Thursday, October 23, 2014

Michigan turbine suit settled; another lesson in operating too close to already-generous noise limits

Following the issue of wind turbines impacting human health?
Jim Cummings' Acoustic Ecology Institute reports have been a favourite resource of mine on the issue for some time. I think he makes some excellent points in reporting on a settlement in Michigan - one that followed shortly after a health board in Wisconsin declared an industrial wind site a public health hazard.

MI turbine suit settled; another lesson in operating too close to already-generous noise limits | aei news:’s essential that enough of a safety factor is built in to the sound models to account for known variability in sound production (how loud the blades are in various unsteady wind conditions) and sound propagation (how far sound travels as it gradually loses power). Regular readers will know that variability is indeed, as Howe mentioned, often more than the simplified 3dB margin of error that was neglected here (see AEI’s 2012 report). The second half the lesson is related: when noise limits—for the sound of the turbines when it reaches nearby homes—are set as high as 45dBA, they will be regularly audible at these homes, and likely well above night-time ambient sound levels. As many acousticians have stressed for years, these situations are very apt to trigger a significant number of complaints, especially if there are dozens of homes in that nearby range. Here, we had the worst of both worlds: turbine siting plans that pushed sound right at the limit into nearby homes, and a limit that was on the high end of tolerability for many neighbors. Indeed, after one such cautionary report was presented to the Mason County Planning Board, it decided to lower the limit to 40dB, but that change was revoked after push-back from Consumers Energy.
With this backdrop, this week the 17 original plaintiffs in the noise nuisance lawsuit agreed to a settlement offer from Consumers;

So You Think We're Reducing The Use Of Coal? -- Think Again

James Conca has a lesson at Forbes to lessen exuberance at reports of China reducing coal use.

So You Think We're Reducing The Use Of Coal? -- Think Again:
Of all energy sources, coal is the easiest to set up. The easiest to transport – by ship, rail and truck. It is straightforward to build a coal-fired power plant. And to operate it.
Image from Forbes article
While it is even easier to build a natural gas-fired power plant, it is not at all easy to support it. Natural gas requires more infrastructure than any other energy source – for transporting the gas in pipelines, liquefying facilities and special terminals; and for storing it, often deep underground in geologic formations like salt caverns. These limitations are slowing even America’s expansion of natural gas.
Nuclear is the most difficult to build in the developing world. In the developing world, large-scale renewables are not effective since there is no baseload to support them, no back-up sources to load-follow the intermittency, and no extensive high-voltage distribution system. Hydro is possible, but is limited geographically and physiographically.
No, coal is the obvious energy source to bring a country’s starving people up into the modern world. After that, they may have the luxury to care about the planet.
Just ask China.
Read the entire article at Forbes

Sunday, October 19, 2014

would you could you with a tree? energiewende con'd

Reporters on the status of Germany's energy transition have been presenting some optimistic figures recently.
Renewables Internationale was one outlet noting figures for the first nine months of 2013, produced by Fraunhofer ISE, indicating "non-hydro renewables the number one power source in Germany for the first time."

Graphic from Fraunhofer ISE (page 6)
The groupings required to make that statement are interesting: renewables include the infrequently discussed "Biomass" without which the "non-hydro" renewables would not beat either lignite of coal - or uranium/nuclear.

Not only is generation from "biomass"the highest of the renewables for the first three quarters of 2014, it also has the most growth over the same period in 2013.  Biomass outgrowing wind is nothing new in Germany; between 2002 (when the nuclear phase-out first became policy) and 2013, generation from wind turbines more than tripled while the growth rate in generation from biomass almost tripled the growth  rate in wind (increasing over 900%). source - AGEB

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ontario not set for electricity imports from Quebec

Ontario's Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) and Ontario Power Authority (OPA) have issued a report on the prospects of replacing Ontario generators with contracted imports - with the focus being on imports from Quebec.

from my "Quebec diversion: post"
The Review of Ontario Interties can be read, and/or the news release, and/or the backgrounder, but if you have read my Ontario's electricity future isn't this Quebec Diversion you'll not get much new out of them, I'd just read John Spears' brief summary in The Toronto Star.

Ontario electricity planners have dumped cold water on the idea of importing big volumes of electricity from Manitoba and Quebec.
There is “limited opportunity” for large amounts of long-term imports to supply the Ontario market, says the report by the Independent Electricity System Operator and the Ontario Power Authority.
Importing from Quebec wouldn’t be cheap, the report says.
It estimates that it could cost up to $2 billion to build new lines between Quebec and Ontario in order to import 3,300 megawatts of power.
In addition, it says, Quebec would have to build new generating stations to supply the increased exports — and they would be more expensive than existing facilities.

Monday, October 13, 2014

New York Times reports on growing inefficiency of electricity grids

The New York Times steps towards recognizing the problems of intermittent energy systems.
A journey of a thousand miles begins...

How Grid Efficiency Went South -
Solar panels and especially wind turbines produce vast amounts of energy, but on their own schedule, when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing. The more conventional installations — coal, natural gas and especially nuclear plants — earn their keep by selling energy around the clock. Put enough wind and solar units on the grid during the hours when they are running and they flood the market and push down the hourly auction price of a megawatt-hour of energy.
“When we devote so many of our economic resources and our policies to the type of energy that produces power but not power on demand, we end up in a place where we start losing the megawatt we can control,” said Joseph Dominguez, Exelon’s senior vice president for governmental and regulatory affairs. “We’ve moved to a system focused on resources that provide energy when they want to.”
Not everyone agrees. Most electricity markets have auctions not only for energy but also for capacity; utilities serving homes and businesses make what amounts to payments to assure that electricity will be available when needed.
“No planner, no regulator and no utility is going to leave themselves capacity-short,” said Ron Binz...

Sunday, October 12, 2014

“decarbonisation route” will end with the worst of all possible worlds: Paterson on U.K. electricity policy

“We must be prepared to stand up to the bullies in the environmental movement and their subsidy-hungry allies."

The Telegraph has an article on an upcoming speech by the U.K.'s former environment secretary ("sacked" this past summer). If nothing else, the article provides some great quotes on topics I frequently cover.
UPDATE - The speech has now been delivered and the text posted at the Telegraph
The Committe on Climate Change issued a response to the news report cited below.

Scrap the Climate Change Act to keep the lights on, says Owen Paterson | The Telegraph
...the current “decarbonisation route” will end with the worst of all possible worlds.
The Government will have to build gas and coal power stations “in a screaming hurry”.
Britain’s energy needs are better met by investing in extracting shale gas through fracking and capturing the heat from nuclear reactors, Mr Paterson will argue.
He proposes a mix of energy generation based on smaller “modular” nuclear reactors and “rational” demand management.
“We must be prepared to stand up to the bullies in the environmental movement and their subsidy-hungry allies.
“What I am proposing is that instead of investing huge sums in wind power, we should encourage investment in four possible common sense policies: shale gas, combined heat and power, small modular nuclear reactors and demand management.
Read the entire article at The Telegraph

Thursday, October 9, 2014

"the authors fearmonger", and the regulator responds expertly

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) continues to rebut spurious claims from what consistently appear to be the frivolously credentialed.

Doctors Misdiagnose the Scientific Evidence on “Uranium Mining and Health” | CNSC response to an article in Canadian Family Physician
Family physicians have an important responsibility in educating the public as well as their patients on health risks. This counsel must be based on sound, scientific evidence. The commentary by Drs. Dewar, Harvey and Vakil on Uranium Mining and Health (1) in the May 2013 issue of the Canadian Family Physician contains false and misleading information, demonstrating personal bias. These known anti-nuclear activists have appeared before the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) on multiple occasions and we are compelled once again to set the record straight and provide your readers with the accurate and objective information.
Drs. Dewar, Harvey and Vakil misquote a study of Czech and French uranium miners saying the study concluded excess lung cancer, reduced pulmonary function and emphysema due to alpha irradiation from radon and radon progeny (2). In fact, the referenced study did not analyze or publish findings on either reduced pulmonary function or emphysema; it focused on the impact of the quality of the exposure information and the effects of modifying factors (age at exposure, time since exposure) on lung cancer risk.
The authors also falsely claim that the hazards of uranium mining to surrounding populations have not been studied. In fact, a basic literature search of PubMed returned six relatively recent studies of cancer incidence and mortality in populations living near uranium mine, mill and processing operations (3-8). These studies consistently concluded there was no clear or consistent evidence that the nuclear activities had adversely affected the health of residents.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Systemic Economic challenges of the Energiewende, and poor mainstream media understanding in Canada

The Boston Consultancy Group has a report on Germany's electricity experiment that is terrific; it is long and challenging, but should quickly become a reference work on the economic issues attached with Germany's Energiewende.
Meanwhile, the Canadian media, and wind lobby, display an infantile understanding of the impact of trendy electricity policies in misinforming people - while engineers at Sask Power achieved an important first with carbon capture and storage.

First, accentuating the positive, the article to bookmark and return to often is Germany’s Energiewende: The End of Power Market Liberalization?
In 2010, Germany’s government defined a bold vision for the country’s energy future, one heavily reliant on renewable-energy sources, distributed generation, and energy efficiency...
Fast-forward to today: Where does Germany stand in realizing its plan? Has progress met expectations? Does the country’s commitment to the plan remain strong? What are the implications of the ongoing energy transition (in German, Energiewende) for German society and industry, and especially for the country’s power sector? What are the implications for Europe’s power sector?
This report seeks to answer these and related questions by assembling an objective fact base. One of the report’s key findings: Germany’s efforts may indeed transform the country’s energy profile as intended. But they will also likely lead to the end of power market liberalization in Germany and, very possibly, elsewhere in Europe.
Anyone with an interest in energy economics should read Germany’s Energiewende: The End of Power Market Liberalization?

The report concludes with "Implications for Power Market Liberalization":

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

U.S. Regulators OK 330-mile Canada-NYC transmission line

This is good for Quebec, long term.

It is also good for New York, which should see slightly lower rates, but maybe only for a while.

New York's Governor wants to close nuclear, and that will more than cancel out the consumer benefits of improved connections with other jurisdictions.

Regulators OK 330-mile Canada-NYC transmission line:
Image from source article
Federal energy regulators have given final approval for construction of a 330-mile electric transmission line to carry lower-cost Canadian hydroelectric power to New York City.
In a decision Wednesday, the Department of Energy said the permit requires some final concerns to be addressed by Albany-based Transmission Developers Inc. but otherwise clears the way for the 1,000 MW Champlain Hudson Power Express transmission line. The project has been in development since 2008.
The agency said the decision was "based on consideration of the potential environmental impacts, impacts on the reliability of the U.S. electric power supply system under normal and contingency conditions, and the favorable recommendations of the U.S. Departments of State and Defense."
Continue reading at Electric Light & Power

Smil on "How Green is Europe?"

A new article from Vaclav Smil, the always entertaining European accented Manitoba professor, is in the American online magazine.

How Green Is Europe?
A superficial look might indicate great achievements. Yet a closer view reveals how far the European renewables have to go, and what irrational choices are made to meet EU green energy quotas.
Germany produces half of energy with solar.” That was the recent headline on a German website of news in English, and it would have duly impressed anybody whose understanding of energy matters extends to just such headlines. But the headline, totally wrong, was also a perfect example of why it is so important to deconstruct the reports about green Europe.
Undoubtedly, the EU’s promotion of wind and solar resources resulted in consumption shares higher than anywhere else, but the contributions are uneven and remain small in absolute terms...  their contribution to the EU’s total primary energy supply remains very small: in 2012 about 1.1 percent for wind and not quite 0.5 percent for solar PV. Even in Germany their combined share of total primary energy supply was just 2 percent in 2012.