Do the math: simply repeating 2011’s renewable installations for three additional years, through 2014, would thus displace Germany’s entire pre-Fukushima nuclear output.
Or so claims Amory Lovins in a new piece about renewable energy in Germany. Anyone with even a passing knowledge of the level of nuclear power in Germany will recognise this claim is utter nonsense within about two seconds. However, since Lovins appears incapable or unwilling to do the basic arithmetic, let’s do it here. A couple of minutes on Google can find a summary of German solar and wind installations in 2011:
To make it terse: 7.5 GW of solar and 1.9 GW of wind was installed in 2011. The figures in Lovins piece show that nuclear power generated 130 TWh of juice in 2010, and this is in line with what the IEA says. How would the annual production of 2011′s new renewables installations compare? Continue reading
The UK is facing a capacity crunch in its electricity market. In essence within a few years, around 2016, the available supply of electricity in winter, when demand peaks, may be dangerously close to demand. Blackouts may result. The situation is reasonably summed up by this graph from Ofgem. Basically we are going from about 13% to 5% excess capacity in the next three years. Continue reading
20% renewable energy by 2020, this is what the EU has agreed to achieve. When we hear this phrase we imagine a Europe powered by wind and solar, perhaps even a wave machine or two. A closer look however indicates that our expectations and reality are somewhat different. The 20% renewables target will be met mostly by energy from biomass, that is things such as burning wood or biofuels as transport fuel. There are good arguments that this amount of biomass is far from sustainable, but I will leave that for another post.
8.4 GW. This is the total capacity of coal plants under construction in Germany today. Add this to what was opened last year and we have a total of 10.6 GW of new coal online in the years 2012-2015.
These numbers probably don’t mean too much to the uninitiated, so let us compare them with those from Germany’s much lauded solar industry, which has already reached a world leading 32.7 GW. By capacity this is three times higher than the new coal plants. Unfortunately capacity does not tell the whole story: the sun does not always shine in Germany. To work out the average power solar will produce all we need is the capacity factor, which is just under 10% in Germany. I’ll just round this up and say that Germany’s solar panels are producing on average 3.3 GW of juice.
How about the coal plants? Let’s work backwards and ask what the average capacity factor would need to be for these new coal plants to match the output from all of Germany’s solar panels. A simple bit of arithmetic and it comes out at about 31%. A capacity factor of 31% however is remarkably low, and one would expect these plants to struggle financially if they were running that infrequently, as is now happening with gas plants. Perhaps the historic coal capacity factors are a better guide. These are just over 51%. In other words if these new coal plants produce at this level they will produce 65% more electricity than all of Germany’s solar panels.(The exact capacity factors are difficult to predict here. The nuclear shutdown, and the ongoing woes of the Germany gas plant industry, will likely push the capacity factors upwards. On the other hand increasing renewables may do the opposite, but the future growth of renewables is now in doubt.)
An alternative way of looking at this is that the electricity from Germany’s solar panels and new coal plants could have been attained by building gas plants, at much lower cost and carbon emissions. This is not to argue that Germany should have done this, but simply to highlight the absurdity of what is currently happening in the model “Green” country.
Gas is leaking from pipes beneath New York City and Bill McKibben has confidently informed us that this is simply more evidence that the climate benefits of shale gas are much worse than many claim. Unfortunately the only real message from the article is that Bill McKibben is rather selective about evidence when it comes to fracking and that his apparent willingness to “do the math” on climate change does not transfer over very well to the rather important question of where we get our energy from.
I’ll begin by tersely summarizing the report (which as McKibben notes was funded by an anti-fracking group). Essentially the gas pipes under New York city are old, and apparently leaking methane. This supposedly means that some of the claimed emissions reductions from shale gas are not happening. Leaking methane means the emissions are not being saved.
So, what do New York’s old and leaky pipes have to do with the claimed emissions reductions due to shale gas? Precisely zero. Here’s why. Continue reading
A simple thought experiment. What if instead of building the 3.2 GW Hinkley C nuclear power station, the UK built a biomass plant instead? We would need to do two things: build the power plant and gather up the biomass for the plant. The first is not a major problem. The latter on the other hand is a problem, and not a mild one.
As Vaclav Smil points out:
Even with an intensively cultivated plantation of fast-growing trees, a wood-burning electricity generation plant would not have power densities higher than 0.6 W/m2, and for most operations the rate would be below 0.5 W/m²
It has become a cliche to call the seas around the UK the “Saudi Arabia of offshore wind.” The reasons for this are relatively straightforward. The ideal conditions for an offshore wind farm is a lot of wind and a not particularly deep stretch of water. The North Sea has both., so much so that more or less all of the planet’s offshore wind farms are located there. To demonstrate why the UK is rightly called the Saudia Arabia of offshore wind let’s first consider some simple geometry and then take a quick tour around the world and consider how the UK compares to other regions. Continue reading