Sunday, 9 October 2016

Valentia Observatory Records Record Rainfall

On October 4th, Valentia Observatory recorded it's highest level of rainfall in a single day since the station opened 150 years ago. There was 105.5mm of rain in 24 hours. The same station also recorded it's wettest September in 10 years and December 2015 was the wettest December on record.  However, May 2016 was a remarkably dry month, well below average.

To get the bigger picture to see what is going on, I've taken a look at mean air temperature records. 

Previous very wet years were 1924, 1930, 1946, 19472002, 2008 and 2009. Is there a trend of floods and heavy rainfall occurring directly after years of warming ?

The past five years were cooler than the warming peak of the 2000's. We will have to see how 2016 plays out. So far, 2016 is over half a degree warmer than 2015 (up to September). This makes 2016 warmer than any of the last five years but still cooler than the 2000s. 

The sea surface temperature maps still show a large body of cool water out in the Atlantic :

Compare with 2006 and 2007 :

A colder Atlantic would normally mean a colder winter in Ireland. 

Monday, 3 October 2016

Curtailment Payments to Wind Farms will Increase Over Winter

From Irish Independent

The compensation will be based on the market price per megawatt of power produced, which is currently at around €50. If an operator could not transmit 100MW, they would be entitled to €5,000. "There is no doubt that at some stage over the coming months we will have to curtail," a source said.

The unavailability of the East West interconnector also means that Eirgrid will have to revise their Winter Outlook :

The capacity margin of 3199 shows how much spare capacity we have over and above demand. This can now be reduced to 2699 with the loss of the interconnector. The Danes generally assume that wind has a capacity credit of zero whereas Eirgrid assume a 14% figure for Irish wind. If we get a prolonged period of High Pressure, then the output of wind will be close to zero and will contribute nothing to adequate capacity. So that leaves a capacity margin of 2,266 MW. If the winter takes a sudden cold turn, then that will put added pressure on this margin as demand rises. 

Climate Saint Mary Robinson says "Eat Less Meat"

From Irish Independent

Meanwhile back in the real world, the skies over County Cavan, Ireland yesterday :

If you look closely, you can even spot Saint Robinson's plane on the way to Mayo.

Monday, 26 September 2016

Grid Costs Set to Rise to Meet 2020 Targets

Grid costs will cost households and businesses an additional € 354 million next year as part of a large rollout of grid and transmission networks. The Energy Regulator explains :

The five years from 2016 to 2020 will require continued investment in the transmission system and delivering ongoing infrastructure projects. The PR3 period was characterised by the initiation of a large scale infrastructure delivery programme in order to meet 2020 renewable generation targets

So the transition to the green economy doesn't involve dismantling of the existing fossil fuel system. Instead, it means adding capacity and grid infrastructure paid for by you and me. This is fast turning into a gravy train for whoever has the best idea for extracting more money from electricity bills, or in economic terms, a bubble. 

The same is happening elsewhere in Europe. In Germany, grid costs will soon rise by a whopping 45%-80% as network infrastructure struggles to keep up with all the additional capacity :

There is no going back now. We have committed ourselves to a crazy energy policy. No wonder the European Union is no longer as popular as it used to be.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Rise in Ireland's Electricity Generation CO2 Emissions

SEAI have published the latest details on CO2 emissions in Ireland. Electricity generation emissions have risen in 2015 because of a rise in coal consumed in Moneypoint.

The graph is slightly misleading for a couple of reasons. It uses a simplified modelling system that doesn't take full account of increased cycling and ramping from back up generators. Hence the disclaimer on Page 26 :

There are clear limitations in this analysis but it does provide useful indicative results. 

The cycling effects are certainly not small as stated on Page 21 - see here for an analysis

In reality, the cycling effects increase as more wind is added so the CO2 per kWh of electricity may be fairly accurate back in say 2010 but starts getting progressively worse by 2015. 

The other problem is that by the end of 2012, the East West Interconnector was up and running sending Co2 free power to Ireland throughout 2013 and after that. This is because emissions are counted in the country of origin, in this case the UK. No account seems to be taken in the graph above of this. There is no Imports (avoided) in the legend.

Lastly, as stated recently on this blog, use of diesel generators is becoming more common with increased intermittent wind power, and is now at about 230MW capacity. I can't find any reference to them in the SEAI paper so presumably they are not included. 

Monday, 12 September 2016

Over 40% of Wind Energy Shutdown Last Night


Last night, over 40% of wind energy produced was shutdown or curtailed during a spell of gale force winds across the island of Ireland. This episode clearly shows the limitations of relying too much on an intermittent source of energy like wind. Billions of euros worth of turbine installations become worthless at both low wind and at high wind.   

Figure 1

The reason for the shutdown of so many wind turbines can be clearly seen in the System Frequency charts before and after the wind shutdown. 

As the gales gathered in strength on Sunday evening, maintaining the frequency of the grid became more difficult :

Figure 2

The zig zag patterns in the Figure 2 show how frequency fluctuated between 49.9 and 50.1 Hz. The dips represent periods of too much wind when system inertia drops (due to lack of conventional generation such as coal or gas). Should frequency drop below 49.7 Hz then a blackout may occur, so Eirgrid rectified this by shutting down some of the wind and allowing more conventional generation into the system. The frequency then rises again to 50Hz. Gas turbines are forced to ramp up and down more often to maintain system stability during such periods thus pushing emissions up and negating some of the benefits of  having all the wind in the first place. 

Figure 3

Figure 3 shows what happened when over 40% of the wind output was shutdown and there was more manageable levels of wind, in this case about 1,500MW. The frequency is very stable and there is little risk of blackouts. This has been normality in the grid for many years. Compare it with Figure 2. This is the future. It will certainly test engineering skills to it's limits. Gas turbines will have to function under greater strain than before. It will cost a lot of money. There can no longer be a guarantee that the electric kettle will boil when you want it to. 

The other option Eirgrid have to maintain a stable frequency in these situations is to cut demand - which is in effect a blackout under another name. The future is renewable. The future is green. I'm at a loss to figure out how this is "progress".

Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Northwest Passage Opens Up

NASA recently posted an image of a nearly ice free North West Passage :

 In mid-August 2016, the southern route through the Passage was nearly ice-free. For most of the year, the Northwest Passage is frozen and impassible. But during the summer months, the ice melts and breaks up to varying degrees. The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured the top image of the Northwest Passage on August 9, 2016. A path of open water can be traced along most of the distance from the Amundsen Gulf to Baffin Bay.

Compared with 2013, there is a lot less ice. You can view a comparison here.  I was interested to find out if this had happened before in recent history. NASA state that an ice strengthened ship could get through the southern route without too much trouble. Well, it turns out that a ship did just that in 1903 and 1905.

Captain Roald Amundsen, a Norwegian explorer, wrote about their voyage in Colliers Weekly (behind a paywall)

The ship did not face too much ice trouble on the Southern Route :

The passage they took was the exact same passage a ship today could take and at the same time of the year - August and September. They stayed on Gjoa Haven over the winter and the following year living and hunting with Eskimos. Then in August 1905, they sailed through a narrow rocky and icy passage to Amundsen Gulf. 

I have shown the route they took overlaid on the recent August 2016 NASA image. It's precisely the same route that a ship could take today. This means there is little sign of warming in the Arctic since early 1900's and now.

With the Northwest Passage conquered, Amundsen sailed to the nearest telegraph station - he had heard from whalers that Norway and Sweden had become independent.