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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:04 pm

RegGuheert wrote:
WetEV wrote:Do something for the first time, expect to learn stuff, the hard way. That's not a fail. That is gaining experience.
Utter nonsense. This project is a failure regardless of whether or not anyone learned anything.


Suppose that a firmware update (almost no cost other than engineering) on the windmills solves the grid stability problem tomorrow. Would that change your opinion?

How about modest cost modification of the hydro pumps and/or generators tomorrow? Would that change your opinion?

What if it was next year, rather than tomorrow?



As an engineer who has done some "first time anyone ever did this" sorts of things, I've had people tell me it was a complete failure, shortly before it started to work correctly. Wonder what they felt like afterwards? Maybe this: :oops:


If you can learn from the problem, and do better next time, it wasn't really a failure. Learning things can sometimes be expensive.


The only way to truly make it a failure is to fail to learn.
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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:20 pm

WetEV wrote:The only way to truly make it a failure is to fail to learn.
More utter nonsense. Engineering tasks come with technical requirements, budget and schedule. Missing any of these constitute a project failure. Missing the project specifications by a factor of three (annual production) or 7.5 (October production) or engineering projections by a factor of two (again, annual production) constitute a major project failure. This project was so far off the mark that it seems clear that they chose the incorrect approach altogether.

If you can find the document that specifies that the primary objective of this effort was to "produce some electricity at any cost just to learn stuff," then feel free to post it here.

And, no, working on the leading edge does not give anyone the license to misrepresent the potential capabilities and risks of such a project. Doing that is properly known as fraud. This project is so far from GRA's old signature of "underpromise and overdeliver" it's not funny.

OTOH, this type of failure is par for the course for idealistically driven big-government projects accomplished using other people's money. It's too bad so much environmental damage was done for so little outcome.
RegGuheert
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WetEV
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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Tue Jul 12, 2016 12:59 pm

RegGuheert wrote:
WetEV wrote:The only way to truly make it a failure is to fail to learn.
More utter nonsense. Engineering tasks come with technical requirements, budget and schedule.


And risks.

Now, some of the fuzzy newspaper with wild cheer leading need to be reminded of what they said. They need to learn. I think we agree there. Rub their nose in it.


RegGuheert wrote:this type of failure is par for the course for idealistically driven big-government projects accomplished using other people's money. It's too bad so much environmental damage was done for so little outcome.


Oh, I've seen plenty worse in private business as well. Greed makes for some interesting "failures". Too bad there isn't much learning going on afterwards.


RegGuheert wrote:This project was so far off the mark that it seems clear that they chose the incorrect approach altogether.


Maybe. Maybe not. I notice you didn't answer my questions:

Suppose that a firmware update (almost no cost other than engineering) on the windmills solves the grid stability problem tomorrow. Would that change your opinion?

How about modest cost modification of the hydro pumps and/or generators tomorrow? Would that change your opinion?

What if it was next year, rather than tomorrow?

If these events don't change your opinion, are you idealistically driven?
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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Tue Jul 12, 2016 5:56 pm

WetEV wrote:
GRA wrote:
WetEV wrote:Do something for the first time, expect to learn stuff, the hard way. That's not a fail. That is gaining experience.

This is hardly the first time an island has developed its own renewable grid (albeit on a smaller scale), and all the components were well understood and mature, so that's not an excuse either.

Maybe. Maybe not. Any other examples of a wind powered grid stabilized with a hydro pumped storage plant?

Yes, googling 'wind power pumped storage' will bring up lots of links, including what's probably the largest in the world, by Iberdrola in Spain. Not that it matters much, as bi-directional pumped storage has been around since the 1930s, and one of hydro's benefits is that it has high ramp rates that allow it to deal with spikes like the one that occurs in the U.K. during soccer matches, when at halftime everyone fires up their electric kettles for tea (in the U.S. it's dealing with millions of toilet flushes at half time of the Super Bowl). The source of the electricity used to pump the water uphill is pretty much irrelevant. IIRR, up thread aways I did a back of the envelope calculation that indicated they could have provided individual PV/battery off-grid systems for the entire island's population for less than what this cost, and it would have let them get 100% of their electricity from RE given some DSM. And that was using early '90s prices.

So, while they may yet get the problems sorted out, it's hard to view this as anything but the expensive boondoggle many of us were saying it would be early on, as we learned more and more details of the project (which changed several times in ways that reduced its potential output) and compared the claims to the design specs.

BTW, one of the definitions I've read of the difference between applied science and engineering is that engineering is applied science done within the constraints of a time schedule and budget (see Philip Pugh, "The Cost of Sea Power"). So far, the El Hierro installation appears to be more a case of applied science than engineering. And then there's the old joke about "On time, on budget, works. Pick any two." (alternatively: "Fast, Good, Cheap." etc.) In this case, it seems that you can pick one, at best. I hope they can eventually get to the point where it will at least meet the level of say 65% electricity (much reduced from the initial claims, but should be achievable) from RE at a semi-reasonable cost.
Last edited by GRA on Thu Jul 14, 2016 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Tue Jul 12, 2016 9:56 pm

GRA wrote:Yes, googling 'wind power pumped storage' will bring up lots of links, including what's probably the largest in the world, by Iberdrola in Spain.


Which is a hydro and fossil power grid with a little wind power and a little pumped storage. Not a wind and pumped storage system with fossil power backup.

GRA wrote:I hope they can eventually get to the point where it will at least meet the level of say 65% electricity (much reduced from the initial claims, but should be achievable) from RE at a semi-reasonable cost.


A long time ago I wrote this: "Storage is a hard problem."

A small fraction of the grid being pumped storage and/or wind has been around since the 1930's. 65% is hard, but should be doable. I'm not that shocked or surprised that this turned into an applied science application.

A little reading at the start of this thread is amusing.

What I am unhappy with is that there isn't much information on details about the problems they are seeing.
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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Wed Jul 13, 2016 2:57 pm

WetEV wrote:
GRA wrote:Yes, googling 'wind power pumped storage' will bring up lots of links, including what's probably the largest in the world, by Iberdrola in Spain.


Which is a hydro and fossil power grid with a little wind power and a little pumped storage. Not a wind and pumped storage system with fossil power backup.

GRA wrote:I hope they can eventually get to the point where it will at least meet the level of say 65% electricity (much reduced from the initial claims, but should be achievable) from RE at a semi-reasonable cost.


A long time ago I wrote this: "Storage is a hard problem."

A small fraction of the grid being pumped storage and/or wind has been around since the 1930's. 65% is hard, but should be doable. I'm not that shocked or surprised that this turned into an applied science application.

A little reading at the start of this thread is amusing.

What I am unhappy with is that there isn't much information on details about the problems they are seeing.

The issue here, ISTM, isn't that they are having teething problems. That's to be expected. It's that this system was proposed and sold as a way to reduce the need to import most of their diesel fuel, resulting in lower electricity costs and improved air quality, not as a dem/val to gather performance and economic data with no expectation that it would save money.

As it is, with the info we now have, early misgivings about the size of the pumped storage capacity, even if it's being fully used which it apparently isn't, have now been confirmed. Even if the system operates at 100%, it simply lacks enough storage capacity to cover low wind season and offset significant genset usage. That, and the ridiculous costs - I was designing individual home off-grid RE systems with storage in the early '90s that ran $0.50 - $1.25/kWh, and this utility-scale development is more expensive than that, despite the huge cost reductions in PV/wind generation in the interim, and the use of pumped storage rather than batteries?!? Remember that 'expensive' diesel-fueled electricity was costing El Hierro ratepayers 0.242 eurodollars/kWh back in 2014: http://euanmearns.com/el-hierro-another ... gy-future/ Those are the major failures here.
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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Wed Jul 13, 2016 3:29 pm

WetEV wrote:Maybe. Maybe not. I notice you didn't answer my questions:

Suppose that a firmware update (almost no cost other than engineering) on the windmills solves the grid stability problem tomorrow. Would that change your opinion?
About whether or not this project met its objectives? Of course not. This project did not meet its objectives. It appears that in the low-wind months, it CANNOT come anywhere near its objectives.

BTW, the system ran for 55 hours straight (from midnight on the morning of July 11 until 7:00 AM today, July 13) while we have been having this discussion. Hopefully that indicates that the operator needs to make this system FULLY operational in its third year of operation.
WetEV wrote:How about modest cost modification of the hydro pumps and/or generators tomorrow? Would that change your opinion?
That would make the $100M expense even greater. At a price of about $10,000 for each man, woman and child on this tropical island, there are much more reasonable options for providing electricity. Since El Hierro also wants to electrify transportation, it seems they would have been better served to invest in a system based on using BEVs for storage. If they can get more OPM, then they can do that, too!
WetEV wrote:If these events don't change your opinion, are you idealistically driven?
I am idealistically driven. I believe that engineering projects must be dealt with impassionately so that mistakes are not repeated. When huge errors such as selecting a technical approach which cannot meet the technical requirements when much better options were available, these issues should be identified, acknowledged and properly reported so that similarly poor choices are not made on future system designs. Unfortunately, the focus with this system has been the discussion of ONLY the couple of days that they system was able to operate without fossil fuels during its first two years. Here is what they stated recently as translated from the Energy Matters article:
GdV as translated by Roger Andrews wrote:Wind and solar are variable and fluctuating sources that by themselves are not capable of supplying constant energy, which results in generation limitations in vulnerable isolated systems, which in general do not cover more than 30% of demand*. GdV, which combines unstable wind generation with hydro generation, has been capable not only of making the maximum use of the available resource, substantially exceeding these generation limitations, but on numerous occasions has been the sole source of generation for the island.
That is the teaser for a conference they held on July 8 for others considering similar systems. I suppose if the only tool you sell is a hammer, you want to convince your customer that their problem is exactly like a nail...

We'll keep watching to see what the future brings for El Hierro's electricity-generation system.
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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Thu Jul 14, 2016 9:15 am

RegGuheert wrote:
WetEV wrote:Maybe. Maybe not. I notice you didn't answer my questions:

Suppose that a firmware update (almost no cost other than engineering) on the windmills solves the grid stability problem tomorrow. Would that change your opinion?
About whether or not this project met its objectives? Of course not. This project did not meet its objectives. It appears that in the low-wind months, it CANNOT come anywhere near its objectives.


The project has not meet it's objectives, but that doesn't mean it will not. Unless, of course, you require absolute certainty, no risk, in which nothing will ever get done. Nothing at all can be done, as everything has risks. Especially new things. And this was a new thing.

BTW: Was there really a month by month objective? I understood an average objective of about 60%, not a month by month objective. Are you moving the goalposts a little bit, eh?

RegGuheert wrote:BTW, the system ran for 55 hours straight (from midnight on the morning of July 11 until 7:00 AM today, July 13) while we have been having this discussion. Hopefully that indicates that the operator needs to make this system FULLY operational in its third year of operation.


Of course the operator wants the system fully operational. Buying diesel costs money. What isn't clear to me is why the system isn't fully operational.

RegGuheert wrote:
WetEV wrote:How about modest cost modification of the hydro pumps and/or generators tomorrow? Would that change your opinion?
That would make the $100M expense even greater. At a price of about $10,000 for each man, woman and child on this tropical island,


Your problem with the project is that it was ever built to begin with. The fact that the system seems to have run into stability issues is just gravy, isn't it? I'm interested, as this project is a way of learning, and a way of teaching. Even if it is a bad example (and I don't think that is true, yet) knowledge is very important. And the payoff may be far away. As an example, the grid in the Great Plains in the center of the USA is getting more and more wind power. Would you rather have a grid stability problem on a tiny island, where it can be understood and corrected at moderate cost, or a grid stability problem covering much of the USA at a much higher cost?

Ever consider that a small project for $100million that "fails" would be far cheaper than doing a similar design on a national scale?

I'm making the assumption that the large fraction wind power is behind their problems. Might not be true. Might be other issue(s).

What I do fault the project on is the lack of public discussion of issues they have run into, at least so far.


RegGuheert wrote:there are much more reasonable options for providing electricity.


Sure, several small nuclear reactors. Unlikely for political reasons, unless we have explored alternatives, and finally realize we need to limit CO2 release. Maybe in my lifetime.
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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Thu Jul 14, 2016 12:24 pm

GRA wrote:The issue here, ISTM, isn't that they are having teething problems. That's to be expected.


Not by some... Or perhaps are both expected and a reason to celebrate. Hard to tell.

GRA wrote:It's that this system was proposed and sold as a way to reduce the need to import most of their diesel fuel, resulting in lower electricity costs and improved air quality, not as a dem/val to gather performance and economic data with no expectation that it would save money.


I don't disagree, and perhaps I should go back and find some of the discussions I had with "A" on this subject.

GRA wrote:As it is, with the info we now have, early misgivings about the size of the pumped storage capacity, even if it's being fully used which it apparently isn't, have now been confirmed. Even if the system operates at 100%, it simply lacks enough storage capacity to cover low wind season and offset significant genset usage.


Three issues with the system according to:
http://euanmearns.com/el-hierro-complet ... operation/

Wind Power

The GdV wind park consists of five 2.3MW Enercon turbines capable of generating up to 11.5MW, but during the first year of operation wind generation never exceeded 7.5MW.


This is a puzzle, why did they throw away all of the power potential between 7.5MW and 11.5MW from the wind park?

Grid Stability

A 2012 study conducted before GdV started operations concluded that power generated by the wind turbines could be admitted to the El Hierro grid without compromising grid stability provided three of the Pelton turbines in the hydro plant were maintained as a spinning reserve:

The results show that, to ensure system stability in the worst network contingency, the best option is to hold three hydraulic units in spinning reserve mode

This approach has clearly not worked, and as a result GdV has had to resort to other measures.


Grid stability is a well documented worry with high levels of renewables. A known unknown. If they solve it, this might be a valuable outcome.

Energy Storage

Here we come to GdV’s fundamental (and unsolvable) problem. GdV was built because of the existence of an inactive volcanic crater 700m up the hill, which it was believed would provide enough energy storage when filled with water and linked to a lower reservoir to smooth out fluctuations in wind generation. Unfortunately no one bothered to do the sums and check the wind records. Had they done so they would have found that the storage was adequate to fill El Hierro’s demand for only about two windless days and that low-wind periods on El Hierro can last for months.


Here I disagree. 65%, the design goal, should be achievable with a few days of energy storage. Only if the goal is near 100% do you need storage for months. The real issue on energy storage is that it wasn't being used, for some reason.

The hydro system does not seem to be working as planned either. Hydro generation to date has been minimal,


Again, a puzzle without enough information to solve.
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Re: Economics of Renewable Power, simplified.

Thu Jul 14, 2016 1:13 pm

WetEV wrote:The real issue on energy storage is that it wasn't being used, for some reason.
That's right. This has been discussed by Roger Andrews in detail in this post. There is a lot of speculation why the upper and lower reservoirs are never filled:

- Pelton-wheel generators are non-functional
- Not enough fresh water available
- Water is being used for irrigation elsewhere
- Concerns about reservoir (various)

Essentially El Hierro currently has the energy-storage equivalent of write-only-memory which one might call a charge-only-battery AKA a controllable resistor. (Of course a resistor is significantly more useful than WOM! ;-) )

But the fact of the matter is that a couple of days' worth of storage does not get you to: "the diesel engine plant will only operate in exceptional/emergency case," especially during the half of the year when there is insufficient wind to power the island. Half the year is not "exceptional" in anybody's book. It happens every year for half the year. In those months when there is less than 1/7 that amount available, two days of storage hardly makes any difference. How would you use it?


For anyone who is interested, here is a link to a portal with all of Roger Andrews' posts on this topic.
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