It’s Time To Build The Intermittent Renewable Plus Hydrogen Storage Demonstration Project!


Francis Menton

My last post discussed a new Report out from the UK’s Royal Society in early September, with the title “Large-scale electricity storage.” The Report describes and models how the UK might build out a “net zero” electricity system for Great Britain. The proposed system would consist of generation entirely from wind and solar sources, with the intermittency backed up only from energy storage and without any use of fossil fuels.

To its credit, the Report dabbles in reality on the subject of how to store sufficient amounts of energy and for a long enough period of time. It considers the various sorts of battery storage that might be used, and concludes that none of them could remotely handle the task at affordable cost. After also considering ammonia as a potential energy storage medium (too costly and dangerous), the Report concludes that the only viable alternative for the storage piece is hydrogen.

Here, from the Executive Summary, is the headline conclusion from the Report:

In 2050 Great Britain’s demand for electricity could be met by wind and solar energy supported by large-scale storage. . . . Meeting the need for long-duration storage will require very low cost per unit energy stored. In GB, the leading candidate is storage of hydrogen in solution-mined salt caverns. . . .

The Report then proceeds to a treatment of the prospective costs of this system. Unfortunately, that treatment of costs is perfunctory and thoroughly inadequate. Ultimate electricity prices to the consumer are not even mentioned. There is brief discussion of how much this system, based on projected costs, would charge as a wholesale price to the grid. However, there are obvious gaps in that analysis (discussed in my prior post), and one commenter suggests that the Report’s guesstimated costs could be off by as much as a factor of ten.

Unlike the authors of this Report, I would not claim to know what the costs of this proposed system might be. But I can see that the proposed system would be very large, very complex, that it has never been tried before, that it has many elements that are novel and will need to be designed from scratch. In the real world, things with these characteristics have a way of costing a multiple of what their proponents claim they will cost.

In promoting that Great Britain should move toward a fully wind/solar/storage electricity system by 2050, the Royal Society is essentially advocating that every one of GB’s 65 million or so inhabitants shall be made guinea pigs for a system that may or may not work and whose unanticipated costs could be enormous. No responsible government would ever go down such a road.

There is an obvious alternative approach: Build a demonstration project to establish feasibility and cost.

Once hydrogen made by electrolysis from water has been selected as the storage medium, it is not difficult to envision what the demonstration project will consist of. Pick a town or region of about 65,000 people, or about 0.1% of the population of GB. For the backup, build a modest-sized thermal power plant for burning the hydrogen (when needed) of about 60 MW nameplate capacity. Then dedicate to the project wind turbines sufficient to generate the entire electricity usage of the 65,000 people over the course of a year, plus all the losses in hydrogen production and storage. This will probably require something like 300 MW of wind turbines (nameplate capacity). The output of the wind turbines will either go to direct supply, or when in excess will feed electrolyzers to make the hydrogen. You will need to procure the electrolyzers, and also create a big enough salt cavern to store hydrogen to cover these people for at least a couple of months in the event of wind drought. Don’t forget the water purification system to make the sea water pure enough to be electrolyzed. And of course add in pipelines to take the hydrogen to the salt cavern and from there to the thermal power plant when needed.

Now you have all the elements to be the equivalent of a dispatchable fossil fuel-burning thermal plant. If it turns out that you have underestimated the amount of hydrogen you need to keep this going all the time, and you need to build facilities to make more hydrogen, well now you know.

I suspect that this system for the size specified could be built for a few tens of billions of pounds. That will be very expensive. But it will be the best tens of billions of pounds you have ever spent, because when it shows that this system costs five or ten times what the existing system costs to produce the same electricity, it will be abandoned. And the people will have been spared decades of impoverishment. And, if it turns out that the system can be built at some modest premium to the current system (unlikely), then at least a rational debate can be had as to whether this premium is worth spending for the slight “climate” benefits.

Meanwhile, there continues to be no demonstration project anywhere in the world of a wind/solar/storage electricity system that can keep the lights on through the year without fossil fuel backup. The Gorona del Viento project (wind turbines and a pumped storage reservoir) on El Hierro Island off Spain fails worse and worse every year. From its website, here is its stated objective:

Gorona del Viento, El Hierro, S.A.´s Wind-Pumped Hydro Power Station is designed to supply the Meridian Island with electrical energy derived from clean, renewable energy sources such as water and wind. The Wind Farm has capacity to fully meet El Hierro´s demand for electricity.

But at the data section of the website, we find this chart:

There are 8760 hours in a year (8784 in a leap year like 2020). So in 2019 they got all of their electricity from the wind/hydro system about 26% of the time. Then that dropped to under 22% of the time in 2020, and less than 15% of the time in 2021. Some time in 2022 they stopped reporting the data. Now they blare out baloney about “tons of carbon emissions saved” while running the backup diesel generator fully 85% of the time.

If anybody thought that the demonstration project I proposed could be built at reasonable cost to make a profit, then multiple entrepreneurs would already be building these things. Meanwhile the costs are buried so no one can figure them out. We have a desperate need for a real demonstration project. UK, you are the one to do it!

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October 2, 2023 10:21 pm

Ellesmere Port would be an ideal location. There are wind turbines there. It is close to the Cheshire salt mines and also the Runcorn and Widnes chemical factories to help with the desalination. Win win.
However, the good people of that locale have already rejected the pilot hydrogen boiler plans.

Martin Brumby
Reply to  Bil
October 3, 2023 12:02 am

Let’s give the good people of Ellesmere Port a break.

Like everywhere else in the UK, I guess that they have had far more than enough of the negative outcomes from crackpot schemes decided by Science- Denier, Arts Grad politicians.

They could perhaps win some confidence for residents by admitting the blatant harm caused by the adoption of Unsafe and Ineffective Experimental Gene Therapies (and effective banning of cheap and effective off-patent treatments), together with lunatic restrictions like masks and lockdowns. And by properly and promptly compensating their damaged victims.

Reply to  Martin Brumby
October 3, 2023 3:13 am

When I’m out and about carrying on as normal, I’ve had my three score year and ten and more so every day is a bonus, I see mask wearers regularly. In fact a slight increase in last couple of weeks. The hype about the new super-duper infectious Chinese Flu has died down a bit to be replaced by normal flu which has hit Australia hard according to the BBC news person yesterday.

Reply to  Ben_Vorlich
October 3, 2023 4:54 am

And there is little abatement of “excess deaths.” It will be interesting to see what the next wave of jabs brings.

Bryan A
Reply to  Scissor
October 3, 2023 6:50 am

Nature has created the PERFECT Hydrogen storage by taking 4 Hydrogen atoms and binding them with a single Carbon atom. The molecules are large enough to easily store (in fact already are stored underground by Gaia herself) and makes the Hydrogen readily available for quick energy conversion.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Bryan A
October 4, 2023 4:12 am

Sadly but not forever. Fortunately not forever or we would run out of oxygen.
We can make methane from carbon dioxide and water – its just an expensive way to do it.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Scissor
October 4, 2023 4:10 am

Had my flu jab, which gave me two day flu. Covid in a weeks time. They are now both routine to cover the more likely mutations.

Everyone who was liable to die has already died of Covid, Its now just another flu

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 10:05 am

You might want to read the latest literature on vaccine induced myocarditis and other side effects. There are reasons why many CDC scientists are not enthusiastic about these jabs.

Reply to  Bil
October 3, 2023 5:27 am

I live on ‘Energy Island ‘ Anglesey North Wales …
(Apart from a few small wind & solar farms, we import all our energy !!! )

We have another crackpot scheme designed & promoted by Science- Denier, Arts Grad politicians

‘The Holyhead Hydrogen Hub’

The Holyhead plan is take “the abundant green energy” from prototype ‘Tidal Generators’ (not built ), use electrolysis to convert a large quantity of drinking water to Hydrogen, compress & store for use as vehicle fuel; first production (using grid power ) due early 2024.

The Holyhead Hydrogen Hub’s projected 400kG/day H2 output[1], if used in fuel-cells, results in …
… just 6MWh of electricity to the end users;
… but the eletrolysers & storage will have used 26MWh of electricity to make it !!!!

The laws of physics show that a hydrogen economy is not a sustainable route to follow.

So, apart from virtue signalling & obtaining large amounts of money (£7.3m so far), …

what is the point of the Holyhead Hydrogen Hub ??


Having read the very upbeat ‘Menter Mon Holyhead Hydrogen Hub Summary Report‘ [1].
I find lots of optimistic projections – unfortunately they take no account of the laws of physics !!

At first glance Hydrogen (H2) appears to be ‘the new wonder fuel’ –

Abundant, Light, Clean-ish, No Carbon, High Mass Energy Density; what’s not to like –

but, the devil is always in the detail … & there are a lot of unintended consequences !!!

Hydrogen (H2) is NOT AN ENERGY SOURCE, …

it’s an energy store (like a flywheel, a spring, an elastic band ),

you always have to put more energy in, than you’ll ever get out.

( the laws of thermodynamics can’t be changed to suit the latest popular political ‘magic thinking’ !! )

Using natural gas, the peak efficiencies of the newest Combined Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT) exceed 60%
and condensing domestic heating units exceed 90%
– whereas the round trip efficiency of the ‘electricity→ Hydrogen→ storage → (fuel-cell) → electricity cycle’ is only around 23% … that’s a 77% loss !!!

If you want reliable, sustainable, ‘low carbon energy’ the only practical way is SMR’s plus a few CCGT’s .

Hydrogen is an extremely inefficient & expensive store of energy.

Ammonia would be a more useful transport fuel than hydrogen … but only IF it’s hazards can be reduced.

1806: the De Rivaz engine was the first internal combustion engine, it ran on a hydrogen/oxygen mixture
1839: Sir William R. Grove, a Welsh lawyer invented the 1st ‘gas battery’ (the hydrogen fuel cell )

Reply to  1saveenergy
October 3, 2023 6:01 am

Splitting water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen is dangerous work. High pressure H^2 and O in the presence of electricity has to be treated like a bomb, ’cause it is.

The hydrogen molecule has been called the “Houdini molecule” … it can escape from anything.

Reply to  JamesB_684
October 3, 2023 11:29 am

The splitting we did in high school physics class
No high pressure is involved.
You may have missed that class

Reply to  wilpost
October 3, 2023 12:05 pm

The high pressure is required to store the Houdini molecule, not to generate it.

Bryan A
Reply to  1saveenergy
October 3, 2023 6:52 am

Energy Island…kind of a misnomer

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Bryan A
October 3, 2023 10:17 am

It used to be when it had Wylfa nuclear power station and the offshore buoy for unloading ULCC supertankers to feed Stanlow refinery.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  1saveenergy
October 3, 2023 10:15 am

Have they included the necessary battery buffer between the tidal generators and the electrolysers? It’s what they had to do at the O2 Orbital Marine project on Orkney, where the tidal stream generators feed vanadium flow batteries. Ostensibly it is supposed to be to smooth the output over slack water between tides, but the reality is that tidal stream generation is extremely flickery, and not acceptable for grid distribution. Indeed, the small tidal stream project at Bluemull Sound on Shetland was forced to install a Tesla 1MWh battery for precisely this reason. The local grid commanded they disconnect until it was done.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  It doesnot add up
October 3, 2023 11:00 am

I should add that the tidal stream part won a CFD paying £198/MWh in 2012 money, currently worth about £265/MWh as the input to this process. Since it will have to feed via a battery at say 80% round trip efficiency into the electrolyser at 60% efficiency for producing hydrogen that already more than doubles the cost: feed it back through a 50% efficient generator and you’ll more than double it again. Over £1,000/MWh. Perhaps it will feed off the nearby solar farm – see map:

Frank from NoVA
Reply to  Bil
October 3, 2023 6:25 am

The key point is that the inhabitants have to be ‘true believers’ in the cause, whether they’ve actually considered any aspect of its feasibility or not.

In the US, this means finding a location where Democrats routinely poll well above 90%, so we’re probably looking at Washington DC, any number of small college towns or a small island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Bryan A
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
October 3, 2023 6:55 am

Perhaps it could be instituted as an XR refuge and They could prove it’s viability

Leo Smith
Reply to  Frank from NoVA
October 4, 2023 4:14 am

The White House looks a bit like a nuclear reactor. Perhaps it should house one

Reply to  Bil
October 3, 2023 3:48 pm

once they suffer a summer without AC or winter without heat, they will open their eyes.

if you have excess electricity from Wind jus turn it into heat

heat storage is super cheap

50% of buildings in the UK located in areas of suitable density for heat networks,

October 2, 2023 10:28 pm

Fundamental question for me has always been, when would unreliables be generating excess supply enough that they could “charge” the “batteries” (hydrogen merely a battery) to full capacity. My feeling is they never will.

Steve Case
Reply to  Bil
October 2, 2023 11:02 pm

“…when would unreliables be generating excess supply…”


After a short Google search – LINK :
How many homes can an average wind turbine power?
[The] average turbine would generate over 843,000 kWh per month—enough for more than 940 average U.S. homes.

But that same wind turbine has to ALSO charge up the battery for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. So you can take that 940 homes number and divide it in half. Really less than half because charging the battery is going to be less than 100% efficient. And that government web page is silent about the energy storage that would be necessary.

That same link says “on average 3,000 turbines have been built in the U.S. each year since 2005
So at three million dollars a copy (says so in the link) that comes to over 150 billion dollars so far.  

Reply to  Steve Case
October 3, 2023 3:15 am

if you’ll pardon my use of the vernacular. And achieved bugger all.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Ben_Vorlich
October 4, 2023 4:15 am

if you’ll pardon my use of the vernacular. And achieved the square root of Sweet Fanny Adams.

John Pickens
October 2, 2023 10:38 pm

I submit that we already have a real world demonstration project. There is not a single producer of wind or solar systems which utilize the outputs of their systems to power their production facilities. If these systems were net energy positive, it would be folly for the companies making them to pay for energy from other sources to construct them.

Chris Hanley
Reply to  John Pickens
October 3, 2023 12:15 am

Human development since the Industrial Revolution has been based on technology that has produced vast surpluses of energy relative to the inputs.
It has been obvious for years that a world of say 10 billion solely powered by renewable energy is a bizarre fantasy — or a horrifying dystopia.

Reply to  Chris Hanley
October 3, 2023 5:04 am

Remember when fuel cells were going to take over?

Reply to  Scissor
October 3, 2023 7:21 am

Sir William R. Grove, a Welsh lawyer invented the 1st ‘gas battery’ (the hydrogen fuel cell ) 1839: & we’re still waiting !!!

October 2, 2023 11:30 pm

Who needs a pilot study when you have a model?

We can’t even build a railway line

Reply to  strativarius
October 3, 2023 2:02 am

Oh, we can build it all right, the point is that we can’t afford it and we don’t need it anyway.

Reply to  Oldseadog
October 3, 2023 2:25 am

No we can’t

You can pretend all you like

Reply to  strativarius
October 3, 2023 2:55 am

Well, from where I am in Stirlingshire it appears regularly in the MSM getting built, albeit way over budget, not on time and apparently stopping in the wrong place.

Reply to  Oldseadog
October 3, 2023 3:24 am

You have to highlight the good bits don’t you?

Reply to  Ben_Vorlich
October 4, 2023 1:31 am

There isn’t room here to list the bad bits.

Reply to  strativarius
October 3, 2023 3:23 am

We should give the contract to the French, they have nearly 2000miles (3000Km) of TGV track. The trains are capable of 320Km/h.
Meanwhile we’ve got 67 miles of HS1 and have been piddling about with HS2 for over a decade and gradually reducing its scope. It’s amazing how far we’ve fallen since George Stephenson.
Bojo wanted a bridge from Scotland to Ireland, you have to laugh and think he’d never driven down the A75.

Reply to  Ben_Vorlich
October 3, 2023 5:03 am

I rode the TGV many times from Brussels to Paris, totally flat countryside, ideal for TGVs, which for a short part of the trip go at about 160 mph.

Newer trains in Spain go up to 200 mph, but only for short distances

The train from the airport north of Oslo to the center of Oslo, goes at 160 mph for a short distance, on a track that is used only by that train

Reply to  strativarius
October 3, 2023 4:56 am

The Chinese have more miles of high-speed rail than all the rest of the world, all built after about 1990
The Chinese produce more wind power than the US

Reply to  wilpost
October 3, 2023 6:05 am

… Says the CCP.

Reply to  JamesB_684
October 3, 2023 11:32 am

Just do some googling
Ask for rail stations with high speed trains

Gunga Din
Reply to  wilpost
October 3, 2023 2:58 pm

And they’re building more coal-fired power plants now than the rest of the world.

Chris Hanley
October 2, 2023 11:33 pm

The proposed system would consist of generation entirely from wind and solar sources

As long as the raw materials transport and manufacture of all the hardware turbines and PV panels etc. were sourced using fossil fuels, whatever the outcome, the project would have no global application or relevance.

James Snook
Reply to  Chris Hanley
October 3, 2023 12:49 am

Yup. China, the ‘world leader’ in the manufacture of turbines and solar, generated 52% of its electricity with coal in 2022 (Energy Institute review) and only about 15% with renewables. The latter figure is inflated by the strange methodology used in the treatment of renewables in the review, as pointed out by Willis.

Martin Brumby
October 2, 2023 11:51 pm

Good piece by Fracis Menton.

But the following notes may assist.

(1) Where is the “Responsible Government” of which he speaks?

(2) The totally irresponsible Uniparty Government here in the UK has a long history of wanting to “lead the world” in various preposterous schemes, every one of which has failed miserably. Let’s sit this latest wheeze out and at least enjoy the Schadenfreude of considering whichever country really, really wants to lead “the World”. Obvious choice would be China.

(3) Might I be so bold as th suggest that, even before suggesting to Xi Jinping that he might wear the crown of being first to run this demonstration project, that some honest scientists clearly demonstrate that there is so much as a genuine “Climate Concern”. Let alone a genuine “Emergency” or “Crisis”?

Leo Smith
Reply to  Martin Brumby
October 4, 2023 4:18 am

The purpose of mega projects is to transfer money from taxpayers to cronies pockets. They don’t have to actually work.

Iain Reid
October 2, 2023 11:58 pm

Wind and solar cannot supply a grid as their output is uncontrollable, so needs a good percentage of controllable input to keep the grid in load and supply balance. Not only that the grid needs inertia, reactive power control and an effective short circuit current source none of which renewables can supply.
It’s a complete non starter, and as for the over capacity that needs to be built makes it ludicrous.
Too many people qualified in other disciplines seem to imagine that an elctrical grid is simple and renewable generators are an equivalent to conventional generators, which they are not, nor can they replace them.

Martin Brumby
October 3, 2023 12:23 am

It would, I suggest, be quite wrong to avoid giving the leadership of the once deservedly proud Royal Society fair mention.

Set up and led by some of the greatest scientific minds in the Enlightenment, since the beginning of this Millenium, the Royal Society leadership has comprised of virtue signalling people I would hesitate to trust to correctly wire up an electric plug on the one hand or not to pocket teaspoons on the other.

Reply to  Martin Brumby
October 3, 2023 12:35 am

vide nostram virtutem

I certainly wouldn’t take their word for anything

Reply to  strativarius
October 3, 2023 7:25 am

That’s all Greek to me (;-))

It doesnot add up
Reply to  1saveenergy
October 3, 2023 11:40 am

They had a word for it:

ζηταρετησιάδης Zetaretaysiadais, or virtue-seeker.

October 3, 2023 12:33 am

I have yet to see a hydrogen energy project of any kind include an analysis of the energy required to manage the hydrogen involved – to compress it, to store it, to contain it, to deliver it to its destination. Hydrogen has very poor thermodynamic properties which make it very costly in terms of energy consumption to handle and it is a very small molecule which makes it very hard to contain in a piping system. As an example, an analysis of such issues by Elliason, et al, twenty years ago found at, shows that about 15 semi-tractor trailer trucks of compressed hydrogen would be required to deliver to a gasoline station the same amount of energy as does one semi-tractor trailer truck of gasoline. Elliason explains similar disparities at every stage of a hydrogen management system such that as much or more energy will be consumed to manage a hydrogen system than can be delivered to a customer. Bleak indeed.

michael hart
Reply to  Denis
October 3, 2023 4:26 am

I broadly agree, but the hydrogen doesn’t necessarily have to be transported long distances. If the grid is built to be capable of carrying the electricity then the hydrogen can be generated and stored in regional centers.

I’m not saying it would work as compared to straight nuclear but I’m still willing to consider it.

Leo Smith
Reply to  michael hart
October 4, 2023 4:23 am

Apart from the pumped storage hydroelectric installations, the only energy store that looks remotely feasible and then only because it stores thermal energy directly from a reactor, not electricity as such, is the Natrium molten salt cooled reactor. Its great advantage is that it’s better than a straight reactor and it can’t be used with renewable energy…

Reply to  Denis
October 3, 2023 5:06 am

A nice summary of the pitfalls of hydrogen.
The hydrogen economy is an expensive mirage, conjured up by non-technical people

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Denis
October 3, 2023 8:21 am

An article in Rail Engineer earlier this year looked at plans in Scotland to use hydrogen powered trains and concluded similarly that a depot using such trains that did not have its own hydrogen production facility would require 14 times as many road tanker deliveries than one of the same sized diesel fleet.

Rick C
Reply to  Denis
October 3, 2023 9:06 am

Denis>> Absolutely correct. It is simply not feasible to store hydrogen in the quantities that would be needed at grid scale. It cannot be liquified except at extreme cryogenic temperatures so storing large volumes requires high pressure. For small applications (a few kg H2) 700 bar (10,000 psi) is a typical upper limit. But only small containers with small volume to surface area ratios can safely handle such high pressures. Thus, large volume containers allow very limited compression. Also hydrogen has very wide concentration flammability limits – 5% – 75% in air. How would you go about filling an enormous salt cavern with hydrogen and not risk a cataclysmic explosion? Maybe fill a gigantic bladder liner within the cavern. Good luck with the engineering and cost. Pump all the air out of the cavern first? Maybe, but would this risk collapse of the cavern? And don’t get me started on hydrogen embrittlement and leakage issues.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Rick C
October 3, 2023 2:46 pm

The answer to how do you fill it is that the cavern is creating by brine leaching – i.e. pumping in water to dissolve the salt, and pumping the salt water back out again to remove it, with continuous recirculation of the water pumped in. Consequently, the cavern starts by being full of brine, so as you pump in hydrogen you pump out brine. There has to be a fairly substantial initial fill of cushion gas that will stay in the store until it is eventually emptied by pumping in water again when it is retired. The solubility of hydrogen in brine is limited.

It works, because that’s how it was done for Linde’s site in Texas, and the storage near Teesside.

October 3, 2023 12:36 am

“UK, you are the one to do it!”

C’mon, we can now see the fiasco of HS2, who in their right mind, would trust any of our governments to implement such a project and be honest about the failure. They’d still proceed with a failed concept just to look good on the world stage. WEFminster is populated with the biggest fools!

October 3, 2023 1:13 am

Great piece by Francis, as usual.

A small amendment to his proposal: at the same time as doing the suggested pilot, also move all the residents of the chosen area to heat pumps and EVs.

This will make it a realistic pilot for the current UK Net Zero project. It will at least double or triple demand at what will turn out to be most inconvenient times. But it will give a realistic picture of the implications of the current UK Net Zero plans.

I doubt if you can find anywhere in the UK that will agree to be a guinea pig for it. Maybe if you pay enough. Even if you find them, their enthusiasm is unlikely to survive the first cold winter. But Francis is right, do a pilot and lets find out together if its doable and what it will cost.

Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 1:44 am

I went for a little ‘explore’ yesterday around my neighbourhood – I *was* wanting to see the ‘supermoon’ high-tide on the River Nene.
My usual route past the Walpole Substation (aka: Race Bank Offshore Windfarm Onshore Station) was closed. (they’re building something there)
When I got near the river, that road was also closed but ‘Access Only’ from Sutton Bridge (gas fired) Power Station
Along the road parallel the river were some workmen, digging holes and stuffing/pushing/dragging Big Phat Wires into them. I **had** to stop and have a craic

The bobbins of wire/cable were easily 10ft diameter, labelled “Copper Wire Company” and “If lost – please return to sender
The wire itself was coded “zyz123abc-33KV”
About 3″ diameter and made of black polythene surround a single Aluminium conductor of ¾inch diameter and (copper plated) steel armour
Errr, the ‘Copper Wire Company‘ makes Aluminium cables?

They were connecting a big new solar farm next to the power station to the substation, about 3½ miles away by road
It was going to be a 3 phase connection, hence 3 of these cables being dragged into a pre-buried plastic conduit

Sooo many questions:

  • Why not take the power from the solar farm to the power station – they’re on the exact same site (a now abandoned WW2 airfield)
  • Why not put a transformer at the power station to up-convert the 33kV from the solar farm to the 132kV of the power line – they already have one to up-convert their own alternator within the power station. That’s what all power-station alternators work at = 33kV.
  • They’d need the transformer anyway – is that what the road-closure & construction works were about at the substation?
  • Why not use the existing overhead transmission line that connects the power station to the substation? The existing line *only* goes there and the towers are only carrying 3 wires – not the usual 6. Why go underground at all?
  • If going underground, why not use DC, that’s what the solar panels make anyway?
  • Going to DC means only burying 2 wires (not 3) and each of those only needs to be 1/3rd the thickness of the AC wires for same voltage.
  • Power loss using DC is half that of using AC for overhead lines – ‘underground loss’ for AC is insane.

Even the guy ‘just’ driving the baby Hymac was clued up enough to realise what they were doing was madness.. none of it made sense.

(He was a ‘tide watcher’ like me – he knew the Exact Time it occurred (8 minutes past 8) and when it would be tomorrow (now=today)

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 1:57 am

** The Skin Effect depth for an Aluminium conductor at 50Hz is (just shy of) 12mm

Hence using wires/cables any thicker than that is a waste of time – the current itself will simply ignore the extra phatness and flow in that ‘tube’ around the outside of the wire

If using DC,

  • use wires as thick/thin as you like:
  • current (power) handling capacity quadruples as wire thickness doubles.
  • you can bury them
  • and they don’t suffer from Ferranti Effect – make them as long as you like (Listen up Australia)
Leo Smith
Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 4, 2023 4:26 am

Not at 50Hz dear, and in any case, you can use lots of smaller wires.

Long haul cables are DC – its a straight cost benefit calculation. At a given point the cost of the AC losses exceed the cost of the inverters at each end.

michael hart
Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 4:31 am

I went for a little ‘explore’ yesterday around my neighbourhood – I *was* wanting to see the ‘supermoon’ high-tide on the River Nene.

I do hope you pronounced Nene correctly. 🙂
(To other readers, it’s a thing for those living along the river Nene.)

Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 2:07 am

I’m struggling to understand what’s really wrong with Ammonia

OK it’s ‘a bit unpleasant’ but barely any more so than kerosene, vinegar or even neat alcohol.
It has a very strong smell if/when it escapes and so is simplicity itself to keep out of the way of
It is much easier to store than Hydrogen
You cannot smell Hydrogen leaks/escapes
Ammonia does not tend to spontaneosly detonate at fuel/air mixtures anywhere between 5% and 95%

Effectively it’s what The Russians did with vast amounts of the natural gas they found, squillions of miles from anywhere out in Siberia.
They turned the gas, onsite at the drilling rigs, into either Urea or Ammonium Nitrate

Both those things have the advantage that you can pile them up in a shed or in sacks, put them on a railway train and they will still ‘be there tomorrow’ = something that cannot not be said for natutal gas itself.
Or where you want them to be next day/week/month if the train sets off and goes somewhere

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 2:09 am

and with a tiny modicum of adaptation, use it in existing ICE cars

michael hart
Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 5:29 am

Agreed. See my other post about it.

michael hart
Reply to  michael hart
October 3, 2023 5:31 am

And you can also store it in a bottle as a highly concentrated solution in water.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 5:36 am

Generally, ammonia being used as a fuel is an inefficient use of natural gas. In most cases, it would be more economical to use natural gas as fuel directly.

Where natural gas is stranded and there is the potential for barge transportation, then its conversion to denser products could make sense and we do need nitrogen fertilizers.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 8:06 am

“Both those things have the advantage that you can pile them up in a shed or in sacks”

Not sure I would want to be living anywhere near the Ammonium Nitrate shed:

Martin Brumby
Reply to  Cyan
October 3, 2023 10:52 am

Especially if there were excitable goatherds with sugar, knocking about.

As the most advanced army in the world found out.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 4, 2023 4:27 am

if a tonne of ammonium nitrate goes up you will hear it 20 miles away.

michael hart
October 3, 2023 4:06 am

Is ammonia as dangerous as hydrogen or volatile hydrocarbons? I’m not convinced. I don’t recall it killing many people when it was commonly used in refrigerators.

As a chemist, I’m also a bit weird. I like the smell of ammonia in amounts that don’t cause breathing paralysis.

But I’ve also got no objection to trialling hydrogen storage techniques. It doesn’t have to cost much, especially when compared to the current wind and solar experiments.

Krishna Gans
Reply to  michael hart
October 3, 2023 5:44 am

Skating rinks are cooled with ammonia, and a lot of industrial process cooling are designed to cool with ammonia.

Reply to  michael hart
October 3, 2023 5:46 am

“As a chemist, I’m also a bit weird.”

I agree with that, but I don’t like the odor of ammonia at all, and ammonia has acute toxicity that I would much rather avoid.

I’ve been doing a fare amount of quartz glass blowing recently which involves the use of a hydrogen/oxygen torch. I derive a simple satisfaction of igniting that torch every time. No fuss no muss.

October 3, 2023 4:24 am

It is extremely difficult and expensive to contain hydrogen gas for storage.
Salt caverns do not qualify, because the hydrogen molecules are very small and would just disappear.
Pressurizing would increase the rate of hydrogen disappearance
Steel pipelines would experience hydrogen embrittlement, which weakens the metal.
The escaped hydrogen likely would explode
The hydrogen economy, as envisioned by non-technical people, is a mirage.

Reply to  wilpost
October 3, 2023 4:47 am

The hydrogen process requires a STEADY SOURCE OF POWER
Wind and solar would not qualify, unless first stored in batteries, or huge water reservoirs.

Using Tesla li-ion, Megapacks, at all-in turnkey capital cost of $575/kWh delivered as AC (2023 pricing), the cost of everyday charging of batteries from 20% full to 80% full, to get a 15-year life, as recommended by Tesla, and then discharging to 20% full, etc., day after day, would cost about 50 c/kWh delivered to the HV grid, if wind and solar (without any subsidies) are used

The cost of financing at 6.5%/y for 15 years, and the cost of Owner return investment at 10%/y for 15 years, would be the primary costs, plus O&M 30 miles out to sea, plus all other costs

The 3.5% above financing percent is the minimum for all the hassles of designing, building, erecting, and paperwork of a project

Reply to  wilpost
October 3, 2023 5:52 am

Rising interest rates will kill a lot of projects.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  wilpost
October 3, 2023 8:55 am

Storengy in the UK say they have developed the technology- called Hysecure- and are in the process of debrining their first salt cavern in Stublach, Cheshire. The process typically takes 3.5 years but can vary between 2 and 6.5 years.

They have 20 caverns in salt rock below 500m

Krishna Gans
October 3, 2023 4:59 am

What is the molecule density of the salt that forms the cavernes ?
May there be chemical reactions with hydrogene and the salt ?

Will there be and how will it be done, a density proof of the cavernes ? Create a vacuum inside as in cooling tubes and nachinery ?

Krishna Gans
Reply to  Krishna Gans
October 3, 2023 5:01 am

Edit is off.
Machinery I would type…

Reply to  Krishna Gans
October 3, 2023 5:14 am

Read some technical papers.
They would give you abswers

Reply to  Krishna Gans
October 3, 2023 5:59 am

Not sure what you are getting at. Chemistry lesson: salts are not molecules because the ion constituents are not bonded, i.e., they can freely move about, for example in solution.

Salts are generally not reactive in and of themselves because they represent a low energy state that arose from electron transfer, which created negative and positive ions.

That is not to say that salts are not corrosive and their ability to move electrons around can help induce electrochemical reactions.

Reply to  Scissor
October 3, 2023 6:23 am

I should have said not chemically of covalently (shared electrons) bonded. The attraction between cations and anions is considered an ionic bond.

Krishna Gans
Reply to  Scissor
October 3, 2023 7:02 am

As I wrote molecule density I was thinking more at lattice (had to look at an online translater) where H2 can or can not pass through.

I never have been in a salt caverne and have no imagination how dense or close the salt crystals are sedimented.

My Chemistry lessons some decades ago haven’t been the best and not weighted on such process’, more on mole etc.

Dave Andrews
Reply to  Krishna Gans
October 3, 2023 9:03 am

See my reply to wilpost below at 8.55am. Storengy in the UK have developed a technology to store hydrogen in salt caverns and are in the process of debrining their first cavern in Cheshire


Krishna Gans
Reply to  Dave Andrews
October 3, 2023 9:17 am

Found, thanks !

Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 5:22 am

Oh dear oh dear oh dear – take a peek at what (just) Biogas can do….let alone Hydrogen
Biogas is = Methane – it burns, can explode in the right situation
Hydrogen also burns but so very fast it appears to detonate, in all situations.

Oxford Biogas Blast.PNG
Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 6:20 am

Biogas is generated at low pressure but large volumes, so explosive mixtures of fuel/air are readily formed. Effective engineering controls to avoid conflagration are a little tricky. Obviously in this case, electrical grounding was insufficient.

The pressure of hydrogen generated via electrolysis is much higher and cells are designed to keep hydrogen/oxygen separate. Of course the potential chemical energy is high, but I would argue that the former is a more difficult engineering challenge.

Leo Smith
Reply to  Scissor
October 4, 2023 4:34 am

Hydrogen pressure is not a function of how its made.
High pressure hydrogen produces liquid hydrogen like in the space shuttle launch rockets. Safe as – er- a thermobaric bomb to be around.

Screenshot at 2023-10-04 12-32-42.png
Reply to  Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 10:10 am

Certainly cooling and compression are used on hydrogen for specific applications, but most electrolyzers are designed to produce hydrogen at pressures well above atmospheric, whereas digestors operate near atmospheric.

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 5, 2023 12:35 pm

“High pressure hydrogen produces liquid hydrogen like . . .”


A substance’s critical temperature is the temperature above which it cannot exist as a liquid, no matter how much pressure is applied.

The critical temperature for hydrogen (gas) is −239.95 °C (33.20 K). Therefore, it is NOT pressure that is used to create LH2, but instead cooling it down (i.e., active refrigeration) to very low cryogenic temperatures.

And your attached photo of the Challenger booster explosion is the result of the violent mixing and combustion of liquid hydrogen with liquid oxygen as the rocket broke apart at supersonic velocity . . . not at all like the way a thermobaric (aka “aerosol”) bomb is designed to function.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
October 3, 2023 10:23 am

“Hydrogen also burns but so very fast it appears to detonate, in all situations.”

Ummm . . . would “all situations” include the 1937 Hindenburg disaster, where the rigid airship’s hydrogen ignited and burned with air, but did not explode?

Leo Smith
Reply to  ToldYouSo
October 4, 2023 4:37 am

Actually what burned first was the doped fabric and the aluminium structure. Like any flammable gas hydrogen can burn if high concentrations meet low levels of oxygen, or explode if the gas mixes with oxygen before ignition.
Most people know that.
Odd that you dont

Reply to  Leo Smith
October 4, 2023 12:48 pm

What I do know is that the phrase “in all situations” does not admit the possibility of “except when it doesn’t detonate, as when high concentrations meet low levels of oxygen”.

Odd that you didn’t know that.

Tom Halla
October 3, 2023 6:30 am

El Hierro is a already a fair test case for wind only, with storage. Pumped storage is less lossy than hydrolyzing for hydrogen, and it was a failure.

It doesnot add up
Reply to  Tom Halla
October 3, 2023 11:50 am

The storage is inadequate, particularly in the small lower reservoir, so they have to stop generating from the upper reservoir to prevent it from overflowing across the road and into the sea.

October 3, 2023 8:03 am

And in 2008 we were about to have cellulosic ethanol.

October 3, 2023 9:56 am

Quoted as being in the above-mentioned Executive Summary:
“In GB, the leading candidate is storage of hydrogen in solution-mined salt caverns. . . .”

Hmmm . . . I guess it probably passes right over the heads of those executives that science shows the permeability of hydrogen gas through naturally-formed salt domes (those having natural fissures, cracks, faults, inclusions, etc.) means that any pressurized hydrogen gas contained therein might leak out at a rate of 0.1% per day or higher.

“We performed a complete set of laboratory experiments on a rock salt specimen to study the complex evolution of gas permeability under different loading conditions. The porosity of the studied rock salt is very low (~ 1%) and the initial permeability varies over 4.5 orders of magnitude.”
— abstract of Evolution of Gas Permeability of Rock Salt Under Different Loading Conditions and Implications on the Underground Hydrogen Storage in Salt Caverns, D. Grgic, 01 November 2021 (ref: )


Permeability Modeling and Estimation of Hydrogen Loss through Polymer Sealing Liners in Underground Hydrogen Storage, Dawid Gajda and Marcin Lutyński, 5 April 2022
(ref: )

This second reference provides these experimentally-measured permeability rates for mineral salt:
— salt rock, Permian (before creep): 4.815 × 10^3 Barrer
salt rock, Permian (after creep): 0.195 Barrer

Thus, salt-creep self-sealing under internal pressure loading has been demonstrated to occur in laboratory specimens (offering some argument for eventual low permeation losses for underground storage in salt caverns), but such has not been demonstrated to occur in-situ.

And it speaks volumes that the authors found the need to investigate various means of sealing the interiors of salt caverns so as to lower anticipated hydrogen leakage rates. Maybe, just maybe, it occurred to them that solution-mined salt caverns may not have left a continuous, relatively thick layer of pure salt lining the most-certainly irregularly shaped cavern . . . hmmm.

Caveat emptor!

It doesnot add up
Reply to  ToldYouSo
October 3, 2023 11:54 am

One consequence is that caverns can only tolerate a lower pressure for hydrogen – which means that the volume required to store the same amount of energy as a given quantity of methane is not just the 3 times energy density factor, but also nearly double again for the lower pressure. The Stublach design appears to take about 5 times the space per GWh stored.

It doesnot add up
October 3, 2023 10:09 am

I’m not sure of the basis on which they are claiming 100% renewables on El Hierro. Here’s the operation last December – which was an extended period of Dunkelflaute, so diesel was supplying most of the power. But just before the New Year they had a nice windy day which produced excess wind, and the hydro system used a good chunk of it in pumping and consequently adding grid inertia for stabilisation. But the diesel remained operating at about 1MW, providing some inertia and a frequency anchor. Are they counting any time when the pumping power is greater than the diesel generation as 100% renewable? Because that is a fraud.

comment image

Anyone who can find a period when Motores Diesel drop to zero should post it. Here’s a spell in early July with lots of wind:

Make sure you are looking at the Generacion tab. Easiest to adjust the date directly in the URL to view other periods.

Reply to  It doesnot add up
October 3, 2023 11:41 am

El Hierro has an upper and lower reservoir, both are about 15 times too small to store adequate energy, in case the wind is barely blowing and the sun is sound asleep, which happens quite a few days of the year.

Of course, vastly more wind turbines and solar panels are needed to RELIABLY fill the reservoir AT ALL TIMES OF THE YEAR

Reply to  wilpost
October 3, 2023 11:42 am

During high winds, wind and solar curtailments likely will be necessary

Reply to  wilpost
October 3, 2023 11:44 am

Welcome to Nirvana.
The island will look like a pin cushion with solar panels everywhere

October 3, 2023 10:37 am

That will be very expensive. But it will be the best tens of billions of pounds you have ever spent, because when it shows that this system costs five or ten times what the existing system costs to produce the same electricity, it will be abandoned.

nope. it will be improved.

You see thats the way New Technology and Innovation works.

One guy: Lts say Elon Musk Has a Vision.

electric cars. doesnt have to be entirely unique, just focused.

Then Every 2 digit IQ person in the world

brings up “unsolvable Problems”

range is too short: buils better batteries.

there’s not enough lithium: Find more sources. change chemistry

not enough cobalt: change chemistry.

not enough charging stations

FOTW #1299, July 17, 2023: The Number of Electric Vehicle Charging Ports in the U.S. Nearly Doubled in the Past Three Years. From the fourth quarter of 2019 to the first quarter of 2023, the number of public and private electric vehicle (EV) charging ports nearly doubled from 87,352 to 161,562.

Bottom line Fleet managers will very quickly see the benefits of EVs.

That ICE vehicle my employer gave me, will be an EV in the future

and when i go to work. i charge for free.

company Perk

what about home charging

bottomline more and more residential complexes will offer EV charging, like they offer gyms
and swimming pools.

home builders?

long ago before Wifi, my boss asked me.

how are we going to solve network in the house.

well go in the crawlspace and pull cat5 wiring to every room

well work with HP to solve data over powerline.

lots of solutions each is a new business.!

in the end we decided

  1. home builders would include cat5.
  2. wifi would eventually work. Trust Me noe of you were there to hear why

a. 3D will never come to the PC, Laptop or Phone
b. Mp3 will never disrupt the music business.
c. Wifi will never work

anyway thanks to wildfires and floods, youll need new homes and they will come EV ready.

They will ask how did you put gas in your car? drill for Oil in your backyard? operate a neighborhood refinery?

bottom line When you say X is impossible I see nothing but upside.

The ONE problem with doing a test site in the UK???

The english have no imagination.

They will try something stupid, watch it fail, and then declare it impossible.

using hydrogen for long term storage?

then rejecting cheap Wind because your storage solution is for shit.

that would be like arguing Gas makes no sense for cars, if you have to extract Oil with a shovel.

bottom line more and more countries are advancing renewable penetration. you dont need to fabricate a strawman test case in an IQ challenged place like UK or AUS.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 3, 2023 2:00 pm

“you dont need to fabricate a strawman test case in an IQ challenged place like UK or AUS”

Sure, right, just roll them dice . . . what could possibly go wrong with just proceeding directly to the “tens of billions of pounds” (your words) full scale deployment of this “vision”?

Ever ask yourself whatever happened to the “vision” of the British Aircraft Corporation/Aérospatiale jointly-developed and made operational Concorde SST? In that case, didn’t subsequent innovation and technology failed to make it work?

Now, you were saying something about “2 digit IQ persons” being in the world . . .

Reply to  ToldYouSo
October 3, 2023 2:09 pm

TYS, how did you make any sense of what he said to be able to respond?

Reply to  Tony_G
October 3, 2023 4:41 pm

Took a WAG . . . but obviously, it didn’t matter to Mosher . . . he’s off counting digits.

old cocky
Reply to  Steven Mosher
October 3, 2023 7:14 pm

in the end we decided

home builders would include cat5.

wifi would eventually work. Trust Me noe of you were there to hear why

How long ago was that?

Martin Brumby
October 3, 2023 11:17 am

Checkout “Ground Engineering” 25 April 2023 with an interestin piece on the problems of constructing HS2 (Ho Ho) in Cheshire because ofthe well known a long standing (or not) problems of ground instability due to the roof sagging or collapse of old salt extraction. Motorways previously were designed to avoid the known problem areas, where voids exist larger than St. Paul’s cathedral.

Hopefully the collected genii of the Royal Society, not to mention the fly-by-night Greenie Hydrogen storage “experts”will get their geotechnical sums right.

For once.

October 3, 2023 11:42 am

Great Britain’s demand for electricity could be met by wind and solar energy supported by large-scale storage.

I could also be met by harnessing unicorns. If only we had some unicorns.

October 3, 2023 12:50 pm

Nice article. You are right until there is a demonstration project all talk of a transition should stop. The number one problem is that there is no need for a transition in the first place so why bother?

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