The Future of Power Generation in Great Britain

The Future of Power Generation in Great Britain

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Discussion

XM5ER

Original Poster:

5,080 posts

212 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
I once titled my Degree thesis the same, how ironic that very little has improved since I wrote it 25 years ago.

Anyway, I proposed to bring the wind generation discussion out of the Climate Change thread for the purposes of opening up to the wider PH audience (I know a lot of people don't venture in there anymore since it is so polarized). I also want to open it up beyond the renewable discussion as so much has gone wrong since I wrote my thesis all that time ago.

To state my position, we should be building CCGT plant (combined cycle gas turbines) and fracking for all we are worth. At the same time we should be piling research into modular small fission nuclear power plant and putting long term research into fusion (hot or cold). I do not believe that wind power has more than a minor contribution to be made due to it's intermittency (is that a word?) and therefore the need to have back up plant that costs a shed load of cash to be just sitting there idling. As for solar? Give me a break, it barely warms my skin for more than a few days a year, it sure ain't gonna charge my Tesla.

Lets try to keep the discussion factual and non insulting. Speaking as a fkknuckle, I don't worry about name calling on the internetz but I know a few special snowflakes take unkindly to being accused of onanism, plus it doesn't add much to the debate.

Paddy! LongQ etc. You're up.


Shakermaker

11,317 posts

64 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
I'm in favour of solar power and I do believe it to be more feasible and on the way to making big changes.

In the first house I bought, the previous owners had fitted a solar panel to the roof which charged up the hot water tank. From around April to September/October, we didn't need the boiler on at all to give us the hot water we used, and it worked well.

I've also read some articles which show how much more effective the new solar panels are becoming at collecting even low-levels of daylight and turning it into useable power.

We are tied to 240v in the UK for many many reasons, but at a local level, in the home, there are not many appliances that are still using such power all the time? Kettle, yes, washing machine/tumble dryer, yes, electric oven.

But advances in technology mean that things like mobile phones, and computers, don't need massive 240v power sources, which are all rated down to 5-12v in many cases are they not? Why do we still need to keep them going from a 240v source? I don't believe we do, and as such, there is enough daylight in most parts of the UK to actually give homes a lot of the power they actually need.

feef

5,184 posts

147 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
XM5ER said:
As for solar? Give me a break, it barely warms my skin for more than a few days a year, it sure ain't gonna charge my Tesla.
Something that's worth pointing out for those that don't know about solar,

Full-Spectrum Photovoltaic Material draws power from the full spectrum (as it's name suggests) which includes UV, the visible spectrum and IR (infra-red which is what is the feeling of warmth).
With more than half the 'power' of solar coming from UV and visible light, the lack of heat/IR isn't a big deal.

Existing photovoltaic and amorphous cells use only the visible spectrum, so less than 10% of the solar 'power' is useful, but again, don't use IR so the lack of heat is a red herring

As solar gets more and more efficient, we need less and less direct sunlight to make it more useful

I agree that it'll never solve all the problems, but I don't think it should be written off just yet

Likes Fast Cars

2,588 posts

129 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
I agree with a lot of your points OP, I'm from the industry and have long advocated a sensible balanced approach including the need for CCGT and in some cases, dare I say it, retaining coal given the many technical benefits which, given the market structure, help to keep prices manageable.

Use of solar is a good if you can get enough sunny days and embedding "generation" by way of solar is an effective solution with benefits well above just the generation investment (transmission & distribution costs being just one).

Of course the entire value chain needs to be well thought through - smart metering, energy efficient appliances, diversity of retail "products", etc - as part of determining the right approach to generation and the entire market structure.

I am of the view the over-enthusiastic approach to green everything runs counter to the basics of efficient markets and really should be re-thought (preferably discarded!) when one looks at how capacity is lagging in many parts of the world and costs are getting out of hand.

I'm interested to see how this thread goes, thanks for starting it here.

Monty Python

4,740 posts

161 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
XM5ER said:
I once titled my Degree thesis the same, how ironic that very little has improved since I wrote it 25 years ago.

Anyway, I proposed to bring the wind generation discussion out of the Climate Change thread for the purposes of opening up to the wider PH audience (I know a lot of people don't venture in there anymore since it is so polarized). I also want to open it up beyond the renewable discussion as so much has gone wrong since I wrote my thesis all that time ago.

To state my position, we should be building CCGT plant (combined cycle gas turbines) and fracking for all we are worth. At the same time we should be piling research into modular small fission nuclear power plant and putting long term research into fusion (hot or cold). I do not believe that wind power has more than a minor contribution to be made due to it's intermittency (is that a word?) and therefore the need to have back up plant that costs a shed load of cash to be just sitting there idling. As for solar? Give me a break, it barely warms my skin for more than a few days a year, it sure ain't gonna charge my Tesla.

Lets try to keep the discussion factual and non insulting. Speaking as a fkknuckle, I don't worry about name calling on the internetz but I know a few special snowflakes take unkindly to being accused of onanism, plus it doesn't add much to the debate.

Paddy! LongQ etc. You're up.
First, I can't see fission becoming more popular - the costs involved, particularly on the decommissioning/waste side make it prohibitively expensive for a private power company to do. If the government did it, then that would be a different issue. There is a lot of talk around thorium reactors but they are commercially unproven.

On fusion, they've been going at it so long that I don't expect it to become a commercial reality in the next 10 years (and that's being optimistic).

I think the best option, especially for the short term, is to invest in storage technology (e.g. the battery equivalent of pumped storage) so that the likes of wind/tidal/solar aren't limited to when there is demand - they can generate power at all times.

Also, the Government should be investing in research into high temperature superconductivity. If transmission losses (currently ~7.7% in total) could be reduced that would cut the required generating capacity. Alternatively, the construction of smaller power stations to primarily supply their local areas would remove the need for overhead transmission lines.

It all depends how quickly you need it.

rxe

4,791 posts

67 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
We have a 4 kW solar array, which is pretty big by domestic standards.

On a cloudy, wet summers day like today it is producing 225W at 11:15 in the morning. That's enough to power the computer I am writing this post on, the burglar alarm and the broadband router. Clearly at night it produces nothing.

On a bright sunny day in summer, it can deliver 25 kWh, which is more than enough to power the house for the full 24 hours (if I had a massive battery) etc.

And therein lies the problem. In the winter, your get stuff all. On sunny days in summer you get loads. On cloudy days in summer you get stuff all. It's completely unreliable, and once you've made hot water, even on a sunny summer's day, there is not much left over. I see loads of people say "I'll power my electic car from panels" - as long as they only drive the day after bright sunny days in the summer, that may be true, as long as they keep the journey to about 5 miles.

Yes, CGCT, fracking and massive investment in nuclear. Ideally we need to get fission stations down in scale and cost, and bet the farm on fusion. If we can't get fusion working, we'll be extinct in a century.

Likes Fast Cars

2,588 posts

129 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
Shakermaker said:
......
We are tied to 240v in the UK for many many reasons, but at a local level, in the home, there are not many appliances that are still using such power all the time? Kettle, yes, washing machine/tumble dryer, yes, electric oven.

But advances in technology mean that things like mobile phones, and computers, don't need massive 240v power sources, which are all rated down to 5-12v in many cases are they not? Why do we still need to keep them going from a 240v source? I don't believe we do, and as such, there is enough daylight in most parts of the UK to actually give homes a lot of the power they actually need.
220- 240 volts 50 Hz system is still valid and has many uses and when you look at the distribution infrastructure costs makes sense (if you are alluding to changing the dist network from 240v down to something smaller, Ohms Law and its derivatives = larger cables, for example). Until such time as we get some magic refrigerators, kettles, etc., require very low energy usage to operate it's the way to go. Your comment is fair regarding the lower energy things - mobiles., etc., but once you aggregate these the load becomes quite sizeable (let's ignore duty cycle for the sake of simplicity).

IrateNinja

752 posts

142 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
XM5ER said:
At the same time we should be piling research into modular small fission nuclear power plant and putting long term research into fusion (hot or cold).
Small modular reactors are a waste of time. There isn't a design out there anywhere near mature enough to support it. The regulatory hurdles (both safety and security) make it supremely difficult.

Nuclear has managed to get itself into another difficult position, with the bankruptcy of Westinghouse putting the planned Moorside plant in a lot of uncertainty.

Of all the designs mooted for new-builds, only the boiling water design has actually been constructed and is operating.

Likes Fast Cars

2,588 posts

129 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
rxe said:
We have a 4 kW solar array, which is pretty big by domestic standards.

On a cloudy, wet summers day like today it is producing 225W at 11:15 in the morning. That's enough to power the computer I am writing this post on, the burglar alarm and the broadband router. Clearly at night it produces nothing.

On a bright sunny day in summer, it can deliver 25 kWh, which is more than enough to power the house for the full 24 hours (if I had a massive battery) etc.

And therein lies the problem. In the winter, your get stuff all. On sunny days in summer you get loads. On cloudy days in summer you get stuff all. It's completely unreliable, and once you've made hot water, even on a sunny summer's day, there is not much left over. I see loads of people say "I'll power my electic car from panels" - as long as they only drive the day after bright sunny days in the summer, that may be true, as long as they keep the journey to about 5 miles.

Yes, CGCT, fracking and massive investment in nuclear. Ideally we need to get fission stations down in scale and cost, and bet the farm on fusion. If we can't get fusion working, we'll be extinct in a century.
Quite right.


Shakermaker

11,317 posts

64 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
Likes Fast Cars said:
Shakermaker said:
......
We are tied to 240v in the UK for many many reasons, but at a local level, in the home, there are not many appliances that are still using such power all the time? Kettle, yes, washing machine/tumble dryer, yes, electric oven.

But advances in technology mean that things like mobile phones, and computers, don't need massive 240v power sources, which are all rated down to 5-12v in many cases are they not? Why do we still need to keep them going from a 240v source? I don't believe we do, and as such, there is enough daylight in most parts of the UK to actually give homes a lot of the power they actually need.
220- 240 volts 50 Hz system is still valid and has many uses and when you look at the distribution infrastructure costs makes sense (if you are alluding to changing the dist network from 240v down to something smaller, Ohms Law and its derivatives = larger cables, for example). Until such time as we get some magic refrigerators, kettles, etc., require very low energy usage to operate it's the way to go. Your comment is fair regarding the lower energy things - mobiles., etc., but once you aggregate these the load becomes quite sizeable (let's ignore duty cycle for the sake of simplicity).
I quite agree - and I should have extended my point a bit that solar power is good as part of a combined strategy which, at the current level, does still require the 240v supply to remain but at some point it can become less important. Not overnight of course.

I also believe that it is not unfeasible that we will start to see more and more domestic battery installations that are topped up by solar power - we might not be there completely yet but I am certain that we could be in the next 10 years.

I intend to build a house in the next 5-10 years and when I do, I intend to make as much use of solar power as I can.

Biker 1

5,222 posts

83 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
Yep - fusion. I read the South Koreans were getting close to 'ignition', but is one thing proving it works, quite another thing to build an economical power plant, so could be a while. Meantime, fracking seems to be the only solution.

Hosenbugler

1,802 posts

66 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
I used to be in the industry myself, albeit not for some years now. However , I am of the fervent opinion that whatever source of generation we use, it must be controllable by the hand of man, sunshine from solar panels, and wind to drive wind turbines do not fit that criteria.

The problem to me is that instead of the dog wagging the tail, the unpredictable generation tail is wagging the power user dog. Spending billions on energy rationing via smart meters , is barking , when those billions could be be used to help funding reliable generation , to say nothing of the immense figures cash wise used to pay "subsidies" for windmill and solar companies.

The truly sad thing, is that those subsidies given to non controllable generation manifest themselves added to power bills as no more than a tax on the popuation, including those who struggle financially on a day to day basis.

Edited by Hosenbugler on Friday 19th May 11:43

mcdjl

4,608 posts

159 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
Hosenbugler said:
I used to be in the industry myself, albeit not for some years now. However , I am of the fervent opinion that whatever source of generation we use, it must be controllable by the hand of man, sunshine from solar panels, and wind turbines do not fit that criteria.

The problem to me is that instead of the dog wagging the tail, the unpredictable generation tail is wagging the power user dog. Spending billions on energy rationing via smart meters , is barking , when those billions could be be used to help funding reliable generation , to say nothing of the immense figures cash wise used to pay "subsidies" for windmill and solar companies.

The truly sad thing, is that those subsidies given to non controllable generation manifest themselves added to power bills as no more than a tax on the popuation, including those who struggle financially on a day to day basis.
For renewable to be useful you're right we need some way of controlling their output (beyond feathering the wind turbines- turning them off). Turbines and panels are now getting to the point where they're reasonably efficient (or can be). We need to allow them to generate whenever they can and somehow store their output if its not needed, pumped storage, batteries, molten salt, compressed gas whatever. Then we can either use the output or charge the storage system. Thats where I'd be throwing R&D money and letting people fund their own panels/turbines.

Likes Fast Cars

2,588 posts

129 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
Shakermaker said:
I quite agree - and I should have extended my point a bit that solar power is good as part of a combined strategy which, at the current level, does still require the 240v supply to remain but at some point it can become less important. Not overnight of course.

I also believe that it is not unfeasible that we will start to see more and more domestic battery installations that are topped up by solar power - we might not be there completely yet but I am certain that we could be in the next 10 years.

I intend to build a house in the next 5-10 years and when I do, I intend to make as much use of solar power as I can.
Should save you some money on bills and give you reliable supply when everyone elses' lights go out in the future! smile

sampsan

82 posts

90 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
Diverse mix of generation with storage playing a huge future role.

Few nukes, couple of clean coals, fast acting and efficient CCGT's (maybe frack gas), open cycle GT's for grid control combined with renewable energy from wind, solar, wave, tidal and from burning waste (proper not pretend waste!) and of course CHP schemes.

Energy storage being hydro pumped, battery, compressed air / gasses, flywheel etc.

Combine this with load management and increasing efficiency of end user equipment,

Throw in the large amount of HVDC inter-connectors to other countries electrical systems then things start to look more secure.

Big hurdles to overcome and energy prices only going one way.

Shakermaker

11,317 posts

64 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
Likes Fast Cars said:
Should save you some money on bills and give you reliable supply when everyone elses' lights go out in the future! smile
Yep, exactly that. I'm not some tree-hugging free spirit but I'd rather spend money on coke/hookers/booze/petrol and also "family stuff" that my wife will no doubt want, than I would on energy if I don't need to do so!

Similarly I've seen some interesting developments in wind power generation that work at a micro level that could be a second supplementary source of battery power etc - so that I can keep the mobile phone powered and the lights on, I would "need" little else. Although if my Sky Q box runs out of power I'll be unhappy...

XM5ER

Original Poster:

5,080 posts

212 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
feef said:
Something that's worth pointing out for those that don't know about solar,

Full-Spectrum Photovoltaic Material draws power from the full spectrum (as it's name suggests) which includes UV, the visible spectrum and IR (infra-red which is what is the feeling of warmth).
With more than half the 'power' of solar coming from UV and visible light, the lack of heat/IR isn't a big deal.

Existing photovoltaic and amorphous cells use only the visible spectrum, so less than 10% of the solar 'power' is useful, but again, don't use IR so the lack of heat is a red herring

As solar gets more and more efficient, we need less and less direct sunlight to make it more useful

I agree that it'll never solve all the problems, but I don't think it should be written off just yet
I'm aware of that FEEF, I was being facetious. Once full spectrum PV material becomes viable then the landscape will change, however like fusion, that always seems to be 20 years away. Worth posting though for the less informed.

98elise

18,888 posts

125 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
Shakermaker said:
I'm in favour of solar power and I do believe it to be more feasible and on the way to making big changes.

In the first house I bought, the previous owners had fitted a solar panel to the roof which charged up the hot water tank. From around April to September/October, we didn't need the boiler on at all to give us the hot water we used, and it worked well.

I've also read some articles which show how much more effective the new solar panels are becoming at collecting even low-levels of daylight and turning it into useable power.

We are tied to 240v in the UK for many many reasons, but at a local level, in the home, there are not many appliances that are still using such power all the time? Kettle, yes, washing machine/tumble dryer, yes, electric oven.

But advances in technology mean that things like mobile phones, and computers, don't need massive 240v power sources, which are all rated down to 5-12v in many cases are they not? Why do we still need to keep them going from a 240v source? I don't believe we do, and as such, there is enough daylight in most parts of the UK to actually give homes a lot of the power they actually need.
Voltage is neither power or energy, which are the important factors. One way of another you need to transform from supergrid to your local needs. The higher the voltage the easier and more efficient it is to transmit.

98elise

18,888 posts

125 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
XM5ER said:
I once titled my Degree thesis the same, how ironic that very little has improved since I wrote it 25 years ago.

Anyway, I proposed to bring the wind generation discussion out of the Climate Change thread for the purposes of opening up to the wider PH audience (I know a lot of people don't venture in there anymore since it is so polarized). I also want to open it up beyond the renewable discussion as so much has gone wrong since I wrote my thesis all that time ago.

To state my position, we should be building CCGT plant (combined cycle gas turbines) and fracking for all we are worth. At the same time we should be piling research into modular small fission nuclear power plant and putting long term research into fusion (hot or cold). I do not believe that wind power has more than a minor contribution to be made due to it's intermittency (is that a word?) and therefore the need to have back up plant that costs a shed load of cash to be just sitting there idling. As for solar? Give me a break, it barely warms my skin for more than a few days a year, it sure ain't gonna charge my Tesla.

Lets try to keep the discussion factual and non insulting. Speaking as a fkknuckle, I don't worry about name calling on the internetz but I know a few special snowflakes take unkindly to being accused of onanism, plus it doesn't add much to the debate.

Paddy! LongQ etc. You're up.
Unless my sums are wrong you could easily change a Tesla (for an average driver) from a decent home PV system. The main problem would be that if your an average driver then your car is probably at work during the day, however that PV would be available on the grid.



Europa1

10,923 posts

152 months

Friday 19th May 2017
quotequote all
I'll state first that I am a layman.

However, whilst I accept that PV panels are much more productive than they used to be, taking arable land out of production to install PV arrays seems bonkers to me. Windfarms seem tremendously inefficient in terms of how many turbines you need to produce an appreciable amount of power. The cynic in me suspects they are beloved of croc-wearing, health food eating city-dwellers who don't have their views blighted by the damn things.

I do think as a nation we should just accept that nuclear must play a significant part. Whilst clearly not the easiest things to build, we do seem to be making an almighty meal of the next 2 to be built, in terms of time, cost and chosen technology. I was surprised by a recent documentary on BBC4 which stated that in the 1950s to 60s, the UK built 8 nuclear power stations in 10 years.