You can wait for that. This week, outgoing Minister Gitten sent a letter to the House of Representatives, after two pages of rave about how far offshore wind has developed, the cost overrun in connecting all wind turbines to the Dutch high voltage grid was announced: the period from 2032 to 2057 an additional €1.6 billion per year, i.e. A total of 40 billion euros. This is in addition to the amount included in the previous budget for that period: 50 billion euros. A total of €90 billion is needed to connect 21 GW (installed capacity) of wind farms to our high-voltage grid.
Not even a month ago we heard Frans Timmermans In 1 We were very lucky to have the shallow North Sea on our doorstep, we enthusiastically declared: “We can get an unimaginable amount of very cheap electricity from the sea,” so nuclear power “was not feasible and affordable” for the Netherlands.
According to his fans, Timmermans is a true intellectual. Not a hackneyed populist like Van der Plas or an inexperienced lightweight YesilgozRather, someone who “knows his files” and “speaks his languages.” Hopefully he won’t repeat his wind and nuclear nonsense in all seven languages he is said to speak.
Costs to us and profits to companies
Can we expect someone like Timmermans to understand the difference between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour, or to know roughly what an offshore wind farm’s capacity factor is? Does he realize that Tenet – a 100% state-owned company – is paying the full costs of integrating “renewable” energy into the Dutch electricity grid? But Timmermans was never asked about that, because the talk show hosts and journalists invited to his table didn’t really know anything about these topics either.
Even before these much higher cost estimates were published, Tenet had to spend several billion dollars on so-called “sea jacks” of wind farms that already exist or will be completed soon. These costs fall on us, the energy consumers, and the operators of these wind farms – private companies, including Shell – who are able to make profits. On the other hand, politicians on both the right and left are rejoicing that wind power no longer needs subsidies and is cheap.
Who decided that “renewable” energy producers could afford the full cost of the necessary infrastructure and all the associated burdens and damages to society? Maybe this can still be reconstructed, maybe not, but if it’s ever a hot topic, I’ll definitely remember it. That must have been a big deal in the House at that time, on such a recent evening in The Hague when some twenty bills were still to be passed before recess.
The energy specialist of this or that party might have tried to get it on the agenda at the group meeting, but all the members of his group started looking glassy when he started talking about AC/DC converters and the 380 kV high voltage grid, after which the Chairman urgently asked him to complete the work on Light on the festive lunch that was planned. That’s how things go sometimes.
While people, including politicians, often still have some feeling about sums of several million euros and can argue passionately about them, the spending of tens of billions of euros is so far beyond the human scale that they regard it as a natural phenomenon and leave it to themselves. Act. Special devices. One day, a journalist asked President Ronald Reagan about the unprecedented budget deficit of the United States at that time. Aren’t you concerned about that? “No, I’m not worried about the budget deficit. It’s big enough to take care of itself,” the great caller laughed good-naturedly.
You have to give Tennet one thing: they’re not spending these billions on consultants, they’re spending amazing hardware. AC power from a few thousand wind turbines at sea is first routed to a collection point at sea, where it is converted into 525 kilovolts of direct current in a transformer, and then brought to land via a cable across the seafloor. There, direct current is converted into alternating current with the national high voltage grid voltage of 380 kV.
Not 50, but 90 billion euros
Such a transformer, which is the size of a laptop’s matchbox, is the size of an oil rig for an offshore wind farm, and where the DC cable runs to shore is a ground station as large as a massive data center. Such a combination of a “drilling rig” and a DC underground cable station can handle a maximum of 2 GW. So Tenet would have to build more than a dozen of these clusters, and run hundreds of kilometers of cable across the seafloor, to properly connect those 21 gigawatts to Earth.
According to new estimates, this will cost not 50 billion, but 90 billion euros. Reasons include that we no longer shop in China for safety reasons and high interest rates. You may be wondering how the outlook beyond 2050 could be based on abnormally low interest rates around 2020? Who woke up the green accountant and signed this estimate?
It now appears that the costs of transporting a kilowatt-hour of green electricity from the sea will be approximately the same as the production costs. But for the environmental talk of people like Timmermans, only production costs are taken into account. They have no idea about the rest, or they are deliberately hiding it.
But what would you really have if Tennet could generate a maximum of 21 gigawatts of wind power? This seems like a huge amount, because 21 gigawatts is equivalent to about one and a half times the total Dutch electricity production now. First of all, are you paying attention too, Mr. Timmermans? These wind farms with a total installed capacity of 21 GW only provide about 11 GW on average. Simply because the wind does not always blow optimally.
But if you look at the system level, it’s much less than that. After all, the production of these wind farms is very erratic and unpredictable, while supply and demand in the electricity grid should always be in perfect balance.
So quickly adjustable backup power is always needed in case the wind disappears. In a fully “renewable” energy system, the only CO2-free solution is to use a significant portion of this energy, for example 6 GW, in water electrolysis, which produces “green” hydrogen. The hydrogen can then be burned in gas power plants to generate electricity when there is little or no wind.
9 billion euros for 6 gigawatts
Unfortunately, approximately three-quarters of green energy is lost in this cycle; Tennet assumes a return on this cycle of 26%. So in the end we are left with 5 + ¼ x 6 = 6.5 gigawatts of really usable power that can be adjusted quickly. So you still have to build 6 gigawatts of electrolyzers. How much this will cost is very uncertain, because such large electrolyzers do not yet exist. The world’s total electrolyzer capacity is currently only 1 GW.
Estimates now – but wait, this is now, where have we seen this before? We hope that after a significant increase in volume, costs will reach 1.5 million euros per megawatt, i.e. 9 billion euros for 6 gigawatts. You then also have to store the hydrogen produced on a large scale, which involves millions of cubic metres, but this is still relatively cheap, let’s say you can get it for a billion euros.
All this infrastructure – 2,000 square kilometers of offshore wind farms, converter stations, oversea cables, ground stations, electrolyzers and hydrogen storage facilities – could be replaced by five speed-controlled EPR nuclear power plants, each with a capacity of 1.5 mph. gigawatt. You can connect them directly to the high-voltage grid, and each power station takes up no more space than one of these ground stations.
If you assume €8-10 billion per EPR, the total costs would be the same size as the currently reported cost overruns for offshore wind up to 2057. By then, all the wind turbines currently being built will be ready for use. Scrap pile, after which new ones will have to be installed, while these nuclear power plants will continue to provide electricity even after 2100.
Of course, there is still room for improvement in these numbers. A somewhat smaller share of electrolysis, assuming 26% efficiency improves somewhat, and larger electrolyzers are probably a little cheaper per kilowatt due to economies of scale. This fundamentally does not change the conclusion: nuclear power plants take up a thousand times less space than “renewable” energy, and if you look honestly at the entire system, they cost much less.
Mr. Timmermans, are you still there? Mr. Timmermans!?
Science journalist Arnot Jaspers is the author of the best-selling book “De Stikstoffuik”. His columns appear every Saturday in Winya Week.
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