceased generation this year, and expect to finish site clearance in 2101 (yes, twenty one oh one).

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@Ben Tasker: Externalities

Yes, it'd be very nice not to ruin the planet, but let's see some hard, scientific (i.e. properly reviewed, properly documented with all datapoints available) evidence before we fuck everything up to save a bit of carbon.

It would be very nice not to ruin the planet. In other words we know we need a carbon tax to establish a level playing field between energy sources, we just don't yet know exactly how high it should be. It also makes the cost of researching climate change small in the scale of things, given how much we need to know the extent and costs of this more accurately than we do now. Making carbon taxes contribute to bringing down property insurance, increased due to weirder weather might be a start. Add to that the cost of better sea and flood defences, and compensation for losses suffered by those who can't afford house insurance.

Victorian chemical factory owners were forced to stop polluting drinking water supplies and destroying fisheries so long ago that we forget that restricting their emissions was equally "controversial" at the time, because big money said it was then as now. Carbon taxes are a more appropriate response than banning emissions, to the more complex economic externalities of fossil fuel use, given that some C02 is neccessary for life, there are very many producers of it, and there are many bad effects of too much of it, not all of these yet fully understood, and also because it takes some time to develop sustainable alternative supply sources.

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Re: Gas?

and if only the sun shone at night when we need the light

If only we had some kind of device to store electricity. Still, nukes, eh?

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Re: Gas? @JetSetJim @ Ledswinger

Thanks for the research (<-thumbs up!)

IANANuclearEngineer, so have no idea as to the reasons for the differences in price - aren't there lots of different plant designs which may influence the decommissioning cost? Not sure how much variation (time and $/£/€) that may cover, though.

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Re: Gas? @JetSetJim

Magnox opted for a long decommissioning period so as to allow radiation levels to fall sufficiently that people will enter the reactor containment and perform the dismantling. The alternative was a 25 year process but that would have required them to design and build robots to perform the dismantling.

There are also big issues with the Magnox stations (and the AGRs when they reach EOL) about how to safely store the huge amounts of highly flammable and radioactive graphite from the cores/

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Re: Gas? @Mike Richards

"The alternative was a 25 year process but that would have required them to design and build robots to perform the dismantling."

Fair point. It appears that the Germans have been using robots on their decommissioning programmes. Comparing our programme to the US examples, is it just hindsight that we built reactors that were a right pain to decommission, and the American examples happened to be of a flavour that was very easy to dismantle? Didn't the Magnox constructing engineers give any thought to EOL?

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Happy

Slow decommissioning

Decommissioning is the best advertisment for compound interest.

If you wait,

1) You get richer as your invested sinking fund compounds (assuming you haven't destroyed economic growth by insisting on high-priced solar and wind power)

2) The problem gets smaller -- at a compound rate -- as neutron-capture activation and any left-over fission product in the structure decays.

And there's a last point:

3) Your robots and remote handling equipment get better and cheaper. (But technology improvement is much less exponential, alas.)

Win-win-win. Sixty years is a thousand-fold reduction in some tricky nuclides. Definitely no hurry in decommissioning.

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Re: Slow decommissioning

"You get richer as your invested sinking fund compounds (assuming you haven't destroyed economic growth by insisting on high-priced solar and wind power)"

You think that they've put aside "real" money into a fund?

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Unhappy

@Andrew Orlowski -- Re: Gas? - - And Australia's technological future.

I'm old enough to have seen reports by governments and others about future projections and directions of certain technologies then to have lived through the time-span covered to know that such projections rarely turn out as predicted. More often than not, something--usually technological developments (the Internet for instance)--throws even the best researched projections way off course.

And it's especially true here in Australia where the culture mitigates--actively conspires--against the Nation's commitment to long-term plans and strategies, and it's especially so with large projects that are in the national interest--those in which government has a say. One could dwell a long time considering why it's so, suffice to say that finding a scientist or engineer amongst the hordes of lawyers, accountants and economists in the gaggle of Australian state and federal parliamentarians is like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Australia's energy plans are about as fickle as the weather and without a solid local engineering /scientific culture* to underpin, drive and sustain big projects then they'll be at the whim of all sorts of short-term political and commercial forces. Australia will continue to make decisions based on emotion, fashion, short-term economic considerations and now notional 'green' values based on idealism rather than on proven engineering practices and sound economics. Given past Australia's history, factoring 'green' parameters into this mix will be highly emotional, divisive and political; and most likely, arguments will be based in popular notions of the day rather than those of sound reason. (Australia has and has had great engineers and scientists but they've usually had little sophisticated technical and commercial infrastructure to support them. The common story is that tall poppies get cut down to size and local developments are picked up by outsiders and developed overseas.)

" So gas will be the cheapest power. But that's the only mention there is." Andrew therein lays a significant part of the reason. Moreover, gas contains carbon--and irrespective of its cleaner credentials than coal, to the Chattering Classes (those who've political influence)--the Periodic Table's Element 6 is truly on the nose in the same way as is Element 17 and especially so Element 80--elements that dare not speak their name in this profoundly scientifically illiterate milieu. It's a society whose understanding now comes from more a faith or belief than from any true hands-on understanding of science. [If you want a quintessential illustration of how the public's attitude to science has changed since the 1950s then view this: http://archive.org/details/WhyStudy1955_2 (12 mins).]

What I've said is not new or radical, Australia has a history of screwing up energy and other engineering and scientific policies to the disadvantage of its citizens. I'll cite an example but first some background.

For those outside Australia, you need to know that the country has huge and abundant energy reserves--enough for many hundreds if not thousands of years at the present rate of consumption. For instance, Sydney, NSW is sited somewhat near the centre of a huge geological saucer-shaped basin several hundred kilometres in diameter (part on land, part under the sea). Almost everywhere under this basin are coal and oil shale deposits of high quality--dig deep enough almost anywhere within this vast area and you'll almost certainly find a high quality coal seam that's several metres (~6') thick. (We owe this remarkable carboniferous seam to the vast Glossopteris forests that once covered this part of Gondwana before the Permian–Triassic extinction, about 252 Ma.)

Thus, coal has been mined in vast quantities for several hundred years since the earliest days of Sydney's settlement; until recently, it provided all energy needs: gas, heating, power, energy for steel making etc. (it's now supplemented with natural gas). Essentially, coal was and still is the backbone of Australia's development. (Nowadays, coal, although still so essential, is out of favour with so many, even though switching completely to alternative energies is still many years away.)

For ease of mining, coal and oil shale (torbanite) are extracted mainly at the edge of the Sydney basin where these minerals are close to the surface. NSW towns such as Lithgow, Wollongong and Newcastle, which are on the periphery of the basin, owe their existence to coal mining.

Glen Davis, a small town about 100km crows-fly from Sydney, located on shallow oil shale deposits, was of great strategic importance during WWII in that it produced petroleum products for the war effort and continued thereafter to do so until the early 1950s when the then conservative [Liberal] Government of R.G. Menzies closed the plant down. The pretext was that the plant was uneconomic as well as being a bed of union discontent. The real reason, however, was pressure on the Government from the big international oil companies that wanted a competition-free environment for imported oil from the Arabian Peninsular.

Not only did the Government close down Glen Davis oil production completely but also they deliberately dynamited much of the plant so that it could not be reopened (see photos). Even in the immediate hindsight of WWII, the government did not consider the strategic implications of having a local oil industry as important, moreover, the concept of modernising or expanding the plant to other oil shale fields to make it more competitive with imported oil was not even on the horizon.

Given the enormous reserves throughout Sydney basin and elsewhere across Australia, it would have made sense to develop an indigenous petrochemical industry, and Australia would have surely benefited had it done so during the Oil Crisis of the early 1970s. Only last week, oil multinational, Caltex, made the decision to close its Sydney refinery at Kurnell, and this closure follows close on the heels of Shell's decision close its Sydney refinery at Clyde (it being the only other refinery in NSW).

Strategically, Australia now stands at the precipice of having no refining capability at all in a few years time, it'll not only be an importer of refined petroleum products but also it'll have essentially no petrochemical industry at all. For those who know their chemistry, this is a disaster in the making--this industry is at the very heart of modern industrial chemistry, not only does it provide fuel but also thousands of other products from plastics to drugs. A petrochemical industry is strategic in not only the usual economic and military sense but also that it has an expert workforce who understands the chemistry and allied fields--these skills and its associated knowledgebase diffuse out across the nation adding significantly to the intellectual and commercial capital of the whole country. Either our political leaders are blind to this or they're are incapable of doing anything about it; irrespective, Australia suffers.

Australia has changed in many ways since the 1950s but when it comes to industrial and scientific nous it remains a backwater--one that's all too often taken advantage of by bigger international players. Until Australia seriously faces the situation and takes industry and the training of a local industrial workforce seriously (instead of being a service economy for mostly overseas interests), it will continue to remain an industrial backwater.

Whilst the current political and cultural climate remains, it’s hard to take any predictions as outlined in this story seriously.

* In the wake of war, there was glimmer of a scientific culture developing in Australia between WWII and the early 1960s but it became dormant in the '70s and essentially was dead by the 1980s--too detailed to discuss here.

___

For those interested in a background on Glen Davis here's a few links:

http://www.glendavispress.com/glendavis.html (before destruction - open 'photo gallery')

http://web.aanet.com.au/bayling/glendavis.html (after destruction by Govt.)

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/27031546 (newspaper article)

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/18231951 (newspaper article)

http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/40377331 (newspaper article)

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Childcatcher

Re: Gas?

"freezing cold winters" ?

Hey. This is Australia we are talking about.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gas?

Nuclear decommissioning is double the cost of building. Nuclear power is not cheap because of it, its already much more expensive than solar for instance.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Gas?

"and if only the sun shone at night when we need the light"

Well its does, but on the other-side of the world. Fortunately we invented wire to transmit it (ok, HVDC)

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Re: Gas?

yep if we had storage, it would be an option, unfortunately we don't have storage, no matter how much you try to troll

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Re: @Ben Tasker: Externalities

It is encouraging that you have learned something of the benefits of carbon dioxide and I would be interested in knowing what evidence you have found for "the many bad effects of too much of it". After extensive research all I have been able to find are reports issued by the controversial IPCC and its supporters. Of course I've also found credible challenges to those reports. The claim that carbon dioxide causes weird weather is something that insurance companies would surely latch onto because it is their business to make money and higher insurance premiums mean higher profits. So I'm wondering how what you call a carbon tax to bring down insurance costs would work. Would insurance companies pay the tax? Or would governments tax you and me (because we exhale carbon dioxide on our property) and then use the tax to subsidize insurance companies? Would that be sustainable?

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Re: Gas?

The only Nuclear decommissioning I've any personal experience with is the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant in Oregon. It's decommissioning cost is estimated to be roughly $230 million (they still have some non-nuclear related buildings to remove, and of course the spent fuel to continue to store). Construction costs were roughly $500 million.

It seems that your rough estimate is inverted in this case; decommission costs roughly half of construction.

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Re: Gas?

"In fact, let's give the green's rifles and have them shoot cows. Methane's not exactly good for the atmosphere, so why not start small and work up eh?"

Greenies put out methane too (all those lentials and tofu) Could shoot them too?

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Re: @Ben Tasker: Externalities

"In other words we know we need a carbon tax to establish a level playing field between energy sources,"

What crap!

A tax just means the companies get milked by the government and in turn then milk us. It does squat for the environment. A carbon trading scheme on the other hand means carbon positive industries buy credit off carbon negative industries.

Solar and wind are not the saviours everyone thinks they are. They might be neutral producing electricity but their poitive in the manufacturing. Solar cells involves mining rare earths and such as well as being transported around the world. How much energy do you get from a solar cell verses how much energy to make and transport it?

The carbon tax does for the environment what the cigarette tax does for smoking. All it does it make it so expensive you can't light or heat your homes, drive vehicles or manufacture stuff. At least a carbon trading scheme would create some jobs.

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Re: @Andrew Orlowski -- Gas? - - And Australia's technological future.

"And it's especially true here in Australia where the culture mitigates--actively conspires--against the Nation's commitment to long-term plans and strategies"

Lets be realistic here. The Australian government cannot and will not plan past the next election. Lets not talk about long term planning cause it doesn't exist.

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Britain won't achieve it

Not if those pesky landowners have their way. They won't let us build windmills on the tops of hills (which is generally believed to be the best place to put them). And when it is suggested we put them out as sea they say we can't put them their, either (coz they can still see them).

(But they are quite happy crowding more people into towns and demanding the use of brownfield sites). Just don't ruin their lovely green views.)

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Re: Britain won't achieve it

On the contrary, Britain's landowners really like the idea of wind turbines. They like them because they get a guaranteed revenue stream from the taxpayer, so they can make more money from wind turbines than they can out of farming. The people who object to wind turbines are the poor souls who have to live near them.

I suppose that if you tax coal to buggery, then other sources of electricity will be 'cheaper', at least for the people who haven't died from cold because they can't afford their heating bills.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Britain won't achieve it

But they are quite happy crowding more people into towns and demanding the use of brownfield sites). Just don't ruin their lovely green views

That's right, why build on a 10,000 hectare disused factory site (which as you may notice these days we have little use for), with road infrasturcture, electricity, water and possibly gas, when you can rip up a grean field site, build new road, lay new infrastructure and all the associated services.

Some of us enjoy the piece and quiet of the countryside, without choking to to death on the fumes and listening to asshole blasting out their music at 3am.

You live in a town or city, you take the downsides as well as the upsides. The same goes for country living.

]

Don't like it? Then f**king move.

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Re: Britain won't achieve it

"the tops of hills (which is generally believed to be the best place to put them"

Actually, land based wind turbines are rubbish wherever you build them, because the onshore windspeeds are half of those prevailing offshore, and you have significant diurnal variation in output. So arguably all the billions wasted by DECC on land based turbines have done nothing but ruin the view.

Regarding the "landed gentry" argument, I think you'll find most of the ruined views are in Wales, much of the land was publicly owned, or by small farmers, and most of the beneficiaries are big utilities and banks.

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Vertical turbines?

I know all the for/against arguments about wind in general, but I do wonder why we don't see more use made of vertical turbines, i.e. ones which rotate about a vertical axis, where turbines in general are viable.

They would be less unsightly, no big windmill-style blades. The generators would be at ground level where maintenance is easier, so there's no need for a big heavy supporting mast, nor of rotary transformers or other gadgetry to allow the turbine head to swivel. They'll work no matter what direction the wind blows from.

Perhaps not useful offshore, but onshore they would seem to have promise. It's a genuine question, can anyone tell me what the downsides are?

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Re: Vertical turbines?

So why are there no vertical wind turbines?

I agree with all the points Phil raises.

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Re: Vertical turbines? the downsides

The main problem is the same as with horizontal turbines: most of the time the wind isn't strong enough. So for 70% to 75% of the time an alternative source is needed. There isn't anything like enough pumped hydro- to cover the calm periods of a week or two, which occur quite frequently, so backup has to be provided. This has a significant cost both financially and environmentally.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Vertical turbines?

I think you'll find that the efficiency of vertical axis is generally lower, and that your assumption about them being less unsightly is wrong:

http://www.eolecapchat.com/e_index.html

For any given power output, at broadly similar efficiencies, then the blade area will need to be similar, so there's not much physical advantage (plus a vertical axis will have blades nearer the ground that are affected by lower wind speeds). Regarding the control of direction, that;s not very significant - modern wind turbines are huge and complex machines, and pointing them in the right direction is a minimal overhead.

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Poor old Heron of Alexandria

When he invented the first windmill I wonder if he had to deal with the NIMBYs. And did the Dutch, the people of Norfolk and Kent all whinge when windmills arrived in their areas?

I hope that tidal power generation gets going in a realistic way. Cloud cover and still air aren't a problem and tides are predictable to the minute for centuries ahead.

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FAIL

Re: Poor old Heron of Alexandria

if you don't mind killing off all the wild birds when their migration feeding sites are flooded, buggering up fish spawning and high maintenance. Also very few of those sites exist. I can guarantee the greenies and local NIMBYs will scream if tidal barrages are built in 5% of wild places.

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Re: Tidal barrages

I wasn't thinking of tidal barrages but rather those floaty things that bob up and down in the sea. They surely can't screw the oceans up any more than they are already.

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Re: Poor old Heron of Alexandria

Predictability does not solve intermittency.

Nor does it solve very low power density.

The two combine to give you a power generator whose material inputs are very large for the power out, that takes up vast ears of the planets surface, and made still larger by the fact that they operate on average at far less than they could.

Finally the problem is that intermittency means co-generation with another (stored) energy source which operates sub optimally, if you want a constant output. Adding further to the cost and nullifying any putative carbon gains.

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Re: Tidal power

Predictability does not solve intermittency.

When was the last time the tide failed to turn up for work?

that takes up vast ears

Prince Charles will approve.

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Re: Tidal barrages @Mahatma Coat

"those floaty things that bob up and down in the sea"

Those are wave power, not tidal (do a Google on Pelamis as the main example). They sound good, but the energy output is relatively low, mooring and power transmission can be expensive, and the operating environment is very hostile which impacts costs and reliability. As yet, despite the relatively simple principles, nobody has made a commercially viable wave powered system that will scale up. This is one of those technologies that has been "promising" for a long time, and always appears to be on the cusp of series production, yet seems to be passed from investor to investor without making the breakthrough.

Also, waves are mostly driven by wind. So although the dynamics are different, the same issues of dependability arise as with wind power, and usually at similar times. If there's no wind, the sea is usually calm. If you want renewables, then you may as well go with monster offshore wind turbines, which will be cheaper, less risky and more productive.

It would be nice to be more positive on this as a British innovation, but at the moment this still seems a jam tomorrow project.

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Re: When was the last time the tide failed to turn up for work?

Probably more recent than the last time you looked in a dictionary.

"Predictability does not solve intermittency."

It's still true, even if you don't know what the words mean.

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Re: Those are wave power

Maybe I should have made myself clearer. These are definitely tidal power. You have these floaty things, that bob about on the surface and slide up and down a vertical pole (for want of a better word) with the tide. There was a prototype being tested in a location with a large tidal range (off the Scottish coast?) a couple of years ago and it featured in a TV doco.

The point of this thing is that it's tidal and not reliant on the vagaries of wind.

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Re: Those are wave power@ Mahatma Coat

Potential energy in tidal rise and fall is vast, when you've got vast volumes of water involved. But within the scale of the float on a pole device you'd get no useful output at all, even if the float is the size of an ISO shipping container. I can't be @rsed to repeat the maths, but the the potential energy of a mass under gravity is quite underwhelming when talking about modest masses over small displacements, and when you throw in your conversion losses then the economics get rather sad.

If you want tidal power of any useful output then you need an estuarial barrage, and they tend to be big, wildly expensive, and unpopular with everybody except civil engineers, and the only sensible UK location is the Severn. Nominally that could produce "up to" 5% of UK demand, but even then, any output in the small hours is useless if you've got efficient thermal/nuke baseload (so losing 20% of potential output), and because the tide times vary day on day you would still need to have 100% of maximum demand + reserve covered by fossil fuel.

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Stop

Re: When was the last time the tide failed to turn up for work?

@itzman, Ken Hagen.

You guys seem to be under the impression that all the tides around the UK occur at the same time. This is not true. For example, today the first high tide at Aberdeen was at 00:15, at Lowestoft 02:19 and in Plymouth 4:49. I'm sure you'll agree that that goes some way to solving the intermittency issue, even if tidal power has other issues as well.

http://www.tidetimes.org.uk/

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Re: When was the last time the tide failed to turn up for work?

Correction, Lowestoft high tide is at 08:26, but you get the idea...

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Unhappy

A small question

When the wind does not blow (and in Europe that can be for *weeks*) and the sun goes down.

What then?

I think geothermal has a very big capability (million year heat source) but sadly it's only major promoter seems to be one alternative healer called George.

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Re: A small question

When the wind blows hard you make hydrogen and oxygen. That can be used to drive cars - so local hydrogen/oxygen storage makes sense and (in theory) the costs fall due to the large number of installations.

Keeping the oxygen means that higher thermal efficiencies can be achieved when burning the hydrogen.

General cost can be reduced enormously by taking away subsidies. This would mean designs that require mass production would be considered and once this takes effect the price of wind power would fall drastically - it should be possible to put relatively inefficient power on every house/building in the country. Inefficient perhaps but more importantly cheap - 2p per unit should be achievable on mass produced units that the user can install themselves. With payback times of less than five years only a fool or a listed building would be without one and we should be able to overproduce for most of the year and then use hydrogen backup.

I cannot however see any current power supplier touching this with a barge pole - and hence our government.

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Re: A small question

It is a bit difficult in this country - but not for some others. I believe Denmark (lots of windpower) and Norway (lots of hydro) have an exchange agreement. When there is wind Denmark can export it and save Norway's water reserves. When the wind doesn't blow that saved water can generate extra power in return. Seemingly more efficient than pumping water uphill as an effecive electricity storage system.

The nice thing about gas powered generators is that they don't consume gas when not required and the fuel cost is a higher percentage of the total cost (ie capital costs are lower). So in a perfect world they and realtime demand management can cover non-fossil shortfalls. Trouble is a market where each individual generator is trying to maximise their income - the system result may be suboptimal.

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Re: Exchange agreements

I believe Denmark (lots of windpower) and Norway (lots of hydro) have an exchange agreement.

The UK has similar arrangements with France and Russia. They give the UK nuke power and oil and the UK gives them vast piles of money.

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Stop

Re: A small question

When the wind blows hard you pay the generator a subsidy to switch off the windmills, its the wrong type of wind.

Never understood the love affair with wind, its proved too unpredictable to harness.

Its sunny there lets use solar, cheap & safe.

http://www.energymatters.com.au/index.php?main_page=news_article&article_id=741

in fact why not do it everywhere?

http://landartgenerator.org/blagi/archives/127

Plus of course with Solar thermal & voltaic on new builds plus hydrogen stockpiling they could close all the power stations shortly with little cost.

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Re: A small question

tried storing hydrogen safely in a car with crashworthy requirements ? I thought not. I may be wrong about this in the future as the hydride systems have had some improvements, but gone very quiet lately.

The question you miss is : Does the wind ever blow long and hard enough to produce a significant surplus ?

The only report I have ever seen states an effectiveness of 5% of rated power from windmills.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: A small question

That's the problem - wind is unpredictable which is not good for the grid stability. It's estimated that a wind farm generates around 30% of it's rated capacity but when you factor in generation vs. requirement you find it generates much at the wrong time of day. So the overall 'useful' generation (without using storage systems) is much lower.

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