Wednesday 28 October 2015

Storing The Wind

Would storing wind power sort out the intermittency problem ?

One of the solutions offered for wind intermittency is storage. Let's take the recent calm spell, which was interspersed with very high winds, to see if storing wind would balance out the variances and lead to a more stable predictable electricity supply.

Let's remind ourselves of what the recent wind output looked like (Figure 1) :

Figure 1: Raw wind power which is what we have at present

We can see from the 23rd to 30th September, there was some very high wind output, and again at 4th till 7th October. This was interspersed with a very calm spell lasting a couple of days. After the 4th, there was a long period of poor winds lasting about 12 days.

So what would happen if we balanced out this wind variation to provide more stable constant output ?


There are a number of storage options - pumped storage, battery or compressed air. For this study, I assume a 500MW storage device is built and 1MW of stored power produces 1MW output when needed at all times. As far as I know, only pumped storage can provide this type of reliable storage. My understanding is that a battery produces less output when it's stored power is running low than it does at full charge i.e. the 1MW you put in does not produce 1MW 20 days later.

The other assumption made is that once wind power goes above 500MW, the surplus power is stored. When wind goes below 500MW, the storage device makes up the difference to bring output back to 500MW. Only wind power is stored.


In a perfect world, this would result in a constant wind plus storage output of 500MW. However, as you can see below (Figure 2), there is a blip in the storage output at around 3 days in on the 25th September. But output really hits a brick wall on the 1st October, at 9 days in.

Figure 2: Output from a storage unit powered solely from wind

At this point, there is a sudden drop in power from 500MW to 335MW and then to 11MW that lasts a full day as stored power runs out. Then we get reliable output for the next four days but the battery runs out again on the 6th October (two weeks in) and we are once again at the mercy of the wind. At one point it reaches 5MW. This lull in wind and storage power lasts for 12 days.

On the 18th we get good winds again and the battery begins re-charging but the problem is you can't use this power when it was most needed i.e. a couple of weeks prior. 

Figure 3 shows the contribution of the wind plus storage unit towards demand. The storage unit actually comprises 2,500MW of wind and 500MW storage, so 3,000MW in total. For 3,000MW of capacity, as you can see, you only get very small amounts of power out - about one seventh or 15% of peak demand - when the unit is running at full output i.e. 500MW. This compares very badly with gas powered stations (or indeed coal, biomass or any dispatchable plant) which could power 85% of peak demand for the same amounts of capacity.

Figure 3: Contribution from the storage unit towards demand

To add further insult to injury, you still get unreliable and intermittent amounts of power for large portions of the month - 43% of the time in this scenario. So we are back to square 1. 


Storage doesn't work. There are simply too many calm days to make it a reliable worthwhile solution. It's no wonder the Spirit of Ireland proposal, now dropped, intended to use grid power to move water uphill, rather than raw wind power.

Did We Really Save the Ozone Layer?

The main objection I have to scientific predictions is that they are rarely checked 20 or 30 years later for their accuracy and nobody is ever held to account for a failed prediction and the costs incurred by society as a direct result of that prediction.

As humans we know a lot less about our climate than what we know. The doomsday threat from CFC's has now shifted to CO2 and when the "threat" from that is over it will have moved on to something else. The one constancy is that scientists will rarely admit their mistakes.

Reblogged from Whats Up With That

Did We Really Save the Ozone Layer?

Guest essay by Steve Goreham

Another year has passed and that stubborn Ozone Hole over Antarctica refuses to go away. Data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) shows that the Ozone Hole for the fall maximum season grew 22 percent from 2014 to 2015. World consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances has been reduced to zero over the last three decades, but the Ozone Hole is as large as ever. Did humans really save the ozone layer?
In 1974, Dr. Mario Molina and Dr. Sherwood Roland of the University of Californiapublished a paper asserting that chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) pollution from industry was destroying the ozone layer in Earth’s stratosphere. CFCs were gases used in hair spray, refrigerators, and insulating foams. The ozone layer is a layer of atmosphere located between 6 and 25 miles above the Earth’s surface.
The theory of Molina and Roland postulated that human-produced CFCs migrate upward through the atmosphere to the stratosphere, where ultraviolet radiation breaks down CFC molecules, releasing chlorine atoms. Chlorine then reacts as a catalyst to break down ozone molecules into oxygen, reducing the ozone concentration. The more CFCs used, the greater the destruction of the ozone layer, according to the theory.
In 1983, three researchers from the British Antarctic Survey discovered at thinning of the ozone layer over Antarctica, which became known as the Ozone Hole. Their observations appeared to confirm the theory of Molina and Roland. Molina and Roland were awarded a Noble Prize in chemistry in 1995 for their work.
The Ozone Layer is known to block ultraviolet rays, shielding the surface of Earth from high-energy radiation. Scientists were concerned that degradation of the ozone layer would increase rates of skin cancer and cataracts and cause immune system problems in humans. Former Vice President Al Gore’s 1992 book claimed that hunters reported finding blind rabbits in Patagonia and that fishermen were catching blind fish due to human destruction of the ozone layer, but this has not been confirmed.
In an effort to save the ozone layer, 29 nations and the European Community signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in September of 1987. Over the next decade, the Protocol was universally signed by 197 nations, agreeing to ban the use of CFCs. Since 1986, world consumption of Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) isdown more than 99 percent, effectively reaching zero by 2010.
The Montreal Protocol has been hailed as an international success in resolving a major environmental issue. The Protocol has been praised as an example to follow for elimination of greenhouse gas emissions in the fight to halt global warming. But despite the elimination of CFCs, the Ozone Hole remains as large as ever.
During September to October, just after the Antarctic winter, the Ozone Hole is the largest for each year. NASA recently reported that from September 7 through October 13, 2015, the Ozone Hole reached a mean area of 25.6 million kilometers, the largest area since 2006 and the fourth largest since measurements began in 1979. The hole remains large, despite the fact that world ODS consumption all but disappeared about a decade ago.

Scientists are mixed on when the stubborn Ozone Hole will disappear. NASA recentlyannounced that the hole will be half-closed by 2020. Others forecast that it will not begin to disappear until 2040 or later. But the longer the hole persists, the greater the likelihood that the ozone layer is dominated by natural factors, not human CFC emissions.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

‘The Cloud’ Bytes Back - how Data Centres will cost Ireland dearly

Guest Post By David Hughes B. Arch CPMA, RIAI RIBA 

Cloud computing is now part of everyday life. From streaming services such as Spotify and Netflix to search engines and email from companies like Google and Yahoo to online storage services like DropBox… ‘The Cloud’ is both everywhere and yet seemingly invisible.

However in spite of its name, ‘The Cloud’ has some very earth bound needs and truly massive energy requirements. In fact, somewhat aptly, ‘The Cloud’ has overtaken world aviation in terms of its overall energy demand. 

These days Ireland seems to be a preferred location for the cloud’s physical footprint - data centres. These data centres will not simply serve Ireland’s data needs but the needs of all of Europe and beyond. This multiplies their energy impact on Ireland enormously and when you analyse the consequences, it is hard to see any silver lining.

To give an example Apple are seeking permission for a 240MW data centre in Athenry Co. Galway, which will create up to 215 jobs. The electricity consumption of this data centre will be the same as 420,000 Irish homes. This is ¼ of all Irish homes or every single house in Dublin City, Dun Laoghaire, Fingal and South County Dublin combined. Basically, the electricity needs of 1 Million people.

Electricity is a very expensive and capital-intensive form of energy. For every kWh coming out of a socket 2.7 kWh of Primary energy needs to be inputted at source. The transmission and distribution infrastructure or ‘grid’ is also massively expensive. This cost is ‘socialised’ and can account for 75% of a domestic electricity bill.

Cost Benefit Analysis?

As a society we may accept such costs to provide a benefit to 420,000 homes but is it really justifiable to socialise the same demand again for only 215 jobs? And Apple is only but one data centre.

Facebook’s 108MW centre will only create 40 jobs and use the energy of 180,000 homes.

In fact in total 1,000MW of data centres are projected for Ireland so on a pro rata basis will use the same energy demand as every home in Ireland.

40% Renewable Commitment.

In 2009 Ireland made a commitment to generate 40% of electricity from renewables. If we add this level of extra demand this makes that target much harder to achieve.

Last year the EPA stated that in relation to our 20:20:20 targets, we are only likely to achieve reductions of between 5% and 12% instead of the full 20% required. The SEAI calculates that the fine for this could be €1.6 Billion per annum.

The full 1,000MW of data centres could add 37% to overall electricity demand and will make our renewable targets proportionally harder to reach, the fines even higher again and last but not least will undo all of the CO2 savings to date.

In the end, trying to chase this growing demand from data centres, will spawn further Wind Farms, Pylons and Transmission lines and will leave the Irish with a second  ‘Universal Social Charge’ this time for either paying an EU fine or paying for the ‘grid’ or both.

Time for a Debate.

Given these figures it’s time for a debate on ‘The Cloud’ in Ireland. Are the numbers of jobs created in anyway justified in terms of its energy demands?

The responsibility seems to fall between a myriad of different agencies and departments pursuing different agendas but each with a focus too narrow to look at the bigger picture. As a result to date, data centres have slipped through the net unchallenged.

We are at a cross roads in terms of whether we follow a route of demand reduction or increase, however ‘The Cloud’ could create the perfect storm and sink Ireland into decades of legacy costs for very expensive and unnecessary electrical infrastructure, which could be just as painful as paying back the inflated property prices that lead to the bank bailout.

Sunday 25 October 2015

Homer Simpson on Danish Wind Power

I have to admit, Homer Simpson was ahead of the game when it came to spotting the myths of Danish wind power...

Thursday 22 October 2015

Little Evidence That Wind Reduces CO2 Emissions

Minister admits Ireland won't meet it's 2020 Emission Targets

Minister for Environment Alan Kelly has said it is no secret that Ireland is not going to meet the EU greenhouse emissions targets for 2020. He said that there was understanding in the EU that Ireland had come through a tough recession and that should be recognised in the targets set for each State after the overall target has been ratified. He said capital investment to adapt and mitigate was now beginning at a level that was required. He said this could not happen when times were tough. - Minister For Environment, October 2015.
A significant component of the Government's strategy for reducing emissions is to pepper the countryside with wind farms. The assumption that they contribute to lower emissions is backed up by little, if any, evidence.

The below graph shows little or no correlation between installed wind and solar and CO2 Reduction :

What did cause a reduction in emissions was the economic recession in 2008. In the below graph, it is self evident, that the resultant reduction in energy consumption (a direct consequence of the economic recession), brought about a reduction in emissions. The PIIGS countries (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain) had their combined energy consumption reduced by 15% between 2007 and 2014 causing a 30% drop in emissions :

So the Minister is wrong on both counts - 1) installing more wind farms will not reduce emissions and 2) the economic recession, rather than acting as a barrier to emissions reduction, actually brought about the most significant reduction in emissions for many a year.


Euan Mearns and Roger Andrews - Energy Matters Website

Poor winds see wind farms make losses

Bad news for wind farm investors - poor winds in the past month see wind farms make losses

The weather for the past 30 days was characterized by quite a lot of high pressure activity, dry weather and low winds. Total output for wind farms in the Republic of Ireland for this period was 280,329 MWhrs. Data from SEM-O for the year 2013/14 shows that wind farms earned € 83 per MWhr and had costs (including depreciation) of € 24.9 million per month.

This means when one does the maths, wind farms suffered a loss of € 1.6 million over the past 30 days.  Bad news for investors and the green energy revolution.

With a couple more months like this, we could be seeing, as Colm McCarthy once predicted, a NAMA for windfarms.


SEM COMMITTEE Generator Financial Performance in the Single Electricity Market (SEM) 19th December 2014

Eirgrid Smart Grid website

Wednesday 21 October 2015

The Myth of Denmark as a self sufficient renewables success

“When you see the wind blowing in your neighbourhood and the turbines moving, you know that you are making money, which is great incentive to support wind power,” Mortensen observes, adding that polls show around 90 per cent of Danes are in favour of increasing wind energy production.

The outcomes to date are impressive. Denmark is now generating close to 40 per cent of its annual electricity needs from wind and on some days production reaches as high as 120 per cent of needs. An efficient market exchange operates with its neighbours in Germany, Norway and Sweden to take advantage of fluctuating supply and demand, as dictated by weather conditions. - Irish Times, October 2015

Much has been made of Denmark in the Irish media of late and indeed by politicians who are holding it up as an example for Ireland to follow in terms of wind energy.

Unfortunately, much spin comes out of Denmark, which coincidentally sells alot of wind turbines.

Danish Wind Subsidy Scheme Vs Irish Wind Subsidy Scheme -
why the Irish wind industry should be careful for what they wish for

The subsidy scheme for wind is slightly different there :

A price supplement is provided of DKK 0.25/kWh for the sum of electricity generation for6,600 full load hours and for electricity generation of 5.6 MWh per m2 rotor area. The pricesupplement is reduced for each DKK 0.01 the market price of electricity exceeds DKK0.33/kWh nominally, and, thus, the supplement altogether lapses, if the electricity pricereaches a cap of DKK 0.58/kWh or more in current prices 

This works out at a subsidy of €30/ Mwh on top of the market price, but once the market price goes above € 40/MWh there is a reduction in subsidy, with no subsidy at all once the market price hits
€ 80/MWh. Aswell, this subsidy only applies to 6,600 hours of operation i.e. 75% of the year. After this, the wind farm receives the prevailing market price in the region like everyone else. As a result, it is not uncommon for wind farms to shut down once the subsidy runs out as they don't receive enough from the market to cover their costs :

 Now owners of wind turbines complain that spot prices do not even cover maintenance cost - PF Bach, Denmark 2015

Somehow I can't see Ireland adopting the Danish subsidy scheme, yet, Ireland is keen to copy everything else from Denmark in terms of wind integration.

Let's take a look, step by step, at the reality of Denmark's grid operation in 2015:

  1. Denmark has 3.5GW of onshore wind, around 1GW more than Ireland. On top of this they have 1.2GW of offshore giving a total of 4.7GW, compared to Ireland's 2.5GW. 
  2. Nearly 40% of the electricity mix was from wind in 2014. Strong interconnections was the main factor behind this achievement. However, this figure includes the quite high amounts of wind that is exported so the amount of wind energy actually consumed in Denmark would be less than this figure in reality.
  3. Denmark has eight interconnectors compared to Ireland's two.
  4. There are many more interconnectors planned in Denmark. It is envisaged that these will make up for the shortfall in dispatchable capacity. Ireland has a surplus of dispatchable capacity. 
  5. Denmark is heavily reliant on CHP for dispatchable plant which is declining meaning that Denmark will no longer be self-sufficient in a few years. By 2018, it will be heavily reliant on expensive imports through interconnectors. The reality is that Denmark is far from the "self sufficient renewable success" portrayed by the media here in Ireland. If Denmark had not access to the unique Nordic system, they would have to build more power stations, like the Germans, English and Dutch. 
  6. Export to import exchanges can change from 60% export to 75% import in the space of half a day (such as 9th July 2015)
  7. It is widely assumed that export prices are practically Zero while import prices are very high. Hence, why exporting wind power does not pay (unless you find a sucker willing to pay the subsidy). 
  8. 99% of (their neighbour) Norway's power comes from Hydro. This can be ramped up and down at the touch of a button, without losses in efficiency and therefore is perfect for back up for wind energy. But it is very expensive and as per point 7, the Norwegians regularly fleece the Danes for using it.  Ireland has very little hydro and neither does the UK or France. Gas turbines, by contrast, are not designed to run on low operation levels during high periods of wind, Nuclear plant are designed to run at baseload i.e. constant output. So the Danes are in a unique position viz a viz their wind generation and access to substantial amounts of hydro power. Ireland is not comparable in any way whatsoever.
  9. Denmark has the highest electricity prices in the EU. Not surprising, considering the above.
Hydro dam in Norway

Sources : 

Friday 16 October 2015

Irish Academy of Engineering call for wind farms to pay for associated grid and system costs

The Academy of Engineering recommends that the new renewable support scheme for wind generation should :

  • Reset REFIT reference prices for new developments, undertaken post 2015, to the levels originally set for 2004, to reflect the fall in materials and financing costs 
  • Remove CPI indexation from those technologies which are essentially fixed cost, in the case of new developments 
  • Remove the Balancing Price paid to suppliers of renewable generation, as there is now no justification for such a payment, particularly following the completion of the EastWest Interconnector 
  • Remove access to system marginal prices, when those are higher than REFIT provisions, in the case of both existing and new developments, as payments in this case are both unjustified and are likely to increase significantly, as wind penetration increases. It is inappropriate that wind generators benefit from the system problems caused by increasing wind farm penetration. 
  • Require that new renewable electricity developments contribute to the full cost of associated network reinforcements, in proportion to the share of additional capacity required for their development. This will help concentrate development in areas with existing network capacity and thus minimise the requirement for highly controversial new overhead lines. 
  • Given that Ireland has substantially more onshore wind generation potential than can ever be exploited there is in Ireland’s case no justification for introducing a separate and higher pricing regime for offshore wind. Thus the Academy supports the present position of not differentiating between onshore and offshore wind.

A Celebration of Carbon Dioxide

The below is required reading for anyone who thinks they know anything about climate change or global warming or the need for de-carbonisation (It urgently needs to be taught in schools)

Health Warning: if your knowledge about climate change comes from solely reading The Irish Times, you may be in for a nasty shock.

It was written by a founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Ireland's air quality is good but particulate matter above WHO Guidelines

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have issued a report which shows that Ireland's air quality is good relative to EU standards but that particulate matter levels are above World Health Organisation (WHO) Guidelines.

The culprit is not our power plants - which are now mostly gas powered - but our home heating and transport sectors.

  • Burning of solid fuel and emissions from vehicle exhausts remain the main threats to air quality in Ireland - EPA, Air Quality in Ireland 2014

So we have on the one hand, a Government spending billions of our money because of their obsession with de-carbonizing our very clean power stations and on the other hand, a Government organisation pointing the finger of blame (quite rightly) for pollution at our transport and heating sectors.

It is like a surgeon operating on a patient's stomach to mend their broken leg.

The full EPA report can be accessed here :

For a complete history of Ireland's transition to a largely pollution-free power generation system, Pat Swords has written an excellent document here :

Clean Energy - What it is and what we are paying for ?

Monday 12 October 2015

Analysis by Dr Fred Udo challenges accuracy of SEAI report

The reduction of CO2 emissions by Irish wind energy

Last year, SEAI issued a (revised) report on savings in the Irish system due to wind for 2012. I pointed out in a previous post that some of the assumptions they used resulted in greater CO2 savings than would have been the case in reality.

Dr Fred Udo has done an excellent analysis on this report, using more valid assumptions than the ones used in the SEAI report. He concludes that :

  1. SEAI admits there is increased fuel use due to the insertion of wind power in the grid.
  2. The authors try to minimize the efficiency losses by inflating the use of OCGT in the reference case.
  3. The CO2 calculation used in the PLEXOS model (used by both SEAI and Eirgrid) produces too low CO2 intensities, hence even the 30% loss found in the corrected calculation is too low.
  4. Corrected for self-energy (the energy required to build a new generation system around wind) we find a loss of 40% (from SEAI's calculated savings) for 15,3% wind penetration.

Dr Udo makes the distinction between a system with lots of hydro, like Denmark, and one without. Hydro is an efficient back up for wind as it can be turned on and off instantly, while gas generation loses its efficiency with increased amounts of intermittent wind. Yet, the Irish government continue to draw comparisons between Ireland and Denmark.

The full report can be read here :

Hydropower - how environmentally friendly is it ?

A Dam in the USA blocks the upstream and downstream movement of fish. Here, sturgeon congregate at the base of a dam that is preventing them from swimming upstream to spawn (Photo by USFWS)

Many green campaigners would have us believe that hydro power is easy on the environment but just how environmentally friendly is it ?

Amy Kober has written a thought provoking article on it :
If hydropower is not done right, it can be destructive for rivers and the fish and wildlife that depend on them. It damages natural habitat and prevents fish from reaching spawning grounds. It can dry up entire stretches of river. It’s the only renewable energy source that drives species toward extinction.

One could argue that wind turbines and solar panels could drive certain bird species towards extinction. There are environmental drawbacks with most renewable technologies just like there are with most conventional generation technologies i.e. there are no easy lunches. 

In Ireland, our main hydro plant is Ardnacrusha operated by ESB. According to Dr William O'Connor, just 500 salmon passed through the fish pass there in 2013. I fully agree with him when he states that :

It is a national disgrace that salmon escapement through the Shannon dams has fallen so low, when measured by successes on other European Rivers with many more problems than the River Shannon has (i.e. Rhine, Thames, and Seine). There should and can be salmon in the upper Shannon.
Personally, I would not mind paying the PSO Levy if it went to compensate ESB for curtailing generation during times of peak upstream Salmon migration. Sadly, the PSO is going to less efficient and reliable sources, while salmon numbers in the Shannon continue to dwindle.

Saturday 10 October 2015

Ireland's economic recovery - are we not missing something here ?

Recovery is underway in earnest, of that there is no doubt. Many more people are at work than when the crisis was at its worst. But it is as well to recognise that the public finances remain constrained. Huge debts assumed to fund large budget deficits and rescue the banks must be repaid. This is the backdrop against which all fiscal promises must be assessed during the election - Irish Times, 8th October 2015.

But, apart from the obvious large debt, isn't there another more pressing problem facing Ireland in the coming years. Minister for Jobs and Enterprise, Richard Bruton, spelled it out back in February, but nobody in the media seemed to pick up on it :

“Unfortunately, due to a cost base which is significantly out of line with competitor countries, it appears likely that the company will proceed [with re-locating to Poland],” he said in a statement today.

Costs for business are far too high in Ireland, and energy costs are contributing to this. As ESB and economist Colm McCarthy have pointed out, the Irish government are locking the country into high energy costs for decades. We have a situation where the design of the electricity grid has to be completely overhauled to facilitate large amounts of intermittent wind (with the cost picked up by the consumer not the wind industry) and where low gas prices cannot be passed on to the consumer. 

Moreover, the Exchequer is more heavily reliant these days on income tax receipts than previously. This imposes its own limitations, although universal social charge cuts will be centrepiece of the budget next Tuesday and further cuts to come will be signalled. Take note, however, that fiscal projections underpinning the 2016 plan assume another 47,000 jobs will be created on top of some 53,000 new jobs this year.

Low costs for business are essential for job creation and indeed preventing job losses. If the jobs cant be created or even worse, if more industry moves out, then the fiscal projections underpinning economic recovery fall asunder. Income tax receipts fall, welfare costs go up - add in the debt and we will be in dire straits.

Don't be surprised if in the coming months you see shocked politicians expressing their sympathy to those made redundant and shocked media reports examining how and why such a large company could leave Ireland during its "recovery".

Shell Corrib gets licence from EPA

The Environmental Protection Agenct (EPA) have granted Shell an Industrial Emissions Licence, leaving it in the hands now of Minister White to allow gas production to go ahead at the Corrib gas field.

This is probably the most significant piece of energy infrastructure in Ireland's history with potential to provide up to 60% of our gas needs at peak production. This will mean less reliance on UK, Norway and Dutch gas.

There will be 50MW of gas turbines on site to compress the gas for export to the gas distribution network.

From reading the 12 conditions attached to the licence, it appears that most of the local and environmental concerns have been mitigated to some extent.

One can see the value of its product from the very fact that it never attracted a subsidized price, unlike wind. It will fight it out in the tough electricity (and energy) markets, after capital investments of over a billion euros in the plant, without any subsidy or guaranteed price.  

The future of power generation in Northern Ireland - Part 3

Will the North South interconnector resolve the security of supply problem in Northern Ireland?

In 2009 the international engineering company Poyry completed an extensive engineering study that included over 20,000 hours of technical effort entitled: “Impact of intermittency: How wind variability could change the shape of the British and Irish electricity markets”. As the press release concluded:

  • As far as investment is concerned, the drivers for new thermal plant are not encouraging. According to Pöyry, such plants will have to operate at low and highly uncertain loads and, under current market arrangements, the likely returns do not appear good.

  • The report says: “If significant wind energy is achieved, along the lines required by the 2020 renewable targets, we predict power stations which are built now will face much more uncertain revenues in the future. For example, any generation built before 2016 to cover closure, under emission regulations, of existing coal-fired power stations, would face a volatile future, uncertain to the point that plant may only operate for a few hours one year and then hundreds of hours the next year.”

  • And with the level of wind energy envisaged on the system by 2030, the variation in prices will be extreme. There will be periods of negative prices and very short periods with prices at almost £8000/MWh.

Note: The latter price is some two hundred times what is currently typically achieved in the market place for power supply to the grid. Both Eirgrid and National Grid, as steering committee members, participated in the above study by Poyry.

There is no doubt that Johnathan Swift of Gulliver’s Travels fame would have recognised this for what it is, outright stupidity. However, he was equally adept at putting it: “It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”. The lack of thought and analysis to justify this renewable programme, not least that analysis, which was legally required but never completed, is simply astounding. Taking away some 40% of the electricity market from reliable dispatchable power plants and handing it over to unreliable intermittent wind turbines, means that those dispatchable power plants no longer get the run times they used to and when they are running, it is often in a highly inefficient stop / start mode to balance the intermittent wind energy input to the grid. So a good solid business venture becomes a lousy business and it makes absolutely no sense, to invest in new infrastructure in a jurisdiction, which is pursuing such an energy policy.

Hence the reason why AES is simply not interested in completing the DeNOx upgrade to Kilroot or investing in new generation capacity to replace Ballylumford B. The fact that decisions have been taken by both administrations, as documented in the Eirgrid Planning Report Volume 2A Section 4.2.4 ‘The Position of the Governments and Regulatory Authorities’, to build the North South Interconnector and associated wind energy developments, simply means that Northern Ireland is now off limits for investment in replacement conventional generation.

This can actually be seen in Volume 3B Chapter 4 Transmission andTechnology Alternatives Section ‘Potential Alternative: New Conventional Generation in Northern Ireland’:

  • 30 One measure to reduce the impact of the transmission capacity restrictions described could be to build further generation in Northern Ireland.

  • 31 It is conceivable that a new conventional generation plant constructed in Northern Ireland would improve security of supply issues in the medium term; however, it must be recognised that investment in new generation is at the discretion of independent commercial ventures, and market forces have not produced any proposal for new conventional generation to date.

  • 32 Enforcing the construction of a new power station to improve security of supply in Northern Ireland could not be achieved without creating fundamental distortions in the SEM. Such distortions would, in their turn, have a consequential adverse impact on other existing generators, further jeopardising future investment in generation.

 The above statement is disingenuous to say the least. The fact is that building a replacement power station for existing dispatchable capacity, which will no longer be available, is a perfectible viable alternative to the North South Interconnector, which in practice is not being realised, because of decisions already taken at Government level to economically ‘kill it’ as a viable option. If we go back to Section 3.2 and the Maastricht Recommendations, then to re-quote:

  • 80. “When all options are open” may be read as a time when any option could still be chosen as the preferred option. Some examples of situations when all options might no longer be considered open could include:
    • When a public announcement of a preferred option has been made even though the plan or programme has not yet been adopted;
    • When a formal decision on the issue has been taken by a public body (including representative bodies like local, regional or national parliaments);
    • When a decision maker has promised to constituents that they will pursue or avoid particular options;
    • When a public authority has concluded contracts or agreements with private parties related to a decision subject to the Convention which would have the effect of foreclosing options prior to meaningful input from the public - (See the findings of the Compliance Committee on communication ACCC/C/2008/24 concerning compliance by Spain (ECE/MP.PP/C.1/2009/8/Add.1), para. 119 (a) (iii).

An examination of the Eirgrid Planning Report Volume 2A Section 4.2.4 ‘The Position of the Governments and Regulatory Authorities’ is thus revealing within the context above.

  • In March 2006, the Director of Energy Networks at the Commission for Energy Regulation confirmed in writing to the then Head of Grid Development and Commercial at ESB National Grid (now EirGrid) that:

    • The Commission [for Energy Regulation] and the NIAER have considered the option of constructing either a 275 kV or a higher capacity 400 kV line. Both regulators have decided that the additional cost associated with the 400 kV line is justified on the basis of both its higher energy transfer capability and its ability to be upgraded in the long run more practically and economically. Accordingly, the Commission hereby approves a standard of 400 kV for the additional Interconnector line.

  • This letter of confirmation from the CER thus set the context for developing a higher capacity additional interconnector between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

What is clear is that public authorities are entering into agreements with associated public funding arrangements, which have the deliberate intent of closing off alternatives and doing so in a manner, which bypasses the whole procedures of public participation related to such large and obtrusive infrastructural projects.

However, to return to the issue of ‘security of supply’, it is clear that the future direction proposed by this Eirgrid project will lead to the situation in the near future, such that Northern Ireland will only have two remaining dispatchable power stations of note, namely those at Coolkeeragh and Ballylumford C. Is this significant? As a grid engineer will explain, power stations were traditionally built close to where the actual power demand was required, not just to reduce the extent of the transmission network and associated losses, but also to assist in maintaining grid stability. In other words you can transmit power (electrons) on long transmission lines, but you can’t maintain the stability at the end of them where the point of use is. Therefore to maintain grid stability, imbalances and disturbances in smaller grids have to be compensated for, both locally and immediately. This is completed by relying on power generation units, which must store enough kinetic energy and reactive power to compensate the power imbalance; in simply terms they have rotating inertia. In more complex terms it can be explained by the below:

  • Voltage is a measured physical quantity, which fluctuates as a function of the network state, i.e. grid topology, generation, load, transmission lines and transformers. For network security reasons, i.e. compatibility with the rating of equipment, the supply of customers within the contractual ranges of voltage, plus the power system’s voltage stability regarding disturbances, a voltage control is needed to maintain voltage deviations within predetermined ranges.
    • Voltage levels are maintained by reactive power, assured by different facilities: depending on their operational state, all generators, loads, lines and transformers are either reactive power consumers or producers. Reactive power cannot be transmitted over long distances efficiently, and voltage control is thus a regional problem.

    • Primary voltage control is implemented by the voltage regulators of generating units. These regulators initiate a variation in the excitation of generators, and reactive power is adjusted using automatic devices with a time response of less than a few seconds. Secondary or tertiary voltage controls are implemented within a time period that can range up to several minutes, using either automatic control devices within a given zone of voltage control, or by the TSO’s manual action to activate reactive compensation equipment.

    A good example is Dublin, for which it is eminently possible to transmit all the power it requires (in terms of electrons) from power stations located in the South and South West of the country, plus supplemented by power transmission from the UK over the new East West Interconnector linking the North of Dublin to Wales. However, this is never done, at least two power stations in the Dublin area must be kept running at all times to maintain grid security – the rotating inertia of their large generator sets is essential to maintain grid stability in the surrounding area.

    So where does this leave the future position of Northern Ireland; only two remaining power stations of note, of which one could trip or be off-line for maintenance, while the grid is full of highly intermittent wind energy rapidly varying their output, as the wind rises and falls. Doesn’t take a genius to figure that one out, but this is what Eirgrid are actually selling in their planning documentation as ‘Security of Supply’.

    Note: The term brownout comes from the dimming experienced by lighting when the voltage sags. A voltage reduction may be an effect of disruption of an electrical grid, or may occasionally be imposed in an effort to reduce load and prevent a power outage, known as a blackout. As the Institute of Directors in Northern Ireland put it in their May 2014 press release:

    • Security of supply

    • It has been many decades since ‘security of supply’ has been the primary concern in relation to our electricity grid.

    • The recent focus has been on the cost of electricity and on fuel poverty, masking the serious issues around the current stability of the Grid and the availability of adequate quantities of electricity at peak times of the day.

    • Even if the priority issues are appropriately addressed now, the lead-in time for the required infrastructure investment means that stability and supply issues will become even more acute in the short term.

    • Regrettably, timely decisions on improvements to our infrastructure have not been taken to date; as a result the impact will be untimely ‘brown-outs’ (short interruptions in supply) and potentially ‘black-outs’.

    • By the time the necessary decisions on infrastructure investment are eventually approved, significant costs will have accrued to these projects.

    • How NI plc tackles this problem is of hugely significant strategic importance yet it is not apparent that any co-ordinated approach is being taken.

    • The failure in decision making and prioritisation at the Northern Ireland governance level has not only led inevitably to more widespread security of supply issues, but ultimately to higher electricity prices than otherwise would have been necessary.

    • How is this manifesting itself?

    • These issues are already impacting on business expansion plans and jobs.

    • Brown-outs are happening now across the province - from the Ards Peninsula to North Antrim, from Castlewellan to Omagh.

    • Businesses are having to use generators to provide electricity where Grid supply is not available. (On-site generator supply is at least twice as expensive as Grid electricity, thereby affecting competitiveness).

    The only conclusion which one can draw from the above, that bad enough as it is now, the North South Interconnector and its associated wind farms are only going to make it worse.

Friday 9 October 2015

Eirgrid shelve part of Grid 25 pylon project

From The Irish Times :

Eirgrid has abandoned plans to build a €215 million network of pylons from Cork to Kildare to boost electricity supplies across the State.The semi-State company with responsibility for the national electricity grid said reduced demand for power means it no longer needs to build a new overhead network or install underground cables, which would have cost more than €643 million.Instead, it plans to boost its existing network by retrofitting pylons and electricity substations with a technology known as “series compensation” which allows more power to flow through the lines, and will cost less than €157 million.

Back in July, Irish Energy Blog highlighted the fact that the original demand projections for Grid 25 had not materialized :

In normal economic projections for projects, if the projections don't materialize, then the project is dropped or at least scaled down.

 Well it looks like Eirgrid have now changed their tune and realized that their original project was based on over-estimated demand :

The pylons proposal was developed in 2008 at a time of “Celtic Tiger demands for power” which were no longer there, Eirgrid chief executive Fintan Slye said.

Thursday 8 October 2015

Government sell Aer Lingus stake to fund energy infrastructure not needed

Irish Government in giant waste of taxpayer's money shocker 

I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer - Brendan Behan, Irish writer

In the Government's recent Capital Investment Plan 2016 - 2021, it is stated that the funding for energy infrastructure such as the North South Interconnector will come from the sale of the State's share in airliner, Aer Lingus :

In May of this year, Government decided to accept the offer for its remaining shareholding of AerLingus. Dáil Éireann approved the sale in July and proceeds from the sale are being used toestablish a new ‘Connectivity Fund’. The Fund is being established as a sub-portfolio of the IrelandStrategic Investment Fund (see above), and it will operate on a commercial basis, providingsupport for commercial investment projects with a connectivity theme, such as the developmentof ports and airports. It will also be open to providing support for projects that involve a widerdefinition of connectivity, including, for example, data connectivity (broadband, fibre optic cables,interconnectors, etc.) and energy connectivity(energy inter-connectors and other energy relatedprojects). These wider connectivity requirements are becoming increasingly important elements ofour core infrastructure. 
They correctly state that we have sufficient generation capacity but due to the Green cancer now widespread in Europe, we need to build more :

 Whilst overall generation capacity is sufficient for the economy into the medium term,the requirement to meet targets in the renewable energy area is driving demand for additional renewable energy capacity, especially wind, tomeet our 40 percent renewable electricity target.

Nearly six billion euros will be ringfenced to fund this infrastructure that is superfluous to Ireland's requirements. This could pay for Irish Water till 2021, with a couple of billion euros to spare to rehouse every single Irish disabled person who lives in run down accommodation seven times (HSE seeks €250m funding for disability homes).  But the Green Cancer Blob must be fed at all costs, even if that means giving up the State's longheld share in Aer Lingus. 

 There will be around €5¾ billion investedduring the course of the Capital Plan in energytransmission and distribution networks, renewable and conventional power generation, and smartmetering by ESB, Ervia (formerly Bord GáisÉireann), Bord na Móna, and EirGrid. The keyprojects to be delivered between now and 2021include: • North-South Transmission Line – to add asecond electricity interconnector betweenIreland and Northern Ireland • Smart Metering – to upgrade energy metersto allow consumers to monitor their energyuse • Grid Link and Grid West – to increase thegrid capacity and secure electricity supply tothe south and east of Ireland and the west ofIreland, respectively. 

Smart Meters will change consumer's habits with the end game being to eradicate daily peak electricity demand between 5pm and 8pm. Ireland inequality ? - you ain't seen anything yet. It will be so expensive to use electricity during these times that the poor will simple stop using it.  Instead, they will increasingly turn to take-aways to feed their families, increasing Ireland's already high levels of obesity.   Or, they will simply do without, increasing Ireland's child poverty rankings. It won't be the first nor indeed the last time that kids will be abused by the Irish State.

There have been plenty of protests against the set up of Irish Water but hardly any protest against this far more costly and needless plan. Unfortunately, socialists such as Clare Daly and Ruth Coppinger (who normally rail against inequality) seem to be in support of the Green Cancer , leaving very little political opposition to this.


Tuesday 6 October 2015

Aarhus Convention Committee confirm EU in breach of Aarhus Convention

The Aarhus Convention was designed to empower citizens to participate in environmental matters at the political level. It has three main pillars - public participation, access to information, and access to justice. Both the EU and Ireland have signed up in principal to its tenets, but in practice, implementation is sporadic and often arbitrary.

UNECE Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee (ACCC) perform an enforcement role of sorts, but their decisions are not binding. Instead, they try to encourage parties to the convention to comply at Meeting of the Parties.

In a recent complaint accepted by ACCC, the EU itself was found to be non compliant in relation to its plans for large energy infrastructure projects for Ireland (called PCIs) :

After taking into account the information received, the Committee re-confirmed its earlier determination of preliminary admissibility with respect to the allegations concerning article 7 of the Convention. 

Article 7 refers to public participation concerning plans and programmes relating to the environment. There are also allegations of breaches of Article 4, relating to access to information on the environment.

The EU now has till November to respond. Well done to Pat Swords and those involved for getting this far. One of the central tenets of the 2008 Lisbon Treaty was that the EU would :

consolidate and support democracy, the rule of law, human rights and the principles of international law;

 It sure has a lot more work to do..........

Monday 5 October 2015

Professor Richard Dawkins says wind turbines are not the solution to energy problems

For a while, I thought most scientists had lost the run of themselves and got carried away with green fairy tales but thankfully Richard Dawkins has shown he is still in full possession of his intellectual faculties.

Nuclear energy is one of the great inventions of science and Professor Dawkins clearly sees that the future is nuclear :

Saturday 3 October 2015

It's the year 2050 - Europe's Energy Union plunges Northern Europe into darkness

On the 3rd October, 2050, Ireland, the UK and France were collectively plunged into darkness as winds around Northern Europe stubbornly refused to blow.

No wind blowing all day in Ireland :

No wind blowing all day either in the UK :

And across the channel, France also sans vent for the whole day:

All three Governments are holding a joint candle lit meeting in Paris with renewable experts. The experts have advised that all 15 interconnectors, which connect all three countries, are working and in fine order, but that there is no electricity power to run through them. They also said that climate change had made the nice bright summer evenings shorter during Autumn which means the solar panels are not working either. But didnt we spend billions on Telsa storage units asks the French Prime Minister ? Yes, the experts say, but we used up all the stored power last night. Apparently, the wind wasn't blowing all week. And the wind forecast for next week is not looking good either.

The Irish Prime Minister then came up with a clever idea - can't we chop down some trees, he asked, and burn them for fuel like we did in the old days. The experts replied, this would work, but we don't have any oil for the chainsaws.   

There was then much debate about rolling back on the 2050 Fossil Fuel Free Europe plan and importing emergency supplies of oil from Russia. But, fearing a backlash from their Green Party coalition partners, this idea was soon dropped in favor of the lumberjack conscription plan where EU males, now all sitting at home with no work to go to, would chop down trees using conventional saws and axes. The Irish prime minister, Herr Enda Kenny, now 108, was much happy with himself for helping resolve this crisis - "Sure a bit of physical work never hurt anyone. It will stop them complaining of the cold".

However, he was soon disappointed to hear that his electric car and plane had run out of fuel and he would have to return to Ireland on horseback.