Monday, September 17, 2018

Bryan Leyland: “Things you know that ain't so" - fossil fuels

As the American humorist Will Rogers said: “It’s not what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” 

“We can have a reliable and economic supply of electricity without burning fossil fuels”


Blackouts are inevitable if we do not have sufficient energy in reserve to make up for the loss of hydro generation in a dry year. In a 1:20 dry year the shortfall amounts to 10% of annual consumption.

To make up for the shortfall we need to have an energy store that can be converted into electricity over the four month dry period. Ever since Meremere power station was commissioned in the 1950s, we have relied on coal-fired stations supplemented by gas and oil to provide the dry year reserve.

We now have a government that subscribes to the unfounded belief that man-made CO2 causes dangerous global warming. It also believes that if New Zealand makes massively expensive efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases the rest of the world will follow our lead and climatic disaster will be averted. Dream on!

Never mind that the IPCC climate models show that if everyone abided by their Paris agreement promises – so far, nobody has – and keeps it up until the end of the century, the world will be cooler by 0.17° – which you can’t even measure! The whole thing is an exercise in futility.

Without Huntly power station there no short-term options for keeping the lights on in a dry year. As this winter demonstrated, the system is now close to its limits in a normal year. Transpower has already warned that the dry year risk is steadily increasing.

Many people believe that geothermal, hydro, wind and solar power can solve the dry year problem. Not so. Geothermal (which emits CO2) runs flat out day and night so it cannot provide extra energy when needed. Any new conventional hydropower stations would need massive storage which, inevitably, the Green Party would oppose. Wind power is of little use because it produces power only when the wind blows and not when it is needed. Solar power is even more useless because shortages occur in the autumn and early winter when the days are shorter.

Some people believe that batteries are the answer but they cannot store energy in a wet year and release it in a dry year because they self discharge by about 3% per month. Anyway, they are prohibitively expensive and have a life of less than 20 years.

Nuclear power could do the job but it is prohibitively expensive to have a nuclear power station sitting idle and only used every few years when there is a shortage risk.

In the short term, there is no alternative to keeping Huntly for dry year reserve with 1 million tons of coal available. In the longer term, gas storage would be an option but, as the government has injected huge uncertainties into the future of gas in New Zealand, no one would contemplate investing in it.

There is, however, one option left. It is to build a large dam in the hills above Roxburgh Hydro station to store the huge amount of water needed by a pumped storage scheme that could get us through a dry year. 

Preliminary investigations indicate that it will be much thismore expensive than storing coal or gas. Engineering studies RMA approval and construction would probably take 15 - 20 years. By that time, the world is likely to have cooled and it will suddenly be fashionable to burn fossil fuels to raise carbon dioxide levels to warm the climate and make up for the shortfall in plant growth!

At the moment, the only options are to continue to burn coal or suffer rotating blackouts.

"Things you know that ain’t so" is a regular column by Bryan Leyland exposing the truth behind popular misconceptions. 

1 comment:

Brian said...

abour and Greens.... The new Luddites.
They say that History repeats itself ...more likely it is a failure of humans that they continue to repeat the past.
Bryan Leyland has hit the bull’s eye, on just how stupid is this whole Climate Change confidence scare trick has become; when only one side of the argument is perpetrated upon a gullible public, and any opposition is muted. In other words the State has decided, and that is good enough for you the ignorant public.
A case of how right the Nazi propaganda Minister Goebbels was when he stated “Tell it long enough and often enough, and they will believe it “!
Lack of Basic Load Power will doom this country and promote shortages if we continue to think these expensive and unreliable renewable ie the Sun and Wind can fit the bill. One has only to look across the Tasman to the State Governments of Victoria and South Australia to see the huge damage done to their economy, when ideology overrides practicalities. The destruction of existing coal fired power stations in those States has induced a critical shortage of electricity, resulting in older people unable to pay their power bills!. Not to mention that these two States have to purchase load power from Queensland to fill the gap
President Trump has shown the way by walking away from the United Nations Paris Agreement; an agreement flawed by the fact that both China and India are using fossil fuels at an increasing rate. Add this, to the natural output of active and reactive Volcanoes around the globe, and any emission savings are minimal by Australia & New Zealand. This is a case of self denial and heavy cost for no benefit to the planet whatsoever and make us all victims of a political ideology.
Our present emissions policies are simply a vehicle for the Greens and the Labour Left, in order to support World dominance by the United Nations. Our emissions taxes are in fact, just another TAX hoisted upon us to gain political honours and favours for our politicians.
Oliver Cromwell Addressing the Rump Parliament in 1653.
Also quoted to Neville Chamberlain by Leo Amery in the House of Commons 7th May 1940.