Imagine listening to your CEO explain sales down 30% on forecasts of just five years ago when your company signed off a multi-billion dollar investment plan designed to secure its share of the predicted sales growth. Your CEO goes on to explain how you had been blindsided by new technology. Feeling a bit sick in the stomach, you might be thinking “Kodak”. You can’t risk another five years like the past, so you ask what is the strategy, “to defend or to embrace?”
With that in mind it is worth taking another look at what’s been happening in the electricity sector. For example, take a look at summer afternoon consumption of electricity dispatched on the National Electricity Market (the NEM is the electricity market that serves the east coast states and South Australia).
This is an edited extract from Mark Diesendorf’s new book, Sustainable Energy Solutions for Climate Change, published in Australia and New Zealand by UNSW Press in December 2013; to be published overseas by Earthscan in April 2014.
Since renewable energy is intermittent, it is too unreliable to be the major source of electricity supply. Large penetrations of renewable energy into the grid must await either the development of baseload renewable power stations or a vast amount of storage.
New research released by an independent grid operator confirms that wind energy is drastically decreasing both the price of electricity and emissions of harmful pollutants. The study was led by PJM, the independent grid operator for all or parts of 13 Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes states (Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia) and DC. The results are posted here.
Highlights of the study:
– Wind energy produces massive reductions in electricity production costs and wholesale prices. Obtaining 20% of PJM’s electricity from wind energy reduces the cost of producing electricity by $9 billion annually (about 25% of overall production costs of $37 billion), while 30% wind reduces production costs by $13 billion (about 35%) each year. Wholesale electricity prices are reduced by $9-21 billion annually across the 20% and 30% scenarios, with the high offshore scenarios producing the largest wholesale price reductions of $21 billion. This occurs because offshore wind tends to produce more during times of peak electricity demand, offsetting more expensive gas generation. Continue reading “Independent grid operator study confirms wind power’s economic, environmental value”
Californian policymakers have driven a boom in renewable energy–driving down the price of solar and wind energy through economies of scale. They’re now attempting to achieve similar results with energy storage. If it comes to fruition, this Californian initiative could be a game changer for transitioning towards clean, renewable energy sources.
Contrary to claims by critics of wind power, Spanish researchers say, the turbines do reduce carbon dioxide emissions significantly even though the wind does not blow continuously.
LONDON – One of the most oft-repeated arguments of the anti-wind lobby is that turbines produce electricity only intermittently, when there is enough wind to turn them.
This, the wind critics argue, means that so much gas has to be burnt to provide a reliable back-up supply of electricity that wind power‘s overall benefit to the environment is erased.
But extensive research in Spain means this claim can now definitively be declared a myth. Wind, the researchers found, is a very efficient way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
The anti-wind campaigners claim that fossil fuel plants have to be kept running at a slow speed, continuously producing CO2, just in case the wind fails. At slow speeds these plants are less efficient and so produce so much CO2, wind opponents say, that they wipe out any gains from having wind power.
Not true, according to a report published in the journal Energy by researchers at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. There are some small losses, the researchers say, but even if wind produced as much as 50 percent of Spain’s electricity the CO2 savings would still be 80 percent of the emissions that would have been produced by the displaced thermal power stations. Continue reading “Wind Power Proves Effective CO2 Saver”
We spend a lot of time [at Renew Economy] chronicling the dramatic price falls of solar PV, and the new technologies emerging in solar thermal, but it is sometimes forgotten that wind energy is also making important advances.
By Tim Forcey, energy advisor at the University of Melbourne Energy Research Institute.
In late September, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) released a report investigating how wind can better be integrated into the power grid. AEMO reports that as more wind turbines are deployed over the next seven years, constraints on the way our electricity grid works – including bottlenecks in the system – mean there may be limits on how much wind-generated electricity we can use.
AEMO has not yet investigated what long-term solutions exist to avoid curtailing wind. But a joint study by the engineering and consulting company Arup and the University of Melbourne Energy Institute is looking at one possible solution.
Electricity system operators and investors could use pumped hydro energy storage to complement the growing deployment of renewable energy. The current grid struggles to push power through when it is being generated in large quantities, and to meet demand when generation is low. Storing energy from wind using pumped hydro means the electricity wouldn’t have to be sold as it is being made, but could be saved for later.
When I first glanced at this graph I thought little of it; after all, it is about fossil fuel fired power stations and not renewables. But a little more thought shows that it gives us some very important information about the effectiveness of South Australia’s wind farms.
The capacity factor of a power station is the amount of power it generates in terms of what it would generate if it ran at full capacity all the time. So, for example, if a 100MW power station produces an average of 40MW over a year it is said to have a capacity factor of 40 percent.
There are several important pieces of information relevant to renewable energy in this graph.
First: The average capacity factor of Australia’s wind farms is 35 percent. Wind power opponents often criticize wind farms for this, implying that their capacity factors should be much higher if wind farms were of any real value. Note that only three of the thirteen South Australian power stations have a capacity factor greater than the 35 percent achieved by wind farms.
Second, and more importantly: The graph shows that the capacity factor of the coal-fired Playford B power station has declined to zero in the period 2009/10 to 2012/13. (It was the dirtiest power station in Australia in terms of carbon dioxide released per unit of electricity generated and has been ‘put into mothballs’). The graph also shows that the capacity factor of South Australia’s only remaining coal-fired Northern Power Station, the second biggest power station in the state, has declined from more than 90 percent to less than 50 percent in the period 2008/09 to 2012/18. The Northern is expected to only be used for the warmer half of each year before being shut down all together. Continue reading “Wind farms cut coal capacity factors”