Solar power does work - and a lot better than we thought | RenewEconomy

Solar power does work – and a lot better than we thought

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Data from Australia’s solar farms show that utility-scale solar is working better than expected and is a lot more productive than official government forecasts suggest. And most new solar farms should have tracking devices to follow the sun.

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One of the prices we have to pay for our ideological divide on renewable energy is that we have to read headlines like this, particularly in the Murdoch media: “Solar and wind power simply don’t work, not here, not anywhere”. It was written by the former chairman of a coal mining company, in case you were wondering.

Solar doesn’t work? New analysis of Australia’s first large-scale solar farms shows that solar actually does work, and rather better than expected. And the findings should make it a lot easier for future projects to get the backing of equity investors and bankers, if not the owners of coal fired generators desperately protecting their turf.

The research has been produced by US-based solar module manufacturer First Solar, whose panels have been used for around three quarters of the large-scale solar projects built in Australia to date, by capacity.

first solar data farmsIts study shows that at all the solar farms built by First Solar – in western NSW, north Queensland and Western Australia – the output has been higher than forecast. Collectively, the Australian solar plants using First Solar thin-film PV modules are performing above expectations by an average of 3.2 per cent.

first solar greenough riverThe solar farm with the longest record to date, the 10.2MW Greenough River solar facility near Geraldton, in WA, shows that over four years it has produced an average 1.2 per cent above forecast.

first solar broken hillThe best result has been produced by Broken Hill, the 53MW plant built near the iconic mining town in western NSW, which is so far delivering 4.2 per cent above expectations.

(Spectral advantage, btw, is a measure that First Solar uses to show how much better their panels work in humid conditions than silicon-based rivals).

Now, this might not sound like ground-breaking news – forecast production broken by a few percentage points.

But people in suits are very conservative types, and investment in renewable energy in Australia, both in wind and solar, has been hampered by the fact that bankers won’t finance investments unless they can actually touch, feel and watch the technology, and have proof that it actually works.

This data, Curtis says, is proof that the projects are, indeed, bankable. And that’s more important than it might sound.

Curtis says that even though large-scale solar has been proved in many international locations, local investors still wanted proof that it would work in Australia, even though it does have some of the best solar conditions in the world. Such, perhaps, is the insular nature and/or inherent conservatism of Australia’s banking system.

But Curtis is reassured, not just by the release of the production statistics, but also by the attitude of equity investors and financiers in the local market.

“What’s been most encouraging is that the international banks are bringing their lending frame of reference to the local market, rather than adopting the local ones,” Curtis says. “That will make it hard for local banks to ignore.”

This new level of competition should make it easier for project developers to obtain finance. As RenewEconomy reported on Monday, Curtis believes that the results of the large-scale solar tender by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency in the next few weeks will be a “watershed” moment for the utility-scale sector in Australia.

That’s not just because the projects selected to share the $100 million in ARENA grant funding will get the go-ahead, but because it will also be a trigger for other projects to move forward.

And Curtis expects that many of the solar projects to be built will incorporate single axis tilting, allowing the panels to track the movement of the sun from east to west, and adding to their output in the early morning and late afternoon.

Curtis says the costs of adding single axis tracking mechanisms will be more than compensated by the increase in output.

Based on research at the Gatton solar farm, Curtis estimates that tracking-enabled solar farms will have capacity factors in the high 20 per cent and low 30 per cent, compared to the 25-26 per cent of those without.

“Given the evolution in tracking technologies, any project north of Sydney is doing itself a disservice if it doesn’t have tracking technology,” he says.

Australia’s biggest solar farm with tracking technology is the 57MW Moree solar farm in NSW. First Solar is proposing tracking for the Manildra solar farm in NSW it is planning to build for Infigen Energy, and which has applied for the ARENA grant.

The 100MW solar farm proposed by Sun Brilliance in the West Australian wheat belt will also use single axis tracking technology, making it the biggest solar farm b output if and when it is completed.

Of course, Curtis says the results from the four solar farms his company has built in Australia underscores the advantage of his company’s “thin film” technology over the silicon based panels favoured by its rivals.

“This shows that our panels perform better when it gets hotter, and when it gets humid,” he said. “That’s why Australia is one of the core markets for First Solar.”

Coincidentally, about 2 minutes after I had put down the phone from my chat with Curtis, Dylan McConnell, from the Melbourne Energy Institute, emailed through a production chart from the 102MW Nyngan solar farm, which also used First Solar technology.

nyngan solar farm output dataMcConnell pointed out that, indeed, Nyngan was producing at a capacity factor of 25 to 26 per cent. This, he said, was far higher than official forecasts relied upon for the Australian Power generation Technologies Report, which estimated the average capacity factor of large-scale solar PV at 19-22 per cent.

That, says McConnell, suggests that the forecasts relied upon by the federal government underestimate the output of solar farms by between 15 and 35 per cent.

Little wonder that the government can’t make any sensible decisions about large-scale solar, and why it insists on defunding the agency that has brought about most of the cost reductions in the past year, ARENA.

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  1. James Fisher 4 years ago

    Hi Giles,

    In the article you quote McConnell saying that the capacity factor for Nyngan is 26% but the capacity factor for the year based on the actual output figures in the ‘Key Statistics’ table is 22.6%. Of course as with wind farms capacity factor will go up and down depending on how good a year it was for sunshine or wind. Do you have the data on whether this was a P10 (poor), P50 (average) or P90 (excellent) year?

    The Broken Hill capacity factor was only 19.6% based on the same actual figures. There is no doubt that single access tracking will lift these capacity factors and really it should be mandatory given our constrained network resources and the minimal extra cost. Battery storage will also help. Most developers are now installing a greater number of panels given the significant cost reductions over the past few years which also lifts capacity factor.

    Capacity factor will become a big issue as more plants are built and available network capacity rapidly diminishes.

    • Simo 4 years ago

      James, your terminology for P10,P50,P90 is backwards. P10 is an excellent year, P90 is a poor year. Agree with your observation on the capacity factors though.

    • David Osmond 4 years ago

      I suspect the ‘Key Statistics’ data is for the first 12 months of operation at Nyngan (mid March 2015-mid March 2016). However it took a few months for Nyngan to ramp up to full output (mid June 2015), as can be verified from the link below (change the month in the link to see other months). Since mid June 2015 the annual capacity factor for Nyngan has been around 26% as McConnnell says. I suspect the Broken Hill data has the same issues. It only reached full capacity in Nov 2015, so it obviously doesn’t have a full year of full capacity data.

    • WR 4 years ago

      According to the APVI website, solar output across southern Australia was about 4% higher in 2015-2016 compared to 2014-2015.

  2. Daniel 4 years ago

    RenewEconomy and OneStepOffTheGrid are websites which consistently advocate for smart software and new service models to be adopted by utilities first. The approach fosters powerlessness in the community, in households, agricultural, commercial and industrial enterprises who could adopt smart software and new service models behind the meter now. System payback is determined by carefully balancing system components like PV and batteries, and using load management software. Customer or utility can take responsibility for load management software. Flexibility. Resourcefulness. Empowerment. Change can occur from anywhere in the community and any other position is an illusion.

  3. Daniel 4 years ago

    At this very moment, because I don’t currently have a cooperative grid in my larger economic context, I’m putting a “Fruits of the Forest Strudel” into the oven to burn some excess power, rather than the solar system dropping the PV from the 100% SOC battery. It’s very unlikely I will be doing the same on Thursday, as my local area has a planned power outage from 8.45am to 3pm with 303 premises effected.

  4. Neo Lib Yes 4 years ago

    You forgot to mention that the author, Keith De Lacey is also a stalwart of the Labor party, having been an elected minister in QLD for 15 years and serving as QLD Treasurer from 1989 to 1996. Sure he was also Chairman of MacArthur Coal, however they specialised in metallurgical coal. Don’t believe they had any thermal coal. So you cannot label him as a coal guy and anti renewables.

    • Giles 4 years ago

      He’s the former chair of a coal company but he’s not a “coal guy”. Got it :). He says wind and solar don’t work but he’s not anti-renewables. Got it. 🙂

      • Daniel 4 years ago

        Is it necessary for the long drawn out process to keep putting data and a paradigm in front of this section of the community? Surely for most readers, the issue is getting traction with a reasonable payback and hence seeing live examples at every level of societies organisation… Therefore “tracking the next industrial revolution” has changed from “analysis” towards strategy of implementation, with pictures of equipment, LCD screens and computer and mobile phone applications with graphs of system performance.

      • Neo Lib Yes 4 years ago

        When you say coal, your readers all think thermal and that equals bad, in their mind. I suggest Keith wrote that piece thinking as a State Treasurer, not as a coal crusader.

    • Daniel 4 years ago

      Unfortunately, even though the sun shines equally for us all, PV and EV are beginning as a lifestyle.

  5. Tim Forcey 4 years ago

    I recall we assumed single-axis tracking solar PV in the AEMO 100% renewables study. Seemed to be the most economic option, with info available at that time.

    BTW the info linked above had been relegated, under Hunt, to an archive site. Now for some reason it is back up on the Environment website.

  6. Tim Forcey 4 years ago

    Sorry if I missed it, but “why” is actual exceeding forecast?

    Could be two reasons I suppose.

    Results better than expected, or poor ability to forecast…

    Or a third reason. Forecasts were conservative….the old “under-promise / over-deliver…”?

    • neroden 4 years ago

      Forecasts were conservative. Solar panel companies may face warranty claims if they overpromise. If they deliver more than they promised… no problem!

  7. Ren Stimpy 4 years ago

    Just a suggestion, kinda hard to read those charts, be good if they could be enlarged or linked to the full sized version.

    • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

      perennial observation 🙂

  8. Analitik 4 years ago

    Who is Curtis? Is he First Solar spokesman?

    And do First Solar have figures for the prior 6 months so we can see the annual output?

  9. Sal20111 4 years ago

    Capacity Factor (CF) is a misleading metric for solar (and other renewables for the same reason). Why? It’s measured with respect to an arbitrarily chosen common reference point of 1000 W/m2 AM 1.5. The 1000 W/m2 of solar irradiation is completely arbitrary, not the daily average anywhere on the planet – it’s based on what’s used in solar simulators in labs to calibrate solar cells/modules. You could just as easily decide on 500 W/m2 or 100 W/m2 as the common reference point which would increase the CF by 2x – 10x. See? Makes no sense to dwell on CFs for solar.

    • WR 4 years ago

      Capacity factors are useful because they ARE based on a standard. Having a particular standard allows you to make meaningful comparisons between different panels, locations, etc.

      Comparing capacity factors of different technologies such as wind, pv, fossil fuel generators, etc. is less meaningful, but it can still provide meaningful comparisons in particular contexts, especially with regard to cost of generation.

    • Mark Diesendorf 4 years ago

      Scott, your comment is puzzling, because capacity factor is well-defined as average power (usually an annual average) output divided by rated power. Multiply by 100 to obtain %. Rated power is usually taken to be the maximum power output of the system. So what is arbitrary about capacity factor?

      • Analitik 4 years ago

        Capacity factor is somewhat arbitrary for intermittent generators such as solar PV and wind turbines since you cannot control the output to match demand. This makes their output less usable than that that of traditional generators so their effective capacity factor is less than the raw figures from the naive calculation that you present,

        • Mark Diesendorf 4 years ago

          Controllability of output is irrelevant to the definition of “capacity factor”, however it is relevant to the different concept of “capacity credit”.

          • Analitik 4 years ago

            The capacity factor for non-controllable generation then becomes a useless metric without storage or other support which needs to be factored in to the cost of any deployment for non-controllable generation. Of course, this is never, ever done else the economics would be clearly disasterous

          • Mark Diesendorf 4 years ago

            Capacity factor is a useful, well-defined parameter in the evaluation of the economics of a renewable energy (RE) technology or indeed any electricity generating technology. Dispatchability is treated separately in the context of the reliability of the whole grid. Dispatchability and reliability are complex concepts, because no electricity generating technology, and no grid system, is 100% reliable. Furthermore, while wind and solar PV vary on timescales of hours and days, base-load power stations vary less frequently, but when they break down can be offline for weeks.

            Both hourly computer simulations and practical experience have shown that large-scale electricity systems can operate reliably on 100% RE. Reliability is a property of the whole system, measured in the NEM by annual energy shortfall and measured elsewhere by Loss-of-Load Probability (LOLP). We have known for several years that a system with a mix of variable RE technologies (e.g. wind and solar PV) and flexible, dispatchable RE technologies (e.g. hydro with dams, biofuelled gas turbines and CST with thermal storage) can be just as reliable as a conventional generating systems. Increasing geographic dispersion of wind and solar and introducing demand management in a smart grid can further increase reliability.

          • RobSa 4 years ago

            The article lacks anything about the economics of large-scale solar farms in Australia. An an update on subsidies and cost comparisons to fossil fuels would be appreciated.

    • Chris B 4 years ago

      The other thing is that the “capacity” being “factored” is being produced reliably and predictably in the middle of the day to supply peak loads.

      Who cares if there’s no sunlight at 2am?

    • Lightfoot 4 years ago

      Actual measured irradiance at Moree Solar Farm in the final construction phase (October-December 2015) was very often exceeding 1000W/m2. The highest readings of just over 1400W/m2 on my calibrated meter were obtained on slightly cloudly days. Interestingly, clear blue days often never exceeded 980W/m2 throughout the day.
      Readings above the required minimum 600W/m2 were available by 8.00am by turning the panel array to be near perpendicular to the suns rays.

      Cell Temperatures of over 50 degrees and ambient (in the shade) of 42+ were common, during commissioning measurements.

  10. Brunel 4 years ago

    I think you also ought to write about UHVDC lines. Which are already there in China and India.

    The transmission losses are only 10% per 3000 km.

    They actually take up less land than lower voltage DC lines. Maybe less metal too.

    If you write about it, maybe the Greens will make it a policy to build 1 or 2 such lines from WA to NSW.

    • George Michaelson 4 years ago

      If the cost of construction is lower, and the cost of the voltage conversion is lower, Surely the rational first-place is the additional SA interconnect? Thats already mooted right? Did I miss something? What i read online says the existing ones are 200V DC. So there is scope for improvement.

      • Brunel 4 years ago

        For short runs, AC is cheaper to build, while HVDC is cheaper for runs over 800 km:

        I guess they should convert the line from MEL to SYD to be UHVDC.

        • George Michaelson 4 years ago

          I was fooled by a siemens pack which had short runs HVDC. I now see they included submarine runs. Good graphic

        • neroden 4 years ago

          Location is also rather significant. DC works significantly better than AC on submarine (underwater) lines. I notice they don’t have a number for buried-on-land lines.

          • Brunel 4 years ago

            The water never touches the copper – be it undersea or underground.

            The transmission losses are probably the same for buried cables – be they under sea or under grass.

            While for overhead UHVDC lines the losses are even lower at 10% per 3000 km.

        • Neo Lib Yes 4 years ago

          That is true if you are just doing a long run, say via undersea cable to Tasmania, however if the transmission line is also a feeder for other transmission zone substations along the way, then the costs rise, as you need to convert the DC to AC then distribute it at every point. Therefore another infrastructure cost that your graph probably does not take into consideration. Anyway, distributed energy is the way to go and centralised power is dead! According to many commentators on this site.

          • Brunel 4 years ago

            I see you have not been banned from this website yet.

          • Neo Lib Yes 4 years ago

            Now where was that complaint button? Are you trying to censor free speech or just trying to offend, insult or humiliate?!

          • Brunel 4 years ago

            You can do your free speech on Murdoch websites.

          • Neo Lib Yes 4 years ago

            But Murdoch doesn’t like Trump, so I prefer antagonising the dreamers in here.

        • Analitik 4 years ago

          Brunel, try getting a cost figure from the Chinese government for one of their UHVDC lines. Then that will let us know where breakeven point is

  11. BsrKr11 4 years ago

    If it was 32%, I would be whopping for joy- but 3.2%? that’s a rounding error…

    • Vox 4 years ago

      I don’t think you fully comprehend. If a solar farm is overperforming by 3.2%, and this is due to technical factors (eg, the overperformance is likely to persist over the life of the project), it makes a huge difference over the 20 year lifetime of the project. A quick back-of-the-envelope shows that for the Greenough River Solar Farm, this could amount to >$720k in extra revenue, assuming a PPA of $80. If you plug that into a financial model in which you are paying large amounts of the revenue to the bank, it makes a very big difference in IRR.

  12. BsrKr11 4 years ago

    I am also curious on how we continue to build and maintain these plants when the energy forms being used in the construction has no viable alternative. Yes solar plants produce electricity, but this does nothing for the global supply chains dependent on oil…
    The issues of energy transition demand us to look at the whole picture. According to the IEA approx. 28% of all energy used by the USA was consumed by transportation in 2014. In the mining, refining, manufacturing, distribution and eventual installation oil played a vital role. Oil also fed the workers, who installed the solar farms , in fact i would go as far as to suggest oil touched every part of the installation. There is as yet no viable alternative to oil.
    this is not a small problem… oil supplies the energy that connects all the interconnected systems that allows us to move hundreds of thousands of pieces of technology around the world in an organized and timing manner. Without oil the entire industrial food system needs to be radically redesigned, transportation and global logistics become more challenging, in essence the entire system falters….
    When you look at the scale of the energy we would require to replace the energy we get from oil, the numbers become rather ridiculous quickly, are we going to swap coal mines for lithium mines? How is that going to improve the already stressed and polluted water aquifers?
    Technology will solve it… don’t worry, will be the familiar response to these suggestions, but I would like to point out that this thinking is the exactly the type of thinking that got us into the problem in the first place.

    • neroden 4 years ago

      Mining is switching to electric equipment. Look it up.

      • neroden 4 years ago

        I will note that electric tractors and combine harvesters are easy to design and build, and already used by some farmers.

        • BsrKr11 4 years ago

          80% of energy currently being used isn’t going to be offset with the implementation of a renewable energy grid. We can achieve a transition but energy is a nuanced and complex set of interconnected issues that takes time to understand and we need to think in a much more holistic fashion

        • RobSa 4 years ago

          “Modern agriculture is the use of land to convert petroleum into food.” – Bartlett

          “The limited high-quality petroleum fuels remaining are critical
          over the next two decades for successful reconstruction of a
          sustainable farming environment that can survive, first with limited use of oil and ultimately with none.” – Brian J. Fleay

          “As oil and natural gas production decline, so will the economy and our technological civilization. Without oil and natural gas modern agriculture will fail, and people will starve. Without oil and natural gas, industry will grind to a halt, transportation will be grounded, and people in northern climes will freeze in the winter.” – Dale Allen Pfeiffer

          “A future without oil is difficult to visualize in detail, but some aspects of the post-petroleum paradigm can be anticipated with some degree of certainty. All possible economic energy sources will have to be used, but replacing oil in its great energy use versatility probably will not be completely possible. Replacing the role of both oil and gas in agricultural production will be the most critical problem, and may not be entirely solvable. World population will have to adjust to lesser food supplies by a reduction in population.” – Walter Youngquist

      • BsrKr11 4 years ago

        wake up and join the 21st century eh? Oil is unimportant? those are laughable statements- you need to wake up why don’t you learn a little and come back within something intelligent- i have provided just one example that if you listen will destroy your ignorance….cheerio!

      • RobSa 4 years ago

        I don’t think you comprehend the energy intensity found in fossil fuels. You are thinking that a few bottles of diet lemonade can power a massive, all-night frat party.

    • Daniel 4 years ago

      I only needed one charge of a lithium powered drill to attach PV feet to the roof sheeting. No other power tool was needed for the whole solar system install. The rest of the work is just screwdrivers, wire cutters and crimpers. Well I did use a 1200W heat gun for heat shrink on certain connectors though that takes a few seconds for each one. And the soldering iron got used a few times.

    • Peter F 4 years ago

      In practice you are right there is no short term alternative to oil for transport however there are significant reductions possible.
      1. Ships and aircraft. Latest generation container ships use 30% less oil than even 10 year old ships. 787/A350 about 15-20% less per seat mile than 767/747
      2. Trains and trucks, more electrification of rail transport and high efficiency (latest US standards) for trucks can reduce long distance fuel use by about 40% over the next 10-15 years
      3. Light vehicles including trucks up to 5 tonnes and transit buses can be fully electric, plug in hybrid or CNG or just latest generation high efficiency ICE. The 2020 new vehicle fleet will reduce overall oil consumption per km by 40-50% compared to the 2010 fleet
      4. Public transport. In Melbourne in 1950 the average adult made 570 public transport trips today it is 120. If it can be raised to 280 i.e half the 1950 level, that reduces oil use in cities by about 15-20%
      5. Regenerative farming. New soil enhancing biological farming produces much more food per hectare with less ploughing, spraying etc. fuel use per hectare on farm falls and transport distances are reduced so the oil intensity of food can be reduced 15-30% over the next 10-15 years
      6. Transition from goods to services in the economy. In the period up to 2007 world trade grew faster than GDP growth, now it is slower because consumption of goods as a share of the economy is falling, people spend less on food and more on health and education. It is estimated that the amount of material used per person in the UK economy has fallen from a peak of 20 tonnes to a current level of 15.
      Summing all these trends it is quite possible to reduce the oil intensity of the world economy by half over the next 15-20 years

      • neroden 4 years ago

        While this is all good, it vastly underestimates the potential of battery-electric transportation vehicles. They are now technically viable for all classes of land vehicles, and for small boats on the water, and they are commercially sold in all these classes. Electrics alrady have lower Total Cost of Ownership than oil-powered vehicles in many of these classes… and more every year as batteries get cheaper and better.

        Container ships will be the next to follow. Airplanes will take longer because they put such a high premium on being lightweight, and batteries are heavy.

        • Peter F 4 years ago

          Battery electric is possible for most classes of short distance transport but not all and it is still today roughly twice as expensive up front as conventional vehicles and in many cases is not yet suitable at all. It will probably be another 10 years before there is a realistic BEV for every class of vehicle. In the meantime the vast majority of vehicles will be ICE, with increasing fuel economy but still ICE. Hopefully in 12-15 years BEV’s are 70-90% of the market.
          However it takes 16 years at current sales rates to replace 90% of the fleet even if every car, van, light truck and 4WD from tomorrow was fully electric. However due to the market transition time and a growing economy it is extremely heroic to assume that 50% of the vehicles on the road will be BEV’s in less than 20-25 years

          • Alastair Leith 4 years ago

            You are assuming EV purchasing follows an adoption rate which is linear and matches the current ICE replacement rate. Disruptive technologies tend towards a different set of dynamics: at the initial stage adoption is slow, in the middle it ramps up with exponential growth and plateau off as adoption has a high penetration rate and the tech is maturing.

            You are talking about the mature end of the ICE curve, that’s not completely relevant to the initial and middle stage of EVs. ICE vehicles replaced horses and buggies/carts within a decade IIRC. Check in with Tony Seba.

          • Peter F 4 years ago

            Actually my assumptions are optimistic. If we achieved the same growth rate as Norway (the fastest growing electric vehicle market) in 10-12 years we would have 3m electric vehicles on the road and there would still be 15 million ICE’s. I understand smart phones took off very fast as did colour televisions, but these products a) were much less expensive than cars b) offered step changes in usefulness. Electric cars are nicer to drive quieter, but still take you from A to B in the same time. The take-up rate is more likely to follow that of central heating or air conditioning.
            For the forseeable future the upfront cost of electric cars will be higher and range anxiety, towing performance etc (how far can you tow a 6m caravan or a horse float with a model X) will still be issues. If autonomy becomes more common, the increased traffic may actually mean A to B takes considerably longer as there may be many more cars on the road so again a disincentive to upgrade your vehicle

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 4 years ago

            Norway will be banning non electric vehicles in 2025, won’t it? Aren’t you thinking 50’s and 60’s, we are in a 20’s situation here, I understand, your thinking that the great stagnation of 40 years, will continue. But since the end of the cold war, the developing world, has experienced a 20’s Style 2nd industrial revolution. It’s time for both the developing and developed nations to experience a peak decade of industrial revolution, it’s been a century after all, theory, half century novelties, full century breakout.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 4 years ago

            Agree totally, see my comments above.

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 4 years ago

            Disruption can be faster than that, 1915-25, oil replaces horses, the number of cars increases by ten times, 2005-13, China changes it’s trains to high speed Bullet train transportation. 2008-14 the US reduces it’s energy imports by 2/3rds, using unconventional hydrocarbon extraction, that is the biggest population and the biggest energy consumer, change their energy and transportation in less than a decade. If solar is half of the price of coal in Chile, if the Tesla 3 is $30,000, with 1/10th of the price of maintenance and 1/8th of the price to fuel. If we have reached scale in cryogenic fuel with liquid natural gas, then we start converting to liquid hydrogen energy storage, aircraft and shipping.

            Then we could be in a roaring twenties situation, again.

          • Peter F 4 years ago

            Around the world there are many new battery plants being built but by 2020 there will be enough batteries being produced for about 2m vehicles assuming none of the batteries are used for stationary storage. That is 5% of the market. Let’s say that by 2025 there is another 5 times the capacity for batteries, that is still only 25% of the expected annual demand for new vehicles, so we will be producing ICE vehicles for many years.

            The number of train passengers on Chinese bullet trains is still less than 10% of passenger journeys and air traffic is still rising as fast or faster than High speed train traffic. It is big because of the size of China but it is not a dramatic revolution in the overall scheme of things.

            Making liquid hydrogen is still very expensive and energy intensive.Transporting it is much more difficult than LNG, its boiling point is 100C lower and it embrittles common cryogenic tank materials. This is not to say it can’t or won’t be done, it already is but it will be many many years before it is a major part of transport infrastructure

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 4 years ago

            Peter, sorry to be a bore, I find it hard to believe, that embrittlemnt, in low temperatures is such a problem, I also find it hard to believe that liquid hydrogen is 100°C or K lower than liquid natural gas, more like 50°C. True, this causes difficulties like super fluidity, but we must refer to the laws of surface area volume dynamics, if a liquid hydrogen storage facility is 100,000 tons, then the ratio of the spheres external surface area, to the volume becomes vastly lower, it has an internal insulative capacity. We’ve never actually had any economies of scale liquid hydrogen, yet built on this planet, 12 X 100,000 tonnes LH2 storage facilities, would be enough, to give the whole of India, a several day energy security buffer. Once again, the lower volumes of an aircraft, are justified, because of the physics advantages, in the old space shuttle, the biggest expense was not the liquid hydrogen storage in Super insulation. It was hauling 60 tons of payload canister, for 30 tons of payload, when a capsule and reusable engine recovery, would have done the job and allowed a 60 ton payload. If anything, LNG plus oxygen, plus LOX plus solid fuel, with the heavy early stage recovery, would have worked better, way to get the averaged physics and economics wrong. Not criticising you, these are fairly normal negatives you’ve expressed, but I believe that they ignore, the progress we’ve made.

        • Peter F 4 years ago

          There are significant short term gains to be made with ICE’s. For example, UPS has just introduced new delivery trucks that are 40% more fuel efficient than its existing fleet. US heavy truck standards about to be introduced are aiming for a 30% increase in efficiency

        • stucrmnx120fshwf 4 years ago

          It also underestimates the potential of liquid hydrogen, in aircraft, shipping, storage and the capacity for energy and transportation systems to change rapidly. Witness the explosion of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction, high speed Bullet train transportation, many doubt that a cryogenic fuel cold work. Yet the liquid natural gas tanker fleet, continues to grow every year, solar energy is half of the price of coal in Chile, take aircraft. We take the hydrocarbon fuel and remove the carbon, use it for the wings and fuselage, thus we save the entire weight, of the heavy metal wings and fuselage.

          Then there’s agriculture, with cheap desert solar, we can use the power for high rise farming, LED lighting, the other side of photovoltaic systems, reverse osmosis desalination. Let’s consider the waste from liquid hydrogen production and high rise farming, O2, oxygen, which makes these industries extremely attractive to the cities. Not only does high rise farming produce O2, it extracts CO2, so with cheap desert utility solar, liquid hydrogen aircraft and shipping transportation. Plus electric vehicles, we remove the soot of coal energy, remove the smog of vehicle, aircraft and shipping, emissions.

          Then we replace them with CO2 extracting high rise agriculture, oxygen producing liquid hydrogen production, resulting in a reduction in cancerous diseases. Cancer is the number one killer in the world today, just as infectious diseases were the number one killer before the second industrial revolution, introduced sewage treatment works, clean water and garbage disposal. 2nd IR 1915-25, 3rd IR 2015-25, first oil and electricity, then solar to electric and hydrogen transportation, reduce their civilizations number one Killers, here comes the roaring twenties again.

          • Peter F 4 years ago

            I am not arguing that all these things can’t be done they will not happen overnight even if there was no rearguard action by vested interests. I think they all will at some scale, just nowhere near as fast as enthusiasts claim

            Even if Norway does ban new light ICE vehicles in 2025, which is not yet confirmed, it will still take another 15 years to get the old ones of the road. Light vehicles are the easy target and represent less than half most countries oil use.

            The Carbon fibre 787 turns out to be only 15% lighter than its metal predecessors. No-one has yet designed a hydrogen powered gas turbine and a new generation of kerosene powered gas turbines takes 10 years till first commercial flight. Even then the issue of safe, light and compact hydrogen storage is a long way from being solved. I am 66 I feel quite safe in saying I don’t expect to ever fly in a hydrogen powered aircraft or see containers unloaded regularly from hydrogen powered ships

          • stucrmnx120fshwf 4 years ago

            Peter, although the 787 is only 15% more efficient, than the 777, the 747, 707, 727, 737, all had aluminium wings, the 777, 767,757, 737,747, later had carbon fiber wings. So the original experiments with liquid hydrogen aircraft, were hamstrung by not only aluminium fuselages, but by aluminium wings. The A350, is 10% more efficient than the 787, consider, that a lighter fuel, in the streamlined fuselage, allows for smaller wings, bootstrapping weight savings and reducing lift drag. I have heard that high speed Bullet train transportation in China, has caused problems for the domestic airlines through too much competition. Of course international air travel is increasing, but high speed Bullet train transportation, has also freed up the freight lines. So whilst the high speed Bullet train transportation, might be only 10% of all Chinese rail transport, it would be 55% of all long distance Chinese rail transport. The railway stations used to be crowded during the holiday seasons, with people waiting days, to travel for days, it is revolutionary stuff indeed over a very short period, with the world’s largest population nation.

            You may doubt the potential for cheap solar, but look at the other photovoltaic system LEDs, they’ve smashed the cathode ray tube, changing the nature of energy consumption. Solar is near to beating carbon on price, it has been halving in price per kWh every 5 years, even without economies of scale, even without beating carbon on price. For instance 25% of Australia’s deserts could produce a trillion tons of liquid hydrogen. Just 25% of the world’s deserts could make 25 times the energy we currently consume, things happened fast 1915-25, much faster than in the 50’s and 60’s.

            Since the end of the cold war, China has moved from famine, to global Middle income, at about the speed of the second industrial revolution, in the developed world. 1915-25, for a quarter of a century, the developing world makes more renewable energy, every year than the developed world now. The Asian Development Bank, is worth more than the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, IMF.

            So revolution in transportation, revolution in energy, revolution in energy use, revolution in the developing world, revolution in the developed world 1915-25, why not another revolution rapidly. Because we are used to 40 years of the Great Stagnation, but the developing world isn’t used to that anymore. OK, we’ve had the worst recession since the great depression, the most prolonged recession in the GFC. It’s been the Great recession in Southern Europe, with 30% unemployment, 60% youth unemployment, paralleled, by exactly the opposite in the developing world. Things can move fast in the negative and positive, in the last century, there have been 2 world wars, 2 massive revolutions each in Russia and China, both of which were backward serfdom kingdom’s.

            The BRIC countries are now massive industrial revolutionised, huge energy producer consumers, see Tony Seba’s clean energy disruption, I may indeed be wrong and we may continue in our serfdom to big carbon. But there isn’t actually any engineering technological, or economic reason why we shouldn’t be approaching the third industrial revolution 2015-25, in much the same way we did 1915-25 with the 2nd IR. 19,2015-25, 2nd, 3rd IR, why not? We’ve done it before, no reason we can’t do it again.

    • Daniel 4 years ago

      How are you going with shrinking the energy footprint of your property or work premise?

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