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!