Tag Archives: Solar energy

A simple model: when capacity of solar and wind increase

In previous post, I described the particular dynamics in which electricity production from intermittent energy sources, when growing in capacity, will not increase much at the production valleys, but will steeply increase at the production peaks. This means that, when capacity increases, the needed backup capacity will stay high, even at multiples of the current capacity, but at the same time measures have to be taken to suppress the ever growing peaks.

I illustrated this with a (celebrated) record high of wind production on June 8, followed by a (neglected) low production (June 9). In less than 12 hours, the production fell from almost 3,000 MWh (capacity factor of 81%) to almost 20 MWh (capacity factor of 0.5%). This illustration was only for electricity production by wind energy. There is a complicating factor: solar is also an intermittent energy source and can intensify as well as dampen the effect of wind.

That made me wonder how this interaction would look like when capacity of solar and wind increases over time. In real-life, this is not witnessed yet, this is still to come. It is however possible to study the dynamics of such a system by modeling it.

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Minimize battery degradation or minimize damage from battery degradation?

In the series of posts on the battery-life saving algorithm of the University of Warwick, I made (twice) the remark that the managers of vehicle-to-grid programs would not be very keen in implementing such an algorithm. This because this algorithm, although it is hailed as a break-though, will have a negative impact on the primary purpose of these schemes, therefor tolerating (some) battery damage might be the preferred option.

That made me wonder whether I could check this. The Warwick paper was published two years ago and the Smart Solar Charging program was presented as having developed its own bidirectional charging stations, so if there is some ability to make improvements based on this supposed break-through, then this project should be the one that will show it.

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Solar and wind replace nuclear?

A small interruption from my 6-years-of-blogging series. This blog documented several meaningless (or even wrong) remarks from our (now former) Flemish Minister of Energy. I was a bit sad when I heard that he chose to be mayor of Ostend in stead of Minister of Energy, but apparently he doesn’t have to be Minister to utter such remarks. On a congress organized by his party (OpenVLD) he made following claim (translated from Dutch):

Today, offshore wind turbines provide 1.2 GW of energy production.

That is not even remotely true. Belgian offshore wind provides much less than that. The 1.2 GW is the capacity. The real production will vary, but will be on average a fraction of that number.

He obviously is confusing capacity with production. Why am I not surprised? Strange however is that the error is still not corrected yet at the time I published this post (now more than a week later). Didn’t they notice it? Or do all the energy experts of that political party stand behind this number?

Then comes the interesting part that leads to the subject of this post (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

“By 2026 we will increase this to 4GW without subsidies. From then on, the offshore wind farms will provide 20% of the total electricity requirement. This is just as much as the total electricity consumption of all Belgian families, “says Bart Tommelein.

This claim reminded me of the new energy pact made by the Flemish Green party, published a few days before the congress. It has a similar claim (translated from Dutch, my emphasis):

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Renewables are so cheap (define “cheap”)

Is renewable energy cheap? I often heard this claim in the past, mostly from politicians who want to justify their policies, but also from scientists. I then assumed that not all costs were counted, but had no clue what their specific arguments were.

The claim was also made in the current events lecture “A Sustainable Energy Supply for Belgium” (see previous post), specifically in the second lecture. The claim was that renewables are so cheap that they push fossil-fuel fired power plants out of the market. Odd, because subsidies for for example wind energy still exist in Belgium. If wind energy is really cheaper than fossil-fuel energy, then those subsidies don’t make much sense. Luckily, the speaker (Johan Driesen) took some time to explain his arguments in support of his claim and that made it very clear what he exactly meant by being “cheap”.

This is the part where he explains his reasoning (Dunglish not mine):

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Solar and wind power doing “extremely well” in Belgium (while facing blackouts)

Metaforum, an interdisciplinary think-tank of the University of Leuven, organized a Current Events Lecture on a Sustainable Energy Supply for Belgium last Monday (the video is available here). The incentive for this lecture was the unavailability of the majority of our nuclear power plants and the spectre of an electricity shortage this winter.

The speakers are a very diverse bunch: there are two electrical engineers, one economist and one philosopher. The title suggested that the focus is on sustainable energy sources, so I was especially interested in the lectures presented by the two engineers (first hour of the video).

The first speaker (Dirk Van Hertem) is a professor at the division of electrical energy and computer architectures (Faculty of Engineering Science) and gave a balanced overview of the current Belgian energy situation.

It was different for the second speaker (Johan Driesen), also a professor at the same division. He started with:

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A website actually powered by solar power

Low-tech magazine renewed the design of its website. At such not a world shocking event, but this design reflects the vision of the low-tech magazine and that is where it gets really interesting.

They understood that the internet became a rapidly growing power consumer, power that for a large part is created by using conventional power sources. Therefor they build a low-energy, self-hosted website actually powered solely by … solar power. Not in the way Google is doing (offsetting their power consumption, meaning buying their average power consumption from renewable power providers), but actually powering it by a solar panel.

This is the 50 Wp solar panel that is placed on the balcony of the founder of low-tech magazine, Dirk Dedecker, in Barcelona:

and this is the web server:

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“Energy” or “Electricity”, that is the question

When I was watching the NOS news flash in which the news anchor confused “electricity” with “energy needs” (see previous post), I initially assumed that this probably just was an unfortunate mistake, but when I went back to the tweet and scrolled down, I found this comment (translated from Dutch):

I have a strong suspicion that energy needs and electricity consumption are mixed up once again. Happens all the time.

Happens all the time? That sounds interesting! It could shed a new light on that news flash if the news crew not only produced the mixed up statement, but also are repeating it on a regular basis.

So I fired up a search engine and searched for instances of statements confusing energy needs and electricity consumption. I was very surprised how incredibly easy it was to find examples of such instances where both are mixed up…

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