The Plan to Weave(r) a Green BC

The Plan to Weaver a Green BC

At first blush, it pulls at your heartstrings and sounds like a thing to vote for and support. CBC, Global, the Huff along with many of my Green and social friends support the concept. Having been privileged to grow up in a very rural environment with a tiny environmental footprint, I get it from living a long time on my walkabout on this spectacular planet. Politically, the media gets that emotional part down well.

What I have noticed though, is the absence of any realistic STEM project analysis on how we get there from here, and how the wins and losses / debits and credits balance out when we do. Either the heart felt emotional supporters don’t know how to critically evaluate such a plan in engineering project terms, or they don’t  care to listen to anyone who can.

So let’s do a high level back-of-the-napkin look at the physical facts for realistically getting to the Greenest Fossil Free BC aspirations under the harsh light of real world pragmatism. Let’s start with the giant sucking sound from the Airport:

Currently, Vancouver’s Airport requires over 1000 loads of supplemental  fuel per month trucked across the border from BP’s Refinery in Washington State. The rest comes from Chevron’s Burnaby Refinery supplied by the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Every additional polar route flight to Asia will require another 800+/- truckloads per year.

Thus, the airport’s (ergo the City’s) growth is unsustainable even under current circumstances.  The default growth plan is to import even more fuel from Washington State by tanker and run a 13 km underground pipeline through the City of Richmond.  You could shut down Trans Mountain Pipeline and Burnaby Refinery, but unless you politically limit the airport’s growth, you are simply playing Fossil Fuel whack-a-mole.

The USA is more than happy to take the jobs and supply the Fossil shortfall necessary to feed the Airport’s colossal fuel appetite from Washington State. It will take a brave (or foolish) coalition to attempt to Green that ball and face the wrath of the interconnected downstream implications by deliberately hamstringing the very international Vancouver image by trimming anything airport. It’s probably a non-starter for Green, so we’ll move on.

• Eliminate internal combustion vehicles in the Lower Mainland in favor of EV’s. As an idea, sounds like it should be enforceable as a political objective.  Based on current stats, let’s look at the increased load demand that would be imposed on the Electrical grid. The total gasoline demand for Vancouver is approximately 185,000 barrels per day. That adds an additional 116,400 MWh per day electrical energy gasoline distillate equivalent to the grid. In terms of the additional average (not peak) generating load, it works out to about 4,850 MW more. (Ignoring peaks)

• Add in Vancouver’s single minded political plan to outlaw Natural Gas in favor of Electricity. The city will tell you that you can still use it “subject to”, but will make the city managed building code so difficult for a contractor to jump thru the regulatory hoops, that it will not really be viable as an option. Right now, Vancouver has a natural gas demand of around 26,000,000 Gj/Yr that will need electrical grid replacing. The Green Plan is to allow a green methane alternative, but that optimistically tops out at around 500,000 Gj/Yr, leaving 25,500,000 Gj/Yr to be replaced by electricity. That works out to an additional Grid energy load of around 19,500 MWh/Day, with an average (not peak covering as in winter) addition power demand of about 809,000 kW to the base load.

So where will that extra energy come from as Green input to the Grid? Well, the latest Political speak by the Green NDP Co-Op seems to be currently biased against Hydro as an option. PV Solar north of the 49th Parallel is of such a low density annual load factor as to be unworkable from a capital or physical geography point of view. Nuclear is out of the question. That leaves wind as the option.

Ignoring the intermittent unreliability of base-load wind vis a vis concurrent demand, what would Green Wind look like, assuming they can find sufficient sites that are suited to such an undertaking?

From the two Green bullets above, the extra reliable base load required to handle the demand for those two items add up to 5,658 GW, so we have:

• The Green Windfarm Nameplate Requirements, (using the accepted annual load factor of 12.5% from existing world sites) will need an installed capacity of 45,200 GW total Wind Turbines.

• Based on known current design density, the Net Windfarm Production acreage required to do that is about 2.8 Million Acres (@ 60 acres/MW). Add the supporting Service and Access acreage of approximately 550,000 Acres across the province to end up with about 3.25 Million Acres distributed somewhere outside Vancouver in Rural BC (which is not that Green-NDP friendly at the moment).

It should also be noted that if the Site C Dam (after the political uncertainty dust has settled) is considered politically “Green”, it has a design output of 5,100 GW. Even that is insufficient to cover off Green legislation for EV’s and Vancouver’s determined elimination of Natural Gas by a shortfall of about 550 GW demand.

Not considered in this discussion; – adding that much intermittent and variable weather wind power to the grid will require some type of potential mega stabilizing base load storage either by very large battery farms or pumped uphill hydro storage (think: looks like Site C) on a very large scale.  Easy to say.

Wind Turbines 101 Primer  *Link

Wind turbines are rated against the wind speed at which its generator will be able to produce its full rated, or nameplate, capacity, which is typically 1.5 MW in today’s models designed for on-shore use.

The rated nameplate wind speed is usually around 30 mph.

The turbine has a minimum wind speed at which it will begin producing minimal power, typically around 10 mph. The power output rises in a cubic relation to the wind speed. That is, if the wind speed doubles, the power output is able to increase eight fold. If the average wind speed of a site is 15 mph (half of the rated wind speed), the average power output will be one eighth of the nameplate capacity, or less than 200 KW.

At a wind speed around 60 mph, the turbine locks down.

For a look at the real world life cycle issues for wind farms, see this post on the site.

In Summary

To our next BC Government: Think this Green through objectively, and tread very carefully if you want political longevity and platform support with the fickle cash strapped and over taxed voters.

The comparatively small yet flexible Eco footprint taken up by Rurals won’t notice much change regardless of your Green Energy decisions, but the far more energy intensive dependent Urbanites will suffer where it hurts most: in their pocketbooks amplified by unreliable very expensive brown out energy piled on with supporting regressive taxes to pay for the plan. Just Google the growth stats for Vancouver. The lifeblood for such growth is Energy in all forms, including coordinated capital upgrades to the supporting infrastructure across the province. Such upgrades take decades to plan and construct, well beyond the uncertainty of the the politics.

While the wind in the willows is free, at this juncture the complicated Rube Goldberg thrashing Wind Energy machinery is a regressively expensive alternative for BC. Regardless of the voter’s Political preferences, the Urbanites need and depend on the Rurals more than ever for any Green Forward looking Plan that matters.

Sadly, the Politics in BC are a huge divide that will take great leadership to bridge. Time to show your stuff.

Australia’s Daily Telegraph shows how quickly it can all go politically sideways for one of the World’s Climate Leaders.  More to follow, for sure.   Link Here .

-the old man, in his preferred environment out on the land,  circa 1975