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back to article Research: Wind power pricier, emits more CO2 than thought

Fresh contenders have entered the UK wind power debate, as a turbines expert funded by the Renewable Energy Foundation publishes an investigation into a hotly-disputed subject - the variability in output to be expected of a large UK windfarm base. In a just-released article for the journal Energy Policy, titled Will British …

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Boffin

Lithium-Ion Batteries

> "I'd love to see some estimates on how much this will shorten the life of your battery, since they are lumbered with a limited number of charge cycles, as well as how toxic (I genuinely don't know, as opposed to inferring that the answer is very) disposing of / recycling a dead Lithium Ion battery is."

Li-Ion batteries have relatively low toxicity. There's a range of materials used and "disposability" varies a little - some batteries can be disposed of in domestic waste, although that would be stupid, since they can be usefully recycled. They're much less toxic than lead-acid or NiCad, NiMH, etc.

They also have no 'memory' as opposed to earlier battery types but do gradually degrade over time. A good-quality (choice of materials as well as manufacturing quality), well managed Li-Ion battery installation should last 5-10 years with frequent use (noting a complete discharge is not required). Keep in mind that ultra-cheap batteries in laptops don't necessarily perform as well or last as long. There are several Li-Ion battery technology developments that will improve performance in the near future.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lithium_ion_battery

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@It's a systems problem and others

very good point... what is probably needed then is a way of exploiting capitalism's advantages (rapid evolution to favour maximum profit).

one idea: per-day electricity pricing, set, say, a week in advance. That way, if you're a consumer (and especially if you're a big company) you can plan hefty 'leccy usage (for the consumer, things like washing machines and especially dryers) for "cheap" (presumably windy) days. Tie that into a 'leccy resale system (ideally a non-profit system that only takes as much commision as needed to cover its own costs) and it's very possible ideas we haven't thought of will come tumbling out of the woodwork. Depending on your level of environmentalism, certain methods of generation could incur higher taxes on the business, encouraging more innovation

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Anonymous Coward

HHO HHO HHO Power..

>My car at the moment makes use of 8amps of unused electricity from the alternator

When your battery is charged, your alternator gets turned off by the engine management system, if you force the alternator back on then the extra energy required to turn it comes from fuel.

The magnetic field in an alternator is an electromagnet, allowing the management system, to vary the power generated and thus the load on the engine.

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Re: Burn hydrogen

Aside from the suggestion of hydrogen as a means of storage, which has been responded to, a poster above spoke of the idea of simply burning hydrogen as a primary power source. Sadly, hydrogen is not available on Earth in a form that can be burnt. It's generally taken from water by electrolysis, which takes as much energy as is released by burning it. As such, hydrogen burning is used where it is necessary to store power in a fuel cell. It's not a primary source. You'll only get net energy out by doing something else to your hydrogen, like fusing it to form Helium.

On hydrogen storage, as fraught as it may be with difficulties, there's massive amounts of work going into it for the purposes of fuel cells. Wouldn't write it off.

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Unhappy

Fusion Power is the Answer

.. and still just 50 years away (as it was in 1956)

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Cow farts are carbon neutral

Cows eat grass which extracts CO2 and then fart some of it out (the rest turns into yummy meat and milk).

I wonder what the impact on large scale energy generation would be if we all had small micro generation plants at home (wind turnbines/PV cells, methane capture from compost) that was used to pump water into community based water tower than could be used during peak times to generate power

What about heat pumps in the local sewer. Just think 8m people in london pissing a few litres a day at 37C. That must be usable.

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Spinning like the blades of a turbine

With one month to go before a massive protest outside a power station, the concentration of anti-environment stories on the Register reaches saturation of the upper-atmosphere (above the line).

So, cause or effect: is it masses of corporate PR agencies publishing reports aimed at shifting the blame away from their preferred industry, or is the register actually looking for this this stuff to publish?

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Anonymous Coward

Cow farts are methane

Which is a more damaging GHG than CO2, hence the issue people have with cows.

Storage wise, couldn't you just heat something up and then use the temp gradient to drive a stirling engine or some such? Might be more efficient than electrolysis...

>a massive protest outside a power station

How are they going to get there?

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thing is, you're all looking at wind power backwards

Post fossil, it won't be the case that the wind stops for a bit, and we all panic at the inconvenient lack of wind generated electricity.

Instead, the wind will sometimes blow, and we'll all be bloody grateful for the extra power suddenly available to our chronically electricity starved economy.

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I'm getting a petrol generator

and wiring it to my house grid.

You guys can have your feel good brownouts, I like the light to come on when I flick a switch.

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God

Mecha Musume does not appreciate any of you, and you will all be punished.

All of you!

And once the country collapses into power poverty and economic ruin due to successive governments paralysis on the energy question (build nuclear/wind/geo/solar/hydro/wave and sod the conservationists) we'll all get to enjoy the Kalashinkov parties of Central Africa too.

Of course I'll have my super robot - so you can all just bow down baby.

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Re: Re: Burn hydrogen

"Sadly, hydrogen is not available on Earth in a form that can be burnt. It's generally taken from water by electrolysis, which takes as much energy as is released by burning it"

Sadly, this is currently very far from the truth.

Electrolysis of water to generate Hydrogen uses MORE energy than would be released by burning the hydrogen.

If we use the hydrogen to produce electricity, the electricity generated will be only a Fraction of the electricity used to produce the hydrogen.

There may be more efficient ways of producing (and burning) Hydrogen in the future, but currently there are much more efficient ways of storing electricity (still lossy, but with a much smaller loss ratio).

If long term Hydrogen storage was easy and space efficient, it might still be worth it as a reservoir for Large scale wind power - but it isn't.

There is a lot of research being done on how to address this, but currently no good solutions have been demonstrated on a commercial scale.

Hydrogen powered cars are (with todays Hydrogen technologies) not commercially competitive compared to battery power.

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Flame

standard divide and conquer logic

The usual argument used by the naysayers - take each 'alternative' power generation method in isolation, point out its problem areas and claim that either the only fix is 'traditional' technology or that 'alternative' is too expensive.

The point is that you need to look at the whole picture. As others have said, pumped systems are actually a storage mechanism - a huge battery if you like - to store surplus power. Nuclear, wind, wave, thermal, solar, water & gas all play a role in any proper model.

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Anonymous Coward

"per-day electricity pricing, set, say, a week in advance."

Pay attention at the back, that's already happening, and has been since 1998 when "NETA" (for New Electricity Trading Arrangements) was introduced in England and Wales. But Joe Public doesn't get to see the game (or even know it's happening). And the pricing varies per half-hour, not per day, because electricity is more expensive at teatime than in the afternoon or late evening. Supply vs demand, etc.

Geoff Webber already kindly posted a very helpful link to actual realtime graphs of UK electricity usage. On the same website you will find the prices at which electricity is bought and sold in the wholesale market, in the "spot" (ie now) market and in the "futures" (er,y'know) market.

Enjoy (for anyone still reading, after 100+ comments).

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Re: I'm getting a petrol generator

Pity you won't be able to afford the petrol...

Meanwhile, a battery and solar panel later, your neighbour is living fine.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: I'm getting a petrol generator

Although becouse of the toxic waste required to create the battery there is little life left in your battery powered future.

If you can find pictures of the surrounding area of the smelting plant in Canada used for nickle processing you'll see what I mean. Gotta love the superstack.

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Dead Vulture

@jonb

> >a massive protest outside a power station

> How are they going to get there?

I'm going by bike from Scotland, smartarse. Don't you think the "oh but you all are breathing CO2 / that apple came here on a truck / look your shoelaces were airfreighted" line is a bit childish?

Fact remains, the Register's found a renewable source of word fodder and pageviews, making lots of PR agencies and rightwing "think" tanks very happy. Efficiency and synergies and all that.

I think the anti-AGW line is its attempt to diversify into the more-profitable US market, myself. That way if London floods they'll still have readers.

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What about flywheels?

Flywheels.

How efficient are they at storing energy?

I'm sure I wouldn't want one in my car, but buried under a windmill wouldn't present much danger.

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re: What about flywheels?

See, this is why the denialists are such and NOT sceptics.

They only see the problems, never solutions.

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Anonymous Coward

@Chris

Always tetchy the Scots...

And what do you want done with the power station? Just turned off there and then?

Are you going to hook your bicycle up to the generators perhaps?

Don't you think the protesting outside a power station that represents part of our remarkably trimmed down power supply network is pointless to the level of utter stupidity? I hope the press ignore your pathetic publicity stunt.

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Happy

Re: Flywheels

> "Flywheels. How efficient are they at storing energy? I'm sure I wouldn't want one in my car ..."

Actually, you already have one in your car. At the end of the crankshaft - stored energy in the flywheel smooths out cylinder head motion and reduces vibration.

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Thumb Up

Great Article.... The world should reconsider the whole energy solution thingy

Wind energy alone will not be the solution for UK, no matter what your simplistic mind tells you. He is dead right on the money with the whole issues. The most glaring issue is the economic model in the wind energy solution.

Since wind cannot give constant supply, who is gonna come an fill in the gap? The old trusty based load generator either by gas or coal. Who is gonna build them? So stupid sucker company that gonna lose money and go bankkrupt in no time? Unless the whole generation infrastructure is build and maintained by the government, no commercial viable company will wanna be in this business. Unless the tax payers are willing to pay 3x the amount you pay today, just to get reliable power, while feeling good about self on the small contribution to mother earth.

The solution? I guess it will be a painful one... unless some bright people come up with some new technology....

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Methanol easier than Hydrogen

as a storage medium and for power transmission to mobile devices - cars etc.

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Boffin

Methanol easier than Hydrogen

Indeed, you'll find that most commercially available hydrogen generators actually catalyse methanol into hydrogen as methanol's a lot easier to deal with.

Is there an easy way to turn spare electricity into methanol though? Comparable to say electrolysis?

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Coat

Yes, it's not on most of the time.

"what you on about man? 5 to 10 days a year is not "most of the time" lol"

The capacity factor for wind is only ~1/3, and that's in a good location. Worse, the power output goes as the wind speed to the third power, meaning it will invariably be irratic. Either you provide storage or you use hydroelectric power(the good locations are taken; no subsidies required because it's actually very useful) or natural gas turbines for the rest of the ~2/3.

The 5 to 10 days a year refers to a particularly nasty case that is even worse then the usual crummy performance of wind power in which not even storage is enough.

To the guy saying just use base-load(nuclear or coal) for those 5 to 10 days. Well, see all the base-load plants are running as close to 365 days out of the year as they can; there is no spare capacity to tap into. The cost of building base-load plants is much higher than gas turbines, but they make it up on low fuel costs(particularly nuclear which is dominated by interest payments on the initial capital and wages).

If you build more coal plants, they'll be costly and they'll be awefully temped to run 24/7 unless you pay them not to.

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Re: AC

"Wind energy alone will not be the solution for UK, no matter what your simplistic mind tells you."

The only ones telling us that wind energy alone is the solution are the people who say it won't be enough. Wind power proponents say things like "it will replace X TW of energy". Wind power denialists say "It can't solve our energy problems", implying that wind is to be considered the only solution.

So if you want to aim "simplistic minds", point it at the wind power denialists.

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Go

Nuclear or nothing

Nuclear is the only solution that can provide sufficient and reliable power to replace everything else. Considering silly notions like wind and solar power is a waste of time. France's 59 nuclear reactors provides for 80% of their electricity needs. That's what the rest of the industrilized world needs to do.

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Re: Nuclear or nothing

However, since the uranium available in the UK is nil, this cannot be the solution to all our power needs.

If nuclear is so safe, why must government pay to ensure safety?

If nuclear is so cheap, why must government subsidise it?

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Anonymous Coward

They stole it from Batman!

"...a few years ago a pilot plant relying on fuel-cell type technologies was mothballed before it got as far as full trials due to funding issues. Google "Regenesys energy warehouse" for more info..."

Christopher Walken tried to kill Michelle Pfeiffer and made Catwoman when he failed, just because she realised that his new power plant was going to extract and store, rather than generate, power...

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Wind power

Does anyone know of any official estimate of saving in fuel and CO2 by Wind turbines?

When I ask Govt I am referred to wind farm developers-hardly an unbiassed source

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Go

nuclear

"However, since the uranium available in the UK is nil, this cannot be the solution to all our power needs."

I wouldn't worry as much about being dependent on Canada or Australia as I am about being dependent on russian gas or middle eastern oil.

Uranium is not hard to stockpile many years into the future; it's some 100 tonnes of low enriched uranium dioxide pellets per 1 GW reactor per year.

"If nuclear is so safe, why must government pay to ensure safety?"

Government doesn't pay for safety; it holds nuclear energy to an extremely high regulatory burden and safety standard compared to every other power source for which utillities pay through the nose.

"If nuclear is so cheap, why must government subsidise it?"

Nuclear energy is held to an irrationally high standard motivated by fear and nuclear exceptionalism rather than actual safety arguments. That hurts far more than subsidies help.

Coal kills some 20 000- 40 000 people per year in the US according to the EPA, gets to release enormous quantities of CO2, mercury(which unlike spent fuel doesn't disappear if you wait long enough); no one bats an eye-lash. You could literally dump spent nuclear fuel straight in the ocean with no precautions, no containment whatsoever, use the LNT model(which is an overestimate at low dose rates; but its use is still required by law) to estimate the death toll over eons and you would still not get anywhere near the death toll of coal energy.

Yet spent nuclear fuel is somehow too dangerous to salvage the useful components(platinum group metals, reactor grade plutonium, remaining U-235, possibly technitium which would be very valuable as a catalyst and is only mildly radioactive etc.) and must be burried immediately.

The likely death toll if a spent fuel cask ever broke in a crash is zero(from radioactivity, not the crash); it's a high density ceramic with a high melting point and it will just sit there until the experts come clean it up(wait till you see the bill). A truck or train car carrying anhydrous ammonia, chlorine or any number of other common industrial chemicals is far more dangerous if the tank were ever to rupture(and they do quite frequently. it's not uncommon for a dozen or so people to die and thousands of people to be evacuated); yet they're allowed to carry this stuff in an oversized coca cola can when spent nuclear fuel has to be carried in a cask capable of surviving not only a high speed crash, but being dropped on a spike and then being incinerated for hours and still passing a helium leak test.

When a reactor leaks some tritium, equivalent in exposure for nearby inhabitants to eating a banana and far less than going to the dentist or living near a coal plant for a few days, there's an investigation and it's reported in the news as some kind of serious accident.

Enormous costs have been piled onto nuclear energy by "environmentalists" in the name of safety(strange how often they turn out to have ties to coal and natural gas interests). If safety was the real concern here you could get far better returns on your investment if stopped flushing this money down the toilet and spent it elsewhere; e.g. forcing roofers to wear a safety harness, a wear your seat-belt ad campaign or a publically funded search for new anti-biotics.

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Re: Wind power

Well, what's the estimate of similar for nuclear plants. You won't get it from any unbiased source.

How about you work it out?

You're not a biased source, are you?

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Thumb Up

Re: Yes, it's not on most of the time.

Capacity factor of a 1/3 means that over a year it will produce roughly 1/3 of its theoretical maximum

ie. a 1GW generator will not produce 24GWhrs a day ... but 8GWhrs ...

this is NOT the same as producing full power for 1/3 of the time and nothing for the rest!

yes power scales as wind speed cubed ... but there is control capability to smooth that out at low wind speeds ... and at medium high wind speeds the generator maxes out power wise so the controls are designed to limit power output

As has been said (countless times!) the solution lies in a nice mixture

In my opinion its something like

Wind turbines ... lots ... offshore by preference ... perhaps with wave power mixed in using the structures as a base

Hydro and Tidal ... as much as we can manage

nuclear ... lots ... we need to find somewhere to store the crap though

Import links ... we'll need some of these

New technology ... we need to keep looking

Storage ... we desperately need some good storage

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@Phil

And more importantly, the power generation should come first from those sources available to us here in this country.

Wind/Water/Tidal. We get plenty of this as a costal country near a jet stream.

Sun. We get a decent amount.

Nuclear. We don't get much of this, do we.

But more than anything, use less.

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Summary + video of turbine

To summarise then:

(1) gas will be ridiculously expensive and supply will be subject to political factors beyond our control, so saving gas is good;

(2) we will have multiple distributed sources of power, including wind;

(3) it is easier to modify demand than supply (cf Economy 7); things like storage heaters and electric car chargers will take the (relative to gas) cheap surplus wind energy;

(4) demand will be much more spread out with everything-on-demand;

(5) building regs will decimate surplus winter demand for heating: the heat lost in a new house is a tenth of that in a victorian house - and people will cut their use as the price goes up;

(6) the thick birds will have all have been mown down by the millions of cars racing around the countryside. The effect of 1 turbine per 10000 cars will be minimal.

For those who don't appreciate the scale of a wind turbine, here is a video of one with a man climbing down one:

http://pro.forscene.net/cs1/front/ClimbDow-1189634075.can/

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Stop

re: nuclear

@ Soylent

If Nuclear is 'relatively' safe - why don't we have nuclear reactors in cities? That is where the bulk of the energy demand is... that would be far more efficient.

Why are we trying to bury waste in Cumbria and not in existing industrial brownfield sites in densely populated areas?

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Alert

Noone has mentioned geothermal

Supposedly, the problem with wind power is the variability of the wind.

The answer is to drill a really deep bore hole into the ground and let the temperature gradient between the surface and the underground drive a fluid-driven turbine.

The great thing is, in the winter when demand is higher, the temperature gradient is higher. In other words, geothermal produces more power in the winter.

As the earth is constantly producing heat, you get constant power - and there are no complaints about spoiling the view or killing birds, and no CO2 produced once the construction is completed. To save on construction costs, they could use disused mineshafts and drill down further.

It is now even possible to use geothermal to heat your own home. You can choose to dig a deep bore, or if you have enough lawn, you can lay the pipes under the lawn.

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