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.
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.
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.
In sorting out my kitchen, I need to adjust the wall between the kitchen and the living area.
Jerry obviously thought he was a very competent electrician.
But my experienced Hungarian handyman and myself think otherwise.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have a Google Alert set for Tesla Powerwall and usually it just picks up pretty boring stuff, but this article from ecomento.com is better than most. It does state this.
The Tesla Powerwall won’t really make economic sense for most US customers until the price drops – considerably. The people who buy one now will help fund the research and development that needs to take place to drive battery prices down in the future.
So as with a lot of new technology, with my engineer’s hard hat on, I think it will be best to wait until the cost of solar panels, Powerwall-like devices and all the other electronics and control systems needed, have been proven to be reliable and have dropped in price.
My house here has a flat roof, which would be ideal for solar panels, so I’m watching the technology and will buy them, when the payback is less than five years.
Why five years? It’s the length of our fixed term parliament, so hopefully the financial conditions won’t be mucked up too much by a change of governmen.
With the election hogging the news, some things haven’t been given full coverage by the media.
This may all look like an expensive toy or gimmick perhaps with a few specialist applications, but I believe it is a technology that could become commonplace in the future.
The flow is with this device and as my trip on a battery-assisted train at Manningtree showed, btteries are no longer something to power milk-floats.
Using a battery in a modern energy-efficient home or business, which perhaps has a roof covered in solar panels is an interesting way of cutting out paid-for electricity, for a hopefully one-off purchase and installation payment.
I wouldn’t buy one now, as although the Powerwall is deliverable now, improvements in battery and solar panel technology will mean that the systems available in a few years will store and generate more electricity in a more affordable manner. I also suspect, we’ll see replacement window glass units, that can either let light through or capture it for electricity.
We will also see much better control systems, although I suspect the the one Powerwall has is pretty sophisticated.
So I’m hanging back now, but I will be looking to put solar panels on my flat roof in anticipation of these better storage systems.
Musk is right, when he says that energy storage is going to revolutionise the world. But I do think that there will be a host of better or improved ways to do it.
But there is work to do, as this image of south-facing roofs in Ipswich shows, solar panels are notable by their absence.
In a few years time, this image will show lots of solar panels.
It is another case of giving the engineers the money to finish the deveopment and householders the right sort of finance for installation, so everybody can realise the dream of a house that doesn’t use any paid-for electricity.
Electricity pylons in the UK are generally made to a design that dates from the 1920s. So National Grid, who are responsible decided to have a design competition in partnership with RIBA.
According to this story on the BBC, National Grid are putting up a test line of the winner to teach engineers how to put them up.
They certainly look to be an improvement, but after nearly a hundred years, you’d expect that!
I like the new pylons and hope to photograph them soon!