Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Real Green Role Models

There is lots of hype in the energy discourse. Here we present the real way selected countries are generating their electricity.

We may be surprised to find out which are the countries actually taming fossil fuels in their electricity production. These countries tend to be quiet and yet they are the real role models the rest of the world should follow. World, are you listening?

Let's start the "tour."

Note: all graphs are from the latest IEA report. A link to the full report is provided at the end of this page.

Australia: in the land of uranium, coal rules.

Canada: go, Canada, go!

Denmark: good green PR, but in reality fossil fuels are still #1.

Finland: not yet "there" but most of its electricity comes from low carbon sources.

France: stop the presses! France HAS arrived. They have nearly eliminated fossil fuels from electricity production. Félicitations!

Germany: going nowhere, fast.

Japan: TOTAL MELTDOWN! Fossil fuels have come home to roost.

The Netherlands: WTF? Seriously, people.

Norway: if you have the hydro resources, don't think twice. GO HYDRO!

Spain: the most balanced energy diet on Earth. They do seem to believe in: never put all your eggs in the same basket.

Sweden: Almost paradise!

Switzerland: better than a Swiss watch! Looow carbon electricity.

UK: one year late, and one nuclear plant short.

USA: there is really nothing new to see here. Move on.

Conclusion: we can make mental exercises, scheme in a piece of paper and develop catchy slogans but actual results show who are the real green leaders (at least in the electricity sector). Let's quiet down the hype and focus on realities. Thank you.

Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaram

Link to full IEA report: (click on May, 2014).

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Memes in the Energy Discourse

Dear friends, for some months I have been creating memes for the energy discourse. The pictures themselves I got from the Internet.

Feel free to use them, or as we say here: feel free to steal shamelessly.

Thank you.

That is all. Feel free to add to the conversation in Twitter: @luisbaam

Thank you.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Bottom Line

Many things are continually being said in the energy discourse but, bottom line, which are the countries that are really producing low carbon electricity and which are not?

Take a look below, you may be surprised.

In red are all the countries whose electricity is more than 50% produced with combustible fuels.

Note: all data is from the IEA. A link to the full reports can be found at the bottom of this page. Thanks.












Sometimes, as children, we select the wrong role models. Could this also be happening to adults in the energy discourse?

What do you think?

Feel free to add to the conversation on Twitter: @luisbaram

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Friday, August 01, 2014

Intermittent and Unreliable

Intermittent energy is not necessarily such a bad idea.

This first graph shows the output of a half-wave rectifier that converts alternating current into pulsating direct current. Although it is intermittent, it is reliable: you know that every second 60 (or 50) pulses of electricity will be produced.

Electronic equipment requires constant direct current (not a pulsating one) but it is easy to convert the pulsating electricity into a constant one by the addition of storage.

In the case of power supplies for electronic equipment, this "storage" is usually one or more capacitors.

So, the output, once the "storage" is added looks much more appealing:

In real life, the "ripple" can be of very small amplitude.

The amount of storage needed can be very easily calculated (and implemented) because the energy output of a half wave rectifier is intermittent but completely predictable and reliable.

On the other hand, if the output of a system is not only intermittent, but also unreliable things begin to look more complicated.

Here, as an example, we can see the electrical output of a wind turbine:

We could classify this output as intermittent and unreliable. In this circumstance the amount of storage required is not as easily calculated and unless we pretty much decide to store weeks of power we will end up short at several instances during the year.

Storing vast amounts of electrical power for weeks is a very expensive proposition and that is the reason most renewable energy in the world has back-up, usually fossil fuel plants. Some people actually prefer to call these plants "primaries" because they end up supplying the required power most of the year.

Solar photo-voltaic (PV) is not inherently an intermittent / unreliable technology. For example, in geosynchronous orbit PV provides constant power most of the year (except near the equinoxes) and even satellites in LEO (low Earth orbit) produce intermittent but reliable power (and thus the size of the batteries required for storage is modest as they need to store only a few hours of energy).

The "problem" is that on Earth we have cloud cover and seasons (not to mention variable wind patterns with their respective seasonality in the case of wind turbines).

Conclusion: intermittent / reliable power, with a modicum of storage, can easily supply power continually.  On the other hand intermittent / unreliable power can hardly provide a constant supply even with storage.

Feel free to add to the conversation on Twitter: @luisbaram

Thank you.

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