Proposal for Better Way to Rate Renewable Energy Windmills

May 26, 2017

I’ve always been uncomfortable when I read or hear media reports of the proud completion of yet another windmill far where they seem to always say something like “Will meet the energy needs of more than 60,000 homes” or something like that. How they come up with that number is never explained and I suspect what they do is take the sum of the name-plate power rating capacity for each machine, multiply by some “attractive” load factor (say 30 or 40% where in fact the number is often closer to 20% or below) and call it a day.

I have a proposal for a different and probably more informative way.

Developers of windmill fields surely do short-interval (continuous?) long-duration (a year or two?) time-series site survey measurements of the patterns of winds (speed, direction, vertical profile) in the locations where they plan to plant a machine. It is from this wind from which energy is transferred into useful power to be dispatched to the customer. Using that data with some science and engineering, and the Betz Limit one can surely compute a probability distribution profile of the expected power output of that wind stream passing the windmill. Regardless of the name plate capacity of the machine (and how many near-by homes there are), this probability distribution shows how much power can be expected to come out. Certainly the size of the machine and other machine parameters are part of the output energy computation, but the basic input is how much wind does and will pass through the machine. And remember, no wind–no power. Too much wind–no power.

Then, agree (government can do this sort of thing easily) the probability percentile to pick off the cumulative distribution curve as the “standard” rating for that machine at that location and the time over which power/energy is harvested. I propose we use 95%, which means the windmill operator can say “We have 95% probability that over the course of a year this machine will create produce XX mega-watt-hours of electricity over the course of a year for our customers.” They can compute the confidence factor on that number, but there probably is no need to quote in media, but the investors surely should be informed.

With other methods of power generation, e.g. burning fuel (coal, gas, oil, nuclear, etc.) to produce power based on the thermodynamics capability of the machine it makes sense to quote the power capacity of the machine as the economic basis of how much sellable power will be produced. This is because the machine operators will, for sure, keep feeding the machine with a constant supply of fuel to ensure the machine produces what the customers demand and the investors expect. Whatever it takes, they will do it.

However, this approach to look at the machine to quote power production capability is misleading for renewable energy machines. Yes, serves the interests of those who want more of these machines, but what about the customers and the rest of society?

With renewable energy machines using solar, wind, tides, and waves … the operators are no longer in charge or nor have any responsibility to fuel the plant. We are at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Hence measure and predict Mother Nature.

Will it happen? Probably not. Or maybe they do it now. I don’t know. But if I had anything to do with it we would.


NY Times a Hypocrite

December 13, 2015

In the front page of today’s NY Times web site, I see links to the following two articles next to each other.

One implies doing something “green” will “keep the sea from rising” and the other applauds winter skiing and all that goes with it (mountains deforestation, outdoor heating, long-distance travel by air and car, etc.) which I can’t help but think, if you believe such things, could cause the seas to rise.

Jeez.

Screen Shot 2015 12 13 at 08 02 53


BBC is Ecstatic about America “finally taking steps to combat climate change”

August 3, 2015

Today the US Government announced what I believe are malformed and illogical new plans for “combating climate change.” The BBC can’t contain themselves. They love it. The BBC is part of the world movement to drive back to Medieval times.

They used most of the propaganda tricks of the trade in their 6 p.m. television news cast this evening with visual and audio clues, including using the word “carbon” to suggest that “black icky pollutant” rather than that trace gas, carbon-dioxide which is essential for live on earth. We probably need more of it and not less.

The worst visual was their representation was that “back icky stuff” pouring out of a power plant.

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Actually it’s probably steam and water vapour with back-lighting from the sun to make it appear to be that “black icky stuff”.

Sigh.


Privacy of Account Transactions at Big UK Bank

June 30, 2015

My bank–let’s call it The Big Bank–recently let me know of a future new service called “CashBack” where they offer 3% cash back per month on utilities and household bills, e.g. Council Tax, gas, electricity, TV packages, water bills, phone, broadband, and mobile contracts. This “benefit” costs £2 per month.

The bank told me that their calculation for me indicates that I would get approximately £17 per month back. So … the idea is give the bank £2 per month and they give me back £17. Humm. As an “investment” looks to be a no-brainer. Better look more closely.

  • Who is paying the delta between £17 and £2?
  • I can’t imagine The Big Bank taking the hit. So the service provider is probably subsidising this partially or whole? Why can’t the service providers simply reduce their costs instead of this scheme?
  • Use a now-favourite term, this doesn’t seem sustainable. Doesn’t taste well.

Most importantly, why did The Big Bank feel the right to inspect my banking transactions to determine the £17 savings I could incur? They could not compute this possible savings without looking at my banking transactions. Is this proper and in conformance with banking privacy rules, regulations, and law?

Seems as if The Big Bank has a lot of time on their hands to shuffle money around to no benefit to society. I wonder who benefits by how much?

I declined this “benefit”.


Engineers and Ethical Responsibilities

February 27, 2015

I occasionally make comments about “engineers” vs. “scientists” and their inherent skills, expertise, and value. I believe that society (as sadly presented by media and government) puts too much faith in what they say, how they say it, and their capabilities. Too many people base their own thinking, and defend it to others, on “scientists say” appeal to authority. I sort of understand the political pressures which cause this.

Regardless of whether the “scientists” are correct or incorrect, wise or devious, few if any scientists are obligated to act under an special or legal ethical obligation. Engineers in most countries are “licensed” as an important and “learned” professional, whereas “scientists” are not. Engineers have well-defined professional societies with ethical policies.

Dr. Drang has posted an excellent summary of this related to computer programmers calling themselves “software engineers”. To me the same issue applies with other jobs, e.g. “scientists”.

He reminds me of the “six fundamental canons” of of the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE)

  1. Hold paramount the safety, health, and welfare of the public.
  2. Perform services only in areas of their competence.
  3. Issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.
  4. Act for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees.
  5. Avoid deceptive acts.
  6. Conduct themselves honorably, responsibly, ethically, and lawfully so as to enhance the honor, reputation, and usefulness of the profession.

– See more at: http://www.nspe.org/resources/ethics/code-ethics

I can see where the absence of such ethical behaviour can get society into difficulty.


What do I think about The Oil Price Plunge?

January 14, 2015

The topic of low oil prices has come up a few times. Always an interesting, but probably impossible to really understand.

My personal view (and if I knew everything I would work in City/Wall Street) and I’ll try not to exaggerate.

  • It’s happened before … more than once.
  • It proves that forecasting, especially about the future, is difficult. “Economists didn’t see this coming”. Humm.
  • It proves that when politicians try to drive a market, they will fail.
    Thank goodness that the “price freeze” advocated by some did not go into
    force. We’d be stuck with those high and frozen government-mandated
    prices.
  • It shows the fallacy and illogicalness of some governments’ policies
    for energy and power, e.g. in Scotland we are abandoning low-cost energy
    and power and adopting (permanently) high cost energy and power …
    which is likely to significantly increase poverty, unemployment, and
    death (cold homes kills).
  • It probably accelerates the decline of the North Sea and oil and gas jobs in
    Scotland/UK will disappear soon, and probably permanent. Quite a lot of valuable
    oil and gas known to exist under the North Sea will be stranded as the
    cost to produce is just too much.
  • The economy might be positively stimulated by the money it frees up to consumers
    and industry … but government might quickly fill that void by
    increasing tax as there is now a significant tax shortfall caused by
    reduced oil prices and production. Jury is out.
  • There is increasing pressure on businesses to now reduce their prices
    since customers know that business costs ought to be lower, hence business
    are “expected” to ignore economics and free enterprise and charge based
    on costs and not charge based on market price. That’s a theme I see
    expressed by some politicians. (which is better? dunno. I guess from
    point 1 above, to do anything other than market price is risk, but what
    do I know)? If prices then are forced down by whatever reason, it
    increases the risk of deflation–which nobody wants.
  • “fat” companies will fail and the best performers will get leaner and
    perform better (saw this happen in mid 1980’s when same thing happened)
  • I notice stock markets in City and Wall Street are uncertain if low
    oil prices are good or bad (note the recent volatility). I don’t know
    either.
  • I suspect development of alternative energy and power methods are at risk.

The world now seems to be at a funny place.


“Climate Engineer” – New Term

July 14, 2014

Scottish Sceptic at http://scottishsceptic.co.uk/2014/07/13/why-climate-engineers-beat-the-climate-academics has conceived a new term (at least to me)–Climate Engineer. He is distinguishing the term “Climate Engineering” with the term “Climate Scientist”–which has been in long-term use, particularly by people who don’t really know what it means. He asks the question

Why is it that people from a general engineering/science background like us skeptics could have known that the academics would get it wrong?

He boils it down to:

Engineers cannot draw an abstract line around what someone deems to be the “science”, and pretend the rest doesn’t matter.

I particularly like his table of comparison, which is worthy of consideration. What does this all mean? To me, it summaries how society has ended up down this blind alley. We’ve mis-placed our trust.

ScientistVsEngineer