back to article Hurrah! Windfarms produce whopping one per cent of EU energy

The colossal, hugely expensive windfarms that are spread across huge areas of Europe's land and sea, which are projected to drive up household energy bills by more than 50 per cent in coming years, have achieved ... almost nothing in terms of reducing EU carbon emissions. We here on the Reg energy desk only noticed this …

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  1. Bloakey1

    Well the Portuguese have managed to hit 100 percent supply a few times in the past. They have wind farms everywhere and are one of the leaders in the field. It just shows that it can be done and when you factor in all those people with solar panels that supply the grid with their excess one can see the potential.

    1. Joey M0usepad Silver badge

      optomistic

      I assume thats just electricity needs , still burning loads of petrol , diesel , gas and heating oil , Same creative accounting as described in the article.

      Impressive though

      1. Purple-Stater

        Re: optomistic

        Indeed. The story states that the 8% was of electricity, then goes on to complain that it's only 1% of energy. Poor, detracting, form.

      2. tony72

        Re: optomistic

        Hardly "creative accounting". The claim was 8% of electricity, not 8% of total energy use; perfectly accurate, and not at misleading. Unless you really try, of course.

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Things windmills are bad at

          Things windmills are bad at:

          * Reducing CO2 emissions from fuel burnt for heating

          * Ball games

          * They are unable to read sheet music

          * Holding doors open for ladies

          * Leaving dishes to soak and then forgetting to wash them up.

          I could go on, but the point is they're just a waste of time.

        2. h4rm0ny

          Re: optomistic

          >>"Hardly "creative accounting". The claim was 8% of electricity, not 8% of total energy use; perfectly accurate, and not at misleading"

          In the context of this article, no it's not misleading because this article is clear about the difference. However, look at the sort of press-releases it is in response to. The contributions of wind power are not put in any sort of proper context and presented as having a whopping effect on reducing CO2 and fossil fuel usage. And I have been in debates with plenty of people who are more than happy to conflate the two to make wind power look better. I recall a few months ago someone claiming how Germany is now a net exporter of energy and linking to electricity figures.

          Never mind that even if Germany were, it would still be a grossly inefficient approach to it made sustainable only by subsidies.

        3. Sirius Lee

          Re: optomistic

          It's misleading, Tony72, because the article (go read it) is titled "2014 JRC wind status report". It is the choice of the report authors to focus the comparison on electricity use - presumably because the comparison is more favourable. Wind power (along with other renewables), as Page says, is about replacing ALL our energy needs that are based on consuming fossil fuels not just one segment of our energy use. If you are jumping to complain about Page's less favourable comparison why not also attack the authors choice to fail to provide their own less favourable comparison. This is the kind reporting shenanigans that give the renewables lobby the terrible name.

    2. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      How stable would the grid be with even 50% renewable energy?

      What would the black-start options be?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Hydro is one renewable, and at least one hydro station in the UK, Cruachan, has black start capability,. Norway almost certainly has more.

        1. 9Rune5

          Hydro

          "Hydro is one renewable, and at least one hydro station in the UK, Cruachan, has black start capability,. Norway almost certainly has more"

          I am not sure where you are going with this?

          Hydroelectrical power is brilliant. However, Norway was designed by a guy named Slartibartfast. Awardwinning work for sure, but it left the entire country with a topology perfect to build cheap hydroelectrical dams all over the place.

          It is hardly a solution that will fit well in other countries. In addition, the construction of these facilities has a profound impact on local wildlife. A Fukushima-style nuclear spill will look like a walk in the park in comparison.

      2. PyLETS

        Black start options

        Rotating fossil fuel generators tend to need electricity to generate a magnetic field to generate electricity. Hydro is often designated for this purpose in grid black start planning.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_start

      3. Spotthelemon

        Scotland produces of that order (49.8% in 2014) of the electricity it uses from renewables with production capacity at 7383MW

        "Onshore wind generated almost two thirds of all renewable electricity output in Scotland.

        Hydro power contributed over a quarter of renewable electricity output, and while other technologies such as biomass and marine energy currently make a smaller contribution"

    3. Tony S

      I don't know about Portugal; but I heard someone talking about Spain and how they were achieving 68% of their supply from wind.

      Only that wasn't true; the figure was 56% and that was for about 1 hour during a major storm some years ago. On average, it's less than half of that and at times, it's less than 10%.

      I'm all for reducing reliance on gas and oil; and I'm in favour of renewable technology. But it does seem that there are a lot of claims being made that don't actually stand up to close scrutiny; and especially being made by people that have an agenda to promote these products.

      They actually do themselves and the technology a grave disservice; by over promising, it makes the failure to deliver on a consistent basis, seem much worse than it ought.

      1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Spanish flies.

        I'm impressed that Spain had learned how to build a set of windmills and use half of them in a storm. That is remarkable engineering.

        FYI in Britain inclement cold weather is related to increased volcanic activity. A bête noire. I not only hate the cold the weather but the charts inevitably bugger about. If you would like to know how to interpret them, ask and ye shall receive. (But ask loudly I listen quietly.)

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Coat

          Re: Spanish flies.

          "I'm impressed that Spain had learned how to build a set of windmills and use half of them in a storm."

          Imagine the failure rate if Don Quixote was still around!

          Coat. It's a bit drafty today.

      2. enormous c word

        Renewable / Sustainables Scam

        Unfortunately, the whole renewables / sustainable energy thing was obviously a scam from the start. Starting from the 1970's, environmentalists have gone from one hysterical theory to another by looking too narrowly at data taken from too short a time-scale.

        In my life time, we have been about to enter into a new Ice Age, then more recently Man Made Global Warming (later re-branded as Global Warming once it was realised that man had little effect, then more recently re-branded as Climate-Change). The environmentalist scare-mongering was seized upon by academics seeking research-grants, then politicians to control populations with rising se level nonsense, then industrialists saw an opportunity to introduce disruptive technologies and charge premium rates for them before the facts came in and the trough of money emptied.

        Burning oil / coal / gas is clearly wasteful (once its gone its gone for good) but a 1.5% reduction of non-renewable energy consumption is dire. Nuclear-energy looks like being humanities only recourse - if the environmentalists hadn't been so successful in moving away from Nuclear to wind/sun, we would be a lot closer to clean nuclear energy today.

    4. Mad Mike

      The problem is, wind energy is not reliable. Neither is solar, although there's always some unlike wind. Any source that cannot produce electricity on demand and reliably needs another source of generation to back it up. This is the major problem with these technologies. Gas power stations are the normal source of backup, but that effectively means you have to install generation twice. And one, the backup, is only used very occasionally making them uneconomic.

      In the UK, when we get a period of really cold weather, it is normally associated with a lull in the wind. Think back to the last few times and think how much wind was blowing. Just when the weather is coldest and we need power the most, wind power is generating close to nothing. When we need it less, it's generating like a good 'un. But, that's no good. It's really lucky that in the UK we still predominantly use gas for heating, as otherwise the number of people dying through cold would be much larger.

      1. TheOtherHobbes

        >The problem is, wind energy is not reliable.

        No, that's story-telling and hand waving about a topic you clearly don't understand. It's like complaining that high-level languages can't possibly work because compilers just aren't clever enough to output clean code.

        Firstly, offshore really isn't that intermittent. Secondly on-shore isn't built where your semi is in the middle of the city. It's built in - you know - areas where the wind blows. Because building it where your semi is would be really stupid.

        Clever people do a lot of modelling and statistical estimation of potential sites, and bankers won't fund projects if the numbers don't work out,

        Because the numbers are conservative - those bankers have their uses - wind reliably outperforms the estimates.

        Finally, we have this thing called a National Grid, which means - here comes the clever part - that it's possible to move electricity from where it's generated to where it's needed.

        Now, as for energy generation - there's been relentless hostility to renewables from the fossil dinosaurs for decades now. They really, really hate the fact that they're not going to able to keep holding everyone to ransom with fossils. (If you think wind is unreliable, why not rely on Russian gas instead? Genius...) So offshore wind build out is some tiny percentage of what it could be.

        In spite of this - more than 8% across the EU. That's an incredible achievement, and well above most predictions.

        And longer term - do you think we should burn oil to keep warm, or should we keep it for useful things, like plastics?

        Elon Musk is betting the farm on electric travel being the future, and if he had to go brain to brain against Lewis Page in an IQ battle, I know who I'd be betting on.

        1. Mad Mike

          @TheOtherHobbes.

          Spot the man who doesn't work in the 'industry'. Essentially wind farms are allowed to produce as much as possible whenever possible and often other power sources (such as gas power stations) are turned off to allow this. In some cases, wind farms have to be stopped as oversupply is too great. Strangely, they get paid to turn their turbines off!!

          However, even if it only happens once a year, you have to have backup capacity for them in the event of a lull. Look at the wind generation over the last few cold snaps in the UK and you'll see this. Doesn't matter if it happens once or a hundred times.....you still need it. And that's the problem. If you look at the stats, you'll also see that the power produced is really quite variable and the band is quite large.

          Everything is stacked towards making wind farms look good, but the important thing is ability to reliabily produce electricity when it is required and due to the variability of the wind, wind farms will always have a problem there. One solution to the issue, which national grid are looking it and implementing, is to pay large users to shutdown during periods of low wind and therefore low generaiton. However, they normally want a pretty big 'bonus' for doing this, so economically, it's really stupid. It is done in gas mind, to cover for periods of low gas reserves and high consumption.

        2. Mad Mike

          @TheOtherHobbes.

          "Elon Musk is betting the farm on electric travel being the future, and if he had to go brain to brain against Lewis Page in an IQ battle, I know who I'd be betting on."

          Just because he did something good once, doesn't make him Einstein. Unless you've met both people and spoken with them, the above comment is really silly.

          In the end, fossil fuels will run out and cars will have to run on electricity. However, that doesn't mean that batteries are the answer, which is pretty much all the main manufacturers are looking at. Some are looking at hydrogen, but not many. Batteries as a means to store power on a large scale or for things like cars are really stupid. Battery cars will never make it mainstream as they are simply impractical. Electric cars which use another power source, which is converted to electricity; now that's another story.

          1. James Hughes 1

            I'm interested to know what that mythical 'other source' is. Or why you think electric cars are impractical if battery equipped, given there are 750k or more electric cars being entirely practical out there already.

            1. h4rm0ny

              >>I'm interested to know what that mythical 'other source' is

              It's called hydrogen fuel cells and Toyota have a commercially available family car that uses one right now, so you have a funny definition of 'mythical'. Lot of London busses run on HFC as well. It's far more energy dense than any battery ever produced or likely to be any time soon. And the exhaust is water vapour.

              Hydrogen can also be produced cleanly with electricity and hot water - something nuclear powerstations have in abundance. So you have power generated by nuclear and you can do it efficiently because you use the troughs in demand to produce the hydrogen as a storage mechanism for energy. Nuclear power is most efficient run at a steady output so they're a perfect compliment. And you get cars that are clean, lighter than battery equivalents, have greater range and use existing petrol infrastructure with the relatively simple addition to the station of a new pump and accompanying tank.

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                "Hydrogen can also be produced cleanly with electricity and hot water "

                Making hydrogen is easy - and best done where needed.

                HFCs are straightforward

                Storing the stuff safely under pressure in an automotive environment with equipment which will last at least a decade in service is a task of materials engineering that we can't do yet.

                Metal hydrides have been "promising" for the last 30 years but they cost too much.

            2. Mad Mike

              @JamesHughes1.

              The most obvious 'other source' is hydrogen, hence why I mentioned it. You can refill a car very quickly (basically the same as petrol or diesel) and then carry on, unlike waiting hours to recharge.

              750k is a niche market in terms of automobile. There are always some uses, but you need something that can replace the umpteen tens of millions of cars rather than a handful. Milk deliveries were a great example where battery power was possible as range only had to be small. However, that is not true of the mainstream, where range and refueling is a big issue, hence it being stuck as a niche.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Battery cars are impractical

            "Battery cars will never make it mainstream as they are simply impractical. "

            Impractical *for what*, sir?

            Do some numbers and you'll find that for the 2nd car in an N-car household, which only ever does the school run, the supermarket run and such like they're eminently practical. Not so practical if you're a Yodel/Uber driver or a techy road warrior. Somewhere in between is a dividing line which moves as battery technology improves.

            The snag with that picture is that by definition these are low mileage journeys. Low mileage journeys tend not to use much energy in the bigger picture, although they do account for a disproportionate amount of pollution. So this isn't an obvious winner if you consider energy and pollution separately, as is typically done. Look at the bigger picture and it makes more sense to change.

            1. Arisia

              Re: Battery cars are impractical

              Actually it's not quite right that the main use is the urban shopping trolley. The most effective use of the current generation of EVs, e.g. Nissan LEAF, is as a commuter car. They can pay for themselves with the fuel savings.

              The average LEAF does 40% more miles per year than the average petrol or diesel. This I think was unexpected by the manufacturers.

              http://www.newsroom.nissan-europe.com/uk/en-gb/Media/Media.aspx?mediaid=128282

              1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: Battery cars are impractical

                "The most effective use of the current generation of EVs, e.g. Nissan LEAF, is as a commuter car. They can pay for themselves with the fuel savings."

                No real surprise: This is the same reason I used a little french diesel crapbox (Pug 106) as my daily beater over the 2 litre japanese large family car.

                The pug ended up getting twice the annual miles the Nissan did.

              2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
                Joke

                Re: Battery cars are impractical

                "The average LEAF does 40% more miles per year than the average petrol or diesel."

                Yeah, looking for the free charging points instead of charging at home on their own leccy meter.

            2. Mad Mike

              Re: Battery cars are impractical

              @AC

              "Do some numbers and you'll find that for the 2nd car in an N-car household, which only ever does the school run, the supermarket run and such like they're eminently practical. Not so practical if you're a Yodel/Uber driver or a techy road warrior. Somewhere in between is a dividing line which moves as battery technology improves."

              2nd car for a family could be practical, but the maths still eludes. You need to charge all the cars in a street, almost certainly overnight. Local power grids are simply not designed to supply that much power, certainly in the UK anyway. Unless you're ready to rewire every city, town and village in the land, anything more than a token number of electric cars in a street will either result in an overload of the local grid, or severe restrictions on when you can recharge them. Either way, not really practical.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Battery cars are impractical

                "anything more than a token number of electric cars in a street will either result in an overload of the local grid"

                Where do you get this idea? I'm interested.

                It's not the number of cars that matters, it's their accumulated energy demand from the Grid that matters.

                As a very very rough indicator, if you drive one car for half an hour on the school/shopping/commuter run and have a 3kW charger at home it'll take maybe half an hour to recharge, assuming it hasn't already been fast-charged at the supermarket or wherever. Various manufacturers figures are around this scale, though actually I've tried to be a bit conservative here.

                Feel free to correct my numbers and logic if you have better options.

                One car, wanting one and a half kWh of off peak electricity each night for each half hour it's been driven during the day.

                Optionally add a small proportion of slightly longer distance journeys. They won't be *long* journeys in an electric car. Range anxiety(tm) and all that.

                If the weather's horrible (hot, cold) there may be heating or aircon in the picture. Lights and so on. Add a bit for them if you wish.

                Now scale it up to lots of cars which are all used every day (doesn't really matter whether they are or aren't in the same street).

                You'll still find that's a tiny fraction of what domestic Economy Seven users used to want (and get) overnight for their storage heaters and hot water. The transmission and distribution networks didn't collapse because of Economy Seven back then. They wouldn't collapse now either. People were (and still are) offered cheaper electricity overnight.

                Note also that the same reasoning demonstrates why there's no issue with overnight generation capacity.

                The generation and distribution impact might be more significant if you had 50% of the households doing hundred mile round trips each day. That's not happening in the foreseeable future.

                Somewhere in between the usage starts to be noticeable. But not for a long time yet.

                1. Mad Mike

                  Re: Battery cars are impractical

                  "Where do you get this idea? I'm interested.

                  It's not the number of cars that matters, it's their accumulated energy demand from the Grid that matters."

                  You are correct in that it is the accumulated energy demand. But, it is much greater than you think. The local grid problem is well known within the industry and there have been various companies trying to provide solutions, but nothing that I'm aware of at the moment. One answer is local generation, but at the moment, this isn't really practical and tends to be more available when you're least likely to be charging the car.

                  What you need to think of is the number of houses (and therefore second cars) on a local loop, which in most cases will comprise of three phases. This loop needs to be sized to take the maximum possible draw from the cars at any point in time. Although it varies from place to place,in many areas, this is way beyond the capacity of the loop. Then, you also need to consider the next stage up. The local substation has to be supplied with enough energy for all its loops. Again,this would in many cases involve substantial upgrades.

                  Due to the costs involved, cables are normally not that oversized and so the margin from current peak load isn't that great. Bear in mind what the current maximum load from a typical house is. Not a lot compared to the charging requirements of a car.

                  On top of this you have to consider some other cases, such as flats, where the number of cars is much greater and the current maximum load is much smaller. Everyone in the industry knows that widespread adoption of electric cars at the moment (even as second cars) would cause all sorts of major issues.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Battery cars are impractical

                    "Everyone in the industry knows that widespread adoption of electric cars at the moment (even as second cars) would cause all sorts of major issues."

                    Really? Is there somewhere I can read about it or is it hush hush?

                    Show me some numbers and some logic (not just unquantified words), similar to what I've got below, and I'm ready to be convinced, honest.

                    "Bear in mind what the current maximum load from a typical house is. Not a lot compared to the charging requirements of a car." (and the rest).

                    I have borne it in mind thanks :) That's why I chose Economy 7 domestic heating compared with a standard 3kW plug-in (not fast) charger. I don't know what car charger you're thinking of when you say "the current maximum load from a typical house is not a lot compared to the charging requirements of a car".

                    I accept E7 heating is no longer typical, but it'll be a long time before homes with car chargers (fast or plug-in) are typical. If we're talking long term planning rather than an immediate issue, just say so.

                    So, with with numbers and logic, why is E7 heating vs plug-in (3kW) car charger not a fair comparison? I've shown you my arithmetic, can anyone show me what it should look like instead?

                    I'm told that parts of the local LV/MV network in the UK have an investment vs capacity problem, not least due to increased housing density without corresponding distribution upgrades, and that to avoid the symptoms showing in the short term, local top-up feed-in (e.g. from diesels, occasionally from pilots of grid-scale battery powered grid-connectable inverters) is being used in some areas. That's hopefully a separate issue, albeit related.

                    Details:

                    Consider a home with E7 for heat and hot water: say 3 storage heaters at 3kW plus hot water at 3kW. Round numbers, call it 10kw per E7 house, potentially consuming 10kW throughout the E7 window if the weather's cold. IE 70kWh over 7 hours. Outside the areas with short term problems, are you saying the grid can no longer cope with this E7 demand?

                    Compare with 3kW plug-in electric car charger.

                    E7 heating can (presumably) work with a 10kW load throughout the E7 period, why doesn't the car charger with a 3kW load for an hour or two during the E7 period also work?

                    What am I missing?

                    1. Mad Mike

                      Re: Battery cars are impractical

                      @AC

                      "Really? Is there somewhere I can read about it or is it hush hush?"

                      It's not hush hush at all and is well known in the industry. The following link talks about one such initiative, which involves working out who should get the available electricity and how to charge as many cars as possible to the greatest extent possible.

                      http://www.technologyreview.com/view/524866/the-coming-problem-with-electric-cars-how-to-charge-them-all/

                      However, you will also note they don't think it will necessarily work, as it requires people to have predictable journeys. Might be OK for some, but not for many. This also talks mostly about power supply rather than distribution, but the same sorts of ideas are being used for distribution. Accept you can't charge all the cars fully, so you try and determine what each car needs for the next days driving.

                      You choose you use Economy 7 heating as a comparitive load, but fail to realise that most local loops never allowed for widespread installtion of Economy 7!! If every house on a local loop had Economy 7 installed, you would get the same problem!! Economy 7 was a relative fad for a while and was generally installed across estates, where the local loop was beefed up to allow for it, but this was a very small amount of the housing stock, so doesn't apply to most houses/flats.

                      I agree that where Economy 7 was allowed for in the original local loop, then provided you don't want to use a fast charger, you should be OK. However, this isn't a typical local loop install.

                      I suggest you do some searching on google and there are plenty of articles dealing with this sort of problem. This is especially true of some areas of London where there is no ability to get more power into whole areas, let alone streets or individual houses. Big business in London is beginning to feel this.

          3. honkhonk34

            I'm genuinely confused here...

            You're suggesting that battery powered cars aren't viable long term, right?

            But Hydrogen might be okay, except only a few people are looking at it..

            Question: Which kind of hydrogen system are you talking about?

            Do you mean hydrogen cells or hydrogen combustion engines? these are reasonably different systems. Hydrogen cells are batteries (with all the implied dangers of a battery) insofar as chemical to electrical energy storage is concerned. Hydrogen combustion engines have a lot going for them (like their similarity to a traditional combustion engine) but also involve storing a highly combustible element in much greater concentration, even compared with petrol or diesel.

            I think battery technology is a field which still has a long way to progress. Until the full utility of a technology is required, there's no push for it to be reached; in the last 15 years the importance of the battery has sky rocketed, but it still takes time to develop functional market ready products which can achieve the requirements we have now.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Hydrogen

              Hydrogen in commercial quantities is made from Natural Gas using steam reformation, a process that releases 4 tonnes of CO2 for every 1 tonne of Hydrogen.

              Extracting hydrogen from water is still a developing art. Humans need to perfect that process and roll it out on a massive scale, not to mention crack the carbonized coconut or similar hydrogen storage technology, then and only then start thinking about 'The Hydrogen Economy'.

              Program schedules with 'magic happens here' are daft.

              1. h4rm0ny

                Re: Hydrogen

                >>"Extracting hydrogen from water is still a developing art."

                Well pretty much all tech is still developing - there's very little that is completely matured short of the wheel and fire. But no, it's not difficult and we can do it fine. The reason it's still made from natural gas is that this is cheaper. Just like running a car from petrol is cheaper than batteries. But we can make it from clean sources just fine so the correct comparison is how it compares to batteries, to which the answer is it's better.

                You are also either being disingenuous or just repeating anti-hydrogen soundbites with your "4 tonnes of CO2 for every 1 tonne of hydrogen". That's meaningless without comparing it to actual energy densities. It is sad that proponents of battery powered cars would rather attack a fellow clean energy approach than be pleased by it. But then I suppose it's seen a rival and if you support "batteries" rather than "clean energy" then I suppose it must be hated as it's a threat to battery-powered cars in a way that fossil fuel isn't - competing on its own "clean energy" turf, as it were.

            2. h4rm0ny
              Facepalm

              >>Hydrogen cells are batteries

              Wrong in both technical terms AND in layspeak. Hydrogen Fuel Cells are not batteries.

              A battery is something you charge up with electricity and then you discharge it over time. Even lay people understand that a battery is something charged with electricity.

              A hydrogen fuel cell is connected to a tank of hydrogen. The hydrogen is reacted with oxygen to produce energy and the resulting water vapour is expelled. Have you ever seen a battery that you plug a hydrogen tube into and watched it give out steam from the reaction? No, because that's not what a battery does.

            3. Alan Brown Silver badge

              "But Hydrogen might be okay, except only a few people are looking at it.."

              Hydrogen is _hard_. It's highly reactive and makes just about everything you use to store it, brittle.

              The best way to use hydrogen as a transport fuel is to bind it to carbon atoms. There are more hydrogen atoms in a litre of petrol than in a litre of liquid hydrogen and we already have pretty good infrastructure for handling the stuff (if you're going to make synfuel then you'd probably make a form of kerosene and burn it in diesel engines. This would have low contamination and high conversion efficiency in terms of particulate output being almost null - it's the long chain stuff which is problematic)

            4. Mad Mike

              @honkhonk34.

              Hydrogen cells aren't batteries. They generate electricity from hydrogen, giving out water. They're pretty advanced now. The bigger issue is storing the hydrogen in big enough quantities, although they're getting there. Either hydrogen cells of direct burning of the hydrogen is possible, as both are equally clean (broadly). However, the hydrogen cell is more efficient and has the advange than any electrically driven car could loose much of the power train and become much more reliable and simpler.

        3. M7S

          Re: Elon Musk is betting the farm on electric travel being the future

          He is indeed and I'll probably buy into that vision in due course as prices fall and ranges rise.

          How on earth does that relate to wind power, or perhaps I've missed where a spinnaker folded in the boot is the range extending option?

        4. Cynic_999 Silver badge

          "

          >The problem is, wind energy is not reliable.

          No, that's story-telling and hand waving about a topic you clearly don't understand. It's like complaining that high-level languages can't possibly work because compilers just aren't clever enough to output clean code.

          Firstly, offshore really isn't that intermittent. Secondly on-shore isn't built where your semi is in the middle of the city. It's built in - you know - areas where the wind blows. Because building it where your semi is would be really stupid.

          "

          Do you know what a synoptic chart is? Do you know how to interpret them? If you have look at such charts reasonably regularly as I do, you will have seen many occasions where there really is very little wind over at least 75% of the UK, and that can be the case for a week or more. Also, it is all very well to state that electricity can be transmitted via the National Grid, but the grid is not robust enough to supply all of (say) the power requirements of Southern England from power sources in Scotland. It was designed for reasonably distributed generation and would not handle the currents of having most of the generation situated in a localised area.

          So on the days when there really is little wind over almost the entire country, you would either have to have to have a way to store huge amounts of energy to tide us over the lull, or you would have to have on-demand power stations that are capable of supplying our entire electrical need. Energy storage to that extent is simply not practical, and having large capacity conventional power stations that sit idle for 60% of the time or more is uneconomic.

          Of all the "natural" energy sources, in my opinion tidal energy is the most practical because it is 100% reliable, but making use of it is difficult and costly. As the article states, the one and only solution today is nuclear energy which we have stupidly vetoed by exaggerating its risks out of all proportion to reality. Nuclear energy has seen less deaths per TWh *both actual and projected* than either wind or solar energy.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "Nuclear energy has seen less deaths per TWh *both actual and projected* than either wind or solar energy."

            Even taking into account increased instances of radiation-induced cancer that aren't noticed until nearly half a century later?

            1. Tomato42 Silver badge
              Boffin

              "Even taking into account increased instances of radiation-induced cancer that aren't noticed until nearly half a century later?"

              yes, including those

              it's not hard, as radiation-induced cancer accounts for less than 1% of non-thyroid cancer incidence from stuff like Chernobyl

              more people are dying of cancer because we live long enough to die of cancer, not because there is radioactive stuff everywhere

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              "Even taking into account increased instances of radiation-induced cancer that aren't noticed until nearly half a century later?"

              For all statistical purposes, they simply don't happen.

              Radiation exposure tends to kill you relatively quickly or not kill you at all. The bigger issue is poisoning from radiation breakdown products (beryllium is a nasty carcinogen as a for-instance) and heavy metal poisoning from things like uranium 238 - which isn't radioactive to speak of, but is an environmental toxin.

              Being exposed to radioactive isotopes doesn't mean you _will_ get cancer. It raises the risks - you might go from a 1 in 1,000,000 risk to a 1 in 500,000 risk as a for-instance (which gets "doubles the risk of cancer" scarelines.) Bear in mind that cancer levels in Nagasaki and Hiroshima are 2% above "normal", whilst down the road at Minamata Bay it's about 25% higher thanks to organic mercury compounds in the seawater.

              Pressurised water reactors have a "sweet spot" at 7-10MW electrical power generation (which is hardly surprising, as that's what the original research was aimed at for submarines). Scaling them up to 1400MW is bad news, but they're still safer than every other form of electricity generation and produce less waste than coal ever will. That said, there are safer methods which aren't pressurised and don't use metals which catch fire on expsoure to air, or graphite cores.

              An anecdote to amuse: There was a nasty cluster of cancers amogst workers in the old Rutherford laboratories at Oxford. The labs were cleared out and gone over with a fine-tooth comb to fine what residual radioactives might be causing this. Nothing was found, so they virtually tore the place apart trying to find them eventually finding the cause - which was nothing radioactive at all. A long time before Rutherford even set foot in the labs they were used for chemistry research and mercury from broken thermometers had found its way into the floorboards, oxidising and forming nasty carcinogenic organic compounds.

              This risk is well understood and looked for in chemistry departments, but because "Radiation" might have been the cause, everyone was blinded to looking for anything other than a radioactive cause.

              last week someone posted pictures of deformed daisies around Fukushima as "evidence" of radiation poisoning. Never mind that the species in question is well-known for producing odd shapes all the time without any radiation exposure, somehow these particular ones are a direct result of non-existent radioactive contamination simply because they're in the area.

              The USA let off a large number of atmospheric tests in the 1950s, many of which produced substantial fallout downwind because they were fired too close to the ground. The statistical increase in cancers in those areas is about 5% over "normal". This is down in the noise as changes like that are seen all over the world without radiation exposure (the highest spikes are downwind of coal burning plants and they're more statistically obvious). Areas around US military nuclear installations are bad news requiring superfund cleanups, but that's the military all over. Civilian installations have been very clean.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            the one and only solution today is nuclear energy

            Don't spoil an otherwise well-reasoned post with loose words like that.

            Nuclear energy might have been a plausible solution if we'd started a pilot programme maybe ten years ago. For reasons now irrelevant, that didn't happen. Consequently nuclear is not a solution today. Its inevitable long lead times (even with all the luck in the world) mean it can't be an answer in the short term, and its medium term relevance will continue to be debatable unless the industry can get its own act together and get a few things right, ideally leading to an installation delivered on time and on budget. What kind of odds do you think you'd get on that down the betting shop?

            E.g., the current round of UK nuclear applicants can't even get their safety documentation right before submitting it to the regulators. E.g.

            http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-Second-regulatory-issue-raised-with-UK-ABWR-17071501.html 17 Jul 2015

            "UK regulators have asked Hitachi-GE to address a series of "shortfalls" in the probabilistic safety analysis (PSA) of its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). The request takes the form of a Regulatory Issue, which is the second in as many months in the generic design assessment (GDA) of the reactor for its use in the UK."

            ...

            ""Overall, the UK ABWR PSA information received so far does not provide ONR with confidence that Hitachi-GE, without further work and changes, will be able to deliver a modern standards full-scope PSA for the UK ABWR, which is suitable and sufficient for ONR to carry out a meaningful assessment within the project timescales," ONR said. "This is considered a serious regulatory shortfall which ONR, in line with our Guidance to Requesting Parties, is now escalating to a Regulatory Issue.""

            ...

            "In its response to ONR, which the regulator also published yesterday, Hitachi-GE said it acknowledged that the PSA submissions it made in December did not meet UK regulatory expectations. As a consequence, the company said it must "develop a revised approach in line with UK good practice, in order to build the UK regulator's confidence in our ability to deliver a suitable and sufficient full-scope, modern standards PSA by June 2016."

            Hitachi-GE stressed that the design process used in the development of the Japanese ABWR reference plant is "rigorous" and that the company is confident it will demonstrate that the proposed UK ABWR generic design is safe and will meet UK environmental and safety standards.

            The company added: "In view of the challenges we have faced in meeting the UK regulator's expectations, Hitachi-GE has enhanced its PSA team, including securing the support of internationally recognised PSA experts to ensure that our PSA submissions meet UK regulatory expectations.""

            ...

            1. h4rm0ny

              Re: the one and only solution today is nuclear energy

              >>"UK regulators have asked Hitachi-GE to address a series of "shortfalls" in the probabilistic safety analysis (PSA) of its Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR). The request takes the form of a Regulatory Issue, which is the second in as many months in the generic design assessment (GDA) of the reactor for its use in the UK."

              Isn't this what is supposed to happen? A process between the designers and the regulators to iron out problems and get documentation in order. I do the same with software requirements documents every month and I'm dealing with specifications far less complex than I imagine a nuclear power station to be. Do you really imagine whole books of documentation being handed over to the regulators and them NOT coming back and saying "we need more on this bit" or "please clarify or amend this" ? If you do, you have no experience of complex projects. If you don't, then why are you damning nuclear power for the process working as it should?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: the one and only solution today is nuclear energy

                "A process between the designers and the regulators to iron out problems and get documentation in order."

                Absolutely. A process with formal standards and informal expectations which can be understood in advance of formally submitting the documents in question.

                "Do you really imagine whole books of documentation being handed over to the regulators and them NOT coming back and saying "we need more on this bit" or "please clarify or amend this" ?"

                I don't imagine it, I've seen it (in another regulated safety critical industry), at least to the extent that the regulatory authorities didn't go public about it, twice on the same issue (which is the example in question here).

                I've also seen nuclear suppliers previously try to do things on the cheap. It's one of the reasons Olkiluoto is late and overbudget; the initial bid turned out to be technically unacceptable in resilience terms, for example. Despite clearly documented pan-European nuclear regulatory standards, during the budgeting process the control systems suppiers chose cheap rather than compliant, and got found out later.

                At the better places I've been, formal regulatory documents are/were reviewed to ****y before they leave the works formally, by people with experience who understand the applicable standards, and by a 'fresh pair of eyes' too, just in case. Getting it wrong costs money and time. Mistakes happen, but there are supposed to be processes in place to stop mistakes being visible. Getting it wrong to the extent that the regulatory authorities go public about it, twice for the same problem? Not a good sign.

                When mistakes happen consistently, and a supplier says "we're going to fix this next time by recruiting people with a clue and putting a bit more staffing on the team" (which is the proposed solution in the article extracts here), that means the supplier hadn't taken the job seriously. That's not an oversight, that's bad management. There's a lot of it about.

                An earlier post referenced the industry's shortage of qualified staff and qualified suppliers and its impact on timescales. Well here, by the sound of things, is a supplier who's tried to get away with insufficient qualified staff. Will it have an effect on their credibility? Surely. Will fixing that affect timescales and budgets? Might do, depending on how much contingency is allocated where.

                You say you work in software projects. Regardless of where you personally work and how good your employer is, any sensible observer knows that major software developments in general have a pretty crap reputation for delivery on time and on budget. Worse, it's been that way since forever, e.g. since 1975 when Brooks wrote the Mythical Man Month [1].

                Follow the newspapers (not even the trade rags) and you can see that currently the car industry is doing a grand job of highlighting their own software and system design quality capabilities. Arguably we (as engineers and as members of the public) should be just as worried about in car computers as we are about nuclear matters, but that's another story.

                Ideally I'd perhaps look for a different industry, one with a better record than most of the software world, to compare the nuclear industry with before deciding whether the nuclear suppliers' current performance is to be considered acceptable or not. Suggestions welcome. Obviously not cars or banks.

                [1] F. P. Brooks, The Mythical Man Month, 1975.

                https://archive.org/details/mythicalmanmonth00fred (free download of full book)

            2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects
              Black Helicopters

              Divine retribution

              If yellow-cake turns out to be the stone cut out "not by human hands" we can only tell ourselves that we have none to blame but our wise men. And that we chose them. I am not looking forward to being right but it is nice to think that it might be nearly over. I am going to have to start behaving. I certainly don't want poetic justice I'd much rather have forgiveness.

          3. Amorphous

            European Grid

            Here in the Antipodes we are able to move wind/hydro/gas/coal electricity thousands of kilometres, even across the Bass straight which is several hundred kilometres wide. I feel confident that the windiness or otherwise of UK in any particular week can be offset by connecting to the great European landmass across the relatively narrow channel.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: European Grid

              "Here in the Antipodes we are able to move wind/hydro/gas/coal electricity thousands of kilometres, even across the Bass straight"

              How many GW is the Bass strait Interconnector?

              I'll save you the effort: It's 500MW

              The UK has 2GW to france + 1GW to holland + 1GW to Ireland.

              If you look at http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/ you'll see that _minimum_ power demand within the UK is around 20GW and that wind power at the absolute best it's ever been (7GW) has been about 3/4 of the nuke plants on a bad day (2 reactors were offline), whilst peak demand is just under 40GW.

              Even if the interconnectors could handle the load, if the UK was 100% solar/wind, there isn't sufficient capacity in the whole of mainland western europe to act as backing store for a cold winter night and that assumes that europeans all froze to death instead of switching their heaters on.

              Wind power is mostly in the 1-2GW camp and it regularly goes to zero as you can see in the weekly chart. Solar is so low it doesn't even register.

              Even if the UK was carpeted in windmills, average output would still only equal the existing nuke fleet, which is only 1/4 of minimum current energy demands, let alone having them go up by a factor of 5-15, which is what would be seen if all housing moves to electric heating and transport towards BEVs (My gas-fired central heating system is rated at 55kW and on a cold night will average 8-10kW just maintaining temperatures at 16-17C)

          4. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "(The National Grid) ... was designed for reasonably distributed generation and would not handle the currents of having most of the generation situated in a localised area."

            It's worth noting that electricity generators have to contribute costs towards building new grid infrastructure if they decide to locate their plants in inconvenient (for the grid) locations.

            "Renewables" generators are exempt from this. Another form of indirect subsidy to hide the true cost of the things.

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Elon Musk isn't "betting the farm", he's betting YOUR farm. He (his companies) have scooped something like $4B in public subsidies in the past few years. Musk's primary talent isn't intelligence per se, it's spotting a very lucrative bit of subsidy farming while pretending to productive. Clever, yes, but not in the way I think you think you think.

          Wind power can have uses, there are a few places in the world where it can be paired with Hydro where that hydro has water supply constraints. Thus any wind generation can compensate for the extra cost by saving water that can be used later when there's insufficient wind. It helps if the wind turbines are in areas with consistent flow, and onshore.

          Offshore wind is a joke, just wait until the repair bills start piling up, they already are, off-shore wind is nearly at its (heavily subsidized) peak, in a few years there will be a number of those installations left abandoned as not being worth repairing/refurbishing whatever the subsidy level. The off-shore environment is harsh and the repair costs are very, very, expensive.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            "Offshore wind is a joke, just wait until the repair bills start piling up"

            For those not paying attention: Large wind turbines chew through gearboxes at a prodigious rate and the cost of replacing them means that without continuous subsidies turbine operators would run at a stonking loss.

            The bigger the turbines, the faster they eat their gearboxes.

            1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
              Pint

              "...chew through gearboxes at a prodigious rate..."

              One of the episodes of 'Elements' (highly recommended!!!) on BBC World Service (or podcast) included a visit to the huge Danish windmill factory. They mentioned your point about unreliable gear boxes, which is why they've already developed 'direct drive' windmills that eliminate gearboxes entirely.

              Essentially,problem solved. Provided that there's enough 'rare earths' to keep up with the resultant increased demand for magnets.

              Anyone with any interest in such matters (fundamentals of tech) should subscribe to the BBC's 'Elements' podcasts. It's fantastically interesting.

          2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

            A moral and financial imperative. Part IV.

            He sounds like the man Kirk Sorensen needs to convert to the force, look:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpXG3zyg3gk

        6. JohnMurray

          Actually, Elon is betting other peoples farms on electric travel, not his.

          Dunno about the brain part either, although he is smart enough to use other brains to do the hard part!

          He kinda reminds me about another well-known public money leech...Branson.

        7. h4rm0ny

          >>"Now, as for energy generation - there's been relentless hostility to renewables from the fossil dinosaurs for decades now. They really, really hate the fact that they're not going to able to keep holding everyone to ransom with fossils"

          Now that's a character attack on your opponents. I'm about as vicious a critic of wind power as you're likely to find and I have NO association with any fossil fuel industry that I'm aware of (other than being a customer just as you are). I'm pretty sure you'll find that many of us from the author of the article to the posters here are actually strong proponents of NUCLEAR power. Claiming our arguments are biased because we hate not being able to hold people hostage over fossil fuels is wrong. In fact it's silly. Do you really think all those people modding down your post own shares or hold positions in oil or coal companies? Rather than just think you're wrong?

        8. itzman

          Offshore wind really IS that intermittent

          http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Mad Mike

        Solar energy is not reliable in northern Europe.

        They need to place the solar farms in deserts where you really can get a decent power level. Maybe north Africa somewhere politically stable.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: north Africa ... politically stable."

          "They need to place the solar farms in deserts where you really can get a decent power level. Maybe north Africa somewhere politically stable."

          Hmmm.

          Not sure whether you're already aware of this, but the technology to do that at gigawatt scale exists today, as does (did?) at least one multinational business consortium set up for the purpose. It even addressed the "politically stable" issue as part of its plans.

          Seems to have somewhat fallen by the wayside since its solar peak though.

          Go have a read about Desertec

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: north Africa ... politically stable."

            Thanks for the mention of Desertec, I had not heard of them before. Personally I think that the molten salt systems work better, as they have a reasonable storage capacity to keep running during the night

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: north Africa ... politically stable."

              "Desertec, I had not heard of them before. Personally I think that the molten salt systems work better, as they have a reasonable storage capacity to keep running during the night"

              Whatever technical solution turns out most appropriate, anything large scale in Africa (and elsewhere too) still has to address the local geopolitical issues. Desertec acknowledged that.

              Desertec may not have been perfect. Would it have been better than doing nothing? Large scale wind is pretty much nothing, in the absence of large scale grids and grid-scale storage for weeks not days. And that's not happening unless electricity->fuel->electricity is available large scale and reasonably efficient.

              Molten salt may well have technical advantages in terms of addressing the daily supply/demand cycle; maybe we should build a few of each option, molten salt and alternatives, and see how well they work, as scientists and engineers generally would. Why isn't that happening? Why wasn't it happening ten years ago? Why not forty years ago, when people first spotted the challenges ahead?

              Forty years ago, the Oil Crises were showing us one possible future: expensive energy. Back then, UKAEA (the Atomic Energy Authority) had an offshoot at Harwell called the Energy Technology Support Unit. They were looking at various new-fangled energy sources, and various means of improving our energy efficiency (e.g. heat pumps for domestic and commercial space heating) and related stuff. Where did it all fall apart? Nothing to do with privatisation and leaving a medium-term problem (energy supply and energy efficiency) to the short-term-driven markets, obviously.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: @Mad Mike

          "Maybe north Africa somewhere politically stable."

          Uh yeah, right. Giving african countries get another source of complaints about rich countries stealing their resources and preventing them from moving forward economically.

          Not to mention that there would be 10 times more demand south of those solar farms than north of them.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: @Mad Mike

            "Giving african countries get another source of complaints about rich countries stealing their resources"

            Which is why the Desertec setup explicitly considered how to stucture the deal(s) so that kind of accusation wouldn't hold water.

            But hey, it's the Interwebz, rant on. At least till the lights go out due to our leaders' collective reluctance to actually change anything that actually matters.

      3. PatientOne

        " Any source that cannot produce electricity on demand and reliably needs another source of generation to back it up"

        I'm going to disagree. you can't keep turning to other sources to prop up an unreliable one. Rather, you need to store the power from unreliable sources and use that to support reliable sources. It's not as efficient, but it turns unreliable power geneation into one that is more reliable and available on demand.

        By this I do mean use wind and solar to pump water into reservoirs, then release that water to drive turbines when you need extra power. This way you have a quick source for power (don't need to fire up a boiler, which takes time) and if the power demand remains high, it gives you time to bring online a more reliable source to cope with that demand.

        1. Mad Mike

          @PatientOne

          "I'm going to disagree. you can't keep turning to other sources to prop up an unreliable one. Rather, you need to store the power from unreliable sources and use that to support reliable sources. It's not as efficient, but it turns unreliable power geneation into one that is more reliable and available on demand."

          I agree that if you can store the energy produced when the wind is blowing and use it to cover the dead times, it would help a lot. But, what is that storage? Nothing really exists at the moment and nothing is likely in the future. Building hydrostorage is a good solution, but suffers from all the planning nightmares of nuclear power. It is pretty costly and the greens complain about the damage it causes to the environment, so get in the way of the planning process.

          You can't have your cake and eat it. Maybe if we want to stop CO2, you have to take a hit somewhere else. Nothing is free or perfect. But, the greens don't understand this and get in the way of anything not seen as perfect.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Bloakey1, Citations or actual confirmed evidence please, or can we assume those times were in the very early hours of the morning when no one was using power.

      1. Joe User
        FAIL

        @Ivan 4

        Citations or actual confirmed evidence please, or can we assume those times were in the very early hours of the morning when no one was using power.

        That's right, I don't need my house heated during the coldest portion of the night....

        1. Darryl

          Re: @Ivan 4

          "That's right, I don't need my house heated during the coldest portion of the night...."

          So you keep the heating cranked up all night? That's not very green of you.

          1. Joe User

            Re: Darryl

            "So you keep the heating cranked up all night? That's not very green of you."

            Cranked up? No. Turned off? Again, no. There is a difference between LOW heat and NO heat.

    6. W T Riker

      Only if the wind blows and the sun shines

      Only if the wind blows and the sun shines. On some days it only manages 0.1% of their requirement.

    7. Jim O'Reilly
      Holmes

      The Portuguese use donkey carts?

      Is it true the Portuguese have a low-methane donkey now, and have stopped using cars?

      "A few times" - that sums up the renewables problem. They are unreliable and that means traditional generation is always running at idle to save the day(light). This is why Europe is paying as much as 5x the price for electricity.

      The concept of wind/solar renewables is stupid. The technology just isn't ready for mainstream.

      If we want to get CO2 out of the air, we need to accept clean nuclear as the alternative

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The Portuguese use donkey carts?

        And too many will NEVER accept nuclear as clean, figuring the likes of Chernobyl to be just a taste of a true unstoppable meltdown that blows fallout across most of Europe and raises cancer rates for generations which no one will take the blame for since the full effects won't be felt until they're long dead. As far as they're concerned, better by far to slouch back to the Stone Age than to mutate ourselves out of existence, and nothing anyone says or does will convince us otherwise since no one thinks longer-term than they do.

        1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Gangsters running on vodka.

          What is special about Chernobyl is that it was a nuclear pile run by a country with a dark ages mentality in the Soviet era, built without containment or any safety measures and run by monkeys; yet it only killed everyone ever killed in accidents at nuclear reactors.

          But it was not even an accident. It was sabotage by someone who had a poor translation of The Simpsons, a "People's черный рынок" version and missed all the nuances.

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Gangsters running on vodka.

            "yet it only killed everyone ever killed in accidents at nuclear reactors."

            Not quite true, but SL1 was a military installation. Chernobyl is the only civilian one to have killed people.

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "...hit 100 percent..."

      The Canadian province of Nova Scotia achieved 50% at one point. It was between 3am and 4am when everyone was asleep, on a comfortable Spring night, with perfect wind conditions. In other words, *perfectly meaningless*.

      It's worth mentioning that Canada's grid is already about 85% low carbon, since it's 65% hydro to start, not to mention nuclear energy as well as windmills. Meanwhile Germany, that everyone assumes is 'greener', is only about 30% renewables, and depends heavily on coal. Everyone seems to assume the opposite of the truth.

      Sorry about the tar sands, eh?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "...hit 100 percent..."

        "Meanwhile Germany, that everyone assumes is 'greener', is only about 30% renewables, "

        ...and not forgetting of course that they are shutting their nuclear fleet down early "because Fukishima", not replacing it, and will buy their extra electricity from Poland, where they use a lot of the more polluting "brown" coal. Germany keeps it's (not really all that good) green credentials, panders to the anti-nuclear lobby and meanwhile Poland burns even more brown coal to salve the German conscience.

    9. Faux Science Slayer

      "Green Prince of Darkness....EXPOSED" at FauxScienceSlayer site....

      There is NO Carbon climate forcing, NO 'sustainable' energy and NO 'peak' oil. There is an elitist directed FAKE debate between the Darth BIG Warmists and the controlled opposition Luke LITTLE Warmists, who claim to be 'skeptic/deniers' but still accept the FALSE premise of 'back radiation warming' in violation of the Laws of Thermodynamics. This discussed on two hour interview here:

      coasttocoastam.com/show/2015/03/18 > Climate Change & Thermodynamics

      and the FRAUD of photovoltaics is explained in...."Green Prince of Darkness"....

  2. Joey M0usepad Silver badge

    oh dont get me started .. peak oil ... population exponentially rising , immininet collapse.

    I recommend "The Partys over - War and the Fate of Industrial Societies " by Richard Heinberg.

    A scary read

    http://www.amazon.com/The-Partys-Over-Industrial-Societies/dp/0865715297

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Don't be a weak-willed individual akin to a bundle of sticks.

  3. Garve Scott-Lodge

    Why's this a story?

    Of course 8% of electricity used isn't the same as 8% of energy used - do you think your readers are stupid? 99% of road transport and 100% of air transport is carbon fueled for instance. Don't you think we realise that?

    And 8% is an EU average figure - some countries such as Denmark are producing far higher proportions of their electricity from wind, showing how it can be done if the will is there.

    This reads like nothing more than a promo brochure for the nuclear industry.

    1. Joey M0usepad Silver badge

      Re: Why's this a story?

      they dont need promo , look at the stats , partucarly fossil fuel , use , discovery and reserves. Our only chance is to build many nuclear stations immediately.

      Or perferct cold fusion or some other sci fi pipe dream

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why's this a story?

        "Our only chance is to build many nuclear stations immediately."

        If that's true the West is fecked then.

        How late, how over budget, are the nuclear industry's poster children at Olkiluoto and Flamanville?

        If approval for as many new nuclear stations as you want was granted tomorrow, if there were an infinite number of suitably nuclear trained people (design through to construction) available, and an infinite quantity of suitable nuclear suppliers in the supply chain, it'd still be years (decades?) before any significant output came onstream. Even if everything went according to plan.

        There aren't an infinite number of suitable trained people, or of suitably qualified suppliers. There weren't even enough (quantity or quality) to get Olkiluoto and Flamanville up and running on time and on budget.

        As for nuclear power station builds going according to plan: really, let's not go there, shall we.

        If we'd gently started a new nuclear rollout a decade or more ago, it might have stood a chance of being relevant by now. And I might have supported it - I'm a physicist with a long term outsider's interest in the energy supply business. I'm not inherently anti-nuclear.

        But like Dilbert, I am anti-stupid. And for years it's been obvious that leaving energy supply to a badly regulated market was stupid stupid stupid, not least because energy supply is inherently a medium term issue and markets are driven by short term business.

        Where does that leave us?

        Wind is ruled out as a major contributor due to intermittency, and its related issues: lack of storage, and lack of inter-country connectivity. Great as a short term tool for subsidy harvesting though, and for appearing to be "doing something about electricity supply" while actually doing very little at all.

        Where did fossil and carbon capture and storage get to, as a "quick and dirty" (literally) answer?

        The UK has to be insane to have ignored tidal for as long as it has. Maybe now Tidal Generation Ltd is owned by Alstom rather than the hapless Rolls Royce, things might improve. Maybe the recently approved lagoon projects will lead somewhere eventually. Still not a short term answer, and even in the medium term tidal is only ever going to be one of several major inputs.

        As always, Mackay (www.withouthotair.com) is worth a look for facts, numbers and logic relating to generation, consumption, and everything in between. Not perfect, but if you know of anything better, feel free to suggest it.

        In the meantime, it might be sensible to have a fallback plan for reduced energy consumption, domestically and commercially. It's gonna be interesting either way. Especially for our kids.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Why's this a story?

          "If we'd gently started a new nuclear rollout a decade or more ago, it might have stood a chance of being relevant by now. "

          In the meantime we should be pouring research into it NOW and using gas plants in the meantime, not pissing money against the wall subsidising wind and solar systems which will never achieve breakeven, let alone be profitable.

          Regarding tidal: Even if every single scheme was built tomorrow, there isn't enough of it to supply more than a few percent of current electricity demands, let alone what happens when heating and transportation become more-electric.

          Even stupid LWR nukes are a (short term) necessity. We should be building them now. Better plants will come but we can't afford to wait for them. Commercial fusion won't happen in my grandchildrens' lifetime, let alone mine.

          1. Mad Mike

            Re: Why's this a story?

            @Alan Brown.

            "Regarding tidal: Even if every single scheme was built tomorrow, there isn't enough of it to supply more than a few percent of current electricity demands, let alone what happens when heating and transportation become more-electric."

            Tidal is not the total solution, as nothing is. However, tidal could contribute more than a few percent, but that requires that people allow them to be built where sensible. The biggest of the Severn proposals could produce 15GW!! That's not far short of half our demand (in the 30s). Yes, the Severn is the biggest, but the western islands have huge potential as well. We could generate a really signficant amount, but it would require the greens to allow them to be built and it's them causing a lot of the grief in this area at the moment.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Why's this a story?

              "The biggest of the Severn proposals could produce 15GW!!"

              Yes. For 6-8 hours out of 24.

              You still need backing capacity and that's what makes it impractical.

              The projected environmental impact of tidal schemes is unbelievable AND any tidal schemes in the south+west of the UK will be destroyed away when the next tsunami hits (based on historical data one is due about now, either from the large fault off Portugual or one of the Canary Islands volcanoes slumping.)

              1. Mad Mike

                Re: Why's this a story?

                @Alan Brown.

                "Yes. For 6-8 hours out of 24."

                That's why you build them around the country. Provided you do this, electricity can be produced 24hrs a day.

                "The projected environmental impact of tidal schemes is unbelievable AND any tidal schemes in the south+west of the UK will be destroyed away when the next tsunami hits (based on historical data one is due about now, either from the large fault off Portugual or one of the Canary Islands volcanoes slumping.)"

                This has largely been disproven now. The BBC 'documentary' on the Canary Island volcano has been dismissed and debunked as scaremongering by many experts in the field. The idea that half the volcano could fall into the sea in one quick and continuous slideis non-existant.

                Obviously an earthquake could cause a problem, but the impact would be relatively low and the tsunami relatively small. Also, significant earthquakes are not exactly common in areas that would affect the UK. Portugal would barely be noticed in the UK.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: environmental impact of tidal schemes

                "The projected environmental impact of tidal schemes is unbelievable"

                Barrages, yes. Lagoons, not so much. Lagoons don't offer so much headline output but are plausible in more places than barrages. Lagoons also offer an opportunity for combining tidal and pumped in a variety of interesting ways: higher costs, better flexibility. Decisions, decisions. More importantly, cost-related decisions made now, while having no idea what the revenue will be ten years from now...

                "any tidal schemes in the south+west of the UK will be destroyed away when the next tsunami hits (based on historical data one is due about now, either from the large fault off Portugual or one of the Canary Islands volcanoes slumping.)"

                Given that we're barely capable of planning energy supply on a ten year horizon, and given that the loss of power from marine sources might not be that high on our list of post-tsunami challenges, I'm surprisingly happy ignoring that one. Fortunately the EU aren't ignoring it and there was a round of post-Fukushima stress tests on e.g. nuclear installations. I assume we'd have heard if there were any issues. Safe assumption?

    2. Wilseus

      Re: Why's this a story?

      "This reads like nothing more than a promo brochure for the nuclear industry."

      Maybe so, but it makes a refreshing change from the usual anti-nuclear nonsense being proliferated virtually everywhere else on the net, such as the latest "mutant daisies caused by Fukushima" nonsense!

      1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

        Re: Why's this a story?

        Eventually folks will realise that therre still doesn't appear to be an easy and cheap way of dealing with waste from nuclear power or from dismantling old power stations.

        They are still faffing about with excuses as to why not a lot has been done about Windscale and other plants.

        At some time, the lump under the carpet wil begin to trip people up.

        1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

          Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

          New reactor designs are slated to totally eliminate waste storage by milking existing nuclear waste for all it's got.

          And Fusion will complete the solution.

          We just have to decide to do it, instead of wasting resources on buddy-financing wind or solar programs that are, apparently, supported by the Mafia.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

            New reactor designs are slated to totally eliminate waste storage by milking existing nuclear waste for all it's got.

            1980 called and wants its headline back.

            Nuclear has been over-promising and under-delivering from the start. In the process it's hoovered up more subsidies than the renewable lobby will ever do. Is that Finnish plant online yet? Did the UK government really have to promise a fixed profit level for its next plant?

            Renewables are doing just fine. The problem is a lack of storage that can be replace backup generation capacity.

          2. Hans 1 Silver badge

            Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

            > New reactor designs are slated to totally eliminate waste storage by milking existing nuclear waste for all it's got.

            BS, of course, you fall for that ? Incredible.

            > And Fusion will complete the solution.

            Insider info suggests they are getting nowhere, the prototype, promised last year, will not be done before 2025. They still have not reached 5 seconds sustained operation, spend months replacing parts inbetween runs, consume humungous amounts of nrg to get to the point of fusion ... looks like a dead end. An excuse to continue to operate fission plants, which arguably have nothing to do with fusion.

            >We just have to decide to do it, instead of wasting resources on buddy-financing wind or solar programs that are, apparently, supported by the Mafia.

            LOL, godda be kidding, pulling the Mafia string ... of course, renewable is easier to implement since you are not dealing with highly toxic, explosive, and otherwise dangerous material. Since mafias have quite some dosh, they can get into it also ...but mafias also control vineyards, should we all stop drinking it because of that ? Thought not.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

              "LOL, godda be kidding, pulling the Mafia string ... of course, renewable is easier to implement since you are not dealing with highly toxic, explosive, and otherwise dangerous material."

              Ever been to where they're made? As I recall, both wind and photovoltaic require plenty of rare earths which are tricky to mine and have toxic byproducts such that countries that don't care about the environment (like China) are pretty much the only places to get them.

              PS. Here's an interesting comparison of scale. The largest solar-thermal plant in the world (capable of generating even at night) produces enough electricity for 100,000 homes. Thing is, nearby Los Angeles County has over 10 MILLION homes. Meaning it barely meets 1% of the demand of that tiny little part of California. And that's in a sun-rich area in the California desert. Imagine trying to do this up north where the sun is weak enough in the summer and practically useless in the winter.

              1. Hans 1 Silver badge

                Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

                >Ever been to where they're made? As I recall, both wind and photovoltaic require plenty of rare earths which are tricky to mine and have toxic byproducts such that countries that don't care about the environment (like China) are pretty much the only places to get them.

                BS, they make them in France and Germany, utter none-sense ...

                > PS. Here's an interesting comparison of scale. The largest solar-thermal plant in the world (capable of generating even at night) produces enough electricity for 100,000 homes. Thing is, nearby Los Angeles County has over 10 MILLION homes. Meaning it barely meets 1% of the demand of that tiny little part of California. And that's in a sun-rich area in the California desert. Imagine trying to do this up north where the sun is weak enough in the summer and practically useless in the winter.

                The biggest enemy of solar panels is heat, in the north, you use solar panels, go and ask the Germans, I am sure they can teach you a lesson or two.

                There is a solar-thermal plant in Spain that produces leccy night and day, they use a wateraccu, I guess, much like you guyz in Californication.

                The thing is, how much did it cost ? I mean, it is a few pipes, a turbine, quite a a few mirrors, pretty massive, however, no toxic/dangerous materials involved - this is just a guess from the Spanish counter-part. Now imagine the cost of that ... how many can you build with 10 billion ? The price of a nuke plant ... knowing that a nuke plant with three reactors cannot cope with 10 million homes, you would need a second and third, so that's 30 billion. When you are finished with the Primary School maths you will realized that you can STFU.

                Sad, I know ...

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

                  You sound like you might enjoy reading about Terrajoule.

                  Capture freely available solar heat, store the energy for a few hours (days if necessary and if lower efficiency is acceptable?) as pressurized superheated water in cheap commercial propane-tank-sized stores, and when you need the electricity, allow the superheated water to flash-expand into high pressure steam to be used for electricity generation.

                  Largely done using tried tested proven and cost-effective methods with a bit of repurposing along the way.

                  http://www.terrajoulecorp.com/

          3. Vath
            Mushroom

            Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

            Don't forget about thorium cycle reactors, we could have this tech inside 5 years, it's basically ready to do final testing on.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thorium_fuel_cycle

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

              "...thorium cycle reactors, we could have this tech inside 5 years..."

              Nonsense.

              If they're not just about done building the first production/commercial thorium reactor, then it's not 'inside 5 years'.

              It takes nearly 20 years to build a reactor. Geesh, it takes 5 to 8 years just to do maintenance on one, by the time they fix all the cracked welds.

              Play your cards right, and you could have an entire career in the nuclear industry and never be anywhere near a functioning reactor.

          4. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

            Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

            And there will be NO reactor housing that has to be deconstructed and in large parts goes into "storage"? Really? Have you ever read up on the costs of that?

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

              "Have you ever read up on the costs of that?"

              Have you read up on the costs of ash slurry ponds from coal plants? The USA's _2_ largest environmental disasters have been caused by those, not by Deepwater Horizon and there are 5000 similar sites the EPA knows about across the USA (they weren't notifiable until a few years ago, so they're only discovering most by chance.)

              Reactor housings only need sequestering for 3-400 years at absolute most. Technology to do that is straightforward. The actual contamination is in the top millimetre of the things, so they could be scraped down and the waste problem made a _lot_ smaller if agencies were motivated enough to do so, but space isn't a problem so they don't have to.

          5. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: dealing with waste from nuclear power

            "And Fusion will complete the solution."

            But fusion is about 40 years from being practical.

            It's always been 40 years out.

            Always has been, always will be.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Why's this a story?

          "therre still doesn't appear to be an easy and cheap way of dealing with waste from nuclear power"

          There is if we keep working on the remaining issues with thorium cycles.

          Uranium cycle is hellaciously inefficient (40% of mined uranium never gets near a reactor, 97% of what's put into the reactor is thrown away on the other side as "waste") - and all that leftover U238 makes a dandy tamper for increasing the yield of hydrogen bombs.

          On the other hand, spent fuel rods are only seriously dangerous for 400 years. Then they can be put back into reactors for another round of usage.

          If thorium can be made practical then most of the waste becomes reactor fuel you can use _now_. MSRs are already proven practical and are intrinsically safe (can't burn, can't blow up, aren't pressurised and if the fuel leaks, it freezes solid at 400 celcius, so it's not going to go far or contaminate air/waterways. Doesn't need water cooling (no need to be near rivers/sea and no derating in high temperatures), the high heat output means that turbines are fairly efficient and they can be rapidly throttled up/down without xenon poisoning, meaning that you don't need gas-burning backing capacity for all those wind turbines - alternatively you can run thorium nuke plants as baseload _and_ have the output follow the load when peaks occur, making wind/solar superfluous)

        3. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Why's this a story?

          "They are still faffing about with excuses as to why not a lot has been done about Windscale and other plants."

          Ahem:

          The safest thing to do is button the things down and wait for high level short-lived radioactives to burn themselves out (mainly caesium, which takes about 35 years) before proceeding.

          1: The Three mile Island reactor is being dismantled at the moment (yes, it's been 35 years)

          2: The windscale _military_ reactor (It was producing plutonium for bombs) is in the process of being dismantled.

          3: Chernoybl will be safe enough to dismantle in another 20 years

          4: Fukushima will be in 30.

          Going in too quickly is just generating more risk, not less.

    3. Chris Miller

      Re: Why's this a story?

      And "some countries such as Denmark" have the most expensive power in the world and their industrial base is rapidly closing down or moving out as a result.

      I'm glad you realise that "8% of electricity used isn't the same as 8% of energy used" - now ask yourself why it's always the former that's quoted by enthusiasts for renewables, rather than the latter; and often in a deliberately confusing form: "this wind farm will produce enough power for 10,000 homes" with the key word electrical power 'accidentally' omitted.

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: Why's this a story?

        "this wind farm will produce enough power for 10,000 homes" with the key word electrical power 'accidentally' omitted.

        It should also say 'assuming the wind is blowing'. On a good day, it might power 10,000 homes electrical requirements, but good days are not that common and the rest of the the time, they rely on good old fashioned power generation.

        1. Bunbury

          Re: Why's this a story?

          ""this wind farm will produce enough power for 10,000 homes" with the key word electrical power 'accidentally' omitted."

          Well yes but I think most readers will assume that it means electrical power. In the same way that we can work out that the words "to dance the tango" haven't been omitted from the end of the sentence either.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Why's this a story?

            Most readers here maybe, but I guarantee not most readers in general, including most journalists.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Why's this a story?

          "...this wind farm will produce enough power for 10,000 homes."

          Usually the ignoramuses that write these stories in the wider media cannot resist the temptation to include an extraneous unit of time in such sentences.

          "...this wind farm will produce enough power for 10,000 homes per week."

          Pet peeve.

      2. ilmari

        Re: Why's this a story?

        Denmark's situation would probably be impossible without the hefty interconnects to sweden and particulary, Norway. The price of electricity has on several occasions on windy days gone negative in Denmark. Excess power is exported at near zero price to Norway. Norway idles its hydropower plants, and waits for the wind to srop blowing, at which point Denmark starts buying Norwegian hydro at ludicrously expensive prices. Win win for norwegian hydro, lose lose for the Danish consumer.

    4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Why's this a story?

      Of course 8% of electricity used isn't the same as 8% of energy used - do you think your readers are stupid? 99% of road transport and 100% of air transport is carbon fueled for instance. Don't you think we realise that?

      But that just

      1) Makes the problem worse for all the investments in time and materials (which HAVEN'T gone where they would actually make sense) have gone into hard-to-maintain infrastructure that won't deliver; this is known as "malinvestments"

      2) Means "8%" is actually shit-tier in terms of real achievements

      It's like these end-of-quarter results "made more money than slightly under the worst year we had!" announcements.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why's this a story?

      do you think your readers are stupid?

      Yes, he does. Remember his "arctic ice returning therefore there is no problem" story a few days ago? He's in good company with the Mail and Telegraph.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Poor wind due to siting

      The reasons for poor return from renewables is obvious, they are sited in the wrong place. If we put the wind and water turbines at a green's meeting then there will be plenty of piss and wind to generate electricity for ten million homes.

    7. Steve Crook

      Re: Why's this a story?

      Because they're being sold to us on their ability to REDUCE CARBON EMISSIONS. If they're only providing 1% of TOTAL ENERGY USE then they're contributing ALMOST NOTHING to reducing carbon emissions at FUCKING ENORMOUS EXPENSE too.

      It also illustrates why meeting climate change act requirements is going to be such a massive task. So big in fact that it may require the UK to stop using gas for domestic heating and cooking.

      I know the greenies hate Lomborg and Pielke Jnr, but they're realistic about the scale of the problems caused by decarbonisation and our inability to be able to meet all those wonderful political targets.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Why's this a story?

        "require the UK to stop using gas for domestic heating"

        Combi boilers. Biggest central heating insanity since the Romans invented the hypocaust.

        1. Anomalous Cowturd
          Stop

          Re: Why's this a story?

          Speaking as an ex plumber and pc/network engineer, can I say that combination boilers are more efficient than HW storage systems, unless HW usage and demand is high.

          For low usage households, modern condensing combi boilers are the most efficient option, more so if your heating system is correctly sized.

          However, central heating is not always the best/cheapest/greenest option. Talk to an expert, not a salesman, and certainly don't ask British Gas for a quote. I have, in my plumbing past, quoted half the BG price, and still made a very handsome profit. Taking the piss is normal practice for those fuckers...

          YMMWNV.

    8. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

      Re: Why's this a story?

      > This reads like nothing more than a promo brochure for the nuclear industry.

      The nuclear industry would hardly argue as bluntly as done here, so "bad promo" it is.

      Here in Grumpenland you can download a 100+ page stats document for various energy related things: production/consumption by industry/all/homes etc. etc.

      I am reasonably sure there has to be such a thing for the UK. Someone care to dig it up?

      To the "let's all go nucular!" folks: How many years ago did France buy much electricity from Grumpenland (Solar, in winter!) because their reactors had to stop as the rivers were frozen?

      Nuclear is a _transitional_ technology, as remarked by A. Merkel (btw. she is a physicist IIRC).

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: stats document for various energy related things

        "a 100+ page stats document for various energy related things: production/consumption by industry/all/homes etc. etc. I am reasonably sure there has to be such a thing for the UK. "

        Two places to look:

        The already mentioned Mackay reference: Sustainable Energy Without The Hot Air covers lots of stuff; comprehensive, readable, great place to start. It's not perfect but till I hear a better suggestion I carry on recommending it.

        www.withouthotair.com

        And something generally called DUKES (as in Digest of UK Energy Statistics):

        https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/digest-of-united-kingdom-energy-statistics-dukes-2014-printed-version

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Why's this a story?

        To the "let's all go nucular!" folks: How many years ago did France buy much electricity from Grumpenland (Solar, in winter!) because their reactors had to stop as the rivers were frozen?

        To be fair France tends to buy more from Germany in hot, dry summers as the rivers get hotter and are less effective at cooling the nuclear plants. It generally exports to Germany in Winter when it is colder and darker.

        Nuclear is a _transitional_ technology, as remarked by A. Merkel (btw. she is a physicist IIRC).

        She also infamously compared it to baking once…

        The knee-jerk response post-Fukushima was as politically astute as it was economically inept. It came hard on the heels of extensions to nuclear plant lifetimes with attendant contracts that are now being used in the courts to assess compensation. That volte-face may turn out to have saved her career as six months previously she had ignored Röttgen's advice not to go back to nuclear.

        Of course, since then she's had her foot firmly on the brake when it comes to lower vehicle emissions.

      3. Ian Michael Gumby Silver badge

        Re: Why's this a story?

        "Nuclear is a _transitional_ technology, as remarked by A. Merkel (btw. she is a physicist IIRC)."

        Hmmm. yeah, right its a transitional tech as we go to fusion energy.

        Nuclear is still the cleanest and most efficient energy source. What makes this so damn hard is the costs of building a plant and complying with all of the paperwork and studies along with lawsuits.

        If we could clear all of the BS out of the way... build a set of safe nuke plants, and then deal with the storage and recycling of waste... we'll have greater energy freedom.

      4. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Why's this a story?

        "...their reactors had to stop as the rivers were frozen?"

        Molten salt plants run at 700-1200C, not 300-500, which means the exhaust can be air-cooled without overly impacting efficiency.

        Which in turn means you're not beholden to frozen or overheated rivers.

        The french are researching molten salt plants for this reason, but not thorium cycle.

    9. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Why's this a story?

      Denmark can produce more because it is connected to the European Grid and can export it. 10% is about as high as we can go without reliability problems, for Europe and North Africa as a whole. That breaks down as about 1/3 Denmark, 1/3 UK and Ireland and 1/3 for the rest of Europe, mostly along the north coast of France, Belgium and Germany. So there is some potential for future growth, but not much. In Southern Europe and in North Africa, solar has much more potential, because the sun shines when they need the most electricity to power their air conditioning.

    10. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Why's this a story?

      "countries such as Denmark are producing far higher proportions of their electricity from wind,"

      For brief periods (a few hours), at massive cost (Danish electricity is more expensive than buying it on a pacific island like Rarotonga) - and when they have to export it, it's sold at a loss, but "yay, we're exporting wind electricity" headlines happen.

      They're one of the largest per-capita CO2 emitters thanks to the coal plants which operate as backing capacity for the windmills.

  4. Stoke the atom furnaces

    Well said Lewis.

    The wind energy industry needs to go and put its collective thinking cap on and come up with a solution to how to keep the lights on when the wind does not blow, other than relying on the existing fossil fuel fired infrastructure that produces all the CO2 that the enviros are so exercised about. Until then, the UK should be building nukes.

    1. Phil_Evans

      And what does the past tell you?

      That's a rather one-dimensional perspective. What about the cost? If we had spend but a fraction in recent years of the sum of UK 'research and build', we would have a proportionate share of fossil/renewable/fissile energy supply. And so make an easy transition to the least impactful supply overall. Instead, we under-estimate the cost of ownership of Nuclear as nations, but the private sector loves the dollar signs - so it happens. Renewables don't happen because no-one is interested in making a big enough investment in the technology as a whole. Renewables have the lowest cost of ownership.

      ps: It costs 3 times more to de-commission a 'nuke' than it does to build it in the first place.

      I'll get my fracking banner...

      1. Mad Mike

        Re: And what does the past tell you?

        We're an island with some very good areas for tidal power. Might not work for other countries, but for the UK, tidal power is a real possibility for a lot of electricity. Unless someone thinks the moon is about to disappear or something.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And what does the past tell you?

          Tidal power.

          The Bay of Fundy between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick has the highest tides in the world, narrowly beating out Someplaceinthe, UK. Enough energy to make a significant contribution to the two provinces.

          They've been fiddling and farting with Tidal Power in the Bay of Fundy FOR AT LEAST THIRTY FRICKEN YEARS ALREADY. If you'd threatened them with painful death upon completion, you'd not not have been able to detect any difference in how slowly they're making progress.

          Useless.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And what does the past tell you?

          "for the UK, tidal power is a real possibility for a lot of electricity."

          Indeed. Especially for Scotland, with it's European Marine Energy Centre somewhere north of the M25, though I believe even London has tides.

          http://www.emec.org.uk/

          One of the UK's leading hopes in the industry was (is?) Tidal Generation Ltd in Bristol. Unfortunately in 2009 they were purchased by the aero engine manufacturer, Rolls Royce, who apparently didn't have a clue what to do with them, and in due course in 2013 TGL (as was) was sold to Alstom. Alstom Ocean hopefully will have a clue what to do with TGL.

          This is the same Rolls Royce that used to have a nice little earner making industrial gas turbines for power generation, either for backup or for main load. They didn't know what to do with that either so Siemens now have it.

      2. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: And what does the past tell you?

        "ps: It costs 3 times more to de-commission a 'nuke' than it does to build it in the first place."

        This is well known. Costs for doing so are built into the production lifetime.

        UK generators must pay into a cleanup fund as they go along. USA ones must come up with it at end of life, so they declare bankruptcy and dump it on the state.

    2. Paul Shirley

      Well, that's one of the things that R&D (we didn't bother spending money on for the whole denialist era) was meant to address. This is the problem with fundamentalists, since they already know the answer they see no point in having alternatives.

  5. Joey M0usepad Silver badge

    I will get many red flags for all these comments , as for a bunch of intelligent people Reg readers seem to have the wool over their eyes just as much as the masses on this issue.

    i suppose it could be me ( and Heinberg) that are nuts....

  6. captain veg

    how long

    From zero to 8% in the last few years (anyone have a figure?) is pretty impressive IMO. And the trend?

    -A.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: how long

      It's not a trend.

      All the "easy installations" have been done, and only the ineffective or extremely expensive sites are left.

      Wind farms need a lot of space, as far away from trees, buildings, shipping routes etc as possible.

      You can't just put them up anywhere, and very quickly run out of suitable locations.

  7. sequester

    One bright light in Wolfram Alpha…

    "~~ 0.83 × relativistic mass-energy equivalent of 1000 kg of matter ( 1000 kg c^2 )"

    So basically if that oil equivalent could be replaced by a mix of all kinds of radiation, all we'd need was some antimatter :-D

  8. flearider
    FAIL

    your forgot a bit

    if you work out how much energy is used to build then transport erect upkeep and then breakdown and get rid of .. the first 2 yrs of it's life are used up .. never mind how much co2 that creates

    these things don't run in low wind can't run in high winds ..

    the only thing that it's doing is making fat cats rich energy and construction(old boys club) ..

    and do you really think theres no oil about ? just like diamonds it's held back to increase price ..

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: your forgot a bit

      just like diamonds it's held back to increase price ..

      Well, I hear the Saudis are pumping like crazy to keep the price down (for not entirely clear reasons ... maybe to mess with Putin or Iran) so no...

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: your forgot a bit

        Well, I hear the Saudis are pumping like crazy to keep the price down (for not entirely clear reasons.

        They're pumping to keep market share. The basic logic is to try and force American shale oil out of the business. Hasn't worked so far.

        I am slightly worried about what they might do to prevent sanctions against Iran from being lifted as everything now points to fat pipelines from Iran to Europe, China and India.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Saudi over-production to keep prices low

        "the Saudis are pumping like crazy to keep the price down (for not entirely clear reasons ... maybe to mess with Putin or Iran)"

        The story I heard was to make sure shale oil in the US isn't going any further than it already has done.

        Maybe Mr Worstall can enlighten us.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Saudi over-production to keep prices low

          They're trying to make shale oil too expensive for the market to sustain it. The only problem is that shale oil is a relatively new technology which means it has plenty of room to drop its production costs through continued innovation and growing economies of scale. Meanwhile, the Middle East can only loss-lead for so long before they're forced to staunch the bleeding before domestic trouble arise. It's basically a race to see who blinks first. Do the shale oil producers pull out first because they can't make it work at market rates or do the Middle East pull out first because they're running out money to bleed?

    2. Paul Shirley

      Re: your forgot a bit

      EDF claim lifetime (construction,operation,fuel & decomission) CO2 emissions of 11gCO2e/kWh for wind power, 16gCO2e/kWh for nuclear, against a whopping 870 for coal. PV doesn't do so well at 72 but there's a lot more available roofs near the grid ;)

      Focussing exclusively on construction cost is misguided if not actively mischievous.

  9. John Miles 1

    Solve one problem at a time

    So wind energy and solar are providing 8% (each ?) of the energy input they can currently address - that's a pretty good result (and as several comments have remarked, one might not want a great deal more served by an intermittent source).

    Of course there is much more to be done to address non-electrical energy - demand side as well as the supply side ( smaller, more efficient cars. fewer unnecessary journeys, better insulated houses with more sensible thermostat settings, wearing a sweater in winter etc. etc. ).

    There is an excellent, balanced and scientific book on this by Prof David Mackie of Cambridge University "Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air" - either buy it or read it on his website

    http://www.withouthotair.com/

    Its going to take work and dedication to do this, but either we do it or our children in years to come will shake their heads and wonder why their parents were so short sighted, stupid or selfish.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    See it

    For those that want to monitor energy production in the UK on an almost real time basis (updated every few minutes) just go to Gridwatch and have a look

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: See it

      Finally a useful site on the Internet!

      Also a bit steampunk-ish

      1. James Hughes 1

        Re: See it

        Thanks for the Gridwatch link -0 although doesn't seem to give any figures on solar which would be QI.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: gridwatch v solar

          "doesn't seem to give any figures on solar which would be QI."

          Indeed so.

          Gridwatch gets its data from the National Grid numbers, specifically from the high voltage interconnect numbers.

          Solar PV tends not to be used that way; the generation is locally connected to the load, and doesn't pass through the grid. So there's no way of knowing what's going on except on a very local level (typically if it's *your* panels).

          The solar PV industry has its estimates, and I have seen it claimed (but with no supporting hard evidence) that the GW-scale midday dip often seen in UK electricity consumption in recent years is down to solar PV displacing a GW or two of grid power for a couple of hours if the sun is out. Or it could be something entirely different, e.g. just a lunchtime reduction in demand.

          The dip's not visible today but maybe it's the weather. It's *almost* visible in the current weekly charts. Have another look when the weather's nicer, or download the Gridco spreadsheets (link on Gridwatch) and plot your own charts?

          I'd love to see some supporting evidence either way. e.g. figures/charts for two consecutive weeks with reasonably similar temperatures but one sunny and one cloudier. How hard can it be for someone with l33t Excel skillz?

          In the dim and distant past (2013?) the people at First Hydro who run the marvellous pumped storage at Dinorwig used to have live and historic figures for the insolation (?) in Watts per square metre on their site. www.fhc.co.uk still exists but the webcams and the weather data have been bust for a while (Please fix it chaps!). There must be a trustworthy alternative somewhere but I haven't looked very hard so far.

          Good luck.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    the argument gets too polarised. We need a MIX of generation technologies, we need to do more with renewables, but for all the reasons stated they aren't the answer on their own. Just like the argument for more nuclear plants (feck me they cost a BOMB to get rid of when their done with, factoring this in to costs per Mwh and they are VERY expensive!)

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Spoilsport! ;-)

    2. Tomato42 Silver badge

      you still need a core technology that will provide for the grid base load

      renewables like wind and solar can't do it, oil, gas and coal are bad for carbon emissions

  12. IanDs

    The numbers for renewables as the sole/main source of electricity -- never mind total energy -- just don't add up. Read David MacKay's excellent book (free download, search for "without the hot air") and then come up with a practical solution that doesn't involve nuclear power.

    Not saying renewables aren't a good thing, they just aren't enough on their own. The problem is nothing else is as cheap and easy (and dirty) as digging stuff out of the ground and burning it, and the whole of industry and society is built on cheap energy from fossil fuels.

    But Lewis is right that nuclear power has been demonised, coal mining kills more people every month than have *ever* died from nuclear power, TMI and Chernobyl and Fukushima included. But then they're just poor Chinese miners who don't make the headlines so nobody cares...

    1. GrumpenKraut Silver badge

      Have an upvote. Though...

      > But Lewis is right that nuclear power has been demonised, ...

      I actually (gasp!) agree with Lewis on that one. But why does he keep demonizing all things renewable?

      1. IanDs

        I don't think he's demonising them, he's simply doing what MacKay did and pointing out that however green they are they're not a solution on their own. The numbers speak for themselves...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "But Lewis is right that nuclear power has been demonised, coal mining kills more people every month than have *ever* died from nuclear power,"

      Does this even take into account potential cancer deaths from increased radiation exposure, some of which won't be detectable for decades?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Yes it bloody does.

        Now please, stop spouting garbage.

        Either post your sources, or put on a hair shirt and go live somewhere where you don't use any of the things nuclear research has provided. For example, computers and the Internet.

  13. alain williams Silver badge

    U.K. National Grid Status

    OK, electricity only, but it is showing wind as 8.21% as I type: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php, France at 11.88%

    1. Filippo

      Re: U.K. National Grid Status

      That "electricity only" is a HUGE thing. You can't handwave it. That's the whole point of the article.

      1. Spoonsinger

        Re: U.K. National Grid Status

        Interesting that no oil. Even though it's quite cheap at the moment. Biomass, (@ 5.85%), is quite interesting because that's going to include straw burning - and if you've lived near a straw burning power station, you'll know that the local youth love nothing better than to set light to a large stack of straw stuck in a field, thus negating the 'clean' credentials of the power station itself - but that probably isn't calculated in the 'green' aspect.

        (Also 6.84% for wind at the time of writing).

  14. W T Riker

    Wind is not enough - when will Politicians realise!

    The report included below is for UK Wind Power Generation from 2008 to 2011.

    In summary:

    During the study period, wind generation was:

    • below 20% of capacity more than half the time.

    • below 10% of capacity over one third of the time.

    • below 2.5% capacity for the equivalent of one day in twelve.

    • below 1.25% capacity for the equivalent of just under one day a month.

    https://www.jmt.org/assets/report_analysis%20uk%20wind_syoung.pdf

  15. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Encourage renewables?

    It's important for governments to encourage renewables, although sadly it seems that our present 'green' government is so keen on renewables they're killing off virtually all financial support for them, presumably because their chums in the City can't cream off enough of the cash.

    And the article talks a lot about wind and solar, but why the heck are we still so slow with sorting out serious tidal power in the UK? Some of the best tidal ranges in the world, out of sight (on the whole) and very predictable.

    1. IanDs

      Re: Encourage renewables?

      Yes we do have more tidal power than almost anywhere else, and no it's still nowhere near enough -- don't just say "it's big", read the numbers in SEWTHA...

      1. arrbee

        Re: Encourage renewables?

        IIRC the problem with tidal power is that most of the schemes that have been proposed have been shouted down because they were regarded as bad for the (local) environment.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Encourage renewables?

          "the problem with tidal power is that ,,, bad for the local environment"

          There's a bit of that in the UK, and understandably so, in a sense. No one's really dared to point out the medium term outlook for electricity, regardless of where it comes from. A few people have tried, but then Britain's Got Talent comes on. Maybe Simon could do us a Britain's Got No Power.

          Probably more important in the UK once you get past the environmental considerations is the "time to profit" on the investment required.

          Onshore wind isn't quite immediate profit, but it's not far off, way ahead of other grid-scale stuff.

          Offshore wind takes somewhat longer.

          Tidal? Why bother, there's much easier money elsewhere.

          The lights haven't gone out yet so let's go for the quick return while we can. Winter 2015/16 might be interesting if it's as cold as winters used to be from time to time.

          That's the inevitable consequence badly-regulated market forces for you.

  16. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Energy for Agriculture and Forestry?

    The article conveniently notes that renewables are a small proportion of total energy use, once we factor in transport etc. But what about all the solar that agriculture and forestry use to grow crops? If you're looking at total energy use, shouldn't that be included as well?

  17. a_mu

    Agree

    Yes agree

    we need to have more wind and solar and alternative fuel sources.

    that was your conclusion wasn't it.

    As you say, electricity is one of the few fuels that we can generate from renewable,

    so lets go for it.

    Yes it can be better, and yes we spend a huge amount of fuel on other forms ,

    so lets do what we can.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Coal is delicious

    I like to rub it in my hair too.

    Yum, yum, yum I say.

    Renewables?

    Bah, who needs free and replenishable energy sources uncontrolled by the multi-nationals?

    1. Solar: It will wear out the sun

    2. Wind: It will use up all the wind

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Holmes

      Re: Coal is delicious

      uncontrolled by the multi-nationals

      I have bad news for you: until you can buy (duly regulated) nanoassemblers at Aunt Martha's "Homebuilding Goodies", those solar cells are coming from some multinational.

      So do those windfarms

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Coal is delicious

        The OP said 'energy sources' not the technology used to convert the energy.

        Go renewable, you know it makes sense.

  19. Nuno trancoso

    @ Ivan 4

    Quite likely. My own bill which includes a fair mix of day/night hours "only" shows 52% from wind sources. "Only". But we're kinda blessed with a place where sun shines through the day and wind runs all night, other places might fare less well.

    Despite that, it doesn't give you the right to bury head into sand. Especially since the less you do now, the more you pay later to hop on the moving train, assuming you still can and don't just end up buying all your supply. We sucked up the costs not because it was efficient, but just because in the long end it would leave us stuck with "no option" as the only option.

    Bit of common sense does need to apply though. Production is only 1/2 the equation. Consumption is the other 1/2. If your consumption keeps increasing as it has, there won't be enough power to fuel it in the long term. OTOH, if you lessen your consumption, you already saved. But most savings come from stamping out bad habits we've acquired during the "cheap fuel" part of history, so people are quite reluctant on that. Think "better insulation instead of heating/cooling" and you get the idea of change/reluctance.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: @ Ivan 4

      Reasonable analysis there, tnank you.

      "Think "better insulation instead of heating/cooling" and you get the idea of change/reluctance."

      But which commercial organisation benefits from reducing its sales?

      In the UK, the "greenest government ever" introduced the "green deal", which was meant to make it easier for consumers to pay for energy savings. Unfortunately it was implemented in such a way that the likely beneficiaries were typically the overpriced corporate double glazing companies and so on.

      More cost effective local outfits didn't get much of a look in. And the scheme finished a few days ago anyway.

      There's no corporate money in efficiency savings, nor in demand reduction.

      Leaving it to "the market" is inevitably going to fail, at least in the UK.

  20. W3dge

    Constraint Payments

    Surprised no one has mentioned the issue con constraint payments:

    http://www.nationalgridconnecting.com/grounds-for-constraint/

    So far, the national grid has paid £34m this year for wind power to NOT generate electricity, for grid balancing issues. All this does is incentivise the construction of turbines in less than ideal locations as the operators get paid for not running their machinery (thus saving maintenance costs, etc.).

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Probable Cost of UK Renewable Electricity Subsidies 2002-2030 - in the region of £100bn by 2030

    Cost of Sellafield clean-up was as £67.5bn 2013 with no sign of when the cost will stop rising.

    Enjoy.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Cost of Sellafield clean-up"

      Sellafield/Windscale was a military reactor producing plutonium for bombs and operated in such a way that was recognised as dangerous even then and it would have been completely illegal if it was a civil installation.

      if you're going to claim that vs wind subsidies, how about factoring in the costs of all those wars to keep oilfields accessable?

  22. ed 22

    electric cars - not possible

    (Man was not meant to fly)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Nice idea but not very meaningful

    Wind and solar are a nice idea but they simply can't provide the power required as noted in the story. Nuclear power is practical but only if the clowns who design, build and operate the facilities do so in a proper and responsible manner. That unfortunately is not always the case and the reason why we've had three nuke accidents. Clean coal power is certainly a worthy source of power.

    1. IanDs

      Re: Nice idea but not very meaningful

      Please explain the practicalities of "clean coal" -- not woolly theory about how coal and CCS will save the planet, but the amount of energy needed to make it work, where to put such a vast amount of CO2 (on a worldwide scale), what happens to it in the future when a gigatonne CO2 repository ruptures (since you're keen on nuclear accidents, explain this too). I'm sure your repeated mention of nuclear accidents will be a consolation to the families of all the dead coal-miners...

      In other words, make the numbers add up :-)

  24. rtfazeberdee

    mindless and thoughtless article

    I notice this flame bait "article" didn't mention the costs of subsidies to the nucleur and fossil fuel industry (which keep current costs to the consumer down) and compare them to the green subsidies. He falls into the trap most detractors fall into, they expect the new industry to be able to immediately replace an industry that has taken decades to get to the level it is now. They can't think further than the end of their nose.

    1. IanDs

      Re: mindless and thoughtless article

      Nobody is saying that replacing fossil fuels will be quick, cheap or easy, all the alternatives are more expensive. Non-nuclear renewables all suffer from the fact that their energy density is low (country-sized solutions are needed), output is not continuous, and storage to fill in the gaps is difficult to impossible on a large scale. Anyone who thinks they can make the non-fossil-fuel numbers add up without nuclear, go and try.

  25. IanDs

    The real issue is that no government can back renewables on a large scale before all the other governments do because the energy costs are higher than digging up sh*t and burning it -- this puts the costs of industry up, result is lower living standards and uncompetitive exports. Everybody's all in favour of green energy until it costs them money or their job, then suddenly they're not.

    This is a world-scale problem which can only be fixed by world-scale solutions, such as really making the polluter pay for CO2 emissions *everywhere* -- then the costs even out and governments can do "the right thing" without going bust.

    Until this is done the unpleasant fact is that dirty energy is cheaper than clean energy, and money makes the world go round :-(

  26. Scott Broukell
    Meh

    Consume, consume, consume, again and again, and all the while take everything for granted. We, in the developed western nations, are at the top of the hill – it's all there for our taking. In general we seem to think that we can insulate the walls and lofts of our homes, stick in a few energy saving light bulbs and then be fully justified in placing a heated jacuzzi in the back garden! It seems to me that we might do well to ponder the plight of many millions of folk around the world whose own electricity supplies are anything but regular. I think that if we were to truly imagine dealing with such interrupted supplies ourselves we might begin to re-assess our habits of consumption and appreciate the absolute pure luxury that is, e.g. the drive to a superstore, the freedom to fill trolleys with all manner of globally sourced produce on display in chiller cabinets, freezers or just lit up with enough light bulbs to get 20 more overs in at Lords when bad light is declared. I therefore submit that we need to look very hard at and re-assess all our consumption patterns, not just energy, before things start to go a bit dark! It is a much, much, bigger problem we face than simply whether or not the supply data from alternative energy sources adds up to anything significant at this moment in time. Very reluctantly I am coming around to the view that we in the UK will need increased reliance upon nuclear generation for the next 30 years or more. But I can only find myself agreeing to that if we absolutely ensure that in those 30 years we expand/develop alternative sources of supply and storage to work alongside nuclear generation and seriously address our patterns of consumption and energy use all round, thereby diminishing the grand total that is required to feed into the grid in the first place!

    1. Dan Paul

      @ScottBrokell

      Stop blaming the consumers and start blaming the producers and the grid providers.

      We are NOT going to "put on another sweater" for the sole purpose of perpetuating the "Green" fantasy. My refrigerator will not be part of your load shedding program, nor will my lights and TV.

      These schemes ONLY benefit the producers, not the consumers.

      The Sun only shines on part of the Earth, part of the day. Then the Earth rotates and the Sun shines somewhere else. When that happens the wind speed decreases making wind turbines go off sync with their power frequencies.

      Therefore, the only way for Humankind to benefit from Solar/Wind renewables is to create a worldwide electric grid system that can compensate for the way power availability from multiple sources changes rapidly. Even existing grid technology is not enough to compensate the system for the way electrical production from Wind and Solar increase and decrease. Thus, Wind and Solar producers are paid NOT to produce power when it upsets the grid.

      The fact is that there is NO WAY that any "worldwide electric power grid" can happen in anyones lifetime. Just look at the gas pipeline issues from Russia and the politics there, let alone those in the Middle East or Africa. The very second someone's political nose is bent out of shape they will take their "ball and go home".

      That leaves it down to individual nations to take care of their own power needs and that means most industrial countries will need Nuclear power IF the whole purpose of this exercise is to reduce the output of CO2.

      If we are actually being honest about it, we will find that a combination of energy tactics (including fossil fuels) will likely win out over time but clamoring for us to reduce our personal consumption of energy and failing to address all the operative issues is more "pie in the sky" unworkable BS.

  27. Tezfair
    Thumb Down

    Down here in the SW, wind turbines are popping up almost daily and solar farms are covering all our fields in grey panels. It's ruining a lovely part of the UK, but I always thought they are inefficient when the gov has to subsidise it. No one would spend thousands to only make a profit in 10 years time.

    One unwanted by-product is dirty electricity. My UPS swings from 210v to 265v in minutes as the wind / sun comes out. Printers become unresponsive and have to be regulary rebooted. Not just in our office, but across our clients offices too, and brownouts are now a regular thing.

    I think Nuclear has to be considered. technology has moved on since the 70's so smaller, more efficient plants could be built and made safe.

    1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

      > One unwanted by-product is dirty electricity. My UPS swings from 210v to 265v in minutes as the wind / sun comes out.

      Yikes, that's far worse than we get here.

      But you have hit on one of the many hidden subsidies renewables (or more technically, intermittent generation) gets. There is a lot of work going on into understanding and mitigating the effects of lots of embedded generation on the whole distribution network. Historically it was built to handle large scale producers and one-way power flows. When you suddenly inject large amounts of power into the consumer end, then the currents reduce (or reverse) the volt drops reduce (or reverse), and the consumer voltage goes up.

      Traditionally, the DNO operators have preferred to run the network at the highest voltage they can without hitting the upper limit - that reduces the currents, and hence their "I squared R" losses in cables and transformers. They can permanently lower voltages, but that increases losses.

      AIUI from bits I've read and had from "inside knowledge", there is more tap-changing going on, and work on more automated monitoring and feedback to that process. Yes some of that would have been done anyway, but dropping a load of intermittent generation on the network has certainly added huge costs that [strong]are not included in the costs put forward by the renewables supporters[/strong]. The ROCs farmed by wind and solar installations are just the start of the costs - already mentioned are costs for re-engineering the distribution network, and all that standby generation (there's a farm in the NE somewhere with rows of diesel generators paid for by STOR payments), the increased costs of keeping marginal plants open (high per-unit costs, and payments to the operators to stop them closing down), the generally higher costs from those plants that are staying open without subsidy but which are having to ramp up and down far more to follow not just load changes but also (wind) supply changes, and the aforementioned increases losses if the DNO has to turn the tap-changers down a notch to avoid going over-voltage during periods of high embedded generation output.

  28. Chris Ryder

    I love that Gridwatch link posted by Ivan 4 - absolutely fascinating. Nice one, Ivan.

    I'm not sure how accurate it is though - I turned my kettle on and the needle's hardly moved.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      how accurate/precise is Gridwatch?

      "I'm not sure how accurate it is though - I turned my kettle on and the needle's hardly moved."

      Tell you watt. 3AM tomorrow morning, everybody switch on their kettles, have an electric shower, etc and let's see if it shows. 50 electric showers and 200 kettles should be very roughly a megawatt, so if we can get a thousand times that, it might show up :)

      Can't do it of an evening due to the influence of TV commercials => kettles on.

      Tricky in a morning because of teabreaks at work.

      Pick another time if you'd rather.

  29. alexnode

    What an ignorant and horrible article . It is only a matter of governmental will the more investment you do the better products you get back. As for the storage technology there are great solutions of compressed air at great efficiencies.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "As for the storage technology there are great solutions of compressed air at great efficiencies."

      The laws of thermodynamics are conspiring against you on that one.

      When you compress air it heats up. If it gets too hot you need to dump it (energy loss), when you decompress air it cools down. If it gets too cold it will liquify, so you need to supply heat (energy loss)

      Deep cycle compressed air systems have an overall end-to-end efficiency of less than 30%. So does battery storage. So does Dinorygg - that means in order to get a steady state output you may need to put 3 times the energy in that you get out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: efficiency of storage - particularly pumped storage

        Really sorry but this is another long one with facts and references. Wish everything could be fitted in a tweet. Sometimes that don't work. FYI I am not an industry insider with an interest to promote, I am a long term observer rather disappointed that we've let our leaders get us into this mess.

        "overall end-to-end efficiency of less than 30%"

        Plausible for compression/expansion techniques, which are largely limited by the laws of thermodynamics. Gas liquefaction/expansion has similar challenges.

        Not so sure about pumped hydro storage being around 30%.

        The industry claims around 80% round trip efficiency; it sounds plausible for a large scale electromechanical machine (we've been good at those for a while) and some rather impressive large scale plumbing.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dinorwig_Power_Station says 75% round trip efficiency for their 1.7GW installation (source: the owners, at

        http://www.iprplc-gdfsuez.com/~/media/Files/I/IPR-Plc/Attachments/presentations-pdfs/2005/hydrosite05.pdf)

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity also claims 75% or so, with references I've not looked at.

        Alstom, who make these things for a living, say 80%:

        http://www.alstom.com/Global/Power/Resources/Documents/Brochures/hydro-pumped-storage-power-plant.pdf

        Other references welcome, but from physics-degree first principles, 30% sounds awful low for pumped storage, whereas 75% sounds very plausible.

        Pumped storage's real limitation in the bigger picture isn't low efficiency, it's finding worthwhile sites. But pumped storage has enough unique capabilities that ignoring it is high risk.

        It's been suggested that Norway could offer bidirectional HVDC links to/from Norwegian pumped storage:

        http://spectrum.ieee.org/green-tech/wind/norway-wants-to-be-europes-battery

        UK from Norway is finally happening: after ten years on the drawing board a 1.4GW link from Norway to North East England is on the way, along a similar route to an existing gas interconnect.

        http://www2.nationalgrid.com/About-us/European-business-development/Interconnectors/norway/

        Bear in mind though that the UK's electricity demand is 25-45GW depending on time of day and such. The odd couple of GW is certainly useful, but more is better.

        Still reading? Thank you, that's all for now.

      2. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
        Pint

        @Alan Brown

        Look up 'Lightsail'. Don't rebut until you look it up. What follows is a very simplified overview.

        The basic idea is to take the heat generated by compressing air, and store the heat in a 2nd tank.

        Compressed air in one big tank, the heat in another.

        When it's time to let the air out, it naturally cools which is bad. But of course there's that tank full of heat available.

        Simple concept and they're reportedly making reasonable progress on it.

        IQ Points 1; Laws of Thermodynamics nil.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: IQ Points 1; Laws of Thermodynamics nil.

          Ye cannae change the laws of physics, capn.

          On the other hand you can be creative about the way you apply them,

          Linde, supplier of industrial and specialist gases (e.g. now owner of the former British Oxygen Company) and therefore company with experience of industrial-scale gas compression and liquefaction, have demonstrated a megawatt-scale (50MW) air liquefaction/storage/expansion plant with a round trip efficiency approaching 60% (I hinted at this earlier, but couldn't remember the details). It beats the obvious thermodynamics by storing the heat from compression and the cold from expansion and re-using them the other side... there's always a catch but I haven't spotted it yet. More:

          http://pennwell.websds.net/2014/cologne/pge/slideshows/T7S6O30-slides.pdf

          Linde are also part of a(nother) "hydrogen for cars" scheme, which has just opened a new filling station in Munich. I'd got the impression that hydrogen had gone unfashionable. Maybe it's just pining for electricity from the fjords.

  30. Stevie Silver badge

    Bah!

    Punative Treadmills. Finally a use for all those hackers clogging up perfectly good prisons. Also: promotes healthy exercise for the incarcerated. Go in an overweight geek with a penchant for cheetos, come out a lean, clean, running machine with a great health insurance profile and thunderthighs. Give prizes and incentives for over-capacity hamstering to encourage dilligence: No-Lashes Friday, that sort of thing.

    I see no downside to this plan.

  31. BigFire

    Diesel Generator

    I still remember there was an enterprising fella that hooked up his diesel generator to the grid and claimed solar power tariff refund benefit. He was only caught because he was generating solar power day and night. Yes, he was making a significant amount of money generating power via a diesel generator and claiming solar panel generation.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Diesel Generator

      That's silly. No need for an expensive and noisy diesel generator.

      Use a motor-generator. Power in from a half-priced Time of Day tariff, power out on a 2nd meter at the generous renewable feed-in tariff.

      200A in and out generates a decent middle class income stream.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's 'simple' (actually very complicated in execution, but the basic principle is simple), we need to get off our high horse and rebuild our domestic nuclear sector. Even if we, the nation who pioneered domestic nuclear power stations, need to go do a Meiji Japan and send people to France, China and the US to get our expertise back up to an international level, it needs to be done. I could see the Crossrail money going to good use in setting up a national body designed to do this. I could also see it being used as a massive training program in construction and renewal of old skill bases (much like the QE Class carriers are serving for ship building) and at the end of it, we'd have a whole new generation of shiny new nuke plants ready to rock for the next forty years or so plus a skilled workforce now capable of large scale infrastructure projects so instead of letting the Chinese and French build us nuclear plants, we could offer to build other countries nuclear plants, feeding more money into the program. Or go off and do other things with the trained individuals that would feed into the UK's economy.

    The only other alternatives are to re-open the pits (where AGAIN, we'd have to do the above to regain the skills and industry or let a foreign company do it) and build new coal power stations, plus keep up the oil and gas sectors as well or accept that if growth and demand for electricity continues at the same rate it has been for the last fifty years, we're going to have to deal with enduring lives of brownouts and blackouts. The tidal energy sector is another promising sector where for once we lead the way technologically, but I honestly doubt we could get all of the nation's power from tidal barrages and lagoons, especially with how much difficulty we're seeing in getting initial ones constructed. The fact is that wind and solar power are not currently an economic way of generating electricity on the scale demanded and right now, there's a good possibility we might be back to the 1970s days of the Three Day Week in terms of energy availability unless pressing concerns are addressed NOW. We literally cannot afford another government that refuses to make unpopular decisions on the energy security of the UK because it's afraid of backlash from certain sectors of the media, political landscape and academia, plus the businesses that profit from green policies.

  33. nilfs2
    Childcatcher

    It is possible and we are the example

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/costa-rica-goes-75-days-powering-itself-using-only-renewable-energy-10126127.html

    It is possible to achive that demand of energy with renewable sources, the solution of the problem resides not only on how to source the energy, there has to be a change of mind. We humans spend a lot of energy on useless crap, as an example, just take a look at New York, Tokyo and most big cities, they have lots of useless ads with lots of shiny lights wasting energy that could be used to power mass transporattion systems, or to heat houses, or to power other important needs.

    Energy production is a lot like tax collection, before you ask for more you should check that whatever you have now is being used wisely.

    1. OutsiderEX

      Re: It is possible and we are the example

      It could also be down to the fact that Costa Rica has a small population, mostly rural and based in manual agricultural work. It has significantly less energy demands then the UK and while its GDP is heavily influenced by technological sectors, this is more of the case that one or two production plants can heavily outweigh the majority of its other economic sectors due to the relatively low levels of income generation (one plant was responsible for roughly 5% of GDP). In addition, Costa Rica's second largest economic sector is tourism, notably eco-tourism, something that putting a focus on the country's 'green' credentials only helps.

      While I do agree there is a great amount of wasted electrical consumption that must be addressed, the fact is you cannot apply what apparently works for a small, central American nation with a rural population and an economy that is not energy dependent and in fact demands a high level of promotion of renewable energy for its image to the UK or any major Western Industralised nation.

      1. nilfs2
        Holmes

        @OutsiderEX Re: It is possible and we are the example

        Your information about Costa Rica is a bit outdated, we no longer rely on agriculture and tourism as a main source of income, technology companies are responsible of a huge part of Costa Rican labor force, we have Intel, IBM, HP, Cisco, Dell, Microsoft, Amazon, SAP, and many more along with many pharmacy and manufacturing companies. Tourism and agriculture generate a big part of our GDP, but that income goes to a few hands, contrary to the services and manufacturing sector, where the income is distributed more evenly.

        We do have the advantage of having several sources of renewable energy, but bigger countries have the advantage of scale and funding, a bigger country have the capacity and the resources to generate more energy by square meter than we do.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: @OutsiderEX It is possible and we are the example

          " but bigger countries have the advantage of scale and funding,"

          Bigger countries don't have anywhere near the hydro resources that Costa Rica can tap into.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It is possible and we are the example

      Canada's grid is at least 65% hydro, not to mention nuclear and windmills it's well over 80% low carbon. I can't help but think the exports of hydro power to the USA might make the total gen/use above 100%.

      What about Iceland? Aren't they heavily hydro and geothermal? Do they burn anything for their grid?

      There has to be plenty of locations that are 100% renewable (hydro) for decades already.

      1. IanDs

        Re: It is possible and we are the example

        <sigh> Go and read the numbers in SEWTHO. A few countries with low population densities and lots of mountains and lakes and rivers and hot bits (Norway, Canada) can subsist on hydro/geothermal power, the vast majority of countries (including the UK) can't.

        Examples like this are useless if they don't apply to most of the world.

  34. Curly4
    Meh

    This is a sad "I told you so"

    When this CO2 business started several years ago I stated at that time that wind and solar would not be economical substitute for carbon based energy. I said also that nuclear is the best source for producing electric energy. If other than uranium was used it would also be safer without the chance of a runaway reaction.

    It is time to think nuclear agan.

    1. nilfs2
      Mushroom

      @Curly4 Re: This is a sad "I told you so"

      Nuclear could indeed be the best answer, but the problem with nuclear energy is that pesky little factor known as "humans", we do make mistakes, and when it comes to nuclear, those mistakes are disastrous.

  35. Justthefacts

    Actual facts and figures

    The very informative time-series graph of generating capacity in UK is available here.

    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/index.php

    Assumption that "the wind is always blowing somewhere" is just WRONG, and much of the time wind produces hard zero.

    Plus a picture tells a thousand words, and looking at those graphs will teach you about baseload, and WHY and WHEN gas is used compared to coal and nuclear

    1. James Hughes 1

      Re: Actual facts and figures

      If you actually want actual facts there is a spreadsheet downloadable from the site you link to which shows the amount of wind power produced over the last year or so.There are very few period of zero (about 45 periods in 231k)

      1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

        Re: Actual facts and figures

        > There are very few period of zero (about 45 periods in 231k)

        But there are periods of zero output. So that's lie number one from the "windies" well and truly debunked.

        When you include "not quite zero, but for all the use it is, it might as well be" then the number is considerably more. And (without looking at the specific data mentioned), it's a fair bet that these periods of low or zero output tend to be clustered around periods of peak demand - like late December 2010 when demand was very high, but wind output was minimal.

        Yes, it's actually very very easy to deal with - we "just" keep a load of fact-reacting OCGT plants available.

        I think it would be an interesting intellectual exercise (one for Tim W ?) to work out ...

        What rated output would a windfarm operator give if when connecting and selling their lecky they had to be able to provide that level of dispatchable supply at any time ?

        Rules :

        Whatever stated capacity they have must be available - other than due to pre-notified shutdowns etc.

        The backup can be done either by having their own backup plant, or by contracting with another supplier to cover the difference - and of course, paying them whatever that other operator needs to make a profit.

        Excess generation over the stated capacity doesn't get subsidies - but does get to compete in the settling mechanism.

        Generation provided by a non-renewable backup doesn't get ROCs, just the market price.

        Failure to provide a dispatched demand get "fines" - perhaps the STOR rate per missing unit ?

        I reckon the stated wind capacity under this system would be a small fraction of what it is now. No operator could afford to give the max output as the costs of dealing with the shortfalls would be punitive - we all share that cost "invisibly" at present. Too low a figure would result in very little income. Somewhere in between will be a "sweet spot" which will vary between operators. My (sticks wet finger in air) guess would be that rated outputs would be something in the order of 10% to mid teens % of rating plate capacity. I;d be surprised to see much above 20% except perhaps for the very best sites and very best windmill designs.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Actual facts and figures

          " I;d be surprised to see much above 20% except perhaps for the very best sites and very best windmill designs."

          Me too. I like your approach, mind if I extend it a bit?

          Shall we do the same for (for example) grid-scale solar PV as you did for wind, ie set up to provide a *committed* capacity. On its own it probably won't be commercially interesting, especially without subsidies, especially if they too have to cost in a mechanism for the provision of electricity when the sun don't shine.

          Now, are you going to permit the solar PV and the wind people to agree with each other on sharing their backup capacity, thereby reducing their costs?

          What level of downtime are you willing to accept? Maybe 0.1% (that's 24 hours in 3 years, roughly)? Does that sound acceptable? What about 0.001%? What impact does that have on costs?

          The risks of downtime can be reduced by sensibly increasing the diversity either within or between suppliers. In the bigger picture, maybe add some nuclear, some high efficiency fossil (maybe with carbon capture), each of which if considered in isolation will need their own reserve capacity. Hydro's good for reserve capacity, pumped storage is marvellous but both are a bit geographically inconvenient. They're handy for blackstart though. Maybe add some nuclear to the mix, some high-efficiency fossil (with carbon capture perhaps?).

          Consider each of these on their own and each makes little sense.

          In fact what considering them independently and competitively in the current picture (in the UK) leads to is insanities like GreenFrog who have built a business around the entirely insane principle of building modular diesel generator farms of a few tens of MW for grid-scale peak lopping. But that's where "the market" has led us today. Please excuse my engineering anger.

          Consider the bigger picture when each technology backs each other one up, and that makes more sense. Unfortunately that's religiously unacceptable because it involves co-operation rather than competition, and worse still it's actually the way things worked before privatisation, therefore utterly unacceptable as a way forward.

          Fixing this picture is not (just) a technical issue.

          ps I'm aware of grid-scale demand management principles, I'm ignoring them for the purposes of this discussion. Interruptible users are another potential tool in the "high availability" toolbox, but right now afaict we're using interruptible users not as an emergency-response resource but as a mechanism for routine daily peak lopping. Not sure that's a bright idea.

  36. Rol Silver badge

    What's needed is a quantum leap in distribution

    At any one time someone, somewhere will have a use for excess energy, like the population of America would surely like some of the output from Europe's wind farms, when Europe is fast asleep, and visa versa.

    Obviously current methods of power transmission are too inefficient to allow this to be viable, but is there another way?

    Enter quantum entanglement. Introduced to me in a very basic and dumbed down way and perhaps very misleading also, but if one half of a Bosun pair could be entangled with an electron, then its corresponding other half could be sat on the next continent.

    Admittedly the articles I have read about entanglement are for general consumption and most probably sexed up to frothing levels, but if, as they have all stated, this spooky action, could possibly be used to beam Spock back to the Enterprise, then a mere electron shouldn't tax the boffins too hard.

    So, a means of perpetually powering electric cars and sharing power around the world, is within our grasp, or our main stream media needs taking outside and shooting like a dog in the street.

    You decide.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What's needed is a quantum leap in distribution

      "current methods of power transmission are too inefficient to allow this to be viable, "

      They're not. They're really not. They just cost too much when considered in isolation according to the current rules of the short term market, rather than considered as one part of a joined-up bigger longer term picture.

      Just a couple of examples, others are doubtless available

      On an intra-continental level, HVDC is entirely plausible on a technical level (see Desertec, which sadly seems to be strugging for non-technical reasons, or the Norway->UK HVDC link which is finally happening, a decade since the technology was commercially viable, but the *project* wasn't viable in the marketplace till recently). Efficiency well over 90% (most grid losses currently occur in the local, lower voltage, part of the network). Make the HVDC link using lossless superconducting technology and the link efficiency may go up (the costs certainly will).

      On an inter-continental level, electricity->fuel would be one obvious option (perhaps electricity->methane by some route or other; hydrogen has technical challenges except in certain niche applications). Then ship it by pipeline or LNG tankers.and use the fuel directly or in some energy-efficient route for electricity generation.

      Technology is not the big issue here. Political will is.

  37. Rik Myslewski
    Thumb Up

    Yes, renewables can and do work just fine, thankyouverymuch

    Here's an interesting stat: "On July 25, Germany surpassed the old record of 74 percent renewable electricity" by briefly providing a whopping 78 percent of its electricity needs from renewables.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Yes, renewables can and do work just fine, thankyouverymuch

      Germany, where the grid is mostly powered by coal, has a wonderful 'Green' PR machine.

      Canada's grid is 65% renewable hydro power day-in, day-out, for decades. Add in windmills and tidal, and it's roughly 70+% renewables every day of the week. Add in nukes, and it's over 85% low carbon since forever. These are rough figures, from memory. But the point remains valid.

      Canada also exports vast amounts of hydro to the USA.

      Germany briefly peaks at what Canada wakes up to every single morning, and people celebrate.

      Great 'Green Germany' PR machine there. Too bad about the actual dependence on coal to power their grid.

  38. scatter

    "By the most recent figures available, in fact, the EU is using around 1,666 million-tonnes-of-oil-equivalent of energy from all sources every year: that's 20,710 TWh. Wind electricity makes up just over one measly percentage point of that. Solar? About half that again, for a total renewable-'leccy contribution of around 1.5 per cent and a roughly corresponding CO2 reduction."

    Comparing wind generation against primary energy consumption is a bit misleading. About 70% of all petroleum energy, 60% of coal energy and 30% of natural gas energy consumed is rejected to the atmosphere as heat (all numbers guesstimates). Ignoring technological gains in efficiency through better vehicle design, simply switching to renewables-powered electric transport will dramatically slash primary energy consumption.

    Even so, wind and solar are still a small slice of the energy pie at the moment but that will change and it certainly doesn't mean they've failed; it just means we haven't deployed them enough.

    Wind is currently at the same point that nuclear was in 1980, solar is where nuclear was back in 1975 when France started deployment of nuclear power in earnest (it's also worth noting that nuclear generation in Europe in 2015 has dropped back to where it was in 1995 - see BP statistical review).

    Let's revisit this in 2050 and see what piece of the pie renewables and nuclear are delivering then.

    1. JeffyPoooh Silver badge
      Pint

      Heat Engines 101

      "...rejected to the atmosphere as heat..."

      Yeah, that's how 'heat engines' work. They *require* a 'cold' side heat sink. Key concept is the highlighted word "require". A certain James Watt had figured out all that a very long time ago.

      Sequential engines can scavenge some fraction of the heat. Cogeneration can put the heat to work on the way to being dissipated.

      1. scatter

        Re: Heat Engines 101

        I know they require it. My point is that comparing renewable generation (which isn't supplied by heat engines) to primary energy consumption (which is overwhelmingly heat engine driven) isn't particularly helpful.

        As our energy future involves largely dispensing with heat engines it's much more useful to consider the energy we need to actually do the job at hand. An average car in the UK uses about 1kWh to travel 1 mile, the average electric car uses a quarter of that. This should be taken into account when thinking about how much renewable capacity is needed.

  39. Zmodem

    they would produce 3/4 of the power if people just stuck on a motor on top instead of using wind and make perpetual generators and not cry about the 99% efficiency

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CMOeAlQYGs

    power stations could have 10Mw every minute on demand at 20 rpm and direct drive turbine dynamo`s

    1. Zmodem

      wind farm turbines are direct drive, so from the blades to the dynamo, its just a straght axle/shaft, you would just need to remove the blades and put a motor inplace or bond magnets to the axle/shaft

      http://www.allwindturbine.com/uploadfile/k9/kingwinchen2119/product/wind-turbine-for-farm/Hummer-50KW-Wind-Turbine-For-Farm-1370652513-1.jpg

      they generate maximum power at 20 rpm

      either way of making is 99% perpetual, is generally doing the same thing

      1. Zmodem

        who`s the thumbs down, you should try watching the video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CMOeAlQYGs

        1. Zmodem

          the heat of the motor spinning can easily be made to thermoelectric like watches from body heat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsVvBZQkHaM

          it would probably never run out, once started up with some external electric

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Science doesn't come from unsupported Youtube videos

          Science comes from peer-reviewed maths and experiments, not necessarily in that order.

          Over to you.

          1. Zmodem

            Re: Science doesn't come from unsupported Youtube videos

            you have to find simple videos for all of you to might work out

            electric motors are all the same like this > http://electric-motor-dealers.regionaldirectory.us/electric-motor-720.jpg

            on the inside of the motor you have thermoelectric peltiers, to generate electric from heat, a small radio controlled car motor runs at 50c

            you start a generator up, once it reached 20 RPM, it will be generating maximum power, which for a wind farm in the sea goes, would be 10Mw for each turbine

            a small amount of power loops back to the motor, and its perpetual

            in the industrial sector, most hardware has to be serviced every 6 months by law, and electric motors only last 100,000 hours on average before they loose RPM

            if you charge up a battery using solar power, or perpetual power, the second time you have to start up a generator would be green, unless you used solar power for the first start then they would all be green

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