Monday, August 20, 2012
Renewables, The Joy
What's going to be nasty is when there's a dry year and they have to reduce output from Bonneville. That's when you'll really see them struggle with power-balancing.
You've got a good point about the fractal nature of wind generation output. I hadn't thought about that. That's actually a much bigger problem than the day-to-day fluctuations. You can bring a gas turbine up and down on a daily schedule, if need be, but you can't do it from minute to minute. That means that you can't ever run wind turbines at the maximum available wind power--you always have to dial it back by a safety margin so that you can maintain constant output when the wind dies down a bit.
I think the market for backup generation is going to explode in the next 10 years or so, and it's likely that the "backup" solutions are going to end up as primary equipment.
From the article especially note that the officials say they need the coal plants to “underpin” the growth in wind and solar. In this regard, to achieve their goals of double cost wind and solar, they are doing the right thing.
Germany’s ideological energy central planning is a central planning failure. Until you realize that this is what they want. Morons all.
Thanks for the links. I needed some facts and figure to shove down the throats of the few people who will still talk to me.
I work for one of the largest utilities in the US. We have a good generation mix of gas, coal, nuclear and hydro. What we don't have, and don't plan to acquire, is renewables. Sure, we pay it lip service and have a few token projects here and there to placate the government and the greens, but no major investments are planned. Why? Well, it is more expensive and it is unreliable. In essence, the usual suspects (schmucks) are asking us to pay more for for a crappy product. Voltage and frequency dips are a minor inconvenience for residential users (you might have to reset your DVR), but can shut down large industrial users for days. They get really, really pissed when that happens.
As for cheap natural gas, most utilities are reluctant to go all gas. We have idled coal plants, but we don't want to shutter them permanently, despite what Barry wants. There is well founded concern that cheap nat gas is transitory. We are simultaneously 1) using it for baseload generation, 2) starting to use it as a transportation fuel, 3) using it as the primary petrochemical feedstock (it has largely displaced naptha in the US) and 4) starting to export it. My fear is Barry will push all utilities to switch to nat gas, just in time for a price spike. The guy does have a reverse Midas touch, after all.
Pushing everyone to gas would likely cause the price spike. But, for some reason, government does not understand that part of economics.
Energy storage is what will determine how well renewables work. And of course, the cost of the energy storage devices has to be factored in as well.
Long time power engineer here. If you are seeing voltage variations at SuperDoc's house, its highly unlikely that windmill's can be blamed. Chances are there's a utility capacitor bank within a mile or two that's switching in an out, and its causing low and medium level spikes on the lines. These kinds of aberrations eat away the material in the chips on anything that has a circuit board. It could also be something as simple as bad connections in the transformer thats on the pole outside the home. A few years ago, I put a recording voltmeter on a church that noticed flickering lights, and recorded over one hundred incidences where the line voltage was in excess of 140 volts in a 24 hour period. The utility company did something on the pole and that was that.
Its easy to spend $500 in this arena, but the best way to mitigate flicker is to install a double conversion UPS system.
They installed solar panels with some funky feed-in deal on the poles, and since then it's gotten worse.
Now the power shoots up and down on clear sunny days in the spring. There is also a school nearby, and I think from the timing the reason why the lights went out most sunny Friday afternoons while school was in session this spring/early summer was that they turned the lights off, the voltage shot up, and all the solar panels dropped out in unison.
It was truly awesome. There were wild surges and drops. Also twice some of the power regulation equipment blew, and when I write "blew", I mean you could hear it explode. One time it was so loud the employees fled the building.
A lot of people don't understand that grid-tied solar has its problems once you get too much of it online.
The power was bad. Now it's truly horrendous. The power company tried to do some stuff to regulate the lines, and they made it better for the most part. But I don't think it will work well when school goes back in session.
The batteries are very expensive, and generally will give you 4-8 hours. At least the ones I've checked were.
Grid-tied solar is becoming more and more of a problem in places where a lot has been installed. Unless you stagger the cut-in and cut-out points, there's a horrendous hammer effect.
(I'd rather have my tax money and PGE add-on charges spent on encouraging nuclear power - not because I give a tinker's damn for CO2 emissions, but because it's the overall best power source out there for base generation, all things considered.)
I acknowledge my abysmal failure to embrace the diversity of that curve. I must be reeducated. At a camp. I am sure Canada can spare a few of their diversity police to redirect my thinking.
Since I am female, I claim the right to be called a rasicts rhymes-with-witch.
They were required to keep the flow up by EPA, but the wind power coalition sued to get them to pay for the power they couldn't accept.
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