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Archive for the category “Belgium”

Can Society Run on Renewable Energy Alone?

Kris de Decker

The Flamish energy thinker Kris De Decker blogs at “Low Tech Magazine“, was guest author at “The Oil Drum” and writes for many prominent newspapers in Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. De Decker presents a big picture view on the possibility of a 100% renewable energy society. De Decker preaches “low tech” if not “no tech”.

The article.

The author admits that there is potentially more than enough renewable energy available. In Europe 10 times, in the US even 100 times present day electricity consumption, that’s not the problem. The real issue is intermittency. How can we guarantee that our energy grids remain stable, like they have been over the past hundred year, when we switch from fossil fuel to renewable energy? They author describes the intermittency of wind and solar in more detail and we assume he has done his homework. A first positive observation is that throughout the year solar and wind intermittency somewhat compensate each other. There is more wind in the winter months and more solar in the summer.

De Decker lists five strategies to combat the negative consequences of intermittency:

  • 1. Backup Power Plants. Don’t opt for 100% renewable energy supply but keep fossil fuel backup capacity alive. And since it regularly happens that no renewable energy is available at all, this would imply that all fossil fuel power generating capacity must remain in place. The only difference is with the present is that they will be (partially) idle for a long time. Essentially a hybrid system.
  • 2. Oversizing Renewable Power Production. “Solution”: build so much capacity that supply always matches demand. The author admits that this would lower the energy efficiency (EROI) because the energy system would over supply which necessitates switching power generation off.
  • 3. Supergrids. Another more practical way to combat intermittency is connecting large geographical areas into a single supergrid and use “statistics” to even out irregular supply. This would require a continental grid with much higher voltages and in Europe a renewed grid with twelve times more transport capacity.
  • 4. Energy Storage. The author claims that in the case of Europe, 400 TWh net storage capacity is needed or 1.5 months worth of consumption. Pumped hydro can supply 80 TWh and car batteries 7.5 TWh. The rest should be batteries.
  • 5. Adjusting Demand to Supply. The author (correctly) questions the necessity of “supply should always meet demand”. Why not consume energy if it is available. The Dutch of the 17th century for instance reclaimed new land by pumping it dry and sawed planks for their commercial fleet with wind power, despite its intermittency.

There is not much wrong with the article and De Decker basically supports the idea of a 100% renewable society even if he is skeptical that we can have a plug-and-play solution and instead advocates that we should learn to live with a less comfortable situation where demand will follow supply instead of the other way around.

Is he right? Eh no. He is ignoring the impact of other promising storage technologies. Take the blueprint of the 100%-renewable energy model as promoted by the renowned German Fraunhofer Institute. Note this is the overall energy picture, not just electricity. The model and numbers are for Germany, but can be scaled up for Europe, with adaptions in the numbers for the respective local situations:

[source] 100% renewable energy blueprint for Germany according to the Fraunhofer Institute

Summary in numbers:

Input: 542 GW intermittent renewable energy, mostly wind (200 GW) and solar (252 GW).

Storage: batteries 52 GWh, pumped hydro 60 GWh, power-to-gas (methane) 88 GW and other, see legenda:

Legenda:
Gud – “Gas und Dampf” (gas and steam).
KWK – “Kraftwärmekopplung” (co-generation. “power-heat-coupling”)
Solarthermie – thermal solar (solar collectors)
BHKW – “Blockheizkraftwerke” (co-generation. “block heat and power generation”)
Gas-Wärmepumpen – Gas-heatpumps
Pumpspeicher – Pumped storage (hydro)
Wärmespeicher – heat storage (water medium)
Wärmelast – heat load
WP – “Wärmepump” (heat pump)
Überschuss Wärme – Excess heat

Essential is the Energiesanierung (energy renovation) of buildings, which should result in a reduction of space heating energy requirement of 64.9% as compared to 2010 level.
According to the Fraunhofer Institute would the cost of this renewable energy system not be higher than our current fossil fuel based energy system.

[lowtechmagazine.com] – How (Not) to Run a Modern Society on Solar and Wind Power Alone
[krisdedecker.org] – Kris de Decker
[fraunhofer.de] – 100 % Erneuerbare Energien fuer Strom und Waerme in Deutschland
[sueddeutsche.de] – Wie Deutschland auf 100 Prozent Ökostrom umsteigen kann
[acatech.de] – Stabilität im Zeitalter der erneuerbaren Energien

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Van Hool Hydrogen Buses

[vanhool.be] – Hybrid fuel cell bus
[wikipedia.org] – Van Hool

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Belgium’s Nuclear Power Plants Falling Apart

doel-nuclear[source] The Belgians conveniently located one of their two nuclear power stations in Doel at the border with the Netherlands. If something goes wrong, large parts of the Netherlands will become uninhabitable, but not Belgium.

The German government is preparing “critical questions” to the Belgian authorities on operational safety at the nation’s two active nuclear power plants, following a number of recent successive incidents at nuclear facilities.
After incidents at both Belgian nuclear power plants, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks has again put her concerns point-blank, demanding whether security is guaranteed at the Belgian NPPs, proposing Brussels to get rid of the nuclear energy altogether. The minister said, though, that the final decision remains with the Belgian people…

As long as these reactors that are falling to bits remain online nuclear incidents cannot be ruled out,” North Rhine-Westphalia’s regional minister Johannes Remmel was quoted as saying by the Belgium news outlet Flanders News on Tuesday. After “all these incidents,” it is strange that Belgium’s nuclear authorities are not considering taking all the country’s nuclear reactors offline, Remmel also said.

This should be the Dutch government saying this, before the Germans.

Reaction of the Dutch government: next year we’ll take in 250,000 refugees.

dimonaChernobyl Exclusion Zone (red) projected over Israel, north of their nuclear facility Dimona. That’s more than 150 km. If Doel goes down, cities like The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Utrecht would become uninhabitable. And since Rotterdam is the gateway to Europe, the consequences would exceed a much larger area than the Netherlands alone. That maybe the reason why the Germans sound the alarm bell.

And since with prevailing winds in the Netherlands from the South-West, this is news directly involving yours faithfully.

[rt.com] – Belgium’s nuclear power plants ‘falling to bits’ – German officials

Belgian Offshore Storage Solution

Die Energie-Insel aus der Luft.

Die Energie-Insel aus der Luft.

Vom Strand aus gesehenView from the Belgian beach

The idea is not new: build a circular dike in the sea and pump water out of it with energy from wind turbines for storage purposes if there is no actual demand for energy, like during the night. Let water flow back in again, propelling turbines to generate energy on the moment that you need it.

In 1981 the Dutch engineer Lievense presented the plan for this type of storage, but that was 1981 (when we heard him present his plans at our university) and now is 2015, where the energy problem has become acute. Decision for a go ahead: this summer.

Key data:

Discharge capacity: 500 MW for four hours
Max. difference water levels: 30 meter

In Europe, the on-land hydro storage capacity has been largely exhausted. Exception: Norway and Iceland.

[spiegel.de] – Belgien plant “iLand” in der Nordsee
[welt.de] – Wo unser Strom in Zukunft herkommen wird
[wikipedia.org] – Grid energy storage

plan-lievense[source] Original Plan Lievense

lievenseLuc Lievense

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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.

[wikipedia.org]
[metaefficient.com]

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World’s First 6-MW Offshore Wind Turbine Thornton Bank Windfarm

[wikipedia]
[repower.de]
[cleantechnica.com]

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