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posted by Blackmoore on Wednesday November 12 2014, @04:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the turn-up-the-reactor-power-three-more-triangles dept.

Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that Denmark is pursuing the world’s most ambitious policy against climate change aiming to end the burning of fossil fuels in any form by 2050 — not just in electricity production, as some other countries hope to do, but in transportation as well. The trouble is that while renewable power sources like wind and solar cost nothing to run, once installed, as more of these types of power sources push their way onto the electric grid, they cause power prices to crash at what used to be the most profitable times of day. Conventional power plants, operating on gas or coal or uranium, are becoming uneconomical to run. Yet those plants are needed to supply backup power for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. With their prime assets throwing off less cash, electricity suppliers in Germany and Denmark have applied to shut down a slew of newly unprofitable power plants, but nervous governments are resisting, afraid of being caught short on some cold winter’s night with little wind. “We are really worried about this situation,” says Anders Stouge, the deputy director general of the Danish Energy Association. “If we don’t do something, we will in the future face higher and higher risks of blackouts.”

Environmental groups, for their part, have tended to sneer at the problems the utilities are having, contending that it is their own fault for not getting on the renewables bandwagon years ago. But according to Gillis, the political risks of the situation also ought to be obvious to the greens. The minute any European country — or an ambitious American state, like California — has a blackout attributable to the push for renewables, public support for the transition could weaken drastically. Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Danish climate minister, says he is tempted by a market approach: real-time pricing of electricity for anyone using it — if the wind is blowing vigorously or the sun is shining brightly, prices would fall off a cliff, but in times of shortage they would rise just as sharply.

 
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  • (Score: 1) by Gravis on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:09AM

    by Gravis (4596) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:09AM (#115097)

    Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Danish climate minister, says he is tempted by a market approach: real-time pricing of electricity for anyone using it — if the wind is blowing vigorously or the sun is shining brightly, prices would fall off a cliff, but in times of shortage they would rise just as sharply.

    those of us who are serious about getting off of depletables are using solar panels in combination with a battery, for when the sun isnt out.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:59AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 12 2014, @06:59AM (#115102)

    If only battery kwh/$ were improving as fast as solar has been.

  • (Score: 2) by Aiwendil on Wednesday November 12 2014, @08:05AM

    by Aiwendil (531) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @08:05AM (#115111) Journal

    It would be very costly and batteries are still either lead-based or shortlived (when talking infrastructure anything lasting less than a couple of decades are considered shortlived)

      (For the sake of discussion I will use Denmark to refer to "mainland Denmark" (ie, Denmark without Greenland and Faroe-islands))
    Denmark is actually a quite interesting case in itself for many reasons:
      * It isn't a unified electrical grid (it is two grids, only a 500MW link between them)
      * It has extremly fluctuating electricy prices (it can go from cheapest to most expensive in europe virtually over night)
      * It is a very flat country (ie, no pumped hydro available)
      * Strong enviornmental laws (ie, no quick-n-dirty fixes allowed - excepting coal for some reason)
      * Despite not having any nuclear power plants their electricity still comes about 10% from nuclear (imports)

    It all makes for a very interesting case with unique problems. However at the moment a battery system to flatten the changes would probably be profitable but it still is a very expensive method - and this would only cause baseload plants to get even more into the red which would exacerbate the problem)

    (figures below from 2012)
    Probably is worth pointing out that Demark's total electricty needs only is about 30TWh per year (this is roughly the output of a 4GWe power plant) (they get about 10TWh from coal and 4TWh from gas)

    • (Score: 2) by mojo chan on Wednesday November 12 2014, @09:27AM

      by mojo chan (266) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @09:27AM (#115122)

      People are using recycled lithium cells or sodium sulphur. The are pretty cheap and pay for themselves in a few years. Lifespan is 10-15 years.

      In the future I imagine people will use their electric cars as house batteries. You can already do it in emergencies with a Nissan Leaf, but if you had something like a Tesla you could do it all the time. They tested their packs up to 750,000 miles with only 14% degradation, so for most people who will never get anywhere near that kind of mileage it makes sense to use some to reduce their domestic energy bill.

      --
      const int one = 65536; (Silvermoon, Texture.cs)
      • (Score: 2) by Aiwendil on Wednesday November 12 2014, @09:42AM

        by Aiwendil (531) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @09:42AM (#115124) Journal

        Cheap and pay for themselves (in unstable grids) - yes, but still shortlived at the timespans used for infrastructure.

        Sounds like an idea if one isn't living in an apartment, but if is living in a house I would probably be in favour of just getting a ten-foot-container ("half-size"), good logic and control and then just throwing whatever batteries are available into it.. it will have the advantage of being able to be charged when the car isn't at home (in case of solar this would be during daytime when the car is parked at work), will allow for better fire supression, wouldn't leave you without a functioning car during long-term power-outages, and with a good partitioning wall can also be used to store firewood :)

        Or just use a twenty foot container, a partition wall, and use it as a battery-backup and garage..

  • (Score: 2) by Immerman on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:43PM

    by Immerman (3985) on Wednesday November 12 2014, @03:43PM (#115216)

    Indeed. And a steeply fluctuating free market for energy would actually make power-buffering installations extremely profitable. Buy low, sell high, pay for your batteries in no time. At least until enough people got in on the game that it became only barely profitable enough to be worth doing - at which point the problem is solved.