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.

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Change in Energy Generation in USA

May 29, 2014

This is not intended to be a political statement, but more of a timeline as to what has happened in USA over the last six years, probably for no real good reason.

Before President Obama took office in 2009, the amount of electricity being produced by coal-fired utilities was approximately fifty percent of the total. Today it is approximately forty percent and, when the Environmental Protection Agency regulations take effect as of June 2, more such utilities are likely to close their doors. The basis for the regulations is utterly devoid of any scientific facts.

Read more at: http://factsnotfantasy.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/the-regulatory-death-of-energy-in.html


Thorium Energy

May 11, 2014

I just became aware of the Thorium Energy Alliance, and their participation in a video by Popular Science Magazine. 

Thorium, as a future energy source for power generation, is written about in many places but it has not yet hit the mainstream in thinking. It should.  They say on their web site:

Why is thorium important if we already have uranium-fueled nuclear power plants? A thorium-fueled nuclear reactor generates hundreds of times the power of a uranium or coal power plant but produces essentially no waste. A thorium power plant would produce much less than 1% of the waste that a uranium plant of equal magnitude produces and, of course, would produce no carbon dioxide. More importantly, while the waste of a uranium power plant is toxic for over 10,000 years, the little waste that is produced in a thorium plant is benign in under 200 years. Even more impressive, the thorium power plant can be used to burn our current stockpile of nuclear waste.

 

 


BBC on “The Cost of Petrol and Oil: How it Breaks Down”

November 8, 2011

The BBC web site published an article today on “The Cost of Petrol and Oil: How it Breaks Down“.

They make the point that the “it’s immediately obvious who the primary beneficiary is: the government” with this graph:

They then focus on the price of oil which is a big part of the petrol cost and show the variation in price from about $30 a bbl in 2000 to about $100 a bbl currently (with the wild fluctuations in 2008 and 2009 where the peak price was about $135 to as low as $50 (estimates from their graph).

From then on it’s a bit speculation of what makes up the mysterious price of oil and what it pays for. They do go in to describe how oil price also includes significant portions of tax that goes to governments.

I was struck by some emotive sentences in the report:

However, even with such high rates of tax, this year oil companies are looking at margins of about 25% of the total cost of oil, which is pretty spectacular by most industries’ standards, although this figure does not include financing costs. UK gas and electricity companies, for example, work to margins of about 9%, according to the regulator Ofgem.

and, their last statement:

But whether it’s speculators, investors, governments or oil companies benefiting from high costs of petrol and oil, one thing is certain – consumers invariably end up losing out.

The concept of “losing out” is puzzling. Everyone wants to and needs to be paid, including all readers of this article. Everything we spend goes to someone’s pocket, which in turns goes to someone’s pocket, which in turn … Isn’t that how the world works?