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So much solar as produced by five „Temelins"

The news from the Czech internet:

https://www.hybrid.cz/australie-vybuduje-nejvetsi-solarni-elektrarnu-na-svete-s-vykonem-jako-5-temelinu

And the same news directly from Australia:

https://www.pv-magazine-australia.com/2019/11/20/australian-billionaires-invest-in-10-gw-northern-territory-solar-farm/

Another piece of information:

https://ekolist.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/zpravy/nejvetsi-solarni-elektrarna-sveta-ma-mit-120-km2.elektrina-pujde-na-export-nejdelsim-podmorskym-kabelem

https://www.sciencealert.com/world-s-largest-solar-farm-to-pipe-power-internationally-from-australia-under-the-sea

 The headline of the Czech version of the report from the Hybrid.cz server is attractive: “Australia will build the largest solar power plant in the world with an output of 5 Temelin NPPs”.

Such a headline will appeal to almost everyone who is interested in energy.

What are the facts?

In 2023, the construction will begin on the largest PV plant in the world in the Northern Territory of Australia.

It will have an installed capacity of 10 GW. It will stand on an area of ​​10,000 km2 (for comparison, it is like the whole South Bohemian region). And it will cost CZK 460 billion.

Two-thirds of the electricity produced is to be exported via submarine HVDC cable to Singapore, 3353 km from the coastal city of Darwin. The new power plant could provide up to 1/5 of the city-state's total consumption.

Already in the discussion under the article, we learn that the area is not of 10,000 km2 but 150 km2.

The Ekolist informs about 120 km2.

And we also learn that the price will not be CZK 460 billion, but about CZK 320 billion.

We have the basic data - albeit a little confused - now, let's look at how much the power plant will actually produce, how and with what efficiency it can transport electricity from Australia to Singapore.

The place where the PV plant will stand lies approximately on the19th parallel. There will be definitely more production per unit of installed capacity than in the Czech Republic.

In the Czech Republic, the average sunshine reaches around 3.8 MJ / m2 per year. In Australia, near the town of Darwin, it is about 7.9 MJ / m2. Which is about 2.1 times more than in the Czech Republic.

In the Czech Republic, the mentioned power plant would produce about 10 TWh per year, i.e. as 0.65 of “Temelin”.

In Australia, it produces about 21 TWh in twelve months. That makes 1.36 of “Temelin”.

We can now make the first conclusion: To compare „five Temelins“ in the headline with the planned PV plant is very, very misleading. Yes, the author certainly meant well and talks about the installed power, and not about the generation. But it can also be an old trick that tells the layman that renewables produce „up a storm“.

As for the price of the new power plant, i.e. CZK 460 billion (or CZK 320 billion), that is a lot of money. We don't know what everything is included but the price will probably cover the cable and a huge battery storage.

The article states that about 2/3 of the electricity produced will flow to Singapore. This would mean that on a sunny day in summer, the transmitted power makes about 7 GW.

I am not an electrician, but I asked a colleague of mine and he assumes that a 3000 mm2 copper cable could be used. It is made in lengths of 500 meters and transmits a maximum of 3 GW.

What does it mean? That in order to "sink" two thirds of the electricity produced into one cable to Singapore, I have to supply electricity there 24 hours a day. Which suggests the need to have a huge storage system next to the power plant on the Australian territory.

If there was no electricity storage, three parallel cables would be needed, which would transmit up to 7 GW during the day and nothing at night, obviously.

A battery storage was not mentioned in the article on Hybrid.cz website, but Ekolist refers to it.

What's next? We have already said how large will be the production under clear weather conditions in the summer and how many TWh it will produce per year.

What about the actual operating loss of the route? The total distance between the power plant and Singapore is about 4500 km.

It will probably be provided in direct current, because otherwise the loss of the route would increase significantly.

 

But it won't be fun anyway. With the transmitted output of 3GW, the loss should make about 385 MW. This is almost 13%.

The cable resistance when using direct current is minimal, but there is an immense length of the cable and, among other things, 9000 connectors.

Another interesting fact from the article is that the power plant will supply Singapore with about 1/5 of the total consumption of the city state.

Is it realistic?

Here is Singapore's energy statistics:

https://www.ema.gov.sg/singapore-energy-statistics/Ch03/index3

The consumption in the city-state rises by 2 to 3% year-on-year. In 2026, when electricity from the Northern Territory should start flowing to Singapore, the annual consumption will be about 61.5 TWh. One-fifth will make 12.3 TWh.

Two thirds of the electric energy produced in the PV plant will make 13.986 TWh. If we subtract the losses of 13% in the cable, the net supplied electricity will make 12.17 TWh.

So, it does fit well!        

However, there is one question remaining: Is it even worth implementing such a project? Does Singapore really have such a problem with electricity and has so much money that it can afford to pay even such a huge loss of the route?

Singaporeans produce 95% of their electricity by burning natural gas, and say they want to make the most of zero-emission renewable sources to reduce CO2 production.

We who deal with energy know very well that an energy source with "zero" CO2 production simply does not exist.

Coming back to Temelin, nuclear power plants release about half of CO2 than PV power plants during their life cycle.

For the CZK 320 to 460 billion, two new nuclear units with an installed capacity of 2x1200 MW, with an annual production of about 20 TWh, could be built. Without the need for thousands of kilometres of submarine cable and battery storage.

In the comments below the articles, in addition to the eternal struggle between the supporters of RES and the supporters of nuclear, we also find several interesting opinions.

Someone comments that the construction of a huge PV plant is a step in the right direction, because if a nuclear power plant was built, the environment would suffer from uranium mining.

However, the author of the comment is silent on how much silicon, lithium, copper and other elements will have to be mined to produce panels, batteries and cables. (Only the consumption of copper for the cable will be about 121 thousand tons).

When we consider the production of CO2 during the construction and operation of the largest PV plant in the world, it remains doubtful whether the carbon footprint would not be as large as that of local gas-fired power plants.

There will definitely be better air to breathe in Singapore, but the „reek“ will be produced anyway somewhere else in the world and will not disappear.

Another comment by one proponent of renewables is very apt. He praises the new PV plant, he just doesn't understand why Australians don't use that energy at home. And he got the point.

The last argument for comparison is from my side:

Today, a new nuclear power plant unit is designed for 60 to 80 years of operation. The lifetime of that PV plant, including batteries, will be about 20 years.

An expensive toy.

Jiří Tyc

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