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Posts tagged ‘wind power’

Nicaragua plans 70 % of renewable energy production

Nicaragua map from Wikipedia

This link in spanish explains these news. They will install wind power,, solar, hydroelectric and geothermal energy. It will not change the climate change game as Nicaragua is a small country of 6 million inhabitants that only emit 0.8 Tons CO2 per capita (in 2009). So they are not only well below the world average, they are even close or below the secure emission path. If we all humans would emit like them climate change problem would be close to be solved. They have not created this problem, they could feel quite reassured in their position and ask others for action with solid ethical grounds but, in the contrary, they plan to get most of their electricity from renewable sources. And these are good news because it shows that a low-carbon growth is not only meaningful for poor countries, it is also profitable and more reliable. They are not part of the problem now but can be and should be part of the solution, more if we consider that they are the countries bringing more humans to this stressed world

Last chapters in Spanish energy politics regression

definanzas.com.wp-content.uploads.energias-renovablesI started this post many time ago. And every now and then there are novelties, so it is like an never-ending post. Therefore, I have decided to stop and publish.

There was a time, not so far ago when Obama considered Spanish energy politics as a good example. A favourable Feed-in-tariff helped the development of a strong industry capable of exporting technology and an amazing 44% of electrical generation from renewables in January 2013 is an example of what was done. But this panorama, quite succesful, in fact, started to decline some time ago, concretely with the previous socialist government. And the current one, from the conservative party is deepening the problem and forcing the companies to look only abroad for new contracts.

After stopping feed-in-tariff for new installations the subsequent changes have attacked the installed solar panels and wind mills. The suggestion of removing the TUR tariff (the fixed tariff for most small consumers 99.6% of the consumers but only 50% of the KWh) was just a step. The general 6% new tax for all electricity generation followed.  And, last week a new change in feed-in-tarif for the active installations was designed with the tariff deficit in mind again.

But it does not stop there, efficiency measurements have been stopped too in a way quite difficult to understand. In one way european building efficiency directive has not been converted in law (it should be long ago) and this could be clearly an impulse for a collapsed building sector and certainly a help to save petroleum and gas expenditure and many of the programs from IDAE institute have been cancelled to support car sales (PIVE plan). The result is a record expenditure in fossil fuel imports. Is it not a bit contradictory with tariff deficit reduction philosophy? The only two good news are that el Hierro will not be affected nor a thermosolar central (just one).

It is clear from the beginning that Soria (industry and energy minister) has been mainly worried to reduce a very strange concept called “tariff deficit” , i. e. the difference between the attributed energy production costs and the final market value (TUR for most of the consumers). This difference has been steadily increasing in the last years and it is considered a debt of the consumers (or government I am snot sure) towards energy producing companies. Even if they have earned considerable money in spite of not getting all the attribution costs. Nowadays, with a terrible financial crisis this kind of debt is a heavy burden and Soria blames the renewables for it. Yet, there are data that  say the blame should be shared by many others as gas. Meanwhile the electricity demand continues falling with the economy and Soria is afraid this will continue to harm main energy companies.

I agree that the system was flawed, and that currently installed renewables are more expensive than some other energy types in direct costs but at the same time I think the whole electricity production and paying system should be redefined. It should be more transparent, clear and new renewables should have a reasonable possibility to enter as currently they are cheaper than ever, had a consolidated industry behind and produce many other benefits as jobs and reduction of CO2 footprint (Spain’s vulnerability to climate change is not low). By the way:

  • why not electrify transport to increment electricity demand but not energy demand?
  • or, why so much delay in self-supply regulation? If solar panel are expensive only the really convinced will install them and it they are not.
  • or, even better, why not simplify the system and introduce a carbon tax instead of the many other taxes to rightly account for actual externalities of the  different energy production processes?

Finally, the biggest problem with all this is the uncertainty it produces for other countries to start ambitious programs of  renewable energy. Spain was an example for energy transformation and it is at risk of becoming an example about how such a process could be spoiled. Nevertheless, the game is not over yet, a 44% of renewable electricity production in January (not based on Hydro power) is still a great number.

Renewable Electricity, many reasons for hope

In a previous post, I mentioned the rough figure of 42% of the energy in the world devoted to electricity production, sometimes,  when we talk about energy and climate change we only think in electricity. It is a mistake I do frequently. So, OK it is just 42%, it is not all but it is almost half of the problem. So it seems a good starting point for the solution as well. And though the situation is not wonderful and we are in a hurry, there are some sings for hope just in the electricity production data by country. They are in the following figures:

Share of renewable electricity by country, divided in the top consumers (80% of world electricity) and the rest

Share of renewable electricity by country, divided in the top consumers (80% of world electricity) and the rest

Share of Hydro power in the total renewable electricity by country, divided in the top consumers (80% of world electricity) and the rest

Share of Hydro power in the total renewable electricity by country, divided in the top consumers (80% of world electricity) and the rest

The so-called top producers correspond to the 16 countries that concentrate the 80% of consumption, the data come from the Wikipedia and are from 2009-2010, in this moment they should be better for many places.

Anyway, my hope comes from those facts:

  • The top producers are less renewable than the rest. But even there, there  are 2 countries with most electricity from renewables, so it is possible to maintain a “big” electricity system this way.
  • “The rest” show a lot of countries very renewable. It is hopeful because they should be the ones needing more new energy, so they can install it renewable. In th other hand this confirms that the problem and solution is concentrated in a few bunch of countries.
  • Among “the rest” hydro power is their main source of renewable energy, among top consumers too, but with significant amount of others as wind, solar or even Geothermal. This is interesting as the future and present should come from them.
  • Finally, electricity can be the way to decarbonize other sectors as transport (the road is the most important contributor there)

El Hierro, a renewable island

A map from El Hierro island

A map from El Hierro island

El Hierro is the smallest of the main Canary islands, with only 278 Km2 and 10000 inhabitants maybe for this reason it was the perfect place to accomplish an ambitious project: Get its electricity only from renewable sources. 5 wind mills will be enough for that but supported by an energy storage system, when the mills are not producing electricity for the grid they will feed pumps to raise sea water to a natural deposit. In case electricity is needed and there is no wind a hydropower station will work with this water coming from the deposit. A more detailed explanation is here.

Although small (10000 people) this project is ambitious and promising at the same time. Why? Because it works in a scale between the big country and the familiar house but at the same time it is a complete electrical system as Canary islands are not connected to other grids and for this reasons they have been reluctant to introduce too many renewable sources that would challenge the stability of their small grids fueled with diesel power plants. So it has been easier to try a total replacement (although fuel power plants will continue to be operative for backup) that a mixed system.

At the same time this is an opportunity, because Canarian electricity is expensive, more expensive than standard renewable technology and I haven’t found the cost of this project but it would not surprise me to find it is cheaper in the long-term that standard power production in El Hierro. This data would be great to make a more precise assessment.

Anyway, the most important achievement of this project in my opinion is that renewables have been able to become the main power generation source in a whole electrical system that clearly is in another scale compared to a household. It is a 10000 people scale distributed in a 278 Km2 location. By itself it will not change the general emission trend of the world because even if there are 700 million people living in islands, most of those inhabitants live in much greater islands. But it is a step to change scale and every difficult achievement has been done step by step.

EROEI, another strange word

I recently met twice this interesting concept, EROEI, I do not intend to give a better definition than wikipedia so I quote it:

energy returned on energy invested (EROEI or ERoEI); or energy return on investment (EROI), is the ratio of the amount of usable energy acquired from a particular energy resource to the amount of energy expended to obtain that energy resource

The easy and rough way: how much energy you need to get a unit of energy.

  • How much energy is neccessary to drill holes for getting oil, and then tranporting, refining,.. before final consumption in form of gas.
  • How much energy is needed to build a wind farm and the electricity net associated.

I like this concept because it is very physical and physicists love those things. Apart from that it is something that does not depend on economic circumstances or the influence of big companies in prices, or subsidies… The economy is more prone to account for short term interests and factors, so a more pure measurement system to compare different energy sources is welcomed. Of course it does not substitute the actual prices because nobody will accept it straightforward but it is another tool to takelong term decisions and understanding what’s going on. These 3 links go deeper in that concept, here, hear, and here. And finally this article in neofronteras that explains it very clearly in Spanish, as usual in that blog.

The calculated EROEI valujes range from 100 for oil almost in the surface to almost 1 or even less than one values for cases where the needed energy is more than the obtained.  It is considered that values below 10 are doubfully profitable and cases close to 1 should not be profitable at all but could be due to econonomical circunstances. Another factor is the time, that is not considered in this calcaulation and has led to other indexes as EIRR (last figure).

However, actual EROEI figures are not as pure as the concept and differ seiously from one source to other, you can check it in the figures below. Wind mills are ussually in the 20 values, quite good, there is also a coincidence about the lowering value of oil, but nuclear and coal prsent several different values. Photovoltaic is ussualy near the 10 limit. I do not know the cause of the divergence, I suppose it is not easy to calculate or maybe the same factors affecting energy economy are present here too, I will have to check it better.

At least, I agree with the idea that in the long term it is difficult to maintain a cheap low EROEI energy system, it would not be sustainable in any sense.

Another EROEI calculation, source, Searching for a miracle, but obtained from neofronteras.

Some EROEI calculations , source: Wikipedia

EIRR and EROEI from ococarbon.wordpress.org

EIRR and EROEI from ococarbon.wordpress.org

Risks of wind turbines

As I recently commented I think the the success of wind mills is one of the greatest driving forces for the frequent skeptical criticism. I want to study it more thoroguhtly but today I will just mention a good example:    This post in a portuguese skeptical blog really surpases most of the others.

Wind turbines are suposedly killers because there was a terrible car accident in Brazil in which a bus driver made a horrible mistake and crashed against the truck bringing a part of the wind mill. Almost 20 people were killed. The question is that the suposed killed could have been a big rock, a building, another bus, a truck with swines or even a gas truck, any big thing in the way of that poor bus. Because the bus invaded the other way.

Indeed, the blogger could have thought that the problem was the trafic and that a new transport concept with lower carbon footprint could help to avoid this fatal accidents, or that any other big energy structure could have been involved (a nuclear plant, a carbon power plant, hydro power,…). But, no it was the wind turbine, just because it was big and was there.

What really surprises me is how the get to know this kind of news. I sincerelly admire this research capability. Not so the later interpretation of the facts.


Windmills have been really succesful last years.

Windmills are maybe the main flagship for renewables (if we forget hydropower, ussually excluded by all parts from the discussion). They have been the cheapest renewable energy so the cost argument should be less important for them. However, they are one of the favorit targets for skeptics (here for example). Why?

Maybe becuse wind powers success, next figure shows the strong upwards slope in the world in last years.

Figure of Global Wind Power generating capacity, source: World Watch Institute

In Spain it produced more than 5000 GWh in April, more than 25% of total electricity, getting a maximun of 61% of total electricity production at 1:30 hours of April 19th;in the whole 2012 it is a 17.5% up to now. Really important figures that worry deniers and make me hopeful. Some renewables are not only getting actual producers, they are getting important shares in electricity production.