The Base Load Misconception (Part 1): A Note from Tony
FOR a long time now, the term Base Load Power has been misinterpreted, and used incorrectly. Those who support the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Greenhouse Gas Warming Theory have taken the term out of context to describe those large coal fired power plants that in their minds are the largest offenders. They use the word as Baseload, one word, and then attach it to those power plants as a descriptor, Baseload Power Plants, usually also adding the term ‘coal fired’. However, the term is not a one word adjective. It is two words and describes most effectively the actual physical electrical power that is being consumed.
I want you to look at this quite simple diagram, but don’t allow its simplicity to fool you, because it most effectively tells us everything we need to know about actual electrical power consumption. Sometimes because of the perceived simplicity of a diagram, it is often discarded as not being particularly useful in telling us anything, but once you realise what it is actually ‘saying’, it then becomes one of the most important things to look at when discussing electrical power, and because of its perceived simplicity, and with nothing to explain it to lay people, then it has been an easy thing for those people discount or to ignore it completely.
The chart shows the Load Curve for actual electrical power consumption. Note how simple it is with virtually no information at all on it. The X axis shows time from midnight through the day and back to Midnight. The Y Axis is blank, and it is left blank for a purpose, and I’ll explain that.
This diagram is the same for large cities, Sydney, Melbourne, for smaller cities, and even smaller towns, and rural areas.
Scaled up, it is the same across a whole grid for an area being supplied by many power plants.
Scaled up again, it is the same for States, NSW, Queensland, etcetera.
Scaled up even further it is the same for Countries, in fact any Country in the Western World that has a constant and regulated power supply for every use.
Now that’s why the Y axis is left blank because actual total power requirements have different totals for each of those areas.
It is, however, an indicator as to the total power consumption in those areas with the top of the chart being 100%, or the total maximum power that can be generated.
Note how there are two curves, one for Summer Power Consumption (orange) and one for Winter power consumption, (blue) and again, I’ll explain that in a second Post.
Now note the dark line across the diagram. That’s at about 60%, and that’s about the only thing that does vary, but only by a few percentage points, usually on the up side, and can be as high as 65%.
Let’s look at the area below that line first.
Notice how the only time electrical power consumption falls below that dark line is for around an hour or so at about 4 AM, when nearly everybody is safely tucked away in bed. Even then, almost 60% of every Watt of power that could be generated is still being consumed.
That electrical power just has to be there on tap, and for 24 hours of every day, every day.
Where is that power being consumed then?
This brings into play another misconception, that of actual power consumption.
People will more readily equate power consumption with what they personally use, mainly in the residential area, at home.
However, power is consumed in three major areas, with the tiny Transport sector making the fourth, that final 1% of power consumed.
Those sectors are the Residential sector which consumes 38% of all power. Then there is the Commerce sector which consumes 37%, and then the Industrial sector which consumes 24%.
That’s not just the consumption for an isolated area or town or city. It is the same virtually throughout the Western World, everywhere there is a constant and regulated supply of electricity to cater for every need.
The Residential Sector
To save repeating myself, I’ll deal with residential high rise in the Commerce Sector.
The chart is from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and while that date may look to be from a while back now, those segments are still roughly the same, and even while for a U.S. situation, this is basically the same for most residential applications across that Western World where there is a constant and reliable supply of electrical power.
At home, you have large consuming items that are taking power on a 24 hour basis, and as you can see from the pie chart there, almost one quarter of all residential power is consumed by water heating and refrigeration. As you can see from this, household lighting makes up barely 9% of all power consumption at home, and the mantra that changing light bulbs will, as if by magic, lower emissions is quite illusory, as by doing that, all you are saving in reality is just on 1% of your power consumption, and that I can explain that fully in a further Post if you wish, because, as simple as it may sound, it is quite an involved thing to explain correctly.
Again, as is easily seen from this chart, the furphy that Plasmas etc consume vast quantities of power is also misdirection. In that area indicating others are washing machines and dryers, all the electrical white goods used for cooking, etcetera. So, in the residential area, one quarter of all power is required absolutely, hence almost 9% of all power being generated is required on that full 24 hour basis just in this residential sector. (One quarter of that Residential Sector 38%)
The Commerce Sector
This sector also brings into play every level of Government, and that’s not just the operation of those elected officials. It covers every Department of every level of Government.
Think every hospital and health care facility that needs to have their electrical power every hour of every day. Think electric trains that run around the clock. Think motor traffic and the lighting and traffic control measures that also operate on that 24 hour basis.
Now, look at the skyline of any city, of every city, and not just the Capital cities. Look at every building higher than two or three levels, and here, also include those high rise residential living areas as well.
Think of the electricity every one of those buildings require on that 24 hour basis.
Not the lifts, the lighting, the work spaces etcetera, but the water and the air, and the sewerage.
The water has to be pumped from ground level into all those high rises with huge pumps that draw a lot of electrical power.
However, by far the largest consumer of electrical power in any building higher than that two/three levels is for the air. Here, it is often misconstrued as air conditioning, in other words heating and cooling.
In every one of those tall buildings, just walk across to the window and open it up to let in the fresh air for people to breathe. You can=t, because those windows are all sealed, and in most cases, they form part of the structure of those high rise buildings.
People work in those buildings and every one of them requires air to breathe, a constantly circulating supply of fresh breathing air ….. ‘conditioned’ air, and that’s where people have an incorrect perception of it. They look upon it as they do in their home. That conditioner unit supplies cold air inside the home, well, really, it is a unit that sucks the heat and humidity out of that space, and the fan re-circulates the air, giving the impression of cooling.
However, in those high rise buildings, those huge units on the roof are actually supplying a constant source of breathing air into that building, removing the stale air and recirculating new fresh air. The temperature is in nearly every case set to the same for all year round, and in Winter it ‘feels’ warmer, and in Summer, ‘feels’ cooler.
Those units cannot be turned off overnight after the workers go home, because the air inside them must stay fresh. Just turning them on and off is an entirely inefficient way to operate them because the air goes stale, the building heats up or cools, and if turned back on in the morning those compressors would have to run flat out to try and recirculate fresh air into the building, and to get the temperature back to the set level, if that even could be achieved, hence they are left running all the time, as that is how they operate at their best efficiency. The huge compressors that drive those units suck up a huge amount of power, and when you see how many of those high rise buildings there are, you can see that a lot of power is being consumed, and in fact, is needed around the clock as well.
Also in this Commerce sector is every shop, in every town or city. Those major Supermarkets, Coles and Woolies, don’t turn off their food and drink coolers overnight, and even with subdued lighting at night, nearly every shop you can see in every city or town is lit.
So, as you can see, this Commerce sector uses a lot of its power on that 24 hour basis.
The Industry Sector
Even though this sector only consumes 24% of all power being generated, most big industry operates on a 24 hour basis, so most of this sector uses nearly all its power on that 24 hour basis.
If most of the power in the Commerce and Industrial sectors is being consumed on that 24 hour basis, it now becomes easy to see that the absolute requirement for power is quite easily up around that 60 to 65% level.
That is the absolute requirement. This is the Base Load, load being the term used to describe actual physical consumption.
That level of power can only be supplied by plants that can run for 24 hours of every day, and currently those plants are those large coal fired power plants.
Let’s just take one large plant in isolation, say, Eraring in NSW. It has 4 huge 1300 ton generators and has a Nameplate Capacity of nearly 2700MW. It just hums along 24 hours a day all day, every day, supplying its power to the grid. The only carefully planned down time is for routine maintenance, one generator at a time, so as not to remove all its power from the grid at that time.
Let’s then look at a wind equivalent. Each Nacelle atop those huge towers has a 3MW generator inside, that runs, and supplies its full power while ever that 3 bladed fan is rotating. So, here you’ll need 900 of those towers to give the same Nameplate Capacity, and yes, read that again.
900 huge towers, just for that one plant, Eraring.
That’s not the end of it though.
The best those wind towers can deliver their power is at around 33% (claimed by proposers of these schemes), and the current Worldwide average is around 20%, but let’s split the difference and call it 25%.
Hence, those wind towers are only delivering their power for around 6 hours a day, and Eraring will deliver four times the power to the grids that all those wind towers will.
Eraring can deliver power to assist in fulfilling a Base Load requirement, with other large scale plants adding to that delivered from Eraring for the grid in that area.
If 60 to 65% of all power being generated is required on a 24 hour basis, then wind can never deliver this, no matter what, so just blindly claiming that wind power will end up replacing coal fired power is a lie, and there’s just no other way to say it.
That is what Base Load Power is. It’s not an adjective.
It’s a physical requirement.
In the next Post, I’ll explain Peaking Power, and for an early insight look at the Blue line on that Load Curve, and notice the times when it peaks.
To read more from Tony click and scroll here: http://jennifermarohasy.com/blog/author/tony/