Is Nuclear in Decline or Not?

A mantra may have no substance yet if it is asserted enough times, people start believing it. People are especially receptive if the mantra fits in with the pre-conceptions and beliefs.
On two comments (Here & Here) I recently recieved such a mantra. No doubt the author fully believes what he has written. He is not a liar. Just a receptive victim of misinformation.

This is what commentator said:
I would just say you should make note of what is happening in reality - long-term global decline in nuclear energy, exponential growth in renewable energy. 
Or you can just look at the reality of what is happening all over the world. Wind is growing at an exponential rate while nuclear power is in long-term decline. 

On the face of it, thanks to the propaganda, that sounds plausible. By chance I was doing some more research on Fukushima and I came across this.

Fukushima Impacts Global Nuclear Generation in 2011

In this article there was a graph (reproduced below). The rest of the article was an eye opener as well.

In fact since 1971 electrcal generation by nuclear (world-wide) has been on a continuous upward trend, with a small dip starting in 2007. This upward trend was restarted in 2010 but the Japanese and German shut downs have forced the 2011 figure down by 4%.

So, far from fading away over the years, nuclear electricity generation has been steaming ahead for the last forty years, and although it has levelled off for the past few years, it continues to do so. It is in fact about to resume this upward trend, and with a vengence.

New plant has been continuously coming on line. Even in 2011 (the year of Fukushima) there was an additional 4GW of new plant (at the average global nuclear capacity factor of 80% that is 3.2GW continuous) that incidentally is the equivalent of some 6400 2MW wind turbines (running at the average global wind turbine CF of 25%.), but of course, excludes the wind intermittency and gas backup the turbines require.

The Chinese have 25 nuclear plant in build. They did suspend issuing licences for a further three due to Fukushima but that has not stopped the others.

The global deployment rate of 5 new plants per year is about to double and should reach one per month by 2015. Others are leveraging their existing plant by upgrading their generation capacity.

In 2011 beside the panic in Japan and the hysteria in Germany only one nuclear plant shut down. That was Oldham - a clapped out Magnox reactor nearly 50 years old.

So, nuclear is very far from being in decline.

I could also argue that wind, while truly undergoing a very rapid expansion is hardly going up exponentially and is wholly driven by a long term unsustainable subsidy based culture. But maybe more on that in another post.

While our politicians dither or bend to hysteria (like they did in Germany) the rest of the world is embracing modern nuclear and shows no sign of retrenching, whatever the wind industry or the fashionable green cults like the WWF and Greenpeace like to say.

But sadly, for us in the UK, the future is less clear.

Unless someone in government gets a grip, there is the distinct possibility that in a few years the country that first pioneered nuclear generation (i.e. the UK) will be unable to provide its people with reliable and on-demand electricity.

The prospect of energy shortages and blackouts get closer by the day.

James Lovelock

Today it has been reported that one of the great environmentalists of the 20th century, James Lovelock, author of the Giaia Hypothesis, has changed his opinion on Global Warming.

While he still considers that that Global Warming is happening, he now has modified and moderated his viewpoint. He has expressed an opinion that his earlier cataclysmic views were wrong. ( See Here )

He will no doubt gather a great deal of flak from both sides of the global warming debate because of this change of opinion. But really we should be praising him for adopting a true scientific and evidence based approach to the subject. Lovelock is clearly someone who is willing to review and if necessary, change his opinion if the evidence demands such a change.

Lovelock has also gathered an enormous amount of hostility due to his considered opinion that nuclear power is a necessary and highly beneficial technology and should be embraced.

Clearly he is someone who is prepared to stand out from the crowd and be guided solely by the facts as he sees them - rather than the propaganda.

I have always respected Lovelock, even though I disagreed with Lovelock's original global warming viewpoint. But I am very pleased to find the considered opinion of such a famous scientist now roughly aligns with my humble lay-mans view. Any reader of this blog will also know I whole heartedly agree with his views on nuclear power.

But neither of these viewpoints are relevent to Lovelocks position as a true scientist. A true scientist, is one who is capable of reviewing and if necessary changing their opinion. They will also do this solely based on the available evidence, and irrespective of the baying and cat-calling of the surrounding mob.

Lovelock, much to the chagrin and hostility of those more politically motivated, has shown a beacon to us all.

That beacon though, has nothing to do with Global Warming or Nuclear Power.

But everything to do with evidence based science.

We should all take note.

Why Wind Turbine Capacity Factor Matters

My criticism yesterday of the Dorset Renewable Energy Strategy (DRES) focussed on the inflated Capacity Factor values used for wind turbines in a Dorset environment.

Why does this matter so much?

The standard Wind industry response to a  criticism  of a particular Capacity Factor (CF) is that you can increase the Capacity Factor by simply decreasing the size of the generator attached to the turbine. Like many of the wind industries statements this is, on a simplistic level, true. But they carefully avoid mentioning the affect this would have on the turbine output.

If you decreased the size of the generator on a given diameter turbine in a particular location  then you could increase the Capacity Factor. Unfortunately though, you would also significantly decrease the amount of energy generated by the thing over a year. There is an ever worsening trade off where the energy generation falls away as the generator size is decreased to force up the capacity factor.

This is simply because the energy in the the wind obeys a cube law. 2 x wind speed -> 8 x energy. So by decreasing the size of the generator you reduce the opportunity to exploit infrequent short term high wind events that actually produce most of the electricity generated.

The sad fact about wind turbines is that for most (60%) of their operational life they are either producing no electricity or an amount that is well below their annual Capacity Factor. When they do produce large amounts of energy is is at random and unpredictable times and essentially in relatively short bursts.

However, wind turbine Capacity Factors do provide an effective method of comparing relative productivity between wind turbines in different locations. But that is all.

Wind power is unique in being the only major power generation method that when operational, has a typical output that is significantly below its Capacity Factor. Consequently wind turbine CF inflates the perceived ability of turbines to produce power when compared with other generation methods.

Comparing wind CF with any "on demand" CF ( like the DRES laughably does with your gas boiler) is totally absurd.

Let us come back to Dorset. Why has there not been a rush to build turbines here before now? Why have they been built mainly in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Northern England?

The simple reason is that the wind speed is lower down south. The capacity factor for a given turbine is consequently lower and the southern turbines are actually even more dependant on rare high wind events to big up their CF.

Take two identical turbines in England. One in Workington (2009 CF 32% - the best in England) and a one in Dorset where the CF is going to be around 21% at best. The energy produced by the Workington turbine is 1.5 times as much as that produced by a Dorset turbine. It is also double that of the infamous Reading turbine.

All create similar environmental damage and yet all make a profit.

A turbine with a low Capacity Factor is by definition less productive compared to its peers. However such is the largesse of the ROC subsidy that even a turbine with a capacity factor of 15%
will make a healthy profit.

If the ROC subsidy was cut, many turbines in the UK would become unviable overnight. Cut it out completey and at least 90% would be shut down.

Nothing is going to get better about this.

There is no magic fix to increase the wind speed. There is no wondrous widget being designed that will allow installed wind turbines to generate more electricity.

The turbines and their operators are wholly dependent on the ROC (in perpetuity) to make a profit. Without it, all but a few are doomed.

As they get older they will get more unreliable and their CF will actually fall. Eventually, one day, sanity will return and the governemnt will be forced to cut the ROC.

Then you will see wind farms being sold on - and on - and on. Until one day they will mysteriously cease to operate.

When the bailiffs turn up we will find the final owner is a company operating out of a post office box in Belise.

We the taxpayers, will end up paying to have them pulled down.

Dorset Renewable Energy Strategy Seeks Endorsement

The Dorset Renewable Strategy Update received a mauling when it was first released for Public scrutiny. Particularly it was lambasted for its doctrinaire enthusiasm for covering Dorset with anything up to 360 huge and ineffective wind turbines. (the so-called "realistic" scenario was for 180)

The DEG (now renamed the Dorset Energy Partnership) have supposedly reworked this document. But really little has changed. Even the errors are still there. (more on that later). This reworked version has been released only to selected groups for "endorsement". I have yet to find any publicity for it anywhere for the general public.

So what about the errors?

I will limit myself to the section that is supposedly explaining Capacity Factors, otherwise this post would go on for ever. Below are the correct figures for UK Capacity Factors, taken from the RESTAT Site Here (Renewable Energy Statistics - Dept Energy and Climate Change - see bottom of linked page titled Load Factors there are a set of excel spreadsheets)

The Dorset Renewable Energy Strategy (DRES) is Here See Section 1.5 page 6

 First we have the 30% Capacity Factor Myth
 "wind power technology has a capacity factor of 0.3, or 30%"

 This is WRONG. At best, making such a statement shows a lack of basic research. At worst it is a deliberate attempt at misinformation.

Notice that from the DECC figures, the average CF for the whole of the UK has NEVER even reached 30% let alone become a typical average. For England it is worse. The 10 year rolling CF is less than 25%. The South West (i.e. including Dorset) it is even lower (23.5%) and has dipped to 17.7% in 2010. This document is supposedly about Dorset - right?.

This is not a matter of just  a "couple of per cent".

A 30% CF generator, over a year, will produce 150% of the energy of a 20% CF generator. So essentially this incorrect DRES statement inflates the energy generation we would expect from a Dorset wind turbine by around to 50%. (from high to low the SW CF is inflated by between 17% and 69%)

Some UK turbines DO make it to 30% - but only about 7% of the English fleet manage it. Even then, none are in the South West.

93% of the English turbine fleet have a CF below 30%.  Actually over 70% fail to even hit 25% nationally.  (See earlier post and prof. Jefferson report link Here).

The South West comes third from bottom of a very dismal English CF league.

 The table 1.5.1 in the DRES then uses the UK national CF average of 27%. At least that is an improvement on the mis-truth directly above it in section 1.5, but this is the UK average NOT the English average,  let alone the (worse) South West figure.

Again the figure is WRONG and grossly inflated - especially when related to Dorset.

As an aside, this table also states the off-shore CF as 35%. This is WRONG. In 2008 (the windiest year in the last 12) offshore NEARLY made it to 35% (34.9%). That is as high as it has ever got. Mostly  it has been around the late 20%'s to early 30%'s. Solar PV CF is given as 10% when it is more like 6 -8% in the UK. Then there is biomass and sewage gas. Laudible as these thermal plants are, they are still thermal plant. Even a  new CCGT plant would have difficulty getting a CF over 80% so, with no references,  the quoted 90% CF looks like a bit of extra and unnecessary guilding.

 2. Then we have "Full Power" myth:
 "a wind turbine will typically be generating electricity for 80% of the time, but will only be generating at full power for a smaller % of time, say 10- 15%."
 These are the power output curves for a Nordex turbine (P graph) and a GE (formerally Enron) 1.5MW turbine.

 A turbine only produces full power when the wind reaches about 12 m/s -  Beaufort Scale Force 6-7. A Force 8 is a full Gale.

 This is a graph of typical UK wind speed distribution over time from Here

Can anyone tell me when and how we manage to  get 10-15% at full power out of this? (i.e. 0.12 at 12m/s?)

Now the Bit that is almost (but not quite) a Myth

"producing power for 80% of the time"

There is a grain of truth in this - although it is a very small grain and that grain relates mostly to windy areas. It is almost certainly inflated and untrue for less windy areas - like Dorset.

But the real problem with this statement is that it obfuscates the simple and wholly damning fact that wind turbines operate at considerably below their CF for MOST of the time. This is because they only produce significant amounts of power during periods of high wind. MOST of the time they are producing very little (if any) power. This is accentuated in low wind areas - like Dorset.

This section in the DRES on Capacity Factors is  totally dissociated from the true figures you would expect in Dorset. The section grossly inflates the capabilities of Wind turbines that would operate in this area and so promotes potentially incorrect assumptions on the viability and practicality of building turbines in Dorset.

Essentially these figures in the DRES obscure the true worth (or lack of it) of potential Dorset Wind farms.

The DEP analysis of the data appears to extend solely to what they are told by their peers in RenewablesUK.

Any formal Strategy, especially a strategy that could promote a massive level of industrialisation of a rural area MUST be based on accurate figures and MUST remain impartial.  Unfortunately this document fails on both counts.

Yet it is supposedly good enough for "endorsement".

It will be interesting to see whether our councillors allow themselves to get railroaded by this travesty.

Burning Wind Turbines Revisited

While I was away in pastures new, I witnessed a rare and catastrophic failure of a motor vehicle. It caught fire. Luckily nobody was hurt but the car burned with spectacular vigour. I only noticed this catastrophic failure because of the smoke and flames.

If the forlorn Vauxhall Vectra had merely lost its cambelt so allowing the pistons to punch the valves through the cylinder head, or if the car had crashed and rolled and had been left on the hard shoulder I probably would not have noticed. But in either case the catastrophic failure would have been just  just as complete.

Less than one car in a thousand in a year catches fire due to mechanical/electrical failure. But I place bets that one in a hundred cars will suffer a non fire catastrophic failure that reduces them to scrap.

So for every accidental car fire, at least ten others suffer a non fire catastrophic failure that reduces them to junk.

That got me thinking about the celebrated explosion and burning of the Scottish turbine during the high winds in December 2011. ( See Daily Mail Here )

We know that a burning turbine is a fairly rare event though it is very far from unique. We also know that there is a severe and apparently intractable generic gearbox problem (See Here) which affects almost all turbines in current use.

In Scotland during the storm one turbine burned. So how many others quietly suffered some catastrophe, but without the drama of flames and burning wreckage?

When a car catches fire it is usually related to the fuel system dumping fuel onto the hot exhaust. In Wind turbines the only flammable liquids are the lubricants.

As a result, I would suggest that, the ratio of wind turbines catching fire to those merely suffering
a catastrophic failure is smaller than the same ratio for cars. That is what I would suspect anyway. (Anyone disagree? and why?)

For cars statistically, for every one that burns more than ten others catastrophically fail without the flames.  A ration of 1:10 (worst case)

For wind turbines a ratio of 1:20 possibly 1:30 would appear to be more appropriate. Maybe it is higher, say 1:50. Who knows? (nobody is telling)

So the (excuse the pun) the burning question is:

How many turbines got quietly taken out by the storm in December 2011?

 If this were cars, from one burning car you would suspect that 10 or more would have failed.

We know from ( Here ) that these large turbines have a really severe reliability problem with their gearboxes. I would therefore suggest that 20 possibly or 30 turbines suffered catastrophoc failure due this this one severe (though not unusual) storm.

This is of course supposition, but I do not think the operators are likely to be telling us any more information soon. So this analogy is as good as any.

The final thought on this is how many turbines would we lose if we had a 1987 severity storm?

Of course in the 1987 storm and other severe storms there was a great deal of damage to the electrical supply infrastructure as well. With this insane expansion of the wind turbine fleet, we are going to end up with hundreds upon hundreds of extra miles of extra grid to maintain. A great deal of this pyloning and cabling will be cutting across our open countryside and is going to be difficult to maintain at the best of times, let alone where large sections of the grid are knocked out.

So next time you see a burning turbine remember it is just be the tip of the iceberg.

Defending East Stoke

Billothewisp has been in pastures new for a while. Pastures remote enough to completely defeat my trusty 3G dongle, even my mobile barely got a signal.

So I've missed the start of the East Stoke (Alaska Wind farm) planning appeal. So rather belatedly, may I wish the good people of East Stoke all the best in defending their village.

If there is justice in the planning system then the ruling of the Purbeck District Council planning department, the Council and the wishes of the people of East Stoke will prevail, and this travesty of an application for an industrial wind turbine complex will be thrown out (again).

East Stoke is a small rural village.

It is certainly no place for any form of Industrial complex. Let alone an industrial complex with four buildings the height of Salisbury Cathedral.

Doing the Right Thing (Not)

Early today, some poor soul in the planning department at Purbeck District Council made a mistake. They probably typed in the wrong reference number for some abandoned planning appeal. The mistake was soon picked up on and corrected.

But in the short time window where the wrong planning application was re-labelled as "Appeal Withdrawn", one of the many people who live in the shadow of Planning application - 6/2010/0082 (HERE)  noticed it had been changed on the website. Along with many other supporters of the people of East Stoke, I received an email.

Such is their concern, such is their dread.

The local people actually check the planning site on a daily basis in hope that Infinergy will do the decent thing and withdraw their appeal.

But no such luck. No such decency. No such respect for local democracy.

Just a typing error and a little bit of forlorn hope by the good people of East Stoke.

If you read this blog regularly, you know how I rage against the technically illiterate doctrinaire buffoons who prop up this wind turbine farce. Especially those who are willing to sell out their neighbours for their quasi-religious ideology and/or 30 pieces of silver.

You must know how I loathe the carpet bagging money sharks who will trample over anyone to get their hands on the filthy lucre known as the ROC.

Particularly, you know how I rale against wishful thinking. 

But today, wishful thinking or not, I will not be criticising my friends in East Stoke. Especially as they realistically assessed this as a probable PDC error in the first place.

But still, this morning they hoped against hope that Infinergy had actually done something moral. Something that showed respect for local democracy. Especially something that would have shown some regard for the people who live in the shadow of their ugly money making scheme.

But no. It was just some typing error at County Hall.

I do not expect anyone in East Stoke really believed that Infinergy would do the decent thing.

They were not wrong.

Although no doubt, they were dissapointed.