Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sea my power!

Those of you who have followed my rants against David "Speccie Fuckwit" Miliband may have occasionally heard me berate him for his lack of knowledge about our progress in electricity generation through wave power. In September 2006, he admitted ignorance of any form of working generator; indeed, he seemed unaware that we had even worked out a way to harness such power.
When I was in Devon before the summer I was asked by an enterprising BBC coorespondent about a proposed 'Wave Hub' project for Cornwall. The idea is to provide a real life test for wave power. I am afraid I was stumped and had to plead ignorance.

This is because David Miliband is a wilfully ignorant little prick. But let me remind you that this no-nothing retard—"the kid on the chess team that you bullied incessantly"—is the man who is in charge of our entire Environmental Policy (or the bits of it that the EU doesn't control, anyway); this idiot is the guy who decides whether what policies we pursue, what renewables strategy we adopt. And, despite all of the comments that I have left on his blog, the fucking turd has not even acknowledged the existence of WaveGen's LIMPET wave power generator on Islay, an installation that has been delivering power to the National Grid since 2000 [PDF].

The LIMPET on Islay
Image courtesy of WaveGen.
But perhaps I am being too harsh on him, for it seems to be a well-kept secret, as I found when I visited Neil Craig's blog; Neil has made Scotland's power capacity something of a speciality, but I decided to pull him up when I read this:
The remaining 15%, while not detailed, must be the long promised wave & tidal which currently provides zero % of our power & has not progressed as far as completing the journey across the drawing board.

There then followed something of a discussion based around this paragraph from WaveGen's website.
The performance has been optimised for annual average wave intensities of between 15 and 25kW/m. The water column feeds a pair of counter-rotating turbines, each of which drives a 250kW generator, giving a nameplate rating of 500kW.

We were undecided about what this capacity actually was, with Neil erring towards the 15–25kW, and myself towards the nameplate rating of 500kW.

So, to clear up the confusion, I emailed general manager, David Gibb, and asked if he could clarify the situation. I also asked whether the plans to fit a LIMPET into the 300ft cliffs on the Faroes had been shelved, as the page had disappeared from the website's main menu (although it still exists). Here is his email. [Emphasis mine.]
Dear DK,

The figures of 15 and 25kW/m refer to the incident wave energy per metre of wave front at the location. This means for the lower figure the total energy available to the 20 meter wide collector is 15 x 20 = 300kW

The turbines on any plant are sized to suite the incident wave energy and the collector dimensions. The LIMPET plant is used as a test and development facility and as such the turbines are reconfigured at intervals to allow us to increase our knowledge of the OWC system. Recently the plant has been operating with a 250kW main turbine together with a 20kW research turbine. We are currently commencing a test programme where a new turbine will be tested in place of the existing 250kW turbine.

The project in the Faroe Islands is currently on hold while the utility in the Faroes seeks funding for the demonstration plant.

As Neil admmitted, this is an impressive amount of power for a relatively small installation. As you will see from the picture above, the LIMPET installation sits almost flush with the cliff top and, as such, is far less unsightly than the expensive and unreliable windfarms.

(Now, I am going to do a bit of mathematics, which is not my strongest suit so, should anyone spot any mistakes, please do let me know and I shall correct them. I am also, necessarily, working on quite inexact figures here.)

According to Neil, Scotland's power requirements are around 6,000MW, which is 6,000,000kW [Is this right?—Ed].

At the lower rating of 15kW/m—or, rather, 15,000kW/km, Scotland would require roughly 400km of LIMPET "collector" space.

Whilst not all sites would be suitable for LIMPET, apparently Scotland has roughly 2,000 miles (3,200 km) of coastline: surely we could find 400km of useable sites?

Let us assume that all LIMPETS use a collector of 20m in length; we would then require 20,000 LIMPETS. The Faroes project is projected to be worth "up to £7m"; assuming the same expenditure for every LIMPET (and I think that the £7 million is on the high side: not every LIMPET will require drilling into such high cliffs), Scotland would require a capital expenditure of £140 billion to meet its power needs.

Let us assume that this site is roughly correct and that Britain's coastline is 12,429 km. If we took, say, 50% of that figure, that would give us a wave generating capacity of 6,200km x 15,000kW = 93,000,000kW or 93,000MW.

Does anyone happen to know what the rough power consumption of Britain currently is?

UPDATE: thanks to the Remittance Man, in the comments, for this.
Apparently the UK needed about 363.6 terrawatt hours in 1994/5. That's 3636 followed by eleven oh's.

Now if one divides this by 8760 (the number of hours in a year) this means the UK needed about 41.5 megawatts* of generating capacity.

* It should be 41.5 GigaWatts.

If one allows for 30% surge capacity and downtime that means the UK needs about 55 megawatts of installed capacity.

I guess the bulk of this would need to be pretty consistent output to cover the base load (say 80%) such as nukes or coal stations with the remaining 20% made up of capacity that could be turned on and off pretty quickly to cover spikes in demand and so on.

From the sounds of it this system could be considered a consistent power source, but since it's "fuel" is free and I guess it really needs no start up time to speak of it could be switched on and off at will.

RM does raise the problem of transmission, but then I shouldn't think that many people want nuclear stations near large population areas either. Also, all powerstations require large amounts of water, so tend to be situated near the coast.
END UPDATE.

Or, more pertinently, can anyone tell me why our omniscient government is ignoring the massive potential that wave power has for meeting the generating needs of our country? Is it ignorance? Or something else?

21 comments:

Fidothedog said...

Ah yes Miliband, the man who was unable to make any decision on the tb reactor Shambo and so washed his hands of it after a pr fluff anouncement.

http://www.davidmiliband.defra.gov.uk/blogs/ministerial_blog/archive/2007/05/11/9431.aspx

The Remittance Man said...

Apparently the UK needed about 363.6 terrawatt hours in 1994/5. That's 3636 followed by eleven oh's.

Now if one divides this by 8760 (the number of hours in a year) this means the UK needed about 41.5 megawatts of generating capacity.

If one allows for 30% surge capacity and downtime that means the UK needs about 55 megawatts of installed capacity.

I guess the bulk of this would need to be pretty consistent output to cover the base load (say 80%) such as nukes or coal stations with the remaining 20% made up of capacity that could be turned on and off pretty quickly to cover spikes in demand and so on.

From the sounds of it this system could be considered a consistent power source, but since it's "fuel" is free and I guess it really needs no start up time to speak of it could be switched on and off at will. Providing the waves were waving at the time. What's the calculated reliability of getting waves of sufficient oommf?

I guess the other big question is: can this system be engineered to provide sufficient voltage to allow for efficient transmission? Most of the rocky seaside (which I assume is where this system is best placed) is generally far from the sources of demand (cities).

The Remittance Man said...

btw. Don't get too excited about the Millipede and his chums ever thinking that this will be a good idea. The buggers are to much in thrall (or the pockets of) the windchime mafia if you ask me.

berenike said...

I looked this up out of curiosuty a couple of years ago when teaching English to some Polish electricity board people - Scotland is peculiarly well-off as regards waves,it seems - here's an map with indicative Wave Wow strengths.

http://www.oceanpd.com/Resource/Worldresourcemap.html

Roger Thornhill said...

I would suggest transmission be side-stepped by using the energy locally to crack water to hydrogen or synthesize hydrocarbons (e.g. methane, propane etc) using the electricity generated. Then the energy can be tankered away or even used locally for heating/microgeneration.

I suggested a similar mechanism to remove the need to deface the Highlands with a string of Pylons in respect of the Orkneys project, but of course you tend to get wibble back from those locally because someone centrally has not the cells or the nads to make the right decision or even let those locally make it for themselves.

word verification: mecgenv...oddly.

Anonymous said...

I thought they had a working wave generator off the Orkneys ,all we have is 21 windy one's off Hoyle bank and another 21 going in now plus 3 in Liverpool docks,they appear to have a dock area on the Welsh side of the Dee near the gas cleaning plant and you can see the towers I presume being built, thru binoculars near where I live.

Mark Wadsworth said...

What Roger says.

Plus: waste incinceration could generate as much as 10% of our domestic electricity. (This link seems to blur "megawatts" with "megawatt hours" but it will burn the waste of 1 million households and generate enough electricity for 70,000 households. Allegedly).

Chuck in methane capture/ incineration (Tim Worstall's favourite topic) and COAL, which we have in abundance, and there's your answer!!

Apparently, they are going to chuck a cable into the North Sea so that we can export electricity to the Netherlands, how cool is that? They can breathe in our smog and pay for the privilege

Shotgun said...

Nothing to disagree with in all that, but I would point a couple of small things out.

Firstly we need more investment in the technology, and in existing clean energy. Limpet may need 400km now but with some investment the technology may only need 200 or even less. As an example the Spaniards recently developed a generator for domestic wind turbines that produced almost 100 times the power from near the same technology and same investment, still not massive a great leap.

The lack of real investment is what is keeping the technology back. I also think the energy companies would love to keep the technology back, and are, judging by the patents they file on this issue but never use.

Milliband is a cunt.

chris said...

Living by the sea as I do I know wave power is still location dependent. Torbay can be flat as a strap for weeks at a time. Living in the Southwest I also see lots of windfarms, and they are stopped even more often despite being situated in good locations (which Torbay isn't). Waves are a lot better than wind, but still not as reliable as tidal or nukes.

When there is power transmitting it will not a problem. These things will be producing AC like everything else so stepping up to transmission voltage is trivial. If you don't like the overhead pylons then burried transmission wires work just as well, but are more expensive.

Personally I would do that rather than crack water to hydrogen in situe. Carting H2 around efficiently is a much harder problem than stringing bits of wire around up. H2 is light but very blucky. Even liquified it is blucky, and then you have all the problems and expense of transporting a cryogenic liquid. See Robert Zubrin's article on it:
http://www.thenewatlantis.com/archive/15/zubrin.htm

Thortung said...

"apparently the UK needed about 363.6 terrawatt hours in 1994/5. That's 3636 followed by eleven oh's.

Now if one divides this by 8760 (the number of hours in a year) this means the UK needed about 41.5 megawatts of generating capacity."

Out by a factor of 1000, should be 41.5GW (41,500,000,000W). An average power station turbine generates somewhere in thr 500MW area IIRC.

Roger Thornhill said...

Chris, it is not about "harder" but ugly and also intermittent - the grid HATES erratic supplies. It does not need to be H2, but can be methane, methanol or LPG, which is fully understood and convenient to transport. If I were on Orkney, I'd love the idea of cheap, locally produced LPG to run my heating, fuel my car and power my generators.



If Sillyband wants to make our lives easier, how about asking producers to make food packaging (except tins, of course) safe to incinerate (i.e. no nasty plastics) and come up with a simple label system. Note I said ask, not demand. While they are at it, Pampers and Huggies should be made safe too (though I am not sure about their 'contents'...even a Magnox might choke on that stuff...)

peter whale said...

Hi I would like to draw your attention to Bisop Hill blog, his "Bluff calling" article seems a perfect tax for Millibugger to completely ignore and the rest of us to adopt with open arms.

The Remittance Man said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Remittance Man said...

Thortung,

So kill me for a couple of orders of magnitude, why don't you :-)

I've been looking at too many "telephone numbers" at work for the last few days and can't tell my megas from my gigas anymore.

I even had to double check how many oh's were in a terra.

Still in theory it looks like DK's wavy power might be a goer. I'm off to bed now and hopefully won't be counting terra sheep to get to sleep.

Bye y'all.

Armin said...

Actually, transmission is a problem, at least on Islay.

I don't know if it's true, but I've been told that the power grid around Portnahaven (where the Wavegen station is) is a bit, shall we say underdimensioned?

Meaning most of the power generated (or being able to be generated) isn't really going anywhere.

Fixing that won't come cheap, even though it would make sense. Especially considering the fuel prices on Islay.

Roger Thornhill said...

armin: especially considering the fuel prices on Islay

Exactly. If Islanders could cook up their own hyrdocarbons, I would say the economy would be healthier, too.

Pogo said...

Re: Mark Wadsworth's suggestion about incinerating waste to generate power... Isn't there some obscure EU regulation specifically banning power generation by burning domestic waste?

Mark Wadsworth said...

Pogo, that's the beauty of it, once I have convinced everybody that this is a good idea, I can follow up by saying "But of course, we'd have to leave the EU first".

Pogo said...

Mark... You Machiavellian little Devil you!... :-)

Mark Wadsworth said...

Exactly, there's another strand to this;

Fact - VAT is the worst tax of all (it raises as nearly as much as corproation tax and employer's NI together) and if you do a simple supply/demand chart you can show that it damages economy far more than corporation tax.

"But we have to have it because of the EU" comes the reply.

"Well, we can always leave the EU, can't we?" is my retort.

Roger Thornhill said...

mark: "Well, we can always leave the EU, can't we?" is my retort.

I just had a Pulp Fiction-esque vision of you saying "Oh, well allow me to retort..."

Mark: "What does the UK voter look like?"

EU drone: "What?..."

Mark: "What country you from?!!!..."

EU drone: "What...?"

Mark: "What ain't no country I heard of! D'they speak English in What?"

you know the rest.