The Anonymous Widower

Why People Don’t Change To Cheaper And Smaller Energy Suppliers

This news item on the Money Saving Expert web site is entitled Energy users don’t switch because they haven’t heard of cheapest firms, MSE poll finds.

If you’re thinking of changing read it and you might learn something to guide you to a more affordable supplier.

I swapped to OVO Energy a couple of years ago, and I’ve had no serious issues and they now have allowed me to connect my solar panels to the electrocity network.

The only problem, I had with swapping was getting nPower to pay me the money they owed.

September 8, 2017 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Major District Heating Scheme to Connect £6bn Meridian Water Development

The title of this post is the same as a press release from Vital Energi.

This is the first three paragraphs.

London’s latest £85m district heating infrastructure is taking shape in Enfield and will be delivered by Vital Energi on behalf of energetik, the energy company owned by Enfield Council.

The new district heating network will accommodate up to 30,000 homes and businesses, including the £6bn Meridian Water development. energetik want to revolutionise the local energy market and improve the reputation of district heating, in a currently unregulated market, to ensure customers receive a quality service.

Vital Energi will design, build, operate and maintain the main energy centre for Meridian Water and install the district heating network over the next 12 years, under a contract worth £15m. This heat network is part of an integrated energy and regeneration strategy in Enfield that will interconnect with energetik’s other networks at Arnos Grove and Ponders End.

The Meridian Water development is certainly going about things in an impressive way.

August 23, 2017 Posted by | World | , | 1 Comment

Conn By Name, Con Artist By Nature

I have just seen the Chief Executive of Centrica; Ian Conn, giving the most unfeasible explanation, why despite the fact that electricity prices are going down, British Gas will be putting them up by 12.5% from September 11th.

This article on the BBC gives more details.

Now is the time to give British Gas a good kicking by moving to an alternative smaller supplier.

I moved to OVO over two years ago and have had no trouble except.

  • Changing from my old Bog Six supplier was a pain, due to the original company’s incompetence. Was that real or deliberate?
  • OVO have still not fitted me with a smart meter. But I’m not sure I need one!

OVO have also handled my solar panels without trouble.

August 1, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Electricity Shake-Up Could Save Consumers ‘up to £40bn’

The title of this post is the same as that of this article in the BBC.

The electricity shake-up was forecast in yesterday’s Sunday Times and I wrote about it in Giant Batteries To Store Green Energy.

In We Need More Electricity, I talked about what RWE are doing to create an all-purpose Energy Centre at Tilbury.

The Tilbury Energy Centre will feature.

  • Efficient energy generation from natural gas.
  • Substantial energy storage.
  • Peak energy production from natural gas.
  • Load balancing of wind power with storage and generation from natural gas.

But I suspect, it will get involved in other advanced techniques, like using carbon dioxide to get greenhouse fruit and vegetables to grow quicker.

The electricity market is changing.

July 24, 2017 Posted by | News, World | , , , | Leave a comment

Giant Batteries To Store Green Energy

In today’s Sunday Times, there is a small article with this title.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Britain could soon be relying on battery power under plans to create a network of electrical storage facilities around the national grid.

Greg Clark, the Business Secretary, is expected to announce plans this week for giant rechargeable battery facilities to be installed near wind and solar farms to store the energy generated when demand is low. It can then be released when demand rises.

The article also says that householders will be encouraged to use batteries alongside solar panels.

I think this is only the start.

Imagine an estate of new houses, an office development, a factory estate or a business park.

  • Solar panels would be everywhere.
  • Wind turbines could be strategically placed.
  • A central CHP system would provide heating and some electricity.

Everything would be backed up by a suitably-sized battery.

 

July 23, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 3 Comments

We Need More Electricity

Everything we do, seems to need more and more electricity.

We are greening our transport and every electric train, car, bus and truck will need to be charged.

Unless it is hydrogen-powered, in which case we’ll need electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Computing and the Internet needs more electricity and is leading to companies putting server farms in countries like Iceland, where there are Gigawatts of low-cost electricity.

We’re also using more energy hungry equipment like air-conditioning and some household appliances.

And then there’s industry, where some processes like metal smelting need lots of electricity.

At least developments like LED lighting and energy harvesting are helping to cut our use.

Filling The Gap

How are we going to fill our increasing energy gap?

Coal is going and rightly so!

A lot of nuclear power stations, which once built don’t create more carbon dioxide, are coming to the end of their lives. But the financial and technical problems of building new ones seem insoluble. Will the 3,200 MW Hinckley Point C ever be built?

That 3,200 MW size says a lot about the gap.

It is the sort of number that renewables, like wind and solar will scarcely make  a dent in.

Unfortunately, geography hasn’t donated us the terrain for the massive hydroelectric schemes , that are the best way to generate loe-carbon electricity.

Almost fifty years ago, I worked briefly for Frederick Snow and Partners, who were promoting a barrage of the River |Severn. I wrote about my experiences in The Severn Barrage and I still believe , that this should be done, especially as if done properly, it would also do a lot to tame the periodic flooding of the River.

The Tilbury Energy Centre

An article in The Times caught my eye last week with the headline of Tilbury Planned As Site Of UK’s Biggest Gas-Fired Power Station.

It said that RWE were going to build a massive 2,500 MW gas-fired power station.

This page on the RWE web site is entitled Tilbury Energy Centre.

This is from that page.

RWE Generation is proposing to submit plans to develop Tilbury Energy Centre at the former Tilbury B Power Station site. The development would include the potential for a Combined Cycle Gas Turbine (CCGT) power station with capacity of up to 2,500 Megawatts, 100 MW of energy storage facility and 300MW of open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGT). The exact size and range of these technologies will be defined as the project progresses, based on an assessment of environmental impacts, as well as market and commercial factors.

The development consent application will also include a 3km gas pipeline that will connect the proposed plant to the transmission network which runs to the east of the Tilbury power station. The proposed CCGT power station would be located on the coal stock yard at the site of the former power station, but would be physically much smaller than its predecessor (a coal/biomass plant).

I will now look at the various issues.

Carbon Dioxide

But what about all that carbon dioxide that will be produced?

This is the great dilemma of a gas-powered power-station of this size.

But the advantage of natural gas over coal is that it contains several hydrogen atoms, which produce pure water under combustion. The only carbon in natural gas is the one carbon atom in methane, where it is joined to four hydrogen atoms.

Compared to burning coal, burning natural gas creates only forty percent of the carbon dioxide in creating the same amount of energy.

If you look at Drax power station, which is a 3,960 MW station, it produces a lot of carbon dioxide, even though it is now fuelled with a lot of imported biomass.

On the other hand, we could always eat the carbon dioxide.

This document on the Horticultural Development Council web site, is entitled Tomatoes: Guidelines for CO2 enrichment – A Grower Guide.

This and other technologies will be developed for the use of waste carbon-dioxide in the next couple of decades.

The great advantage of a gas-fired power station, is that, unlike coal, there are little or no impurities in the feedstock.

The Site

This Google Map shows the site, to the East of Tilbury Docks.

Note that the site is in the South East corner of the map, with its jetty for coal in the River.

These pictures show the area.

The CCGT power station would be built to the North of the derelict Tilbury B power station. I’ll repeat what RWE have said.

The proposed CCGT power station would be located on the coal stock yard at the site of the former power station, but would be physically much smaller than its predecessor (a coal/biomass plant).

Hopefully, when complete, it will improve the area behind partially Grade II* Listed Tilbury Fort.

Another development in the area is the Lower Thames Crossing, which will pass to the East of the site of the proposed power station. As this would be a tunnel could this offer advantages in the design of electricity and gas connections to the power station.

What Is A CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) Power Station?

Combined cycle is described well but in a rather scientific manner in Wikipedia. This is the first paragraph.

In electric power generation a combined cycle is an assembly of heat engines that work in tandem from the same source of heat, converting it into mechanical energy, which in turn usually drives electrical generators. The principle is that after completing its cycle (in the first engine), the temperature of the working fluid engine is still high enough that a second subsequent heat engine may extract energy from the waste heat that the first engine produced. By combining these multiple streams of work upon a single mechanical shaft turning an electric generator, the overall net efficiency of the system may be increased by 50–60%. That is, from an overall efficiency of say 34% (in a single cycle) to possibly an overall efficiency of 51% (in a mechanical combination of two cycles) in net Carnot thermodynamic efficiency. This can be done because heat engines are only able to use a portion of the energy their fuel generates (usually less than 50%). In an ordinary (non combined cycle) heat engine the remaining heat (e.g., hot exhaust fumes) from combustion is generally wasted.

Thought of simply, it’s like putting a steam generator on the hot exhaust of your car and using the steam generated to create electricity.

The significant figures are that a single cycle has an efficiency of say 34%, whereas a combined cycle could be possibly as high as 51%.

In a section in the Wikipedia entry called Efficiency of CCGT Plants, this is said.

The most recent[when?] General Electric 9HA can attain 41.5% simple cycle efficiency and 61.4% in combined cycle mode, with a gas turbine output of 397 to 470MW and a combined output of 592MW to 701MW. Its firing temperature is between 2,600 and 2,900 °F (1,430 and 1,590 °C), its overall pressure ratio is 21.8 to 1 and is scheduled to be used by Électricité de France in Bouchain. On April 28, 2016 this plant was certified by Guinness World Records as the worlds most efficient combined cycle power plant at 62.22%. The Chubu Electric’s Nishi-ku, Nagoya power plant 405MW 7HA is expected to have 62% gross combined cycle efficiency.

There is also a section in the Wikipedia entry called Boosting Efficiency, where this is said.

The efficiency of CCGT and GT can be boosted by pre-cooling combustion air. This is practised in hot climates and also has the effect of increasing power output. This is achieved by evaporative cooling of water using a moist matrix placed in front of the turbine, or by using Ice storage air conditioning. The latter has the advantage of greater improvements due to the lower temperatures available. Furthermore, ice storage can be used as a means of load control or load shifting since ice can be made during periods of low power demand and, potentially in the future the anticipated high availability of other resources such as renewables during certain periods.

So is the location of the site by the Thames, important because of all that cold water.

But surely using surplus electricity to create ice, which is then used to improve the efficiency of the power produced from gas is one of those outwardly-bonkers, but elegant ideas, that has a sound scientific and economic case.

It’s not pure storage of electricity as in a battery or at Electric Mountain, but it allows spare renewable energy to be used profitably for electricity generators, consumers and the environment.

The location certainly isn’t short of space and it is close to some of the largest wind-farms in the UK in the Thames Estuary, of which the London Array alone has a capacity of 630 MW.

Wikipedia also has a section on an Integrated solar combined cycle (ISCC), where a CCGT power station is combined with a solar array.

I can’t see RWE building a new CCGT plant without using the latest technology and the highest efficiency.

Surely the higher the efficiency, the  less carbon dioxide is released for a given amount of electricity.

Building A CCGT Power Station

The power station itself is just a big building, where large pieces of machinery can be arranged and connected together to produce electricity.

To get an idea of scale of power stations, think of the original part of Tate Modern in London, which was the turbine hall of the Bankside power station, which generated 300 MW.

Turbines are getting smaller and more powerful, so I won’t speculate on the size of RWE’s proposed 2,500 MW station.

It will also only need a gas pipe in and a cable to connect the station to the grid. There is no need to use trains or trucks to deliver fuel.

Wikipedia has a section entitled Typical Size Of CCGT Plants, which says this.

For large-scale power generation, a typical set would be a 270 MW primary gas turbine coupled to a 130 MW secondary steam turbine, giving a total output of 400 MW. A typical power station might consist of between 1 and 6 such sets.

I feel that this raises interesting questions about the placement of single unit CCGT power stations.

It also means that at somewhere like Tilbury, you can build the units as required in sequence, provided the services are built with the first unit.

So on a large site like Tilbury, the building process can be organised in the best way posible and we might find that the station is expanded later.

RWE say this on their web site.

The exact size and range of these technologies will be defined as the project progresses, based on an assessment of environmental impacts, as well as market and commercial factors.

That sounds like a good plan to me!

100 MW Of Energy Storage At Tilbury

RWE’s plan also includes 100 MW of energy storage, although they say market and commercial factors could change this.

Energy storage is the classic way to bridge shortages in energy, when demand rises suddenly, as cin the classic half-time drinks in the Cup inal.

In Wikipedia’s list of energy storage projects, there are some interesting developments.

The Hornsdale Wind Farm in Australia has the following.

  • 99 wind turbines.
  • A total generating capacity of 315 MW.

Elon Musk is building the world’s largest lithium-ion battery next door with a capacity of 129 MwH

But those energy storage projects aren’t all about lithium-ion batteries.

Several like Electric Mountain in Wales use pumped storage and others use molten salt.

Essex doesn’t have the mountains for the former and probably the geology for the latter.

But the technology gets better all the time, so who knows what technology will be used?

The intriguing idea is the one I mentioned earlier to make ice to cool the air to improve the efficiency of the CCGT power station.

What Is The Difference Between A CCGT (Combined Cycle Gas Turbine) And An OCGT (Open Cycle Gas Turbine) Power Station?

RWE have said that they will provide 300 MW of 300MW of Open Cycle Gas Turbines, so what is the difference.

This page from the MottMacdonald web site gives a useful summary.

OCGT plants are often used for the following applications:

  • Providing a peak lopping capability
  • As a back- up to wind and solar power
  • As phase 1 to generate revenue where phase 2 may be conversion to a CCGT

CCGT plants offer greater efficiency.

I’ve also read elsewhere, that OCGT plants can use a much wider range of fuel. Used cooking oil?

Conclusion

There is a lot more to this than building a 2,500 MW gas-fired power station.

RWE will be flexible and I think we could see a very different mix to the one they have proposed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

July 23, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Let’s Get Fracking

In Fracked Or Fiction, I talked about my attitude to fracking. These two paragraphs, were my conclusion.

My overwhelming conclusion after the lecture was that before we can embrace fracking in earnest, we must collect a lot more information. For example, we don’t know the background levels ofearthquakes and natural gas seepage in this country. So if say it is thought, that fracking had caused a small earthquake, can we be sure that that isn’t one that we habitually get in this country.

A secondary conclusion, is that my engineering knowledge indicated that there are several very fruitful areas for the development of new technological solutions to mitigate some of the possible problems of fracking.

But things have changed a bit in the over three years, since I attended the lecture at the London Geological Society.

We still get gas from the North Sea and a few smaller fields, but we have to buy in gas from places like Algeria, Russia and Qatar.

I suspect too, that we can always ship liquefied natural gas from the United States.

The Green Party would say that we shouldn’t burn natural gas, but what do we do about?

  1. People do with gas boilers who keep themselves warm in winter?
  2. Businesses that use gas as part of their industrial processes.
  3. In 2015, thirty percent of our electricity was produced from gas.

Renewables such as solar and wind are increasing, but for the forseeable future, we wil still need gas.

But how would you feel, if the Government said, that you must change your boiler for an electric one, as you can’t have any more gas?

We can continue to get our gas from those shining democracies of Algeria, Russia and Qatar or buy it from Trumpland, which would probably not be acceptable to everybody.

There is also the problem, that countries like Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and The Netherlands are also short of gas and are relying increasingly on the Russians.

Surely, the best solution to avoid the cold and loss of employment in industries reliant on gas, is to extract the gas from our own fields, using fracking in a professional and engineeringly-sound manner.

We have form in the extraction of hydrocarbons in this way from land in the UK. The is the first paragraph, from the Wikipedia entry for Wytch Farm.

Wytch Farm is an oil field and processing facility in the Purbeck district of Dorset, England. It is the largest onshore oil field in western Europe. The facility, recently taken over by Perenco was previously operated by BP. It is hidden in a coniferous forest on Wytch Heath on the southern shore of Poole Harbour, two miles (3.2 km) north of Corfe Castle. Oil and natural gas (methane) are both exported by pipeline; liquefied petroleum gas is exported by road tanker.

Is there is an onshore oil-field in a more sensitive environment? Wikipedia says this under Environment.

Most of the field is protected by various conservation laws, including the Jurassic Coast world heritage site, Purbeck Heritage Coast and a number of sites of special scientific interest, areas of outstanding natural beauty and nature reserves (including Studland and Brownsea Island), so the gathering centre and most of the well sites are small and well screened by trees. Directional drilling has also contributed to reducing the impact on the local environment, with extended reach drilling from the Goathorn Peninsula attaining distances in excess of 10 km.

Note the reference to directional drilling, which according to a friend, who was associated with the development of the project, was very much pioneered at Wytch Farm.

Directional drilling is often very much part of the fracking process, prior to the actual hydraulic fracturing. I’m very much of the opinion, that to be a successful fracker, you need to have very good directional drilling capabilities.

I’ve heard it on good authority, that fracking is used in the Highlands of Scotland to extract drinking water. But the F-word is so sensitive, there is nothing about it on the Internet. I did find this web page from a company called Clearwater Drilling Company in Tennessee, which is entitled Hydrofracturing -A procedure designed to increase the amount of water in existing dry and low yield water wells.

Would you prefer to give money to dodgy regimes or build on the Wytch Farm experience and develop the World’s best fracking industry to keep us warm in winter and preserve jobs?

It may seem a stark choice to some, but I believe in the competence of engineers, as demonstrated at Wytch Farm!

Let’s get fracking!

June 8, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

An Appropriate Story For Today

On Page 58, The Times has an article entitled Frictionless Flywheels Hold Balance Of Power.

This is the first two paragraphs.

Flywheels will be used to balance supply and demand on Britain’s electricity grid in a £3.5million project that could help the country to cope with more wind and solar power.

Sophisticated flywheels that can store electricity for long periods of time are to be installed next to the University of Sheffield’s battery storage facility at Willenhall near Wolverhampton, in the first project of its kind in the UK.

By using batteries and flywheels together, this makes a responsive battery that can fill in demand and overcome the degradation problems of lithium-ion batteries.

It looks a promising way of creating an affordable and reliable energy storage system.

Who needs coal? Trumkopf obviously does to buy votes!

In the United States, with its massive mountain ranges, it would be better to create construction jobs by creating hydro-based energy storage systems, as we did in the 1970s at Dinorwig and the Americans, themselves did at Bath County Pumped Storage Station a few years later.

To gauge the size of these plants, Bath County has about the same generating capacity as the UK’s largest power station at Drax, with Dinorwig being about 55% of the size.

Bath County and Dinorwig are big bastards, but their main feature, is the ability to pump water to store the energy.

Energy is like money, the best thing to do with excess is to put it in a secure storage facility.

 

June 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Should We Boycott America Over Trump And Cimate Change?

This article called Paris climate deal: Trump announces US will withdraw, has just appeared on the BBC web site.

I feel strongly that we should all cut our burning of fossil fuels, or at least the high carbon ones like coal.

So what can we do?

I typed “Boycott America Trump climate change” into Google and got a large number of articles posted in the last couple of days.

So I’m certainly not the only one who feels strongly!

So will I be boycotting American goods and services?

I always do to a certain extent, because when it comes to gluten-free foods, a lot of American manufacturers use high strength glucose made from wheat instead of sugar. And I react to it.

So for example, I now no longer eat any Cadbury products!

I also haven’t used a Starbucks for some time, but that’s in protest at their tax affairs.

It’ll be interesting how this one plays out!

After all, there’s quite a few Americans who didn’t vote for Trumkopf and some States appear to be going down the Paris route.

June 1, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | 2 Comments

What Should We Do With Old Coal-Fired Power Station Sites?

As I indicated in The Beginning Of A New Era, the way we generate electricity is changing.

Wikipedia has a list of all the active coal-fired power stations in the UK. The section starts like this.

There are currently 9 active coal fired power stations operating in the United Kingdom which have a total generating capacity of 14.4GW. In 2016 three power stations closed at Rugeley, Ferrybridge and Longannet. In November 2015 it was announced by the UK Government that all coal fired power stations would be closed by 2025.

So what should we do with the sites?

This picture shows the power station site at Eugeley

This is a Google Map of the area.

The two stations shown on the map are Rugeley Trent Valley, which is on the the Trent Valley section of the West Coast Main Line and Rugeley Town, which is on the Chase Line.

Many of these large coal-fired  power station sites sites are rail connected, so that the coal could be brought in efficiently.

In the June 2017 Edition of Modern Railways there is an article entitled Freight, Not All Doom And Gloom, which makes this plea.

Old coal-fired power stations and Ministry of Fefence sites with ready-made rail links, could make ideal distribution parks, if they are in the right part of the country.

The author is so right, when they say elsewhere in the article,  that these rail links must be kept.

Even, if a site was given over to housing, developers will say, that a good rail link to a development, improves their profits.

The article is an interesting read about moving goods by rail and contains a few surprises.

  • Moving coal and steel is well down, but to a certain extend, these bulk loads have been replaced by the moving of aggregates.
  • The article states forty percent of the materials used in London buildings, are now brought in by rail.
  • The supermarket groups and in particular Asda and Tesco are increasingly using rail for long-distance transport.
  • Short term Treasury policy sometimes works against long term aims of moving freight from the roads and cutting carbon emissions.
  • Quality 1980s passenger stock with wide doors might make excellent parcels carriers.

The last one is an interesting point, as HSTs have only got narrow doors, whereas pallets could be fork-lifted through the wide doors of something like a Class 319 or Class 321 train.

I discuss the small parcel train in detail in The Go-Anywhere Express Parcels And Pallet Carrier.

 

May 27, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , , , , | 3 Comments