UK renewables to be backed up by diesel generators

Posted: November 17, 2015 by oldbrew in Big Green, Energy

Diesel generation plant  [image credit:]

Diesel generation plant
[image credit:]

The UK’s rush to renewables is about to become even more expensive and pointless with this new anti-green twist, as StopTheseThings points out.

Thanks to its ludicrous wind rush, Britain is reeling with a combination of skyrocketing power prices and a grid on the brink of total collapse: Another Wind Power Collapse has Britain Scrambling to Keep its Lights On (Again).

Now, in the mother of all ironies, Brits are turning to the most inefficient and costly-to-run source of commercial power generation there is: diesel generators. Not, as it turns out, that they have much choice in the matter.

Read the rest here.

The GWPF called it ‘Madness On Stilts.’

  1. PeterMG says:

    Too much is being made of this, and too many people commenting with zero knowledge or understanding. Rather than do their homework many of the comments surrounding the use of diesel are ill informed and no better than all the idiots sounding off about global warming and climate change. Don’t fall into that trap. Below is a verbatim comment I made on another site.

    “Firstly I totally agree that the UK’s energy policy is madness. Having got that out of the way some of this article (the original Times Article) is complete bollocks. And what’s more its is just as bad as much of the nonsense we try to point out about weather and climate and other climate change propaganda.

    Firstly you can not put into service a non regulated diesel engine in the UK. The limits as of now are very strict and Non Road diesels are fast catching up with on road diesel which are effectively now zero emissions. For the lay person that means the regulators can not measure any further reduction in NOx, unburnt hydrocarbons (HC) Carbon Monoxide (CO) and particulates. Calling the modern diesel dirty is wrong and demonstrates a lack of knowledge, something we accuse the environmentalists of all the time. We must not fall into the same trap. (the engineering effort to get to this point has been outstanding and above the regulators expectations who thought via the green blob that it couldn’t be done and they would be able to ban diesel engines as a result)

    There is no such thing as getting cheep Chinese Engines that are not regulated. Its not allowed. Some companies are manufacturing in China in the high volume smaller generator range, but if you want sensible Generators at say 1MW continuous each then you are looking at a 50 Litre V12 or V16 engine at 2000hp. Only Cummins, Cat and MTU do these in any volume. As someone who has overseen and maintained many Power plants through out the Middle East I can tell you will get into all sort of trouble connecting to the grid with low tension Generators designed for site backup. Even a continuous 500KW requires a substantial engine well out of the high volume market. You have to go down to 250KW continuous to get into the greater choice area, and then you have all sorts of cost issues with switch boards and transformers.

    As for fuel efficiency, this is another area where you get what you pay for, but generally Diesels are approaching 50% efficiency. Diesel is not a high cost option for “power shaving”, which is what the rest of the developed world calls this type of operation. I can’t say that the UK Government is going about it in most economically efficient way, mainly because of our brain dead civil service, but neither is it a completely bonkers thing to do, but tried and tested low risk.

    This is not the time to explain how it should be done, but don’t confuse our incoherent energy policy with what is a common and on the face of it clean and economic way of topping up the grid when demand is high.”

  2. oldbrew says:

    Peter – the BBC found in recent tests of two diesel cars (a VW and a Ford):

    ‘the VW emitted 0.664g of NOx per km, which is a touch under four times the regulated limit of 0.18g under the Euro 5 rules’
    ‘The Ford emitted 0.422g of NOx per km, which is more than five times the regulated limit of 0.08g under the Euro 6 rules.’

    Not quite zero emissions?

  3. tchannon says:

    As PeterMG writes diesel is actually excellent of thermal efficiency but many out of ignorance state the opposite. Cost problems are more about service life and sizing.

    Proper plant is large, not those toys.

    The whole electricity generation discussion is petty, ignorant, about the elephant’s toe-nail. And rooted in western religious culture, being polite is not appropriate.

    *if* electricity is the dominant energy supply as so many tacitly assume from the flapping of the environmental brigade that means *all* current energy sources and that means the required, not optional, electricity generation requirement is at least two orders of magnitude (100x) greater than the current total generation capacity.

    The only feasibility is nuclear, which could have been here today. Related to this is too-cheap-to-meter which is also accurate but very few comprehend, needs strategic thinking about society. (hint, nation of salesmen, costs, fixed + operational, only meter if there is rationing which means actual shortage otherwise it is a waste of effort/people/money doing it)

    Why I say electrochemical engineering will be so huge in the future. Most things can be manufactured including hydrocarbon fuel, an excellent energy storage method.

  4. Fanakapan says:

    The potential Cost of this ‘Face Saving’ operation could go a long way to explaining how energy price’s in the UK have yet to fall significantly after 18 months of oil price decline, and with the price presently set to go sub $40 a barrel ?

    A conspiracist might argue that they saw this coming, and have hoarded the surplus profits. If only, if this level of diesel generation goes ahead, I’d be willing to bet that the bustards will be along in the spring arguing for a price rise due to what they have ‘Lost’ 🙂

  5. oldbrew says:

    Let’s not miss the point here: renewables are supposed to be all about reducing ‘man-made’ carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

    As soon as you start burning diesel instead, that objective goes out of the window.

  6. ivan says:

    Not trying to sound as if I am beating a dead horse but the cost of those diesel generators should be the responsibility of the wind and solar subsidy farmers as should be the running costs.

    Their wind and solar farms are not supplying what they said they would therefore they are responsible for making up the shortfall. The problem is that they are working under a government contract and I have yet to see any government contract that doesn’t have so many holes in it that you could park all the TfL buses in there and loose them – civil servants appear to be totally incapable of writing contracts that are binding on both sides and designed to get the best result for the money expended.

  7. oldmanK says:

    Nice pic there oldbrew. I would really like to know the operating strategy to make that pay; the costings.

    Smallish units, no stacks anywhere to divert exhaust away, no particulate filters (every diesel engine smokes) and no sign of NOx abatement setup. Diesels eat spares like a hungry wolf, so there must be a large workshop+ store nearby somewhere. There’s upwards of 50 units as I count.

  8. Fanakapan says:

    From oldbrew;

    ”Let’s not miss the point here: renewables are supposed to be all about reducing ‘man-made’ carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

    Call me crazy, but there was me thinking that the entire ‘Warming Scam’ was down to making money ?

    The ‘Facts’ are merely incidental, and there to fool those who may care for the planet in the same way that people like kittens. As with all good Shakedowns, the facts are pliable enough in the hands of the promoters to be able also to confound those who challenge the Scam with real, or evidence based facts 🙂

  9. PeterMG says:

    Old brew The regulatory test for Cars on a /km basis is nothing but a sham. You can only measure emissions in a Lab on a grams/kw/hr basis. Any published NOx per km figures are an extrapolation of LAB results, and how can you take individual driving styles into account in regulation. A complete con job and again more BBC bull and any test the BBC ran could not in a thousand years match the accuracy that is needed for certification and the variables in the real world, render any figures invalid.

    The Cummins ISB built in Darlington that powers the Boris Bus, and most of the other Hybrids and Diesel only Buses in London is Zero rated for Euro 6. In fact I would challenge anyone to be able to measure the difference between Euro 5 and 6 except with tens of thousands of pounds worth of very expensive equipment. The regulators now admit they can’t measure accurately the low levels. I would further challenge anyone to accurately be able to measure the health benefits of euro 6 over euro 4 let alone euro 5. I would say it was impossible.

    What the VW trick was trying to do was restore some modicum of sense into a regulation for cars that is nothing but bone headed and allow the engine to operate more efficiently which would ultimately be of greater benefit to the world that the way our regulators see it. Their crime was to get caught, as have CAT Cummins and Detroit Diesel been in the US in the past, and I guess every other manufacturer. Cars particularly diesel powered ones get a particularly RAW Deal in the US to noones great surprise as modern regulation is the pasts trade tariff.

    An interesting side note. When the regulators set out to improve air quality it was petrol engines they targeted, mainly for CO one of the deadliest poisons to humans, and NOx because it turns the air brown in the presence of strong sunlight. As turbocharging became more prevalent during the 70’s on large diesels (to reduce black smoke) NOx levels went up. Turbos provide more air into the cylinder and an excess of O2 which under the pressure in the combustion chamber combines with N2 (78% of the air going in) forming NOx. To control this initially require retarding injection timing and increasing injection pressure to shorten the injection period (which hit fuel economy). Long story short todays common rail injectors can do up to 5 plus separate injections during the power stroke and this has enabled the manufacturers to reach levels of control in cylinder which the regulators thought were impossible without expensive after treatment.

    So the regulators carried on dropping NOx (which forces up particulates) until they forced the use of both catalytic converters and particulate traps. This was their way of forcing up the price of diesel cars and forcing them out of the market. Anyone who thinks their is any real environmental benefit please put their hands up. But still the engineers today on some modern larger high speed diesels have certified engines to the highest tier 4 levels without resorting to particulate traps. The engineers have won, but do you hear anyone acclaiming this extraordinary achievement?

    The morale of the story is most of the numbers banded about by the BBC and others are totally meaningless in the real world. The real world today is you see no black smoke form a modern diesel engine (black smoke is NOT particulate matter which is microscopic) you get no smell, (un-burnt hydrocarbons), and NOx levels are so low that other than on the occasional day when the air has been still for many days we don’t notice any of the past issues with high pollution levels.

    Yet there is an unscientific war on particulates, which in the publics mind all come from diesel engines, but in reality very little actually comes from diesels with the vast majority coming from everyday activity. Who has every heard of anyone dying of “Particulosis” yet you would think people are suffering from this in their thousands and banning diesel will suddenly stop this.

  10. michael hart says:

    Tim, I’ll agree with almost all of that.

    But I think on-site hydrogen production is more likely to be important in the medium term, either electro-chemical, or thermal hydrogen production. There are many existing technologies to put it to good use, with relative efficiency, for reducing CO2 to useful molecules, probably using CO2 from oceanic sources as feedstock [*].

    If anyone thinks electro-chemical hydrogen production is inefficient, you should look at everything else electro-chemical. At least electrolysis of water produces what you want in high chemical yield (i.e. not many/much other by-products as crap that you have to pay someone to take away). The main waste is heat.

    Under-developed multi-step organic bulk electro-chemical syntheses with low-to-medium chemical and energetic efficiencies will not compete with existing technologies until after we are dead and also not before too-cheap-to-meter (fusion or fission?) power is available.

    [*Dimwits think they can, even now, without energy-too-cheap-to-meter, build synthetic trees to extract CO2 from the atmosphere more efficiently than trees. Judith Curry should not give these references so much time at Climate Etc]

  11. hunter says:

    The point is not that diesel may be dirty. The point is the utter folly and incoherent blithering stupidity of allowing a medieval power source like windmills to shut down practical and effective power plants.

  12. PMT says:

    Chaps, ignoring the technical aspects of diesel generation, and just dealing with the perception of diesel being dirty and polluting, the antithesis of all things green. I followed the image source on this post and found the Green Frog Power’s internet site:-

    Where you will find this sort of blub:-
    “We have built modular fast-start power stations throughout the United Kingdom.
    From mobilisation to commissioning we can build a complete 20MW power plant in 16 weeks. Our system allows standardisation of civil engineering and other fixed construction elements. Cabling and high-voltage connections to the local grid and within the site are similarly standardized, with major elements of the work taking place off-site prior to delivery.”
    “Due to the company’s continued growth and recent capacity auction success Green Frog Genovate and the Green Frog Group are currently looking to recruit.”

    You can even find this image:-

    Significantly what you wont find any where on the various pages the word “diesel”.

    It would seen that when it is in their commercial interest The Green Frog Group do mention diesels, their Green Frog Genovate Limited site is much open and informative:-

  13. oldmanK says:

    The pic shows unit 44; is all that for just 20 MW? The site quotes 99.87% availability. Must be the time taken to crane a unit away and install a new one. A permanent installation rarely achieves 84% in practice.

    However the setup is a good opportunity for larger industry to survive in a crisis. Which makes you think.

  14. oldbrew says:

    ‘Wind and solar farms will be forced to pay for the extra costs they impose on the UK’s electricity system as a result of their intermittent nature, Amber Rudd, the energy secretary has announced.’

    ‘…as the proliferation of subsidised renewables means reliable gas-fired plants may only be needed for short periods of time as backup, they are uneconomic to build without either subsidy, or sky-high prices when they do generate.’ [bold added]

    Who knew? Apart from anyone who ever thought about it that is 😐

  15. oldbrew says:

    GWPF reports: ‘Britain’s green energy barons are getting huge taxpayer subsidies to install diesel generators — exactly the kind of polluting energy source their wind and solar farms are meant to replace.’

    ‘About 1,000 such diesel units were installed in the past 18 months, with a similar number being planned, making diesel farms among the fastest-growing energy sectors.’

    Doesn’t seem to fit with this?
    ‘Wind and solar farms will be forced to pay for the extra costs they impose on the UK’s electricity system as a result of their intermittent nature, Amber Rudd, the energy secretary has announced.’
    [oldbrew – November 19, 2015 at 3:18 pm]

    Which is it: ‘huge taxpayer subsidies’ or ‘forced to pay for the extra costs they impose’? Or both?