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View Diary: New German Data Shows No End in Sight for Coal (230 comments)

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  •  Exactly, and more. (6+ / 0-)

    My reaction to reading stuff like this was "False, false, false, false, oh and false here too."

    This is surely one of the most realistic measures of the effectiveness of these renewable technologies in delivering energy.
    Completely false.  Hydro is one of the cheapest and most reliable means of delivering energy (putting its environmental issues aside), and averages far lower capacity factors than your average fossil or nuclear plant.  Hoover Dam, for example, has a 23% capacity factor.  And if we uprated Hoover to handle double the peak output?  Its capacity factor would drop in half to a mere 11.5%!   Does that mean that our uprating made them less effective?  Of course not.  It's a number that's utterly meaningless without context, and yet you're using it as though it's supposed to somehow be damning.
    It also shows the magnitude of how much the grid must be able to respond to variations in weather as there must be 5-10x's more capacity built than what is received on average.  
    Also completely and utterly false.  Does Hoover Dam's 23% capacity factor mean that there must be over 4 times the capacity built in?  Just the opposite, hydro plants have a stabilizing effect on the grid.  Once again you're completely misusing the meaning of a capacity factor, confusing capacity factor and intermittency.

    The significance of intermittency depends greatly on the net picture.  And the net picture is that the more types of intermittent sources you have, and the broader the region your sources are spread out over, the more like baseload they act.  Solar in particular is particularly nice in that it tends to track the demand curve, especially in hot regions.

    Intermittent swings in power output measured in 10's of GigaWatts has significant, unpleasant implications for the grid.
    The grid is already built to handle major swings because it's already built to handle wild demand swings.  There's not that much difference between a production swing and a demand swing.  Now, the less the net swing, the cheaper and easier the grid is to build, maintain, and manage, which translates into lower electricity cost.  But to act like intermittency is the end of the world is the height of absurdity.  Grid operators have been dealing with extreme intermittency from the demand side since day one.

    How have grid operators been dealing with it?  

     * With energy storage.  Traditionally this has been, for example, hydroelectric plants, although there are many possible ways.
     * With changing the output of regular plants which can vary their output.  This can take some time but is good for slow shifts in demand.
     * With peaking plants that rapidly come online and offline.
     * With varable demand, such as high-energy industries which get a reduced rate in exchange for varying their consumption based on the demands of the grid.

    All of these things are set to increase in the future.  The ability for energy storage is expanding by leaps and bounds.  Pumped hydro is experiencing a rennaisance.  Batteries are doubling in capacity every 8 years and banks are increasingly finding their way onto the grid for lesser roles like voltage maintenance on longer, smaller lines.  Electric vehicles promise not only a massive variable (or even reverse-flow) demand, but their used, reduced-capacity (but still quite functional) batteries offer grid operators a dirt-cheap energy storage mechanism.  Existing fossil plants will slowly have their capacity factors reduced, being used for gap filling or even being retrofitted for peaking.  Smart grid technologies promise increasing on-demand power consumption shifts (providing their customers price reductions at the same time).  And on and on.

    To sum up: This is not some unknown, unaddressed issue.  It's something people have been dealing with from day one.  And it's stupid to hear people act like it's some sort of show-stopper when grid operators know of it and are working with it just fine.  And it looks to get all the easier in the future.

    And this assumes that we just ignore developing techs like high-altitude wind or solar with thermal storage that are stable.  Heck, the latter tech is already deployed in places.

    •  Here, let's cover more distortions (7+ / 0-)

      Solar's so awful because of it's low capacity factor, eh?  Well according to your own report:

      Less gas due to peak load production of PV
      Wait a minute, what's that?  Gas is generally used for peaking, for filling that load during the day when everyone turns on their lights.  But now solar is doing that job more and more.   Solar is reducing the demand for peaking.  It is stabilizing the grid.  You can see this quite nicely on the graphs around, say, page 80.

      Also from the same page:

      More run of river and less wind due to different weather conditions
      Once again, we see the fact that the more diverse your sources, the more they average out into consistent, stable production.

      What are their conclusions about coal and uranium?

      * Brown coal and hard coal almost constant, less gas due to high gas prices.
      * Significantly less uranium due to switch-off of 8 nuclear power plants.
      * Energetic compensation of uranium through renewable energies.
      Amazing, you took this document and argued exactly the opposite of what it says.

      Well, gee, why is there more coal being used this year if renewables are compensating for nuclear?  Your answer is sitting right on the next page:

      The export surplus in 2012 will be approx. 22 TWh.
      That's 15TWh more than last year.  Germany consumed more coal because it consumed more power because of exports, which vary from year to year.  Which is the problem with you looking at one year variations.

      Oh, hey, what does that say on page 32, right next to the graph?

      Solar and Wind compliment one another quite good
      Oh, hey, what was that I was saying about demand fluctuations?  Turn to page 36 to look at day-to-day total generation (aka, matching demand).  Variable enough for you?

      In short, you're arguing exactly the opposite of what the report says.

      Oh hey, let's go into your other article versus your summary, shall we?  You say:

      Adding insult to injury, Bloomberg reported that Germany is planning to construct 10GW of new coal and gas-fired generation this decade
      Wow!  They're planning to burn more coal?!  Damn them!  Oh, wait...
      Merkel’s government wants utilities to build 10,000 megawatts of coal- and gas-fired generators this decade to replace older, dirtier generators and underpin a growing share for wind turbines and solar panels.
      They're building it to replace older, less efficient, dirtier plants.  You do know what the word "replace" means, right?  Hint: it does not mean "additional".  And what do they mean by "underpin"?  Right at the top of the article:
      BoA, which has an efficiency of 43 percent, can raise or lower output by 500 megawatts per unit within 15 minutes, Peter Terium, RWE’s CEO, told reporters in a call on Aug. 14.
      First off, the European average coal plant efficiency is 34%.  The oldest, dirtiest (which would be the ones being replaced) are in the 20s.  This is a massive reduction in CO2 emissions compared to the older plants.  But more noteworthy is the line about rapidly raising and lowering output.  That means that these are designed to be peaking plants.  As wind and solar take up an increasing share, their plan is, to have these increasingly be plants that fire up quickly when there's a gap and shut down when the gap is gone.  Peaking plants tend to have very low capacity factors, meaning that they spend most of their time sitting around, emitting little or nothing.

      Yes, gas peaking plants would be better.  Energy storage would be even better.  But a "damned efficient coal peaking plant" replacing a "damned inefficient coal baseload plant" isn't even remotely a step backwards.  It's just not as big of a step fowards as we'd like.

      •  Dear Rei (0+ / 0-)

        I'm lost, what documents are you citing to for pp 32, 36,and so on?

        Orly, it isn't evidence just because you downloaded it from the internet.

        by 6412093 on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 12:52:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Does it really matter why Germany (0+ / 0-)

        used more coal? It did and that's bad.

        For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

        by Anne Elk on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 01:50:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I guess you missed the following in the comment (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          that you were responding to:

          Brown coal and hard coal almost constant, less gas due to high gas prices.

          "A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle" - Mohammed Nabbous, R.I.P.

          by Lawrence on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 03:44:09 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Oh, my apologies. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life. - Albert Camus

            by Anne Elk on Wed Jan 09, 2013 at 05:20:00 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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