Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
Electricity generation from biomass is well established, especially where the
waste heat can be utilised. It is generally run as base load plant. However, like new
nuclear generation, it is flexible and need not limit the scope for wind generation. It
is therefore a valuable low-carbon addition to the electrical energy mix, especially
if it can displace some coal generation.
Solar power from photovoltaic panels has become cheaper in recent years, and
is popular at domestic level. It is however doubtful if it could compete with com-
mercial wind power, let alone conventional generation, without substantial sub-
sidies. In temperate climates it is likely to be most productive at times of low
demand, and therefore tends to displace some wind generation. There may be a
better economic argument for solar energy in warmer climates where water heating
and air-conditioning load is better aligned with daylight hours.
Demand-side participation
To achieve a wind energy penetration approaching 30 per cent may be possible
with a 'natural' electricity demand pattern. To move beyond that level, there will
need to be a dramatic change in how we consume electricity. In particular, the base-
load demand needs to be bolstered, ideally when wind energy is plentiful. Thermal
storage provides an opportunity, especially refrigeration and electric heat pumps.
Owners should be incentivised by being offered a dynamic or real-time price for
electricity. This would be a retail version of the system marginal price (SMP),
perhaps including a locational element to reflect network congestion. The relevant
temperature set-point could be biased to encourage consumption when SMP is low,
saving energy (and money) when it is high. The commercial/industrial sector is
more likely to afford the necessary metering and intelligent control hardware
required than domestic consumers. However, the latter may benefit in time from
improved technology and better understanding of the benefits. Consumers should
be encouraged to select a trade-off between economy and comfort, promoting a
diverse response to SMP.
The commercial and industrial sectors are very sensitive to energy costs. These
sectors can be expected to invest increasingly in self-generation. Wind generation
may be justified if the demand pattern and wind regime are suitable. In many cases
stand-by diesel generation is available. A carbon tax might persuade some of these
larger consumers to off-set high peak-time electricity prices by generating with
biodiesel rather than fossil diesel. Low-carbon generation at times of high prices, or
peak shaving, provides an ideal counterpoise to wind energy.
Electric vehicles are now available from most major car manufacturers. While
they are an uncommon sight at the time of writing, their number may follow the
same trajectory in the coming decade as hybrid vehicles in the last. The prices need
to come down and ranges increase. Should that occur, overnight electric vehicle
charging will steadily boost night-time demand and provide a more stable market
for wind energy.
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