saddletramp, finley and bookmark - thanks for the reply. I may have a question that I’ll send via PM in the next day or two if that’s ok.
[quote=“Abacus”]I’m not sure it’s a cost effective solution to transport electricity across significant oceanic distances (Penghu to Taiwan). Are there any worldwide examples of deep ocean energy transmission? I do find it hard to believe that the losses would be 3-5% although I haven’t studied typical transmission losses.
But if Taiwan is going to use wind energy then it needs to be on the scale that the US has finally started installing. California has two big valleys (among several others) where they are/have installed 300-500 turbines. And MN and IA (my home) has numerous windfarms going up with 100+ turbines. The key however is using the latest tech turbines which I think are 1-2MW for land (2-3MW offshore). And it is worth mentioning that in MN they also build a natural gas plant near the wind farms that can be used on low wind or peak demand times. But it is typically unused AFAIK.
But is it even possible to build offshore turbines in Taiwan? IIRC the east coast is pretty much a vertical dropoff in most spots so I don’t think it’s an option. but I’m not sure about the west coast. But imo there are a lot of ugly industrial complexes all over the west coast so it’s not a horrible option imo. The other issue that I’m unsure about is the prospect of typhoon damage. There are a lot of typhoons in Taiwan and this is something that most wind turbines areas that I can think of don’t need to deal with. Are there any areas worldwide that regularly get hit by typhoons?
But I’m all for wind energy. I love it but if you’re going to do it then you have to really do it. several wind farms of 200+ 1+MW turbines. That’s what is required to start considering replacing nuclear or coal plants. Otherwise you’re just making a symbolic effort that solves nothing.[/quote]
I put the link to Taiwan Straits up already, if you checked that you would have got most of your answers already. The Taiwan Strait is a shallow sea (not ocean) dividing Taiwan and China that was actually land during the ice age.
Penghu is located only 60-100 km from the mainland of Taiwan. Ultimately it will not be the islands but the large area of the strait that will support massive wind farms, that’s my belief and you can see the trend already from Northern Europe. I also put up a link that indicated Penghu already has plans for 96 wind turbines approved. Between this wind energy and Chinese tourism I think Penghu is going to be rich…rich I tell ya! Actually I hope the place doesn’t change too much as most of it is pretty pristine still.
I doubt Typhoons are a major problem as the turbines can be engineered to deal with them, probably more important is the general maintenance in open water and dealing with effects of salinity.
Here is a link showing turbine designs at different depths, deep water turbines are still under development.
offshorewind.net/Other_Pages/Tur … tions.html
As for transmission problems anybody who was here during the 921 earthquake would know that the island pumps (or at least did) much of it’s electricity 100s of kms from the Southern/Central areas to the North , that link was broken and there were rolling blackouts at the time.
Anyone still want to criticise the practicality of siting a wind farm in Penghu, possibly the windiest place in the Northern Hemisphere?
lonelyplanet.com/taiwan/taiw … nds/penghu
There are areas where solar/wind farms could go up in South West and Mid West Taiwan which is lacking water and where the environment has been degraded, they have problems with salinity and water table dropping and it is hard to grow anything of substance, I guess a mix of both solar/wind on the same land might be ideal. It may make more sense for ‘food farmers’ to become ‘energy farmers’ in such marginal areas and in a country that is resource poor but hungry for energy.
I’d love to get some sort of wind turbine for my house, but I think that it would look ugly and is probably really silly money. But then I read this article on the Economist which mentions a company that are doing some nice looking wind turbines.
Good grief, man, you’re in the PV industry and this is the first time you’ve heard of subsidies and political support for conventional energy? Do they keep you locked in a cabinet at the office after working hours? I know this is Taiwan, but I think there are rules about that.
Where to start … to be honest, you just need do some googling because it varies from country to country and year to year; also, there are considerable subtleties that can’t be explained in a few sentences (e.g., externalities which we pay for indirectly). Sometimes the subsidy is targeted at consumers, sometimes at producers. Just a few examples:
In some oil-rich countries, such as Venezuela and Iran, fuel is virtually given away for free. In Malaysia and Indonesia, and most Gulf states, it is subsidised to a silly price - effectively, about $0.01/MJ(th), or $0.03/kWh. At that level, even small diesel/petrol generators become economically viable (with an effective electricity price <US$0.10/kWh).
A while ago we had a meeting with some execs at a well-known Taiwanese industrial conglomerate who make electricity meters for Taipower, with a view to co-operating on smart-metering technology. They told me that Taipower wouldn’t be interested in the kind of technology we were offering because it was much too expensive. Apparently, Taipower makes an annual loss each and every year and is continually bailed out by the government. The reason is that the government controls tariffs (by what exact mechanism, I didn’t enquire) and Taipower are selling electricity below the cost of production, and have been doing so for many years.
In the UK, the companies pumping North Sea oil and gas recently met with the government to decide their taxation levels. That’s correct: the oil industry negotiates its own tax rate (can you imagine the solar industry attempting that?). The reason for this round of negotiations is that the ‘easy’ fields are already depleted and only the more difficult ones remain. The industry’s argument is that they need tax breaks in order to fund expansion into these otherwise-uneconomic areas.
According to Greenpeace (yes, possibly biased - check for yourself) Australian subsidies by sector are: Oil A$7.4 billion, Coal A$1.7 billion, Gas A$377 million, and Renewables … $326 million. Renewables support represents 3% of the total subsidy budget.
As an example of a more subtle bias towards conventional sources, consider the way electricity is billed. It’s basically tuned to the way conventional sources operate: power plants are most economically operated at close-to-full-power, 24-7. So electricity gets cheaper at times of low demand and more expensive at peak-usage times. But solar (for example) simply doesn’t work that way, so it’s not economically possible to derive more than 10-20% of your grid load from solar. If you wanted to run an entire country from solar, you’d have to use demand billing: prices would vary up and down throughout the day, and throughout the year, depending on how bright the sun is and how full the batteries are.
It isn’t true that solar needs subsidy. It struggles only because it is competing against government-sponsored monopolies and long-outdated rules and conventions. Take the example of Iran, which has one of the world’s biggest, sunniest, hottest deserts just 100km or so south of Tehran, receiving an average of 4.0-4.5 suns almost constantly throughout the year. It would be an ideal location for a solar-thermal (heliostat type) power plant, but Iran prefers a short-sighted policy of giving away its oil, which will eventually run out. The long-term approach would be to sell oil to foreigners at the maximum possible dollar amount (perhaps throttle back the fields until world prices rise) and use the proceeds to buy American solar technology (factories, intellectual property, equipment and personnel) which would keep Iran humming along quite nicely for centuries. Not going to happen, of course, especially while His Royal Littlewillyness is obsessed with nuclear gadgets.
Personally I don’t like these. They embody a lot of energy and materials and produce very little energy over their lifetime, so they’re really not “green” in any sense of the word. Only infrastructure-class turbines, properly sited and maintained, are really worthwhile - but then we’re back to politics again.
Here’s a little recap of one company’s experience here:
[quote]German power company Infra Vest GmbH yesterday signed an agreement with state-run Taiwan Sugar Corp (Taisugar, 台糖) to build the largest wind-powered electric plant in Taiwan.
“I hope the construction can begin as soon as possible – hopefully by the end of this year,” [Weilin] Ma [InfraVest general manager] said. “We’ve worked on this project for three years.”
Infra Vest came to Taiwan in 2000. The company proposed several wind-power projects to the government, but encountered a series of setbacks including land-obtainment, airspace security and ecological concerns, as well as competition from Taipower.
“I think Taiwan’s government needs to hurry up and formulate proper supporting measures and regulations to cater to the needs of this novel industry,” Ma added.[/quote]–Jessie Ho, “Infra Vest GmbH joins with Taisugar to harness the wind,” Taipei Times, July 9,
In 2009, the Legislature passed the Renewable Energy Development Act, but that didn’t seem to make InfraVest happy.
[quote]Data from Taipower shows that it pays an average of NT$2.38 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for wind-generated electricity, far below the NT$3.23 that wind energy operators say they need to break even.
The rate is also below what other countries pay to purchase wind-generated electricity. Germany pays an average of NT$4.1 per kWh, Spain NT$3.14 per kWh and Ontario, Canada, NT$4.04 per kWh.
Unhappy with the lack of government support for the industry, groups led by InfraVest Wind Power chairman Karl-Eugen Feifel protested outside the Executive Yuan last month. During the protest, Feifel said he was disappointed because the government’s energy policy showed that the country “had said ‘No’ to renewable energy.” [/quote]–Vincent Y. Chao “Renewable energy chokes on price,” Taipei Times, February 11,
[quote]German firm InfraVest Wind Power Co (英華威集團), Taiwan’s only private wind power generator, confirmed yesterday it was pulling out of the market because it “doesn’t have confidence” in the government’s push for renewable energy.
“It is ending now,” vice president Yuni Wang (王雲怡) said. “We are not putting more investment into Taiwan this year.”
Without further capital, the company will not build more wind farms or purchase wind turbines, she told the Taipei Times at her Taipei office, adding the company was in the middle of “dealing with” its existing equipment.[/quote]–Jason Tan, “InfraVest Wind Power to leave Taiwanese market” Taipei Times, February 26,
HeadhonchoII – however suitable Penghu might be for power generation, the windmills do seriously affect radar.
Windmills off Penghu will not happen. The existence of the PLA Air Force ensures this is so.
I would be quite happy to have wind turbines in my back yard or anywhere else, to parrot what another poster said they are marvels of modern engineering and look much better as modern sculptures than some of the crap being passed off as art.
Good grief, man, you’re in the PV industry and this is the first time you’ve heard of subsidies and political support for conventional energy? Do they keep you locked in a cabinet at the office after working hours? I know this is Taiwan, but I think there are rules about that.[/quote]
I am new to the field so my knowledge is not complete. While I knew governments set energy policies, I thought that prices I experienced in the US were generally market driven.
The projection of solar electricity costs in itself is not straightforward. I can’t imagine that estimating the influence of government policy/subsidies on conventional energy prices is any easier so I was hoping that there might be a particularly thorough study that convinced you of your position.
Googling naturally led me to differing and partially reasoned opinions. One study though seemed to indicate that subsidies in the US are not all that significant:
Does your claim that solar doesn’t need subsidies include some assumption of the cost of externalities with fossil fuels? Generally it takes more government involvement to correct for externalities though.
I think dollar amounts on subsidies do not in themselves admit a conclusion. For instance, if all energy sectors received a 5% tax break and that resulted in a $7.4 billion savings for oil and a $326 million savings for renewables simply because of a difference in revenue, that would not constitute an uneven playing field. Probably tax subsidies would come in a different form, but if the effective tax rate turned out the same, I think the same logic would allow you to call the subsidies they received equivalent.
Shouldn’t solar possess an advantage in the conventional billing system since it output correlates somewhat with demand?
Thanks for sharing your interesting thoughts and perspective. But as with many new ideas, I have more questions than answers right now.
[todo: insert wiseass comment here]
And the way they implement those policies is by manipulating the market, either with legislation or with taxes/subsidies. That would be OK, of course, if the policies had more to do with providing energy than doing favours for powerful subsections of their electorate.
Yeah … “not straightforward” pretty much sums it up. Any single study inevitably has its own starting assumptions, biases, and target audience; if you do enough reading, you’ll find out that “which is cheaper - solar or conventional?” is a question with no real meaning and no obvious answer. It’s the wrong question. A better phrasing might be “could we use solar to completely replace conventional sources, and if so, roughly how much would it cost us?”. When you do the sums, the answer comes out as “more or less the same as what we’re paying now, but with a lot less effort, and a lot less environmental impact”.
It’s useful to look at it that way because we’re assuming that the obsolete technologies - coal, gas, combustion engines - will sooner or later disappear. So why bother costing out something that you don’t intend to use? All that matters is that the replacement technology is easily affordable.
Sure, that’s the best you can hope for. Anyone attempting to bring all that together and explain it to the rest of us would need to be smarter than, say, Richard Feynmann and Murray Gell-Mann spliced together. You’ll just have to do your own metastudy in your own head.
In a way. It’s fairly easy to estimate the costs involved in producing and deploying PV panels; as long as mining and pollution laws are followed, they don’t really have any externalities. Oil? Where to even begin? How do you ‘cost’ a failed state such as Nigeria, where a messed-up culture meets unearned wealth? How do you put a price on the pollution the oil companies have caused in that country? How do you put a price on the lives affected or ended by particulate pollution (by some estimates, the death toll is as high as the death-by-car-accident rate). As I said, it’s far easier to stop trying to calculate such things; whatever it is in dollars and cents, we’re pretty sure it isn’t worth paying. So let’s focus on the cost of solar: is it ‘cheap’, or is it not? And can we deploy it without causing social and environmental strife on the scale caused by oil drilling?
It annoys me when people agonise endlessly over how new technologies compare with old ones. Often there is no valid comparison - because it’s new and completely different. Yet people try to fit the new thing into their mental model of the old thing, and end up tying themselves into all sorts of knots. I wonder if economists costed out the relative merits of gas mantles and electric lights all those years ago? I bet there were some serious bunfights over it.
You’re right, of course; but if they simply weren’t there, at least it would remove a major source of confusion.
No - the price signal should reflect the scarcity (or otherwise) of energy. The conventional billing model does the exact opposite of what’s required for solar. Currently, prices are high in the daytime (when people want to run aircon, as well as all the usual trappings of industry) and low at nighttime, when nobody really wants to use anything. There are entire industries which have sprung up around this perverse economic incentive to use off-peak energy; storage heaters, for example. Solar does indeed fit human activity far better: the cost is inherently low in the daytime (the power companies would have to give it away more-or-less for free at midday in summer) and inherently high at night (when it can only come from batteries, which are more expensive than PV panels). If the billing model accurately reflected that, people would naturally adapt their power usage to the capacity of the grid, and very little storage would be required. If electric vehicles were in widespread use, absorbing daytime surpluses, even less storage would be needed, reducing capital plant cost even further.
btw, if this seems off-topic, it really isn’t: you can substitute ‘wind power’ in all of the above and the argument still holds (more or less).
I have been reading Viz again