Sunday 28 September 2014

Slieve Rushen Wind Farm

The Slieve Rushen wind farm, formerly owned by the Quinn Group, was recently sold for £ 100 million to Platina Partners, a London based company. This is a 54MW wind farm in Fermanagh that sells electricity to Northern Ireland in the single electricity market.

In 2008, it was revamped with 18 new Vestas V90 wind turbines and its capacity factor has been over 30% ever since. This is not surprising since it is in one of the windiest locations in the country on top of Slieve Rushen mountain.  

Records from SEM-O show that it received € 10.7 million euros in 2012 from the market in energy and capacity payments. The accounts of the company (Mantlin Ltd) are available for download in the UK companies office. These show a turnover of £ 15.6m for 2012. This converts to about € 19.3m when using the average conversion rate during the year. This means that the company receives renewable obligation credits, levy exemption certificates and curtailment and constraint payments (payments from UK grid to stop producing power) in the region of € 8.5m in total. This is quite a vast sum for activities unrelated to the generation of electricity. However, accounts show that the wind farm would have made an operating loss of £3 million as opposed to an operating profit of £3.8 million without these sources of income.

There is one more notable thing that sticks out when you read the accounts. On Note number 7, it states that the company had no employees during the year. The wind industry makes lots of claims about the number of jobs it creates, but here is one of the largest wind farms in the country employing the grand sum total of Zero employees.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Two things you won't hear discussed at this weeks Climate Change Summit

As the 4x4s, SUVs and big jets roll in to New York for a Climate Change summit on Tuesday, two things will be placed firmly off the table as the biggest brains in the world decide how best to tackle the fact that Earth's climate changes.

1) Air travel - In the EU Directive 2009/28/EC, it stated that :
Some Member States have a large share of aviation in their gross final consumption of energy. In view of the current technological and regulatory constraints that prevent the commercial use of biofuels in aviation, it is appropriate to provide a partial exemption for such Member States, by excluding from the calculation of their gross final consumption of energy in national air transport, the amount by which they exceed one-and-a-half times the Community average gross final consumption of energy in aviation in 2005, as assessed by Eurostat, i.e. 6,18 %. Cyprus and Malta, due to their insular and peripheral character, rely on aviation as a mode of transport, which is essential for their citizens and their economy. As a result, Cyprus and Malta have a gross final consumption of energy in national air transport which is disproportionally high, i.e. more than three times the Community average in 2005, and are thus disproportionately affected by the current technological and regulatory constraints. For those Member States it is therefore appropriate to provide that the exemption should cover the amount by which they exceed the Community average gross final consumption of energy in aviation in 2005 as assessed by Eurostat, i.e. 4,12 %.

Apart from another statement about developing biofuels for use in airplanes, there is no other mention of the aviation industry and it's contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. It is the classic case of "business as usual" as Mary Robinson is so fond of saying. Last Sunday, I was in Malahide, Co.Dublin and counted 4 jumbo jets every 6 minutes flying over my head from about 5-6pm. Whatever savings have been made in our electricity systems may well be more than offset by this level of air traffic every day and night in Ireland.

Just because the EU exclude air travel from Member States energy consumption, doesn't actually mean that in reality this pollution disappears. While every excuse is made for the aviation industry, a simple suggestion could be made if climate change parties were genuinely interested in saving the planet :

An air traffic free day every week around Europe

We lived for thousands of years without any airplanes. Are we now that dependent on them that we cant do without them for one day a week? But of course the EU bureaucrats and the O'Learys and the Walshes of this world will cry "Economic devestation" and "job losses", but the simple fact is that renewable energy policies have and are crippling economies this very minute. Ireland has the 4th highest energy prices in Europe and UK are not far behind. Industry in Germany are on the brink of "jumping ship" and what is left of the manufacturing industry in the UK and Ireland are facing financial meltdown directly due to the cost of renewables and green taxes (See for example: € 250,000 hike in energy costs crippling Westmeath Employer As the Academy of Engineers pointed out recently, fossil fuels only make up 22% of electricity bills in Ireland and as renewables, like wind, have a low capacity credit, they will always and ever be an additional cost on energy bills, as thermal plant must still be paid for as normal. These energy policies are simply a transfer of wealth from householders and normal industry and businesses to "green" industry and shareholders / investors. So there are no gains to be made from green energy policies, just transfers.

So it's quite simple, if the planet is on the brink of armageddon, let's see an air traffic free day. What is so wrong with Mary Robinson travelling on a ferry one day a week?

2) A ban on high engine capacity motor vehicles. One big change in my lifetime occurred in about the early 2000s. Anyone in Ireland with extra disposable income, when faced with a choice between a normal family car and a 4x4 or high engine capacity vehicle began choosing the latter more frequently. Previously, 4x4s at any rate were used exclusively by farmers and horse breeders. It is now impossible to drive on any road in Ireland without meeting a high polluting vehicle. Again, one wonders, are all these juggernauts really necessary ? You need to follow the money trail, and it leads mostly back to Germany, where car companies and manufacturers are big donators to the political parties. 

Just like with wind energy, electric cars have basically expanded the car market, as opposed to displacing existing car models. And let's face it, consumer enthusiasm has been small. Its quite simple, if you want a product to really work, you must be able to compete effectively with the other products out there, and this has not really happened. And if the government is serious about pushing one product over another, then it should be helping to bring about the withdrawal of the other product from the marketplace. Why not restrict high engine capacity vehicles to those who really need them? This way, the economy can still function i.e farmers and horsebreeders can still go about their business, while everyone else will have to choose between a normal car or an electric car. So the other plus side of this (apart from the reduction in carbon dioxide) would be an increase in the uptake of electric cars as product variety diminishes. 

So one must ask themselves - are politicians and climate change disciples really serious about what they say or are they just hypocrites preaching and advocating a form of dark age medievalism for everyone while taking advantage of all the latest modern comforts themselves ?

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Are blackouts on the way in West Ireland ?

High risk to security of electricity supply in South West Ireland

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote on this blog about Unit 3 in Moneypoint coal power station in Clare. It was clear that this generator was been ramped up and down to accommodate large amounts of wind penetration in the system. The effects this ramping has on equipment designed to run at full load i.e on or near 100% output, are not made available but Eirgrid do publish weekly outage reports. Last week, on Saturday 13th September, Moneypoint 3 suffered a forced outage i.e it broke down unexpectedly, the same day that Moneypoint 1 was due to come back online (Itself suffering a forced outage a month ago). 

Also, on the same day and just across the Shannon River in Co.Kerry, a 243MW heavy fuel oil generator at Tarbert suffered a forced outage, as presumably it was brought in as reserve for the loss of Moneypoint 3.

As if this wasn't bad enough, there are two other plants in the South West region out of action for scheduled maintenance - Whitegate, a 444MW gas unit and Aghada a 258MW gas unit. So in total this is a loss of 1,500MW of generating capacity, roughly half of the thermal plant capacity in the region. There is of course some hydro and variable wind generation. 

In Eirgrid's Operational Constraints 2014 Report, they state that :

There must be at least one Moneypoint unit on load at all times Required to support the 400kV network.

So if the last Moneypoint unit breaks down at the present time, then the lights in the South West region may be going out....

Tuesday 9 September 2014

No Wind Day - September 9th, 2014

But the Wind is Always Blowing Somewhere ?

As I sit here typing away, wind generation is providing 50MW of power from about 2000MW of wind turbines. In the UK, it is providing 0.18GW or 180MW of power. Given that the UK has roughly 11GW of installed wind capacity, thats a tiny amount, 0.47 of a percent. In total, between the UK and Ireland, wind energy is generating  230MW from 130,000 MW of equipment. It was even worse earlier today when between 7am and 5pm (when demand was at its highest), Irish wind power fluctuated between 2MW and 5MW. At 11.34 am, total UK and Irish wind power was 162MW, a capacity factor of 0.1 %.

We can see from this that the two islands share the same anti-cyclonic weather conditions i.e. both islands experience the same calm conditions at the same time. If coal powered stations in UK and Ireland tended to trip off at the exact same time, then it would lead to catastrophic results for our economies as loss of crucial baseload plant at the same time would lead to extended power cuts. And if gas powered stations tended to act as one, then on days like today, there might not be a way of filling the gaps left by wind. Herein lies the problem of the current carbon reduction policies of both governments. Reserves of coal and gas are crucial if we want the lights to stay on. In fact, the Irish regulator requires that power stations maintain 5 days worth of fuel on site at all times. As gas is not easily stored, the current regulations allow gas powered stations to keep reserves of oil instead.

Today also sees the day where the East West Interconnector (EWIC) was switched off. Since 12pm last night, UK have been sending no power to us in Ireland (We usually import 400-450MW during the day). So Eirgrid had to make up for three shortfalls today - loss of the interconnector, loss of wind power and loss of back up reserve (which would have been used to meet the gap left by the interconnector).

I wonder if the loss of the EWIC is a sign of things to come as the UK struggles with the loss of two of its nuclear and coal plants. In fact, it is now dependent on its own interconnector imports - from France and Netherlands. Coal power was a close second to gas as a source of UK electricity generation today. The more things change........

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Aghada (AD2) Combined Cycle Power Station

Aghada (AD2) in County Cork is a 431MW Combined Cycle power station operated by ESB. The diagram below (Fig 1) shows how central it now is to power generation in the South West region since Ireland’s rush for wind energy. In 2009, 920MW of wind was installed. By the end of 2013, installed wind capacity was at around 1,772MW. This has resulted in more frequent ramping of this generator.

The second half of the month is the most suitable for comparative purposes. Back in 2009, the plant was ramped up to meet peak demand and then ramped down to exactly 50% load for extended periods - the threshold below which significant inefficiencies begin. It is well known in the industry that running a gas generator at below 50% load results in more fuel consumption and consequently, more CO2 emissions being emitted than if the plant were running at full load. But in 2013, the plant was used to accommodate even the smallest variances in wind generation, hence the sawtooth edge. De-ramping was to between 48% and 50%, teetering over the inefficiencies cliff. The rugged irregular edge of 2013 compared with the smooth fine edges of 2009 proves that wind is many more times variable than demand, contrary to what SEAI claimed in their recent report “Quantifying Ireland’s Fuel and CO2 emissions savings” (Wind generation variability in 2012 was less than electricity demand variability - Page 9 of SEAI Report )

Interestingly, this inefficiency threshold of 50% is the same as the threshold for non-synchronous wind penetration and interconnector imports, meaning that wind generation and imports can be accommodated in the system up until the point where they reach 50% of demand, without causing large scale thermal inefficiencies. So the question is, what will happen when Eirgrid try to integrate 75% wind penetration into the system as is being investigated under their DS3 Programme - a requirement that will be necessary to meet renewable targets. This could result in de-ramping of gas plants below even 30% load where fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are circa three times what they are at full load, thereby completely negating any fuel / emission savings due to wind energy. This situation would also be bad financially for gas plant operators as their plants would be consuming more fuel but receiving less from the market. Its doubtful that they would be allowed to close down though, which means more subsidies in the form of capacity and/or constraint payments.

The graphs below show Aghada (AD2) and two large Cork wind farms - Coomacheo and Boggeragh. Together these wind farms total 116MW. Fig 2 shows actual output while Fig 3 shows Aghada’s output adjusted to make the comparison easier. It can be seen that in the early and latter parts of the month gas generation was used to fill gaps in supply due to calm winds. According to Eirgrid, Aghada (AD2) had a 93% availabilty in December, so its shut down “cold” status during the middle parts of the month indicate displacement by wind and possibly coal. Fig 4 shows Moneypoint (MP3) and Aghada (AD2) lined up. The erratic profile of both generators is notable in the second half of the month, due to increased wind penetration in the system. Indeed, on 17th December, a new wind output record was set of 1,769 MW. Aghada’s “cold” status may also have been due to operational constraints in the Cork region, where the maximum thermal generation at any one time is restricted to 1,100 MW. (Eirgrid Operational Constraints, March 2014)