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Very funny

Britain has started burning coal to generate electricity for the first time in a month and a half, after the heatwave made solar panels too hot to work efficiently.

One unit at Uniper’s Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal power plant in Nottinghamshire started producing electricity for the first time in weeks on Monday morning, while another coal-powered plant was warmed up in case it was needed by the early afternoon.

The National Grid turned to coal to generate electricity as a rush to turn on air conditioning and fans across the country during the heatwave led to a spike in demand.

I am deeply unconvinced that there’s enough air conditioning in the UK to make much difference. The solar panels installed (because of course you can install them to operate efficiently in different temperature ranges) start to fail in moderate summer weather? Sure, I can believe that.

24 thoughts on “Very funny”

  1. It’s mad to pay for a perfectly good power unit to sit idle, but in readiness to be turned on at short notice.

  2. I am deeply unconvinced that there’s enough air conditioning in the UK to make much difference.

    I’m not sure about that. Sure, there spike from aircon and fans won’t be massive, but the grid is so stretched that it won’t take much to upset it. Last winter we were not only burning coal but buying power from Europe at staggering rates.

    Energy policy is another colossal cock-up by the omniparty which has been in office since Her Thatchness was deposed.

  3. Surely not rocket surgery to cool the solar panels with air or water.
    Maybe just put them under a big shade. Or indoors.

  4. We’re in the UK at the moment. I haven’t come across too much aircon so far. At my mum’s house I sit next to a Dyson fan. We went into a bank yesterday which had the aircon on. I said to the greeter that we might come back later with a picnic.

  5. The problem isn’t people turning on domestic air conditioning. That’s negligible. The problem is all the commercial units are having to work a lot harder. Keeping 21C indoors when it’s 23C out takes a negligible amount of energy: doing the same when it’s 33C out will take at least 6x as much — more if there’s any heat gain from outside, which is likely.

  6. It’s far from linear, Matt. You have to take into consideration not only the range of temperature of what you’re trying to cool but also the range at the heat exchanger outside, where you’re trying to dump the heat. At 23°, you’re trying to dump 2° outside to get 21° internal. At 33°, you’re trying to dump 12° to reduce to 21°. But the heat exchanger outside is trying to dump into 33°. In other words, the difference in temperature between the hot end of the heat exchanger circuit & ambient air is 10° less. So everything has work a lot harder. The relationship is more logarithmic. The end point of the curve is where the ambient air is the same temperature as the hot end of the heat exchanger & you no cooling for any energy expenditure.
    It works the other way round using an aircon as a heat pump. The colder it is outside, the more energy is required to extract heat.

  7. It’s why they’re trying to talk you into lower home thermostat settings in advance of forcing you onto heat pumps. A few degrees makes a great deal of difference. Trying to heat houses at current preferred temperatures would use a LOT more electricity.

  8. Its all nonsense

    The real reason is we have a sustained period of fine weather with light winds so the bird shredders are not producing adequate supplies

    Who would have thought it

  9. Some doctor or other once said “there are two kinds of medicine – that which works and that which doesn’t.
    In my humble, there are two types of fuels, that which works and renewables.

    Apparently, the Norway interconnector has gone wonky too.

  10. Tradingeconomics recently reported a rise in European gas prices – they said “Gas shipments from the US are becoming scarcer as the supply is funneled to Asia, where prices are more competitive in the summer months due to stronger demand for cooling.”

  11. Solar Cell Scientist

    The story is nonsense. Solar cell efficiency drops off slightly at higher temperatures, but that’s insignificant. The wind dropped, and demand is higher on a Monday than a Sunday, air-conditioned offices being a factor. Almost all the replacement supply came from gas.

  12. The solar panels … start to fail in moderate summer weather?

    Solar panels are semiconductor devices so they have a negative temperature coefficient. As they get warmer the output voltage falls. Seems to be about -0.5% per oC. And I guess they can get quite hot, being out in the sun ‘n all 😉

  13. I’m waiting for the fun when they discover solar panels don’t work at night either, or in the winter rain, or when buried in snow.

    Who needs lighting or heating of a winter evening?

    And when the blackouts start….how to do a black start with no coal power stations….Oh, we hadn’t thought of that.

  14. At least the UK still has some coal burners. You need to keep them ready to go.

    Of course DocBud is right. This is damn expensive. So the solution is to scrap all those solar panels and windmills.

  15. Something not right about this story. The solar panels in my area only lose a few percent when they heat up. If this were true and solar panels were useless above 35C, the thousands of acres of them in the Mojave desert would be useless for half the year. Where are they getting these panels from anyway?

  16. @Mohave Greenie

    Indeed, the supposed temperature degradation of solar panels is just a red herring.
    They dare not admit that the underlying problem is there hasn’t been any wind for a few weeks – and the Norway Connector is down.
    The power system is now so marginal that one outage and it’s in trouble. Thank heavens it’s summer, and so no one is freezing to death. This time.

  17. ” the underlying problem is there hasn’t been any wind for a few weeks”

    Thats not true, we’ve had fairly brisk and consistent (for the summer) breezes from the east and north east for about 2 weeks now. I should know, I’ve been waiting for a drop in wind speed for ages to get some spraying done, and Sunday just gone was the first day I could safely get it done for more than a fortnight.

  18. Earlier today I found that wind was producing 13% of our electricity needs. Compared with 14% which we had to import, no doubt at considerable cost.

  19. Bloke in North Dorset

    “ At 23°, you’re trying to dump 2° outside to get 21° internal. At 33°, you’re trying to dump 12° to reduce to 21°.”

    Some of the worst summer colds I’ve had were during a posting tomCyprus when I was in and out of air conditioned rooms.

    Keeping an office at 21° when it’s 30°+ outside is madness. Women in particular find it hard and you’ll even see men putting jackets back on when they go inside. Let the temperature rise a few degrees, if someone can’t work efficiently at 23° or 24° there’s something wrong.

  20. @Jim
    A simplification, yes. But looking at Gridwatch, the power from wind has been bumping along the minimum level for weeks, not the 10-15GW it needs to be to make up for all the dynamited power stations. 8th to 10th June, it did briefly recover, then back down again. Managing a high of 5GW at present, so that’s 10 power stations missing.

  21. The much-maligned Jimmeh Carter got an earful of abuse when he suggested that instead of heating rooms in winter to 75F and cooling them in summer to 70F, it might be more sensible to reverse the figures.

    (My 75 and 70 are only illustrative: does anyone know what temperatures Americans tended to set their thermostats to?)

  22. dearimne, I saw an article a few weeks ago that a US energy company (in Texas I think) unilaterally adjusted the thermometers downwards on their customers smart meters to save energy.

    Also, I believe they are going to turn off the radio signal to UK Economy 7 white meters next year, so no cheap(er) night rate…….

  23. Dearieme: “ (My 75 and 70 are only illustrative: does anyone know what temperatures Americans tended to set their thermostats to?)”

    Well, in my experience, don’t go to a movie theatre in summer in the US without a thick sweater.
    I also recall a hot, humid early evening in New Jersey waiting for a bus to Manhattan. It was well north of 40°C. The bus arrived and I stepped into a walk in fridge. The relief from the temperature gradient lasted for about 2 minutes and I spent the next hour shivering until we got to the terminal in midtown.

    US aircon can be brutal.

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