The controversy over Spain’s energy mix it was dismantled yesterday with a statement by the President of the Popular Party, Pablo Casado. As he pointed out, he also likes solar energy but “before yesterday, at 8 in the afternoon it was the peak of electricity consumption and at that time, I don’t know if you were around here, there was no possibility of it emitting because it was night “.
Social networks have been filled with conflicting opinions about said statements. And Casado has reaffirmed himself on what he said yesterday, to also point out that what he proposes is renewable energy underpinned by nuclear power.
At 8 the sun doesn’t shine
It is true that at 8 in the afternoon, at the time of year in which we are, the sun does not shine. And not even in summer the solar production at that time is significant. At night there may be wind energy production, but again we are in the hands of inclement weather.
Today’s renewable energies depend on the wind blowing and no clouds. And when the conditions are met, they produce a large amount of energy. For instance, yesterday Sunday at 3:30 p.m. we were exporting energy to France (7 GW) due to the large renewable production that we had at that time.
That is to say, renewables are intermittent. This can be solved with more offshore wind energy, which tends to have more continuous winds but it is also true that they are more expensive projects and we have still done few in Spain. And to withstand this intermittency we need other technologies that support when there is no renewable production, for example at night or when the winds are low (summer).
The first supporting technology we have is gas: our combined cycle plants. It has one main advantage and several drawbacks. The advantage is that we already have them. There are no investments to be made. It is simply to take advantage of them. Without them we would have constant power outages.
The drawbacks are various. On the one hand it is an energy that creates CO2 emissions. It’s true that less than coal, but it’s still dirty technology. Another problem is that we depend on the outside, we import all the gas we consume. This is both an economic (trade balance) and a geostrategic problem (we depend on unstable countries such as Algeria or Russia). AND these geostrategic problems are increasingly visible.
Another support technology is nuclear, which is what Pablo Casado proposes. We already have nuclear energy in Spain but it does not cover enough to be the only support for renewables, that’s why we are pulling gas.
Building more nuclear power plants to take the weight off the gas has some problems. The first is the term, this cannot be done quickly, such as putting more windmills or solar panels, we are talking about a minimum of five years and 10 years being more realistic.
On the other hand, there is the problem of costs: although the latest generation nuclear power plants promise to be cheaper, the truth is that buildings in Europe are being expensive.
Finally there is the problem of the bad image that this energy has. Safety in itself is not a problem if projects are approached well, in Spain there have not been any serious accidents in more than 40 years of operation of nuclear power plants, but the truth is socially, no one wants to have a plant nearby. There were already social problems in its day with the construction of power plants and we continue, for example, having problems creating a nuclear cemetery.
Another technology that could be a backup for renewable energy is electrical storage. Due to costs and capacity, the most logical thing is to build new hydraulic pumping plants: harness the day’s production of solar energy to pump water into a dam to then release the water and generate when there is demand and little production.
Spain already has some of this type of power station but very little. Thinking about storage with batteries is, right now, illogical: it would be very expensive, the technology is not yet mature for this. For that it is better to keep pulling gas.
The drawbacks of building new pumping dams are several: first, they are slow projects, they need a major civil work and destroy natural landscapes; second, the costs are not negligible. The good news is that it is a fairly clean form of storage in terms of emissions.
The other alternative: do nothing
As we have seen, all the alternatives have drawbacks. But there is a solution that is not being considered: do nothing. Continue burning gas but having a reality on the horizon: in the future the mobile park is going to be electrified and therefore there will be a network of distributed batteries that could sell surplus charge to the network. Therefore we would have available a support for renewables.
The only thing that must be taken into account is that the distribution network must be prepared to accept energy in a distributed and coordinated way. If that is the future we are going to every time, gas will be less support and it will be the car fleet that provides the energy needed when there is no wind or sun.
All of these alternatives are debatable. The energy mix has many implications, not only in the price of electricity but also in the relationship with countries such as Algeria (it provides us with gas) or France (surely if we built new nuclear plants we would rely on their industry). Therefore that there is a debate on the subject is very good, the bad thing is that it is of such a low level.
Source: El Blog Salmón by www.elblogsalmon.com.
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