Emotional thinking doesn’t benefit power reality
WE HAVE just passed mid-winter’s day, or more correctly in the southern hemisphere, mid-winter’s night, which for us in the south is the longest night of the year. In the Highveld, winters are rather pleasant, largely because there is no rain. In fact, mostly there are not even clouds. So our winter days generally have beautiful blue skies and beautiful sunlight. Of course, the sunlight is much weaker than during summer, because the sun is further away.
So as far as solar energy is concerned one would get noticeably less electricity out of a PV system in winter, although one could almost be guaranteed of solar power for about half a dozen hours a day.
In Pretoria something which is very noticeable at this time of the year is that the air is unbelievably still.
During numbers of early mornings and evenings the air here does not move at all.
I have a large window in my bedroom, and a glass sliding door in my lounge which each look out on to trees and shrubs.
At times I look out into the garden and notice that not a single leaf is moving on any tree or plant.
It looks amazing, just like a photograph. At times it looks quite unreal in that absolutely nothing moves.
So this time of the year is not good for wind power in Pretoria. In fact, Pretoria is not good for wind power at all, at any time.
Actually, mid-winter, when one needs heaters to warm the house, is not a good time for wind energy anywhere, because mid-winter and mid-summer are times when air movement is least. Wind mostly occurs at the changing of seasons, like in spring and autumn.
If you are thinking of using renewable energy based on solar and wind power, then one has to remember the limitations of their inherent characteristics.
In sunny South Africa solar is mostly available at lunch time, but not at breakfast or dinner.
You can’t watch any TV movies in the evening on solar power.
In the case of wind, you may or may not get it, much like playing poker.
Energy planning is complicated. It involves lots of mathematics, scientific variables and science principles. It is something for specialists to work on.
It is not something for a collective public vote based on the flawed science that the extreme greens project to the public.
I am all in favour of solar and wind energy, when it is genuinely economically viable.
So, to my mind the main challenge of using solar and wind energy is to find applications which fit in with the cyclical nature of solar, and the random nature of wind.
For example, considering places like De Aar and Upington, they should be linking solar plants to factories which need their man power for four hours over midday, and none at night when all the staff are at home.
Also what would be ideal is if the factory could use electricity at 12 or 24 Volts DC power and not at 220 or 380 V AC power. Electricity could then be used straight from the solar plant, without going through complex adaptors and transformers.
But converting the low voltage DC to high voltage AC to send electricity to Cape Town is not a good idea. Think about it.
We keep getting told by the anti-nuclear lobby that nuclear power will be incredibly expensive, no matter what all the experts tell you.
We are told that energy planners, who use complicated mathematics, and experts are all dishonest charlatans who are secretive.
We are told that the best energy planners are people like sociologists and retired bishops and Imams who do not use complicated mathematics, but rather chat during mutual bonding sessions.
Here is something else to think about: France produces three-quarters of its electricity from nuclear power, while Germany has had a major wind and solar programme going for decades now.
Right now Germany has three times the installed renewable electricity capacity of France’s nuclear capacity, yet produces more carbon dioxide than France. The nuclear power of France is stable.
The wind and solar power of Germany is unstable. In desperation Germany has started building coal-fired power stations again.
The first three new German coal stations are up and running with 20 more planned. Interesting that nobody is told about these.
We are also told silly things like it is wrong for Eskom to provide a service and also expect to run at a profit. They say: dump the profit motive and just use taxpayer’s money instead.
We are told that professional engineers at Eskom and other SOEs, who have signed professional ethics agreements, are actually a bunch of shysters who secretly plot to protect cash-cows like coal and nuclear while trying to sabotage wind and solar power.
It is murmured by them that the wind and solar has so far cost the massive sum of R250 billion in investment since 2010.
That is true. They murmur that foreign companies provided much of this money so that they can get a return on their investment. Also true! Remember, the investors want more money out than they put in, so they sign fixed high price 20 year contracts. What is not mentioned is that right now wind power costs Eskom between 5 and 7 times more than nuclear power from Koeberg.
With a dramatic arabesque on to centre stage they tell us that a twenty-year, highpriced wind contract with foreign companies is better than adding more nuclear power to our exciting highly successful nuclear power. Wow.
When Eskom does not want to sign these fixed wind contracts there is a reason. The Eskom folks are actually not that dumb… and certainly for most of them their hearts are in the right place and they really do carry out all the complicated maths for the good of the country.
They also have to use their own salaries to buy the consumer goods made using electricity. So they undoubtedly have a vested interest in the selling price of electricity.
It is silly of the anti-nuclear green groups to make war over nuclear power. They are desperate to stop nuclear, at all cost. They even resort to court cases and smear campaigns.
I am personally regularly the target of the smear campaigns, and I receive hate mail and insulting comments. Even physical threats.
Nuclear people are not anti-solar and wind. We just say: “Don’t kid the public, you can’t run an electric train and steel foundry on solar and wind power.” We say: “Use the solar and wind in dedicated situations in which their inherent properties make sense.”
The best power of all is… brain power. Think about these things. Dr Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist, and is chairperson of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation (Necsa).
A general view at dawn of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm. Located on the outskirts of Jeffreys Bay in the Eastern Cape it is an ideal wind energy resource.