What happens when you take the work of energy production and management away from the experts and power companies, and transfer it to government bureaucrats and environmental ideologues who surround themselves with clueless media cheerleaders?
Guenter Keil tells us here at Science Skeptical.
In a nutshell, it’s like taking a country’s central bank and putting it into the hands of communists – i.e. it gets run into the ground in short order.
Late last October in the German state of Brandenburg (East Germany), German television and print media were all present and enthusiastically cheered as State Minister Matthias Platzeck put “the world’s first” wind-driven hydrogen hybrid power plant officially into operation. Hooray, everyone cheered and patted each other on the back – we’re rescuing the planet!
“…the entire big problem of renewable energy sources is solved,” proclaimed German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung!
Werner Diwald Chairman of operating company Enertrag AG, which no doubt is getting subsidized up the wazoo for this, proclaimed:
It’s more than a project; it’s the cornerstone of the energy transformation.”
Brandenburg’s Minister Matthias Platzeck (Socialist Party) added that environmentally the plant is “a huge step forward”.
So just what is this marvel of German green engineering: the hydrogen-hybrid plant? How does it work?
Science Skeptical tells us. Electricity produced by wind parks is used to produce hydrogen gas whenever the wind power is not needed. This hydrogen is then stored and used later when needed to drive a gas turbine, which powers an electric generator, which in turn produces electricity. What a clever and elegant solution! At least that’s what the media, politicians and some environmentalists think.
Now let’s return to reality. It only takes a freshman engineering student to explain the utter folly of this system. Breaking it down in steps we have: wind > wind turbine rotor > wind generator > AC electricity > DC electricity > electrolysis > hydrogen > pump/storage vessel > gas turbine > generator > AC electricity > transmission lines > consumer. That’s a long chain of energy transformation steps. Unfortunately though, each step involves LOSSES.
Of course, none of the media, politcians or greens even bothered to calculate the efficiency and cost of this system. But thankfully Keil has, and reached a grand efficiency of 19%, meaning 81% of the energy is lost as heat into the atmosphere. According to Keil with such a system electricity will end up costing the consumer over $1.00 per kwh. And if the hydrid system uses solar panels to provide the primary energy, then the cost rises to over $1.20/kwh.
Conclusion: when bureaucrats and other energy engineering morons take over the management of energy, you get a system that is hardly more efficient than the Greek government.
Finally the Süddeutsche Zeitung quotes GDR physicist and now current Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel, who led the project’s groundbreaking ceremony in 2009:
We are going to learn something from this power plant.”
Indeed we will.
For those of you who may have forgotten, here’s yet another government-run energy engineering marvel (again from East Germany): click here!
15 responses to “Green Energy Management Buffoons Put “First-Ever Wind-Hybrid Plant” Online – Reach Whopping 1915 Efficiency!”
Only if they are willing to learn.
Keil says the electrolysis itself has 75% efficiency; most losses occur in his computation when the H2 is used in a gas motor to produce electricity. According to
it looks like 75% is realistic for high pressure electrolysis.
I’m impressed, that’s much better than what I thought. Now if you use the H2 to produce Methane and use it as fuel for vehicles you might have a viable product under the assumption that the excess wind energy is free insofar as it cannot be put to any other use due to a lack of load, of transmission lines, and of other storages.
So, using it as source for car fuel (CNG powered cars) makes sense; using it as electricity storage not so much.
Oh, Keil himself has noticed it as well:
“Eine weniger unsinnige Alternative zu dieser Anlage wäre ihre Halbierung: Die Beschränkung auf die Wasserstoffproduktion aus Windstrom und die Vermarktung des Gases als Brennstoff oder Chemierohstoff. ”
“A less nonsensical alternative to this installation would be half of it: Sticking to production of H2 from wind energy and marketing the gas as fuel or raw material.”
Yes Dirk, “the excess wind energy is free insofar as it cannot be put to any other use”. It was produced at considerable expense but it is nearly useless. You can spend a lot more money trying to develop new technology to make it useful. Germany has a lot of excess wealth that needs to be disposed of.
Or, you could take down the windmill and sell it to B. Obama or Dalton McGuinty and build a power plant that actually produces usable output.
The 75% electrolysis efficiency was just a projection made in 2005 . One can safely assume it did not work as the project ended in 2007 with no announcement. Also equipment cost was thought to be prohibitive beyond 500 psi. Hydrogen is very light and does not easily liquefy so extreme pressure is needed to store any significant mass of fuel. Unless you know of someone with with this high pressure electrolysis in production it is just another green wet dream. Lots of extravagant claims are made to get research funding.
I took the 75% mentioned in that project as a ballpark figure… But I find this:
energy effi ciency, defi ned as the higher heating value
(HHV) of hydrogen divided by the energy consumed by
the electrolysis system (“system” includes electrolyzer,
rectifi er, and auxiliaries) per kilogram of hydrogen
produced, ranges from 56% for Proton’s proton exchange
membrane (PEM) process to 73% for Stuart’s and Norsk
Hydro’s bipolar alkaline systems.”
Hope the link works; it’s a rather interesting report by NREL.
“Analysis of Current-Day Commercial Electrolyzers”
bit.ly thinks my link points to malware… which it doesn’t. (Or is bit.ly convinced that the Green economy is a bad idea? ;-))
Here’s a direct link:
Actually, if the idiots would ditch that stupid internal combustion generator for a fuel cell setup, it might be something. Also, a process adjustment to only have the stored hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cell use and the silly windmill to power the electrolysis system and gas cooling/compressing.
Gas compressing is the killer, unless there is a direct drive to the cryo unit… yep, the efficiency will be less than 20% even with a high end fuel-cell (CHP 85-90%).
Yet another green dream… solar2hydrogen next? 😉
O/T: This looks like the main page under which Der Spiegel will publish its reports from Durban.
German enviro minister Röttgen wants an equal CO2 ration for the life of each human.
(Goes to show that even our “conservative” party is clinically insane.)
Today in my newspaper an opinion piece by a green politician. He sincerely hopes that Durban will be a success, although the chances are quite small. But it has to succeed, he wrote, because there is no alternative. Apparently, he cannot imagine that stopping is an alternative.
Indeed. They ought to be fined for governing under the influence of green alcohol – and be taken away from the levers of power (if only there was someone else fit enough to take their place).
Or we can burn electric vehicles (with windmills it’s not easy to get close enough to the blaze to keep warm):
– a) what about the CO2 footprint of these merry fireworks?
– b) are they perhaps aiming to market them to trendy Berliners? Burning cars are coolest craze over there…
Double fun when it’s raining. Lithium + Water = Explosions. Oh, and added bonus: when the liquid electrolyte used is LiPF6, you might get HF on contact with water!
Flames, explosions and acidic fumes! triple fun!