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Tech Allows Stable Integration of Wind In the Power Grid

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the giant-whooshing-sound dept.

Earth 235

diegocgteleline.es writes "One of the most frequently raised arguments against renewable power sources is that they can only supply a low percentage of the total power because their unpredictability can destabilize the grid. Spain seems to have disproved this assertion. In the last three days, the wind power generation records with respect to the total demand were beaten twice (in special conditions: a very windy weekend, at night): 45% on November 5 and almost 54% last night (Google translation; Spanish original). There was no instability. These milestones were accomplished with the help of a control center that processes meteorologic data from the whole country and predicts, with high certainty, the wind and solar power that will be generated, allowing a stable integration of all the renewable power. You can see a graphic of the record here."

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This will not be liked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30024868)

...and will be fought back by european giants like E.ON etc., who even fight private home owners wanting to put wind mills on their own property by simple denial of request.

Re:This will not be liked... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025094)

Silly me. There I was thinking that E.O.N. were actually building Wind Farms. They are in the UK and as my energy supplier thay paid a good portion of the cost to get my house walls insulated.

Jew Lieberman (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025266)

Too bad that fucking kike Jew Lieberman would rather protect insurance company profits than human life.

This is why the holocaust was such a good idea. It was just one Jew short of enabling real healthcare reform.

Re:Jew Lieberman (-1, Troll)

antirelic (1030688) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025528)

Is that you posting Obama? Pelosi? Reid?

Anyway, we know its a progressive. Look how charming and tolerant. The parent was brought to you by what is really in the mind of all progressives.

Re:Jew Lieberman (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025596)

You don't sound like a Jew to me. It seems more likely that you are one of the Jews' useful idiots. A true Republican or "conservative" or whatever the evil empire is calling itself these days.

Ignore the problems that Jews like Joe Lieberman, the MPAA, RIAA, and Israel bring on the world if you want to. I don't plan on ignoring it anymore.

Of course already know that Republicans are evil so it's no surprise that you side with the Jews every single time.

Stupid technology (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30024880)

Coal and oil are plentiful, cheap, and easy to use. Compare this to idiotic technologies like wind and solar that are hugely expensive, unreliable, and hurt the eyeline of the cities they are installed in. And people wonder why environmentalists are considered stupid.

Re:Stupid technology (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30024966)

Best of all, our thirst for coal and oil are also a good excuse to destroy Arab civillizations.

Who needs the motherfuckers? Buncha goddamn savages sitting on our sweet, sweet fuel. Once we get the ragheads out of the way we can build a utopia where people do nice, simple things up against evangelical Christians and other fifth-columnists.

We want an America where gas is 10 cents a gallon and everybody drives Chevy Silverados with 2-foot lifts and Flowmaster exhaust systems. An America which revolves around the NFL and the music of Hank Williams Sr. and Jr (but not III). An America with good, wholesome family values like mandatory 10-year sentences for marijuana possession and abstinance until marriage and purity balls instead of debaucherous prom nights!

Fuck, man. I'm getting hard just thinkin' about it! GIMME GIMME GIMME!!!!

Re:Stupid technology (1)

internettoughguy (1478741) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025738)

This isn't really flamebait, just an interesting parody.

Re:Stupid technology (5, Insightful)

gapagos (1264716) | more than 4 years ago | (#30024996)

Coal and oil are plentiful, cheap, and easy to use. Compare this to idiotic technologies like wind and solar that are hugely expensive, unreliable, and hurt the eyeline of the cities they are installed in. And people wonder why environmentalists are considered stupid.

Excuse me, but caring about our planet does not make somebody stupid.
Caring only about your pocketbook, however, does make you a greedy asshole.
And thinking that eveyone must have the same order of priorities as you does make you stupid.

Re:Stupid technology (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025338)

Consider this. Harnessing renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper as technology matures. With coal, you have to pay for the fuel. With renewables, you do not.

Any questions?

Re:Stupid technology (2, Interesting)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026124)

Consider this. Harnessing renewable energy is getting cheaper and cheaper as technology matures. With coal, you have to pay for the fuel. With renewables, you do not.

Any questions?

Yes, does any solar panel or wind turbine exist that, if installed on a normal house (ie. at at least 40 degrees north) has an EROI > 0 ? Actually I live at 60 degrees, and my calculations tell me that even with the tax breaks solar panels are still net-negative money generators, and seriously net-negative power generators. I'm talking about the standard stuff (not following the sun).

Since I believe a power engineer told me that the absolute minimum EROI (energy wise) for a power generator to be useful is 10 on a yearly basis (meaning it's got to create 10 times more power than it costs to build/install it in the first year of operation), and renewable energy is at, well, -1.2 or so at 20 years perfect operation (at least standard solar panels are). Meaning it actually costs about double the amount of oil to power a house using solar panels than it would cost to just power it directly on oil. Actually solar panels are defeated by that oldest of joke of a power generator : we have more efficient research fusion generators than solar panels (EROI 0.0 average, 1.01 peak performance vs -1.0).

And this is being generous : those panels are not exactly produced locally, and I don't even count transporting, connecting, installing and servicing them, none of which are free.

By my calculations, btw, solar panel will never be able to deliver enough power to heat a normal house, even if the entire lot were covered in solar panels. Meaning a 100% efficient panel that was dropped by God himself from heaven (ie. free) would not be able to heat a normal house. What, exactly, is your suggestion we do to heat about 20-story appartment buildings ? Please don't say "isolate them well", please keep into account that existing buildings need to be heated too.

Right now we don't use any significant amount of either solar irradiation or wind. I wonder, if we were to use, say 1% of solar power, that would obviously mean the biosphere would not be able to use that same energy. What will be the ramifications of stealing energy from nature ? If we do what needs to be done to power america with solar power, covering 2 "average" states entirely in solar panels, can anything grow in those 2 states ? Or will that be 4% of the united states that contains less life than the surface of the moon ?

Right now we're using so very, very little it obviously doesn't matter. The same goes for wind. Right now we barely use wind power at all, but a lot of natural processes (e.g. moisture collection in dry climates, just to name something) depend on wind. Obviously they will fail to work if we use a significant percentage of wind power in an area. What will be the environmental impact ?

Yes I have doubts about renewable power, and it's supposed "zero" environmental impact. But you could answer these questions in a reasonable manner (something that never seems to be done in any of the publications I read) ... perhaps it would help.

Re:Stupid technology (3, Insightful)

spydabyte (1032538) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025426)

I love the argument of "hurting the eyelines of the cities". Yeah, now that you can see the mountains right next to your city, instead of just hazy smog, you actually have something to complain about. Me? I think those wind turbines are sexy as hell and show progress in this day and age. Progress is power. Well done gapagos, well done.

Re:Stupid technology (4, Funny)

mweather (1089505) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025556)

What mountains? The coal mine removed them.

Re:Stupid technology (1)

internettoughguy (1478741) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025790)

Are you referring to Mountaintop removal mining? [wikipedia.org] , it's funny how the article show's them finishing by regrading and revegetating, as if there's some economic incentive to do so.

Re:Stupid technology (4, Insightful)

MikeUW (999162) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025534)

I think this comment points reveals a consistent flaw with Slashdot - the score from mod points stops at five. :/

Re:Stupid technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30026112)

Another way of putting that is that if four retards agree you're insightful, you get a 5.

Captcha: tiresome

Stupid Way of Thinking (3, Insightful)

Das Auge (597142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025564)

One of the problems with environmentalism is common in any charged topic. You're all or nothing. In this case, your options are:

You don't believe that man-made global warming hasn't been adequately proven: so you're a greedy, goose stepping, capitalistic pig who doesn't care about the environment one bit.

or..

You believe that mankind should take responsibility for its actions on the environment: so pot smoking, brainless, mindless hippy that hates humanity.

Any people wonder why there's so much strife in today's world... Oh, and you can thank the media (sensationalism & controversy sales) and politicians (polarize to make them yours). Of which special interest groups are the bastard stepchild.

Re:Stupid Way of Thinking (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026178)

Don't forget the constant accusations of getting paid. Either you're anti-AGW and you're paid by oil companies. Or you're pro-AGW and you're paid by government.

The sad thing is, academics are mostly paid by government AND mostly pro-AGW. And yes, the government is massively pro-AGW. Then again, the oil companies have been caught several times with their hands in the cookie jar. Academics have made idiotic mistakes, and so has industry.

So what does a rational person do ? I'd love to put the arguing kids in a locked room and throw away the key, to be honest. Then again, I don't think America (or any other country) is even capable of doing 1/10th of what the pro-AGW crowd is "demanding", so I fear the point is moot : we're not going to do enough, because we can't. The pro-AGW crowd is asking for so much money they might as well ask for a bridge to the moon.

What I most wonder about, from the pro-AGW crowd, is why the benefactors of global warming are never asked for a single dollarcent. The single country that's getting paid the most obscene amounts of money to cause AGW (if ... etc) is Saudi Arabia. Yet nobody asks them for a dime. Hello ? Same goes, obviously, for other oil producers.

Re:Stupid technology (2, Insightful)

bertok (226922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025922)

Coal and oil are plentiful, cheap, and easy to use. Compare this to idiotic technologies like wind and solar that are hugely expensive, unreliable, and hurt the eyeline of the cities they are installed in. And people wonder why environmentalists are considered stupid.

Excuse me, but caring about our planet does not make somebody stupid.
Caring only about your pocketbook, however, does make you a greedy asshole.
And thinking that eveyone must have the same order of priorities as you does make you stupid.

Also, most wind turbines aren't built in or even near cities, they're usually off-shore or on hilltops somewhere out in the countryside.

There is one experimental wind turbine in Sydney, which I could see from my University. I used to love staring out the window at it, I found the slow steady movement to be relaxing.

Not everyone thinks they 'ruin' a view.

Re:Stupid technology (4, Insightful)

Ichijo (607641) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025086)

Coal and oil are plentiful, cheap, and easy to use.

Once you add in coal and oil subsidies and the negative externalities of their use, they are no longer quite so cheap.

Re:Stupid technology (5, Informative)

inhuman_4 (1294516) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025124)

Coal and oil are plentiful, cheap, and easy to use.

Coal and oil are plentiful, but you know whats more plentiful? The solar radiation and wind, both are unlimited.

Coal and oil are cheap and easy to use because we have spent massive amount of money improving them over the last 100 years. Given enough research it is entirely possible that solar and wind will be as cheap as oil (coal would be tough to beat though). Solar power however will likely end up being easier to use, no fuel, no exhaust, and no moving parts.

... and hurt the eyeline of the cities they are installed in.

Ever heard of smog? I would much rather see a bunch of solar panels and windmills, than a giant brown haze of asthma attack and carcinogens.

And people wonder why environmentalists are considered stupid.

They are called stupid because what they are promoting is bad for business. Switching to these technologies is not efficient yet, but as this article proves they are getting closer. Big businesses and their propaganda machines (eg. Fox News) want to cast these technologies in negative light to avoid having to switch to them, which would cut into profit margins.

Oh and did I mention that these technologies could one day remove the USA's dependence on foreign oil, reduce medical problems, protect the environment, decentralize the electrical system, reduce power lost during transmission (local power generation), and be better suited to installation in 3rd world countries?

Or of course, we could just keep using the current system until our resources run out and then start looking for the solution.

Re:Stupid technology (0)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025254)

The solar radiation and wind

Is wind power really unlimited though? The thing about wind power that I don't really understand is what the long term effects of taking massive amounts of energy from the wind and pumping it into the power grid will have. The ecosystem has evolved over millions of years with the wind essentially being unimpeded by manmade objects, so what will the long term effects of generating wind power be? How will it effect the weather? You can certainly make the argument that global warming has a much larger adverse effect on the environment, but I am curious to see if anyone really has studied how sucking energy out of wind will affect the environment.

Re:Stupid technology (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025448)

Technically speaking, the most likely thing to happen in that scenario is for the direction of the currents to change. Wind is driven by differentials in pressure throughout the area. It's just about impossible to ever perfectly even the pressure across the entirety of the globe and keep it at a consistent pressure permanently.

At bare minimum you'll always have the ocean cooling and warming at a different rate from the land. Then there's the bits caused by ocean currents. In short, that's a really low probability event.

Re:Stupid technology (0, Troll)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026196)

So, what you're saying is that using solar/wind will massively change the climate by changing the absorption characteristics ...

What, pray tell, were we trying to prevent again ?

(just wondering)

Re:Stupid technology (2, Interesting)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025996)

The thing you are missing is how tiny a fraction of the wind energy we are capable of removing. Wind energy is caused by the different temperatures in the world equalising in the easiest way possible (by moving the air between the regions). The temperature differences are caused by solar heating, which contributes around 500W per square metre (averaged over a 24-hour period). Wind contains a phenomenal amount of energy and a wind farm only removes a tiny bit of it.

Re:Stupid technology (2, Insightful)

sadness203 (1539377) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026136)

Yeah, the skyscraper, the forest cutting, and all these man-made stuff like cities, tower, etc are not altering wind a bit, and some gigantic propeller are going to take massive amount of energy from the wind ?

Re:Stupid technology (2, Interesting)

Nyall (646782) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025452)

and hurt the eyeline of the cities they are installed in

I hope I'm not the only one who thinks giant windmill farms are visually interesting and slightly artistic

So they've almost caught up to 100 years ago. (0)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#30024912)

So, Spain has almost made the advance of electrical power to where GE got it over 100 years ago.

Good, but by no means a complete solution (4, Informative)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30024960)

Wind generally changes slowly enough that it doesn't cause massive instability providing you have sufficient backup. However, there are other problems.

Getting the percentage that high occasionally isn't amazing, especially during a time of low demand such as night. The hard part is generating an average of 50% wind overall (e.g. over a year).

Say the baseload demand is 20 GW, then you can have 20 GW of wind power installed without worrying about what to do if too much is produced. So you could even get nearly 100% wind power occasionally. The problem is for the rest of the time when demand is higher or it isn't windy. The capacity factor of wind is about 30%, and baseload is typically about 50% of average load, so that means on average you're only generating 15% of your total electricity by wind power.

Re:Good, but by no means a complete solution (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025072)

So that's why we don't depend just on wind. We also include solar, hydro, tidal and nuclear, with natural gas and oil only used as a backup for those.

Re:Good, but by no means a complete solution (4, Insightful)

zmooc (33175) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025328)

Well. Just look at the graph linked in the article.

https://demanda.ree.es/generacion_acumulada.html [demanda.ree.es]

Note that the bottom drops below the zero line every now and then. Just before and after that the net hydroelectric power output drops to zero. I figure that's pumped-storage hydroectric plants filling their storage. Spain has at least 3 gigawatt worth of such plants. It doesn't solve the entire problem at this time, but it will sure help raise your baseline-example of 20GW quite a bit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity [wikipedia.org]

Re:Good, but by no means a complete solution (3, Interesting)

grimJester (890090) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025754)

In addition, conventional hydroelectric dams can save up water and release it when necessary.

I assume Spain simply builds up as much pumped-storage hydro as needed. They seem to have [wikipedia.org] around as much pumped-storage as they have (wind capacity * load factor).

Anyway, I doubt many countries will face the problem of having too much wind power in the near future. Denmark currently has around 20% wind and sells off any excess to Norway, which in turn has huge amounts of hydro. Note that there is currently no other country that has more than the 15% figure quoted by GP. The US has room for building out 10 x the current capacity without worrying about storage.

Re:Good, but by no means a complete solution (1)

Patatoffel (1223760) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025688)

The numbers are here [demanda.ree.es] . Right now, Spanish wind power is generating ~10400 MW out of 17600 installed MW (59%, green graph). The yellow graph shows wind power as percentage of total demand (now stands at 38%). (Select "2009-11-08" as date and click "Consultar otra fecha").

Wind has been generating between 7-10 GW in Spain during the last week, check it in the other graphic [demanda.ree.es] (labeled as "Eólica"). "Rest. reg. especial" means other tech (biomass, solar, cogeneration), and "Intercambios int." means imports/exports (to/from France, Portugal or Morocco). When hydro turns dark blue, reversible hydro plants are pumping water.

Re:Good, but by no means a complete solution (1)

Rising Ape (1620461) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026008)

Yes, pumped storage is good for rapid response to demand or supply variation. However, if you want it to allow a large fraction of electricity generated by wind, you need a lot of it, and it all adds to the cost.

In any case, I don't think that even Spain has a large enough fraction of wind power for this to be required - 11% according to wikipedia, below my original 15% estimate.

Re:Good, but by no means a complete solution (2, Informative)

internettoughguy (1478741) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025890)

If combined with a massively redundant combination of solar (ie, almost every building has em), hydro and nuclear, we're talking business. Left over power can be spent on hydrolysis plants to produce hydrogen fuel, and we have almost zero emissions.

In before the whiners (2, Insightful)

imsabbel (611519) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025014)

Nothing is ever a complete solution, for anything.

But every single Joule helps.

Re:In before the whiners (1)

maharb (1534501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025248)

I think that is well known. The issue is how many different renewable sources need to be put in place to achieve one joule of energy consistently with no possible variation. What you have is an issue of no meaningful relation between the different renewable sources creating situations where many many different sources of energy could all be producing zero, and other situations where many sources will be producing more than enough. Unfortunately this sort of solution doesn't work because humans demand consistent energy not just a total or average.

Solar: Needs significant light
Wind: Needs significant and consistent air movement
Tidal: Has peaks and troughs of output

Essentially you could implement a capacity of "3X" and still end up with points of nearly 0 production while other times you end up with 3X the power you need.

These facilities are not cheap to build to begin with and then building multiple times the capacity you need compounds the problem.

Re:In before the whiners (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025456)

Dude,
You over constrained the problem with "no possible variation"! Heck there's variability with peaker gas turbines (that's their purpose), should we not use them?

Ever consider using batteries to store excess power from solar cells to get you through the night?

Get out from the basement and go take a tour of some homes that live entirely off the grid. They use storage to get through the lean times...

Re:In before the whiners (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025998)

Unfortunately this sort of solution doesn't work because humans demand consistent energy not just a total or average.

Luckily, many industrial uses do not necessarily require constant energy, and can tolerate "total" or "average over certain intervals" power contracts.

For "total" or "very long term average" power contracts, we have copper refineries, and electrorefining in general. "Lights out manufacturing" style numerically controlled machine tools can toggle their motors on and off more or less as power is available (but never interrupt the control computers power...). Desalinization plants simply fill water tanks with excess capacity. Hydrogen electrolysis plants.

Large refrigerated storage/warehouse sites probably need a constant "daily average" but no finer resolution.

To handle very short term "wind gusts", cement plant clinker grinders, food plants like bakeries ovens, and aluminum refineries can handle a momentary power loss, as long as the "hourly average" or whatever is mostly constant.

This also works for high tech applications, I would imagine virtualized servers with hot-failover ability could simply migrate around the world, to where-ever the wind blows...

Now there are capital problems with the return on investment of building facilities that may only be used a fraction of the time. Then again, an electrical tariff that allows sheddable load for perhaps a penny per KWh... I imagine the contract would look something like, we'll sell you a GWh of electricity for a bargain basement mere mega-penny ($10K) but we tell you exactly when to draw the load and exactly how much you'll draw, or else you're paying the usual 10 cents/KWh.

For some highly automated, electricity intensive applications, "nearly free electricity" might outweigh the increased capital costs.

Clean Coal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025026)

Where's your god now?

Re:Clean Coal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025314)

How many mountains are we going to level to get every last bit of coal? Coal energy is and never will be "clean", if you include mining, transportation and restoration.

Re:Clean Coal (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025402)

Neither is nuclear, tidal, hydro, solar or wind if you include assembly, transportation, etc.

low and high (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025028)

45% and 54% for Spain. If you can upgrade the scale, you can bring those 2 numbers very close together.

Does not change the basics. (1, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025038)

Whatever happened once in Spain does not change the basic facts.

Sometimes the wind does not blow at all, so you need to keep 100% generating capacity that can be brought on line within 20 minutes.

Now your basic coal plant tends to be large and slow (takes many hours) to warm up. So you need a whopping amount of gas turbine generating plants,
which not only cost a lot but are going to be idle a good part of the time, just sitting around just in case the wind stops. And it will.

So you're going to pay up front for the generating capacity, then again paying for expensive and scarce oil and gas when the wind stops.
Not an attractive financial proposition.

Re:Does not change the basics. (4, Informative)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025064)

Sometimes the wind does not blow at al

RTFA. and read up some more on how wind works. No wind in place A = center of cyclone or center of anticyclone, meaning that a few hundred clicks in any direction there IS wind 100% garanteed. (unless the moon would magically disappear, the sun would magically disappear AND the earth would magically stop turning)

Re:Does not change the basics. (3, Interesting)

Cyberax (705495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025190)

But you also need to transmit _a_ _lot_ of power over hundreds of kilometers. Which is not cheap and easy.

That's why local power storage might be the best way to solve this problem.

Re:Does not change the basics. (2, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026028)

But you also need to transmit _a_ _lot_ of power over hundreds of kilometers. Which is not cheap and easy.

Luckily, because of NIMBY, we have decades of experience doing it. No one "wants" the coal plant or nuke in their backyard, either. Actually I think it would be way cool to have a nuke plant in my backyard, but scared idiots freak out.

Re:Does not change the basics. (1)

ray-auch (454705) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026058)

RT another FA:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/07/03/wind_power_needs_dirty_pricey_gas_backup_report/ [theregister.co.uk]

(or download the full report - but that is payware).

Historical analysis shows regular five-day long calm periods across the whole of europe - ten day long calms every couple of decades. Oh, and typically in winter - so high demand time. That is across an area much more than "a few hundred clicks".

"Clean" peak load tech, like pumped storage hydro, simply doesn't have the capacity to cover that kind of gap.

The report also makes the point that nice clean gas gen capacity is too expensive (if only to be used occaisionally) and not necessarily good at being turned on and off regularly. The likely (only economic) backup for wind will be cheap and dirty fossil fuel kit - making the overall solution a lot dirtier.

Either that, or the lights start to go off on a regular basis. There are plenty of (reasonably welel developed) places in the world where that happens now, so we know what happens then - local backup through thousands upon thousands of small (cheap & dirty) diesel generators...

Wind simply isn't reliable enough for base load. Until someone solves the "storing electricity" problem. Somewhat ironically, I reckon the best hope for that will turn out to be creating artificial long chain hydrocarbons (from atmospheric CO2). Liquid hydrocarbons are very very energy dense, and we already have lots of knowledge and infrastructure for storing and transporting them efficiently.

Re:Does not change the basics. (1, Offtopic)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025230)

Sometimes the wind does not blow at all, so you need to keep 100% generating capacity that can be brought on line within 20 minutes.

20 minutes? More like several days. That's what Spain just demonstrated.

Re:Does not change the basics. (3, Interesting)

Nefarious Wheel (628136) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025242)

Whatever happened once in Spain does not change the basic facts.

Sometimes the wind does not blow at all, so you need to keep 100% generating capacity that can be brought on line within 20 minutes.

One trend I've seen in recent studies is toward distributed, decentralised power generation. We're not talking about one technology taking over, but rather a larger number of smaller generators in a variety of formats coming together to augment the primary generators we have. This is already happening to some degree, and expectations are that it will grow.

So as your city grows - instead of (say) three coal generators, you might add one new coal generator plus a few hundred wind turbines, a few thousand gas fired microCHP generators (similar to the Whispergen Stirling units being deployed in Spain) and quite a few thousand private photovoltaic arrays (in Perth for example, the applications for PV installations are running at better than 3 thousand per month at the moment).

The combination of all these will tend to even out the supply across the grid, but there still needs to be fairly careful power regulation at each end point.

Re:Does not change the basics. (4, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025360)

One trend I've seen in recent studies is toward distributed, decentralised power generation. We're not talking about one technology taking over, but rather a larger number of smaller generators in a variety of formats coming together to augment the primary generators we have. This is already happening to some degree, and expectations are that it will grow.

And why do you think this is happening? Would it be that smaller generators are somehow more efficient than large, high-capacity generating plants? Or do you think that it has been impossible to get a permit to build a large high-capacity generating plant for the last 30 years or so?

We can build all the smaller natural gas "peaker" plants we want, but it will not solve the problem of electric power demand exceeding existing generating capacity. We are rapidly approaching that point. Solar isn't going to help much, even if we paved all of Arizona, Nevada and Southeast California with silicon.

The biggest problem is that if someone got a permit and started building a 4,000 MW coal plant today, it wouldn't be finished for five years. A nuclear plant is more likely to take ten years to go online. So we better hope our base generating capacity - the kind we really need at 6:00 PM when folks have their air conditioners turned on and turn on the electric range to heat up dinner - will meet the need for the next five years until that plant gets online. Only problem is, there are no plants being built right now - maybe we will start soon, but so far nothing.

So we better hope there is a lot of excess capacity in the system so everything can keep growing, like the economy and jobs. Oh wait, there isn't much (if any) excess capacity today. I wonder what will happen?

Re:Does not change the basics. (1)

jeffstar (134407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025642)

power generated locally is worth more too. wholesale prices generators get paid are 3-7 cents /kwh without fancy government contracts while power delivered to a customer's house is worth 20-30 cents/kwh. so while it is expensive to permit and build a big plant, transmission and distribution are also expensive.

Re:Does not change the basics. (1)

bertok (226922) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026012)

Ten years for a nuclear plant to go online seems high.

For example, check out the Westinghouse AP1000 [westinghousenuclear.com] , they claim:

"The AP1000 design saves money and time with an accelerated construction time period of approximately 36 months, from the pouring of first concrete to the loading of fuel"

That's not bad. I imagine it would take at least a year or two to get funding and approval, but even then it would only take 5 or at most 6 years for a new plant to start producing power.

Once a company has approval and a line of funding, building more would take less time, you can deploy these side-by-side in a cookie cutter fashion with an accelerated time line.

Re:Does not change the basics. (2, Interesting)

photonic (584757) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025356)

As already said by others, you can reduce the risk by connecting large regions [slashdot.org] . The chance that it there is no wind in Spain, France and Germany at the same time is much lower than in a single country. And even if it takes a day to start up a coil plant, some basic weather forecasting will buy you enough time. And don't forget hydro-electric for fast on-demand power supply. I am not an expert, but it seems to me that you can keep accumulating water during the night when there is no need, and open the pipes in just a few minutes instance when there is urgent demand.

Re:Does not change the basics. (1)

srjh (1316705) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026040)

I am not an expert, but it seems to me that you can keep accumulating water during the night when there is no need, and open the pipes in just a few minutes instance when there is urgent demand.

Not just that, you can use pumps to run the system backwards, turning the dam into one large rechargeable battery. This can definitely help to accommodate intermittent renewable sources such as solar and wind.

Supergrids can also help, but in many cases large regions are already connected and distribution over large distances is expensive. Demand management is another option, but we should be doing everything possible to remove coal from the generation side - and nuclear is currently the most viable alternative.

Re:Does not change the basics. (1)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025594)


Sometimes the wind does not blow at all, so you need to keep 100% generating capacity that can be brought on line within 20 minutes.

In an local area, yes! But not over an area like USA or Kanada or Europe.

Germany also has a high percentage of wind power meanwhile approaching 30% of total production. High wind outuput is used to pump up water into the storage sees of water driven generators, general fluctuations in demand and production are equalized by water power plants anyway.

Gas turbines are only used for energy reserves. If any plant *regardless" weather gas, oil, nuclear, wind, coal fails then gas turbins are in stand by to coer the drop from the grid.

angel'o'sphere

A lot of gas turbine plants sit idle already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025772)

Most gas turbine plants are already peak plants, so they don't run most of the time. Take Texas for example the summer load is typically twice the winter spring fall load due to air conditioning. so there are already a lot of plants sitting idle. Texas has hit 20% wind on its grid a couple of times in the last few weeks since a line was energized to circumvent the bottlenecks in the ERCOT grid. Most places have large demand swings with time of day and time of year so there are a lot of idle plants a good bit of the time. Combined cycle gas turbine plants must be economical when run as peak plants or there would not be so many of them. Since a turbine plant can start in 10 mins or so its a good backup. Also the turbine plant is almost 1/4 the emission of CO2 per kwh of a coal plant. (1/2 is because new plants run at about 60% efficiency , and 1/2 because methane produces 1/2 as much co2 per unit of heat).
All it takes is to fix the nimby attitude of folks. (In Texas the most recent big wind farm was build because the land owners wanted the free money from the turbines, which leave most of their land free to farm or graze cattle on).

Manzanas and Oranges (4, Insightful)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025040)

renewable power sources ... can only supply a low percentage of the total power because their unpredictability can destabilize the grid.

As much as I'd like to see more renewable energy, this counter-example probably doesn't help. Spain has a somewhat modern and well maintained power grid. In this year's "Infrastructure Report Card", The American Society of Civil Engineers rated the USA's power grid "D+". (Unfortunately their website is down; here's google's cache [74.125.155.132] . Talk about failing infrastructure...)

Re:Manzanas and Oranges (3, Interesting)

amorsen (7485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025322)

In the short term ( 1 minute), modern wind turbines have a stabilizing effect on the grid. There's quite a bit of inertial energy stored in the wings when the turbines are running which helps handling unexpected faults (e.g. a power line failure). Also, the electronics can supply as much reactive effect as the peak effect of the wind turbines even when the turbines are completely stopped.

Anyway, in the medium term many countries will have to move towards HVDC lines to help the grid. A completely AC synchronized grid like what is common today is too vulnerable to faults spreading, because each power line can only switch on and off. With HVDC you can say "transport 500MW" and it will transport that amount, and if the consumer end tries to sink 1GW, the line will just keep providing 500MW. With AC the line will be forced to provide 1GW or shut down entirely. To make an AC grid work you need a strong central authority who can tell everyone how much to produce and when, and this is incompatible with both a free market for electricity and a large amount of power producers.

Re:Manzanas and Oranges (1)

jeffstar (134407) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025660)

Also, the electronics can supply as much reactive effect as the peak effect of the wind turbines even when the turbines are completely stopped.

can you expand on this? Is it a synchronous machine inside a wind turbine? They can be used as a synchronous condenser to supply reactive power when the turbine is stopped?

What electronics can do this?

Re:Manzanas and Oranges (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30026018)

can you expand on this? Is it a synchronous machine inside a wind turbine? They can be used as a synchronous condenser to supply reactive power when the turbine is stopped?

What electronics can do this?

It's typically induction or permanent magnet generator inside the wind power plant. As far as I know synchronous machines are not used because wind cannot rotate the blades at a constant speed. The power is supplied to grid with frequency is converter. Frequency converter can supply the grid with reactive power during the disturbances.

see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Low_voltage_ride_through

Re:Manzanas and Oranges (2, Informative)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025812)


With HVDC you can say "transport 500MW" and it will transport that amount, and if the consumer end tries to sink 1GW, the line will just keep providing 500MW.

That is wrong. If you attach more consumers to the line the line will break down (voltage and with voltage current will break down).


To make an AC grid work you need a strong central authority who can tell everyone how much to produce and when, and this is incompatible with both a free market for electricity and a large amount of power producers.

As soon as you have more than 1 powerplant and and more than one consumer you need that anyway. Probably you should read up how grid management works.

It is absolutely not against a free market. In short: energy distribution/market is divided into a) energy producers, b) network operation, c) power traders. Power traders buy energy from (a) energy producers and deliver the energy to the customer by renting (b) network capacity. Power Traders have to announce their daily demand (precalculate) to the network and the power producers. The gap between announcement and consumption (either positive or negative) is covered by the network (with reserve power plants, there are several levels of reserves categorized depending in their response time (1minute, 30minutes, 60minutes, 120minutes). Long response times are covered by the network but again rented from the energy producers.

The energy market is moving more and more into a situation where the consumer is buying his energy at a stock market and the energy traders as well as the energy producers and also the network providers offer their services at that stock market.

Without a detailed accurate schedule of demand and production (one day ahead, minimum) no modern power grid would work at all.

angel'o'sphere

P.S. wikipedia provides a nice overview how energy networks and reserve energy and the trade works
P.P.S. sorry for the simplifications, how ever I worked the last 10 years as software consultant mainly in the energy industry, so I have a good idea how it works.

Re:Manzanas and Oranges (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025464)

You simply cannot throw out comparisons like Spain vs. U.S. The U.S. power grid is the most complicated controls system in the history of mankind.

Also, U.S. power usage, grid size, and therefore complexity dwarfs that of Spain. Just as Manzanas and Oranges implies, it's a totally inadequate comparison. So what country can we compared with? Therein lies the problem. NO OTHER COUNTRY experiences half of the issues that the U.S. does. China may come closest, and they chose to solve the problem with large quatities of cheap generation (coal plants). Ever been to a major chinese city? That's not the solution.

On the other hand, even as much as 20% of U.S. generation as "green energy" is also not the solution. Everyone's power bill would double. Unfortunately, the government has mandated something close to this. So expect your power bill to double (at least) if the letter of the law is followed.

The answer (in most major usage capitalist countries) is to let the market determine the power mixture. All well managed power companies have a diverse selection of power supply fuels, so as not to make the company vulnerable to drastic market shifts in supply and demand. Gas, Nuclear, Coal, and some "green power" and some oil. Power companies do not like public outcries, and are not the evil greedy poluters that legislators often make them out to be. Millions of incredibly intelligent men and women over 120 years have made the power grid what it is today.

And if you live in the U.S., I don't know where you live, but I know that you have power at least 95% of the time. You also take that for granted.

That being said, way to go Spain. The second biggest problem with wind power is (more or less) solved. Now about the incredibly high prices....

Re:Manzanas and Oranges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025780)

You simply cannot throw out comparisons like Spain vs. U.S. The U.S. power grid is the most complicated controls system in the history of mankind.

Eastern Interconnection — serving eastern US and Canada; 610 GW of generation.
UCTE — synchronous zone serving 23 European countries, 603 GW generation, 2530 TWh per year, serving 450 million million people
Spain is part of the UCTE network. 7 GW difference in generation does not sound so large to me...

NO OTHER COUNTRY experiences half of the issues that the U.S. does

Maybe you should maintain your grid from time to time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_Blackout_of_2003)?

Source http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wide_area_synchronous_grid

There are two sides in that coin... (5, Informative)

faragon (789704) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025122)

Disclaimer: I'm a Spanish citizen, living in Spain.

First of all, I want to remark the great work of the REE company ("Red Eléctrica Española" stands for "Spanish Electric Power Network", the monopoly for electric power distribution), they not only do a great work routing and adapting the production to the user energy demand, but also provide a lot of useful information about power consumption, production/consumption balance, etc.

The dark side of the problem is that although there is a huge amount of "green energy" being generated in Spain (wind and solar), that is, paradoxically, a problem. The problem is because current "green electricity production" is above 20% of total energy production, which sounds great, yes, the problem comes from nuclear power being dismantled from past 20 years, so the electric bill goes up because of the more expensive production (the solar energy production is specially expensive, which has been subsidized ad nauseam). Now the country faces near 19% unemployment rates (almost twice the U.S. figures), paying a huge price for energy, with the country in the middle of its worse recession since the post-war era (40's).

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025238)

Ahh, yes. It appears even the fearless Spanish Inquisition is not immune to the anti-nuclear anti-science FUD.

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (1)

burni2 (1643061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025490)

Sorry but I think that view is wrong (90% wrong),

With some information from the wikipedia page [1] about spain.

Which says that only 20% of the electrical energy
comming from nuclear plants, this contrasts
to the 16 + 32 (coalfired and combined cycle plants) so this part comming from fossil fuels

Where last year, we saw a spike in prices
and energy is bought on energy stock markets up to one year ahead.

Also taking into account that spain had
a very low price[2] of ~11 €-cent per kWh.

even lower than the EU average of ~14 €-cent
and even lower than france price of ~15 €-cent
(france produces a vast amount of their electrical energy in nuclear power plants ~80%)

And that the spanish nuclear power exit bill dates from 2006[1] and mandates the exit to 2024 at moment of now, no nuclear power plant was shut down, also they are ment to be.

So I don't think that, and don't see that these numbers indicate, that the biggest effect on the prices are due to subsidized renewables.

More looking at big(german) energy firms buying spanish energy producers and using their momentum
to increase the prices.

[1] http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanien#Atomenergie [wikipedia.org]
[2] http://www.rp-online.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/energie/Strompreise-in-Europa_bid_17861.html [rp-online.de]

[2] use the numbers stop at spain :)
prices are in €-cent

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (1)

faragon (789704) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025584)

1) The 20% I was talking about was about green energy (wind/solar), not nuclear.

2) The low price you point is because it is subsidized, so in the end, paid by the taxpayers. Do you know the debt because of subsidizing the electricity? About 30 billion USD (19 euro billions [elpais.com] ), for a country of 45 million people, that's 666.66 USD/citizen of debt, growing and paying interest year by year (!)

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (1)

j-beda (85386) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026296)

Your per-capita debt seems pretty darn low - are you sure it is correct? These folk peg Spain at $26,799.72 per capita in 2007, number 21, well below the US ($40,678.76 per capita) France, Germany, Sweden and near the top, the UK at $171,942.20 per capita.

Or do you mean that of the $27,000 almost $700 is because of electrical subsidization? If so, with such a moderate overall debt, perhaps that is not such a bad economic policy?

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (3, Insightful)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025536)

Sooner or later everyone on earth is going to have to bite that same bullet. Unfortunately, virtually every society in the world has chosen to squander their energy resources on building convenient, cheaper, but generally and often highly energy inefficient infrastructure. Reconfiguring everything now that it is built is going to be difficult, expensive, and a kludge to boot. That's what we collectively get for being morons who often don't think beyond the next quarter let alone several generations ahead.

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (-1, Troll)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025552)

How's that socialism working out for you?

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (3, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025604)

How's that socialism working out for you?

About as well as capitalism is working out for us, apparently.

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (1)

faragon (789704) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025662)

Socialism? It isn't. Both current goverment ("socialist") and the previous one ("conservative"), are pretty the same: pseudo free market + corruption. Both allowed the bank to pump the finantial and real estate bubbles, for their own interests (corruption, politic finantiation, etc.). Now we're facing the burst of the bubbles, without the possibility of coin devaluation, so is gonna be painful.

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (1)

diegocgteleline.es (653730) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025574)

Most of the subsidies have been cut (which is why the install rate of solar power stations has plummetted), and the money paid is not all a subsidy (to start with, the government doesn't pays it and the taxpayers money is not touched). In spain solar and wind power is 0 in the "power market", and the power distribution companies have to pay solar and wind energy at a prices the government has set. If there was a free market there wouldn't be any price set by the government, but the owners of solar and wind power stations would ask for a higher price than 0. There would be certainly a difference between the current price and the theorical free-market price, but some people think that the current price is all of it a subsidy, which it isn't (we just don't know how much of it is a subsidy). But that doesn't really matters, renewables are stil progressing. The proof is that despide of the lack of strong subsidies some companies are still planning new installations. Elecnor announced recently 3 new solar stations of 50 MW each one that will cost 900 millions - from their pocket. They wouldn't risk that money if they feared that the pro-nuclear opposition party can ruin it with a policy change.

Oh, and the nuclear power stations that have been dismantled in the last 20 years weren't really dismantled because of a anti-nuclear policy. The real problem was that those nuclear stations weren't needed (3 of our 8 nuclear power stations are switched off right now, and we are still exporting power to other countries) and some power companys went bankrupt while constructing them. The government had to use taxpayers money (lots of them) to keep those private companies alive, and had to stop the construction of new stations to avoid more losses. The best way the government found to hide all that was to tell the media that they had decided to go green.

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (1)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025586)

wait, "red" translates to "power network"?

Re:There are two sides in that coin... (1)

faragon (789704) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025610)

"Red" translates for "network", but the meaning of "eléctrica" in a non-literal translation fits better into "electric power", in that context.

Solar Wind (-1, Flamebait)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025144)

Bah, we shouldn't be using wind for power at all. Solar has more benefits and fewer drawbacks.

Solar can be put in more places than wind, and doesn't fuck up local weather (and potentially global). We have to ask ourselves, where does the energy come from? For Solar it is directly from the sun. For wind, it is much more complex, and much less understood what happens when we pull energy out of that system. We have the Coriolis effect and indirect effects from the sun, and wind drives other things. I don't want deserts expanding because less wind isn't getting moisture to the grasses and trees on the edges of the current ones.

Re:Solar Wind (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025286)

wind is a form of temporary energy storage. sun --> heat --> wind --> erosion.
total input energy (sun) will stay the same. output simply changes a bit. (a tiny bit less energy will be converted into erosion).

Re:Solar Wind (0, Troll)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025520)

Not if the earth begins to spin slower because we are taking energy out of wind.

Re:Solar Wind (2, Informative)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025618)

idiot. If no energy is taken out of the wind: It would start to blow faster and faster. Furthermore, if it is not taken out by windmills, it will certainly be taken out by houses, trees, mountains.

Re:Solar Wind (0, Troll)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025796)

Nope, because the system has feed back, when you break the system is when there are problems. Producing a little CO2 is not a problem, producing more than the planet can handle w/o changing the pH of the ocean is.

Just like wind, the world isn't covered in windmills, but, if you had enough wind turbines to produce 100% of the earth's energy, then we'd have a problem.

Clearly energy is already being taken out of wind, I'm arguing against pushing wind as a primary power source, not for clear cutting the planet because I 3 wind.

Re:Solar Wind (1)

burni2 (1643061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025300)

irony_on
"Chop of the woods, bomb the mountains .. they are interfering with the Coriolis effect."
irony_off

Solar is also volatile depending on the weather situation.

Have you ever watched a power curve from a PV-Panel over a longer time, you have spikes - here a cloud, there a diode less, which means the way you switch the panels together is important too.

If bad situation one panel in the black out means
the panel groups output is low

And solar panels are black, even converting ~30% of the light in energy they do heat up .. so they interfere with the atmosphere.

All in all, a mix is a good solution, because
wind and solar power have their weaknesses

btw. the wind forecasts are +90% acurate,
that's not what you can say about a checkered sky.

Re:Solar Wind (1)

coolsnowmen (695297) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025542)

Solarpanels being black only changes the heat if they are replacing previously reflective things. Cities already generate strange weather patterns because of the difference in heating/cooling versus the surrounding area, and you could put solar panels on every roof top in my neighborhood and not change heat signatures because they are already black.

That's great but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025196)

You still need a source of generation that can react quickly enough to stabilise voltage. Currently this is accomplished with fossil fuels (gas turbines, fired boilers / steam turbines, etc). Wind and solar can only supplement other base load sources of generation.

Re:That's great but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025244)

Hydroelectric power sources are excellent for that purpose: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydroelectricity [wikipedia.org]

Sorry, Nothing proved with one 3-day weekend (5, Informative)

meerling (1487879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025226)

My understanding is that the destabilization talk isn't about overloading a circuit breaker on one day, it's about massive fluxuation in available power over the entire generation time.

Just think of this. You've now made something like 80% of your grid powered by wind. (They all have problems, but let's just look at wind.) You have a doldrum for a day or two, now you've gone for that time period with only 20% of your normal power, that's destabilizing.
What if your windfarms are spead out over vast distances so they tend to have different local conditions. (Something like if you have them all over the USA.) In some ways that will help since no location is expected to be the same as the other, so there is an averaging effect going on. However, that averaging effect is limited by long distance power transmission issues. The grid isn't just a pull & dump system. It uses power to send power, and it needs to maintain what you could think of as electrical pressure, (V.W.A. formulas.) which is why you have all those transformers and sub-stations all over the place, they are one part of that system. So even in the distributed scenario, what if you get a situation like high-wind on the east coast, and calm conditions mid-continent, and dead west coast. Funny thing, the need for power didn't decrease anywhere, but only the east coast is generating enough for their area, some of the mid will be ok, others in brown-outs or black-outs, and the west coast would be mostly black-out conditions, except near the few remaining alternate power sources, assuming the grid demand didn't leach it out completely and blow the circuits. (The entire east coast USA was blacked out by a cascade grid failure, and it might happen again.)
Of course having multiple sources of power helps offset this kind of issue. For instance, solar. But that would only help during the hours of light, and again, it needs to be within a reasonable distance of it's market/users.

All this stuff is why intelligent power managers advocate a number of different generation schemes distributed over the area with clustering (when possible) near high draw locations (like big cities). And no power manager can rationally turn a blind eye to those methods that run 24 hours on demand.

I agree that we need to expand our renewable resources type power generation, as well as move away from fossil fuels, but it's a tricky balancing act with huge penalties for dropping the ball, so don't trivialize it.

Getting rid of insects (0)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025288)

Butterfly effect could rule too much/few windy/sunny days, and software bugs could put the grid on risk. Maybe that we base our civilization on that energy source is a crockroaches plan to make sure that only them survive.

hydrogen as capacitor for wind/solar (2, Interesting)

recordtary (1674112) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025340)

Regarding the grid.... Getting energy from there to here seems a problem. Isn't the problem with hydrogen fuel cells the fact that you have to have hydrogen in the first place (which takes energy?) I don't know the efficiencies lost via conversion (which would include the economics of transportation), but if solar or wind power was used to generate hydrogen, couldn't the hydrogen then be delivered to where it is needed, for use when wanted?

Re:hydrogen as capacitor for wind/solar (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025388)

There must be better ways to store energy. Hydrogen might be a good solution for transportation (maybe), but for local massive storage we need something cheaper and more scalable.

Re:hydrogen as capacitor for wind/solar (1)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 4 years ago | (#30026174)

Words cannot describe how easily hydrogen can be transported, so here is a video [youtube.com] of one such transport method.

Pump water up a hill? (1)

Manip (656104) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025486)

Ten years ago wasn't there talk about using renewable power to pump water up to higher ground and then release the water to generate electricity at a known rate with a known duration, etc. Turns unreliable power into highly reliable power with a little waste added into the process....

Re:Pump water up a hill? (2, Interesting)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025690)

The plans are much older than that, in the Netherlands I remember a plan from the 80's called the "Lievense Plan" which consisted of a huge water reservoir into which water was pumped, and then used to generate hydro power. The original plan was to fill the reservoir with any surplus power, wind as well as nuclear (which was looked upon favourably at the time), the idea being to keep less power plants running at capacity 24/7, instead of building more power plants to handle peak hours.

Recently scientists and planners have run the numbers again on this idea. One little change they made is that the system will now pump water out of the reservoir, generating power when it flows back in, so that a serious break in the encircling dyke does not flood the lands beyond (have to keep the eeevil terrorists in mind, you know?)

its going to end in tears (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025530)

how long until everyones favorite superpower starts invading windy countries?

Misleading article (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025622)

The way the information is presented clearly shows the lack of understanding by the author. The data actually proves the instability inherent in wind power.

The figures quoted are once off lasting for hours or days but not months. The next day will be a low wind day and instead of providing 40% of the energy required you only provide 10% or less (Spain has had over 100 days this year with no wind power generation, nada none). That is the instability, over a week, month, year not days.

One other point when wind was "providing" 40% of the electricity during the low load it actually was NOT. What was actually happening was Spain was producing a lot more wind power on top of typical output from conventional plants. We cannot effectively use and store excess power so the excess was wasted. Therefore the installation of wind has lead to wasteage.

This is why Denmark the leader in wind relies on interconnections to other countries, when excess is generated it is sold abroad. However for some reason Denmark has by far the highest prices in Europe for electricity even with the ability to sell excess. Also because Denmark has to export so much wind energy its installed capacity is nameplated to deliver 20% but only delivers approx 10%.

Without a viable and cost effective way of storing energy wind will remain too variable to provide cost effective energy that is carbon neutral. As wind has to be backed up in equal capacity (reason for Denmarks high prices) by conventional systems it cannot be said to be carbon neutral.

Fail2ors? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025646)

There is a solution (4, Interesting)

MikShapi (681808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30025730)

As Danish Oil and Natural Gas (DONG) utilities clearly figured out - put a REALLY big (distributed) battery [betterplace.com] on the grid to soak up the power when it's available and re-feed it into the grid when it's scarce. Not only can they produce more of the baseline power generation from renewable sources, they don't have to PAY the Germans to TAKE their excess power at night when they can't consume it. They can store it instead, use it at peak hour when kilowatt price is insane and drastically flatten the curve. Problem. Solution.

As an OT side-benefit, we get electric cars wrapped around said batteries. For what we already got used to paying for car's fuel, there's enough margin in the operator's plan to subsidize new cars for consumers (think free iPhone on a three-year-plan), we'll get a parallel 1-minute-battery-swap-station infrastructure to petrol stations to enable real (non-golfcart) electric cars to go as far as the stations reach (range limitation is station reach, not battery capacity/petrol tank) without hour-long-charges along the way, remove an entire country's addiction to oil, fix the environment by running every single car in the fleet off renewable, and actually allow everyone in town to plug their car in at 8AM without having the lights in office buildings go down (The 'Everyone owns a Chevy Volt' scenario), while not having to spend tens to hundreds of billions on new power plants to cater to the spike. (But hey, that's just a side benefit ;))

Look at the Data! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30025978)

Hello,
Wind is unpredictable, and cannot supply base load. Item 14 at the following link shows how unpredictable wind is and how it can be essentially zero for many days in a row:
http://www.transmission.bpa.gov/business/operations/Wind/default.aspx
This site gives information about the wind resources in the Northwest US.

If coupled with pumped storage, wind works great. The problem is the environmental community fights pumped storage, making precious few projects in the US viable.

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