The Anonymous Widower

Stephen Fitzpatrick Of OVO On Energy Policy

Stephen Fitzpatrick, the founder of OVO Energy was on BBC Breakfast this morning.

Some of what he said was very enlightening.

Nationalisation Of Distribution Networks

He indicated that this was almost irrelevant, as the technology of energy distribution is changing.

I agree.

Near to where I live, is the Bunhill Energy Centre, which has been built by Islington Council to provide heat and electricity to a local area.

Systems like this are common in some European countries and increasingly, we will see small scale units like this in cities.

In the countryside, solar and wind power linked to energy storage will become more common.

Large industrial users of energy will increasingly generate their own power.

So the distribution networks will become less and less important.

Energy Efficiency

This will become increasingly important, as innovators make devices and appliances that use energy more efficient.

It is interesting, that no Political Party has so far said, that they will promote devices and items that use less energy, by perhaps sponsoring ideas.

OVO’s Customers Spend Forty Percent Less On Gas Than When The Company Started

This was surprising, but it probably indicates that our houses and businesses are getting more energy efficient.

Energy Price Caps

He was in favour, because he believes it opens up the market for energy.

I think it also favours innovative, ethical and highly-regarded energy companies.

Say an energy company predicts that because of the price cap, it will become less profitable.

It can do one of the following.

  1. Increase the number of customers.
  2. Sell customers new and innovative goods and services.
  3. Go out of business.

OVO are taking over a respected boiler servicing company.

I think one of the good things about an energy price cap will be, that bad suppliers, big or small, will be forced out of business.

Conclusion

It was an impressive performance and the BBC should sign him up for Question Time.

 

May 17, 2017 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Ovo Energy Snaps At Heels Of Big Six With Corgi HomePlan Takeover

Ovo Energy seem to be making a play for the big time according to an article in City AM, with the same title as this post.

If it comes about, I think I’ll sign up for my boiler, as I’m with Ovo.

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

Stephen Fitzpatrick On May’s Energy Cap

Stephen Fitzpatrick is the chief executive of OVO Energy, so you could expect a well-thought out response to Theresa May’s proposed cap on energy prices.

This article on Sky is entitled May vows to cap energy bill increases if Tories win election.

This is reported as comments by Stephen Fitzpatrick in the article.

He described the policy as a “bold and ambitious move” – and argued that a cap on standard variable tariffs would not harm consumers or competition.

“It will be painful for some companies, especially those currently taking advantage of customer disengagement, but it will offer consumers a safety net, protecting them from some of the worst practices of the industry whilst still allowing innovative suppliers to compete,

I just wonder, if the energy cap is more targeted than we think.

 

May 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , | Leave a comment

Unlimited Energy Is More Than A Pipe Dream

This is the title of a comment in Friday’s Times from Ed Conway, who is economics editor of Sky News.

He says how energy storage will eventually solve our energy supply problem, by storing the energy generated from solar, tidal, wave and wind.

He mentions a storage idea from a company called ARES or Advanced Rail Energy Storage, which uses trains to store energy by pushing weights up hill.

This article from Interesting Engineering is entitled These Cool Energy Storage Trains Simply Work With the Power of Gravity.

This is said.

  • Trains are loaded with concrete blocks.
  • Trains are powered by third rail electrification.
  • Energy is released using the regenerative braking, when the trains come down.
  • Very little environmental damage is sustained.
  • No water is used.

I have a feeling that in the right place, this idea could be made to work.

Consider the following facts and thoughts.

Dinorwig Power Station

Dinorwig Power Station in Snowdonia colloquial known as Electric Mountain is the UK’s largest pumped storage hydroelectric scheme.

Wikipedia says this about the power of Dinorwig.

From standstill, a single 450-tonne generator can synchronise and achieve full load in approximately 75 seconds. With all six units synchronised and spinning-in-air (Water is dispelled by compressed air and the unit draws a small amount of power to spin the shaft at full speed), 0 MW to 1800 MW load can be achieved in approximately 16 seconds. Once running, the station can provide power for up to 6 hours before running out of water.

So Dinotwig can effectively store about 6 x 1800 or 10800 MwH of electricity.

How  Much Energy Would A Train Store?

If we took a 100 tonne wagon and raised it through a thousand metres, it would acquire 0.272 MwH of energy.

On a rough calculation, you would need to raise 40,000 wagons  to have the capacity of a Dinorwig.

That would need a very large marshalling yard at the top and the bottom.

How Powerful Is A Locomotive?

A modern electric locomotive like a Bombardier TRAXX can be as big as 6 MW.

This locomotive doesn’t come with third-rail electrification, but that could easily be arranged.

If it took the train with say four locomotives, two hours to climb from the low to the high yards, this would expend 48 MwH of electricity.

So this energy would be enough to raise about two hundred wagons to the top.

Making All The Numbers Bigger

The numbers seem challenging and I think the idea is only possible with larger numbers.

  • The trains would need to be raised through a much greater height – Say 2,000 metres
  • The wagons would need to be very heavy – Say 2,000 tonnes
  • The locomotives would need to be more powerful – Say 10 MW.

These give the following.

  • The wagon would acquire 10.88 MwH of energy.
  • Each train would expend 80 MwH of energy.
  • A Dinorwig-sized facility would need about a thousand wagons.

Making the components bigger certainly reduced the numbers.

Could A Heavy And Powerful Self-Powered Wagon Be Designed And Built?

Concrete has various attributes including heavy weight, ease of use and affordable cost.

Boat builders have even built high-performance yachts from concrete.

Could it be possible to create a self-powered wagon with the following characteristics?

  • A number of powered bogies, with a total power of perhaps 20-30 MW.
  • Third rail power collection.
  • Regenerative braking to generate power on the way down.
  • A weight of 10,000 tonnes.

I suspect that the engineering exists to do it.

It would also need a very robust railway to carry it.

The potential energy acquired by the wagon at 1,000 metres would be 27.2 MwH.

If the time to get up the hill and the power of the wagon were balanced, I could see an efficient design being created.

Conclusion

This project might just be possible in an area like Nevada, where it could be coupled to massive solar farms, but I believe there are few other places in the world, where it would be as feasible.

 

 

May 7, 2017 Posted by | World | | Leave a comment

The Beginning Of The End For Coal In The UK

This article on the BBC is entitled First coal-free day in Britain since Industrial Revolution.

This is opening two paragraphs.

Britain went a full day without using coal to generate electricity for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, the National Grid says.

The energy provider said Friday’s lack of coal usage was a “watershed” moment.

Let’s hope it’s not a long goodbye.

Sadly, whilst there are people like Trumkopf about, it will be a long time before coal burning across the world descreases to a low level.

April 23, 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

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