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Thread: Potential Pentland Firth Electricity by Bill Mowat

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    Default Potential Pentland Firth Electricity by Bill Mowat

    This article 'Potential Pentland Firth Electricity' generation was commissioned by the Energy Institute; it appears in this month's edition of its magazine aimed mainly at the renewables sector called 'Energy World' ; its monthly 'Petroleum Review' covers international oil and gas matters.

    Bill Mowat has forwarded his recently published article to stimulate a debate on the issue here on the web site. He will be taking note of what is said.

    Read the article http://www.caithness-business.co.uk/article.php?id=910 and then return to make comments or add your ideas on how the Pentland Firth might be used to transform Caithness and bring a huge new source of energy into Caithness and Scotland.

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    I'm all for green energy, especially anything that does away with our dependency on fossil fuels, however I really don't see it happening. In the report it says, "Nor will it be cheap; capital costs in the early demonstration phases will be relatively high, although partially balanced by free, everlasting, fuel".

    It was before my time but wasn't cheap/free electricity one of the benefits of having Scottish Hydro and Dounreay on our doorstep? Apart from the green aspect, why should the public believe this time it will be different?
    Last edited by joxville; 08-Jun-08 at 10:44. Reason: Because I wanted too-it's my post.

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    One of the biggest technical hurdles to overcome with tidal energy is its intermittent supply as the tide changes direction twice each day. This is a huge surge and shortfall in terms of supplying a baseload source of electricity on our weak grid system up here. The only way to control it would be to turn off some of the turbines.

    So we need a source of energy up here that will match the peak and troughs of supply of the tidal enrgy, windfarms can't do that all the time as they are irregularly intermittent and they won't always be operating at their peak at low flow of the Firth. A new nuclear build up here where we still retain nuclear related skills could be operated in such a way, or even a gas powered power station.

    An alternative idea would be to bring large electricity users to Caithness which could use the energy when the tide and wind is at their peak. This would bring much needed jobs to the area and provide a good political framework for the installation of renewable energies where currently little exists.

    One thing that I found puzzling was the terms 'Saudi Arabia of renewables' or 'Holy Grail of renewables'. The plan is to build 1500MW of capacity by 2020 and possibility of 10,000MW, since tidal turbines only produce around a third of their capacity during service then I find the expectation a little higher than the reality of it, ie, it can only replace a third of a modern power station by 2020 and equilavent to 3 power stations at saturation. A modest contribution to the UK's targets but large enough to warrant a full upgrade to the grid from JoG to the south.
    Last edited by Rheghead; 08-Jun-08 at 11:30.
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    "It was before my time but wasn't cheap/free electricity one of the benefits of having Scottish Hydro and Dounreay on our doorstep?"
    Hmm im old enough to have been promised cheap electricity from the experimental peat burning station at Braehour and that didnt happen either

    Good post Rheghead

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    Quote Originally Posted by joxville View Post
    I'm all for green energy, especially anything that does away with our dependency on fossil fuels, however I really don't see it happening. In the report it says, "Nor will it be cheap; capital costs in the early demonstration phases will be relatively high, although partially balanced by free, everlasting, fuel".

    It was before my time but wasn't cheap/free electricity one of the benefits of having Scottish Hydro and Dounreay on our doorstep? Apart from the green aspect, why should the public believe this time it will be different?
    I think you are confusing free electricity that was talked about when I was at school with Bill Mowat's reference to free fuel. The fact that the power source is free is not the same as saying it will make free electricity. Undoubtedly due to the extremely high capital investment required this will be passed on to end users unless the government intervenes with a subsidy.

    As we are now witnessing as all energy prices soar the high cost of marine energy is beginning to look much more attractive albeit that until serious investment and research begins we do not know the true cost. Can we sit back and not seriously look at the potential advantages either in the near future (say 10 - 15 years depending on the investment) and the distant future when the oil begins to run out (say 40 - 50 years) or it becomes prohibitively expensive (say twice the price it already is now).

    We hear a lot of talk about marine energy but how far off is the prospect of real electricity in quantity coming ashore and can we speed it up if it really has potential. Should we do it no matter what the cost as a hedge against all other fuels sources outwith our control continuing to spiral upwards?

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    Once again we are looking to a source of energy which is intermittent. Just as wind factories are unreliable due to their reliance on wind so this form is governed by the tides. So a back up is needed. Why not just save all the millions or even billions that will be poured into developing this type of energy and use it on something which is reliable and established - nuclear power. They are probably going to have build new nuclear power stations anyway to supplement/replace the existing ones.

    Let's stop messing around pretending we are green and put the money where it is going to be useful.
    Is the population figure of 26,000 for Caithness correct? If so surely the existing wind factories can supply that and more? So why is the power being sent south with all its problems of transmission loss. Why is it not being used locally?

    The only way you will get "large electricity users" is to improve the road and/or rail network north of Edinburgh. Traffic using the A9 at the moment has to endure the single/dual/single/dual/single carriageway games up to Inverness and then the much improved but still room for improvement roads north of that.

    And does Caithness want to be turned into a huge industrial estate in order to justify the drive to cover it with wind factories or anothe form of "green" energy? Then you have the costs of transporting whatever your product is back south. Or are you going to ask for a container port ala Felixstowe to get the goods distributed? Then maybe an airport expansion to rival Heathrow for cargo flights. Opps then you have the global warming issues of increased air travel.

    Vicious circle anyone?...

    How far are you willing to go? When will you decide that enough is enough? When Caithness just looks like some dark satanic mill? You (Rheghead) asked in the Orkney flag thread how to attract visitors back into Caithness rather than just having the county as some transit point onto the glories of Orkney? I can assure you that building up Caithness as the place to bring big industry will not bring tourists - they will just close their eyes as they drive through.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MadPict View Post
    I can assure you that building up Caithness as the place to bring big industry will not bring tourists - they will just close their eyes as they drive through.
    As far as I know, Anglesey has the largest Aluminium smelters in the UK which if they relocated north would be ideally suited to the energy supplied by a Pentland Firth tidal scheme. They already regularly help with the balancing of the national grid by reducing their drain from the grid as and when the supply is low.

    I can bet your bottom dollar that visitors are not put off by Anglesey's industrial landscape...

    As for transport's contribution to global warming, that is a fair point that needs explanation of the way we intelligently use our energy resources. Aluminium smelting requires 250 gigajoules per tonne to produce, compare this to wood at less than 1 giga joules per tonne. No one would bat an eyelid at the environmental cost of transporting wood out of the county. But since aluminium is so energy hungry, it makes good environmental sense to produce it from a renewable energy source and use a modest amount of fossil fuels to transport it.
    Last edited by Rheghead; 08-Jun-08 at 12:01.
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    Can you prove that Anglesey has a higher level of tourism after the smelters were established? And, if this is what you are suggesting, why move an industry from one remote area to an even remoter area just to justify the building of yet more wind factories?

    Caithness needs to build on the fact that it is one of the UK's last remaining wildernesses and attract the tourists that way. With the drive to build on anything green there will soon be hardly a single place in this country where you can get away from urbanisation. Caithness is too far north to be considered for a new town (with a population of 26,000 you could all live in one town!) so improved rail links might just attract the poor old townies up for a breath for fresh air and maybe encourage them to spend a few quid locally.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MadPict View Post
    Can you prove that Anglesey has a higher level of tourism after the smelters were established? And, if this is what you are suggesting, why move an industry from one remote area to an even remoter area just to justify the building of yet more wind factories?
    Unnecessary diversion from the debate about the renewable energy schemes.

    Quote Originally Posted by MadPict View Post
    Caithness needs to build on the fact that it is one of the UK's last remaining wildernesses and attract the tourists that way. With the drive to build on anything green there will soon be hardly a single place in this country where you can get away from urbanisation.
    Wilderness? Which parts are wilderness? Not where windfarms are going anyway. But surely you are not proposing to send endless flocks of tourists into the wilderness. A good way to get rid of it imho.
    Last edited by Rheghead; 08-Jun-08 at 12:15.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Fernie View Post
    I think you are confusing free electricity that was talked about when I was at school with Bill Mowat's reference to free fuel. The fact that the power source is free is not the same as saying it will make free electricity. Undoubtedly due to the extremely high capital investment required this will be passed on to end users unless the government intervenes with a subsidy.

    As we are now witnessing as all energy prices soar the high cost of marine energy is beginning to look much more attractive albeit that until serious investment and research begins we do not know the true cost. Can we sit back and not seriously look at the potential advantages either in the near future (say 10 - 15 years depending on the investment) and the distant future when the oil begins to run out (say 40 - 50 years) or it becomes prohibitively expensive (say twice the price it already is now).

    We hear a lot of talk about marine energy but how far off is the prospect of real electricity in quantity coming ashore and can we speed it up if it really has potential. Should we do it no matter what the cost as a hedge against all other fuels sources outwith our control continuing to spiral upwards?
    Thanks for that Bill, I should have read it properly.
    Oh well, the thought of free electricity was nice, yet another bubble burst.

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    One answer given in response to the question of a new nuclear build at Dounreay was that the National grid or "Super grid" does not come any further north that Torness on the east and Hunterston on the west both in the south of Scotland.

    The 275Kv line we have from the south to Dounreay were "not suitable" for large i.e. more than 1000MW generators as the losses would be large over the distance involved.

    If itís not suitable, then how are we to get the power from the firth to the south...? Caithness already generates more electrical power (via wind) than it uses.

    Sounds like its going to be used to heat the power lines between the north and south

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    I watched a programme recently about the UK atomic power industry and the switching on of one (Calder Hall by the Queen IIRC) in the 50's - a big point was made about how cheap the electricty was to produce, that they could give it away.
    Maybe this is why there is an 'urban myth' about nuclear electric being cheap?

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    The ramblings go on..

    Tidal, and wave to complete marine renewables is a long way off. Offshore wind is being developed at an extraordinary rate however the demand is not met with supply, with turbine lead time around 24 months for very large orders at best.

    Marine has a large array of potential devices, very few are scaled to working size and even fewer have any amount of operating hours and experience behind them. At best the 15 year old technology of Wavegen and MCT are only know seeing grid connections with commercial implications. Of course with knowledge and experience, build time, manufacturing costs and O&M costs will reduce but this is all a long way off for the scale of development speculated to match the output required.

    Then the grid infrastructure needs upgrading and that opens a whole new can of worms, DC sub sea or buried on land or AC HV overhead. Well seeing The Logan's in Perthshire dont worry about jobs income, or where their electricity comes from.

    Anyway back to the plot, it was a good article, one thing will happen if we the consumer, developer, industry and public continue to debate and talk the talk rather than getting on with it is the same as what happened to the wind industry back in the 80's. UK was the leading developer. At that time government incentive wasnt there so it dwindled and was picked up by the Danes and the Dutch. Now they are world leaders (along with Germany, India, US) in that industry. Lost opportunity

    The UK has Oil & Gas industry knowledge, offshore ability, electricity generation experience and an immense ability to create. It's just a bit stunted by lack of investment, incentive and too much talk.

    I reckon Nuclear is going to be developed in the southern UK, by overseas companies, technology and finance, but its a long way off with its own string of issues. One thing is for sure, Scotland has traditionally been an exporter of electricity, Nuclear generated electricity will only be sent up the lines to the demand centres.

    This county could really pick up a lot of opportunity here.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MadPict View Post
    I watched a programme recently about the UK atomic power industry and the switching on of one (Calder Hall by the Queen IIRC) in the 50's - a big point was made about how cheap the electricty was to produce, that they could give it away.
    Maybe this is why there is an 'urban myth' about nuclear electric being cheap?
    I was of the understanding that the true cost of Nuclear hadn't, or couldn't be calculated due to the unkown costs of commissioning, please correct me or let me know what the development through to decommissioning costs are?

    Also the standard £/MWh figure was always unrealistically low due to must take contracts and the B.E share issues seen in the 90's.

    It's difficult to compare apples and pairs of generation, but it would be nice to see list of costs that have had market or government incentives removed.
    When the white man discovered this country Indians were running it.
    No taxes, no debt, women did all the work.
    White man thought he could improve on a system like this.
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    A handy link for anyone who wants to know more.

    http://www.tocardo.com/?Projects:Mas...re-Feasibility
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    The "free electricity" aspect was in the old news reels - obviously wasn't ever going to be free.

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    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environmen...rpower.finland

    The secord coming .this gives some figures
    Was there not a programme on Eorpa about this??
    One of things mentioned here is the generation time lost when the tide is about to turn (slack water) well it doesnt happen at the same time in the Pentland Firth so depending on type/how many devices are used then this could be kept to a minimum I would think
    Only an idea and no further comment as I dont know enough about it
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rheghead View Post
    A handy link for anyone who wants to know more.

    http://www.tocardo.com/?Projects:Mas...re-Feasibility
    Sorry Rheghead, have read it, to be taken with a large pinch of salt.
    When the white man discovered this country Indians were running it.
    No taxes, no debt, women did all the work.
    White man thought he could improve on a system like this.
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    Quote Originally Posted by the second coming View Post
    Sorry Rheghead, have read it, to be taken with a large pinch of salt.
    Why do you take it with a pinch of salt? Presumably you have some credentials to say why?
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    Default connection to grid

    How will all this electricity be transmitted to those industrial centres where it can be used? Will there be a cable on seabed or pylons across the land?

    I really hope this plan will work. But I can also see the rewards flowing out of the area along with the electricity. Where is the vision to develop the infrastructure and supply base in Caithness? Aberdeen is already positioning itself to service this proposal.

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