Saturday, 24 May 2014

What are the most efficient forms of energy? ... It might not be just a question of how to generate power the best way ... By 2026 100% of German houses will be zero energy consumers. In the UK it will be under 5%.

When discussing the most efficient forms of energy, there are very different perspectives to be had: 
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy? another look at nuclear...
Futures Forum: What are the most efficient forms of energy.. at a local level?

The Sidmouth Herald's letters pages have been considering this, with an on-going debate this past fortnight....

... as have the letters pages of the Guardian, in response to a piece by Simon Jenkins:

Renewable energy won't rid us of the horrors of coal
The Turkish disaster has brought home the grave costs of mining. But hysteria-led policies will only make matters worse

Simon Jenkins The Guardian, Thursday 15 May 2014 20.34 BST
Jump to comments (678)

‘The death rate among Chinese miners may be down from some 6,000 a year at the turn of the century, but is still over 1,000 a year.' Illustration: Noma Bar

If 300 workers were to die in a nuclear accident or a shale gas blast, such an energy source would be doomed. Not so coal. Coal is the filthiest and most polluting form of energy, and the most dangerous to extract. I recall my Welsh grandfather boasting that none of his sons had "gone down the pit". Yet coal continues to exert a mesmeric hold on the world's imagination, especially on the left.

Renewable energy won't rid us of the horrors of coal | Simon Jenkins | Comment is free | The Guardian

In Germany, there are different perspectives on energy:
Futures Forum: “Energiewende” – energy transformation... reducing dependence on fossil fuels and changing the role of the large traditional utilities.
Futures Forum: Renewables are proving too successful in Germany...

With a little on-line discussion here:

March 13, 2014
Paul O says:
The Germans ....
1) Shut down their nukes Which were quite safe....without having had storage solutions ready to go
2) They resorted to burning more Lignite coal....and burning more particulate emmitting biofuels
3) The idea of a future (adequate ) storage system is an act of blind faith.
This sounds like a belief based system to me.
Also, the whole anti nuclear movement which spawned Energiewende is fundamentally a belief based ideal, and there is no guarrantee it will work or work well.

March 13, 2014
Bas Gresnigt says:

1) "Germans ... shut down their nukes. Which were quite safe...without having ... storage..."
Though more safe than the unsafe NPP in The Netherlands: Still, a simple 200ton airliner/freight plane is enough to change those in another Fukushima Daiichi..
Germany had enough spare and storage in place as shown in winter 2011/2012. Tthey have ~35 pumped storage facilities and connections mountain countries Austria/Switzerland and Norway/Sweden. In addition the organized stand-by of 3 fossil plants, only one had to run a few weeks as spinning reserve.

2) "They resorted to burning more Lignite coal"
This is one of the many phantasies. The opposite is true. Please check the real figures.
This graph shows the changes in the last 6 years.

3) "...idea of a future (adequate) storage system is an act of blind faith..."
In 2000 they did the same with PV and Wind. I have no insight knowledge of battery systems, but I have about PV-cells and wind turbines. I shared the estimation that costs of PV-cells would come down greatly, as it did. Though less fast & less deep (yet) than my estimation. With wind I estimated that wind turbines would grow to 8MW with substantial costs decreases. That was too pessimistic. I now estimate that we will see 20MW wind turbines which will produce for ~30% less than the best we haven now.

It is a matter of good knowledge about the physics behind those technologies, and estimate what will happen once real production with real money takes off.

With PV-solar I estimated that thin film may be produced by mills, the same method as paper. However higher yield cells reduced the market volume for thin film. Furthermnore, my estimation that the cost of double junction cells (~30% yield) would decrease faster, showed to be wrong.

With wind turbines, blades are still primitive, more or less copies of plane wings.
With a sudden wind gust the blade should not only be elastic, but also torque (more torque towards the tip of the blade). That allows for lighter blades and higher capacity factors. It can be done using different fibers in different directions, e.g. Kevlar in one direction and the more elastic Dyneema in another direction. But it involves design and calculation issues that have to be solved.

But it might not be just a question of how to generate power the best way. 

Renewables Growth and Grid Integration | The Energy Collective

Indeed, to return to the letters page of the Guardian, it might not be just a question of power generation...

You can't write off the contribution of wind energy

The Guardian, Thursday 22 May 2014 21.00 BST

Thanet, off the coast of Kent, is Europe's biggest wind farm. Photograph: Carl Fox/Mirrorpix

As well as the coal miners killed in disasters, Simon Jenkins (A dash for renewables won't rid us of the horrors of coal, 16 May) could have added their occupational illnesses, as well as the diseases suffered by everyone as a result of breathing air polluted by burning coal. The great London smog of December 1952 killed more than 15,000 people. Electricity has a high political profile but only represents about 12% of end user power consumption, and unlike other fuels, electricity cannot be stored, so generation and consumption must be simultaneous. As peak electricity use only occurs for about 20% of the day, there are idle generators for more than 80% of the time.

The biggest UK energy problem is not supply but waste. By 2026 100% of German houses will be zero energy consumers. In the UK it will be under 5%. Thirty years ago more than 60% of electricity was coal-fired; today the figure is 38%. Electricity generation wastes nearly 60% of input energy. Other EU countries have combined heat and power stations that are 70% efficient. The most wasteful sector is transport at nearly 80%, and 99% dependent on oil. Indeed, more than 80% of all UK oil is now used for transport, as other oil uses have been replaced mostly by gas. There is as yet no economic alternative to oil for transport, but there needs to be: toxic transport fumes kill about 29,000 people a year, and all UK cities breach both the WHO and EU air standards.
Professor LJS Lesley

You can't write off the contribution of wind energy | @guardianletters | Environment | The Guardian

That is, German-built housing is much more efficient in terms of how they are built:

The German KfW programme stands out as one of the most successful measures for building renovations, which will be accompanied by a long term renovation roadmap targeting nearly zero-energy building standards for renovation by 2050.


Whereas in the UK, there's still a long way to go:

The UK’s housing stock is amongst the least energy efficient in Europe, and is responsible for nearly a quarter of our annual carbon emissions.

Retrofit for homes | UK Green Building Council

And if we compare with Sweden, it is similarly not very impressive:


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