Author Topic: How is UK electricity generated?  (Read 1623 times)

Tim Hall

  • I want to eat the fleeting shade of your lashes
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #25 on: January 02, 2020, 03:16:07 pm »
I went to Dungeness A a few years ago to look at a pile of 20 foot containers. After I'd done that my host asked if I'd like a look round. That'll be a yes.  In a door, wandering round a partly decommissioned nuclear power station, full of 1950s tech.  What's not to like?
There are two ways you can get exercise out of a bicycle: you can
"overhaul" it, or you can ride it.  (Jerome K Jerome)

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #26 on: January 02, 2020, 03:17:38 pm »
...
Oh, sure.  But has that reduced overall power demand, or has that just enabled a lot more computing to happen for the same (or increased) number of electrons?  If I had to guess, I'd imagine a lot of that computing is now happening Somewhere Else, clouding (pun intended) the issue.  (That's an interesting question, actually:  How much of the UK's electricity demand takes place in other countries, via the internet?  How would you even begin to account for that...)

It's an interesting question, I'm sure much of our power-intensive big industry has gone elsewhere. We forget that it wasn't just labour we outsourced. My mothership stuff generally runs out on Amazon servers ostensibly in Oregon (but who knows if it's physically located there, or just another layer of virtualization). Our in-house electron shuffling is in India (though, like a lot of companies these days, we're pulling out in favour of another location). In the UK, it's just laptops and the occasional server, and most of the admin stuff now runs on Azure.

But anyway, as ever we're dumping out emissions elsewhere. Be it China-manufactured Christmas tat or cloud datacentres. Out of sight, out of mind.

(I suspect we'd be a lot less keen on EVs if the cobalt, rare earths etc, where under the home counties.)
!nataS pihsroW

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #27 on: January 02, 2020, 03:53:10 pm »
Very good point. We've heard of offshored water consumption via industry and agriculture but it applies to all sorts of things, from electricity to waste disposal.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #28 on: January 02, 2020, 03:55:21 pm »
Have a look at http://www.electricitymap.org/

This shows CO2 emissions (colours from green through black) per kwh for various countries around the world. Most countries have no data. Notable dirty countries are Poland, Australia, with somewhat less dirty being various Midwest States and some of the smaller European countries. Click on a country for 24h history of CO2 and sources.
Even Poland has plans to clean up its electricity generation, but by building at least one nuclear power station rather turbines or solar. I expect renewables are for gays and Muslims. But what's most noticeable about that map is how few countries actually have figures.
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #29 on: January 02, 2020, 04:13:10 pm »
I went to Dungeness A a few years ago to look at a pile of 20 foot containers. After I'd done that my host asked if I'd like a look round. That'll be a yes.  In a door, wandering round a partly decommissioned nuclear power station, full of 1950s tech.  What's not to like?

I used to do the health and safety for part of a previous company the did stuff at Harwell, spent one afternoon being given a tour of one of the early experimental reactors by the archetypal mad scientist. It was fascinating, but you also got a sense of just how seat of the pants some of it was.
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

simonp

  • Omnomnomnipotent.
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #30 on: January 02, 2020, 05:09:56 pm »
Here's the original article:

"Zero-carbon electricity outstrips fossil fuels in Britain across 2019"

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jan/01/zero-carbon-energy-outstrips-fossil-fuels-in-britain-across-2019?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard
Only if you class nuclear as "zero carbon".
Maybe zero carbon at the point of generation, but how much carbon involved in mining and processing the uranium, then disposing and storing it afterwards.

The figures used at the website I linked to above are:

12g/kWh for nuclear.
11g/kWh for wind.
45g/kWh for solar PV.
230g/kWh for biomass.
490g/kWh for gas.
820g/kWh for coal.

I'd say the first three are effectively zero, given the relatively high values for the others.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #31 on: January 09, 2020, 07:06:32 pm »
My son's doing his maths homework. What's that got to do with electricity generation? He's using a calculator which is powered solely by a PV panel. Presumably it has some sort of rechargeable battery, capacitor or other storage device, but there's no external source of power. And when I bought it for him (four or five years ago), all calculators were like this. Whereas when I was at school, a few calculators had solar panels but they were just additional to a battery. An indication of how much more efficient PV has become. (They are also much cheaper than when I was at school, but that's presumably down to China.)
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

simonp

  • Omnomnomnipotent.
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #32 on: January 09, 2020, 07:23:25 pm »
My son's doing his maths homework. What's that got to do with electricity generation? He's using a calculator which is powered solely by a PV panel. Presumably it has some sort of rechargeable battery, capacitor or other storage device, but there's no external source of power. And when I bought it for him (four or five years ago), all calculators were like this. Whereas when I was at school, a few calculators had solar panels but they were just additional to a battery. An indication of how much more efficient PV has become. (They are also much cheaper than when I was at school, but that's presumably down to China.)

It's not just PV that has become more efficient - you can have way more processing power per Watt now than in the past, so you can have a much more functional device on very limited power.

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #33 on: January 09, 2020, 07:45:05 pm »
That makes sense. Presumably that would also be a factor (along with Far Eastern mass manufacturing and increased global demand) why items like this are so much cheaper than 30-odd years ago?
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #34 on: January 10, 2020, 03:43:55 pm »
I met with a solar developer just before Christmas.   Subsidies for new-build solar disappeared some time ago and new projects have been thin since then.   In the meantime the cost of PV has come down so much that they can now work unsubsidised at the current, albeit depressed, wholesale market prices.   I'd expect more new build to roll out during 2020 and 2021 provided there isn't a further down-shift in wholesale prices.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #35 on: January 10, 2020, 03:53:46 pm »
That makes sense. Presumably that would also be a factor (along with Far Eastern mass manufacturing and increased global demand) why items like this are so much cheaper than 30-odd years ago?

Except when they conspicuously aren't.  I'd previously noticed that the development of calculators seemed to have stagnated in the late 90s (which sort-of makes sense, in a world with ubiquitous fully-functional desktop/pocket computers, the niche for physical calculators is basically the extreme low-end, and exam/classroom-legality).

Not having experience of the USAnian edumacation system, I didn't realise that this was going on, though:
 https://gen.medium.com/big-calculator-how-texas-instruments-monopolized-math-class-67ee165045dc

(As for the shift to solar for calculators, I suspect that's more about low-power electronics and avoiding the cost or shipping/shelf-life issues of batteries than developments in photovoltaics.  They're hardly cutting-edge stuff.  My first calculator in about 1987 was a purely solar-powered four-banger, though the scientific ones we had at secondary school mostly ran on lithium cells (occasional dual-power model), and programmable/graphing calculators ate AAAs[1].)



[1] I recall a mathmo friend draining the batteries in a couple of hours trying to get it to render the Mandelbrot set.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Cudzoziemiec

  • Waking up now, put the kettle on!
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #36 on: January 10, 2020, 04:25:05 pm »
Mandating a specific model of calculator is a bit like mandating sources of school uniform here. Anyway, the calculator I bought when he started secondary school cost a tenner. I remember calculators costing at least £10 in the early 80s. And I remember precisely one person in my class having a solar powered calculator (on which the display faded if you covered up the panel with a sheet of paper). I don't think there was a shipping cost to batteries back then, you had to buy your own separately.

The late 90s was a different world. By then we had all sorts of stuff like mobile phones and email squeezy-powered torches which were just sci-fi in the early 80s (even if they did actually really exist).
I do not ride a great big Mercian, gangster tanwalls, fixed cog in the back.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #37 on: January 10, 2020, 04:32:32 pm »
It works similarly for textbooks, publishers lobby hard to tie a book to a curriculum and make sure updated editions quickly deprecate previous versions so students have to keep buying new ones.

I confess that I never bought any books at university, which is why I'm as clever as I am.

I seem to recall our school recommended a Casio something or other. I'm sure it was solar-powered. Had a mysterious RAD feature which turned out to be less than billed.
!nataS pihsroW

Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #38 on: January 10, 2020, 04:55:39 pm »
I still remember being hugely excited when I got the Ti-30 Galaxy I asked for for Christmas.   Lasted all the way through my A-levels and to University.

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #39 on: January 10, 2020, 05:21:14 pm »
School didn't care about calculators, though they got wise to the fact that a programmable calculator could be used to carry arbitrary information into exams about halfway through my A-levels, at which point they mandated that any brought into the exam hall would have to be hard-reset in front of an invigilator.  I recall buying a bag of 2.5mm jack plugs from Maplin (back in the days that they were good) and making up some Casio crossover cables at a fraction of the price of the official ones, so people could copy programs to each other's calculators and avoid losing them.  There was a brief games/demo scene amongst the higher maths and physics sets.

Brizzle University (or at least the engineering faculty) had a list of authorised models, and I promptly invested in the most functional model on the list.  (The only real benefits over a typical scientific model were a one-line edit history, which was a useful error-check, and numerical integration, which was much less useful than it sounds.)

I vaguely recall that UKC issued all first years CS student with their exam-legal model which they bought in bulk at a hefty discount.  I didn't get one, as I went straight into the second year, but the Brizzle one was fine.

My CFX9850 has barely been used since uni.  I've probably dusted it off a couple of times as a convenient out-of-band way of converting between binary, decimal and hex, but I've forgotten how to do anything clever with it.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #40 on: January 14, 2020, 11:34:27 am »

Not having experience of the USAnian edumacation system, I didn't realise that this was going on, though:
 https://gen.medium.com/big-calculator-how-texas-instruments-monopolized-math-class-67ee165045dc


That's terrible.

The nearest equivalent that I recall is the HP 12c calculators which were required use by people who worked at Bain, the management consulting firm, but were basically big chunks of weird American kit that nobody else could work out how to use. 

Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #41 on: January 14, 2020, 11:50:19 am »
My dad had a Casio FX7000G and I borrowed that for later years at secondary school. I remember writing a horse racing game for it with 6 lines slowly inching randomly towards the other side of the screen.

University didn't allow anything that could draw graphs so it was a generic Casio FX-mumble. I still have it somewhere but, like most things like this, my 10yo squirrels it away for herself in her room.
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."

Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #42 on: January 14, 2020, 11:53:44 am »

Not having experience of the USAnian edumacation system, I didn't realise that this was going on, though:
 https://gen.medium.com/big-calculator-how-texas-instruments-monopolized-math-class-67ee165045dc


That's terrible.

The nearest equivalent that I recall is the HP 12c calculators which were required use by people who worked at Bain, the management consulting firm, but were basically big chunks of weird American kit that nobody else could work out how to use.

I still see those on desks of colleagues who came from US offices or companies.   No idea how they work.

ian

  • fatuously disingenuous
    • The Suburban Survival Guide
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #43 on: January 14, 2020, 11:55:54 am »
One of my classmates, to celebrate the completion of our maths O level (obviously optimistic about resits) chucked his Casio out the window.

Where it hit the deputy-head, appropriately, on the head. The calculator didn't break and the teacher lived to issue stern words about tossing stuff out the window.
!nataS pihsroW

Jaded

  • The Codfather
  • Formerly known as Jaded
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #44 on: January 14, 2020, 12:29:01 pm »
I still have a credit card sized (fold out) Casio calculator that is solar powered. It was purchased in 1987. Still works, no worries about mercury batteries being banned etc.

It does metric to Imperial conversion too!
If you don't like your democracy, vote against it.

Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #45 on: January 14, 2020, 12:36:45 pm »
I had a Sinclair Programmable calculator at one time - 1970s I think it was. Quite fun for a while. I recall programming ti to churn out the Fibonacci sequence, but the buttons were susceptible to conking out. They were "clicky" buttons, unlike the much more reliable "soft" buttons that more modern calculators have.
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #46 on: January 14, 2020, 12:56:24 pm »
I had a Sinclair Programmable calculator at one time - 1970s I think it was. Quite fun for a while. I recall programming ti to churn out the Fibonacci sequence, but the buttons were susceptible to conking out. They were "clicky" buttons, unlike the much more reliable "soft" buttons that more modern calculators have.

Clicking calcluator buttons!  That takes me back.  At one point that was a very important issue.  People lost sleep over whether their new calculator would be allowed in exams on noise grounds.

IIRC Casios had lovely soft buttons and Texas Instruments were clicky and clunky

Kim

  • Timelord
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #47 on: January 14, 2020, 01:57:35 pm »
While we're being retro, and keeping with the electricity theme, the main maths department lecture theatre at UKC had (or possibly still has, though there was an outbreak of builders after I left, so it's unlikely) benches with mains power sockets, akin to a physics lab.  This was due to the forward-thinking designers anticipating that electronic calculators would become common.

To be fair, for the period in the early noughties between laptop computers becoming affordable to students and their battery life being vaguely decent, they pretty much got it right.
Careful, Kim. Your sarcasm's showing...

Wowbagger

  • Dez's butler
    • Musings of a Gentleman Cyclist
Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #48 on: January 14, 2020, 02:04:23 pm »
There was a mains-powered calculator in one of the maths rooms at college. It display was incandescent wires, each decimal place having enough wires to generate all 10 digits. It was about the size of a typewriter and I think it could calculate square roots, but it took a fair bit of time to come up with an answer.

We also had a dial-up connection to a computer. it was via pulse dialling. You had to put the receiver in a special cradle so that our terminal could talk to the computer, which I think was in Preston Polytechnic, or it might have been Lancaster Uni. i found that telephone very useful for making calls on. It had a little lock on the dial, but I knew where the key was...
Oh, Bach without any doubt. Bach every time for me.

Re: How is UK electricity generated?
« Reply #49 on: January 14, 2020, 02:07:18 pm »
It display was incandescent wires, each decimal place having enough wires to generate all 10 digits.

Nixie tubes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wxL4ElboiuA
"Yes please" said Squirrel "biscuits are our favourite things."