Observing the renewable energy transition from a European perspective

Archive for the month “June, 2013”

Open Issues

Issues that need to be further investigated

– More info about European hydro storage capacity
– Roadmap European Supergrid
– Inventory largest producers wind turbine / solar

EROEI Of Photovoltaics

Upbeat news regarding EROEI values for photovoltaics. From the conclusions:

Improvements in PV technologies over the last decade have brought about notable increases in their EROI. When calculated in terms of the electricity output per unit of primary energy invested (Eq. (2)), The EROIel of PV ranges from 6 to 12, which makes it directly comparable to that of conventional thermal electricity without CCS (4–24).

When instead calculated according to the often employed formula EROIPE-eq=T/EPBT (Eq. (4)), i.e. expressing the energy ‘returned’ by PV in terms of its ‘Primary Energy equivalent’, the EROI of PV is up to 19–38, which puts it squarely in the same range of EROI as conventional fossil fuels (oil in the range 10–30; coal in the range 40–80).

These new results prove that PV is already a viable energy option that may effectively contribute to supporting our societal metabolism, while significantly reducing the depletion of the remaining stocks of non-renewable (fossil) primary energy, and mitigating the concurrent environmental impacts in terms of global warming and polluting emissions.

However, even these remarkable results should not allow one to forget that PV, like all other renewable technologies, must still be supported by an initial investment of primary energy, which is, as of today, of fossil origin. We therefore argue that available monetary and energy resources should be funnelled in the right direction without delay, lest not enough high-EROI fossil fuels are left to support demand during times of gradual shift to renewable resources.

[] – The energy return on energy investment (EROI) of photovoltaics: Methodology and comparisons with fossil fuel life cycles. June, 2012.

Renewable Energy Reserves

The diagram shows the absolute reserves of gas, oil, coal and uranium, as wel as the yearly reserves of renewable energy sources.


Top Solar States Ranking

solar-rankings-per-capita-chart[click to enlarge]

US states are included seperately.


And here to compare, country ranking per capita wind power in 2012

Hydro Power & Storage In Europe

Developed and untapped hydropower potential


Installed hydro storage capacity: 180 TWh. [source]
Electricity consumption: 3,636 TWh/yr. [source]
Hydro storage reserves in days: 18 days

[] – Assessment of the European potential for pumped hydropower energy storage

this study which focuses on two topologies:
(T1) when two reservoirs exist already with the adequate difference in elevation and which are close enough so that they can be linked by a new penstock and electrical equipment
(T2) based on one existing reservoir, when there is a suitable site close enough as to build a second reservoir.

The results show that the theoretical potential in Europe is significant under both topologies, and that the potential of topology 2 is roughly double that of topology 1. Under T1 the theoretical potential energy stored reaches 54 TWh when a maximum of 20 km between existing reservoirs is considered; of this potential approximately 11 TWh correspond to the EU and 37 TWh to candidate countries, mostly Turkey. When a shorter maximum distance between existing reservoirs is considered, e.g. 5 km, the majority of the 0.83 TWh European theoretical potential is in the EU (85%).

Under T2 the European theoretical potential reaches 123 TWh when the distance between the existing reservoir and the prospective site is up to 20 km. Unlike topology 1, in topology 2 the majority of this potential (50%) lies within the EU. For a distance between reservoirs of 5 km a theoretical potential of 15 TWh -of which 7.4 TWh within the EU- was found.

P.S. the figures mentioned need to be reconciled: 180 TWh and the other ones.


Siemens B75

Eine Form aus zwei Teilen / One mold in two parts[source]

  • The B75 rotor blade, which measures 75 meters in length, is the world’s largest fiberglass component cast in one piece.
  • The rotor blade is manufactured from glass fiber-reinforced epoxy resin and balsa wood using the patented integral blade process. It has no seams or glued joints and no adhesive, all of which saves weight.
  • Compared with the Siemens 3.6-120 turbine, which is the current best-seller in the offshore wind market, the Siemens 6.0-154 turbine needs 40% less foundations. Since the foundation cost does not increase proportionally with turbine rating, this leads to significant infrastructure savings.
  • One SWT-6.0-154 wind turbine can generate about 23 million kWh annually at a typical offshore site having 8.5 m/s mean wind speed.
  • When the 154 meter rotor is operated at a wind speed of 10 meters per second, it captures the energy from 200 metric tons of air every second.
  • The Siemens B75 blade weighs about 25 tons– this is equivalent to the weight of four bull elephants.
  • [] – Siemens builds 75-metre-long rotor blade from a single mould
    [] – rotor blade fact sheet

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    Enercon E-126

    The Enercon E-126, the largest windturbine in the world until Feb 2012. Hub height 135 m, rotor diameter 127 m, 7.5 MW, yearly yield 18 KWh. Eleven of those engines are installed in Estinnes/Belgium. Expected production of these eleven machines combined: 195 GWh or 17.7 GWh per tower per year. List price: eleven milion euro. Assuming a yearly maintenance cost of 2%, this would increase total cost to 17.6 million euro. Expected operational life: much longer than 20 years. Assuming 30 years, this would mean a power production of 531 GWh. Assuming market price for electricity from the grid of 20 euro cent/kwh, this would equate to an amount of power worth 106 million euro or six times the total cost of the machine, a spectacular return on investment. The turbine does not use rare earth magnets.


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    55 Dutch Professors Advise Against Shale Gas

    55 Dutch professors signed a manifesto against application of shale gas in the Netherlands. From an environmental point of view there are only disadvantages and commercial advantages are questionable. According to the signatories shale is a hype, not interesting for Europe and certainly not for the Netherlands. To begin with, shale gas can only be found on much greater depths than in the US. Shale gas reserves in Europe are mainly located in Poland and France, 3.5 trillion m3 each (together 30% of US reserves). In contrast to the US, the soil is property of the state. In the US a farmer is approached with a financial incentive to give drillers access to his land. In Europe environmental regulations are much more strict than in the US, making shale gas exploitation less profitable. Shale gas exploration involves a highly toxic brew of benzene, mercury, arsenic and radon, that easily could end up in the ground water. For this reason France has forbidden shale gas and Poland seems to give up as well after disappointing results. For Holland it could mean that ecological damage will outweigh financial gains. The conclusion is that the Netherlands should concentrate on 16% target of renewable energy in 2020. That will be difficult enough.


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    EROEI Marcellus Shale Gas 85

    An analysis of the energy return on investment (EROI) of natural gas obtained from horizontal, hydraulically fractured wells in the Marcellus Shale was conducted using net external energy ratio methodology and available data and estimates of energy inputs and outputs. Used as sources of input data were estimates of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted from the gas extraction processes, as well as fuel-use reports from industry and other sources. Estimates of quantities of materials used and the associated embodied energy as well as other energy-using steps were also developed from available data. Total input energy was compared with the energy expected to be made available to end users of the natural gas produced from a typical Marcellus well. The analysis indicates that the EROI of a typical well is likely between 64:1 and 112:1, with a mean of approximately 85:1. This range assumes an estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) of 3.0 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per well. EROI values are directly proportionate to EUR values.



    61% Electricity from Solar And Wind In Germany On June 16th

    The International Economic Platform for Renewable Energies (IWR, Münster, Germany) reports that on June 16th, 2013 wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) generation peaked at over 60% of German electricity output, a new record. Between 2 PM and 3 PM on June 16th, the output from PV plants reached 20.3 GW, while wind turbines supplied 9.3 GW, for a total of 29.6 GW. This represented 61% of the 48.5 GW of total generation during this hour. Coal, gas, nuclear and oil generation comprised only 18.9 GW during the hour.


    Richard Heinberg at TEDxSonomaCounty

    The Internet In Europe

    Conditions for further broadband development in Europe

    This site advocates/predicts the internet as the core infrastructure of the economy of the future. Information exchange, including live pictures, can to a large extent make superfluous a large amount of transporting people, for instance to an office workplace or educational facility. The German magazine der Spiegel wrote an article about the state of affairs of the internet in Europe and Germany more in particular. Here a few graphs from that article.


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    Wikipedia: BritNed is a high-voltage direct-current (HVDC) submarine power cable between the Isle of Grain in Kent, the United Kingdom; and Maasvlakte in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The BritNed interconnection would serve as a vital link for the foreseeable European super grid project.

    [] – BritNed
    [] – BritNed Development Ltd, Application for EU exemption, 2006
    [] – Dutch article abour NorNed and BritNed.

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    Picture From The New Economy

    Giant windturbine rotor blades waiting to be shipped to their final destination in the Northsea. Location: northern province of Groningen/the Netherlands.

    [google maps satellite]


    There can only be one energy strategy for Europe in a resource depleted future: the European supergrid, a pan-European infrastructure, consisting of renewable energy generation, mainly based on wind and solar and large scale hydro storage to filter out intermittent energy supply from said sources. NorNed was a major step towards that integrated renewable European energy future. After 2020 slowly declining fossil fuel supplies from Russia need to be gradually replaced by this renewable infrastructure, probably combined with severe energy saving measures as well as rationing.

    Wikipedia: NorNed is a 580-kilometre (360 mi) long HVDC submarine power cable between Feda in Norway and the seaport of Eemshaven in the Netherlands, which interconnects both countries’ electricity grids. It is the longest submarine power cable in the world.[2] Budgeted at €550 million, and completed at a cost of €600m,[3] the NorNed cable is a bipolar HVDC link with a voltage of ±450 kV and a capacity of 700 MW. NorNed is a joint project of the Norwegian transmission system operator Statnett and its Dutch counterpart TenneT… After two months of operation, the cable generated revenues of approximately € 50 million, meaning that in two months’ time, 8% of the total costs of the cable have been recovered. In the business case drawn up for the NorNed cable, annual revenues were estimated at €64 million. NorNed has been included in European Market Coupling Company operations as of 12 January 2011.


    Translated Dutch wikipedia: the cable is a big success; in 2008 (cable in use for merely eight months) 3000 GWh were imported by the Netherlands and 330 GWh were exported. The cable is used to import cheap clean hydro electricity during the day from Norway. During the night cheap Dutch electricity is exported to spare reserves in the Norwegian hydro bassins or even to pump up water into the bassins. In this way the lakes are used to store energy that can be easily be reovered for times of peak demand.

    [] – Market data

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    Norway Europe’s Green Battery

    Youtube text – Uploaded October 12, 2011 – Olav Hohmeyer is a professor in energy and natural resource sciences at the University of Flensburg. He is a member of the German Advisory Council on the Environment. They have recently given recommendations to the German government on pathways towards a 100 per cent renewable energy system by 2050. He will explain the key findings of this work and emphasize how Norwegian hydropower may play an important role to help Germany become 100 per cent renewable.

    The big advantage of hydro storage is that it can be regulated on short notice. The total storage capacity in the Norwegian hydro system is about 84 TWh. The current German yearly electricity consumption is in the order of 500 TWh. The strictly theoretical maximum amount of Norwegian mainland hydropower production is 600 TWh. A more realistic figure is 200 TWh.

    [source] – Hydro Electricity and Storage Capabilities in Norway – can they be useful for Europe? [pdf, 15p]

    [] – Ulla-Førre, largest reservoir in Norway, capacity 7.8 TWh.

    [Google Maps] – Lake Blåsjø

    Norway subsea power connections (purple = existing cables)

    More videos with prof. Olav Hohmeyer:

    Uploaded 8 nov 2012 – „Die Showcity Flensburg ist ein Baustein, der den öffentlichen Nahverkehr attraktiver macht.” — Nobelpreisträger Prof. Dr. Olav Hohmeyer kommentiert das Projekt vor dem Hintergrund des Klimaschutzes.

    Uploaded 3 nov 2010 – Nach der beschlossenen Verlängerung der Laufzeiten für Kernkraftwerke befürchten Kritiker, dass der Ausbau Erneuerbarer Energien ins Stocken geraten könnte. Olav Hohmeyer, Professor für Energie- und Ressourcenwirtschaft an der Universität Flensburg und Mitglied des Weltklimarats IPCC, beschreibt die Hintergründe der von ihm beobachteten Verzögerung beim Ausbau der Offshore-Windparks.

    Uploaded 21 aug 2011 nano: Bericht 14.03.2011 Die Brücke stand schon “Brückentechnologie Atomkraft nicht notwendig” “Die Brücke zu erneuerbaren Energien stand bereits”, so Prof. Olav Hohmeyer vom Sachverständigenrat für Umweltfragen in Deutschland.

    Geupload op 11 jun 2011 – Mittwoch, 08.06.2011 um 23:35 im Ersten So viel Energie steckte noch nie in der Diskussion um die Zukunft. Die Frage ist nicht mehr, ob wir die Atomkraftwerke abschalten können, sondern wie und wie schnell. 2022, 2020? Oder gar 2015, wie Gutachten renommierter Experten nahelegen. Prof. Olav Hohmeyer vom Zentrum für nachhaltige Energiesysteme in Flensburg ist sicher, dass bereits ab Anfang 2015 Deutschland zu jedem Zeitpunkt ohne Atomstrom versorgt werden kann, auch ohne Zukäufe aus dem Ausland. Es gebe keine regionalen Versorgungsengpässe und auch zu Zeiten der Jahreshöchstlast – meist einem Abend im Dezember – ist Strom für jeden Verbraucher in Deutschland gewährleistet. Die Kosten? Das Abschalten aller Atomkraftwerke in Deutschland wird den Durchschnittshaushalt allenfalls um einige Euro im Monat belasten. Für einen Zeitraum werden wir Kohle- und Gaskraftwerke vermehrt nutzen müssen, mit erhöhtem CO2-Ausstoß für einige Jahre. Danach wird die Klimabilanz aber wesentlich besser aussehen, als die Politik sie bisher geplant hat. Deutschland könnte spätestens 2050 seinen Strom komplett regenerativ herstellen. Mit politischer und gesellschaftlicher Bereitschaft ist dieses Ziel aber schon wesentlich früher zu erreichen.

    Concrete Energy Storage Spheres

    Youtube text: Uploaded June 6, 2013 – MIT has patented an energy storage system it posits makes offshore wind energy more sustainable. The intermittent and unreliable nature of wind energy makes the green energy source untenable in certain conditions. By anchoring offshore wind turbines with 30 meter diameter hollow concrete spheres, scientist believe they have created a way to extend the generation power of the wind turbines. During peak energy production periods, excess energy produced by the wind turbines is used to pump seawater out of the spheres, which sit on the seafloor. During slack periods, a valve in the spheres are opened and seawater rushes in, spinning a turbine also connected to the grid. This video shows how the concrete energy storage spheres would work.

    German Offshore Wind Faltering

    Youtube text: Uploaded October 22, 2012 – Große Hoffnungen — wenig Erfolge. Offshore-Windenergie sollte der Energiewende den richtigen Schwung geben. Stattdessen herrscht nahezu Stillstand. Gerade einmal 52 Windräder sind vor der deutschen Küste bisher in Betrieb. Die Windenergiebranche hängt den Plänen hinterher. Hildegard Müller, Hauptgeschäftsführerin des Bundesverbandes Energie- und Wasserwirtschaft, sieht darin ein echtes Zulieferproblem: “Wir planen so viele Windparks. Und die Netzbetreiber kommen nicht hinterher.” Der Netzbetreiber Tennet weist die Verantwortung zurück. Die Fehler seien vor ihrem Einstieg ins deutsche Netz gemacht worden. Bleibt die Frage der Haftung. Windparks ohne Netzanbindung schreiben Verluste. Ihre Betreiber könnten Ansprüche gegen Tennet geltend machen. Aber das Unternehmen will nicht haften und die Regierung auch nicht. Zahlt am Ende der Bürger die Rechnung? Wie die Haftung konkret aussehen soll, wird im Bundestag diskutiert. Eine Gewinnbeteiligung für die Bürger ist allerdings nicht im Gespräch.

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    Altaeros Airborn Wind Turbine

    Youtube text: Uploaded April 25, 2012. An American company, Altaeros Energies, recently launched a prototype helium-shelled wind turbine that can be used at high altitudes. While the test run took place at 350ft above ground, the ultimate goal is a height of 1,000ft. Tethers send the converted power back to the ground. Compared with traditional wind turbines, the prototype garners twice as much energy, as wind is stronger at higher altitudes.

    [] – Airborne wind turbine
    Read more…

    Far More German Onshore Wind Energy Potential

    The German Umweltbundesamt (Federal Environment Agency) has changed its mind about the porential for wind energy on land. Offshore wind turbines harvest more energy than on land, but it is also more expensive in terms of installation and maintenance. The authorities are changing their minds if it is really necessary to continue focussing on offshore wind energy, now that a new study has shown that wind energy generated on land could produce as much as 1190 GW, five times the total German electricity demand. 13.8% of German territory could be used to generate electricity from wind. Current offshore installed base: 200 MW. Planned for 2020: 10 GW. Planned for 2030: 25 GW.


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