Originally posted by humy
If it can work well for a small island, why would it be less cost-effective for a big country?
Seems to me to be no known significant costs to merely scaling it up here as what they have got on that small island would be what they would have put there if that was a big country -they would have just used more of it.
If you think about this logically, each bi ...[text shortened]... m, just decentralize it by splitting it up into much smaller independent electric grids -simple!
heh. Unfortunately it doesn't work like that.
Lets consider two hypothetical places we want to de-carbonise by utilising
[for the sake of simplicity] Wind and hydro.
We generate more peak power then we need with the wind and store the
excess with the hydro.
Location A is a small island of 10,000 people.
Location B is a small country of 100,000,000 people.
In location A we can generate the required power with 2 wind turbines and 1
Each turbine at full power produces 100% of the islands electricity needs and
thus the two of them generate 200% at full power. But the wind only blows
for 50% of the time. The grid is balanced using the hydro storage.
Location B has the same exact system, but now supplying 10,000 times as many
people, and so they have 20,000 wind turbines and 10,000 hydro plants.
Now you might be looking at this and saying that both have the same percentage
costs, in that each group of 10,000 people has to pay for 2 turbines and one
But the absolute cost of having to have 200% power generation is much higher
for location B.
Say a turbine costs $1million.
The small island is paying an extra $1 million for wind turbines to generate enough
when it's windy to cover the times when it's calm. This might be unavoidable for
a scheme to cover such a small area.
However for the small country they are paying $10 Billion for extra turbines to cover
the shortfall. Which is in absolute terms a huge sum of money.
Now if we desimplify the situation the differences get clearer.
The best place for wind turbines is in the sea, where you get the strongest and most reliable
winds. The small island is surrounded by sea, and it's not far from the best turbine location
to where everyone lives because it's not far to anywhere on the small island.
However in the small country the best location for the turbines is hundreds of miles from
where most of the people are, so you either need hundreds of miles of electricity grid,
which requires you to build more turbines to generate enough electricity to make up
for the shortfall, plus the cost of the grid. Or you need to build the turbines in a non-optimal
location and thus need more of them to cope with the reduced wind speeds.
In the small island you only have to deal with maintaining and building 2 turbines, which
take up little land/sea and cause little local opposition on the grounds of their being an eyesore.
In the small country you are building arrays of hundreds or even thousands of turbines over
large areas of land or sea, jamming radar coverage, and acting as an eyesore in the eyes of
the local residents...
The list goes on.
The point is not that it's impossible to build country wide green energy generation.
The point is that the solutions for big countries don't look like the solutions for small
islands and isolated communities.
There are advantages of economies of scale when dealing with large countries and cities
that small communities and islands can't get... Along with different sets of problems.
It's the same reason I always get irritated when celebs on tv shows hold up people living in
isolated country 'off-grid' eco-homes as an example of how we can all live environmentally
friendly lives... completely missing the fact that if everyone were to try that we would
wipe the wild places of the world off the map as the hundreds of millions of people living in dense towns
and cities suddenly all had to grow their own vegetables in their gardens.
The problems and solutions don't scale well, so you can't hold up an isolated community as
a demonstration of what works for them would work for the masses.
As I say, I agree totally that solutions for the masses exist, and are well known... They just
are not the same solutions as those of small communities.