The Anonymous Widower

BBC Click On Batteries

This weekend’s Click on the BBC is a cracker and it’s all about batteries.

Electric Mountain

It starts with pictures of the UK’s largest battery at Dinorwig Power Station or Electric Mountain, as it is colloquially known.

The pumped storage power station was completed in 1984 and with a peak generating capacity  of 1.6 GW, it was built to satisfy short term demand, such as when people make a cup of tea in advert breaks in television programs. Under Purpose of the Wikipedia entry for Dinorwig Power Station, there is a very good summary of what the station does.

To build Dinorwig was a wonderful piece of foresight by the CEGB, over forty years ago.

Would environmentalists allow Dinorwig Power Station to be built these days?

That is a difficult question to answer!

On the one hand it is a massive development in an outstanding area of natural beauty and on the other Dinorwig and intermittent power sources like solar and wind power, is a marriage made in heaven by quality engineering.

As solar and wind power increase we will need more electric mountains and other ways of storing considerable amounts of electricity.

Close to Electric Mountain, another much smaller pumped storage power station of 100 MW capacity is being proposed in disued slate quarries at Glyn Rhonwy. This article on UK Hillwalking, is entitled Opinion: Glyn Rhonwy Hydro is Causing a Stir.

The article was written in 2015 and it looks like Planning Permission for the new pumped storage power station at Glyn Rhonwy has now been given.

The UK’s particular problem with pumped storage power stations, is mainly one of geography, in that we lack mountains.

However Electric Mountain is in the top ten pumped storage power stations on this list in Wikipedia.

I doubt in today’s economy, Electric Mountain would be built, despite the fact that it is probably needed more than ever with all those intermittent forms of electricity generation.

The Future Of Pumped Storage Technology

But if you read Wikipedia on pumped-storage technology, there are some interesting and downright wacky technologies proposed.

I particular like the idea of underwater storage, which if paired with offshore wind farms could be the power of the future. That idea is a German project called StEnSea.

Better Batteries

Click also talks about work at the Warwick Manufacturing Group about increasing the capacity of existing lithium-ion batteries for transport use by improved design of the battery package. Seventy to eighty percent increases in capacity were mentioned, by a guy who looked serious.

I would reckon that within five years, that electric vehicle range will have doubled, just by increments in chemistry, design and manufacture.

Batteries will also be a lot more affordable.

Intelligent Charging

Warwick Manufacturing Group are also working on research to create an intelligent charging algorithm, as a bad charging regime can reduce battery life and performance.

I rate this as significant, as anything that can improve performance and reduce cost is certainly needed in battery-powered transport.

The program reclons it would improve battery performance by ten percent in cars.

Surely, this would be most applicable to buses or trains, running on a regular route, as predicting energy use would be much easier, especially if the number of passengers were known.

In Technology Doesn’t Have To Be Complex, I discussed how Bombardier were using the suspension to give a good estimate of the weight of passengers on a Class 378 train. I suspect that bus and train manufacturers can use similar techniques to give an estimate.

So a bus or train on a particular route could build a loading profile, which would be able to calculate, when was the optimum time for the battery to be charged.

As an example, the 21 bus, that can be used from Bank station to my house, is serviced by hybrid new Routemasters. It has a very variable passenger load and sometimes after Old Street, it can be surprisingly empty.

Intelligent charging must surely offer advantages on a bus route like this, in terms of battery life and the use of the onboard diesel engine.

But is on trains, where intelligent charging can be of most use.

I believe that modern trains like Aventras and Hitachi’s Class 800 trains are designed to use batteries to handle regenerative braking.

If you take a Class 345 train running on Crossrail, the battery philosophy might be something like this.

  • Enough energy is stored in the battery at all times, so that the train can be moved to a safe place for passenger evacuation in case of a complete power failure.
  • Enough spare capacity is left in the battery, so that at the next stop, the regnerative braking energy can be stored on the train.
  • Battery power would be used where appropriate to reduce energy consumption.
  • The control algorithm would take inputs from route profile and passenger loading.

It may sound complicated, but philosophies like this have been used on aircraft for around forty years.

Reusing Vehicle Batteries In Homes

Click also had detailed coverage about how vehicles batteries could be remanufactured and used in homes. Especially, when solar panels are fitted.

Other Batteries

On the on-line version, the program goes on to look at alternative new ideas for batteries.

Inside Electric Mountain

The on-line version, also gives a tour of Electric Mountain.

Conclusion

The future’s electric, with batteries.

 

 

 

 

October 1, 2017 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , | Leave a comment

The Wind Of Change Blowing All Over The UK

This has nothibg to do with Brexit or even politics, but the UK and in addition our friends in Denmark, Germany, Ireland and The Netherlands seem to be investing to reap the wind.

To many of my generation, Hornsea is a town on the Yorkshire coast famous for dull ethnic pottery. But now it will the name of the Hornsea Wind Farm, which will have a generating capacity of up to 4 GigaWatt or 4,000,000 KiloWatt. It will be sited around 40 kilomwtres from the nearest land.

To put the size into context, Hinckley Point C, if it is ever built will have a power output of 3.2 GigaWatt.

You may day that wind is unreliable, but then Hornsea will be just one of several large offshore wind farms in the UK like Dogger Bank(4.8 GW), Greater Gabbard(504 MW), Gwynt Y Mor(576 MW), London Array(630 MW), Race Bank(530MW), Thanet(300 MW), Yriton Knoll(600-900 MW) and Walney Extension (659 MW).

The electricity produced can be used, stored or exported.

Storage will always be difficult, but then there are energy consumptive industries like aluminium smelting, creating steel from scrap or the electrolysis of water to produce hydrogen, oxygen and ither gases, that could probably be based around an interruptible supply backed-up by a biomass or natural gas power station.

Hydrogen As A Fuel

Hydrogen could be the fuel of the cities for buses, taxis and delivery vehicles. Suppose they were hybrid, but instead of a small iesel engine to xharge the battery, a small hydrogen engine or fuel cell qere to be used.

Remember that the only product of burning hydrogen is water and it wouldn’t produce any pollution.

Each bus garage or hydrogen station could generate its own hydrogen, probably venting the oxygen.

Enriched Natural Gas

We can’t generate too much hydrogen and if because of high winds, we have hydrogen to spare it can be mixed with natural gas, ehich contains a proportion of hydrogen anyway.

September 12, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

My Meter Installation

This may seem an odd post, but I want to have the pictures easily available, as fitting a smart meter to my house seems to be an obstacle course.

Let’s hope it means, that I don’t take any more pictures!

 

 

March 14, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

How Norway Will Keep Britain’s Lights On

This is the title of an article in today’s Times about the building of the North Sea Link, which is described like this in Wikipedia.

The North Sea Link (also known as North Sea Network Link or NSN Link, HVDC Norway–Great Britain, and Norway–UK interconnector) is a 1,400 MW subsea high-voltage direct current electricity cable under construction between Norway and the United Kingdom. It is a joint project of the transmission system operators Statnett and National Grid plc and is due to be completed in 2021.

To put the size of the North Sea Link into context Hinckley Point C nuclear power station will generate 3,2000 MW, so we get 44% of the power reliably for as long as Norway’s hydro-electric power system functions.

The Times article also lists other interconnectors in which National Grid are involved.

  • 160 MW system (1961) – 100 MW – co-owned with the French.
  • 2000 MW system (1986) – 2000 MW co-owned with the French.
  • IFA2 – 1000 MW co-owned with the French
  • BritNed – 1000 MW co-owned with the Dutch.
  • NemoLink – 1000 MW co-owned with the Belgians.
  • Viking Link – 1400 MW co-owned with the Danes.
  • ICELink – A possible 1000 MW link to Iceland.
  • A possible second connection to Norway
  • A possible second connection to the Netherlands.

In addition, there are other links like FABlink and NorthConnect, where National Grid don’t have an interest.

It’s not all importing of electricity, as recently because of troubles with their nuclear plants, we’ve been exporting electricity to the French.

As a control engineer, I think all of these interconnectors are sound investments, as Europe can mix the erratic sources of wind, wave, tidal and solar with the steady outputs of nuclear, coal and hydro.

This Wikipedia article called Wind power in the United Kingdom says this.

The United Kingdom is one of the best locations for wind power in the world, and is considered to be the best in Europe. Wind power contributed 11% of UK electricity generation in 2015, and 17% in December 2015. Allowing for the costs of pollution, particularly the carbon emissions of other forms of production, onshore wind power is the cheapest form of energy in the United Kingdom In 2016, the UK generated more electricity from wind power than from coal.

So back wind up by steady sources from the UK and Europe like nuclear and hydro-electric, when the wind stops and all is well with the lights.

And of course, as many of these interconnectors are bi-directional, when we have excess power, countries in Europe who need it can import it.

Who sits like spider in the middle of this web? – National Grid of course!

All those, who think that coal is a good idea, should be made to sit on the naughty step.

 

 

 

February 20, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping Your Wiring Tidy

I have form in this area.

  • One of my first jobs was designing and building small pieces of control electronics for industrial plant.
  • I built small tuners for a company in Felixstowe.
  • Later at ICI, I built instruments for installation on chemical plants.

So I learned from about sixteen, that your wiring always has to be neat and colour-coded.

I also remember at ICI, how Neil Saville developed a computerised design program in the late 1960s,  to layout and colour-code the wires in a chemical plant.

So I was drawn to this article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled Safety, sustainability and security polymer cable troughing.

The article is about Trojan Services, based in Hove, who have developed various cable troughs and other products for the rail industry, made out of recycled polypropylene.

The article is very much a must-read, which shows how good design can transform the most mundane of products.

The pictures show some typical cable ducts.

November 1, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Jerry’s Wonderful Wiring

In sorting out my kitchen, I need to adjust the wall between the kitchen and the living area.

Jerry's Wonderful Wiring

Jerry’s Wonderful Wiring

Jerry obviously thought he was a very competent electrician.

But my experienced Hungarian handyman and myself think otherwise.

April 19, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Power From Renewables Surges To High As Emissions Fall

This was the headline on a story in the Business section of The Times today.

Apparently nearly a quarter of the UK’s electricity was generated from renewables last year.

In 2014 it was 19.1%, but last year it was 24.7%.

It all goes to show, that we should think long and hard about building any massive power stations; nuclear, coal or whatever.

I have decided that now is the time to put solar panels on my roof.

April 1, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Questions About Solar Panels

Yesterday, despite the temperature being about eight or nine outside, because the evil devil had switched the radiant heaters on, the temperature had risen to twenty-eight inside my house, due to heat coming in through my skylight and by radiation from the flat roof.

Now the flat roof has been relaid and insulated, so to make matters worse the heat once in can’t get out.

So I decided I’d had enough and have decided to do what I had already ascertained was to be the next steps.

  • Put an electric shutter over the skylight.
  • Fit solar panels to both generate electricity and shade my house from the sun.

Hopefully, I’d generate enough electricity to run the air-conditioner, when the sun is on.

I entered my details into a comparison site and they said they’d select six local installers.

Within half an hour, I had a call on my phone and as the guy was in his van just round the corner, he was in my house doing a survey within five minutes.

He was also very much a local supplier, as both his flat and office were within five hundred metres.

He quoted for a four kilowatt system with sixteen panels, which he said would cost £5,000 as standard including installation and VAT.

I could also have micro-inverters which would up the cost to £6,300.

He indicated that micro-inverters were more efficient and had a loner life. He also enclosed the data sheet for the Enphase microinverters.

So I asked myself what are micro-inverters and what advantages do I get.

I found this web page entitled Should I Get Micro-Inverters For My Solar PV System?

Read the page and you’ll find there are two kinds of inverters;string and micro.

With a string inverter, you have one device that converts the DC of the panels to the AC of the house. So it’s like having one charger for all your devices.

With a micro inverter, each panel has its own inverter.

So the number of electronic components probably explains the difference in cost.

But there are other differences.

  • String inverters have typically a five year guarantee, whereas micro inverters have one of twenty-five. Only a madman would offer such a guarantee, if the devices failed regularly.
  • String inverters gear their output to the poorest performing panel, whereas with micro-inverters each panel performs according to the sun it gets.
  • If there is a chance of major shading, go for micro inverters.
  • Failures do happen and surely if each panel is an complete system, if one should fail, it is a problem, which is easier to locate and remedy.

Now I’m no expert, but my electrical engineering training says that micro-inverters are a better bet.

Years ago, when I worked at ICI, some others in the office were working on automating a chemical plant. Up until 1970, traditionally each temperature, pressure and position sensor input went into a massive and extremely expensive analogue to digital converter to link to the computer. But in this development, every input had its own converter.

I ‘m not in automation these days, but I doubt they use a massive and expensive converter and each input is handled individually.

So with my panels, I’m tempted to pay the extra £1,300.

I’m still waiting for the other five installers to phone.

March 12, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Good Riddance To Coal-Fired Power Stations

This article on the BBC is entitled UK’s coal plants to be phased out within 10 years. This is said.

The UK’s remaining coal-fired power stations will be shut by 2025 with their use restricted by 2023, Energy Secretary Amber Rudd has proposed.

Ms Rudd wants more gas-fired stations to be built since relying on “polluting” coal is “perverse”.

Because coal is pure carbon, when it burns, if produces carbon dioxide.

On the other hand, natural gas, is a mixture of hydrogen and methane, which is a compound of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atons.  So when it burns, it produces a lot of the combustion product of hydrogen, which is water.

I think to get the same amount of heat or produce a given amount of electricity, natural gas creates about half the amount of carbon dioxide, than coal does.

There is another advantage of using gas to generate electricity. You can have small power stations generating electricity, where it is needed.

An interesting small gas-powered power station is the Bunhill Energy Centre in Islington, which is used to generate electricity and heat for some of the Council’s buildings. Phase 2 of this project will capture waste heat from the London Underground and a large electricity sub-station, that will be used to heat more buildings.

These cogeneration systems will become more numerous. For instance, if you had say a large detached house in the country, you might use solar panels or a wind turbine, backed by a microCHP system for dark or still days.

We shouldn’t underestimate, the skill of engineers to design electricity combined heat and power systems matched to all the different markets.

There will come a time, where many of us will generate the electricity we need, either by ourselves or perhaps in a local co-operative. We could even sell the surplus back to the grid.

I will not predict what a system will look like, but it will heat your house and provide you with the electricity you need.

The one thing, I will predict that coal will not have any use for the generation of electricity.

November 18, 2015 Posted by | World | , , , | 1 Comment

Is Coal In Terminal Decline?

I’m no lover of coal, because of all the pollution and carbon dioxide it creates. I’ve also never met anyone from a coal mining family, who would ever want to work in a mine.

So when I look at the latest freight statistics from the Office of Rial and Road, I am rather pleased to see that in the last year coal traffic on UK railways has fallen over the last twelve months, from 1.66 billion net tonne km to 0.64 billion net tonne km (a drop of 61.2%).

As this is mainly imported coal to be burned in coal-fired power stations, I don’t think it is bad for employment. Power stations may be closing, but new ones must be opening to fill the gap in electricity generation.

September 29, 2015 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment