If it's such a good idea, why don't they just do it themselves?
The "massive costs" faced by developers in Scotland's first Marine Energy Park to connect their wave and tidal projects to the grid could potentially hold back investment, an industry body has warned. Speaking as the Marine Energy Conference begins in Inverness, Niall Stuart of Scottish Renewables said that despite an …
If it's such a good idea, why don't they just do it themselves?
It does look like at least one side (and possibly both) is engaged in creative accounting. As far as Joe Public is concerned, the figure of interest is how much the scheme costs *in total* to generate electricity over there and deliver it over here. If that figure is too large, that particular green scheme is uneconomic and shouldn't be allowed to go ahead at the expense of better alternatives.
I'm sure we can all draw up proposals for low-cost energy if we aren't obliged to include all the costs. In particular, if you don't include the costs of building the station and clearing up afterwards, I think a pretty phenomenal case can be made for nuclear, coz the actual fuel is pretty cheap.
I think you'll find that the same 'unexpected' costs that make this project uneconomical will also make nuclear uneconomical.
Its the same accounting that turned a £4B Olympics into £9B (so far) one - the knowledge that the taxpayer will have to come in and cover the 'unexpected' costs which are of two kinds: things people have missed and things people know the project cannot be completed without. In the case of the Orkney project it cannot survive without the cables connecting it to the mainland so the charges for that have suddenly doubled.In the case of nuclear it seems its a fantastically cheap way of generating electricity until you take into account the insurance which, when done by those that would have to pay if the public didn’t cover it, seem to be a lot higher than if the public is expected to cover it while shareholders laugh all the way to the bank. If nuclear really is so cheap then why does private finance not leap at the chance of the massive profits on offer - perhaps they do the same maths the insurance companies do but hope politicians wont.
I think you wont
Even with the sort possible cost overruns (Okiluoto springs to mind) nuclear still comes in on lifetime costs (with comparable cost of capital) at less than onshore wind, a third the price of offshore wind, less than a quarter of the price of solar plus gas backup and way less than tidal/wave schemes.
And all intermittent renewables need costly underutilised grid links, and some form of backup, which is never costed in to the project overall cost, due to the way the market is distorted by government policy.
Its still more expensive than gas and coal though. But if you Believe In Anthropogenic Global Warming the facts are clear. You should be using nuclear power as the cheapest way to really knock chunks out of the emissions.
If you look at it on a cost per emissions saved its massively more cost effective than intermittent renewables.
Bit of a dichotomy for the poor old Greens, innit?
What id like to know is why suddenly the connection to the national grid has doubled.
with any project, one needs to cost the whole project on a realistic basis.
That means asking the local grid operator, which my guess is Scottish and Southern, for a proper quote.
I can say from personal experience that they will always think of the most expensive way of making grid connections.
Some 40 yrs ago I asked for a quote for an 11,000volt line single phase to deliver 5kw at 250v. over 800 yrds.
The quote in 1972 was £1000.00.
I didnt have that spare at that time so bought a 2.5kva Lister startamatic for £100.00.
And still have !! but itsno longer connected. Weve upgraded since then.
Last year I asked for a quote for the same supply but 3 phase at 10kva. The quoted £45,000 for the 800 yds.
and wanted to go underground
Now I can buy a suitable transformer for £.7,000.00 and 8 poles for £500.00.
Cable I put at £2,000.00 so doing it myself to their standards would cost me at the outside no more than £12,000.00.
I can buy a lot of gas oil for that, and a new 15kva set for £5,000.00. and im independent.
Being off grid really is cheaper than being connected in a isolated location.
Now I can buy a suitable transformer from Bonar Long for
Connection costs so much because grid operators want the power for nothing, and keeping the islanders in the dark (so to speak) costs a great deal less than connecting them to the grid AND paying for power would. It's a veto written in money.
Your costs? They charge so much because (in part) they don't think people will spend what it takes to do what you have done. Bite hard; maybe they'll bleed.
Only it seems that the definition only applies *onshore*
And how does this compare with the underground Vs Pylon cost difference?
It would seem either the network operator is screwing the generators or the generators are looking for a handout.
Not sure which but looks unsavory either way.
If it costs that much, then it costs that much. Who pays is really someone else's concern here, my concern is: if it costs that much, is it worth doing at all?
Seriously, the cost of transporting that electricity to the mainland means that it's just NOT practical to use for generating electricity to transport to the mainland. Sure, if you want to make a little off-shore independent grid, it would probably work well. But if you're generating all that electricity, and you can't then afford to push it back to where it needs to go, and having to rely on government subsidies to get it back there, then all you are doing (at best!) is wasting my tax on something that's just not practical or cost-effective.
So stop it. Or absorb those costs.
I understand encouraging new technology, trials, etc. What I don't understand is why companies with crackpot ideas that can't make money should be given money to do them badly. £100m of electricity transportation is a heck of a lot of cable and management. Maybe you should have thought about that when you chose where to site your electricity generation project, rather than expecting the government to pick up the tab.
And pointing to an example where you'd have been given a few million to do it is not only orders-of-magnitude away from the costs of your own idea, but it's *somewhere else*. If the subsidy was really that lucrative elsewhere, why didn't you put your site there instead?
Sounds like sour grapes, to me, that you aren't given hundreds of millions of pounds for free to spin a few token blades in Scotland (which has a pretty good record in approving wind-farms where they won't interfere with the beauty of the countryside).
Next time, don't rely on government subsidies to make your sustained profit (to cover your first-year startup costs, sure, but not 100's of millions of pounds of forever including the most-critical bit of your entire plan - getting the damn electricity to the grid!).
Why does it cost that much?
Obviously never seen the Scottish seas during a storm? Which is pretty harsh on your equipment and any cabling near it. And then you have to carry, what? GWatts of power? Back over copper cables that run over the sea-bed, back to a major industrial complex where you can convert it to something sensible (those wave-powered machines aren't going to be putting out mains-voltage!), then transport it EVEN FURTHER over-land through one of the harshest territories in Britain to somewhere when it can join onto the National Grid? It's literally THE SINGLE WORST PLACE to ever site anything like that in terms of getting that electricity back to civilisation. Some of the harshest seas, worst weather, furthest distances you could ever involve in trying to keep huge wodges of copper cable with HT-voltages and GWatts of power on them safe and reliable.
...going off grid?
We either pay indirectly via extra taxes that pay for increased subsidies or we pay directly via increased charges. Either way green technology will always cost more than other forms of power generation. Simply because it is not as efficient nor can it run 24/7. It's simply too variable to be used as anything other a method to shave a sliver off the overall power generation of the whole country. Anyone who wants to impose green power generation on the rest of the country is effectively being very anti-progressive as it will be the poor who can't afford the increased charges or taxes.
Renewable energy looks expensive today, because of the invisible subsidy on fossil fuels (not having to replace what you take out, is effectively a subsidy).
Once the oil starts running out, then renewables will suddenly not look so expensive.
> not having to replace what you take out, is effectively a subsidy
That is probably the dumbest definition of a subsidy I have ever heard.
I guess every mining operation, whether for coal or raw materials, is subsidised. Every geothermal project is subsidised (you don't replace the heat). Every bit of sand and stone used in any building is subsidised. In fact every physical (non wooden) object you buy must be subsided since the material to make it has been taken from somewhere and not replaced.
> Once the oil starts running out, then renewables will suddenly not look so expensive.
"It would be prudent and wise not to fall asleep regarding this quasi-security, Eventually industry will no longer find in Europe the resources to satisfy its prodigious expansion. Coal will undoubtedly be used up. What will industry do then?"
— Auguste Mouchout, 1860
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
— Thomas Edison, 1931
"I guess every mining operation, whether for coal or raw materials, is subsidised."
Yes, it is -- that's the point. There's only so much in the ground and when it's all gone, it's all gone.
If it helps, consider the difference between living from an inheritance (you don't have to work, but the cash pile keeps getting smaller) and working for a living (you get paid the same amount every week, as long as you keep turning up for work).
"In fact every physical (non wooden) object you buy must be subsided since the material to make it has been taken from somewhere and not replaced."
Except that for non-fuels, you can often melt down a used article to make new ones. At some point, the cost of extracting a raw material ends up exceeding the cost of recycling it from used stuff.
I wouldn't put a cent on solar energy.
Its not cheap and without cheap safe mass energy storage its almost completely useless.
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that."
On average, the Sun gives us about 6 kWh/sq m. on land, at sea level, in perfect conditions. It can only do that during the day, it can only to do that at certain latitudes, etc. along with a host of other problems (i.e. what was receiving that energy before you put your solar panel in the way?)
That's not a lot. Not a lot at all. In fact, it's rather pitiful. And it's not a matter of technology, that's the absolute theoretical maximum energy you could get with a 100% efficient conversion device. This is why "solar" cars are dead-in-the-water. You'd barely get 12KWh. That's 16hp for an hour, or various fractions of it for longer periods. Sure, we have proof-of-concepts even on inherently inefficient panels but AT BEST we'll never get close to even replacing one consumer car with the theoretically best solar panel in the world strapped to the top of it. Multiplying it out, means you lose vast swathes of land just to generate electricity by absorbing the Sun's rays, which is going to have massive knock-on effects for local climate and environment too.
Sure, it's all do-able. But it's also inherently impractical. Solar isn't the answer. Or even wind or wave. Nuclear is. And then after that we can worry about how we scale DOWN to meet our energy production capacity with renewables. But with nuclear, we still have THOUSANDS of years of scaling UP. Just nobody wants to live next door to it, that's all.
It's just not sensible to chase large-scale solar solutions. This is why it needs government subsidies for you to put panels on your house. And then you'll NEVER make back the energy used to extract the materials for that panel and installation. It's all based on bad sums. The Sun provides us with all our energy, but it has done so over a large area, for billions of years and through a fog of atmosphere which strips it of power. In terms of energy / impact, it really loses out. But we're still sitting on worldwide stocks of nuclear material capable of running the planet for centuries, if not millennia. People are just too frightened of the political "fallout" to use it.
"Talk is cheap."
-- Everyone else 1860 &1931
use the sun to crack water into hydrogen ala Hydrosol in spain. Do it on a big scale and it should be pretty cheap to run.
"Simply because it is not as efficient nor can it run 24/7."
Depends what you mean by "Green" does it not?
UK PV and wind are indeed *highly* variable.
But geothermal is 24/7/365 and the UK has numerous boreholes to site down hole heat exchangers (SOP in Norway) in a sealed system. They are called the North Sea oil fields.
Likewise Solar thermal in deserts (EG North Africa) would be *very* predicable, have an energy density about 2x the *average* solar constant (it's a *global* annual average intensity, not what you need for serious bet-the-future size developments on this scale) and being thermal likely to give c 30% efficient power conversion *without* stupidly expensive PV cells.
Onshore micro hydro has risks of either drought or freezing *if* not well sited but is also 24/7/365 otherwise.
Energy storage is the real PITA. So far only pumped water seems to have had *serious* efforts made but going *slightly* higher tech gives big low tech flywheels.(I quite like high speed train wheels. Solid, spin fast and good quality control) or the full on superconducting solenoid approach.
Just because UK Sir Humphrey's (or perhaps Sir Angus's) are clueless about more than 2 alternative generating options does not mean that is *all* there is.
"use the sun to crack water into hydrogen ala Hydrosol in spain. Do it on a big scale and it should be pretty cheap to run."
That will absorb roughly 25% of the energy budget.
Now where will you get the *other* 75% to either compress it to c5000psi or liquify it to -255c?
Hydrogen has a *very* poor energy density on its own. It also has a tendency to leak through anything that isn't welded stainless steel pipe.
> But geothermal is 24/7/365 and the UK has numerous boreholes to site down hole heat exchangers
In order to generate electricity from geothermal you need high enthalpy sites. There are no such sites in the UK. There are a few low enthalpy sites but low enthalpy geothermal is only suitable for heating. Whilst it might provide a heating solution in the immediate area it will not provide either heating or electricity generation for the UK as a whole.
"In order to generate electricity from geothermal you need high enthalpy sites. There are no such sites in the UK."
You are mistaken. High enthalpy allows higher *efficiency* but power generation using temperature differences below 100c are possible and viable. Such systems tend to use low boiling point organic fluids or could use flourocarbons.
The systems trade efficiency for long life. They have been the subject of EU development projects (IIRC the key centre is based in Greece) and systems are used in the US to get additional revenue out of oil wells. This is SOP in US oil fields and has been for *decades*. The US system is bulky and uses slow large turbines to avoid any kind of power electronics.
BTW all that North sea oil pipeline linking the offshore rigs to the Shetland Isles would make an *excellent* duct for laying a large power cable.
But they will run out in a million years or so.
Power generation using low enthalpy is only really feasible with temperatures above 80c and this minimum temperature increases as you go deeper. Even then it has only been done at research facilities (you might know better, but if so let me know where it is being done). The highest temperature at UK boreholes is in the Wessex Basin at Southampton where temperatures of 76c where found although they believe that if they go down to 3000m the temperature will exceed 80c in this area. The Cheshire Basin is next at >60c, East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire >60c, Worcester Basin >50c and finally Northern Ireland at 40c (68c in one area but transmissivity is way to low),
Whilst it would be nice to have something as clean and abundant as geothermal as an electricity generating source, it simply isn't feasible in the UK although that shouldn't prevent research into trying to make it feasible in the future
How *is* Desertec getting on? Seriously?
"The DESERTEC Concept offers a solution. Sufficient clean power can be generated in the world's deserts to supply humankind with enough electricity on a sustainable basis. DESERTEC is an integrated concept which includes energy security and climate protection as well as drinking water production, socio-economic development, security policy and international cooperation."
There are setup and running costs, but with an island of X people it'll never be worth exporting the electricity to the mainland as the return on investment will never be realised
Then there are maintenance costs, you ever tried getting an engineer to attend a village on the mainland, let alone on an island?
Like so many good Eco ideas, if it isnt economically viable then no amount of tree hugging will get you funding.
"and if we are to meet important climate change and renewable energy targets we must find a way to ensure wind, wave and tidal projects can generate electricity for homes and businesses across Scotland"
Roughly translated as, not even close to economically viable, give us taxpayers money.
I am gradually coming to the conclusion that we should simply abandon all subsidies and incentives for the whole energy business, because at the moment we seem to be in a death spiral of ever increasing subsidies as the various interest groups open their beaks wider and wider.
Every time in the last 60 years a new electrical generation source has come online then the infrastructure to connect it to the grid has been paid for by whom?
When the Nuclear stations were built, was the infrastructure in place already to link the remote locations that these scary beasts required (?), dont think so. who paid for that?
When the hydro units came online, again in remote locations due to the geography, who paid for that?
Clue, it wasn't the frickin Leprechauns
The Marine Energy Park is 200MW, a nuke is generally above 1GW.
A Nuke is sited at one place, probably selected for (a) remoteness and (b) reasonably simple connection costs, the Marine Energy Park is a huge acreage of sea, connecting to an offshore island base that has no mainland connectivity for such transmission lines, requiring undersea cables that will, prior to deployment, require all sorts of surveys/permits to ensure that the local population of 2 cod are not disturbed, plus expensive install/commissioning due to harsh environment/remote site.
then the infrastructure to connect it to the grid has been paid for by whom?
That was when the grid was a national resource, built and owned by the Government. Now that it's a privately owned and operated entity, maybe it's time that the shareholders stumped up for the investment costs if they want to increase their long term viability and profits.
Of course, that will never happen because today's shareholders see shares as a bank account with ever increasing rates of interest. They forget that those shares mean they *own* a share of the fucking company and have to accept the responsibility that goes with it. But they want profit and dividends *now*, not in 5-10 years.
require all sorts of surveys/permits to ensure that the local population of 2 cod are not disturbed
Upvote just for that
Would you trust this or any government to let you even recover your costs on a 10 year investment? No they'll change the rules and then tax the profit even more...
And we want reliable electricity in 5-15 years time.
Leaving "the markets" to implement a generation and distribution strategy to fulfil that need has demonstrably been utterly futile, as was predicted pre privatisation and pre "dash for gas" and...
Still, LED lights (on battery power) are getting quite good now.
By the time the three day week and blackouts arrive again, they'll be better still.
Its an exercise in simple rent seeking, pure and simple.
Backed by a massive PR campaign from interested parties.
Fossil fuel energy, on the other hand, is an exercise in shitting on your own doorstep.
Not investing in renewable energy generation might eke out the free ride we're getting from fossil fuels for a little bit longer -- but then we're stuck with whatever renewable generating capacity we do have when they run out, and no possibility to increase it. If that thought doesn't scare the arse off you, you're not paying attention.
P.S. Thumbing me down will not change this.
"Its not cheap and without cheap safe mass energy storage its almost completely useless"
You were talking about nuclear energy there, weren't you, which without cheap safe mass energy storage has a major problem with load following.
Physics, metallurgy AND grid/nuclear economics says you can't turn nuclear power on and off to follow the daily load cycle. Or even the weekday/weekend one, such as it is these days.
So some other mechanism is needed.
In the UK there's a difference of tens of GW between the overnight minimum demand (a bit under 30GW ish) and whenever maximum demand (a bit over 50GW ish in cold weather, more like 40GW most of the time) is.
See e.g. http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/
Do you nuclear folk have anything in mind to address that?
Mackay in SEWTHA semi-seriously suggests that a fleet of hundreds of thousands of electric vehicles with the capability to feed into the grid (same DC->AC technology as solar PV uses) would do the job of peak lopping a few GW, and the numbers do seem to support it. What other novel solutions are there?
Two things help enormously.
Firstly, modern nukes can vary their output much, much more than any of the ones we currently have. The French put a fair bit of effort into that.
Secondly, given that we do want to start replacing much of our fleet of private and public transport with electrically powered vehicles (cars and trains) this will have the effect of raising the base load as all those cars will be on charge overnight.
Evening that out further by remotely switching when the cars charge is at least plausible, because customers will accept that kind of demand management as long as you can guarantee that the car will be fully charged by a given time in the morning. Same as the interruptible contracts we already have but in a much larger scale and longer timeframe.
This really suits nuclear base load. It is also the exact opposite of what the planned wind, tidal and solar PV would actually provide.
Unfortunately the second is not without difficulty - local substations probably aren't sized to allow that much total power, as they did assume a certain amount of diversity.
Hence the Grid being pretty worried about the near future.
Guess they better hurry up and get the subsidy before claiming it is all theirs when they leave...
Personally kick Scotland out of the UK now without subsidies.
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.
" ... island-based generators must also pay for 'local works', including the connections from the Scottish mainland to the islands. These charges are calculated per kilowatt of generation connected to the network ...... 'local works' charges in the Orkney Waters area - including expensive undersea grid cabling from the Scottish mainland to the Scottish islands - have resulted in a "massive rise" in the cost of these projects."
Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. What was the issue again? Oh, that "massive rise". Translation - "we underestimated the costs of running transmissions lines from the some of the most remote and stormy parts of the UK"
At the time of Uncle Ted''s three day week I was a student living in Halls of Residence, but the proud owner of a Mini-Van, a spare battery and a battery charger. Removing a headlight as required gave me the best lit room in the residence ! What was really scary was driving through Edinburgh during darkness with no street lights and no traffic lights.
But correspondents above are right, subsidies for on-going projects never make sense, they just re-distribute income inefficiently. Government, ie tax-payers, funding of basic research is a different matter altogether.
Relocate London to Orkney? You get masses of power on cold, stormy nights, just when you need it.
Caution: long, contains numbers and facts, may contain logic.
"Firstly, modern nukes can vary their output much, much more than any of the ones we currently have."
Richard, with the greatest respect: "Citation needed".
Last time I saw this relatively common but generally unsubstantiated (at least in production) story challenged, the best (only?) reference the proposer could eventually find came from a Professor and a student. Good start, you might think. especially as they were from Cambridge (UK, not Mass).
But they were from the Business School. And the paper referenced was an unpublished draft . And the student seemed to be rather closely connected to Framatome. Some readers may recognise the name, or their modern successor's name: Areva. That's Areva of massively-delayed massively-overbudget Olkiluoto fame.
Other references most welcome, especially if properly peer reviewed.
On the other hand I do agree (with you, Mackay, and others) that the wider deployment of EVs in peak-lopping mode may be helpful here, even if it will have challenges. I'm not sure where you (and others) get the idea that the distribution substations (are we talking HV-MV or MV-LV?) aren't sized right. They clearly already cope with peak load, and general peak load in this scenario would go down not up. 5 GW of distributed-input peak lopping for an hour or two matched by an extra 2 or 3 GW of extended off peak demand supplied from core capacity doesn't sound like too much of a challenge in principle, to me. Again, references welcome (e.g. from Gridco's ten year outlook or similar).
Meanwhile, for an example of what really happens in nuclear powered France, here  is one of their equivalents of the UK gridwatch/templar site mentioned earlier. Don't take my word for it, see if you can spot any flexible contribution from nuclear power there. I couldn't see much. As far as I can tell, France manage their loads differently from the UK, not their generation. E.g. lots of off peak electric storage heating, and tariffs to encourage their use. Who remembers why we stopped using those in the UK?
Both have proposed projects. Iceland has plenty of geothermal and some HEP. When I visited an Icelendic HEP station there was talk of disposing of their surplus by running an undersea cable to UK. Norway has/had a pumped storage proposal - ship surplus power (like wind generated peaks at times when the grid doesn't need it) to Norway for pumped storage in high altitude dams. Both projects demand much longer cables than Scottish Islands. Are they complete non-starters or is the Scottish costing model wrong? Is this just another case of "why invest your own money if you can make a case for Government to stump up".
Are there any viable alternatives - use the power to create chemical compounds that can be shipped and the energy released? I'm not up to doing the science but naive ideas starting with simple substances like sodium, phosphorous, calcium carbide?
an incumbent looking after themselves.
UK already have gas pipeline (or is it two?) to Norway, laying an electricity cable can't be much different. Capital and running costs of HVDC interconnects have decreased substantially in recent years due to not widely known advances in high power semiconductor electronics.
Then there's all those lovely fjords for pumped storage, and not so many local inhabitants to worry about (but don't upset the white mice).
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