Senior Electrical Engineer questions political risk of Czisch type supergrid
Bernard is a senior electrical engineer and has sat on many generation industry committees. He writes:
“I unfortunately missed the House of Commons presentation. I think we all agree the we could overcome technical problems at a price. However how do we overcome the political risk ? In the coal, nuclear, oil and gas areas this is dealt with by storage and multi sourcing. I don’t know how we factor in the cost of occupying a country while alternative supplies are built – even if it were possible. Any comments”
Regarding political risk.
All turbines can be in EU not in dodgy foreign countries.
First of all, lets be clear, the Czisch concept / proposition is not built solely on the assumption that supplies coming from Egypt, Kazakhstan and so on as many people in this group seem to wrongly assume. The key point is that a supergrid be built linking up the EU states including Iceland and Norway. This has enormous technical and economic benefits for all power generation (but not the companies owning them – it introduces a free market which I am in full support of, but they are not), and will make the whole thing more efficient, by allowing plants to run smoothly, and lead to the obsolescing of numerous inefficient existing stations which will no longer be needed and a massive reduction in expensive spinning reserve and hot standby (- this is the key reason why there is no support form the big players – it will strand many of their assets and make it unnecessary to build a lot of the new coal plant they want to, irrespective of any renewables. Just as building the UK supergrid in 1930 made a lot of UK power stations redundant, and forced a lot of those local monopolies out of business.) However putting a lot of wind farms in far flung places is the cheapest way of getting power – but that is only one option!. If we don’t do it, and put all the turbines within EU proper, it costs a bit more, but not a lot. (Mark Barrett has already shown this)
Europe retains existing power stations
Naturally, we would retain, (not mothball) all existing fossil stations, since these can be kept idle, and ready to run in a matter of hours at very low cost ( as the majority already are idled for most of the year only being called in the winter months) Months of coal can be stocked in power stations, or just heaped up at rail heads, and weeks of gas is already stored in caverns in Europe. UK has a handy local store called the North Sea. Hence any sudden disruption can be handled without having to occupy any foreign countries by simply turning up our existing, paid for, power stations. (The National Grid and all other grids already have very well developed methods of coping with massive and sudden losses of power generation, whilst they are being ramped up – see :
http://tx1.fcomet.com/~claverto/cms/download/131/ this explains how the National Grid copes with these outages.
(This link is on the front page of the Claverton Site – bottom right, lower, “Diesel generators potential…………..” in case the above link doesn’t work) Or access it it through the LIBRARY and DOWNLOADING FILES, and ENGINES AND GAS TURBINES tabs )
Why would there be a political (governmental level ) risk?
We have been importing oil and gas from very problematic areas – Iraq, Iran, Saudi for years, and there has never been any disruption – even the Iranians and Saddam who both hate us, are only too keen to sell us the oil – they have never been able or wanted to shut the stuff off. Why on earth would any host country risk the funding of the elite’s Mercedes-Benz, private yachts, private jets etc by cutting of power since they immediatly start losing millions of dollars per day ? (The Czisch plan also costs in totally supplying the indigenous power demand they wouldn’t want to get the locals uppity either)
Why would there be a political (terrorist level ) risk?
If you look at the logistics, Czisch has allowed for duplication of each line, and there are several lines connecting each country – and several countries that could supply power – so to make any significant impact on EU supplies, assuming we went for the ex EU imports, would require the co ordinated blowing up of 50 or so pylons simultaneously in several different countries. But even this would be coped with by normal response mechanisms (http://tx1.fcomet.com/~claverto/cms/download/131 ) – ie automated load shedding, and Reserve Service whilst they were replaced.
(This link is on the front page of the Claverton Site – bottom right, lower, “Diesel generators potential…………..” in case the above link doesn’t work) Or access it it through the LIBRARY and DOWNLOADING FILES, and ENGINES AND GAS TURBINES tabs
Pylons can be stocked, pre erected and helicoptered in fully built for the line to be re erected in a matter of hours. The over load capacity of each bipole is double the standard load, so you can lose half the wires with no effect anyway. The Inga Shaba line is a 550 MW, 1500 km HVDC line built through an African war zone and is still fully functioning – ( no doubt the war lords conducting the war, which is ultimately about who grabs the minerals, were all bought off in some way by the people running the copper mine at one end, and the people running the Inga Dam at the other end) . Since the cost of the pylons and wires is only a small fraction of the cost, Czisch has shown you could duplicate it all again to provide an absurd level of security. The terrorists would find it much easier to take out in country grids in Europe, where they would be less conspicuous anyway, as you and I know. A terrorist threat is simply not credible technically.
The wires only go on way
Unlike oil and LNG which can go anywhere in ships, once built, the wires can only send power to, and receive money from, one destination.
What possible benefit can governments gain by threatening to turn the stuff off? They know we would just switch to our retained power stations whilst we got ready to invade them. They couldn’t threaten to flog the stuff elsewhere after all. All that would happen is they would lose money.
Political risk of not doing anything
As you know, things in many of the target countries are becoming so dire, that people daily risk there lives in leaky boats to get to Europe. As climate change, unemployment, population, and poverty kick in, the political risk of not doing anything to help these countries will rise. The do nothing scenario must factor in the cost of a chain of bunkers and machine guns / destroyers, or a preemptive invasion, to stop the mass invasion of starving people with nothing to lose. The supergrid gives them an indigenous industry building the stuff, employment, and a source of power to revitalise there economies.