Today’s local paper had an “opinion piece” about the pursuit of the chimera, (a thing which is hoped for but is illusory or impossible to achieve), of “carbon free electricity” entitled “Time to face electricity grid challenges”.
The author is Finn Peacock, CEO and Founder of Solarquotes, an organisation that promotes solar systems for domestic consumers.
After a bit of “Covid 19” tripe like “It is heartening to see Aussies steadfastly applying social distancing. This long-term thinking and trust in our medical officers will help us get through the pandemic with as little death and misery as possible-despite the short term inconvenience and cost”, (Tell that to the citizens of the DPRV), he proceeds to lay out a plan to reduce the “emissions” from electricity generation from 700 grams to 30 grams of CO2 per kWh.
He says “To get there we have to build vast amounts of wind and solar plus add an astonishing 20 GW of storage”. Clearly he has a problem as storage needs to be quoted in GWh. We need to know how long the storage will last when “fully charged”. Typical batteries that exist or are proposed in good old SA are rated at 100 MWh, (0.1 GWh), and cost around $100 million each or $1 million/MWh.
He talks about the recently released AEMO 20 year “plan” saying “many are claiming it is evidence that moving to 100% renewables will be easy, cheap and low risk. Others claim such a high penetration of renewables is delusional, expensive and impossible”.
Some time ago I analysed the 2018 generation data made available by Andrew Miskelly of Aneroid Energy. He collects it straight from the AEMO data and it is recorded in 5 minute increments for every generator.
The total consumption for 2018 was just under 197 GWh and “Reliable” generators produced 84%. Hydro produced 8%, wind 7% and solar 1%.
If the “polluting fossil fuel devil machines” are removed from the equation the annual deficit is 165 GWh. In order to make up this deficit with wind and solar only, (no one will be building hydro because the greenies will stop them), their installed capacity needs to be increased nearly eleven fold. This would raise the installed capacity of wind to around 64GW from 6 and a bit and solar to 27 GW from 2 and a bit.
This is only part of the story though. Demand drives the system and generation must meet demand constantly and within tight parameters of voltage and frequency. The temptation to look at “annualised” figures misses the times when demand is low but generation capacity is high, like times when the wind blows at night but no one wants much electricity. The answer is that this ”excess electricity” will be stored and used when the wind falls over or solar systems go to sleep at night.
The challenge that these folks need to meet is to look at a full year in detail and show how they would manage to meet demand at all times and quantify what would be needed to do it. I suspect that it is an impossible task, at the best it would be prohibitively expensive and there would be times when generation capacity would be over supplied and idle. There would be other times when nature conspires against it and there is a shortfall and a system failure. Their analysis should include the quantity of “storage” and allow for the losses in charge/discharge cycles, battery life, solar panel life and wind turbine life.
The man writing the article has boundless optimism:
“Things will go wrong. A grid without baseload is possible. But don’t believe the commentators who say it will be easy, we’ll be learning as we go. Yes there may be blackouts if things go wrong but the lights will come back on and we’ll learn from every outage until the new grid is as reliable as today’s grid”.
I am/was an engineer and one of the basic principles was to seek simplicity whenever possible. Complexity costs time and money and increases the chances of a cock-up exponentially. We need to remember that the best, simplest and most reliable means of meeting electricity needs has been trashed because some people think “emissions” will fry us all. It matters not that there is no proof of this and that the whole edifice is built on nonsense and sophistry. In a sane world we would have reliable thermal generation that is matched to the demand and that performs all the functions needed for a stable energy grid, just like we had until the idiots took over.