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Magical Hybrids

June 21, 2016

The term hybrid became popular a few years ago with the introduction of the Prius, a vehicle that used a combined mechanical, i.e., internal combustion engine (ICE), and electrical power train.

It rapidly became seen as denoting green.

Now, the term hybrid is being applied to an array of power generation installations that combine two or more different methods for generating electricity so as to imply they are green, or at least more green than natural gas power plants … and definitely more green than coal-fired power plants.

Yet, it was not too long ago that the opposite was true, when sailing ships were converting to coal.

Hybrid could certainly have been applied to ships using both sail and coal-fired steam engines.

SS Savannah, from Wikipedia

SS Savannah, from Wikipedia

But shifting from wind to coal would hardly seem to denote green.

The same can be said about some of the power generation installations that are so-called hybrids, purporting to be green.

Power Engineering magazine devoted an issue to these so-called green, hybrid power plants, calling them “The Next Big Thing.”

The most obvious of these “new” hybrid power plants are those combining solar and a natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) power plant.

In some instances the solar part of the plant is in immediate proximity to the NGCC power plant, but they might just as well be 100 miles apart since they produce electricity independent of each other. Here we have a very low-cost producer of electricity, the NGCC power plant, next to a very high cost solar power plant.

While it has the appearance of being a hybrid installation the solar part of the plant is mere window dressing to give the appearance of being green.

A more legitimate solar and NGCC hybrid would be where a concentrating solar plant is located with an NGCC power plant to reduce the use of natural gas, while the NGCC plant provides the necessary backup for when the sun doesn’t shine. The Florida Power & Light (FPL) plant in Martin County, Florida is an example of this type of hybrid plant.

Unfortunately, this plant has never met its design specifications and has had operating problems.

The Martin plant conforms to the definition of being hybrid, but combines a very low-cost method of generating electricity, i.e., NGCC, with one of the most expensive methods, i.e., concentrating solar.

It can be called a hybrid and receive the green designation, but the end result is higher cost electricity. Hardly a benefit, except for possibly reducing CO2 emissions.

These attempts at being a hybrid aren’t consistent with how the term is applied to vehicles, as described above.

Use of the term hybrid for power generation power plants is merely to add some glamour to solar or wind power, which are otherwise expensive and unreliable.

Power Engineering magazine even calls the Pathfinder – Intermountain Power Project a hybrid.

This multi-billion-dollar boondoggle of high cost electricity using compressed energy storage (CAES) at the Intermountain site in Utah, is called a hybrid because it can store electricity from a wind farm in Wyoming and from solar generated electricity from California. For a complete description of the project see, Absurd Cost of California Wind. [LINK]

In actuality, an NGCC power plant is a true hybrid. It combines a natural gas power plant with a steam power plant by using the exhaust gas from the natural gas turbine to boil water to generate the steam that drives a second electrical generator. It not only uses both natural gas and steam, but achieves greater efficiency and lower cost by using the exhaust from the natural gas turbine to produce the steam.

None of the hybrid systems, other than the NGCC power plant, described above, or in Power Engineering magazine, achieve lower costs, and, in fact, they result in higher cost for electricity.

Hybrid is rapidly denoting high cost rather than green.

Proponents of the CO2 hypothesis are grasping at anything that makes a system appear green, even if it’s an absurd combination of technologies that don’t fit well together, so long as the system produces fewer CO2 emissions.

* * * * * *

Nothing to Fear, Chapter 6, explains the problems with wind energy.
Nothing to Fear is available from Amazon and some independent book sellers.

Link to Amazon:

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear

Book Cover, Nothing to Fear


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5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 21, 2016 9:57 am

    To be “green” does not even have to produce less CO2. Consider biofuel especially the more popular cellulosic biofuel.

  2. June 23, 2016 7:39 am

    Nowadays, megacities are very vulnerable and limited spaces. That is why there is a measurable amount of pollutants and aerosols because of heavy and stagnant traffics .

    We know that the underground trains are powered by electricity. Carbon dioxide is not a pollutant but nevertheless, underground trains are not powered directly with burning fossil fuels.

    Hybrid cars can feed up to a speed of 40 kilometers per hour through the batteries. Interestingly, the movement of traffic in downdowns is even below 40 kilometers per hour.

    Smoked dome shape always form over megacities skies. And this suggests that there is adverse respiratory conditions caused by smoke and suspended particles (aerosols), which are often toxic.

    The use of hybrid cars in heavy traffics is a great advantage, a flexible system towards efficiency and the optimal use of fossil fuels for better future.

    Increased fuel efficiency and reduced emissions are no longer just ideas.

    • June 23, 2016 10:01 am

      Thanks for your comments.
      My article was targeting the misuse of the term hybrid for power generation.
      Hybrids, such as the Prius, have very limited battery range, but seem to be getting better. They certainly don’t have sufficient battery capacity to do a round trip commute of over 25 miles each way. Plug-in hybrids can. An EV would certainly be capable of meeting your requirements for reduced emissions within the city.
      But EVs are very expensive. Autonomous vehicles may someday meet your requirements, but we will have to wait to see how they evolve.
      My point again, was to shed light on the misuse of the term hybrid for power generation, and pointing out that wind or solar provides very expensive electricity.

      • June 23, 2016 8:02 pm

        Simple & easy:

        Agree with you about the short range of hybrid cars. But it works when we are in heavy traffics.

        If we assume megacities as closed spaces, which they are, then the use of hybrid or electric cars will be inevitable.
        And about the batteries, yes lots of works to be done.

        About solar pv to the utility scale there are terrible facts around it and this is what we have experienced it. Too heavy investment long term repayment low efficient system (average 5.4 hours efficeicy per 24 hours, this range is good! -see the world gis irradiation maps).

        An example; 8000 working hours per year for regular generators against 1800 working hours for solar pv. The 1st and the last reason for why solar can never give us cheap electricity.

        Solar pv is good for traffic and street lights, home scale uses and similar issues.

        Wind power the same. Wind needs more local data sets and records according to the models and standards. At least you need 2 years records and this will make it very hard and expensive.

        So the electricity from renewables will remain expensive.

        Agree with you.

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