What are the prospects for RE in our time?

This Monday evening at dinnertime the wind was providing 6% of the electricity required to keep the lights on in the eastern states and SA. With stoves and heaters in full flight the demand was 28.4GW, approaching the level on summer evenings when the drivers of demand are cooking and cooling.

The sun was off duty and the windmills were delivering 23% of installed capacity, a little under the average of 29%. They contributed 1.7GW that amounts to 6% of the demand. That is quite normal, in January the wind supply only reached double figures on seven days in the month at that time in the evening. At the average level of production (29%) the output is about 2GW for the current wind fleet and that would have been 7% this evening. Wonderful!

Black and brown coal provided 18GW (operating at about 85% of installed capacity), supported by various forms of gas that contributed 4.9GW. Score 22.9 for fossil fuels, that is 80% of the demand. Add almost 4GW from hydro and the score for conventional power is 94%.

Given that there is no measurable grid scale storage at present (the Musk batteries provide a few minutes of voltage regulation, not storage) no amount of solar panels that destabilize the grid in the day will be worth a cracker in the evening. That means it is all up to the wind. Even if the average of 29% was delivered constantly with no slack periods the prospect of increasing the supply from 6% to something approaching 100% is remote. Imagine the number of windmills and the transmission lines!

Given the frequent periods (choke points) when there is little or no wind the prospect of reliable supply from the wind even to the level of 6% on a 24/7 basis is not just remote, it is inconceivable.

And a bonus, a day in the life of a little Swedish girl in a world without petroleum products. Read it in your browser if necessary to get a translation.

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37 Responses to What are the prospects for RE in our time?

  1. yarpos

    ScoMos plans wont be remotely possible unless built on a foundation of affordable reliable energy. Lets see if they have the gonads. I think not, but I will be pleased to be wrong.

  2. Bruce of Newcastle

    No such thing as renewable energy.
    On the other hand if solar and wind are renewable energy then nuclear is renewable energy too.
    Think about it…

  3. HT

    Yah! At last someone understands Musk’s batteries are about stability and not storage!

    Now, does anybody unstandardised why that insufferable prick Musk named his kid what he did?

  4. Rob

    Those foolish Victorians cheering the destruction of Hazlewood Power Station are surely abysmally ignorant of the incredible role it played in building and sustaining their state’s glory days.
    Nowadays, and in steady decline, Victoria must get much of its electricity from coal burners interstate.

  5. The BigBlueCat

    Finkel on Q&A (Question and Anger?) last night reckons we should ensure we have more than enough energy from wind and solar so we can start exporting it. Tell him he’s dreaming ….

    If we can’t generate enough energy from wind and solar for our own domestic use, how would we ever produce enough to start exporting it? And how? VLPs? (Very Long Powerleads)

  6. I think it will be eminently possible to have 100% ‘renewable’ energy. But will it provide what we require is another question. Perhaps this virus lockdown is a prelude to what we’ll be experiencing in future and with calm acceptance. Lord Dan has declared it good and thus it is good.

  7. duncanm

    I love little Greetje’s story.

    Looking forward to the next chapter!

  8. Bruce of Newcastle

    Coal is renewable energy too.
    Slightly slower in the renewable aspect though.

  9. Coal is renewable energy too.
    Slightly slower in the renewable aspect though.

    It’s actually the original and best renewable energy (along with oil and gas), produced by nature itself and requires no metal, concrete, plastics or rare earth materials or any human involvement to be produced.

  10. mundi

    So what does 100% renewables even look like?

    $2/kwhour? $10/kwhour?

    Nightly brown outs and power rationing?

    They must have some idea already.

  11. Leo G

    I think it will be eminently possible to have 100% ‘renewable’ energy.

    No, it is not possible to have 100% renewable energy.
    Energy is inherently non-renewable. That’s why nature lawfully conserves it.

  12. JohnL

    The solution to “wind problem” is quite simple. To each wind turbine install a fan that turns the turbine and produce the electricity when there is no wind.
    The Spaniards solve the similar problem when there was no sun. They instaled reflectors (using energy-saving globes) to shine on solar panels to generate electricity.

  13. Roger

    Energy is inherently non-renewable.

    Energy remains constant, although its form can change.

    But in this discussion it is the sources used to generate electricity that are deemed renewable.

    It’s a manner of speaking, Leo; not everyone – least of all green politicians – is familiar with the laws of thermodynamics.

  14. Mark M

    What are the prospects of truth in our time?

    Scientists understand cattle not climate villains, but media still missing message

    Methane is a heat-trapping, potent greenhouse gas, and he stressed he was not suggesting that “it didn’t matter”.

    But the key question for livestock is do ruminant herds add to additional methane, meaning additional carbon in the atmosphere which leads to additional warming?

    The answer he said was clearly “no”.

    https://www.beefcentral.com/production/scientists-understand-cattle-are-not-climate-villains-media-still-missing-the-message/

  15. JohnL

    Finkel on Q&A (Question and Anger?) last night reckons we should ensure we have more than enough energy from wind and solar so we can start exporting it. Tell him he’s dreaming ….

    Not at all.
    He is just being realistic. The country needs to export something when Chincs cut our throats and start importing coal from Brazil.

  16. hzhousewife

    It was interesting to hear the BBC radio Science show earlier this morning. Topic was the development of those big vertical wing sails so that huge cargo vessels can reduce fuel consumption. Was amused to hear the designer say they were targeting the bulk carriers of biomass chips, needed to take into account conditions around Baton Rouge so I assume the trade from US to Europe, trees to burn.
    What a merry-go-round.

  17. Roger

    The country needs to export something when Chincs cut our throats and start importing coal from Brazil.

    We’re not without our own points of leverage in our dealings with China.

  18. Andrew

    I must admit, being old-fashioned, when I saw “RE” I thought ‘Religious Education’.

    Then I realised that was exactly what it was about – RE is , as many have pointed out, a new religion.

  19. …we have more than enough energy from wind and solar so we can start exporting it…

    I can just visualise these bulk electron carriers, gliding out of our ports with sails billowing, stocked with giant Tesla batteries (akin to bulk container carriers) delivering much needed electricity to our northern neighbours.

  20. JohnL

    It’s a manner of speaking, Leo; not everyone – least of all green politicians – is familiar with the laws of thermodynamics.

    Correct this to read:
    It’s a manner of speaking, Leo; not everyone – least of all politicians and “climate scientists” – is familiar with the laws of thermodynamics.

  21. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    I’d love to see li’l Greetje’s story supplemented with some non binary specific lifeforms* from the mythical land of Oz.

    They could all enjoy the misery equally.

    * Trigger warning: Irredeemable imbeciles

  22. min

    Believe Lucy Turnbull reckoned we were in the battery era. Did N ‘t someone say that it would take containers of batteries laid end to end from East coast into Indian Ocean to store enough energy , how do you keep them recharged enough when batteries age , what do you do when finally cactussed?
    These people live in lala land in their mansions by the sea Very well informed about the rare earths needed to make them and the toxic methods for processing them . no worries we can buy them from China.

  23. min

    What ever happened to the giant solar farm that EU were going to build on coast of Africa and transmit the energy across the sea to Europe ? That was an idea that they were all gung ho about years ago.

  24. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    how do you keep them recharged enough when batteries age, what do you do when finally cactussed?

    How do you stop them spontaneously combusting/exploding?

  25. Mother Lode

    I don’t get it: Sarah Two Dads is surely a vegetarian. Where does all that bulk come from?

    The sacrificing of key amino acids makes vegetarians and vegans thinkers of very limited competence and endurance, so they will simply label meat-eaters evil and that is all. Alternatively they will line up and lean wearily on any other vegan and give them their vote regardless of the absurdity of their platform.

    Does she sneak out buy burgers?

    Does her fridge have a hidden compartment containing steaks, pasta, and chips?

  26. Terry

    @Leo G
    #3465316, posted on May 27, 2020 at 8:12 am

    The difference between “renewable” and renewable is immense.

    I’m a fan of letting the market provide the two shots to the back of the head “renewables” are due, but since we live in the new ‘Age of Stupid’, let’s just ban them until the world reclaims its sanity.

    It is time to stop trying to reason with the Zombie-herd and man the barricades.

  27. Dasher

    This is a scandal…reckless ideologues. How much wind and solar , over what sort of distances would we need to produce that mythical 100%. What emissions would be expelled to produce this massive effort..how long would they last (25 yr?) and do we then start again? How much and what emissions?what is involved in removing the old renewables and does that include the millions of tons of concrete used to stabilise these monsters? Then of course we need backup?……add that to the cost and add the emissions to keep the back up going. Batteries simply are not ready to be used as grid backup and probably never will be, but these ideologues will spend whatever it takes to try….batteries go flat what happens then? start again..what about toxic waste, replacement costs, are there enough raw materials? (the brits 100% EV is said to use up all the lithium cobalt..what then?). of course then compare this massive outlay in costs, emissions, environmental damage, land use (which I agree we have a lot of..but long lines of communications)…with HELE coal plants, gas and the new small nuclear reactors. Extremely dense power than can be placed where it is needed (in situ from existing plants?). I have no doubt that an honest analysis by engineers would be a revelations.

  28. I guess Australia is destined to become a mineral rich but energy poor country (or just a poor country).

  29. Leo G

    I must admit, being old-fashioned, when I saw “RE”

    The old favourite was Reliable Electricity sauce.
    Unfortunately, the root stock was blighted by Reliant Enervation parasites so that it now takes twice as much work to produce the sauce for every doubling of the extent of the parasite.
    Consequently, Reliable Electricity sauce is increasingly more expensive and distasteful.
    The suppliers believe they can make Reliant Energy sauce from 100% parasite and discontinue the old Reliable product, but they will need expensive new gas cookers. They can keep the price from increasing too much- for a time- by having the government tax the old sauce to subsidise the new kitchens.

  30. Terry

    @Dasher
    ‘…compare…’
    It boils down to this.

    We can choose Energy Density (Nukes & Fossils) or Social Density (a fervently religious devotion to “renewables”) but not both.

    Similarly, by extension, we must choose between the wealth, prosperity, and happiness brought about in no small part by the benefits of that Energy Density, or the poverty, hardship, and misery suffered under the collective delusion of “renewables”.

    It seems that at this point in history “we” have gone all-in on Social Density. Behold the Age of Stupid.

  31. Leo G

    We can choose Energy Density (Nukes & Fossils) …

    There’s been talk about a new clear, fish-enabled sauce, but the bottles are difficult to recycle.

  32. Terry

    ‘but the bottles are difficult to recycle’
    meh, recycling is overrated. Just stick the empties in the ground until they stop glowing.
    Besides, the ‘fish-enabled sauce’ is delicious. Totally worth it.

  33. min

    I just pressed the American flag on the Greta story site for English version

  34. Regarding renewable energy as a replacement for fossil fuels, I am sure it is now well known by now that the Moore/Gibbs video has been removed by Youtube due to an intellectual property rights claim against Moore/Gibbs. Not that there is a connection but in the meantime of course climate scientists have been shouting for its removal. This unlikely clash between two environmental groups is a puzzle. I have provided a brief history and analysis of this strange conflict between two groups of humans both of which are trying to save the planet from human activity.

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2020/05/27/climate-science-vs-environmentalism/

  35. yarpos

    Rob, “Nowadays, and in steady decline, Victoria must get much of its electricity from coal burners interstate.” That is such a nonsense (both in scale and source) and easily verfiable by looking at the AEMO site nearly every day. The only coal power VIC can import is from NSW and at the moment NSW is routinely in deficit importing at about the 1 GW level from QLD most days.

    As I type this 8Amish 28 May , NSW is importing 600+MW from QLD and 100+MW from VIC. All those numbers are a moving feast but in general NSW over recent time has been a regular importer of power.

  36. Rafe Champion

    Lately Victoria has been using about 5/8 the power of NSW and I find that surprising, presumablyit is due to the collapse of manufacturing that was concentrated in Victoria, although I didn’t think it was that concentrated.

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