Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘power generation

Oilsands research “game changer”

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This is a story I saw on the CBC News web page this morning. The short version is that it is possible to recover vanadium from bitumen, and this may have a commercial future in battery production. It is about time that this kind of attention was paid to raw materials in general and mining in particular. One of the first stories I recall reading when I was new to BC (and working for the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources) was how new technologies were making mining spoil sites worth re- processing to capture valuable minerals missed in early extractions. The oil sands tailing ponds are currently viewed as simply something to be ignored, and quite probably left for someone else to clean up, once the current “gold rush” approach to exploitation of the tarsands as fast as possible is over.

What caused me to open a new browser window was this bit from the CBC story

“Without storage capabilities, renewable energy production still has to be backstopped by natural gas or other types of traditional power plants.”

That is simply not true. There are all sorts of storage capabilities that can be employed with existing technologies. Elon Musk’s battery project is just one example, but actually it is also recently been reported that one big change has been the re-use of older electric vehicle batteries as longer term off-vehicle storage of power once the initial life in the battery has been completed.

UPDATE

In its first four months of operation, Tesla’s mega-battery system in South Australia was faster, smarter, and cheaper than conventional gas turbines, according to a new report by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO).

The performance milestone has observers and analysts excited about a breakthrough in grid security and resilience that could be a death knell for natural gas peaker plants.

 “The 100MW/129MWh Tesla big battery, officially known as the Hornsdale Power Reserve (HPR), was officially switched on December 1,” RenewEconomy recalls, “with 70 MW providing network security for the grid operator, and another 30 MW operating energy arbitrage in wholesale markets.”

A particular highlight was the battery’s “virtually immediate” response to “a major outage of a fossil fuel generator in [New South Wales] on December 18,” prompting AEMO to conclude that “commissioning tests and simulations confirm that the HPR is capable of responding more rapidly to a contingency event than conventional synchronous generation.”

 

Perhaps the most obvious example of available storage is the current hydro installations. Just pump the water back uphill, refill the reservoir and then run it through the generation cycle again. Pumped storage was in use in North Wales at the Trawsfynydd nuclear power station  since 1965! (It has since been decommissioned.) Nuclear power stations have a similar problem to renewables. The power they produce cannot be turned off. The reactor runs all the time including times when there is no need for the electricity. That is just a different way of looking at the intermittent power production of wind and solar power.

Pumped storage is the largest-capacity form of grid energy storage available, and, as of 2017, the United States Department of Energy Global Energy Storage Database reports that PSH accounts for over 96% of all active tracked storage installations worldwide, with a total installed nameplate capacity of over 168 GW.[3]

Pumpstor_racoon_mtn

source

“the study shows the huge advantage to both the United States and Canada of working together to supply much of the zero-carbon energy from Canada’s hydroelectric potential, and to store excess flows of renewable energy in Canada’s hydroelectric reservoirs (just as Denmark stores its excess wind power in Norway’s hydroelectric reservoirs)”

Jeffrey Sachs oped in the Globe

 

There are also proposals to to provide power storage by driving a heavy electric train up a hill when power is available and then letting it run down again using regenerative braking when power is needed. SkyTrain in Vancouver – and trolleybuses – both do this now! And electric motor is a generator run backwards.

The CBC seems far too ready to promote natural gas.  It is actually a worse greenhouse gas producer than coal simply due to the volumes of methane released due to fracking and subsequent processing.

Written by Stephen Rees

April 12, 2018 at 11:50 am