The world’s next energy revolution is probably no more than five or ten years away. Cutting-edge research into cheap and clean forms of electricity storage is moving so fast that we may never again need to build 20th Century power plants in this country, let alone a nuclear white elephant such as Hinkley Point. The US Energy Department is funding 75 projects developing electricity storage, mobilizing teams of scientists at Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and the elite Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge labs in a bid for what it calls the ‘Holy Grail’ of energy policy. The technology is poised to overcome the curse of ‘intermittency’ that has long bedevilled wind and solar. Surges of excess power will be stored for use later at times when the sun sets, and consumption peaks in the early evening. This transforms the calculus of energy policy. The question for the British government as it designs a strategy fit for the 21st Century – and wrestles with an exorbitant commitment to Hinkley Point – is no longer whether this form of back-up power will ever be commercially viable, but whether the inflection point arrives in the early-2020s or in the late 2020s. Once storage costs approach $100 per kilowatt hour, there ceases to be much point in building costly ‘baseload’ power plants such as Hinkley Point. Nuclear reactors cannot be switched on and off as need demands – unlike gas plants. They are useless as a back-up for the decentralized grid of the future, when wind, solar, hydro, and other renewables will dominate the power supply. Perhaps the Hinkley project still made sense in 2013 before the collapse in global energy prices and before the latest leap forward in renewable technology. It is madness today. Michael Liebreich from Bloomberg New Energy Finance says the Hinkley Point saga will be taught for generations as a case study in how not to run a procurement process. “The obvious question is why this train-wreck of a project was not killed long ago,” he said.
Telegraph 10th Aug 2016 read more »
There are two main competitors to the new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, according to two sustainable energy projects. The first is the Swansea Bay ‘tidal lagoons’ scheme, which is currently awaiting ministerial approval. The £1billion project involves building a walled lagoon in Swansea Bay that would generate electricity on the ebb and flood of every tide through largely British-built turbines, across 14 hours a day for a predicted project lifetime of 120 years. The other big contender is offshore wind farms. Herik Poulsen, who is chief executive of the Danish company Dong Energy, says that wind turbines can be built on time and on budget, and give the UK a reliable source of power if they were combined with output from new biomass or gas-fired plants.
Building Design and Construction 10th Aug 2016 read more »