Discussing Energy Economics on the Internet

RSPB Changes Tack On Wind

Posted in UK,Wind by Cheryl Morgan on the March 26th, 2009

Despite having plenty of good prospects for wind energy, the UK has lagged behind both other European countries and America in deployment of wind farms. The problem is well known: planning permission. NIMBYism is a major issue – the British public has got it into its head that a wind farm is a terrible eyesore than is to be resisted at all costs. However, environmental groups, including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), have also campaigned strongly against wind farms on the grounds that they are a danger to our feathered friends.

Not any more. Much to the delight of the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA), the RSPB has published a report titled Positive Planning for Onshore Wind. Produced by the Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP), the report states that risks to wildlife can be minimized by sensible planning and choice of location. Ruth Davis head of Climate Change Policy at the RSPB said:

“This report shows that if we get it right, the UK can produce huge amounts of clean energy without time-consuming conflicts and harm to our wildlife. Get it wrong and people may reject wind power. That would be disastrous.”

Actually, of course, the British people rejected wind power en masse a long time ago, and the RSPB should accept a large share of the blame for that. But it is good to see them change their stance. Possibly their minds were powerfully concentrated by the government’s enthusiasm for the Severn Barrage scheme which, if it goes ahead, is predicted to destroy large areas of wetlands that are vital to many bird species. The main advantage of the barrage, as far as the government is concerned, is the ability to get a huge amount of new generation from only one public inquiry, rather than have to fight environmental protesters in many small battles all over the country.

The full RSPB report is available here.

Comments Off on RSPB Changes Tack On Wind

No Aliens After All

Posted in UK,Wind by Cheryl Morgan on the February 11th, 2009

A while back I linked to a story about a catastrophic failure of a UK wind turbine that people were speculating might have been caused by a passing UFO. Sadly the real explanation is much more prosaic. As this Guardian report reveals, the actual explanation was metal fatigue in some of the bolts holding the turbine together. Enercon, who made the turbine, is embarrassed; Ecotricity, who own the site, are disappointed that their time in the limelight appears to be over; and the British newspapers are off looking for the next promising alien invasion story.

Comments Off on No Aliens After All

EIA Accused of Anti-Renewables Bias

Posted in Wind by Cheryl Morgan on the January 9th, 2009

Energy Watch Group, a German-based renewables advocacy organization whose membership includes a number of German and Swiss politicians, has published a new report on the wind power industry. The report is particularly critical of the Energy Information Administration, and pulls no punches. This:

We conclude by saying that the IEA Outlook remains attached to oil, gas, coal and nuclear, and renewables seem to have no chance to reverse this trend. This organization, whose constitutional task would be to protect consumers from price hikes and to deliver energy security, has been and is deploying misleading data on renewables for many years.

Is followed by this:

One has to ask if the ignorance and contempt of IEA toward wind power and renewables in general is done within a structure of intent. Renewables tend to look ever expensive and close to irrelevant while oil, coal and nuclear look irreplaceable in the IEA World Energy Outlook reference scenarios. Is it this message that big companies and US presidents need to fight a war for oil, subsidies and profits, disguised as a “war on terrorism”.

(Our emphasis.)

Strong words indeed. You can find the whole report here, and a summary of the controversy in The Guardian.

Comments Off on EIA Accused of Anti-Renewables Bias

UK Wind Farm Under Attack?

Posted in UK,Wind by Cheryl Morgan on the January 8th, 2009

Something or someone has caused massive damage to a turbine at a wind farm in Lincolnshire. As can be seen from the photo in this Guardian article, one blade is missing altogether, and another is badly bent.

Dale Vince of Ecotricity, the company that owns the wind farm, is baffled. “To make one of these blades fall off, or to bend it, takes a lot,” he said, adding, that is something hit the turbine it was, “probably the size and weight of a cow.” While metal fatigue and similar explanations are being investigated, the idea that is getting most traction in the UK media is that the turbine was hit by a UFO.

This is clearly a big setback for the wind industry. It is bad enough being attacked by environmentalists, but aliens too? Do they know something that we don’t? What I really want to know, however, is what the Lincolnshire police were up to. There’s a clear case of DUI here, and someone needs to catch that UFO driver before he causes any more accidents.

Which Way Will the Wind Blow?

Posted in Modeling,Renewables,Wind by Cheryl Morgan on the September 18th, 2008

Variability in the availability of renewable generation is often cited as an issue for grid managers, but the obvious thing to do in that case is forecast it. Generation market simulation software often includes the ability to model seasonal and annual variation in water availability for hydros. Presumably wind (and solar) will acquire they own modeling methods. The PJM is apparently looking at the possibilities for build a wind forecasting model. Other people are doubtless doing the same. Does anyone know of any papers on this sort of thing?

Comments Off on Which Way Will the Wind Blow?

National Grid Issues Winter Consultation

Posted in Generation,UK,Wind by Cheryl Morgan on the June 11th, 2008

National Grid has issued its annual winter consultation document for the UK’s gas and electricity markets. The document is available from the Ofgem web site. The outlook appears fairly bullish, although there is some concern as to when the new LNG terminals at Milford Haven (Dragon and South Hook) will begin commercial operation. The Ofgem press release quotes a reserve margin in generation of 26.8%. However, perusal of the document shows that this is based on the Seven Year Statement’s figure of 79.4 GW of contracted capacity, whereas National Grid’s operational viewpoint suggests available capacity of between 75.4 and 76.1 GW.

A theme running through the electricity sections of the report is the difficulty of predicting availability from wind generation. National Grid presents figures showing that the load factor of wind plants varies significantly through the year, but is rarely over 40%. Historical data suggests that the average availability during the winter peak should be about 35%, but the actual figure for 2007/08 was only 8%. As the volume of wind capacity on the system increases, this will become more of a concern for system operators.

Comments Off on National Grid Issues Winter Consultation

Texas Issues Conservation Alert

Posted in Electricity Transmission,Price Spikes,Texas,Wind by Cheryl Morgan on the June 3rd, 2008

The regulatory authorities in Texas continue to be worried about high power prices. Yesterday the Public Utilities Commission issued a press release announcing a conservation alert system that would help consumers know when it was necessary to turn down the air conditioning and take other power-saving measures. This is in response to “potential record high electricity demand for June.” Although the PUC expects supplies to be adequate to avoid blackouts, conservation by consumers could help prevent massive price spikes like those experienced in recent weeks.

As to the causes of the problem, the Dallas Morning News pins the blame on “hot weather and power line congestion.” A further clue can perhaps be gleaned from The Independent which reports:

Thousands of wind turbines in the US are sitting idle or failing to meet their full generating capacity because of a shortage of power lines able to transmit their electricity to the rest of the grid.

While building new power lines may well be a viable solution to the problem, they are not going to get built in time to save Texans from an uncomfortably expensive summer.

Comments Off on Texas Issues Conservation Alert