How about a pilot project to demonstrate the feasibility of all wind/solar/battery power generation? – Is it good?


Francis Menton

At this crazy time, most of the “Western” world (Europe, USA, Canada, Australia) is looking for a “pure zero” energy system. As I understand this concept, that means that, within two or three decades, all electricity generation will be converted from a predominantly fossil fuel generation mix to almost entirely wind, solar energy and energy storage. On top of that, all or nearly all consumed energy that is not currently electricity (e.g. transport, industry, heat, agriculture) must be converted to electricity so that the energy for these also has a can only be powered by wind and sun. and battery. Since electricity is currently only about a quarter of final energy consumption, it means we will soon have an all-electric energy production and consumption system, generating four times the output. compared to the output of the current power system, all from wind and solar. as needed using only batteries or other storage.

A reasonable question is, does anyone think to build a small to medium scale pilot project to demonstrate that this is possible? Before embarking on “net zero” for a billion people, try experimenting in a place with 10,000 or 50,000 or 100,000 people. See if it really works and how much it costs. Then, if it works for a reasonable cost, start expanding it.

As far as I can determine, that has never been done anywhere. However, there is something a little close. An island called El Hierro, which is one of the Canary Islands and part of Spain, has been working on a power system consisting of only wind turbines and a pumped reservoir for more than a decade. previous century. El Hierro has a population of about 11,000. It’s a very tall volcanic island, so it was fortuitously located for a large pump-storage hydroelectric project, with an upper reservoir in an old crater right on a cliff near from the lower reservoir just above sea level. The difference in elevation of the two reservoirs is about 660 meters, or more than 2000 feet. Here’s a picture of the reservoir above, overlooking the ocean, to give you an idea of ​​the favorable location for this pumped storage hydroelectricity:

The El Hierro wind/storage system started operating in 2015. How did it work? I would say it was at best a huge disappointment, indeed bordering on disaster. It has never come close to meeting El Hierro’s 100% wind/storage dream, instead averaging 50% or less over the year (although it has had some notable periods). above 50%). Furthermore, since only about a quarter of El HIerro’s final energy consumption is electricity, the project replaces only 10% of El Hierro’s fossil fuel consumption.

This is the website of the company that operates the wind/hydroelectric system, Gorona del Viento. Get ready for some exciting fun talk:

A wind farm produces energy that is fed into the island’s grid to meet the electricity needs of the people. The surplus energy that is not directly consumed by the Islanders is used to pump water between two reservoirs located at different heights. During periods of lack of wind, the water stored in the Upper Reservoir is discharged into the Lower Reservoir, where the Wind Pump Hydropower Plant is located, to generate electricity from its turbines. . . . Diesel power plants come into operation only in special cases when there is not enough wind or water to produce energy to meet demand.

Ended at production statistics page, people are still more excited about the tons of carbon emissions avoided (15,484 in 2020!) and the hours generating 100% renewable energy (1293 in 2020!). I think they’re hoping you don’t know that there are 8784 hours in a 366-day year like 2020.

But how about some real information about the amount of electricity the island and the final energy consumption this system can produce? Follow the links on that page for production stats and you’ll see that the system generated some 56% electricity for El Hierro in 2018, 54% in 2019and 42% for 2020. No figures have been provided for 2021. At least in the last three years of reported data, things seem to be going wrong fairly quickly. I suspect that’s not what you had in mind when you read that diesel generators only come into operation under “special circumstances” when wind volume is low. And with electricity accounting for only about 25% of El Hierro’s final energy consumption, the reported power generation statistics would mean that the final percentage of energy consumption from wind/storage facilities runs around 14%. in 2018, 13.5% in 2019 and only 10%. in 2020.

So why don’t they build the system a bit bigger? After all, if this system can provide about 50% +/- of El Hierro’s power, can’t you just double its size to get to 100%? The answer is of course no. Only 50% can be achieved when diesel generators are available at all times to provide adequate backup when needed. Without that, you’d need more storage capacity to get through what could be weeks of wind-driven drought, not to mention the seasonality of winds which means you might need a full 30 days of storage. or more. Take out your spreadsheet to find out how much.

Roger Andrews did the calculation for El Hierro in a January 2018 post on the Energy Matters website. His conclusion: El Hierro will need a pumped reservoir 40 times the size of what it built to get rid of the backup diesel. Andrews provides a wealth of information about the basis of his calculations and assumptions, so feel free to take a step further in his calculations with better assumptions. But unfortunately, his main assumption is that the pattern of wind discontinuities in any given year will be as discrete as 2017.

Then look at the photo and see if you can figure out where or how El Hierro will build that 40 times larger reservoir. It’s time to look at a few billion dollars worth of lithium ion batteries – for 11,000 people.

And of course, for those of us here and in the rest of the world, we don’t have giant craters 2,000 feet high right on a cliff from the sea. For us, it’s the battery or nothing. Or maybe just stick with fossil fuels for now.

So the closest we have got to a complete wind/storage “show project” is unfortunately short, and only really proves that the whole concept necessarily fails. fail if you need more storage than practical remote or affordable .

Read the full article here.

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