Will New Technology Keep Birds Even Safer From Wind Turbines?

Will New Technology Keep Birds Even Safer From Wind Turbines?

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Which Allen, Allen has a new process now. From our last episode, he's starting a new company to get polar bears trained to to push down all these wind farms at the end of life saving about 1,000,000 bucks. Let's stay tuned for that. But how much does a polar bear cost? I wouldn't have thought that would be. It would be cheap.

Welcome back. I'm Dan Blewett. I'm Allen Hall and I'm Rosemary Barnes, and this is the UpTime podcast bringing you the latest in wind energy, tech news and policy. On today's episode, we're going to talk about a recent wind farm repowering. We'll talk about a new bond push after some pretty crazy photos of discarded turbines up in New York.

We'll talk about plant based epoxy is piping hydrogen the cost of green hydrogen in the future? Shipping hydrogen. And we'll talk about some new technology helping to shut down turbines when it detects birds. So before you going, be sure to subscribe to Uptime Tech News, which you'll find the show notes this podcast. And that's our weekly update and podcast.

Newsletter It's great to stay in touch with everything on the current edge of the news cycle and be sure to subscribe to Rosemary's YouTube channel, which you'll find in the show notes as well. She puts out a new content each week, so if you're a wind energy and renewable energy junkie, you'll definitely find a ton of value in her content, so definitely subscribe when you get a chance. So let's get started here today and there's a wind farm run by EDP renewables, and they've successfully power.

This is the Blue Canyon to wind farm. But what strikes me as a little strange is they re powered from 1.80 1.8 megawatt turbines to drumroll, please. two megawatt turbines.

So like, you know, 13%. Does that strike you as odd? That strikes me as strange. I feel like you get 1.8. You're real excited to go to like 6.5 or something. Yeah, but you can't reuse any of the components. And I think the benefit of repowering and what's going on is you're going to see a lot of because of the age of turbines are starting to get there in the United States is you have a tower, you have a pad, you've got the transmission lines, you got the transformers already there.

So how much can you increase the generator by to get that extra 10% of power, which is 10% more cash flow? And the economics are really interesting on that. I've I've just been remotely involved in a couple of these things, and it looks like you're going to see a lot more repowering in the United States and most because 90% of the turbines already there. And if it's still good working condition, then why do you want to knock it all down and start over again? I think that's a pretty good argument.

Why would you want to stop what's already working? It'd be like every 15 years knocking down the natural gas power plant and starting over again. I think they're kind of using the same model like it's pretty much up and running. We just need to maintain it. And if we can squeak out a couple more percentage points of energy production, then fantastic.

And I think that's good. Rosemary, do you see more repowering happening happening in the next couple of years? Yeah, I think so. I think it's kind of two opposite kind of trends that we see on aging wind farms. So and it will depend on the site specifics and how old the wind turbines are and how far technology has come since then. So you'll see where where possible. Yeah, you repower.

You get a little bit more power from the same turbine, extend the life of the of the turbines. So that's a good, cheap way to get more more electricity, more energy from your wind farm. But on the other hand, you do say also some old wind farms that, you know, using aging technologies and in particular, really small turbines compared to what's available now.

Some of those old wind farms, like the first ones, are always on the very best sites, right? So I think what's really starting to happen? Maybe now in Australia, some wind farms are not at the end of their life, but they want to decommission them so that they can make better use of that, like really excellent wind resource. So it's kind of in a sense, like two opposite things. one is, you know, extending the lifetime of an existing wind farm and the other one is getting rid of it early. Another don't destroy the turbines in the bay and they'll put them, they'll put them somewhere else. You know, there's a market for second hand wind turbines, but yeah, it just really depends on what the potential of the site is and how how good the turbine was to stop it from just start with. But so they replaced the nozzles, the blades and the top tower section.

I mean, that sounds like a lot. I mean, especially with components getting more efficient. And I mean, you'd assume the cells have now way less given the same output right than they did before. It still strikes me as strange that such a small margin of increase would be present here.

I mean, does that strike you as strange rosemary or not so much? Well, I think it varies from project to project, but presumably they're replacing the generator if they're going from 1.8 to two. I mean, that would have to that you can't just you can't just like get more out of the small generator. So I guess that they have to replace the nozzle because, you know, it's not not the correct one to fit the new generator in. Otherwise, I wouldn't think that that nozzle would be something that you would need to replace because they're pretty lightly loaded.

And then with the blade sometimes. They replace them sometimes they just extend the tip. And sometimes they might leave the Blades and just do a lifetime extension, which basically involves recalculating its lifetime because when the wind turbine blade is designed, they will calculate it's basically how many bends it has in its lifetime to calculate the fatigue, the fatigue loading.

And, you know, 20 years ago, the manufacturers didn't have as good an understanding about how the materials behave. So they were quite conservative with the, you know, the values that they would put into their calculations. And now we know more. Maybe you know that the wind turbine wasn't used at the loads that they assumed for the the site didn't eventuate. So you can rerun those calculations and very often you're getting, you know, extra years of lifetime without having to do anything just because they realize now that they really overbuilt it at the start. So it will just depend on whether or not those factors are relevant for that particular site as to whether or not they need to need to actually actually change things.

So it sounds like then that this they ran all the numbers. They're like, yeah, like we can keep foundation all the infrastructure, all like, this is the best we can do. Is that what it sounds like, Alan? It does. And I think it's not a bad move. It makes sense to me. And I think on the on the blade side, as Rosemary has pointed out, has been on the projects I've been around.

What they're doing is actually improving their are dynamics of the Blades. At times, blade extension is one of those. Uh, but cleaning up the leading edge, getting fixing of a little structural defects that may be in there today, adding vortex generators, those couple get a couple of percentage points. More power out of existing blades is really interesting because we don't always see that, but a couple of percentage points of more energy production is actually a lot of cash. And so it makes sense because your your return on investment time is can be a year or two.

And if you're talking about a 20 year time span and what you're going to be generating revenue, then you know, if you earn it back in a year or two, that makes total sense to do. And I think that's what's happening. So let's switch to two end of life. There's an interesting photo that has been passed around, especially LinkedIn, a bunch, which is from an article from Observer today, and it was from Andrew Goodell, who's a Republican from the New York State Assembly. And it's him. I guess he was driving along the highway, saw a gigantic heap of discarded turbine blades and took a photo of it in front of it.

And this is really just stirred up the discussion about bonds and of end of life bonds to decommission wind and solar projects at the end of their useful lives. Alan, this is probably not that far from you up there in the Northeast. No, it's not. Yeah, but so I expect you to go home and get you a nice new wind turbine to do some testing on a term blade. But I mean, does it? It kind of surprises me that there's still heaps like this.

Given all the bad press last year, you kind of feel like, Oh, everything's kind of being dealt with, but maybe, maybe it's not. Or maybe this is on the road to recycling. I don't know. What's your take here? That's a good question, because when I saw that article, the first thought is, Well, that's just a hoarding place, right? Those players are going to be recycled and they're just there temporarily.

But then nothing in the article indicates they're going to be recycled, which is weird because we've had Veolia on the podcast, which is talking, which they recycle wind turbine blades, especially reusing in cement plants. And there's not there is a cement plant not very far from where these wind turbines are currently stored, where that energy can be used. And so it is weird. And I know and LinkedIn the same thing. Like there's and rosemary probably seen this. It was been a lot of discussions about recycling of wind turbine blades lately.

And there's you see these pictures of big piles of wind turbine blades and someone brings up, well, why isn't someone recycling these things? And the answer is they already are. We already have the technology to do it. And I'm not sure why nobody realizes it, because you can you can google it. And it's not hard to find.

But maybe it doesn't stand out. Or maybe it's country specific. Maybe that's the other thing too, is it seems like the Midwest is in. The United States is already working on recycling, but maybe not so much in the Northeast where I am.

It's just very odd. But and rosemary, I think the bigger question is this bond issue is, you know, are they going to force the owners operators to basically put a bunch of cash into a bond to take down the turbines because it it doesn't sound like that was done in this particular case. And they want to start changing the rules, which is not a good time to do that once the development's already happened. But if they go back and start saying, Hey, you're going to have to issue a bond to take down these turbines, doesn't that really impact the profitability of the wind turbine sites? Well, there's plenty of places in.

The world that require something like this, and in fact, we were talking on a recent podcast, we talked about this new decommissioning method that, you know, the process where it was like chopping down a tree to get the the pulling the towers down. Oh yeah, right? A point of them developing this new process was that it was cheaper, and that meant that they had to set aside less for that decommissioning because they had a cheaper process. So which Allan Allan has a new process now? From our last episode, he's starting a new company to get polar bears trained to to push down all these wind farms at the end of life, saving about 1,000,000 bucks.

Let's stay tuned for that. But how much does a polar bear cost? I wouldn't have thought that would be. It would be cheap. Well, you know, the way we've increased chicken size here in the U.S., I mean, I'm sure we can get polar bears into the four or five metric ton range, you know, just a couple of years of anyway.

Yeah, I mean, this is one of those issues a wind turbine, blade recycling. It's like the wind winter blades going to landfill. It's one of those things that comes up again and again and again. And it's just, I mean, it's it's a bit weird for several reasons. I mean, first of all, because wind turbine blades, 5% of all of the things that are made out of composite materials and is the exact same recyclability issues.

It's also the same as any, you know, there's any number of products that are technically recyclable but aren't recycled. Plastic bottles and even glass bottles are not recycled nearly as much as you might assume because they're recyclable. But if it's cheaper to use virgin materials than it is to use the recycled materials, then that's what people are going to do. And it's why you say, you know, aluminum is highly recycled and, you know, plastic bottles less so. So, yeah, it's it's an economic question of either the the technology needs to get better at recycling something.

All those processes that you do to take a blade and recycle into usable material has to be so cheap that it can compete against virgin material or you need to force people to do it for some, some reason. And we've seen it a lot in plastic bottles. You see heaps of consumer pressure on the manufacturers, and now you do see bottles that are made out of recycled plastic, not recyclable plastic, but actually recycled. And it's not because it's economical to do it like that.

Except for that, customers won't buy it if at some, if it's not. And so with the wind turbine blade issue you, I mean, it's yeah, another another thing is that it's not that weird to require a developer to set aside money for decommissioning. I mean, you do it with nuclear power and you do it with many wind and solar farms around the world. So I've got no problem with with them doing it for wind as well. And then the other thing is, you've got to compare it against what wind turbines replacing and then they're replacing, you know, coal power plants that involve many times the amount of mass of, you know, coal being dug up. And I mean, it doesn't just disappear when you burn it right, it goes into the atmosphere and it goes into into ash, which is full of toxic chemicals.

And yeah, much more massive than the amount of waste that a wind turbine or wind turbine makes for the same amount of energy produced. So it's just, yeah, like I said, I just can't understand why people keep on raising and raising and raising this issue. But it's just that thing where if you've got a green technology, it has to be 100% perfect. Otherwise everyone is outraged about it. It's not enough that it's better on every single metric than the incumbent technology.

It has to be literally perfect before people will stop carrying on. So I'm a bit bemused, but kind of used to feeling that way by now. While sticking with the topic of recyclability, there is a the The Composites Core program from the U.S. Department of Energy and annual general researchers, and some others are doing work into finding carbon fiber composites with bio based epoxy is obviously we had green votes on the program just a few episodes ago, and you know, they've been at the forefront of using bio based off boxes and other materials in their boats and their, you know, more mass market products, including their nozzle, that they did last year. Alan, you're our resident materials expert along with Rosemary. But

what do you see here with bio based epoxy is are they going to really be out of work and is there sort of an alternative to carbon fiber in our future? I mean, what is some of this research leading us to? Well, I think the goal is to to really break down the epoxy system and to get all the carbon fiber and fiberglass back out of the blade and try to reuse it in some other industry, probably automotive or something similar to that. But the interesting piece of this is that the effort that has gone into making this plant based epoxy, I haven't seen a lot. A structural data on it, which is odd, because at the end of the day, the reason you're using epoxy is because it's so dang good structurally and and there's the what clicks the back of my head. It's like, let's just say there's there is this plant based epoxy and it will just say it works great in the laboratory.

We don't really know how it's going to work for like leading edge erosion, hot, cold, wet, all those things that composites engineers do all the time. And you wonder why they're always in the lab all the time. Pulling samples apart is because they're trying to make sure that the epoxy system and the fiber doesn't break down over time, and you just kind of feel really uncomfortable. It's like when we made the switch from like, what are your plans to aluminum airplanes like? You know, there's a little transition there. We need to figure it out. We went from aluminum airplanes to carbon fiber airplanes.

It's like there was like a ten year period where we're a 20 year period. We were trying to figure it out to make sure that we didn't kill anybody. And yet we got this really weird, plant based epoxy thing going on, which is great. Maybe it works great, but you would like to see some published numbers on it. You like to see some data on it.

And Rosemary, wouldn't you be just saying, you know, it sounds awesome, but until someone gives me the data said it doesn't matter. Yeah, there were a few claims in the article that I read that need some evidence to back them up before I can really believe them because they say that you, that you can you can separate, you know, degrade the resin at room temperature temperature, right? So I mean, yeah, so I mean, that's great. But obviously you've got some sort of tension between making a material that's durable and one that's easily recyclable. So right, you know, if it's so easy to separate the fiber from the resin in, you know, when you want to recycle it, how confident are you that it's going to be durable in operating conditions, right? So, you know, normally when they're trying to make recyclable bladders using thermos set that the idea is that you can hate them very high and melt the resin out again, which you obviously can't do with a thermostat.

But you know, at least then you know, well, if I need, I hate this to 80 degrees that my blade will never say that in the in its operational life, except for lightning, except for lightning. Exactly. Yeah, right? OK, yeah. I guess that is I mean, lightning just complicates anything that you want to do, and I wouldn't have like these days, that's my like it, my general general take.

Yeah. And then the other claim in the article was that they said that they can they can maintain the fiber quality over these three material lives so they can recycle it without any detriment to properties. But I mean, one that's very rarely the case that you would get something exactly as good as it started and to if it has got a limit to how many times you can reuse it, then to me that says that it's degrading a little bit each time. So yeah, yeah, it it sounds really cool and I'm not saying any any red flags, but I I would like to say that the evidence behind some of these really cool features that the that the product has because, you know, obviously they aren't. This isn't the only research team that's been trying to do this, have been trying for decades to make better, more recyclable composite materials. Well, moving on, Siemens Gamesa is considering replacing power cables offshore with pipes.

And they're trying to use a thermoplastic composite to jointly transfer not only hydrogen, but I don't know Allan has this power as well. I'm not really clear on what they're what they're trying to accomplish here. It seems like they're trying to create hydrogen on site and then pump it back to shore. And I know rosemary is, you know, super into hydrogen and is the fuel the future? But it does seem a little I understand the process of that, right? So you got a wind turbine, makes electricity, you break down water, you get hydrogen and oxygen, you take the hydrogen, you shove it down a pipe and an outcome to the other end. So it's not complicated. I mean, you can send electricity down wires.

You send hydrogen down pipes. OK, sure, it it's basically the same difference. However, there's a lot of energy lost in that in that mix. And rosemary, you wanted to describe how much energy you're losing when you make that transition to hydrogen gas or hydrogen liquid. Oh, well, yes, I'm assuming that they're going to be transporting hydrogen gas through the pipes, but I guess it could be liquid.

But that would that would really, really surprise me. If you want to liquefy hydrogen and it takes a third of the energy in the hydrogen to to liquefy it, and you never, never get that back . And yeah, I think with this, this idea of offshore hydrogen, it is an interesting concept because there are some, some efficiencies to be gained by doing it that way.

If you don't need to convert the, you know, the rotational energy to electrical energy and then transform it and, you know, put it along a lossy cable and subway cables are expensive and they have problems. So I can see that there are a lot of problems that you solve by putting the electrolyzer in the wind turbine, get some efficiency and solve. Some was bypassed, some engineering problems. But you also are going to create as many as you're going to solve, I believe.

Yeah, I'm glad that. But trying this, I think it should be tried, right? As much as I'm yeah, I'm I'm pessimistic about the hydrogen economy in that I don't think it is going to replace electricity and everything that people say it will 100% for. For sure, we're going to need a lot more hydrogen than we have now green hydrogen than we have now, even if it's only to replace what we already used dirty hydrogen for. So I'm glad to see someone tried this project, but I suspect that we're going to find out that, you know, putting all this complicated equipment offshore is really causes painful, painful projects because in general, the the rule of thumb for offshore is that anything at all that can be done onshore should be done onshore because it's so much cheaper. It's really expensive. If you're adding any complicated equipment that needs maintenance or might malfunction just cost so much and especially so much in downtime to get crews out there.

So glad we're trying it, but I suspect that we won't. We won't see this be the widespread solution. So to be clear, is this saying that wind turbines, like some of these wind turbines, don't produce electricity? I mean, they don't produce electricity in the sense that they're not pumping electricity back, but they're producing electricity, converting it to hydrogen and then shipping the hydrogen back. That's that's how this works.

Instead of piping or cabling the electric tricity back, they're going to convert it and then convert it back. That's that's the solution here. I don't know if they need to convert it back, so I don't think it's a normal. You have to look at this company. I think they called hydro that they have. Yeah, they have an idea to and Siemens probably have have their own.

You don't just take a normal wind turbine and kind of, you know, collect connect the power cord into an electrolyzer you you'll bypass a few component electrical components, and Alan probably can give a better idea about what those are. You can bypass some components, get rid of some conversion losses that you have in a normal wind turbine, so you start with a little bit more. Maybe you're also not so limited in the you can put a big electrolyzer than you might might be economic to put in terms of a generator.

So maybe it was only economic to put a two megawatt generator that you can put a three or four megawatt electrolyzer in. So you can, you know, use more of you can get more energy out of a wind turbine than than you would otherwise. And then you would transport the hydrogen. You could convert that back to electricity at the other end, but that you know, you're going to end up with a lot less electricity from the conversion losses there. I the more sensible thing would be to do that when you needed hydrogen. So, you know, you'll either store it or use it for whatever, whatever thing you think you're going to use hydrogen for in the future.

And has this been something that's been done before? I mean, are there any offshore or onshore turbines producing hydrogen actively now or is this completely novel? I don't think that anybody's actually installed one yet. There's definitely several projects in development. Yeah, I've seen the same thing. I think there's some I want to say off the coast of off the coast of Germany right now.

I think there's a couple of small efforts and good. I, you know, we can criticize sort of the whether it's going to be worth it or not. That's an economic argument, right? I think the technology wise, I need to figure it out and I'm glad somebody is trying it and trying to see how efficient it is. And can they scale it up? And are there some savings to be had? And to you, Rosemary, I talk about all the time.

It's one thing to do it in the laboratory. It's another thing to do it in real life and to get some real numbers are important here because you're not going to. I'm not going to know until you and in this case, build it and try it. Good. Let's see what it does. Well, speaking of hydrogen new report that shipping liquid hydrogen is about five times as expensive per unit of energy as liquid natural gas. What I mean is demand for liquid natural gas.

I mean, as it can continue to be significant, no people hate. Yeah, such a great if people hate their electric ranges, so it's going to continue its use. But what's what's important about this, about this article is comparing these two gases. It's just this the economics of it don't make sense, right? And there is a lot of shipping of liquefied natural gas LNG around the world at the moment. It wasn't, but a couple of weeks ago, where there were ships headed to Europe to support Germany's energy crisis and tried to help out there.

And then I think China was doing the similar thing. There were LNG ships rolling around trying to maximize price, right? Go where the demand is high and you put on a ship and send it over. You know, the hydrogen thing is because its energy density is not there. It really hurt you because the cost you the same amount to transport it, but it's just a lot less energy contained within inside of it. So it doesn't make sense, right? Eventually, it gets all gets down to the economics. Follow the money.

Good example. Follow the money. And if there isn't any money in it, people won't do it and shipping it doesn't make any sense. And Justica, we're talking about making hydrogen local.

I think that's going to be the key. If you're going to make hydrogen, make it local, there's no reason to ship the stuff or maybe ship it through pipes. And that's a big discussion point.

But Rosemary, am I am I off here? It just seems like hydrogen is so easy to make. If you're going to make it, just do it where you are, don't put it on a ship that's just going the wrong way. It is really interesting because if you look at, you know, a lot of countries around the world have hydrogen strategies and very many of them rely on either exporting or importing hydrogen over a. So Japan, Korea and Germany would be the main ones that people are talking about. And we actually right now, the very worlds very first liquid hydrogen ship is in port in Victoria, in Australia.

So there's this project called Say I can't remember what that stands for. Hydrogen export, I guess, is the H and A and it's a joint partnership between Australia and Japan. And this particular project has got a lot of attention because it's incredibly dirty and that if I describe it the steps to you, it just sounds so silly compared to just shipping coal and burning that. But so there's the ticking brown coal in Victoria and then the gasifier to make hydrogen, and there's a lot of emissions associated with that.

And those emissions are just going into the atmosphere. And then they put the hydrogen onto trucks and they drive it things like 400 K's to the point where they liquefy it and you lose a third of the energy in the hydrogen to liquefy it. I put it on the ship, which is it's been modified from an LNG ship, but obviously that to the two gases or liquefied gases are very different and hydrogen with its tiny gills and very low boiling point. Right.

People expect there to be a lot of losses from boil off and also from this leakage. So then it's going to travel on this liquid hydrogen ship 8000 kilometers to Japan, where they're going to do whatever they want to do with it, either put it in a power power station or fuel cars. And so, yeah, I mean, overall, the emissions are much higher than if we just shipped Japan coal and they burn that.

They've bought offsets for the project, too. And a lot of people are calling it blue hydrogen, which I think is a real stretch to call it blue hydrogen when they're just buying offsets. They eventually plan to capture the carbon and store it. But they've. In trying to find a suitable location for a long time now and still haven't. So can you reiterate real quick what the difference in blue and green are? Oh yeah, so blue.

Well, normal hydrogen that what? 99% of hydrogen today is made from natural gas or coal, mostly gas and the emissions just go into the atmosphere. So yeah, it makes a lot of emissions and a lot more compared to if you just burned coal or another fossil fuel, then there's blue hydrogen. It's the same thing, but they capture the emissions and store it or use it. And then there's green hydrogen, which is made from renewables, using renewable electricity to electrolytes, water and split the H2O into hydrogen and oxygen.

OK, got it. So there's a lot of debate about which of these a clean hydrogen and what you can call blue, but I never heard anyone call something blue hydrogen where there was no carbon capture and they just bought offsets from somewhere. So that's that's been the lot of the focus of the discussion about this project is about it's incredibly dirty and the dumbest way to make electricity in Japan, even to export energy from Australia to Japan is dumb. Economically, it's dumb for the environment, but I actually think it's a really great project because finally, someone's going to put hydrogen on it on a ship and transport it because all these countries have so much volume of hydrogen that they're expecting to be exporting long distances between countries that have too much energy. Renewable energy in countries that have not enough.

Finally, we'll be we'll be trying it out. We'll say, you know, everyone talks about the the cost and the losses in efficiencies. We'll be able to actually say what? What are these? How much hydrogen is left at the other end once that ship gets 8000 kilometers away? So, yeah, I'm interested to to see how this project works out, even though on the face of it, it's such a horrible, dirty, dirty project. At least it's, you know, we're doing something finally with stop just talking about exporting hydrogen and where we're actually going to going to do it. And I suspect we'll find out this is a stupid way to transport hydrogen, and that would make more sense to convert it to ammonia.

Or maybe it would be just too expensive to export a lot of hydrogen and never will make it for themselves. I don't know yet, but at least it's a step on the road to finding out what the the most sensible solution is. And so sticking with hydrogen, there's a new report from Wood Mackenzie.

Obviously, they do a lot of consulting and analysis and forecasting. And one of their analysts is claiming that green hydrogen should be able to be produced for a dollar a kilogram in some countries by 2030. Alan, is that seem realistic to you? It could be.

I did the look at the breakdown of what the you know, what the consumer cost is for for hydrogen. And you know, where are the costs in the in the manufacturing and the handling in the shipping element? What is it? What did you pay? What are you paying for at the end? It's surprising how much is in shipping like you could. You could make it for a dollar, but it's still going to cost you x amount of dollars to get it shipped. It's a lot more than the cost of the hydrogen itself. In fact, it was like the consumer cost is like, Oh man, I forget the the units here, but it's like $12 is is $12 and $1 was made to the hydrogen.

Well, there's another $11 in the middle, which is just the transport and handling of the of the of the hydrogen. And so you can make hydrogen free. It's still not kind of really lower the price enough to make it economical. And I think that was the real kicker was just sort of the energy density of the material and the cost to transport it. It doesn't make sense.

And if we're if we're following the money here, there isn't any money. And so you got to you got to kind of pick where your battles are. You're right. If you if you look at the distribution of worry costs, are you trying to hit the big ones first and leave the little ones alone? They're attacking one of the littlest costs in the total cost structure, which was which was odd. And so when I think as a general consumer, you think, Oh, this is great, right? I think this is part of the why these articles are written is because the consumer picks it up and goes, Oh, that's really awesome. And then some economists or business person sits down and says, Yeah, but but there's still eleven bucks to get it to you, so it doesn't matter.

And I think that's where when you know, Rosemary and I have been doing engineering probably way too long, actually. So when you when you get down to the the so the nuts and bolts of it, you're like engineers just go, Oh no. And I think we're a little dismissive at times, but we're dismissive because we we try to gauge what the real costs are from inception to final product. And if you can't make the money or can't build it in the time you need to, then it's not worth doing. And I totally think Rosemary is to right. We're OK on trying stuff like awesome.

Let's try it, and there's there's no reason we shouldn't make the world a better place. Everybody, we should be trying to make the world a slightly better place. The question is, is it the right time for that right? A lot of engineering is not so much. Is it this device cool or is it not great tech? It's a combination of great tech, great cost structure, proper timing, and we're missing one or two of those in this hydrogen equation at the moment.

And rosemary, did you see like, there's just if we're all just sitting around and having lunch together, there's 100 engineers. How many are saying in this hydrogen things going to work out in the end? one to four MIT engineers, they are not not so many. Yeah, yeah, but I think engineers can be too dismissive sometimes. And I think with the hydrogen debate.

Yeah, with the hydrogen debate, there's also something I think a lot of engineers missed, which is just because it's not the technically best solution, doesn't mean that it's the one that's going to happen. You know, there's really a lot of political will to make it happen. And just your average environmentally conscious person on the street really thinks that hydrogen is the the solution that we need.

So I say a lot of a lot of pressure, so I think we'll see more hydrogen than you would get if you just, oh, we will engineers to design the system and everybody else just did what they said. Sure. Which maybe that wouldn't. The engineers often miss, you know, miss important things like, you know, social factors and that sort of thing. So, OK, I'll give you that. OK? Yes, I do. I do think it's good that engineers don't just run the whole show without any and input from anyone else.

But yeah, and I think a lot of engineers are going to be surprised at how much hydrogen we see, even though in some places it's not feasible. So I think that there are some use cases that are just so ridiculously inefficient that it is just not going to happen, like in Australia, blending hydrogen into natural gas pipelines to continue heating homes in that way. Doesn't make sense. Maybe there's more of a case for it in northern Europe, but there's definitely not in Australia. Passenger cars, just no way, just never, never going to happen. You would have to really, really subsidize a lot.

But then I think there's a lot of in-between cases where, you know, maybe hydrogen can be made to work as well as something else and with a little bit of subsidy, a little bit of a few government programs to grow the industry just ahead of the market. I think you could. You could say some. But what I did think was really interesting about this report was so, you know, I assume that they've, you know, like I said, a set of assumptions and say, this is a plausible scenario. We end up with dollar a kilo hydrogen, which would be very cheap. They did it with cost of electricity needs to cost $10 a megawatt hour, Lala, which I think is definitely plausible in the future for places that have a lot of really great solar and co-located.

Yeah, definitely achievable. And then the other point was with the capacity factor of 50% so that electric rises are running on average, half that half the total time. So again, that's, you know, like either a really good wind farm on its own could reach 50% capacity. Factor us all off farm probably never can, because, you know, it's not half the time. But solar and wind together could reach that. But one thing that you can't, you can't do with if you need a 50% capacity factor, you can't just turn it on when the prices go negative on an electricity grid.

You know, that's never going to be 50% of the time. So I think that super cheap hydrogen isn't going to happen in combination with using hydrogen to balance variable renewable electricity grid, which is something people politicians especially have been talking about since the very start of, you know, the buzz about the hydrogen economy and has always seemed to me that the most unrealistic part, part of the idea that you would ever be able to make really cheap hydrogen by buying an expensive electrolyzer, even if they get cheaper, you buy a piece of equipment and then run it, you know, 10% of the time to match your variable renewables that I think this report shows that that's that's not something that's going to happen. So are you as concerned about the price target or are you just more concerned with just swapping out gray hydrogen for green? Yeah, I think that's definitely the first thing that we need to do, because currently hydrogen is an emissions problem rather than an emission solution. It's an incredibly high emissions industry if you add up the whole world's use of it.

And the interesting thing about the report is that while it's saying that green hydrogen could end up under a dollar a kilogram, that compares to the current cost of green hydrogen. So that made from fossil fuels with no carbon capture. That's around a dollar 70 a kilo in 2019 and likely much higher now that the natural gas that they're they're making the hydrogen from IS is more expensive. So I think that's really important that green hydrogen needs to get cheaper than gray.

Otherwise, we're going to have problems with with cheating. I think, you know, like as we rush to massively expand the hydrogen economy, there's this real risk that we end up increasing emissions because if we can't keep up or we can't make the project's economic with green hydrogen, then people are going to be substituting in gray or there's going to be the risk of that happens. You know, even just as a stopgap.

And you know, it's. Because it's so inefficient to convert from gas to hydrogen back to electricity compared to just burning the gas and getting electricity in the first place, so you end up with more emissions by going through hydrogen. So to me, there is a risk with the hydrogen transition that we end up in the short term with a much more emissions intensive outcome.

And I think the fact that green hydrogen is predicted to come down and cost to below that of gray is really promising that that is maybe not so likely to happen. Well, let's transition here to our final topic for today, which is one of Rosemary's favorite animals, which is the common bird. And some technology to help protect them.

Obviously, this is a big cause of contention. You know, this is one of our former President Donald Trump's big claims that, you know, they just killed tons and tons of birds. Obviously, they do kill a certain amount of birds that we've discussed at length on different shows.

But there's a tool from a company called Identify Light. And it's done. It's won some awards over in Australia for its performance.

In 2018, it was installed in a Tasmanian facility and was found to cut eagle deaths. The Cattle Hill wind farm down by more than 80%. So rosemary, obviously birds are a big concern. We want to keep them alive, minimize their risk as much we can. But I guess my question to you first is what's going to incentivize companies to buy this? Or do you have a wind farm is operating? You know, activists aren't or protesters aren't beating down your doors.

Are you going to spend the money to put something like this on your wind farm? And what's going to force people to do this? I don't think that they will put them on a wind farm if there's not a lot of bird deaths there. And they're not. Yeah, if there's not a problem that conservationists upset about or if they're not breaking the rules of their development, I think that this is going to happen in places where birds are a problem for getting approvals or for continued social license to operate.

So the wind farm in Tasmania, where this system was trialed, it is in an area that is home to things a little wedge tailed eagle. So the one we have on the mainland, which tailed eagle, it's as is one of our best Australian birds. It's a humongous bird. It's like 2.3 meter wingspan really, really big.

And they're not endangered. But it has a little cousin in Tasmania. They're a bit smaller and they're the endangered bird, and they were being affected by this wind farm.

And so if the wind farm wants to continue to operate, then they need to find a solution to that. And and so they have effectively done that. And now they're going to translate it to other other wind farms that have problems with birds. I know we've talked about some on the podcast in some of those Great Lakes development that people are very concerned about the potential impact on birds. And I would say this is an easy way that you can get around it saying, you know, we're going to monitor and we can install this system. If if it turns out that birds are being killed, you know, our assessment says that we don't think that they will be if we're wrong, then we'll install this system and will turn off the wind turbines anytime there's a bird around.

And I just think that just having that technology available in your back pocket should make it a lot easier to, you know, reassure everybody that you you're on the side of the birds and you're going to you're going to do what it takes to keep them safe . I just watched a presentation by energy systems based up in Vermont, not very far from here. They're looking at bat deterrent systems, and they were tracking the flights about, I thought, my gosh, I mean, like radar tracking the flights of bats.

That's pretty cool. And if we can do that, I think the next stage is not so much to turn off the turbine. I think the next day just to have some way of discouraging the birds, the bats, whatever to do, fly around these areas. I think that's ultimately where it's headed. And only when we I don't know if we talked about this in the podcast.

Maybe we did a couple of probably ten episodes ago now where we're painting one of the Blades like half black, half white seem to make a big difference and Bert does like it reduced them like 60% , some crazy number. So yeah, and you got to wonder the technology is only going to get better as we learn more about what would discourage birds from flying into wind turbine blades. And it seems like that's the issue, like the birds actually have to physically contact the blades. If we can reduce that and any measure and just monitoring where they're at, it's such a huge step because now we understand what's going on and why are they there? And there's a reason why they are there.

Mean there's insects or some sort of rodent on the ground around there? We could move. I think the technology just lends itself to sort of more study. And until we have those tools in place, we can't we can't do the things we're going to need to go do. So these are just early. So I just find it fascinating that the technology is catching up so fast that we can monitor the flight of birds very actually in bats and other things, it's just incredible. Yeah, and this one's more actually more optical based than radar.

So it has a couple high res stereoscopic cameras and it has eight a wide field of view cameras as well. So it looks like it's using more optical than radar. But you're right, it's it's seems like it's complicated. It works pretty well. But yeah, it's it's a good question about if there should be a hybrid solution. Like you said, should you paint the tips black? And you know, is that going to get you closer from the 80% reduction to, you know, upwards of 90%? Like what? What kind of hybrid system could maybe companies use to not just choose one solution but get the best of all of them? It's a it's a good question, and I don't know if everybody saw this, but there's been some recent video of the latest full self-driving by Tesla.

And if you watch the video, which is not even close, which isn't even close to full, so OK, by the way. OK. Yeah. All right. So it's a misnomer. I'll grant you that.

But if you watch how that that system works, that's a vision based system, vision based system to rate how fast it tracks humans and non-humans , and tour stop signs of speed limits and bicyclists and the whole thing the the ability to sense, detect and accurately project what those objects are. Is a mind boggling, mind boggling how well that happens, and that technology will eventually flow down. It'll take years and it'll probably take a decade, right? But the next thing you know, you know, we'll be doing things on winter and blazes.

We'll see that bird come and we'll make an adjustment to the wind turbine kind of shoo it away, maybe make the winter and make more noise, right? Change the pitch the blade. Make it a little more noisy just for that brief sensor to turn the bird away. Those are things that are possible with a little more technology. We're just going to take up. We've got to give it a little bit time to flesh itself out, but that's the future man.

Yeah, and of course, a lot of this technology is in use. I mean, tennis, they had the Hawkeye system that was there or in or out system that has since been adopted by Major League Baseball. They were using a radar based the track TrackMan system. They're now going to the Hawkeye system, which essentially tracks every player's movement on the field in real time, crazy and everything.

So it seems like these are similar technologies. And it seems like given a choice, more companies are maybe choosing optical versus like radar sensors when I don't know, I don't know the specific applications, and I don't know that, you know, the tracking systems that would work in tennis or baseball would work in something like this where you have to track pretty far out in front, right? Maybe multiple multiple hundreds of yards. So you'd be interested to see how some of these are overlapping and where you see technology being borrowed or, you know, adapted from different sectors where it's already in use. Matter of time, it's all it is. It's a matter of time. All right.

Well, that's going to do it for this week's episode of the Up Time When Energy podcast. Thanks so much for listening. Wherever you are on the web, on Spotify, YouTube, iTunes, Stitcher, definitely leave us a review. Share the show with a friend and be sure to subscribe to Rosemary's YouTube channel and you'll find the show notes below. And to our weekly podcast and news update up uptime check news. Watch again you'll find in the show notes of this podcast, so thanks again for listening, and we'll see you next week on uptime.

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2022-02-11 08:29

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