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Author Topic: Are Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure?  (Read 7525 times)

Offline McQueen

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Introduction of new carbon tax laws which will impose an added £600 million on coal fired power plants in Britain and strict restrictions imposed on the amount of hours  that these plants can run in a year, makes it likely that six of Britainís biggest coal fired plants will have to close down, if they donít, they may have to pay £16 for every ton of carbon di-oxide they emit.  Is this a suicidal decision ?  Consider that any one of these power stations produces more than twice the combined power produced by the 3000 wind turbines currently installed.  Further the problem of integrating renewables into the grid makes renewable energy more costly than fossil fuel power generation. The reason for this is that renewable energy is intermittent and hence highly variable and although in theory power can be shunted from an area enjoying a surplus to an area with a deficit, in practice this is not as easy as it sounds.  Since the one thing that a power station cannot do is provide more power than it generates, it is necessary to Ďbalanceí renewable inputs to the grid by keeping on standby conventional power sources equivalent to the renewables being fed in. What this means is that instead of renewable power integrated into the grid being ďfreeĒ it is in fact being compensated by standby conventional power sources, so the tremendous monetary gains that should accrue from using renewables is largely mythical and in fact is more often than not negative. The converse is also true, often renewables integrating into the grid supply more energy than the grid can use ! The problem then becomes one of how to dump that extra power, you canít for instance just put it into the ground, there will be a lot more deaths from spontaneous combustion than exist at present! Nor can you let it out into the Ocean, a lot of fish will die. So when you have to shed several Megawatts of power in a matter of seconds it becomes a problem.  As Long Beach Mayor Bob Foster, a board member of the California grid system management commented, ďWe are getting to the point where we will have to pay people not to produce power.Ē
Given this scenario, what do we actually expect from renewable energy ?  Energy from wind and solar is essentially free energy, unfortunately due to the presence of intermittency and problems arising from trying to balance the load, renewable energy is often more costly than energy generated by fossil fuel alone.  More and more money is being pumped into wind and solar; money is not going to make the sun shine at night nor will it make the wind blow on command.

[link to perpetual motion 'invention' removed - Mod]
« Last Edit: 23/12/2013 09:24:00 by chris »


 

Offline CliffordK

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #1 on: 15/12/2013 09:37:54 »
I agree that we need to find better energy sources than coal.  And, many of the renewable energy sources being used to date have problems. 

  • Hydroelectric is dependent on the environment, and may be bad for fish, as well as generally warming the water.  It is also seasonal, but may compliment solar energy somewhat.  Diurnal flow differences can be a problem, but may be remedied by a buffer dam such as Lookout Point plus Dexter Reservoirs
  • Solar can be seasonal, and is dependent on the sun shining, with a strong diurnal cycle
  • Wind is often plagued by too much or too little wind, although some locations have particularly steady amounts of wind.  Also, high altitude turbines can be good for wind generation.
  • Tidal Energy may be the most regular year-around, but does have a strong diurnal pattern.  Note potential issues with damming up estuaries.
  • Deep Sea Currents.  Difficult to develop, in a caustic environment, but worth considering
  • Geothermal.  Expensive to develop, may be somewhat dependent on local volcanic areas
  • Solar Hot Water.  Needs "backup system", but could potentially provide significant savings in the summer.  More expensive to implement than a simple hot water heater, but lower periodic costs

Hopefully more effort will be put into alternative energy now, and going into the future.
« Last Edit: 15/12/2013 16:38:54 by CliffordK »
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #2 on: 15/12/2013 10:23:32 »
When I go to France I find no power shortage because they produce 80% of their power by nuclear !
Why this strange prejudice against nuclear power it is the safest and least polluting source of power obtainable, there have been problems with some early plants but they were thinly disguised plutonium producers there have improvements in design over the last 60 years.
the number of deaths caused by nuclear plants is tiny compared with those caused by coal mining, pollution from coal burning, bursting dams, oil spillages and fires etc.
there is an oft quoted waste disposal problem but this is mostly due to politics!     
« Last Edit: 15/12/2013 15:00:06 by syhprum »
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #3 on: 15/12/2013 10:36:00 »
"Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure"
Is that a bad thing?
For a start, it's only going to happen if the proposed tax on CO2 pushes the electricity price up far enough to make them unviable.
If there were no alternative sources of power the reduction in supply due to closure of stations would push the electricity price up until it became viable to reopen them.

So there will only be closures if there's an alternative supply (including buying electricity from the French).

If it forces some closures of coal fired plant then only the least efficient plants will be closed.

Once you accept that we really need to reduce CO2 emissions, the headline question stops looking like a problem, and becomes an opportunity.




Incidentally, I predict lots of people stamping their foot and shouting about syphrum's assertion that "the number of deaths caused by nuclear plants is tiny compared with those caused by coal mining, pollution from coal burning, bursting dams, oil spillages and fires etc."
Can I ask that anyone wishing to do so starts by bringing actual numbers along for discussion.
« Last Edit: 15/12/2013 10:39:24 by Bored chemist »
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #4 on: 15/12/2013 10:58:36 »
If we buy power from France it will be generated by nuclear plants, if we are really agin nuclear power should we not stick to our windmills and candles (a cause of many deaths in domestic fires !)

PS I think our link across the English channel is good for 2MW at the most and is already running flat out most of the time
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #5 on: 15/12/2013 13:03:51 »
I think you slipped a few zeros there
It's a 2GW link
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HVDC_Cross-Channel
 
We could always build some more.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #6 on: 15/12/2013 13:47:18 »
As you say I slipped a few zero's when it was first built we used to joke that if a trawler accidently cut the cable French industry would grind to a halt, not any more!
Schemes for obtaining geothermal power from Iceland have been talked about for at least 30 years but come to nothing because it would entail building lots of pylons to bring the power down the country with the attendant danger from electromagnetic radiation !
« Last Edit: 15/12/2013 13:56:54 by syhprum »
 

Offline peppercorn

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #7 on: 15/12/2013 14:51:27 »
Further the problem of integrating renewables into the grid makes renewable energy more costly than fossil fuel power generation.

It does? Over what time frame?
Our national grid and links to Europe and Scandinavia have developed over decades and continue to be strengthened and will become 'smarter' in the coming years - with or without renewables to a certain extent.  In the short-term sense, yes, it is likely that we will see a rise in infrastructure costs but it should also be noted that the tenancy toward underinvestment in improving the grid was exaggerated by its privatisation back in the 90s - ie, it's not something that we (or the profitable private company responsible) couldn't have foreseen.

Edit: To clarify, the total cost to the consumer (esp. as fuel prices and carbon levies continue to increase) of operating a (European-wide) grid, heavily reliant on renewables, ought to be considerably less than the 'business as usual' approach.
« Last Edit: 15/12/2013 14:59:34 by peppercorn »
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #8 on: 15/12/2013 15:04:26 »
I object to the term "links to Europe" geographically we are part of Europe even if only a very lukewarm member of the union.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #9 on: 15/12/2013 15:15:41 »
I'm not so worried about the fact that the continental shelf is on the other side of Ireland as I am about people who think the cash we hand to the electricity supplier is the whole "cost".
The cost of CO2 emission never seems to get counted in properly.

Incidentally, to put this in context
"Introduction of new carbon tax laws which will impose an added £600 million"
That's about £10 per person.
How much will the typical office Xmas party and drinks cost?
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #10 on: 15/12/2013 16:59:05 »
I remember 1953 when climatic conditions pushed coal smoke down over London, later checks found that there were 4000 more deaths than was usual for that time of year, for some strange reason we glorify the era of coal burning, the derelict power station at Battersea is preserved as a national monument rather like Rochester castle instead of demolishing the obsolete eye sore
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #11 on: 15/12/2013 20:53:34 »
The famous London smogs predated electricity production and had nothing whatever to do with coalfired power stations. They were caused by burning coal at low temperatures in domestic fireplaces, inefficient industrial furnaces (remember "industry"? we used to make all sorts of things in Britain, my children) and steam locomotives.

Quote
The Clean Air Act 1956 was an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom passed in response to London's Great Smog of 1952. It was in effect until 1964, and sponsored by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in England and the Department of Health for Scotland.

The Act introduced a number of measures to reduce air pollution, especially by introducing 'smoke control areas' in some towns and cities in which only smokeless fuels could be burnt. By shifting homes' sources of heat towards cleaner coals, electricity, and gas, it reduced the amount of smoke pollution and sulphur dioxide from household fires.

and until the late Sixities, all that electricity, and gas was made from...coal!

My father was tasked to photograph London from the air during one particularly impressive smog, in order to show how polluting the power stations were. It turned out that only surface features visible from 5000 ft were the power stations, which dispersed the water fog and blew almost smokeless exhaust gas up to about 60,000 ft.   

But who cares about mere scientific facts? The EU has sided with the ecofascists, and you must pay.
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #12 on: 15/12/2013 21:16:15 »
So we agree then, the crappy coal was responsible for the smog and killed a lot of people.

Also, re "the power stations, which ... blew almost smokeless exhaust gas "
That will be the CO2 then?
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #13 on: 15/12/2013 23:22:48 »
Nothing wrong with CO2. It's essential for plant growth and therefore life on the earth's surface.

The most sensible thing to do with coal is to distil the higher tars, whcih are useful chemical feedstocks, and burn the coke at high temperature to produce electricity.

The most pointless thing to do with coal is to close the coalmines (which cannot be reopened if they are not maintained) and put a tax on carbon emissions. The result is clear to see - industry moves to those corrupt and backward nations that still use coal and the most enlightened civilisation the world has ever known is bankrupted and extinguished.   
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #14 on: 15/12/2013 23:57:49 »
The new industrial super power the "corrupt and backward China" has a large program of construction of nuclear power stations to replace its present dependence on coal and reduce its pollution and mining deaths.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #15 on: 16/12/2013 00:16:49 »
Just shows what can be done if you have a functioning coal industry, then. With massive quantities of cheap native energy, and unfettered by democracy or human rights, you can build hydroelectric dams and nuclear power stations any damn where you like.   
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #16 on: 16/12/2013 09:57:59 »
"the most enlightened civilisation the world has ever known" that after our near defeat in our war with Germany carried on for twenty years with wars all over the world to try and hold onto our crumbling empire. 
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #17 on: 16/12/2013 11:43:15 »
.....which (apart from India) has crumbled even faster since we left. Military dictatorships, tribal wars, general corruption and the occasional famine....whilst Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the West Indies continue to prosper. What's  different about these places?   
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #18 on: 16/12/2013 19:36:46 »
I note that the Corrupt and Backward Chinese ratified the agreement to CO2 emissions reductions while the USA didn't.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_parties_to_the_Kyoto_Protocol

Re.
"which (apart from India) has crumbled even faster since we left. Military dictatorships, tribal wars, general corruption and the occasional famine....whilst Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the West Indies continue to prosper. What's  different about these places?   "
If it isn't coal consumption, then I invite you to get back to the topic.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #19 on: 16/12/2013 23:48:21 »
The Chinese government ratified the Kyoto protocol because it didn't impose any restrictions on China. Which is probably why the US government didn't ratify it.
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #20 on: 17/12/2013 19:51:32 »
I am no chemist but the idea of power stations burning coke a form of coal from which some of the calorific value has been removed and is primarily intended for use in steel making is rather ludicrous.
Domestic coke that was a low grade form that was the by product of gas manufacture and was useful for small domestic boilers due to its low residues and its cheapness but for power stations if it was still available a no no 
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #21 on: 18/12/2013 06:35:17 »
The great thing about centralised electricity generation is that you can turn almost any combustible rubbish into a useful product because the energy density of the fuel for a large static boiler is not critical - unlike vehicle or aviation fuel. Some power stations were designed to run on the sludge that washes out of coalmines, others burn general domestic waste, chicken poo, forest trimmings..... So using "smokeless" coke is hardly a problem. The most efficient coke boilers grind the stuff up to a fluidised powder that is injected into the flame rather like an oil burner: consistency helps, but primary energy density is just a design input.   
 

Offline Bored chemist

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #22 on: 18/12/2013 10:20:58 »
The Chinese government ratified the Kyoto protocol because it didn't impose any restrictions on China. Which is probably why the US government didn't ratify it.
And, in spite of not being bound by that agreement
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/11/world/asia/11coal.html?_r=0
The great thing about centralised electricity generation is that you can turn almost any combustible rubbish into a useful product because the energy density of the fuel for a large static boiler is not critical - unlike vehicle or aviation fuel. Some power stations were designed to run on the sludge that washes out of coalmines, others burn general domestic waste, chicken poo, forest trimmings..... So using "smokeless" coke is hardly a problem. The most efficient coke boilers grind the stuff up to a fluidised powder that is injected into the flame rather like an oil burner: consistency helps, but primary energy density is just a design input.   

Almost everyone else disagrees with the idea that that " using "smokeless" coke is hardly a problem.".

That problem is CO2 and your decision to disregard it is silly.

You say things like
"Nothing wrong with CO2. It's essential for plant growth and therefore life on the earth's surface. "
Well, the same is true of oxygen but it's poisonous if there's too much.

Just because a small amount of CO2 is necessary, doesn't mean that more of it is good.
Far less doe iit means that too much cannot be harmful.
Trying to dismiss it by saying "plants need it" just makes you look foolish.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #23 on: 18/12/2013 13:57:46 »
Quote
Almost everyone else disagrees with the idea that that " using "smokeless" coke is hardly a problem."

Time was that "almost everyone" agreed with the geocentric universe, divine creation, aether, phlogiston, malaria.... Eventually, science prevailed, but it was a long haul. Hopefully the CO2 nonsense won't last as long as previous myths.

I must talk to my local hydroponic farmer. He injects CO2 into his greenhouses to improve plant growth. I must tell him that he looks foolish as he reaps those massive tomato crops and carries his money to the bank.

The NY Times piece is fine journalism indeed, conflating "pollution" with CO2 emissions in the mind of the careless reader. If you read it carefully it says that the Chinese are actually adopting the policy required by the UK Clean Air Act nearly 50 years ago - building new coalfired plant running at higher combustion and steam temperatures (hence improved thermal efficiency) and reduced sulfur dioxide emissions, but no change in the fundamental chemistry of C + O2 -> CO2  + heat.
« Last Edit: 18/12/2013 14:05:33 by alancalverd »
 

Offline syhprum

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #24 on: 18/12/2013 17:52:35 »
Malaria is still with us killing something like 2 million every year, The aether has not been quite abolished yet there are still many who believe in some form of absolute reference and as for divine creation you try telling anyone in the Midwest there is no such thing and you will soon end up in jail.
 

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Re: Britainís Coal fired power plants facing closure:
« Reply #24 on: 18/12/2013 17:52:35 »

 

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