The Anonymous Widower

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

UK ‘Need Not Fear Electricity Blackouts’ Says Ex-National Grid Boss

This is the title of another article on the BBC.

This is said.

The UK has enough energy capacity to meet demand – even on the coldest days when demand is highest, says Steve Holliday, the man who ran National Grid for a decade.

He said news stories raising fears about blackouts should stop.

The article goes on to say how gas and coal-fired plants that would have been scrapped will fill any gaps.

They may do, but I have this feeling that energy users and especially big ones are much more savvy than they used to be and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the UK manage next winter without using coal, which produces a lot more CO2 and pollution, than natural gas.

I also think that after 2018, we’ll start to see new technologies and projects generating electricity or bringing it to the UK.

We might even have seen a start on the ICElik or Atlantic Superconnector, which will bring green electricity from Iceland to the UK.

January 30, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Batteries

As a Control Engineer, I have a lot of thoughts about making the World a more efficient and safer place.

As a simple example of what Control Engineering is all about, do two hundred mile drives in your car.

  • One is a route you don’t know.
  • The other is one you know very well.

In both journeys drive as carefully as you can to try to do both journeys using the minimum amount of fuel.

Inevitably, in most cases, you will do the second route on less fuel, because you will adjust speed and anticipate possible problems from previous knowledge.

A well-designed control system for a self-driving car should be able to outperform a manually-driver car because it has better knowledge.

Control Engineering is all about taking all the knowledge you can, processing it in a control system or computer and doing the job to the ultimate best.

Batteries Will Get A Higher Charge Density Per Cubic Metre And Per Dollar

There are a lot of clever engineers and scientists out there in countries like China, Germany, Japan, Korea and the USA,  working on battery technology and increasing the charge density will be one of their key objectives.

The smaller and more affordable a battery becomes, the more will be sold.

With several large companies out there investing heavily in the production of batteries, there can only be one ultimate wuner – the individual, company, government or organisation, who eventually pays for the product in which the battery is installed.

So How Will Control Engineering Be Involved?

In some ways, it already is!

Control Engineering In Personal Devices

In your smart-phone, laptop or personal device, you can set parameters to get the maximum minutes for one charge of the battery.

You are effectively, tweaking the device and the battery control system is doing the best it can with the lkimited energy resources of the battery of the device.

Control Engineering In Transport Systems

One of the problems with personal devices, is they need to be plugged in to be charged.

But as transport systems are larger and often have access to other forms of energy, recharging is not such a problem.

  • Batteries in hybrid vehicles can be charged by an onboard engine.
  • Some battery and hybrid cars can be plugged into the mains.
  • Braking energy can be recovered and used to charge the battery.
  • Trains, trams and trolley-buses can use overhead wires or third-rail systems to charge the battery.

It is the major task of the vehicle’s control system to balance the needs of traction and the onboard systems, by pulling in energy from various sources.

A Typical Hybrid Bus

A hybrid bus like a Routemaster, has a very different  transmission system to your bog-standard diesel bus.

  • It is actually driven by a Siemens ELFA2[4]electric traction motor.
  • Braking is regenerative.
  • The Cummins diesel engine is mounted under the rear stairs.
  • The 75 KwH battery is mounted under the front stairs.

Effectively, the diesel engine tops up the battery to a high enough level and the wheels are driven from the battery.

The control system manages the energy starting and stopping the engine as required.

The Ultimate Hybrid Bus

In the ultimate hybrid bus, the control system would know lots of other factors, including.

  • The route.
  • The actual and expected number of passengers.
  • The actual and expected weather.
  • Whether Arsenal were plying at home, or there was a demonstration by taxi-drivers.

So it would manage the power in the battery according to the predicted future energy requirements.

What would that do for fuel economy and the reduction of pollution?

But how could the efficiency of the bus be improved further?

  • A lighter battery with the same capacity.
  • A lighter diesel-engine, traction motor and other components.
  • A much improved control system.

As with most things, reducing weight is probably the most important. But don’t underestimate, what can be achieved with the ultimate control system.

It all points to my belief, that we should probably leave the development of batteries to the big boys and concentrate on the applications.

Hybrid Electric Trucks

Hybrid electric trucks are on the way.

Hybrid Trains And Trams

I think the mathematics point to hybrid trains and trams being one of the better applications of batteries in transport.

A typical four-car electric multiple unit like a new Class 710 train, weighs about 130 tonnes or 138 tonnes with passengers. Going at a line speed of 100 kph, it has a kinetic energy of 15 KwH. So this amount of kinetic energy would be well within the scope of a 75 KwH battery from a Routemaster bus.

I think that the typical four-car electric multiple unit can easily be fitted with a battery to handle the braking for the train.

The physics of steel-wheel-on-steel-rail are also very efficient, as Robert Stephenson, if not his father, would have known.

But with trains, there are several ways the batteries can be charged.

  • From 25 KVAC overhead power.
  • From 750 VDC third-rail power.
  • By recovering braking energy.
  • From a small diesel generator.

A good control system manages the energy and also raises and lowers the pantograph as needed.

Conclusions

Design and manufacturing competition from the big players in batteries, will bring the price down and increase the amount of energy that can be stored in a battery of a particular size.

But the key to making the most out of a battery is to have a well-designed control system to manage the energy.

 

 

January 22, 2017 Posted by | Travel | , , | Leave a comment

Where’s The Emergency Train Power For Crossrail?

Things that can go wrong in a deep rail line do happen and even in the Channel Tunnel, there have been incidents.

There have been two major fires in the Channel Tunnel in 1996 and 2008 and there have also been various train failures.

I am not being alarmist, but as each Class 345 train can carry 1,500 passengers and twenty-four trains per hour will be going through the line for much of the time, there will be an awful lot of people underground at times.

If you look at the specification of a Class 345 train, it has features surely will help recovery if a train breaks down.

I found this snippet on the Internet which gives the formation of the new Class 345 trains.

When operating as nine-car trains, the Class 345 trains will have two Driving Motor Standard Opens (DMSO), two Pantograph Motor Standard Opens (PMSO), four Motor Standard Opens (MSO) and one Trailer Standard Open (TSO). They will be formed as DMSO+PMSO+MSO+MSO+TSO+MSO+MSO+PMSO+DMSO.

This formation and the train design could have positive implications for safety.

  • It looks to me that the train will be two half-trains. Can they be driven independently, as Class 373 trains in the Channel Tunnel can?
  • Half-trains must get around some train failures. If say the pantograph fails on one half-train, the other half-train can take the train to a suitable place like the next station to evacuate the passengers.
  • The trains will also be walk through, so let’s assume that a passenger’s laptop or mobile catches fire, passengers can be moved to another safe part of the train.

I suspect that all the experience of running electric trains in long tunnels for several decades all over the World, will have been used in validating the design of Class 345 trains.

My biggest worry as an electrical engineer and a Londoner, is a complete electrical failure in the capital.

They don’t happen often, but this article on the BBC is entitled Blackout hits London’s Soho on Black Friday.

It describes London’s power failure of last week.

Power failures do happen, so what happens if a computer virus or extreme weather blacks out London?

I have just read this article in Rail Engineer, which is entitled Crossrail – approaching the final stages.

This is said about the power supply in the tunnels.

The Crossrail route will be powered by a 25kV overhead line system using a Cariboni 110mm deep rigid overhead conductor bar throughout the tunnels. Although from a different manufacturer, this design concept is similar to the one being installed in the Severn Tunnel that doesn’t require weights and pulleys.

In the central section, 25kV traction power for the Crossrail trains will be provided by two new bulk supply points from National Grid 400kV, at Pudding Mill Lane in the east and Kensal Green to the west. Super grid transformers have been installed and fitted with fans and additional coolants.

A 22kV high-voltage network will be installed in the central section from Royal Oak Portal in the west to Limmo Peninsula in the east with an 11kV high-voltage non-traction spur to be installed from Limmo through to Plumstead. This network will supply mains power to each Crossrail station, shaft and portal within the central section.

Note.

  • It is a very simple power layout, for the trains, with a continous overhead rail providing power.
  • There is only two feed points for the overhead power to the trains, but these feed points seem to be of a robust design.
  • Trains in the middle will be fed by power coming a long way in the conductor rail.
  • Conductor rail must be a more robust power supply to the trains, than the typical overhead wires.
  • All Crossrail stations and shafts will use Crossrail’s own dedicated power supply.

The article though doesn’t mention two things.

  • How is an emergency power failure handled?
  • How is the power from regenerative braking fed back into the power network?

I’ll deal with the power failure first.

It would appear that a Central London power failure such as last Friday should have little effect on an independently-powered Crossrail. I wouldn’t expect anything less.

But there are always unexpected reasons, why a train may be isolated without power. So how does a train get to the next station or evacuation shaft, with its valuable load of passengers?

With respect to the regenerative braking, the power is usually fed into the overhead wires and used by another train nearby.

But, I do wonder if Crossrail will be doing things differently, as I like to think of the line as the latest and most energy-efficient of train lines.

Both the braking and failure problems are made easier, if the train is fitted with an on-board energy storage system or batteries in everyday parlance.

A fully-loaded Crossrail train going at its maximum speed of 145 kph will have an energy of  105 KwH, so if it stored this energy on the train when it brakes and stops, it could use it when it accelerated away.

Using batteries for regenerative braking has other effects.

  • It relegates the overhead rail to providing top up power as the train proceeds through the tunnel.
  • The overhead rail and its power supply, only has to cater for energy going to and not coming from the train.
  • The engineering on the train is simpler, as braking energy doesn’t have to be raised to 25 KVAC to feed back into the overhead rail, using perhaps a heavy transformer.

But most importantly, it means that the train has stored energy to proceed to the next station or safe place, if the overhead power should fail.

I have no evidence that this is actually the case, but Bombardier have said that the train will have a remote wake-up facility, so that the driver will turn up and find a train ready for action. Try doing that without a substantial on-board power source, without leaving the train plugged in to electricity all night.

Bombardier are only stealing ideas, from some of the latest cars, if I’m right.

Conclusion

I wouldn’t be surprised if Crossrail’s Class 345 trains are fitted with on board energy storage. The storage would handle.

  • Regenerative Braking
  • Emergency get you to safety power.
  • Remote wake-up of trains.

The design would also mean that the Crossrail and its new trains would be more energy efficient.

 

 

November 30, 2016 Posted by | Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Wattway

I was pointed to this French innovation by the Sunday Times.

Effectively, Wattway, is a system of solar panels that you can put in a road and drive on.

Click here for the Wattway web site.

I have a feeling that it will lead to all sorts of applications, especially where power is needed at a remote location.

I suspect too, that it doesn’t need planning permission as such, whereas even a small wind-turbine might!

 

November 27, 2016 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Brits Keen To Go Green But Don’t Want To Pay For It

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Energy Live News.

It is an interesting article.

  • People in London and Northern Ireland are more likely to pay a green premium.
  • People in the South-East and Wales are most unlikely.
  • More than one in 10 of those willing to pay more would be happy to pay an extra 31-50% for greener energy.

I think it is better value to make sure you don’t use the energy in the first place.

I also feel, that much of our housing stock can never be made energy efficient and should be knocked down and replaced with better quality housing.

 

November 17, 2016 Posted by | World | | 1 Comment

Coal’s Economic Victims

Coal still claims victims, but these days, the biggest ones are economic and corporate.

In the United States, this article has been published on Bloomberg, with a title of Coal Slump Sends Mining Giant Peabody Energy Into Bankruptcy.

The article makes these points.

  • Biggest U.S. producer felled by cheap gas, China slowdown
  • Environmental costs could complicate miner’s reorganisation

How many US pensions have lost value because Peabody was considered a safe investment?

As fracked cheap gas is given as the reason for Peabody’s fall, don’t think that the US is swapping one dirty fuel for another!

  • When you burn coal, which is virtually pure carbon with impurities, you create a lot of carbon dioxide and spread the impurities, which are sometimes quite noxious over a wide area.
  • But natural gas is mainly methane, which is one carbon atom and four of hydrogen. So burning gas creates a lot of water, as well as less carbon.

I seem to remember that to get the same amount of heat energy from natural gas, as from a given quantity of coal, you only create about forty percent of the carbon dioxide.

This page on the US Energy Information Administration probably can lead you to the answer.

In the UK, there are two recent stories on Global Rail News.

Rail freight is going through a bit of a crisis in the UK, because we are burning much less coal in power stations.

As coal is moved to power stations by diesel-hauled trains in the UK, from open-cast sites and the ports, the burning of less coal in power stations is having a serious effect on rail freight companies.

At least, if any train drivers are made redundant, there are plenty of vacancies for drivers of passenger trains and I’ve yet to meet a freight train driver, you likes the dreaded Class 66 locomotives, with all their noise, vibration and smell, that generally pull coal trains.

But it’s not all bad news, as this article from the Railway Gazette, which is entitled Freightliner wagons use recycled coal hopper components, shows. This is said.

Freightliner has taken delivery of the first of 64 open wagons which are being built by Greenbrier Europe using bogies and brake components recovered from coal hoppers made redundant as a result of the decline in coal traffic.

Freightliner Heavy Haul needed a fleet of high capacity box wagons for a new contract to haul construction materials for Tarmac, and decided to investigate the possibility of using recycled parts from redundant Type HHA 102 tonne coal hoppers. With assistance from engineering consultancy SNC Lavalin, Freightliner and Greenbrier Europe identified that with some modifications the bogies and some of the braking equipment would be compatible with an existing design of Greenbrier box wagon.

To a small extent, the movement of aggregates around the country by rail instead of truck, is replacing the coal trains on the the railways.

October 21, 2016 Posted by | Travel, World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Did Aberfan Change My Thinking About Coal?

I have just watched a moving piece by John Humphrys on the BBC, which describes Aberfan now and compares it to what he remembers from fifty years ago.

Growing up in London, I remember the awful smogs of the 1950s caused by domestic coal smoke, so that might have had an affect on my thinking.

But I have been strongly anti-coal for as long as I can remember and I suspect that the tragedy of Aberfan, finally sealed its fate in my mind.

Coal mining tragedies used to happen regularly at that time all over the world and I probably felt it was just too high a price to pay for energy.

I must be one of the few people, who felt, through all of this country’s coal mining troubles of the latter twentieth-century, that the mines should be shut immediately.

I always remember an article in the Guardian, that stated that miners should be retrained into teams, that went round and insulated our pathetic housing stock. If you’ve ever put insulation into a roof, in some cases, it’s very much akin to Victorian coal-mining in reverse.

After all the greenest form of energy, is not to have to generate it in the first place.

I have solar panels on the flat roof of my three-bedroomed house, and even in the Autumn, I only use 50 KwH of electricity and 20 units of gas every week.

 

October 21, 2016 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Is The Sun The Future Of Energy?

I get up early and usually watch the BBC Breakfast programme.

On Sunday, this usually includes the short version of the BBC News on-line program Click.

Sometimes, it is rather wacky, but today they reported on something that will effect us all; solar power.

If you’d like to watch the short version of Click, it’s here on the BBC web site.

They have two segments that show the improvements coming in solar energy.

  • In the first, the program shows how Oxford University are using better materials to improve the efficiency of panels.
  • In the second, the program talked to a Swiss company called Insolight, who have developed a replacement panel that moves to focus the sun’s energy on highly-efficient tiny solar cells, which gives an efficiency of 36%.

Never underestimate the ingenuity of scientists and engineers to create a more efficient world.

October 2, 2016 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment

How Big Would Batteries Need To Be On A Train For Regenerative Braking?

Let’s assume that we have a Class 710 train, trundling around North East London at up to 120 kph.

To calculate the kinetic energy in the train, which will have to be transferred to the battery, we need the mass of the train and its velocity.

I’ll start with the velocity of the train.

As it approached a station, it will be at whatever is the appropriate line speed, which to make things easy I’ll assume is 100 kph or just under 28 metres per second.

In most cases after stopping and discharging and loading a few passengers, it will probably return to a similar line-speed to go to the following station.

The mass of each car of an Aventra, is found at several places on the Internet, including this entry in Wikipedia iwhich gives it as 30-35 tonnes. So the four-car Class 710 train could have a mass of 130 tonnes. Add 100 passengers at an average of 80 kg. each and this would make the mass 138 tonnes

Applying the standard formula gives a kinetic energy of 53240741 joules or  in common-or-garden units 14.8 kilowatt hours. So the energy of an Aventra going at 100 kph could power a one bar electric fire for fifteen hours.

To get a better handle on how much energy is involved let’s look at these specifications for a Nissan Leaf car.

Nissan talks about 24 and 30 kWH versions of the car, So if this is the battery size, then one of Nissan’s batteries could store all the braking energy of a four-car Class 710 train.

Even a fully-loaded Class 345 train would only need a 50kWH battery.

Assuming of course, I’ve got the maths correct.

I have a feeling that using batteries to handle regenerative braking on a train could be a very affordable proposition.

As time goes on, with the development of energy storage technology, the concept can only get more affordable.

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Travel, Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments