Tuesday, November 10, 2020

UK: Gone With The Wind: Power Shortages Are Becoming The New Normal

If it wasn’t miserable enough being told that I have to spend the next month at home, now I have ‘Pete’ from Octopus Energy emailing me and asking if I would mind terribly turning off a few appliances between 4.30 pm and 6.30 pm.

If fact, he says, if I can halve my energy usage during those hours he’ll give me a half-price deal on the rest.

Apparently, it’s because the National Grid has issued an ‘electricity margin notice’ for those hours – basically a plea for Britain’s remaining coal and gas power stations to turn up the power and squeeze a little more energy out of their plants.

That’s not going to be easy, admits Pete, and so electricity companies like his are going to be paying through the nose for the power – ten times as much as normal, he says. Hence the plea for me to switch off the TV, or whatever.

That is a ‘smart’ electricity grid for you: balancing supply and demand through price management. And within reason, there is nothing wrong with it. We do, after all, pay more for train tickets during the rush hour (or used to, when we traveled on trains).

Trouble is, I don’t think Pete is going to be so gentle in the future. Give it a few years and he’ll be writing to me that he’ll be jacking up my bill and charging me ten times the usual price for any energy I use when supply is short.

We are heading for periodic supply crunches in the National Grid because we are building ever more wind and solar plants without the storage capacity required to cope with the intermittent nature of these sources of energy.

At least, for the moment, we still have gas and coal plants to pick up the slack. But by 2024 the last coal power station will be gone and by 2030 the Prime Minister says he wants all our electricity to be generated by wind.

That’s going to be a pretty tall order. This afternoon’s electricity supply crunch – the National Grid’s equivalent of leaves on the line – is down to a shortage of wind.

There is a large anticyclone sitting over Britain, which has becalmed the nation’s wind farms, or certainly those south of the border. We are lucky that Scotland is drawing in winds from the Atlantic, which enabled wind farms still to generate 7 percent of our power at 3 pm.

We are also lucky that it has been sunny for much of the day. But it is November, and by 4.30 pm we will have lost 5 percent of the energy that was being generated by solar power earlier in the afternoon.

The government and electricity industry have, of course, been aware for years of the problem of intermittent renewable energy. That is why the government set up things called ‘capacity auctions’ where companies bid to build electricity storage capacity.

Initially, it was imagined that much of this would come in the form of giant batteries. Indeed, some battery installations have popped up across the country, hidden in shipping containers.

But those installed so far are only capable of providing 1 GW of power, and only then for an hour or so before the batteries are drained. To put this into context, this afternoon the country was using 40 GW of power.

Building batteries and other forms of energy storage like pumped-storage reservoirs are expensive. As a result, capacity auctions are starting to be replaced by something called Demand Side Response.

Which is exactly what Pete is trying to do: it involves electricity companies begging us to use less electricity when supply is tight, and using variable pricing to encourage us.

That is the whole point of smart meters: to allow electricity companies to vary the price in order to match supply with demand.

Managing demand might work at the moment, but it is hardly a long-term solution. Imagine a time when we no longer have any gas and electricity plants – sources of power which between them accounted for 55 percent of electricity being fed into the national grid at 3 pm this afternoon.

How will we cope then with a calm winter’s evening when electricity demand is at its peak and no wind or solar energy is being generated?

Electricity suppliers are going to have to impose huge financial penalties on consumers to turn the lights off – or face forced blackouts.

I’m all for clean energy. But without storage capacity, wind and solar cannot power the country on their own.

We shouldn’t be building ever more wind and solar farms until we have a sensible policy as to how we are going to store the energy they produce.

Iowa Utility Shuts Down 46 Wind Turbines Due to Safety Concerns

Iowa-based electric utility MidAmerican Energy has idled 46 wind turbines after large blades broke off of two separate turbines in mid-October and mid-September.

One blade came off a turbine into a harvested field near the city of Paton, Iowa on October 15. This incident was preceded by a blade flying off a turbine into a corn field in Adel, Iowa in mid-September. Wind turbines operated by MidAmerican also lost blades in April and October of 2019. None of the blade failures have resulted in injuries.

Lightning a Possible Factor

MidAmerican announced it was turning off 46 of the more than 3,000 wind turbines it operates in Iowa, all made by the same manufacturer, Danish company Vestas. Each of the turbines have three blades of 177 feet in length, weighing approximately 18,000. MidAmerican said the shutdown would remain in place until the company determines the cause of the multiple blades’ failures and comes up with a solution to prevent similar breakdowns in the future.

MidAmerican reports data show prior to each blade’s failure lightning struck either near-by or, in two instances, actually struck the turbines which experienced the failure.

The broken blades all had the same lightning protection system, which, according to MidAmerican, is designed to channel electricity from any nearby strike safely into the ground.

MidAmerican is working with Vestas to identify the problem and will do whatever it takes to ensure the public is safe from similar blade failures in the future, said Geoff Greenwood, media relations manager, in a statement issued by the company announcing the turbine shutdown.

“Though a blade failure remains an extremely rare occurrence, even one incident is not acceptable, which is why we’ve immediately enacted these additional precautions,” Greenwood said. “We are looking for any sort of structural damage and will do whatever is necessary to ensure they are safe, including blade repair or replacement.”

Biden shift on climate change welcomed by world leaders

President-elect Joe Biden will take office with a plan to adopt tough new climate targets for the US and reverse many of the environmental actions of the Trump administration in a stance that was welcomed by world leaders over the weekend.

Mr Biden, who has pledged to rejoin the Paris climate accord on his first day in office, has called climate change an “existential threat to humanity” and pledged a $2tn green stimulus package to help reduce US emissions.

That would be a dramatic reversal from the position of President Donald Trump, who pulled the US out of the Paris climate deal and weakened environmental rules.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson, in a congratulatory tweet, suggested that climate would be an important area of co-operation between the US and UK, alongside trade and security.

“I think now with President Biden in the White House in Washington, we have the real prospect of American global leadership in tackling climate change,” Mr Johnson told the Associated Press.

Mr Biden has pledged to cut US emissions to net zero by 2050, which would significantly slow down the pace of global warming if implemented.

This would put the Paris accord goal — of limiting global warming to 1.5C — within striking distance “for the first time ever”, according to Bill Hare, chief executive of Climate Analytics, a research group. “This could be an historic tipping point,” he said.

“Welcome back America!” said Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo in a tweet, referring to the US rejoining the climate accord.

“It is a big relief that the US comes back,” said Laurence Tubiana, chief executive of the European Climate Foundation, and one of the key architects of the Paris pact. “The positive domino effect from [the] Biden presidency will be enormous,” she added.

Net zero targets in both the US and China could reduce global warming from 2.7C by the end of the century, to about 2.3C-2.4C, according to projections from Climate Action Tracker, a research group based in Germany.

However, Mr Biden’s domestic climate agenda could be challenged if the Republican party retains control of the Senate, which will be decided by two run-off elections in Georgia in January.

Paul Bledsoe, strategic adviser at the Progressive Policy Institute, and a former climate adviser in the Clinton White House, said Mr Biden could lean more on regulatory measures to enact his environmental agenda, if he were unable to pass climate legislation.

“Trump overturned over 100 major environmental regulations. Many of those will be reinstated,” said Mr Bledsoe. Vehicle emissions standards, which were watered down under the Trump administration, could be one of the first areas to be revived.

A Biden administration is also expected to set up the first National Climate Council, a high-level group whose chair would direct policy across the federal government. Among those tipped as contenders to chair the council are John Kerry, a former secretary of state.

Climate Capital

Where climate change meets business, markets and politics. Explore the FT’s coverage here

Even with a Republican-controlled Senate, a Biden administration might find common ground with Republicans who are willing to include clean energy in broader economic stimulus measures.

“There is some common ground there,” said Nat Keohane, senior vice-president for climate at the Environmental Defense Fund, a US-based advocacy group. Areas of possible agreement included electric vehicles, decarbonisation of the power sector, and preparing the manufacturing sector for low-carbon technologies.

One of the challenges facing a Biden administration will be to determine new climate targets, once it rejoins the Paris accord. Mr Biden has said he will target net zero emissions by 2050, and for all electricity to be emissions-free by 2035.

However, the Paris agreement would also require the US to set climate targets for 2030, a more near-term goal.

In a tweet late on Wednesday night, Mr Biden reiterated that he would ensure the US rejoined the Paris climate accord on his first day as president. The US formally quit the climate pact on the day after the election was held.

Lack of trees exacerbates extreme heat effects in Australian suburbs

This is a storm in a teacup. "Leafy" areas are prestigious in Australia and more trees are being planted to capture that prestige. I myself have planted nine trees that are now very tall.

But trees take a while to grow so new plantings in new suburbs will take a while to grow. When they do grow up, the new suburbs too will be cooler

Note that this is just about suburbia. Worldwide there has been a great upsurge of tree planting as agriculture has become more efficient and the land released goes under pine plantations

Huge swathes of our suburbs are in danger of becoming virtually unliveable with residents jumping from “aircon to aircon via a car with aircon” to avoid the searing heat.

That’s one of the conclusions of a new report that has also found that in just seven years the number of trees in 69 per cent of urban areas has dramatically dropped. Without enough trees shading city streets, temperatures can be as much as 10C hotter.

And one of the biggest culprits of cranking up the heat in our suburbs is homeowners clearing trees to build, among other things, swimming pools – ironically to cool down on hot days.

Associate Professor Joe Hurley from RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research said city greenery not only helped put the lid on heat, it was also key in managing stormwater and provided physical and mental health benefits.

Heatwaves are a hallmark of an Australian summer. But they're getting hotter, becoming more frequent, and lasting longer.
“Green cover should be managed as critical infrastructure alongside communications, transport, water and the electricity network,” he told news.com.au.

“But all too often trees are traded away for other demands like urban development. It can end up being about having tree or something else when we should manage our cities better so we can have green cities.”

Prof Hurley is the lead author of Where Will all the Trees be, a new RMIT report, released today, which looked at tree cover across hundreds of Australian local government areas (LGAs).

It found Cairns had the most green cover at 83 per cent while Wyndham, in Melbourne’s south west which includes Werribee, had the least at just 5.4 per cent.

“The bad news is between 2013 and 2020 the majority of LGAs have lost green cover. The more encouraging news is that from 2016, the majority are now gaining cover, that’s a good sign that the longer term trend is being turned around – but they still haven’t made up the losses,” said Prof Hurley.

Other studies have shown trees can have a dramatic effect on the ambient temperature of cities. Urban areas are often hotter than surrounding country areas anyway due to “grey cover”, the preponderance of hard surfaces like asphalt and metal roofs that help crank up the mercury. Lack of canopy can make this issue worse.

A vivid example from Melbourne illustrates this. Thermal images of Royal Parade show the surface temperature of the road fully exposed to the sun as surpassing 65C; yet just meters away a tree shaded area is around 30C cooler.

The air temperature of urban areas with more trees can be around 4C cooler than those without. On a more local level, the air temperature in an treeless car park can be 10C higher than a nearby shady street.

“We can’t say ‘stop developing and just plant trees’ so what’s exciting about Parramatta is how it is increasing urban tree canopy to create better neighbourhoods while becoming a major urban centre,” said Prof Hurley.

“The answer is to prioritise green infrastructure alongside development. As cities grow, we can make them greener – it’s not an either, or.”


My other blogs. Main ones below

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com TONGUE-TIED)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://john-ray.blogspot.com (FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC)

http://australian-politics.blogspot.com (AUSTRALIAN POLITICS)

https://heofen.blogspot.com/ (MY OTHER BLOGS)


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