Saturday 12 October 2013

Power Demand Planning Fails to allow for ultra low Generation Efficiency and Utilisation

Why not add some serious focus on ENERGY DEMAND and ENERGY EFFICIENCY. [Updated/Reprinted from my March 2011 blog, but still highly relevant - and nothing much in the way of any improvements. Still!]

We in the UK like most of the western world have some pretty miserable performance characteristics when considering turning fossil fuels into electricity. Around 25% fuel efficiency. The remaining 60% losses to 'low grade heat' dissipated to the cooling towers (erected as a testimony to waste), and 10-12% grid distribution losses etc.

Just as bad in the USA see graphic: Interestingly the figures for generation losses translate into 67.2% of the energy inputs, even after allowing for the Hydro and other renewable inputs. Poor efficiency indeed!

The nuclear cycle is similar with the cooling towers/sea water cooling systems (designed to 'waste' heat energy) warming up the atmosphere rather than being usefully employed to heat buildings etc.

Pimlico District Heat Plant
BUT WAIT: we can't use the heat from cooling towers because all power stations (with the exception of Ferrybridge and Trent) are too far away from population centres to justify the district heating distribution network.

As a historical pointer Battersea Power Station, London had no cooling towers (land was too expensive) so they piped the heat energy to Pimlico and sold it to the residents in 1950! And its still there today.

So in effect our whole approach to centralized power (electricity but not heat energy) is flawed. THATS THE FIRST PROBLEM.

For the sake of brevity I will summarize:
THERE IS NO ENERGY POLICY: What we have is a series of lobby groups shouting at weak Governments. What goes for a 'policy' is to do with taxation on North Sea Oil and other taxes on transport fuels. The rest is to keep you quiet.

THERE ARE NO DRIVERS TO MAKE POWER GENERATION EFFICIENT: Otherwise we would see hundreds of 'mini' (unseen to the 'man/person in the street') power, heat and (optional chilled water) generation systems providing around 85+% fuel efficiency heating and powering our homes, offices and retail parks. What we do is just pay more and more per kWh, heck the Government even taxes us for the Carbon because of this inefficiency. On top of that they want us to stump up to artificially support renewable because you have been 'told' they are more expensive(?). Renewables can stand on their own. Which is more than can be said for Nuclear.

The factors that are determining our plans for electricity supply (not energy needs) are still based on the hopeless inefficiency I have merely touched on. Its also based of the economist's 'favourite mistake' of constant upward industrial growth and electricity needs expanding as they have done in the past. That will not happen.

In fact the power companies will never object to talk of brown-outs and demand outstripping supply. It's their business. They get bigger and more powerful on comments like that.

Football Stadium that Acts as a power station
The real alternatives are for efficient 'parish' or even 'estate' scale power and heat generation systems utilising all energy sources, gas, wind, geo-thermal, small scale hydro and solar thermal. (forget the vastly over sold solar PV for the next 10 years). Then we will have our own independent power supplies and then we might actually see real ENERGY COMPETITION.

Bunhill CHP Opened Dec 2012 [Note Water Tower Storage]
Good example in Islington Bunhill estate. 2MWe generation plus 2km of district heating to serve the local houses. 700 homes supplied with a CHP engine which feeds a 115,000 litre hot water buffer storage tank for all heating and hot water needs. All on a 'street corner' site and oblivious to the untrained eye!!

So start forming your local energy co-operatives, forget NIMBY'ism and lets create real energy security in our homes and offices. Because we certainly don't have it now if we continue with the energy propaganda that fills the press and the BBC.

313 MPG: Hybrid Engines are Go

The world’s most fuel-efficient car, the Volkswagen XL1, which was first unveiled at the Qatar Motor Show in 2011, has now been confirmed for an initial production run of 250 examples.

Two passenger VW XL1
Pioneering construction techniques, an advanced plug-in hybrid drivetrain and innovative packaging all play a part in allowing the XL1 to return 313 mpg on the combined cycle while emitting 24 g/km of CO2 to set a new benchmark for vehicle efficiency.

Powering the XL1 is a compact 800 cc TDI two-cylinder common rail diesel engine developing 48 PS. It’s linked to an electric motor producing 27 PS, resulting in a total of 75 PS – a modest output yet more than enough when the low kerb weight (795 kg) of the vehicle is taken into account.

The TDI engine is linked to an electric motor and a seven-speed DSG gearbox with an automatic clutch mounted between each unit. The electric motor can either work independently of the TDI engine or in tandem when accelerating. Accelerating from rest to 62 mph can be achieved in 11.9 seconds; the electronically limited top speed is 99 mph. Thanks to its plug-in hybrid system, the two-seater can cover a distance of up to 50 km in all-electric mode and therefore with zero local emissions.

In both its styling and packaging the XL1 draws on lessons learned from the 1-Litre car (2002) and the L1 concept (2009). The XL1 has evolved to feature staggered seating with the driver and passenger placed next to each other in a body structure made from advanced new materials providing immense strength yet weighing just 230 kg.

To make such weight savings possible, and yet viable for series production, Volkswagen developed and patented a new system for the manufacture of the Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer (CFRP) parts on the car called the Resin Transfer Moulding (RTM) process.

In total the XL1 weighs 795 kg. In addition to the body structure, the weight is accounted for by the drivetrain (227 kg), the running gear (153 kg), the interior including a pair of bucket seats (80 kg) and the electrical system (105 kg). In total just 23.2 per cent of the car (184 kg) is made out of either steel or iron.

Further savings are made through the extensive use of lightweight materials including magnesium (wheels), ceramics (brake discs) and aluminium (dampers, steering system, brake calipers).

The styling of the XL1 is borne out of functional requirements – easy access to the interior is granted via a pair of elegant scissor doors that hinge on the A-pillar while the profile of the car has been honed in the wind tunnel, the result being a remarkable coefficient of drag figure of 0.186. The XL1’s overall length (3,970 mm) and width (1,682 mm) are similar to those of a Volkswagen Polo yet its height (1,184 mm) is more akin to that of a sports car.

The XL1 will be produced at Volkswagen’s Osnabrück factory in Germany.

Friday 11 October 2013

Code 6 Means Practically No External Energy Required

So if many properties are built to code 6, or Code 5, then DEMAND for energy REDUCES - As they are net energy Zero Homes/Properties.

Contrary to the ever increasing projections for power, these energy efficiency improvements can benefit all, and end 'fuel poverty'. Ultra low running costs for heating, power and water can only benefit the consumer.

Homes Look Normal Enough
Green Space, a 10-unit residential scheme in Chelmsford has been certified to Code for Sustainable Homes level 6 – the highest possible level. To reach Code level 6, homes must reach a zero carbon standard and only a handful of developments have achieved the certification so far, six years before government’s commitment to zero carbon homes.

CHP [Not to be confused with Combined Heat and Power], the housing association that developed the scheme used a combination of super insulation and water efficient products, with low carbon renewable energy generation and rainwater harvesting to achieve level 6. Some features of the Chelmsford scheme are:

Twin Wood Pellet Boilers: but CHP Better
  • Heating and hot water from communal biomass district heating fuelled by wood pellets.
  • Power from photo-voltaic cells on the roof producing 4kW per house and 2.5kW per flat
  • Building fabric in walls and roof with U-values of 0.13W/m2K
  • Triple argon glazed windows with low E to maximize solar gain with U-values of 0.7W/m2K.
  • Timber structure with insulated panel and heat recovery mechanical ventilation provide air-tightness.
  • Rainwater harvesting designed to 76L per person per day for flushing WC’s and washing machines.

Reduced energy bills

Insulated Flues
The Code for Sustainable Homes should have benefits not only for the environment, but essentially for the residents also. CHP, the housing association that developed the scheme in Chelmsford are keen to promote this benefit to their customers. The architect, Jon Boon of Ingleton Wood expects “a predicted energy cost for heating, power and lighting of less than half that of a typical house built to current Building Regulations standards.” The homes also meet Lifetime Homes, a standard that seeks to ensure that homes are adaptable for the changing needs of residents throughout their lifetime.

Reducing carbon emissions and other environmental impacts

The Code for Sustainable Homes provides a template and regulatory checklist to guide development towards designs, features and building practices that reduce environmental impacts.  A significant focus for the Code is to reduce CO2 emissions but it also encourages a range of other environmental considerations from water efficiency to sustainable sourcing, reducing flood risk and improving both health and well being of the occupants and the ecological impact of construction.

The Green Space scheme used sustainably sourced timber frame design and incorporated a green roof to encourage biodiversity, along with composting and recycling arrangements to halve expected landfill waste.

The importance of the Code for Sustainable Homes

From 2016 all new homes will be required to reach zero carbon by building regulations. The Code for Sustainable Homes points the way forward for this change and regulations are already changing to catch up with aspects of the Code in terms of water and energy efficiency. Achieving Code level 3 is currently a requirement for all social housing schemes and for planning permission in many areas. From April 2011 we expect this to rise to Code level 4.

The cost of reaching Code for Sustainable Homes level 6

The Green Space development project came in at £1.5 million, 40% more than that of Code for Sustainable Homes level 3 schemes. These technologies save the owner around £380 per year in energy for heating and lighting. The initial output to build homes to Code for Sustainable Homes level 6 will be costly but the operating costs will be much lower than existing homes.

The future and reducing build costs for Code 6

Modern Factory Modules of Varying Design 
With modular construction technologies these construction costs can come down to more acceptable levels. By rationalising the construction and building many units, modular factory methods will reduce costs. This does not mean identical boxes either.

And linked to Combined Heat and Power systems with power exported to the grid, a developer could look at their projects as a long term investment.

Meanwhile France Promotes Tidal Power Hub

Port Area
West Normandy Marine Energy president François Piquet and Ports of Normandy chief executive Jean Michel Sevin discuss developments at France’s foremost tidal power hub. This November’s West Normandy Marine Energy Conference, at the International Tidal Energy Summit, promises to be a key industry gathering.Organisations such as West Normandy Marine Energy and the Cherbourg port owner Ports of Normandy Authority (Ports Normands Associés or PNA in French) have long recognised the value of tidal power and their efforts to foster the industry are beginning to bear fruit.

Wave and Tidal Projects Projects Blow by SSE

Scottish and Southern Electricity, apart from putting up charges by 8.5% this year are withdrawing from these vital and low impact projects: Disgraceful
Following recent speculation that major utility SSE are considering largely withdrawing from wave and tidal projects , the REA [Renewable Energy Association] has today responded by acknowledging the continued involvement of those still involved in the sector and calling for greater practical support for wave and tidal projects.
Major energy utility Scottish Power, the Scottish Government and DECC have shown tremendous commitment to the sector to date and this is welcomed by the marine energy industry.
REA Head of Marine Dr Steph Merry commented;
“While SSE’s possible withdrawal from the sector is unsettling, the REA acknowledges and congratulates those organisations whose continued involvement will enable the industry to develop.

For example we commend the actions of Scottish Power, existing investors and technology and project developers and the Scottish Government in promoting the sector as the industry seeks to move from being a developing technology to commercial viability, delivering significant clean energy for the UK.”

Non-financial means of support required
There are a series of non-financial measures which could be taken to strengthen the sector which should be taken forward. For example the REA welcomes the Crown Estate’s work commissioning background surveys and studies to support environmental impact assessments in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters, (one of the most promising areas of development) to reduce the burden on individual developers.

There is further scope for such initiatives, which the REA would like to see expanded to other areas of marine energy resource, such as;
Assuring support for wave and tidal in the Government’s EMR programme, via guaranteed capacity in the Contracts for Difference scheme.

Ensuring all projects have equal access to the grid at a reasonable rate - grid connection threatens to be a show-stopper for many wave and tidal generators, especially in the remote Scottish Islands. Failing to resolve this issue could make or break developments and must be urgently addressed.

Ensure effective use of Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult programme for the sector.
There could be opportunities to coordinate joint procurement and installation services that would save industry considerable costs.

As is being increasingly acknowledged, the UK’s wave and tidal sector has numerous great strengths. Many players are smaller sized companies and we would welcome targeted support for them, through the BIS programme which focuses on SMEs. The UK remains the global leader in marine renewables, with considerable potential for employment and exports. The opportunity for engineering and construction investment is also clear and the sector is more geographically dispersed than other industries, therefore spreading jobs and investment beyond London and the south east.

Solar Power After Sunset

October 9, 2013.– Abengoa (MCE: ABG.B), the international company that applies innovative technology solutions for sustainability in the energy and environment sectors, has announced that Solana, the world´s largest parabolic trough plant with a total installed capacity of 280 MW (gross) and also the first solar plant in the United States with thermal energy storage, has successfully passed commercial operation tests. This milestone marks a major accomplishment for Abengoa and the Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) industry.
Solana is the first solar plant in the U.S. with a thermal energy storage system that is able to generate electricity for six hours without the concurrent use of the solar field, which is a turning point for renewable energy in this country, being a tangible demonstration that solar energy can be stored and dispatched upon demand.
Solana, located near Gila Bend and about 70 miles southwest of Phoenix, Arizona, began construction in 2010 and on Monday, October 7, successfully fulfilled production forecasts required to date and testing for commercial operation. These tests included operating at the turbine’s full capacity while charging the thermal storage system, continuing to produce electricity after the sun went down, and starting up the plant and producing 6 hours of electricity using only the thermal storage system. These tests successfully demonstrated the various operation modes of the plant’s operation.
Abengoa’s first utility-scale solar plant in the United States employs parabolic trough technology. This technology consists of parabolic shaped mirrors mounted on structures that track the sun and concentrate the sun’s heat, later transforming water into steam and powering a conventional steam turbine. This mature technology has additional value since the heat can also be stored and used to produce clean electricity after the sun goes down or during a transitory period.
This ability to generate electricity when needed, or dispatchability, is one of the unique characteristics of concentrating solar power versus other types of renewables. Solana’s thermal storage system, without the use of the solar field, can produce clean energy for six hours at maximum power. These six hours will satisfy Arizona’s peak electricity demands during the summer evenings and early night time hours. Dispatchability also eliminates intermittency issues that other renewables, such as wind and photovoltaics, contend with, providing stability to the grid and thus increasing the value of the energy generated by CSP.
Arizona Public Service (APS), the largest utility in Arizona, will purchase all of the electricity produced by the solar plant for 30 years through a power purchase agreement with Abengoa.
Solana will generate the clean energy equivalent to that needed to power 70,000 households and will prevent about half a million tons of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere per year. The construction of Solana led to the creation of more than 2,000 jobs and a national supply chain that spans 165 companies in 29 states.
The total investment of the plant is approximately two billion dollars and during financing, Solana received a federal loan guarantee for $1.45 billion from the United States Department of Energy Federal Loan Guarantee Program. This support made the construction of Solana possible, creating or maintaining thousands of jobs both in the building of the plant as well as those direct and indirect jobs in the supply chain, as well as providing the Southwest with clean, sustainable energy using innovative technology.
Abengoa currently has 1,223 MW of concentrating solar power in operation and 430 MW under construction. It is the largest CSP company in the world and one of the few that constructs and operates both solar tower and parabolic trough plants.

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Bio Diesel EU Duty Plans

We have to draw a distinction between what constitutes BIO-DIESEL:
  1. Derived from arable crops [In my opinion 'Bad' Bio-Diesel]
  2. Derived from food/farming wastes [Good]
  3. Derived from Algae [from industrial wastes] [Best]
It would appear the the EU is getting very touchy about the first category, and has plans to 'certify' bio-diesel by it's source. The following article is from physorg.

The EU plans to impose stiff taxes on Argentinian and Indonesian biodiesel imports for alleged trade dumping, industry players said on Friday.
According to Argentinian companies the Commission will seek to apply a permanent duty of 22 to 25 percent on Argentinian biodiesel from the beginning of 2014.
In May, the European Commission imposed temporary import duties on biodiesel imports from Argentina and Indonesia, saying they were being dumped below cost on the European market.
The European Biodiesel Board, which represents most European companies active in the sector, said the proposed permanent duties would mean a tax of 215 to 250 euros ($292-340) per tonne on Argentinian biodiesel imports and 120 to 180 euros on Indonesian biodiesel.
Tanks of biodiesel (L) and soy oil in Argentina on September 4, 2013
The Commission declined to confirm the figures.
It said concerned parties had two more weeks to make comments before the proposals are submitted to EU member states, which should decide by November 28 on the duties.
European companies have welcomed the efforts to protect their sector, but Argentinian producers said in a statement Friday the duties "will be prohibitive ... and close the doors to the European market".
The EU accounts for 90 percent of Argentinian biodiesel exports.
Argentina is the world's top biodiesel producer, making 2.5 million tonnes worth $1.8 billion in 2012. Some 1.6 million tonnes were exported.
Trouble for the Argentinian biodiesel sector began in 2012 when Spain put in place measures to limit imports after the Argentinian government nationalised a stake of YPF oil company owned by Spanish oil giant Repsol.