Solar panels in Sahara could boost renewable energy but damage the global climate – here’s why — Watts Up With That?

While the black surfaces of solar panels absorb most of the sunlight that reaches them, only a fraction (around 15%) of that incoming energy gets converted to electricity. The rest is returned to the environment as heat. The panels are usually much darker than the ground they cover, so a vast expanse of solar cells…

Solar panels in Sahara could boost renewable energy but damage the global climate – here’s why — Watts Up With That?

In addition, both solar panels and wind turbines have the potential of bringing rain to the desert. This is a problem because forest has a lower albedo than desert does. It’s darker, so it absorbs more heat.

I guess the answer to global warming might be to turn the Amazon forest into desert.

The Texas Blackout Blame Game

The Texas blackouts are shaping up to be the costliest disaster in state history, and the loss of life remains unknown. People are justifiably very angry. And when people are angry, politicians look around for someone to blame. Many have trotted out their favorite villains for the occasion. Many on the right have picked Don Quixote’s old enemy, the windmill, while many on the left jumped at the chance to blame deregulation. Neither explanation really holds up. While it will be some time before all the specifics are known, what we do know doesn’t support any easy political narrative.

The central fact about the chain of events that led to the blackouts is deceptively simple: It got super cold.

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The sheer size of the supply hole makes it hard to blame either wind or deregulation for the failure. While pictures of frozen wind turbines may be evocative, ERCOT’s forecasts do not rely on a large amount of wind to sustain the system—and wind ended up meeting those expectations. Some have argued that the low cost of wind power over the last decade has forced the retirement of more reliable power plants that could have helped make up the gap had they been there. I’ve addressed those arguments at length elsewhere; here I’ll add that many of the recently retired Texas plants were rendered unprofitable not by wind but by the fracking-induced fall in natural gas prices. And given how many thermal plants failed, it doesn’t seem plausible that having a few more of them would have made the difference.

Similarly, there is little reason to think that Texas’ competitive electric system is to blame. ERCOT’s most recent winter forecast included a worst-case scenario for the grid that roughly predicted the needed demand but underestimated the amount of generation that would be unusable by almost half. A more centralized or state-run electric system almost certainly would have relied on the same forecast and ended up in the same situation. In retrospect, it’s easy to blame generators for not doing more to protect their plants from cold. But if a plant had known that unprecedented cold was coming and had weatherized, it would now be reaping millions in benefits. The problem was not a lack of incentives but a lack of imagination.

Source: The Texas Blackout Blame Game

The Folly of Renewable Energy

If you judge by the images used to illustrate reports about energy, the world now runs mainly on wind and solar power. It comes as a shock to look up the numbers. In 2019 wind and solar between them supplied just 1.5 percent of the world’s energy consumption. Hydro supplied 2.6 percent, nuclear 1.7 percent, and all the rest — 94 percent — came from burning things: coal, oil, gas, wood, and biofuels.

As Mark Twain might say, reports of an energy transition away from combustion as a source of energy are greatly exaggerated. True, carbon-dioxide emissions are rising more slowly than energy consumption, but that is mainly because gas is displacing coal. The rise of renewables has so far not even compensated for the recent decline of nuclear — a decline renewables have contributed to causing because intermittent renewable energy hits the profitability of nuclear power hardest. Nuclear cannot be easily switched on and off.

 

Source: The Folly of Renewable Energy

Repost for the New Administration: Trans-partisan Plan #1: Addressing Man-Made Global Warming With A Plan That Could Be Supported By Both Democrats and Republicans

By the way, drafts of Biden’s plans released so far has him doing almost the polar opposite of every step I suggest. The cancellation of individual pipeline projects is just stupid political micro-managing to absolutely no benefit. (First published September, 2018)

While I am not deeply worried about man-made climate change, I am appalled at all the absolutely stupid, counter-productive things the government has implemented in the name of climate change, all of which have costly distorting effects on the economy while doing extremely little to affect man-made greenhouse gas production.

Source: Repost for the New Administration: Trans-partisan Plan #1: Addressing Man-Made Global Warming With A Plan That Could Be Supported By Both Democrats and Republicans

The Fundamental Weakness of Renewable Energy Sources

“Wind does not belong in any modern energy supply portfolio. Grids do substantial work to integrate wind volatility … Retrofitting modern technology to meet the needs of ancient wind flutter is monumentally backwards, a sure sign that pundits and politicians, not scientists, are now in charge.”

Except for hydro, renewable energy sources are inimical to any rational idea of maintaining access to energy with highly secure power capacity. Restated, wind and solar cannot produce modern power without being wholly entangled with modern power producers.

This article will focus on wind power, but similar problems affect solar.

Any chemist should know enough to understand the implications of the formula governing the way wind energy must be converted into electricity: w=1/2 rAv3, where w is power; r, air density; A, rotor density; and v is wind speed.

The main driver in the equation is the v3, which dictates that any output must be a function of the cube of the wind speed at each wind speed interval throughout the windplant’s rated capacity, from 0 to ~33 mph. (Most windplants don’t begin generating anything until the wind speed reaches ~8 mph and max out when the wind speed hits 33 mph).

Source: The Fundamental Weakness of Renewable Energy Sources

California secretly struggles with renewables

California has hooked up a grid battery system that is almost ten times bigger than the previous world record holder, but when it comes to making renewables reliable it is so small it might as well not exist.

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Mind you the PG&E engineers are not that stupid. They know perfectly well that this billion dollar battery is not there to provide backup power when wind and solar do not produce. In fact the truth is just the opposite. The battery’s job is to prevent wind and solar power from crashing the grid when they do produce.

It is called grid stabilization. Wind and solar are so erratic that it is very hard to maintain the constant 60 cycle AC frequency that all our wonderful electronic devices require. If the frequency gets more than just a tiny bit off the grid blacks out. Preventing these crashes requires active stabilization.

Grid instability due to erratic wind and solar used to not be a problem, because the huge spinning metal rotors in the coal, gas and nuclear power plant generators simply absorbed the fluctuations. But most of those plants have been shut down, so we need billion dollar batteries to do what those plants did for free. Nor is this monster battery the only one being built in California to try to make wind and solar power work. Many more are in the pipeline and not just in California. Many states are struggling with instability as baseline generators are switched off.

Source: California secretly struggles with renewables

Doing the math on battery storage

Here is the reality when it comes to the scale needed to reliably back up intermittent renewables. For simplicity let us suppose New York City is 100% wind powered. Including solar in the generating mix makes it more complicated but does not change the unhappy outcome very much.

NYC presently peaks at around 32,000 MW needed to keep the lights on. If Mr. Biden makes all the cars and trucks electric it might be closer to 50,000 MW but let’s stick to reality.

So for reliability we need, say, seven days of backup, which is 168 hours. Here’s the math:

32,000 MW x 168 hours = 5,376,000 MWh of stored juice needed to just make it. Mind you for normal reliability we usually add 20% or so. Did I mention electric cars?

It is easy to see that a trivial 400 MWh is not “significant scale.” It is infinitesimal scale. Nothing. Nada. Might as well not exist.

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So what would it cost to reliably back up wind power, at this MWh cost and NYC’s scale? Just over $8,000,000,000,000 or EIGHT TRILLION DOLLARS. I have not seen this stupendous sum mentioned in the media. Perhaps Con Ed has not mentioned it.

New York can’t buy its way out of blackouts

This green fantasy will bankrupt us

It’s 2050. You wake in your cosy, insulated house, turn on the windfarm-powered lights, cook up a breakfast coffee on the hydrogen stove before jumping into your electric car. You whizz silently along roads with air as fresh as a mountain stream past happy e-bikers and carbon-neutral schools to your heat-pump powered office.

So, viewed from Britain in 2020, can you spot the odd one out? Here’s a clue: the e-bikers get no subsidy. Everything else on this list loses money, and needs state support on a massive scale to get even halfway to the nirvana glimpsed by the prime minister this week. Today’s subsidy, of course, is tomorrow’s tax rise.

Home insulation? £2bn is barely enough to get some sort of programme started. The disruption from insulating your home will be enough to discourage us from taking up this offer, almost regardless of the accompanying bribe. As we saw with double glazing and solar panels, the cowboy installers and fraudsters will be the principal beneficiaries.

Windfarms? The easier sites are already filled up, driving development further offshore to have any chance of quadrupling today’s contribution. The bulk of new contracts are going to overseas manufacturers, while evidence of catastrophic damage to seabirds is growing, and nobody knows the long-term cost of maintaining this hi-tech engineering in a hostile environment.

Hydrogen home cooking? Hydrogen is much harder to handle than natural gas, and a compulsory conversion programme – the only practical way to exploit the existing pipework – would meet stiff resistance. Besides, like electricity, hydrogen is not a fuel but an energy transmission mechanism. Making it from actual fuel is like trying to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.

Heat pumps? The capital cost typically runs into tens of thousands of pounds per dwelling, even where your garden is big enough to take one. They are also likely to be rather more expensive to maintain than your ‘fridge.

Investment lite

neilcollinsxxx

It’s 2050. You wake in your cosy, insulated house, turn on the windfarm-powered lights, cook up a breakfast coffee on the hydrogen stove before jumping into your electric car. You whizz silently along roads with air as fresh as a mountain stream past happy e-bikers and carbon-neutral schools to your heat-pump powered office.

So, viewed from Britain in 2020, can you spot the odd one out? Here’s a clue: the e-bikers get no subsidy. Everything else on this list loses money, and needs state support on a massive scale to get even halfway to the nirvana glimpsed by the prime minister this week. Today’s subsidy, of course, is tomorrow’s tax rise.

Home insulation? £2bn is barely enough to get some sort of programme started. The disruption from insulating your home will be enough to discourage us from taking up this offer, almost regardless of the accompanying bribe. As we saw…

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Biden’s plan to create millions of energy jobs might work, but only because renewables are so labor-intensive and only at a very high cost

According to president-elect Joe Biden “If executed strategically, our response to climate change can create more than 10 million well-paying [clean energy] jobs in the United States that will grow a stronger, more inclusive middle class enjoyed by communities across the country, not just in cities along the coasts.” Is that possibly true?

Source: Biden’s plan to create millions of energy jobs might work, but only because renewables are so labor-intensive and only at a very high cost