69 posts • joined 14 Oct 2010
I do find all of this stuff remarkably interesting and our knowledge of the solar sunspot cycles and the effect it may or may not have on the climate. I'm generally sceptic mostly because as an engineer I find it hard to believe the level of confidence we claim for such a fundementally complex system but it is great to be exposed to the elements of the story and gain even a glimmer of understanding.
Re: Not just kids
I guess in so far as the state is concerned at the moment it is only my meta data that falls through their net. The nosey tech companies are being far more targetted and intrusive. Now I admit I am inviting them in but for many services for which I'm willing to pay I can't opt out of inviting them in and offering them access to data I consider superflous to the service I want to buy.
If I get a plumber round to install a tap whilst makeing conversation I might offer to tell him that I had a nice meal at Luigi's Italian last night I don't see any reason why his terms of service should include leafing through my wallet to look at my reciepts.
Not just kids
It seems everything and everyone wants to know who and what I am, where I am and what I'm doing. Services I've paid for have T&C's that require me to allow this and that, Android and friends I'm looking at you, and the device is useless without me accepting the EULA. I have nothing to hide but still find it creepy and annoying. Why does a website need my location if I'm browsing on a smartphone. I feel we're handing too much authority to others but the only other choice is to opt out of useful advances. If it's free and advertising pays for it well thats my call but if I'm paying for a service it puts my nose out of joint to for all the other intrusions to be foisted on me.
I have two very young children and I realise they are going to grow up in an entirely different World from myself and I'm terrified by the prospect of how differently their perception of life may be to my own.
The job title was probably the only way they could get Human Remains to approve his pay and grade.
I agree with the main thrust of your post. But I guess its the balance of useability against efficiency that may settle the matter. Liquid fuels can be quickly refilled and if you want greater range you just fit a bigger tank. some common infrastructure is already in place (petrol stations) and fuel cells "may" have longer useful lives than batteries. So the recyling cost may swing the energy balance.
It will be interesting to see how the engineering and costs balance out. My gut says fuel cells but I wouldn't be suprised by batteries.
If we built induction track motorways we could charge cars whilst they drove along overcoming a significant useability hurdle.
*wanders off into a Heinlein-esque daydream*
Re: Here's at cut&paste of the conclusion of the article...
Your point and the point made in the conclusion are entirely valid, equally it's unsuprising that a few weasle words effectively saying " you should give me some money to do this for a bit longer" weren't added.
The mind boggles
How can you patent something like that? What invention or innovation does that include? If the box, for example, were specifically sized to act as a wave guide for some specific frrequency that increased reception by a wonderful percentage on the basis of man years of lab testing I would get it but if its just a box it is beyond credible.
I have one of these and it is a little annoying that some of the functionality is being removed and I hope they are able to find a way to correct the issue. The feature in question was extremely helpful and removed much of the annoyance from fire alarm use. Having spent the previous ferw years getting on chairs to prize the balsted thing off the ceiling every time I wanted a steak or burnt the toast was not good and you would often forget to put it back up for a day or two compromising on your safety.
Despite the cost of these things I think NEXT have to be applauded for trying to bring additional functionality to some unloved home devices and apply some of the features we've maybe all being dreaming of for years to fruition.
No they can't afford an extra £60k to maintain shift C+I engineers. With the glorious exception of the nuclear industry and maybe embedded co generation at an oil refinery I would be amazed if there is a thermal power station in the UK with a shift C+I engineer. The systems will have been online for years because they can't afford the lost man hours of the specialist engineer at the central engineering headquarters driving back and forth to highly distributed assets to to update PLC's or SCADA systems. That facility also allows the site engineer to log on remotely if needed to.
Plenty of power conmpanies are downsizing like there is no tomorrow. Didcot A, Cockenzie, Kingsnorth, Ferrybridge C, Isle of Grain, Fawley, Littlebrook, Iron Bridge, Keadby, Tilbury all closed or closing soon. The remaining UK conventional fleet is trimming numbers because power generation is not profitable and influenceable costs like maintenance and staff numbers are being squeezed. First they cut the fat, then they trimmed the meat, they've sucked the marrow and now they're knawing at the bone. It's the same in Europe too, in the Netherlands 2 brand new super efficient gas stations have been mothballed because there is no profit. If you aren't sucking at the Government teat taking subsidies you don't make profit in the UK power industry anymore.
To the best of my knowledge syncing and connecting of generators to the grid still requires manual control on all "signficiant" UK power stations. OCGT's and wind farms will have auto and internet controlled syncing arrangements but other plants still require a person to hold down a button on a phyically connected electrical comtrol loop not a networked one.
It's 3am on Monday morning in January and you can't get you're first oil burner in because the PLC is seeing a problem with an instrument that is locking the start up sequence. You're the Shift Manager and you'v confirmed there is no safety risk. Do you wait for the senior C+I engineer to drive in to work log on and find the problem and "frig out" the sequence and expose yourself to missing you sync time for generation and a cash out in the market of £100k's or do you ask the C+I engineer to log onto the company intranet from home and change a 1 to a 0 from the confort of his own home. But more importantly within 10-15 mins of you identifying the need.
The UK power industry is on it's knees it can't afford the manpower to have shift C+I engineers (or any other type for that matter) to fix problems. So problems that can be fixed remotely need remote solutions.
In my experience SCADA systems aren't used to update Mrs Smith Direct Debit.
The power of hugs?
Having seen the new Doctor Who descend to the point where each week the baddie is defeated by warm feelings and empty platitutdes I'm guessing John Hurt's Doctor ends the time war with the "POWER OF HUGS". Or maybe the inncocence of baby rabbits? Or the love of a fine cigar.
Re: Nuclear gets my vote
My eyes must have decieved me when I looked out my office window a few years ago and saw 750,000 tonnes of coal. Now that is only 3 months worth of coal at normal operating levels for a 2000MW station but the photos I've seen of stations during the miners strike show approximately 2 million tonnes of coal next to them.
I can make no comment for plants in the US but UK plants also work on a delivery straight to bunker basis but also often keep 100,000's of tonnes on site as a hedge against price fluctuations. Places like Bristol Port also store inordinately large volumes of coal.
Nuclear gets my vote
I think nuclear power should be the heart of our and the Worlds energy policy. Fossil fuels will run out sooner or later, no one is seriously suggesting they are being created by natural processes faster than we're using them are they? Fission in its many forms offers us a a good interim until we create fusion or wipe ourselves out. In the UK I'd like to see a 50% or 60% nuclear backed up with combined cycle gas for load management and a few large coal stations as strategic reserve (you can pile 6 months generating supply of coal next to a station, you can't do that with gas).
Re: I can't wait for this
Oh irony of ironies. I was in a crash on the M25 this morning. I was in a static queue of traffic when a lorry ploughed into the back of the queue smashing up the cars behind me and driving my car into the one in front.
The sooner robots control motorway traffic the better.
I can't wait for this
I'd be happy if this technology was limited to motorways only initially because the number of crashes I've seen on the M25 in my life beggars belief. I regularly drive this motorway and the sooner the robots take over the better, we're just not very good at managing the situation. Weekdays you have experienced motorway drivers who are overconfident and in too greater numbers and the weekends you have panic-y drivers who rarely use motorways you-yo-ing up and down in speed using their brakes too freely and crashing like its the latest fashion.
I for one look forward to our electric overlords.
Re: What a lot of hot air !
Numerous renewable companies already do this, as little as 1.5m on a weir is sufficient to get renewable energy from a river. Sadly their are few such locations where the captial costs don't massively outweigh the return. Even the small projects on weirs require Government subsidy to payback.
In engineering if you have to add the word civil to the project you can add a 0 to the cost.
Re: its common sense really
Sadly the energy density of most of the proposed "mass" storage schemes is not even close to being useful to smooth out a heavily renewable based power generation protfolio.
Dinorwig (SP?) only has storage for a few hours at high loads and is the UK's most useful pumped storage site. The volumes of water, compressed air or low grade heat required to store industrial levels of electricity are mind boggling. Fossil fuels are so useful because of the energy density they bring to the party. A 500MW coal power station unit will use circa 150-200 tonnes per hour at full load you need the equivalent of 100-120 such units to meet a typical peak winter demand. Thats upto 20,000 tonnes of coal an hour, all very do able. If you changed that to pumped storage you'd probably have to dam up every U shaped valley in the United Kingdom and turn it into a dam.
The report below demonstrates periods of low renewable supply during high demand periods are not uncommon.
The moment a decent mass energy storage system is devised I will support mass renewable energy iniatives, until that day I think they are a dangerous irrelavance just pushing up costs for no good reason.
It's aint just Germany
This problem affects the UK to a lesser extent. Many of Britains power station are running at a loss for the next few years. Despite the closure of Kingsnorth, Cockenzie, Grain, Fawley, Didcot A, Tilbury and the eventual closure of Ferrybridge C there is no profit in fossil energy generation. King Coal is makning money this year but has had a shaky few years and carbon tax will squeeze them eventually. Super efficient gas stations run at neutral and old gas stations are being thrashed to make money in the balancing market. Even efficient plant is being mothballed like Keadby. Nuclear is still making money but noone is willing or able to invest in the next gen plant. But renewables and biomass are raking it in. Drax is converting to north american wood chip, as is Lynemouth and numerous small CHP's are getting in on the action too. Everyman and his dog (read overseas soveriagn welath finds) with wonga to spare is piling into offshore wind to secure their 10% return on capital guaranteed from the british bill payers wallet. Whilst relaible efficient plant struggles because the politicans have gamed the market to reflect their own predjuidices.
Dictionary entry: Wind farm - a device powered by politicians flatulence used to harvest subsidies.
Err isn't a Martian year longer than an Earth one?
Surely Curiosity won't have been on Mars for a year until sometime in June 2014.
Read Lewis Page's article on energy costs
Npower's recent report throoughly debunks the oh so convienient myth of power company price gouging and excessive profits. Lewis Page breaks it down in another article today. Smart meters whist pointless are only a small element of the massive costs our elected representatives are heaping on us.
Re: indulgences are back ?
The new religion really does bear a lot of similarities with the old religion doesn't it?
Will we get our own Martin Luther is the question?
I'm fairly sure this problem has been solved since we have salt water condensers on nuclear power stations, nuclear aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines all of which have steam turbines and auxiliaries requiring cooling.
Re: Attack of the cyberbullshit ..
In my experience the reason PLC's etc are connected to the internet is to allow potentially distant engineers and systems experts to access the control system in the middle of the night or from great distance to "frig" out some snafu in the system which is preventing a power generating unit getting on the bars. The age and complexity of most turbo generators mean that certain instruments or interlocks failing to register in the correct state holds up the sequence. Most power companies in the UK (probably nuclear excepted) can't afford to emply enough staff and particulalry on shift who are capable of dealing with this on site. So some poor bugger gets a phone call and it is explained he can come in or he can dial in. The company supports dial in because then they don't lose him the next day which they would if he came in to work.
But I agree it is vaguely mad to have critical equipment internet connected.
Can the politicians be trusted...
to do something smart?
This is a gift horse. We should put these unexpected revenues into a soveriegn wealth fund to give future generations the benefit of our good luck. We should also ban export of this gas, why sell it on the World market we could easily reduce UK energy costs by 50% if we limited it to the domestic market. Imagine the industries which would once again become viable. Automation in process industries has meant that manpower costs relative to energy costs mean we no longer lose out to low labour cost countries if our energy costs are low. It's a multiple win, increased GDP in productive jobs, export income, more people in work lowering welfare costs and it can regenerate the north.
Saving for the future and empowering the now is the correct course of action. Which is why I expect our stupid dumbass polticians to allow companies to sell it into Europe at low prices pissing away advantage for short term political gain. that applies to polticians of any party btw.
Complexity of Control Systems
If the UK power industry is any indication the complexity and bespoke nature of UK power station control systems may provide some security. The systems have often been upgraded in a piecemeal way over decades or made backward compatible to obsolete plant as legacy systems become to old maintian. It means each station has a unique control system controlling a unique plant architecture. In the UK even plants with nominally similar plant process set ups have different PLC's and control interfaces because the build to price philosophies used in construction. When only one or two long serving members of staff can interpret how changes in the control system will effect the process it probably means cyber attackers will be somewhat flumoxed even if they gain access.
Re: Renewables can be more than afart in a hurricane.
So during the day when they didn't need many lights on and it was quite windy they managed a decent amount of renewables. How does that plan fare in mid winter low pressure system when there is no wiind or sun? The back up plant just becomes less cost efficient as more and more highly variable, high uncertainty counter cyclical generation is added to the grid.
On Monday eight Scottish windafarms were paid not to generate because there was too much wind generation in the wrong place on the grid. On Tuesday a Scottish coal fired power station was paid not to generate because the wind generation had to take priority in that region of the grid. The grid company has increased our bills by £50 a year over the last few years to pay for the capital costs of linking remote small generators to the grid and to strengthen the grid connections to accomodate badly placed generation.
Re: REminds me of a report in the 1970's "Coal Bridge to the Future."
I don't think anyone is looking at 600 bar steam cycles yet, I'd be very surprised if they were. 700°C and 250bar is the current acheiveable envelope with current materials. Even then you're only looking to push the 50% efficiency envelope.
Earlier comments about district heating are not really applicable in the UK. Our housing stock is too old and disordered. In the Soviet Union it was a common solution but they had large apartment blocks relatively near the heat sources. The capital cost of district heating really demands high denisty housing near the source. This might be achievable with a distributed co-gen strategy but you would have to re-ordeer society to achieve it.
Whilst I'm no fan of nationalisation I really think the only way to achieve a rational energy policy is for generation and gas supply to be regulated absolute monopolies at the very least. The planning and investment decisions can then be taken without the great uncertainty of market trends and political intereference.
Is that true with regard to the storage tanks?
I'm an engineer with a professional passing interest in nuclear power. I've read numerous *shudders to say it* Wikipedia articles on the 1950's experiments into molten salt reactors and thorium reactors.
Is the energy density of the salt sufficiently high that decay heat is only a limited meltdown/containment failure risk? So passive cooling arrangements and heat sinks are sufficient.
Are tanks such as these really going to the that highly irradiated, the 1950's salt reactors, if the articles are correct, were routinely left unattended to "trip" off using this facility. That would suggest regular occurences of emptying the drain down tanks which would be unlikely if there was a high radiological risk.
It is however nice to see some new fast reactor concepts being considered it must be better to burn through our waste and create ultimate waste that only requires 100's of years of storage rather than 10,000's.
@ Troy Shanahan
You may be conflating two issues when discussing the installation of your local wind turbines.
You may be getting less power outages in your area because they have strengthened the regional/local power grid to accomodate the new wind power generators. This probably has the side benefit of improving the stability of the domestic supply in your area.
I can make no comment about the reliability of wind power in South Australia but in the UK a wildlife organisation did some research showing it wasn't that useful when you actually needed it.
I'm all for nuclear though it has many of the attributes we require in our opower generation and could easily help the transition away from fossil fuels as their availability dwindles in the future.
I agree with you on the storage front. Hydrogen is not an energy dense fuel. There are so many things that make sense about a hydrogen economy built on mass nuclear and renewable generation. But hydrocarbons are just so useful, there is many times more hydrogen in a pint of petrol than there is in a pint of hydrogen, the physics of it is our enemy otherwise it would get my vote.
On the refuelling issue I guess until satellites are built for refuelling you'd have to create a sapce tug to move them to the desired location. I assume that all satellites must still have the hard contact points used for launch still on them so wouldn't a space tug just attach there and drag em into position?
Re: Yup, and in other news, water is wet
But how much does the OTHER power station cost? You know the one that has to sit there idle whilst the wind blows but needs to be ready to turn on for the times when the wind isn't blowing.
It has been an openly kept secret for years that the majority of prices rises in electricity are being driven by the political process rather than the economics of generation. The Big Six are regularly pilloried in the press yet they can only dream of making 10% guaranteed return on investment. Large Combustion Plant Directive, Industrial Emmissions Directive, Climate Change acts etc are all significantly increasing the cost of electricity by ministerial diktat. Now the emmissions cleaning ones do at least have a clear cause and effect reducing NOx and SOx is deomstrably good for the environment. But the CO2 stuff is increasing prices with no prospect of ever making a difference and the chosen routes to the target are the most expensive and unreliable available. Minister made madness.
Jumpgate - The Reconstruction Initiative
If David is looking for a flight model for his new Elite I hope he got the chance to play Jumpgate. That had possibly the most satisfying skill based twitch flight mechanics I have ever come across. They were semi Newtonian, so not Elite and not Frontier but a happy marriage somewhere inbetween.
I bought my first PC just to play Jumpgate and never regretted the purchase, I just wish it had had the procedural mission process that Davis is planning for his new Elite. Mission repeition and grind in games is a real problem and only mega budget games like the Elder Scrolls with hundreds designers to produce content seem to avoid the issue.
Re: Price fixing cartel@Ledswinger
Cars and food are markets with large amounts of product differentiation. Even individual models of one manufacturers cars are sold with different options. Different technologies can be used in the product itself. If only one single model of car was being made the same way by all manufacturers the comparison would be true, otherwise I think it breaks down. Nationalised car companies failed to compete but I think nationalised power monopolies could be cost comparable with privatised ones.
I haven't investigated your figures, but much of the green spend is on renewable obligation certificates for onshore wind, offshore wind and increasingly bio fuels (wood mostly).
Drax, Ironbridge, Tilbury are all large coal plants capable of burning millions of tonnes of wood a year. In addition many small bio fuel plants are under construction Markinch (sp?) in Scotland for instance. All are doing so to milk the renewable subsidies.
PV is not the biggest cost wind and bio fuel probably out do it by several orders of magnitude.
Re: Price fixing cartel
I'm not convinced that the energy suppliers are in a cartel. I think it is more likely that they all deal with the same variables and thus the possibilities of differentiation are small.
There are only 2 products gas and electricity. They all use similar technology to produce the electricity, they all buy fuel from the same market to make it. They all use the same monopoly distribution systems and all pay the same taxes. The billing requirements are largely regulation imposed by the regulator and they all sell into the same market. In and efficient market the cost drivers are all so similar and the product so undifferentiated that prices will tend to be close.
I'm not convinced privatisation and competition is the best solution to this market simply becuase the facts of life are all so similar.
Re: And Profit?
The big six energy companies have typicall being making £50-£70 profit per customer per year over the last few years. This is a measely amount given the safety, technical, regulatory and budgetary risks they have to run. These companies are making about 5% profit at the moment and are all investing £100's millions in new plant for which they are having to borrow. The margins are no longer there to justify the investment which is why they are all stopping investing in anything that doesn't farm huge renewable subsidies.
The energy indusrty is also subject to the whims of the politiicians who can at the stroke of a pen wipe out business models or rebalance the profitability of whole swathes of the industry. Drax Power for lost 25% of it's value in a morning on the basis of the draft white paper on Energy Market Review.
The public is massively ignorant of the energy industry and sees big numbers as a big problem. Companies with 7 million customers will make large profits even with modest profit per customer. They forget their misplaced love in with unrealistic green policies has an impact on their bills.
Also why does everyone think the shareholders of utilities are cigar smoking fat cats ruining lives just to afford the next ivory back scratcher. It's pension funds and the like that own the majority of these companies and these relatively meagre dividends pay for peoples old age.
Re: Yes, lets focus on short term cost increases...
Nuclear power may rely on imported fuel but at least that fuel comes largely from friendly stable democracies like Australia, Canada and South Africa. In addition it is easy to store large amounts of fuel against shortages. The UK is a major nuclear fuel processor and one of a handful of fuel reprocessors, I wouldn't be suprised if we already had access to decades worth of raw materials for Mox fuel for conventional or fast fission plant.
Until the storage problem is solved wind, and wave are useless costly irrelevance. Once the problem is solved they become a sound and practical option.
Follow the money.
Galileo will provide a direct funding stream to the EU without any recourse to the individual states. Regulation will ensure the Galileo picks up lots of lucrative work in Europe which will set up the cost base to spread it further afield and then they'll harvest the income that the EU taxpayer has paid for. Built by eurocrats for eurocrats.
Socialisation of the network
TNUoS has historically had a regional variation in prices applied to incentivise generation near the source. This has meant that northern stations far from the centres of demand in the South East had to pay more per megawatt of capacity than stations near London. There are and were good technical reasons associated with electrical theory for this, based around inductive and reactive loads and line lengths etc. With most of the best renewable sources being sited in the North they attracted high TNUoS charges which meant the carpet bagging subsidy farmers lost much of the income for their useless engines on the grounds they were supplying naff all energy to the wrong place. Sychronised whining such as exemplified in this story may yet change this and "socialise" use of system charges. This will mean Southern power stations are charged more to connect and Northern ones have their costs reduced. North South class warriors may approve but on a purely technical basis it disincentivises investment or even maintenance of capacity in the expensive South near the demand. The Grid will have to invest heavily to reinforce the grid against this imbalance.
Why should you care? Because already approximately 30% of your leccy bill is the transport cost. So by investing more heavily in unsuitably placed generation your bill will go up. Mine too sadly.
It's about time we let the engineers run the Electricity again and not the muppet's in Westminster.
Re: Get the numbers right
That grid watch link is some really nice data mining of the BM reports website. I've used BM reports for years now but that really clearly shows some of the more impenetrable data very very clearly. It's a shame they haven't reformatted the current and predicted electricity margin data because that is quite telling at times.
Time will tell
Until we run out of fossil fuels and assuming we never manage to crack the energy storage problem then it's nice to have nuclear in the back pocket as a reliable form of generation.
Even better that human ingenuity can guarantee us 100's of years of fuel supply. Go scientists!
It's a bit rich to ask people not to get their knickers in a twist whilst at the same time slinging mud yourself.
Re: Still no energy policy?
Your point isn't without merit. I agree that nationalisation was a disaster for the industries you mentioned. The power indusrty was vastly overstaffed at privatisation and the biggest gain out of the whole process was the slimlining of payroll. What the pre-privatisation electricity industry was extremely good at however was planning and delivering comprehensive and integrated generation portfolio. We're running a working museum power industry at the moment, so well built and specified were the components that long after their design lives and changes in operating regimes they tick on. For their vintage most are pretty efficient it's just without an overarching command economy in generation no long term plan for renewal was ever going to take place.
I avoided mentioning that i think the existing energy industry should be nationalised because I think it would be a retrograde step. Forced consolidation into a single private monopoly properly regulated might be a solution.
Still no energy policy?
This Government like all the others that have proceeded it since privatisation haven't got a real energy policy. The decisions that need to be made take decades to come to fruition yet the goal changes by the month.
Instead the regulator at the Governments behest is politically shifting the balance on a regular basis undermining any capitalist solution without taking the responsibility of commnading an outcome. The large organisations that could have borne the burden of extensive directed investment have been broken up in a misplaced crusade for competition that has eroded margins and transferred all the wealth to the energy trading markets.
Small one station combined cycle gas turbine based generating companies don't have the mass to invest under the current levels of uncertainty and the large players have been whittled down by the regulators. We've steadily reduced our options without addressing the problem.
I'm no fan of nationalisation in principle but it is looking increasingly obvious that the best way to provide electricity is through a monolithic monopoly which can easily be commanded to achieve a particular goal and large enough that it can fund and engineer acheivement of said goal by itself.
Re: That photo...
Thats the cover for the fan which provides lift at the front of the aircraft. It is one of the areas of the design that is proving problematic.
Re: Faulty Tailhooks
It's a reasonable question, if they can't fix it in 8+ years they probably shouldn't have the job.
I'll bet my last pound that the hooks on the F-18 work today though.
Omnishambles a new word for a new standard in incompetence.
I understand the cost constraints but in engineering the phrase "do it right first time" is pretty much a mantra. The whole saga of these carriers is a case in point of getting it wrong time after time after time. These carriers are expected to last 50 years we should spend the money to do the job properly first time and not come up with crippled solutions that we have to endlessly tinker with to correct. A Cats and traps solution is the gold standard and should have been the aim from the start, better to skimp on cheap aircraft now and get the bit that is hard to upgrade right and buy better aircraft later. Whilst the criticisms of Lewis on BAE bashing have traction the underlying argument that we should be building F-18 capable carriers is sound. I despair at this country, we cannot do anything properly unless it's a crisis and our attitude to technology and engineering beggars belief.
The MOD is not alone our energy industry and transport infrastructure are also hamstrung by short term ill concieved thinking. We just can't help ourselves.
edit: reposted too many typos, it was embarrassing.