Renewables North of the Border...

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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby DaveS » Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:42 am

Arghiro wrote:In my view (from one pace backwards following Nick's offensive comment :shock: ) the issue is one of antiquated oil fired stations that were designed for base load & can't easily be shut down quickly. At least the Nukes can be switched on & off in reasonable time scales.

I await your comments with interest. :tiphat:


I know of no oil fired power stations currently running in the UK. The contract for the last to be built, Inverkip, was signed a matter of days before the Yom Kippur war and the ensuing OPEC action which made oil generation hopelessly uneconomic. Inverkip was therefore only used for peak lopping (other than during the miners' strike) and is now largely cannibalised. An Indian company looked into buying it, but there wasn't enough of it left.

I would disagree with the suggestion that oil fired plant was less flexible than nuclear. Whilst designed primarily for base load use, all steam plant can be made to change output within certain ramp rate limits. These are mainly determined by considerations of turbine differential expansion / contraction, but nuclear plant can be additionally constrained by the need to avoid reactor core distortion.
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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby DaveS » Fri Feb 25, 2011 2:17 am

Arghiro wrote:BTW, why is Hydro no longer considered a good option? I doubt it is lack of suitable sites, could it be the escalation of labour costs on the capital works required, or the perceived eco-impact of flooding valleys? I would have thought that building a few more Hydros would be a relatively quick way of filling gaps in the supply.


Hydro is great, but unfortunately, most of the best sites for hydros are already in use. Their combined catchment area already covers a surprisingly high proportion of the Highlands. There are some gaps and there are plans to fill some of them. A new hydro was recently commissioned at Glen Noe and there are plans for others. Given that hydro's costs are almost entirely capital (like nuclear) a time of low interest rates should be the ideal time to build.

There are environmental issues. A 1960s proposal to flood Glen Nevis was, quite rightly IMHO, strongly opposed. The land is now owned by the John Muir Trust and therefore safe. A 1970s proposal to build a pump storage scheme on Ben Lomond (now in the National Park) also came under heavy fire. Any proposals for popular scenic areas are likely to be unsuccessful.

It would be technically possible to build hydro stations in the Lake District, or Snowdonia, but I somehow don't see it happening...
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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby Arghiro » Fri Feb 25, 2011 12:13 pm

DaveS wrote:(snip)
It would be technically possible to build hydro stations in the Lake District, or Snowdonia, but I somehow don't see it happening...


There are several in Snowdonia & nearby already. In general, the tourists will hardly see them. The only indication is usually a line of pipes coming down from a hanging valley at the side of a wide glacial valley. Most of the Lakes & N Wales' man-made lakes are used for drinking water catchment. I suppose some generation capacity could be added, but I don't think they have enough capacity to "waste" some in power generation. Although, the peak power need will be winter time when water demand should be lower & supply greatest I would guess.

We have so much water in the UK that we waste most of it. Micro-generation would work well in all upland areas & reduce the costly infrastructure needs. Every house could have roof (or garden) storage tanks for flushing loos, watering lawns, washing cars etc. In addition it might reduce the flood risks on many major rivers.

These are relatively low cost infrastructure investments - most of the capital cost could come from householders themselves with suitable incentives. But the longer term benefits would be significant.

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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby ParaHandy » Fri Feb 25, 2011 3:27 pm

DaveS wrote:I know of no oil fired power stations currently running in the UK.

Fawley, Littlebrook & Grain (each just over 1GW) are running - until 2014, they opted out. Fawley had shut early I thought but RWE say it's still going strong .. "most efficient oil fired etc etc

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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby DaveS » Sun Feb 27, 2011 5:07 pm

ParaHandy wrote:
DaveS wrote:I know of no oil fired power stations currently running in the UK.

Fawley, Littlebrook & Grain (each just over 1GW) are running - until 2014, they opted out. Fawley had shut early I thought but RWE say it's still going strong .. "most efficient oil fired etc etc

I'm astonished. How they reconcile the economics I cannot understand. I thought (presumably mistakenly) that Grain had been converted from oil to coal as was done at Kilroot (NI).

Thermal efficiency is an entirely different matter. Back in the mid 70s I worked for a few months at the oil burning Carolina Port B (Dundee) which, despite the relatively small unit size (120 MW IIRC), had for a number of years retained the European record for thermal efficiency. This was greatly helped in winter by the cold melt water coming down the Tay producing an extremely hard condenser vacuum. It still closed and was demolished because it couldn't wash its face economically.
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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby aquaplane » Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:44 pm

It's sort of renewable and North of Watford but a bit off thread.

I do flammability testing at work and we are getting lots of samples of wood pellets or sunflower/sugar beet pellets or other stuff that is waste from agriculture. They are looking at using it as fuel in coal fired stations, I can't see it being anything more than lip service to being green though, the volumes can't be there.
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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby Nick » Sun Feb 27, 2011 9:49 pm

aquaplane wrote: . . . wood pellets or sunflower/sugar beet pellets or other stuff that is waste from agriculture. They are looking at using it as fuel in coal fired stations, I can't see it being anything more than lip service to being green though, the volumes can't be there.
There are plans to build a network of biomass power plants in Scotland, but thre isn't enough wood to fuel them and - to me - importing wood to burn to create elecctricity seems a bit daft. The biggest is a 225-megawatt plant in Hunterston, North Ayrshire. Others include four 100-megawatt plants at the ports of Leith, Rosyth, Grangemouth and Dundee. These four plants alone would burn four million tonnes of wood every year, almost half of Scottish timber production.
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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby ParaHandy » Sun Feb 27, 2011 10:38 pm

DaveS wrote:The land is now owned by the John Muir Trust and therefore safe.

National Trust [of Scotland] would have been founded around 1895 and John Muir Trust 1985. JMT have a reputation which is well earned.

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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby Telo » Mon Feb 28, 2011 2:09 am

aquaplane wrote:I do flammability testing at work and we are getting lots of samples of wood pellets or sunflower/sugar beet pellets or other stuff that is waste from agriculture. They are looking at using it as fuel in coal fired stations, I can't see it being anything more than lip service to being green though, the volumes can't be there.


I agree with Nick that timber production for biomass is not, perhaps, the best renewable energy source. But then, possums, what is? There is no one silver bullet, and the future will be how to efficiently manage dispersed generation, so biomass, in its many forms, will probably be part of the package.

Aquaplane's comment is interesting. More than twenty or so years ago, a cousin of mine was doing something similar in Yorkshire, Donnie as it happens, turning household waste into pellets for (as I recall, but...) a district heating system. Start ups are always costly, but each stage will bring technology benefits. England has a significant current problem with waste disposal, and my simplistic view is that biomass may be part of the solution.

Here's another suggested simplistic solution: timber is a good heat insulator, and quite pleasant as a household building material, so, perhaps, as land values increasingly become more significant than construction costs, timber houses may be a practical solution for CO2 absorption. A lot of housing from the 60s and 70s has already proven to have been disposable and replaceable. Decently joinered timber buildings last much longer than that, and if/when they start to degrade, then biomass them and build a new ones, imho. That should only be necessary, at worst, every 50 or so years or so, and probably much longer in practicality. This recyclable timber trade would help absorp CO2, people get some nice homes, and the hale clamjamfery ends up producing energy when biomassed in a proper cleantech manner. Long term Win-Win imho.

Personally, and while quite happy with my present home, I'd love to live a new well-constructed timber house. I don't know how construction costs would compare with conventional bricks and mortar, but, given the inceasing emphasis on the land value component, I'd be very surprised if the overall costs of timber build would be inordinately different; some prefabricated timber house projects seem to cost in pretty well, as far as I can see.

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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby Mark » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:05 am

Shard wrote:There is no one silver bullet,


Nuclear.

Admittedly with the worlds current population Plutonium will run out before long just like all other resources but until then it solves a lot of problems.

Except China has so much Coal that Nuclear makes no economic sense for them...

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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby Telo » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:23 am

Mark wrote:
Shard wrote:There is no one silver bullet,


Nuclear.


Perhaps, but that is politically ruled out in Scotland, at least for the time being.

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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby Mark » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:25 am

Shard wrote:
Mark wrote:Nuclear.


Perhaps, but that is politically ruled out in Scotland, at least for the time being.


Because it's so bloody cold up there, that Global Warming is considered worth encouraging! :-)

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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby Nick » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:26 am

Mark wrote:
Shard wrote:There is no one silver bullet,


Nuclear.


While on paper nuclear makes a lot of sense the problems building and commissioning the two new EPA reactors at Olikuto (Finland) and Flamanville (France) indicate that this is far from a 'silver bullet' or a quick fix. And while not wishing to raise pulp sci-fi fears of mutants living on poisoned planets we still do not really have a way of dealing with the residues that the majority - experts or otherwise - are truly happy with, although I am optimistic that given another ten or twenty years of European political stability and prosperity an acceptable solution will be found.

If the Scottish government's timescales are right and they can continue to bulldoze it all through then it may be that 7GW of offshore wind and tidal power with new interconnectors and smart meters will be in a position to come to the rescue long before the UK can get any new nuclear stations operational. If we were going to rely on a new generation of nuclear reactors as a stopgap for the next 25 years we should have started building them five years ago.

And - with no subsidies available and a commitment to meeting the decomissioning costs are there any private firms champing at the bit?
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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby Mark » Mon Feb 28, 2011 11:44 am

Nick wrote:while not wishing to raise pulp sci-fi fears of mutants living on poisoned planets we still do not really have a way of dealing with the residues that the majority - experts or otherwise - are truly happy with


Sorry, I didn't realize we did have a way of disposing of the residues of burning fossil fuels that we are happy with. :)

Nick wrote:If the Scottish government's timescales are right and they can continue to bulldoze it all through then it may be that 7GW of offshore wind and tidal power with new interconnectors and smart meters will be in a position to come to the rescue long before the UK can get any new nuclear stations operational. If we were going to rely on a new generation of nuclear reactors as a stopgap for the next 25 years we should have started building them five years ago.

And - with no subsidies available and a commitment to meeting the decomissioning costs are there any private firms champing at the bit?


I think you're allowing yourself to get somewhat getting bogged down in detail. Problem: Carbon output is going to make the planet less habitable for humans in the fairly short term. Solution: Nuclear.

Nuclear may have other (less significant) drawbacks but it will work until we run out of plutonium.

I suspect when lights start going out, petrol becomes unaffordable and gas becomes really pricey squeamishness over nuclear will evaporate.

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Re: Renewables North of the Border...

Postby Nick » Mon Feb 28, 2011 12:05 pm

Mark wrote:I think you're allowing yourself to get somewhat getting bogged down in detail. Problem: Carbon output is going to make the planet less habitable for humans in the fairly short term. Solution: Nuclear.

Nuclear may have other (less significant) drawbacks but it will work until we run out of plutonium.

I suspect when lights start going out, petrol becomes unaffordable and gas becomes really pricey squeamishness over nuclear will evaporate.

Yes, and by then it will be too late to avoid a decade of misery. Nuclear power stations don't come in a box from Argos. That was the main point of my post, and it is hardly a detail. Look up Olikuto and Flamanville and read those tales of woe, and then tell me if you think we can build a new generation of nuclear stations from outline approval to fully operational in less than ten years.

Detail is what interests me, which is why I set up the Scots Renewables site. If people here are interested and would like to comment on some of the blog posts made to date it would be appreciated - a Wordpress site with no comments always looks a bit sad :violin:

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