Energy A Science view


A Science view.


It is interesting to note that in the early days of electricity, starting about a century ago, power stations were quite small, operated on "town" basis, and with a variety of voltages, both direct current and alternating current of a variety of frequencies. The ultimate "distributed generation". Appliances would work in one town and not in another! By 1925 this chaos was intolerable, and Stanley Baldwin, Prime Minister of the time, commissioned a review conducted by two electrical engineers. Their report on the solution to this situation was accepted, and became, almost unchanged, the Electricity supply Act of 1926. The Central Electricity Board was established, and a series of large power stations built to supply a country-wide high voltage AC "grid" at a standard voltage and frequency. All electrical appliances could be used country-wide. The need for Back-up plant was reduced from 85 to 15%, a saving which paid for 75% of the cost of building the grid, and generating costs fell by 25%. The industry was totally Nationalised in 1947.

The introduction of renewable energy, which demanded a huge number of individual generators, may readily be seen to be reversing this process. Wind turbines stand out among the renewable systems as the only one reasonably developed. Far from providing a reliable source of energy, all turbines in the UK, and those offshore, are totally unable to provide electricity on demand; AN ABSOLUTELY AXIOMATIC CHARACTERISTIC OF ANY GENERATOR. This being the case, if the growth of wind energy generators reaches the Government's large target, the wind-generated supply will reach the level at which that generating sector will have to have almost complete backup. This brings us back, indeed more than back, to the pre-1926 situation. 1000MWs of nominal wind turbine power generation will require a fossil fuelled power station at 1000MWs. This is not the mere 85% backup of 1925, but almost 100%. These backup generators have to be kept running, using fuel, ready to take over the power demanded by us, who wish to watch the "tele", cook the dinner, and in winter keep the central heating running, (the control panel and circulating pumps for the radiators are all electric).

Recent study from the Netherlands has shown that in a real situation the CO2 savings are indeed very low or even negative!!!

And this almost zero generation is a real situation. On Thursday 30 December 2010, a huge area of high pressure covered the whole of the UK Ireland, the Irish Sea, the North Sea, the Atlantic off the Scottish coast. And stretched into France, the Low Countries and Germany and into the Balkans. Over the whole of this area, wind turbine electricity production was negligible. And this persisted for days! At that time the amount of electricity which could have been generated by wind turbines was only 2-2.5% of demand and thus could be accommodated by other generators. Had it been 20-30% of peak requirements, the lights would go out without backup.

This backup means in reality that we pay for two power generators; an expensive wind generator, and a fossil generator run in the most expensive fashion. And just the gas generator run less expensively would have been adequate.

To be continued.

Richard Phillips

Topics: edie
Tags: CO2 | fashion | gas | Ireland | offshore | wind energy | wind turbines
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