Solar power realities – supply-demand, storage and costs

The two recent posts focusing on Peter Lang’s wind study have generated considerable debate, and some very stimulating discussion, among BNC readers. This post is a follow-up, which this time highlights Lang’s analysis of solar power and related problems associated with energy storage.

This is about solar photovoltaics (PV), which generate electricity directly via the photoelectric effect. The other rising player in the solar field is concentrating thermal power from deserts, which use a steam turbine to generate electricity via a temperature differential, in the same fundamental manner as a coal-fired or nuclear power station. I asked Peter whether he was planning to do an analysis of CSP. He told me:

I’ve had a bit of a look at doing a similar paper for CST, but I wasn’t able to obtain the detailed output and cost figures I need. It seems the researchers are holding the figures close to their chest.”

I’ve had similar advice on this matter from Ted Trainer. He has attempted an analysis of CSP, and I might post up a highlight of this shortly, and describe some of the gaps in knowledge that Ted and others are seeking.  Lang says the following on this matter:

There are two technologies for generating electricity from solar energy: solar thermal and solar photovoltaic. This paper uses solar photo-voltaic as the example because energy output and cost data are more readily available than for solar thermal. It is not clear at this stage which is the lower cost option for large generation on the scale required (see here): so any cost difference is insignificant in the context of the simple analysis presented here.

Lang’s ‘Solar Realities’ paper (download the 17 page PDF here) is summarised as follows:

This paper provides a simple analysis of the capital cost of solar power and energy storage sufficient to meet the demand of Australia’s National Electricity Market. It also considers some of the environmental effects. It puts the figures in perspective. By looking at the limit position, the paper highlights the very high costs imposed by mandating and subsidising solar power. The minimum power output, not the peak or average, is the main factor governing solar power’s economic viability. The capital cost would be 25 times more than nuclear power. The least-cost solar option would require 400 times more land area and emit 20 times more CO2 than nuclear power.

Conclusions: solar power is uneconomic. Government mandates and subsidies hide the true cost of renewable energy but these additional costs must be carried by others.

The analysis, which focuses on the Australian national energy market (NEM) but is obviously relevant for other countries, considers electricity demand, the characteristics of solar PV and one possible means of storing its energy (pumped hydropower), capital costs of a system that could reliably meet demand for 1-day through to 90 days, and then an attempt to frame these numbers in perspective with an alternative low-carbon energy source — nuclear power.

The ‘Introduction’ of Lang’s paper sets the context quite clearly, with the following statement:

The paper takes the approach of looking at the limit position. That is, it looks at the cost of providing all the NEM’s electricity demand using only solar power for electricity generation. Looking at the limit position helps us to understand just how close to or far from being economic is solar power.

The key characteristics of solar power that are relevant to this discussion can be summarised as follows:

1. Power output is zero from sunset to sunrise.

2. Power output versus time is a curved distribution on a clear day: zero at sunrise and sunset, and maximum at midday.

3. Energy output varies from summer to winter (less in winter than summer).

4. Energy output varies from day to day depending on weather conditions.

5. Maximum daily energy output is on a clear sunny day in summer.

6. Minimum daily energy output is on a heavily overcast day in winter.

Backup for solar power is clearly required — to store energy when being generated at peak times and thus deliver energy during times when nothing is being generated (at night, during cloudy weather, and to ensure sufficient winter supply). For this PV backup, Lang focused on pumped hydro in preference to sodium-sulphur or vanadium-redox batteries, due to pumped hydro’s lower costs (the latter do have some other advantages). He also considered transmission requirements.

One key feature of the analysis was his consideration of the problem of just how much energy to store. To have enough backup to meet the total national energy market demand for a 24 hour period turns out to be a much more costly proposition than creating a larger, long-term storage option.

Seems counterintuitive, doesn’t it? Well, it all comes down to those nasty ‘extremes’ — those few days of the year when solar power will give you almost nothing (yes, even the deserts have cloudy winter days, although the problem would be much worse if we were reliant on a distributed system of rooftop PV which was largely sited in the major population centres along the southern and eastern coastlines).

If you’ve only got enough solar PV storage to maintain continuous power supply for 1 day, then you need to overbuild your installed capacity by a truly massive amount to cover yourself for those days when the 24-hour capacity factor of your national system is not 20%, but 5%, or 2%, or 0.75%. To borrow a suitable analogy, under a small energy storage system, you’ve got no money in the bank to tide you over until the next paycheck comes in.

Please do read Lang’s comprehensive analysis to get yourself clear on the full story involved in this matter. I cannot emphasise enough how critical this information is if you wish to understand the implications of a carbon-constrained world based on renewable energy without fossil-fuel backup.

Lang concludes his analysis with these strong words (summaries from the last three sections):

Solar power is totally uneconomic and is not as environmentally benign as another lower-cost, lower-emissions option – nuclear power. Advocates argue that solar is not the total solution, it will be part of a mix of technologies. But this is just hiding the facts. Even where solar is a small proportion of the total energy mix, its high costs are buried in the overall costs, and it adds to the total costs of the system…

The capital cost of solar power would be 25 times more than nuclear power to provide the NEM’s demand [$2.8 trillion for the least-cost solar solution with backup versus $120 billion for nuclear]. The minimum power output, not the peak or average, is the main factor governing solar power’s economic viability. The least cost solar option would emit 20 times more CO2 (over the full life cycle) and use at least 400 times more land area compared with nuclear (not including mining; the mining area and volumes would also be greater for the solar option than for the nuclear option)…

Government mandates and subsidies hide the true cost of renewable energy, but these additional costs must be carried by others.

As noted above, the solar story is not complete without also looking hard at the situation for solar thermal power. I will address this in due course.

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

About these ads

506 Comments

  1. Peter Lang – “Solar power is totally uneconomic and is not as environmentally benign as another lower-cost, lower-emissions option – nuclear power.”

    You missed the very important qualification:

    SOLAR PV is totally uneconomic ……

    An analysis of solar power that does not contain solar thermal with economic thermal storage is not an analysis at all. Therefore your conclusions are invalid. The excuse of “I’ve had a bit of a look at doing a similar paper for CST, but I wasn’t able to obtain the detailed output and cost figures I need. It seems the researchers are holding the figures close to their chest.” is right up there with the cat ate my homework. The ‘analysis’ should have waited until you had the figures.

    And yes renewables will be part of a complimentary system which is not hiding costs it is simply the way things work.

    http://www.esolar.com/

    http://www.ausra.com/

    http://www.stirlingenergy.com/

    http://www.solar-reserve.com/

  2. Except that Trainer has said exactly the same thing to me via email. Stephen, if you could get hold of reliable CST figures for Peter, I’m sure he’ll be most happy to undertake a similar analysis.

    But anyway, as noted in my posting, I will describe in a future blog entry the issues Trainer has come up against in trying to track down solid figures for CST, and what figures he’s come up with despite the limitations on good data.

  3. It seems some clever way of upscaling ought to exist that would make CSP cheap. To make sunlight into a concentration of power, all you need is square kilometres of metal film! Shaped just so. If it’s a single multi-square-km dish, parts of it have to be hundreds of metres higher than other parts. If the sun is not at or near the zenith, one side must be many hundreds of metres higher than the other.

    So there is an optimum dish size, and it’s rather annoyingly small; 10 m diameter, maybe. I believe these dishes have been popping up in Spain, driven by a massive feed-in tariff.

    Such feed-in tariffs cannot scale up past the point where their cost to a government exceeds some critical fraction, maybe ten percent, of the fossil fuel tax revenue they protect. But the token-scale installations they call into being do show what the costs are.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  4. I have done some very preliminary studies on CSP costs.

    http://www.blogger.com/posts.g?blogID=7597656451205429515&searchType=ALL&txtKeywords=&label=CSP+costs

    Some Quotes
    “If Nevada Solar 1 were scaled up to produce the equivalent annual electrical production of a AP-1000 nuclear plant. Our solar power plant would occupy about 42 square miles of desert, and would cost $17 Billion. Overnight storage of heat, electrical transmission lines, and interest would carry additional costs. Our 1 GW solar facility would annually consume nearly 27000 acre feet of rare desert water.

    In contrast, the two 1.7 GW Mitsubishi’s Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (APWR) Luminant Energy is planing to build at Comanche Peak are currently estimated to cost $5-6 billion each. ”

    “Ausra (line focus) claims $100/m2, BrightSource (power tower heliostats) $150/m2, Matrix Solar Dish (me) $100/m2.

    Let’s do a little analysis. A square kilometer at $100 per square meter would cost $100X1000X1000 = 100,000,000 per square kilometer or $247,000,000 per square mile. This represents an improvement over the $260,000,000 for 400 acres figure we got for Nevada Solar 1, or the $1 billion fir 1900 acres figure we got for Solana, but again the word inflation did not appear in the discussion.

    The 150/m2 estimate gives us $370500000 per square mile, still a little better than Nevada Solar 1 in price.

    Ausra and PG%E have announced a 1 square mile line focus generating facility with a name plate power rating of 177 MWs. The facility is to be located at San Luis Obispo. No price tag has been placed on it yet, so it is impossible to tell if the $100/m2 figure will hold. . . . For the basically the same price as a 1 GW BrightSource generating facility PG&E could buy a 1 GW reactor that would generate power day and night, rain or shine with 3 times the daily electrical output of the BrightSource facility.”

    “The Ivanpath solar facility will have a capacity factor of ,325. That means that for every 3 watts pf electricity a large reactor will produce, the Ivanpath CSP facility will produce a little better than 1. So how much would it cost to produce the same amount of electricity with CSP as would be produced by a typical reactor? The answer would run between $30 and $35 billion.”

    “Given the no price drop assumption the cost of the 25% assumption would be around $13.5 trillion. If the average cost of the CSP generated power dropped by 1/3 as Greenpeace assumed, the total cost for the 25% CSP system could be as low as $9 trillion. Remember that $9 trillion is a low cost, based on the most unlikely of assumptions. There is by the way no assurance that the cost of CSP will not be higher than the Starwood 1 costs.

    Now lets look at some nuclear costs. Indian LMFBRs are expected to cost $1200 per kW in serial production. 1500 worth of indian LMFBRs would run $1.8 trillion. Chinese LWRs have an estimated cost of $1750 per kW or $2.624 trillion for 1500 GWs. American factory built modular LFTRs could run as low as $1200 per kW or $1.8 trillion for 1500 GWs. The maximum estimated costs for Westinghouse AP-1000s in the United States is $7000 per kW or 10.5 trillion for 1500 GWs generating capacity which would be the lowest end of the CSP price range to 2050.

    The conclusion is that AP-1000s may have a cost advantage over CSP facilities until 2050, and will remain at least cost competitive. Generation IV nuclear technology could cost as little as 20% of the cost of CSP facilities at least until 2050. Chinese reactors are likely to cost more than Indian or American Generation 4 reactors, but will still be inexpensive compared to European or American CSP.”

  5. I agree with solar critics and I have 2kw of PV, perhaps unwisely here at latitude 43 degrees south. Both the incident angle and frequent cloud cover are unhelpful. Unlike many parts of Australia I get no feed-in tariff, just 16.5c/kwh export credit whereas each amortised kwh may cost me over 30c. Arguably you pay twice, the upfront capital cost followed by subsequent hair shirt energy use. That self discipline may be more important than the actual electrical output.

    All is not lost to home PV however. If thin film truly gets down to $1 a watt it might be easy to install several kilowatts capacity on the average suburban roof. There is talk of 20 kwh long life sodium-sulphur batteries weighing a few kilos. They need to be kept hot at around 100C. Such innovations may completely change the economics of home PV so I wouldn’t write it off just yet.

  6. Peter Lang’s article on solar power is a good study on “setting up straw men” and then showing how they cannot be built.
    1)renewable energy advocates are not suggesting that all power would be generated by solar PV and would not expect all solar power to be generated at Queanbeyan. Winter solar incidence is much higher and more even summer/winter in inland latitudes closer to the equator, for example Alice Springs NT and Geraldon WA. See solar map from CSIRO.
    2)Australia already has weeks of hydro storage on the basis of requiring 600GWh/day(25GWax24). My estimate is >12,000GWh storage is available at present.
    3)If we were to use a hypothetical 50% solar and 50%wind energy mix when all NG is exhausted and all present coal and NG power plants have been retired(AD 2100) the storage demands for a national grid become dramatically lower than what Peter is suggesting.
    4) Grid additions would be modest; a HVDC link Pt Augusta to Norseman(1500km),HVDC Pt August to Alice Springs, and increased HVDC Bass-Link capacity. Major grid to Snowy already handles >4GW.

    With wind farms located in WA, SA, VIC , NSW and TAS would expect about a 2 fold variation because weather systems are smaller than the distance from Geraldon WA to Warwick QLD and TAS. This would be much less than the variation indicated by Peters presentation for June 2009. To be generous lets add two full days of wind power(750GWh).
    With solar across the mid latitudes(Geralton-Alice Springs-Roma) will have even solar production year round with very little cloud cover in winter months so would only need 12 hours storage(360GWh) but let say one days( 750GWh) for a total of 1500GWh. This would not need to be produced in one day but over 2 days(1500GW/30GWh/h=50hours).
    Presently hydro provides 8.5GW maximum out-put so would need an additional 25GW output. We have 80 years to build this so adding 300MW/year( ie about one turbine/year).

    Peter used the example of Tumut3, present pumped storage of 9,145MWh. Adding an additional 3 turbines to the existing would increase pump back rates to 1.2GWh/h but not expand storage. Adding additional pumps at Talbingo Lake( the reservoir above Tumut3?) to pump back to Eucumbene would allow a much larger storage will little capital cost. Lake Eucumbene alone holds much more than enough water for 1500GWh storage. Similarly dams in Tasmania could be adapted for pumping and capacity expanded WITH NO MORE DAMS built.

    These are minor capital costs over the next 80 years. In the meantime, while the very considerable solar and wind capacity is expanded to 100GW can use existing NG as coal is phased out.

    My guess is the lowest cost option will be wind now, solar and nuclear in the future with NG replacing coal quickly and eventually solar and nuclear replacing NG. We will probably only need about 1 days storage hydro back-up if we have a national grid, so no new dams or purpose built pumped hydro dams just turbines would be required.

  7. “It seems some clever way of upscaling ought to exist that would make CSP cheap
    One way is multiple(ie mass produced) mirrors directed to solar towers. Costs of all manufacturer items decline 5-10% for each X10 scaling. We see this in wind turbines, cars, PC’s. Thermal efficiency rises with scale so you want large CSP arrays. When 1000MW arrays are installed and 10GW per year is manufactured will see some big cost reductions.

  8. In Nevada solar would provide peak power in summer when there is peak demand. Demand is low at night so solar storage is not an issue.
    Cost projections are meaningless until CSP is manufactured in quantity and some new nuclear plants are built in US for comparisons of real costs.
    While we wait for these things to happen, we can continue building wind turbines and use NG back-up for peak demand.

  9. If the HVDC from Norseman to Pt Augusta used the rail corridor it would pass close to Olympic Dam. Further west a Gen III/desal could be sited somewhere like Ceduna on the coast. Local wind, solar, wave and geothermal inputs could all contribute. Any surplus over the 700 MW needed for OD could be put on the new national grid.

  10. Neil Howes, I am concerned about the cost of replacing fossel fuel as energy sourcces. Renewable advocates play the hide our head in the sand game every time the bad news about Renewable cost is exposed. The truth is that PV is only reliable in the southwest where there are a few clouds, and it is not very reliable as a peak electrical generation source for daytime peak power since it peak generation is accomplished at solar noon, while peak demand may continue into the evening on hot summer days.

  11. Once again Neil Howes seeks to solve the problem of poor renewable reliability by multiplying renewable generation units, while denying that it is costly to do so. Howes believes that the entire amount of water impounded behind a dam is available for power generation purposes on demand, He totally ignoring recreation, conservation, navigation, irrigation and flood control purposes of dams.

  12. Charles,
    Once again you have distorted what I said.
    I quote you“Howes believes that the entire amount of water impounded behind a dam is available for power generation purposes on demand,

    What I said was that a “total of 1500GWh “could be provided as backup power(2days supply) out of an estimated 12,000GWh storage. That’s 15% not the “entire amount of water impounded”

  13. Charles,
    your statement;
    “The truth is that PV is only reliable in the southwest where there are a few clouds
    Since there are about 500,000 sq km in the few clouds southwest, and 7GWh/day arriving on each sq km, harvesting just 14% of this would give 500,000GWh/day. Since the US uses about 12,000GWh/day that would be X40 more power than currently used.

    “and it is not very reliable as a peak electrical generation source for daytime peak power since it peak generation is accomplished at solar noon, while peak demand may continue into the evening on hot summer days.

    PV solar is reliable, it just doesn’t exactly match to peak power demand in US during summer, but receives X2 more solar energy in summer than winter. Sounds like a good reason to have some nuclear, wind, hydro and CSP solar in the energy mix to allow power shifting for a few hours.

  14. Actually, BNC readers, if you have the time over the next few weeks, I’d encourage you to look through all the talks — there is a lot of good, up-to-date information in the collection of lectures. Some of it is highly challengable, for sure (!), but it’s an excellent overview and a great way to update yourselves on the basics of the different types of renewable energy.

    http://www.science.org.au/events/publiclectures/re/archive.htm

  15. To anyone who claims that solar is capable of supplying anywhere near the amount of energy to power modern societies, I would refer you to Germany, where fully half of the solar power generating capacity on the planet produces a skimpy 0.5% of their needed electricity (not needed energy, just electricity) after over two decades of massive subsidies. Or to Scientific American’s special very pro-solar special issue on solar power, which touted a plan to provide 69% of America’s electrical needs by 2050 with a plan to cover 30,000 square miles with solar panels! Construction of such a system would require completely covering 2 square miles per day with solar panels and all their supporting infrastructure, every single day for over forty years. And we’d still be far short of our needs.

    Ironically, utilizing plenty of nuclear power stations with desalination, hydrogen generation for electrolysis (potentially for ammonia-powered vehicles), and eventually boron oxide reduction would not only allow all the nuclear power stations to operate at maximum power 24/7, but would allow the most fickle sources of intermittent power, such as wind and solar, to seamlessly utilize every kWh they could without any concern for load balancing. The system could be set up so that these alternate uses for electricity would automatically absorb excess power and so those secondary power draws would automatically slack off as grid demand increases (this is especially easy with electrolysis). This is one of the things that so floors me about the vehement resistance to nuclear power by so many wind and solar advocates—the systems can work so well together and provide for all our energy needs while eliminating GHG emissions. Instead we get this dogged insistence from so many proponents that wind and sun are all we need, or that they’re all we need if we back them up with natural gas, which is (in case you haven’t noticed) 20X more potent as a greenhouse gas and which degrades into long-lasting CO2 in the atmosphere after its massive albeit shorter-lived effect as methane has done its dirty work. I will kick this dead horse yet again: NATURAL GAS IS A FOSSIL FUEL THAT CONTRIBUTES TO GLOBAL WARMING IN A BIG WAY. Leaks are a big part of any natural gas supply system, and burning it produces CO2. Just because it’s not as bad as coal in some ways doesn’t mean it’s benign. It is not!

    Solar and wind are unfortunately very diffuse, and thus costly and logistically virtually impossible to harness in the quantities needed to power a modern society. Nuclear is not only incredibly concentrated in comparison to wind and sun, but also in comparison to any chemical reaction envisioned to produce power. Proliferation concerns needn’t be an issue up front since about 80% of greenhouse gases are produced by nuclear-capable countries. Safety with IFRs is essentially foolproof since shutdowns rely on the laws of physics in a passive system (and you can stick them 50 feet underground), fuel is essentially free, they emit no greenhouse gas emissions, allow us to clean up all the old spent fuel and eliminate uranium mining and enrichment, and can be built on an assembly line with excellent quality control and cost containment. What is it that proponents of wind and solar feel such an irresistible urge to demonize it? Could it be because it’s too good? Amory Lovins has implied as much on more than one occasion. To quote just one example: “If you ask me, it’d be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it.”

    Does that make sense?

  16. Neil Howes, you state:
    “Australia already has weeks of hydro storage on the basis of requiring 600GWh/day(25GWax24). My estimate is >12,000GWh storage is available at present.” This would seem to suggest there is a large amount of untapped water in Australian Lakes waiting to be tapped.

    I am presently in Knoxville,Tennessee, the home of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which operates a large system of dams. Although the Tennessee Valley receives far more rain on average than Australia does, I doubt very seriously that the TVA keeps the sort of water reserve that you suggest. All TVA lakes would be subject to strict water management, and the water in them would be 100% allocated, with 100% of the water allocated for hydro already used for electrical generation . So where would the untapped water in TVA lakes come from. I understand that the situation in Australia to be much worse, with acute water shortages caused by prolonged droughts.

  17. You guys have got your work cut out for you when articles like this are hitting political forums like Online Opinion.

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=9290

    Nuclear instability

    By Helen Caldicott
    Posted Friday, 14 August 2009

    Australia seems determined to lead the way to an unstable world which could result in two very different outcomes – global warming or nuclear winter. We burn and export coal in massive amounts producing more CO2 per capita than any other country and we are about to become one of the world’s major uranium exporters. Kevin Rudd remains wedded to the coal industry and the ALP now totally supports uranium mining.

    Global warming is a condition that has recently brought great benefits to the nuclear industry.

    [Snip: click on the link if you wish to read the rest of the article]

  18. Also, I can’t wait for the articles debunking Geodynamics geothermal energy and the 24 hour baseload power (and desal) we could get from CETO wavepower, and how these 2 baseload power sources couldn’t POSSIBLY also provide the same synergies with wind and solar that nuclear could have with wind and solar.

    Consider how 60% of the earth’s population live within 40 miles of a coast line. CETO wavepower alone could provide most of the world’s energy needs!

    Again: it all comes down to economics.

  19. Barry Brook – “Except that Trainer has said exactly the same thing to me via email. Stephen, if you could get hold of reliable CST figures for Peter, I’m sure he’ll be most happy to undertake a similar analysis.”

    But that is not the point. This is a article entitled “Solar power realities – supply-demand, storage and costs” that leaves out a whole section of solar power coincidentely the one that has large scale storage and is most likely to be the final nail in nuclear.

    His first article response drew amazing conclusions from one month of 11 wind sites when he could have presented the entire year and all the wind sites with a little work. Now the hatchet is out on solar leaving out the rapidly rising solar thermal.

  20. So why do you think the argument re: 24 hour vs long-term storage and overbuilding requirements due to extremely low capacity days (or strings of days) is any different for solar thermal? Indeed, given the need for the solar thermal facility to reach a certain temperature before it can generate electricity, it might well be worse.

    And how on Earth is this likely to be the final nail in nuclear?

    Do you believe that June 2009 was a grossly unrepresentative month for wind in southeastern Australia?

  21. Cheers mate, if that’s your policy stick with it as it is probably safer. I’m not saying I buy everything in her article, especially when she raves about storing waste for geological time frames. (What about Gen 4 Helen!?)

    But this next paragraph will surely turn many voters off nuclear power forever, just for being remotely associated with the power industry:

    “Recent studies predict that a nuclear war fought with US and Russian arsenals would induce catastrophic changes in the global climate. Smoke would block 70 per cent of sunlight in the Northern Hemisphere and 35 per cent in the Southern Hemisphere and the resulting nuclear darkness would induce a global ice age. Temperatures would be colder than 18,000 years ago at the height of the last ice age. Most humans and large animals would starve and freeze to death in the dark.”

  22. If there are reasons why they can’t possibly work, expect them to be critiqued. If there are reasons why they will work, expect them to be celebrated.

    “Again: it all comes down to economics.”

    And physics. And engineering. And politics. And sociology. Economics is probably the most malleable of these constraints.

  23. I’m so with you Stephen on this one! It’s like saying “Nuclear power is bad because we have to store the waste forever!” (Eeerrmmm, what about Gen4!?)

    “Solar PV is too expensive because you have to store the electricity in big batteries!” (Eeerrmmm, what about CSP!?)

    Please subscribe to the Beyond Zero Emissions podcast. You will hear the LATEST solar thermal strategies, with quite detailed technical discussions about the reasons the costs are coming down due to technology changes, and the immense potential savings as these technologies SCALE UP.

    EG: As Ausra chairman David Mills says, “Build them small and they’re very expensive, build them large and they’re cheap”. They prototyped one important change, doing away with the expensive parabolic dish and instead just using curved steel. Same effect technically, but MUCH cheaper to produce in bulk.

    Other Beyond Zero Emissions podcasts include new heat storage materials and techniques, interviews with inventors and proprietors, estimated costings, etc. Just refusing to talk about CSP is a bit embarrassing really.

    Anyway, for the record, if Gen4 are as safe and good at burning up old waste, but are not as cheap as future generations of Solar thermal, I’d still support *some* Gen4 reactors being built just to burn up the old waste! That seems like a worthwhile exercise in expensive electricity.

    but again, it all comes down to the cost. I for one am convinced a renewable grid is entirely possible with CETO wavepower, geothermal, solar thermal, and wind topping it up. (Let alone Biochar biomass and other biogasses. Interesting article on biochar today.. Flannery thinks it could be worth $2 billion to Australian farmers if we get some of the carbon credits from USA.
    http://tinyurl.com/qw9hrk ).

  24. I thought my post above had already explained that with CETO wavepower and geothermal BOTH being viable 24 hour baseload power sources that other more intermittent sources could top up, I thought I had made it clear that I at least believed the physics, and engineering, and ESPECIALLY the politics and sociology were already solved. With a majority of people living near the coasts, a CETO grid is possible. Is it economic? I don’t know.

    Is it politically and socially viable? Tell me, if the CETO wave power is placed below the waves, doesn’t interfere with shipping, increases sea-life a bit like a reef, provides some desal at night during off-peak hours, and we can’t even SEE it, how much more politically and socially viable is it than WIND FARMS LET ALONE nuclear power?

    “Hey little old lady and young mother with a nursing babe, do you want a nuclear power plant next door, or do you want them to build an invisible wave-machine that is good for the fishies?”

    Go figure.

    If both technologies are equally technically viable, won’t economics and politics be the deciding factor?

  25. Charles Barton – ““If Nevada Solar 1 were scaled up to produce the equivalent annual electrical production of a AP-1000 nuclear plant. Our solar power plant would occupy about 42 square miles of desert, and would cost $17 Billion. Overnight storage of heat, electrical transmission lines, and interest would carry additional costs. Our 1 GW solar facility would annually consume nearly 27000 acre feet of rare desert water.”

    Except of course the bigger plant would have economies of scale and be far cheaper as it uses common materials. Also most, if not all, solar thermal trough and power tower plants are using flat mirrors from modular reflectors further lowering costs. They are also using dry cooling to minimise water.

    “In contrast, the two 1.7 GW Mitsubishi’s Advanced Pressurized Water Reactor (APWR) Luminant Energy is planing to build at Comanche Peak are currently estimated to cost $5-6 billion each. ””

    Where is this estimate? The latest figures from the world nuclear association give this:

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/default.aspx?id=410&terms=costs

    “Mid 2008 vendor figures for overnight costs (excluding owner’s costs) have been quoted as:
    GE-Hitachi ESBWR just under $3000/kW
    GE-Hitachi ABWR just over $3000/kW
    Westinghouse AP1000 about $3000/kW”

    and
    “On the assumption that overall costs to the utility are twice the overnight capital cost of the actual plants, then the figures quoted above give:”

    Gives a price for a 1.7GW reactor at 10.2 billion – are you quoting overnight costs or the full real cost to the punter?

    “Ausra and PG%E have announced a 1 square mile line focus generating facility with a name plate power rating of 177 MWs. The facility is to be located at San Luis Obispo. No price tag has been placed on it yet, so it is impossible to tell if the $100/m2 figure will hold. . . . For the basically the same price as a 1 GW BrightSource generating facility PG&E could buy a 1 GW reactor that would generate power day and night, rain or shine with 3 times the daily electrical output of the BrightSource facility.””

    Here you switch from Ausra to BrightSource – why? The 1 GW Ausra plant – scaling up the $100/m^2

    1 sq mile = $247 000 000 = 177 MW nameplate

    247 000 000 X 5 X 2 = 2.4 billion which would be 2X the collector area to allow for storage. Double the collector area price for the balance of the plant including storage and you get 4.8 billion for a 1 GW nameplate AUSRA plant. This plant would not be generating power when you don’t need it – at night – however it could as all solar thermal plants can have gas boilers for 24X7 power. The gas use would be limited as it would have 12 hours of storage as this has found to be the optimum in research by David Mills.

    This is still 1.2 billion cheaper that the real cost of an AP-1000 and also does not need to find 43 billion to make up for the Yucca Mountain shortfall.

    “Now lets look at some nuclear costs. Indian LMFBRs are expected to cost $1200 per kW in serial production. 1500 worth of indian LMFBRs would run $1.8 trillion. Chinese LWRs have an estimated cost of $1750 per kW or $2.624 trillion for 1500 GWs. American factory built modular LFTRs could run as low as $1200 per kW or $1.8 trillion for 1500 GWs. The maximum estimated costs for Westinghouse AP-1000s in the United States is $7000 per kW or 10.5 trillion for 1500 GWs generating capacity which would be the lowest end of the CSP price range to 2050.”

    Yes lets make some imaginary figures up and quote for unlicensed reactors that could not be built in the US or hopefully Australia. If Chinese reactors are so good why are they buying 100 AP-1000s?

    American factory built LFTRs, no matter how good they might be, are vapourware and you cannot price them yet – so this is pure imagination and wishful thinking.

    “Generation IV nuclear technology could cost as little as 20% of the cost of CSP facilities at least until 2050. Chinese reactors are likely to cost more than Indian or American Generation 4 reactors, but will still be inexpensive compared to European or American CSP.””

    Generation IV reactors don’t exist either and until they do you cannot price them. They could cost as little as 20% however they also could cost 20% more by the time a production reactor is produced. If you want to make stuff up I can do it too.

    In a few short years EEStor is going to:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EEStor

    “For a 52 kWh unit, an initial production price of $3,200, falling to $2,100 with mass production is projected.[6] This is half the price per stored watt-hour of lead-acid batteries, and potentially cheap enough to use to store grid power at off-peak times for on-peak use, and to buffer the output from intermittent power sources such as wind farms.”

    So with these batteries we can, as the price will come down further to let say $1500 kWh, have all wind and solar plants can have virtually unlimited cheap storage and make it 24X7 Power.

    So my imaginary technology can do it just as well as yours.

  26. Charles,
    I am familiar with Knoxville and Oak Ridge,TN, having lived there 3 years.
    Australia has two mountain catchment regions that have a lot of developed hydro, the Snowy Mountains(3.8GWcapacity) and Tasmania(2.2GW capacity) both connected to the NEMMCO grid.
    Compared to the TVA capacity of 3,365MW plus the 1,532 MWh Raccoon MT Pumped storage the Snowy Scheme is similar in capacity but much less water is used because the height between reservoirs and turbines is usually much greater. The only pumped storage is integrated between two dams(the lower one 1,400,000ML) presently only 3 of the six 250MW turbines have additional pumps so that they can return water to a 920,000ML reservoir, but presently only 25,000ML can be pumped back storing 9,000MWh of energy(six times more storage than Raccoon Mt). The direction of river flows has been changed with a 4,800,000ML storage(Lake Eucumbene) at 1200 m in elevation that can be directed through two different river systems and tunnels to generate 3.8GW but using only 1,400ML/h in theory providing 120 days of continuous power storage, but in reality they do not operate continually so several years of water storage is available. The present pumped storage allows an additional 1.5GW of capacity to be used without any net water use. With the addition of booster pumps drawing water from a greater depth, and additional pumps on existing turbines a much larger portion of that 2,300,000 ML in the lower dams could be returned to Lake Eucumbene turning the whole whole system of dams into one giant pumped storage scheme without any additional water use. The Tasmania hydro has similar storage dams but lower storage volumes( 14,000GWh or about 18 months of normal use of 1.1GW average).
    Considering that Australia’s population of 20 million is 1/15th the size of the US population this would be equivalent to about 25 TWA schemes in the US on a population basis.

  27. The argument is not the storage itself is too expensive. It’s the overbuilding required to reliably charge the storage, IF (only if) CSP constitutes a relatively large fraction of the total energy supply. Anyway, as I said a couple of times in the above post, I will do another post on CSP shortly. I’m hardly refusing to talk about it.

    If you want to see my ‘stoush’ with Matthew Wright from Beyond Zero Emissions, check out the comments on this thread:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/02/21/response-to-an-integral-fast-reactor-ifr-critique

    It went on, and on, and on.

  28. In regards to

    “Conclusions: solar power is uneconomic. Government mandates and subsidies hide the true cost of renewable energy but these additional costs must be carried by others”.

    I welcome ‘realities’ of all technologies so that sound policies can be developed and rational decisions made. Reality is however perceived differently by stakeholders at different times.

    Today’s mandatory price on carbon emissions in Australia is zero. Perhaps next year it will increase to $10 per tonne for some yet with 95% free AEUs it will be 50 cents per tonne for others, and in a few more years it may increase to between $25 and $50 per tonne. This cost is a real challenge for industries that will struggle to reduce emissions or are unable to pass costs through to customers.

    However, If I was living in the year 2109 and inherited a world of A1FI conditions that had resulted in warming of 4+ degrees of climate change and potential 90% collapse of the global economy plus significant political, security and sustainability problems, I would probably look back at today’s $70,000,000,000,000 global economy (US) and 8,000,000,000 tonnes of annual anthropogenic greenhouse emissions and assess the $63,000,000,000,000 loss at around $8000 per tonne (If I have got the ball park numbers wrong I am sorry, but I am just trying to illustrate a point about true costs and subsidies).

    Perhaps this A1FI consequence is extreme, perhaps not, but when we start talking about subsidies for renewables we also need to talk about the greenhouse externality costs as a kind of subsidy. All subsidies should be applied to all technologies including coal, nuclear technologies and the impact on the cost of firming up different energy technologies including renewables for the comparisons to be made.

  29. Tom,
    “Solar and wind are unfortunately very diffuse, and thus costly and logistically virtually impossible to harness in the quantities needed to power a modern society

    Solar average is 5kWh/sq meter/day, that more power on the roof of a house than is being used inside from the grid. Simple mirrors can concentrate solar by X100 fold, how concentrated do you want it? You will start melting steel if it was any more concentrated.
    Wind energy is diffuse that’s why we concentrate it with 100m turbine blades to output at 1-3MW power, sometimes too much power even then.
    High energy concentration is great of space travel but not necessary for most earth applications(except nuclear weapons).

  30. First, power power engineers prefer local to distant electrical sources. Secondly, the cost of a national transmissions system for moving electricity from the Southwest to the rest of the country would be huge. Neil again you propose schemes without counting the cost. Thirdly such a transmission scheme would be far more vulnerable to sabotage than any nuclear plant would be. Fourthly exen if such a system were built it would only supply substantial amounts of power for a few hours a day, thus contributing little to the solution of the national energy problem. In contrast the money spent on solar schemes could better be spent on conventional nuclear power plants that would produce electricity on a 24/7 basis at 92% of capacity. The reactors could be located close to the electricity consumers.

  31. Sure, and as I remarked earlier it (CETO) looks pretty interesting. I don’t know enough about it to form an opinion on its viability, but the place it might occupy in a non carbon world should be evaluated on its merits, relative to the other options we might invest in.

    Old ladies and nursing mothers might prefer to live next to a nuclear power plant than a coal plant, if they looked objectively at the risks.

  32. “Also, I can’t wait for the articles debunking Geodynamics geothermal energy and the 24 hour baseload power (and desal) we could get from CETO wavepower, and how these 2 baseload power sources couldn’t POSSIBLY also provide the same synergies with wind and solar that nuclear could have with wind and solar.”

    Lets find out if CETO works first, eh?

    I confess I do like the idea of hot rock tech, but we have to recognise that it is a limited resource on a global scale, more so than hydro. While it may be good for us in Australia for a while, it is not a global solution.

  33. “Solar average is 5kWh/sq meter/day, that more power on the roof of a house than is being used inside from the grid. Simple mirrors can concentrate solar by X100 fold, how concentrated do you want it? You will start melting steel if it was any more concentrated.”

    Except of course that commercial PV cells can’t use more than 20% of that power, they’re too expensive for people without huge subsidies, they don’t produce power when it’s most needed, and the power cannot be economically stored in useful quantities. And it doesn’t matter how much you can concentrate sunlight with mirrors, the chief point is that the surface area you need for a given amount of power is fixed. And you need a clear sky for CSP to work.

  34. Dear Mrs. Brook, Howes, Lang, etc.

    I hope all this back and forth actually produces an article that uses good data and addresses the various points, counter points and what’s uncertain about the viability of nuclear versus “renewables” in whatever mix of renewables plus maybe “conventionals” that people imagine will work. For a newbie like myself there is a lot of confusion generated by these posts. It seems to me that governments are themselves uncertain about which technologies would work best so they are spending billions trying different approaches. Maybe they’re being foolish or maybe they’re being wise. Could it be that all these technologies are running a close race or will be in a short enough period of time?

  35. I was asked to post these short comments on this thread by Barry. It’s from an off list comment I made to him and so, here it is:

    Hi Barry, obviously we are all following this Lang reports which are, of course, devastating toward renewables. The BIG debate is going to be around CSP/Solar Thermal. I say this because it has a ‘chance’ at least until we parse the numbers for 24/7 on demand power. If Peter does this, there are certain…issues that need to be brought to bear: namely a *more than 24 hour* cloudy day.

    1. I raise this because in the winter, even deserts get cloudy. If there is even ONE day that a dessert *region* gets cloudy beyond the storage capacity of the CSP farm, then investments in GT technology is required for *equal* the nameplate capacity of the CSP facility.

    2. The *true* costs of a vast HVDC network w/redundancy…the U.S. to just name my country, would never, ever allow a single set of HVDC lines power the entire country from one region. You’d need multiple lines for security.

    3. Has anyone thought about this issue of ‘wheeling’ such bast amounts of power from one region to another? The reason both Brazil and Venezuela are considering nuclear is because all their vast, clean, wonderful hydro are way far away from where the load is (4,000 km for Brazil). Blackouts occur regularly when lines go down which they do over vast distances. A modern national grid (we have 3 in the US) are not designed to power one region’s load with another’s regions generation, even with HVDC. You find that load concentration is also where there are large generation concentrations. Such national grids are there to provide bulk, but incremental generation to keep the grid up, not to supply the entire area. California where I live is the best example, we produce at times 100% of our power, but mostly we rely for about 10 to 16% from the Pacific NW or coal/nuclear production from Nevada and Arizona. This is the way it should work, and is far more secure, where wheeling energy is used to *supplement* the generation already localized. For all these Greens that advocate distributive power, this is NOT what I have in mind which is a vast *centralization* of power.

    Yours from sunny California,

    David Walters

  36. David Mackay thoroughly analyzed Wave Power for Britain, which has one of the best wave resources of any nation, in his paper Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air. His conclusion, by covering half of Britain’s coastline with really efficient Wave Generators, you might get maximum 4 kwh/day per person vs the 195 kwh/day that the average Britain uses or the 260 kwh/day the average American uses (total energy consumption per capita). He admits that is really optimistic. Using the real world Pelamis wave generator that’s reduced to 1.2 kwh/day per person. And uses 1000 kg steel per avg kw, vs offshore Wind of 510 kg steel per avg kw, and Old Nuclear uses 40 kg steel per avg kw.

    As for Geothermal, you would think Hawaii would be the Geothermal Power capital of the USA. Instead it relies on Coal for 13%, and Oil for 68% of its electricity supply, with 1.8 % coming from Geothermal, 0.7% from Wind Energy and not surprisingly has the highest power rates in the USA of 21.3 cents per kwh. I would say if Geothermal was so economical they would have figured it out in Hawaii decades ago

  37. This is one of many of Caldicott’s many slight-of-hands where she grays the difference between energy and weapons, as if we all lived in the 1950s and nothing has changed.

    I highly recommend look up Luke’s essays on Caldicott’s non-scientific hysterics on energy at his Physical Insights blog.

    The startling contradiction is that the only way to truly dismantle nuclear weapons is to down blend their WMD plutonium with U238 and burn it all up in nuclear reactors. The good doctor, of course, doesn’t want to go there. Better keep the weapons…

    David

  38. If it is so easy & cheap to transmit power long distances, why don’t they build Coal Thermal Plants next to Coal Mines, instead of hauling Coal, with great difficulty, long distances on inefficient Rail Lines. There are thousands of remote minesites, communities and islands that rely entirely on very expensive Diesel Fuel generation, with diesel fuel trucked in, flown in, or shipped in, although they may be less than 100 miles from Grid Energy.

  39. If it is so easy & cheap to transmit power long distances, why don’t they build Coal Thermal Plants next to Coal Mines, instead of hauling Coal, with great difficulty, long distances on inefficient Rail Lines. There are thousands of remote minesites, communities and islands that rely entirely on very expensive Diesel Fuel generation, with diesel fuel trucked in, flown in, or shipped in, although they may be less than 100 miles from Grid Energy.

    They do in Wyoming in some cases, it’s called “mine to plant”. However…you are fundamentally wrong, Waren.

    It is not “cheap” nor “easy” to transmit power long distances. What makes you think it is? It’s extremely expensive. Also, please re-read my posting: it’s a big, big deal to “wheel” power all over the place. Transmission lines can cost up to 50% of a plant’s overall price to build. There is a very important place for HVDC and advanced HVAC lines but you miss my point: having generation located near load is simply *always* better: cheaper, more secure, less voltage fluctuation and vulnerabilities.

    David

  40. Another outrageous article by Caldicott. I thought it was so fitting that it was titled “Nuclear Instability” alongside her picture. Her response in one of the comments quoting the NRDC was a classic that has been quoted ad nauseum. The source of it is actually Hyman Rickover from 1956, warning about the costliness of fast reactors. I suspect there would be a lot of things Rickover might have thought undoable in 1956 that are commonplace today. Pretty desperate when you have to go back a tad more than half a century ago, though I suppose it will be very convincing to true believers.

  41. I have in my possession a most interesting tome. No doubt many here have
    heard of it. It’s titled “The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic change
    and military conflict from 1500 to 2000″, written by Paul Kennedy a professor of
    History at Yale University. There you will find an excellent description of the
    ongoing pattern of Great Power conflicts over that period. It’s a very
    impressive read. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend that you obtain
    a copy and do so. You will almost certainly complete it with much greater
    knowledge and appreciation of the subject than you had when you
    started.

    The book is partly a forecast, as it was written in 1986.
    Professor Kennedy’s insight into the situation at the time was uncanny. He
    stated that the Soviet Union was in deep trouble a few years before its
    collapse, and wrote of the rise of China well before that topic became a
    mainstream day-to-day issue. Nothing in what he said about the remainder of the
    twentieth century needs much revision now that it’s over, except perhaps that
    some of the projections overestimated the time frame for major changes, but you
    probably wouldn’t have found too many people in 1986 asserting that Soviet
    communism was likely to collapse within five years. A ‘Great Power’ is
    defined as a nation capable of presenting a credible challenge to any other
    nation in the world. The nations in the first rank change over time, as various
    contenders get pushed out of the leader pack, while demographic and economic
    evolution thrusts others into it.

    What really strikes me about the historical account is the dreary regularity with
    which the Great Powers take up arms against each other. Throughout most of
    modern European history, the Great Powers have engaged in ongoing struggles
    for dominance, with intervals of peace merely serving as prep time for the next
    bout. Every twenty years or so (or perhaps less, I haven’t worked out the average),
    Europe would go through some huge convulsion to reach a new equilibrium in its
    internal tribal tensions.

    Since the Renaissance there have been two periods of relative
    calm, during which direct Great Power wars have been rare or non-existent. The
    first of these ran from 1815 to 1914, from the victory of Britain and its allies
    over Napoleon’s empire to the outbreak of World War One. That extended period of
    international peace appears chiefly to be the result of the dominance of one
    Great Power above all others. Britain found itself in a uniquely advantageous
    position after the Napoleonic Wars. In a bid to secure their thrones against any
    future revolutions, the freshly restored monarchies of the Continent established
    something called the Concert of Europe. Devised by the Austrian nobleman and
    diplomat Metternich, the ‘Concert’ was basically an agreement among the European
    absolutist monarchies to come to each other’s aid to put down any popular
    revolution against any established regime which might threaten the status quo.

    The reactionary nature of post-Napoleonic Continental governments slowed the introduction of industrial technology and modern representational management
    and government, and entrenched Britain’s position as hegamon. This situation
    lasted until the late nineteenth century when the spread of industrialisation
    across Europe and the U.S. enabled Britain’s rivals to close the
    gap. There were wars during this period, including a couple of direct
    clashes between Great Powers, but not on the scale of the previous century. The
    greatest military struggle by far in that historical period was the American
    Civil War, an internal matter for the United States rather than a Great Power
    conflict, and one which mirrored to some extent the tensions which also existed
    in Europe at the time between the old agrarian economic system and the new
    industrial system. The other notable struggles of this period occurred during
    the latter part of it, and mainly concerned the altering balance of power in
    Central Europe with the rise of Prussia/Germany. As time went by, Britain
    slipped from overwhelming hegamon to first among equals in the Great Power game,
    and finally to eclipse at the rise of Germany, the US, Russia and others.

    Once it could no longer overawe its neighbours, Europe drifted into another Great
    Power war, this time dragging the rest of the world in with it. In the
    aftermath of the destruction wrought by WW1, many people from all levels of
    society across Europe and the rest of the world sought political solutions to
    the problem of war, such as the League of Nations, and invested great effort in
    devising them. In spite of their earnest efforts to avoid another disaster, the
    world was plunged into another, much worse, Great Power war two decades later.
    In spite of the best efforts of the forces of reason, the basic historical
    pattern had reasserted itself when the exceptional conditions which facilitated
    the long peace of the 19th Century vanished. Restoration of the normal
    distribution of power among the people of the globe meant restoration of
    business as usual, no matter what the angels of our better nature thought of it.

    Then something peculiar happened. For some reason, direct armed
    clashes between the Great Powers have ceased. By now we should be up to about
    World War Five, or be desperately arming ourselves in preparation for it. The
    international situation at the end of World War Two certainly didn’t encourage
    much optimism about the chances of avoiding future Great Power clashes, at least
    not if you used past history as any guide. Something happened to derail business
    as usual.

    That something was, of course, nuclear weapons. The Balance of
    Terror, Mutually Assured Destruction, was bagged out in its time, but in
    retrospect, it seems to have served humanity rather well. Of course, it’s still
    in effect. The fall of the USSR hasn’t really changed the fundamental strategic
    situation that much. Russia could still destroy the US and China. The US could
    still destroy Russia and China. China could cause enough damage to the US or
    Russia to dissuade either of those Powers from attacking it. There are still
    client states and proxy wars, but there are no true Great Power wars. Such a
    conflict is still far too dangerous for any of the main players to countenance.

    Since the thermonuclear bomb cannot be uninvented, I’m inclined to think
    that it must be acknowledged as a permanent feature of human politics from
    hereon in. Nukes or something even more powerful will be primary strategic
    considerations in human affairs for the rest of history. Even if some kind of
    defensive technology such as advanced ABM lasers, or interceptors, or something
    becomes possible, no one could ever be sure that an advanced delivery system
    couldn’t get past the defence. The risk would be just too high to ever assume
    invulnerability to attack.

    In short, the only way that nuclear aggression can ever possibly make sense
    in terms of a Great Power war is if the aggressor has good reason to think that
    its victim cannot retaliate. I don’t know what it would take to convince a would-be
    nuclear conqueror that it was safe to launch a first strike, but it is certainly more
    likely to happen if the intended victim publicly declares itself to be disarmed, than
    if it has a habit of occasionally conducting an underground weapon test to prove
    to everyone that its nuke capability is current and effective.

    The Pax Britannia lasted 99 years. The Pax Atomica (I just know some linguist
    is going to crucify me for that phrase, but you get what I mean) is now nearly 63
    years old. I wonder if it will outlive its predecessor, and if it does, by how long.

  42. David,
    The US already gets hydro power from Canada’s subarctic dams during summer months when flows are larger. The HVDC lines built in early 1990’s are about 1,000 Km in length. New longer lines to US are planned with new hydro developments. The HVDC technology has improved over last 20 years with solid state HV AC/DC conversion.

    I don’t think anyone is suggesting one HVDC line from the US south-west. For starters lines would be going to CA, TX, and mid-west states connecting with wind turbine regions and then distributed to NE. Additional HVDC connections between the 3 power grids will enhance their reliability and allow peak power shifting over time zones.

  43. Finrod,
    I don’t think many are going to be convinced that having thousands of nuclear weapons in the hands of dozens of nations is a good thing for civilizations future.
    Not much to do with nuclear power, except “accidents” do happen, we have survived a few nuclear power plant accidents, I doubt civilization will survive a small nuclear war “accident”.

  44. “I don’t think many are going to be convinced that having thousands of nuclear weapons in the hands of dozens of nations is a good thing for civilizations future.”

    Oh? Then what do you think broke the ancient pattern of a fresh civilisation-wide all-encompassing war every generation after WWII?

  45. The reason the HVAC (most of the lines) and HVDC lines are usable from Quebec and Ontario to the US is that they can transmit revenue generating power from Canada to New York and New England 24/7. And they are not used to provide all the power for this region. If you read my notes posted ab above, I’m very clear about this. The power is wheeled to provide *supplemental* energy to the locally generated grid in New York and New England. Double digits worth? Yes, absoluetly…but 100%? Nope. *The ISO(s) would never be that stupid*.

    As an aside, New Brunswick may well be building two nukes there to take advantage of the US market as well.

    This is because the power wheeled is always “on”, it’s not intermittent. Which is an other issue with HVDC, BTW, that you can’t just hot up the line, cool it down, etc..you need a steady minimal power flow which means *less* lines, not more. This to prevent the lines from ‘collapsing” and inducing some sort of VAR flow (which, to be honest, I don’t know how it effects DC vs that of AC). At any rate, when you add the costs of these lines up, the highest tech for SCADA and, eventually SG, you get into bucks that really cost a KWhr higher and higher.

    In fact, almost all solar plans DO talk about wheeling power from the SW to the NE of the US, 4,000 or more kilometers. It’s absolutely screwy, expensive and unnecessary.

  46. “I don’t think many are going to be convinced that having thousands of nuclear weapons in the hands of dozens of nations is a good thing for civilizations future.”

    Of course, for the effect to work, it isn’t necessary to have “thousands of nuclear weapons in the hands of dozens of nations”. The two or three most powerful nations need a few hundred for the threat to be credible, and the smaller nations which feel excessively threatened by their neighbours need a couple of dozen as a deterrent to invasion.

  47. “…It is not “cheap” nor “easy” to transmit power long distances. What makes you think it is? It’s extremely expensive…”

    That’s just what I implied by my comment, read it again. In the NWT they have hydro plants that are throwing away 90% of their energy down the spillway, while 100 km away there are communities on diesel generation, for which they charge 65 cents per kwh. Big Minesites which use 25 MW or more are on diesel, trucked in on ice roads in the winter, while Hydro Plants 300 km away are throwing away excess energy.

    To install Transmission lines you will face lawsuits from farmers for Induced Ground Currents, opposition from landowners who despise the ugly Hydro Lines, groups that use open spaces for ultralight aircraft, parasails and hang gliders, environmental groups opposed to the destruction of forest – and release of carbon to the atmosphere, native land claim areas, national parks that do not allow transmission lines.

    And with pumped hydro, wind plants or desert solar you have considerable higher costs since you are sizing the transmission lines, switchgear & substations for peak load, while only delivering average 20-30% of peak load.

    The truth is that the super-grid / renewables energy fantasy is a case of extreme centralization of power production. The correct way to look at power distribution would be on a Map that is a transformation of a geographical map so that areas are proportional to power demand in all local regions. On that map Wind, Hydro, Pumped Hydro and Desert CSP will be lumped in remote isolated areas, far from the big Load Centres, mainly cities. Among the Renewables, only rooftop Solar PV can claim to be part of a distributed Energy System.

  48. “Which is an other issue with HVDC, BTW, that you can’t just hot up the line, cool it down, etc..you need a steady minimal power flow ..”

    OK, this is new information to me. If you are saying that an HVDC line effectively needs a stable baseload supply, that sounds like a big problem for the idea of using HVDC to average out fluctuating renewable contributions over very large areas to provide baseload power, especially if those fluctuations include total dropouts like Germany’s wind or extended cloudy days for solar. Is this interpretation correct?

  49. Is solar thermal the only big debate? Here in Australia we have more than enough geothermal to run Australia for hundreds of years, and 60% of the global population live within 40 km of the coast which means…. CETO wave power is ALSO a MAJOR contender… especially as it is underwater and doesn’t interfere with coastal beauty or shipping lines. See the flash graphics here…

    http://www.ceto.com.au/ceto-technology/what-is-ceto.php

    Also, “The World Energy Council has estimated that approximately 2 terawatts (2 million megawatts), about double current world electricity production, could be produced from the oceans via wave power. It is estimated that 1 million gigawatt hours of wave energy hits Australian shores annually and that 25% of the UK’s current power usage could be supplied by harvesting its wave resource.”

    http://www.ceto.com.au/about/wave-energy-and-ceto.php

    As to cost and power:

    “CETO Technology
    Independent Expert’s Report

    In December 2006, an independent report on the technical and commercial viability of the CETO wave energy technology was prepared by PB Power, part of Parsons Brinckerhoff, an independent consultancy firm specialising in the global power industry.

    Key factors confirmed by the report are the estimated capital expenditure per MW, which positions CETO close to wind turbines, but with more than twice the operating load factor, and the estimated operating expenditure per kWh which enables CETO to be economically competitive with fossil fuel-based generation.”

    http://www.ceto.com.au/ceto-technology/report.php

    Newsflash:

    “In May 2009, Carnegie Corporation (ASX: CNM) and Renewable Energy Holdings Plc (AIM: REH) announced by way of a binding Heads of Agreement, that Carnegie will purchase the CETO IP and Global Development Rights off REH in return for REH taking a 35% shareholding in Carnegie. This transaction is subject to Carnegie shareholder approval. Carnegie will now jointly develop CETO Wave Projects in the Northern Hemisphere with EDF EN. “

  50. I can’t think of any at the moment, although the Chinese have had a very successful pebble-bed test reactor going for a while now, the Russians are ramping up work on their bismuth-cooled fast breeder, and India is ready to go with their first commercial fast breeder next year:

    http://business.rediff.com/report/2009/aug/17/india-first-fast-breeder-reactor.htm

    At any rate, I envision that the first nuclear plants in Australia will be Gen III.

  51. EN, why are you pushing this undemonstrated technology? We know nuclear power works, and in spite of your stated misgivings about genIV, the science and engineering of such machines is very well understood, and being actively pursued around the world. india has reached the point where they’re ready to go with it next year.

    Now I hope the CETO concept works out. It’s always good to have an extra arrow in our quiver. But to push it as an alternative to proven technologies at this stage of its development is not going to fly.

    Same with hot rock geothermal. Great idea if it works, but don’t bet the farm on it yet. wait to see what issues arise in the test phase. And even if it does work, this technology is unfortunately not exportable to many other places around the world.

  52. “Using the real world Pelamis wave generator”

    (sighs)
    Do I have to point out that this is NOT a “real world Pelamis” generator but a real world CETO generator? (Honestly!) It’s a totally different concept. *Someone* hasn’t read about CETO…

    Also, even CETO admit their wave power won’t totally supply all the UK’s energy needs…but state about 25%. The UK is as biased a sample group as you can get, almost as good as a few months study of just 11 wind farms to “debunk” wind. The UK is a tiny little island with a big population. If they want to import some energy from Europe, they are welcome. Hey, let them have some more nukes if necessary. But you’ve totally avoided the main point by clutching at straws… or is that clutching at a straw-man?

    How much energy did the World Energy Council say was in wavepower?

    “The World Energy Council has estimated that approximately 2 terawatts (2 million megawatts), about double current world electricity production, could be produced from the oceans via wave power.”

    http://www.ceto.com.au/about/wave-energy-and-ceto.php

    Sure the UK might prefer nukes to importing electricity from where the wave power really is, along the coastlines of major continents. But so much for “Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air” and it’s distortion of renewable realities by narrowing in on an inconvenient island nation to distrot the true global picture.

  53. Here are the IEA figures for electricity generated from solar power (2006):

    Solar generation: 2,220 GWh
    Total electrcity generation: 636,761 GHW
    Solar contribution: 0.3%

    Source: http://iea.org/Textbase/stats/electricitydata.asp?COUNTRY_CODE=DE&Submit=Submit

    You can get authoritative figures for energy by country, region, technology, primary fuel, end use, generation, consumption etc, and presented in charts, tables and Excel exports.

  54. David,
    The value of distant hydro is that it can provide additional power during “peak demand” or bulk 24/7 power to supplement other sources. In N America, sub-arctic and mountain regions with good hydro capacity also have good wind resources allowing long HVDC lines to operate efficiently carrying a mix of wind and hydro.

    The SE of the US, has good solar resources with peak power production matching the time shifted peak demand on the US east coast, especially during the summer peak. You don’t need large storage beyond 1-2 hours, and the fact that less is produced in winter is not an issue because winter demand is less.

    Solar providing 100% of US power from the SW would be an issue, but most people are not saying that is an option. Hydro, wind, nuclear and NG (and others) are all likely to contribute to the energy mix as well as solar in the next 40 years. Coal is the only source of energy that should be phased out ASAP, mothballing plants for use ONLY when unusual events such as reactor shutdowns, pipeline explosions, ice storms, low rainfall, cooling water issues occur.

    If you want to argue that”nuclear can provide 100% of electricity and NO ONE renewable source can do that” you can have that argument, but that’s not what we are facing as energy choices in next 40 years.
    Barry has said “techno-solar” cannot provide our energy future. I don’t accept that argument either, we have renewable hydro, as well as solar, wind and geothermal and we will be using NG peak for a long time whatever other energy sources are used.

  55. Electrically it would make sense. A long HVDC line acts under load (current flow) as large inductor. Any load (current) changes introduces voltage spikes at the ends. Those can travel, depending on line length, back to the origin and can cause significant voltage oscillations over the entire line length. Not something you want to have when an eventual arc-over does not self-extinguish because the voltage does not go through zero, as in AC. Also not something you want to have when during an arcover the entire charged capacitance of the line discharges over that arc. On a long HVDC line there could be enough energy stored in the line itself (capacitance) to vaporize things badly.

    Under steady-state conditions (constant load) however there’s no problem.

  56. Thanks for the links, Peter. I must sheepishly admit that my figures were wrong, at least as of the 2006 statistics. Germany actually produces considerably more than half of the world’s solar electricity (about 58%) and that provides considerably less than half of one percent of their electricity needs (about 0.36%, having removed their electricity exports from the stats to pad the solar numbers a bit in their favor). I stand corrected, having erred substantially in favor of the solar proponents.

    The relevant links:
    Germany: http://tinyurl.com/p9sqsf
    The world: http://tinyurl.com/q3kew4

    You’ll note that Germany has no solar thermal, but so much PV (some 80% of the world’s PV capacity) that they still dwarf the rest of the world in solar-generated electricity. Yet they don’t generate nearly enough to even think about storing it for off hours. Solar’s contribution is barely a blip on Germany’s electricity radar, a fact which I’m sure would be surprising to anyone who’s traveled there and seen the scads of solar panels in evidence.

    I will now be roundly castigated for using 2006 statistics when surely the whole world situation has changed considerably since that distant era, in 3…2…1…

  57. “Barry has said “techno-solar” cannot provide our energy future. I don’t accept that argument either, we have renewable hydro, as well as solar, wind and geothermal and we will be using NG peak for a long time whatever other energy sources are used.”

    Of course you don’t accept Barry’s argument. It’s obvious that you’re dead set opposed to nuclear power as an energy source, and your occasionally expressed lukewarm support is nothing but ‘damning with faint praise’. The degree to which you have to twist and turn to dodge criticism of your bogus ‘renewables’ schemes (all of which must be backed up by natgas, despite your stated desire to tap the last of our water tables for hydro) marks you as an apologist for the status quo.

  58. Heck, while we’re at it we might as well take a look at the other side of the Germany model that wind & solar advocates like to cite as what can be accomplished with government support. With over a third of the world’s nameplate wind turbine capacity (I’ve read 38% somewhere, but here’s the ballpark figure from the horse’s mouth), Germany manages to produce nearly a quarter of the world’s wind-generated electricity, which translates into about 5% of their domestic demand. Again, not much reason to spend money and brain cells figuring out how to store it. There just isn’t enough to make it worthwhile to even consider it.

    By the way, Germany’s few nuclear power plants produce about 27% of their electricity, but they’re due to be shut down in the interests of political ideology, while the Germans proceed to construct a couple dozen coal-fired power plants to take up the slack.

    Talk about inconvenient truth…

  59. It seems there is a lot of debate about minutiae, while losing sight of the big picture.

    For solar to be competitive with nuclear for meeting a major proportion of our electricity demand, the whole alternative system, comprising solar generator, energy storage and transmission must be able to provide the same quality of power and at similar cost. It should also be competitive in terms of total GHG emissions and other ‘footprint’ issues.

    The simple analysis provided in the ‘Solar Power Realities’ paper indicates that the solar system is some twenty times more than nuclear.

    Furthermore, the GHG emissions are greater, the mass of materials required is greater, and the land area required is greater.

    Solar does not seem to compare favourably on any of the important cost or environmental criteria.

    Surely, we should ask ourselves, what is behind such strong belief in renewable energy?

  60. I expect it is likely that smaller nations will turn to bargain – basement nuclear weapons to deter an Iraq style invasion by the Superpowers – as Iran is doing, or as a defense against similar acts by its neighbours, who may be in conflict over energy or other resources such minerals and water. Obvious and most likely method will be simple graphite pile Plutonium breeders – no Power Reactors required or useful for the undertaking.

    Meanwhile the superpowers will be moving away from fission weapons, to pure fusion weapons, anti-matter fueled aircraft and weapons, robotic aircraft and beamed energy weapons from orbit. It is not hard to imagine small nuclear conflicts occuring between developing nations.

    It is possible that First World Nations will reach a point whereby they will remotely toast any Nuclear Weapons facilities in developing nations, but likely that will take a small nuclear exchange to precipate that level of resolve.

  61. “….Also, even CETO admit their wave power won’t totally supply all the UK’s energy needs…but state about 25%…”

    That would contradict what David Mackay has calculated based on pure physics. A maximum of 4 kwh/day/person or 2% of energ needs, with half Britains coastline covered. You really think you could cover the entire coastline? And a huge amount of material. Pure fantasy.

    “…“The World Energy Council has estimated … about double current world electricity production…via wave power….”

    I really hate those kinds of idiotic statements. Pure crapola.

    Wild guess:

    There’s enough hydrocarbons on Titan to supply our World’s Energy needs for millions of year.

    There’s enough fresh water in Antarctica to supply all the world’s water needs for the next million year.

    There’s enough gold dissolved in the ocean to produce 1000X our current output for the next thousand years.

    There’s enough algae in the ocean to produce all of our food & fuel for the next million years.

    Yeah, you just go and get it.

  62. “Surely, we should ask ourselves, what is behind such strong belief in renewable energy?”

    “…A strong incentive from the natural gas industry?…”

    You said it. There wouldn’t be zip going into these nutty renewable energy hoaxes if it weren’t for the fossil fuel industries bait-and-switch scam. The bait is wonderful, natural, clean, bambi-in-the-enchanted-forest, Solar, Wind, Hydrogen, Clean Coal. The switch is instead you get the same old dirty Coal, NG & Oil. They aren’t stupid. They know very well that the only viable replacement for fossil fuels is nuclear and that ultimately to survive, our civilization must transition from one based on the stored energy of the sun to nuclear – likely first fission, followed by fusion.

    They just want to ensure they get to sell as much of their fossil fuels at exorbitant prices and enormous profits as long as they possibly can.

    This ain’t a conspiracy theory, it just the same old business-as-usual. Politicians, the Press, and Environmental Organizations catering to the people who put the butter on their bread. can’t say I’d be any different – I just don’t happen to be riding the gravy train.

  63. Cool Stephen, but I was mainly notifying Barry that the CSP conversation has moved on from when he and Matthew Wright had their debate back in February.

    Barry, all I’m saying is that Matthew seems to get a CSP expert on every month or so and that someone would need to investigate the new CSP technologies every month or so to truly take on solar CSP. From what I can glean of the interviews (not being technical myself) the technology for both collecting the sun’s heat, and storing that heat, are both changing and improving with all sorts of developments in ALL areas.

    EG: Someone above critiqued the amount of steel required by CSP collectors, whether troughs or large reflecting mirrors (for power towers). One company is trying a hard sun-resistant plastic for a cheaper trough.

    EG: new heat exchanger technologies or approaches.

    EG: New storage methods, like the graphite blocks I’ve mentioned frequently. (Still waiting on King Island information with the wind-back up though, and agreed it’s not as efficient as for solar thermal).

    So the first commercial release is Cloncurry next year. Just wondering how much people think this technology could come down in price as economies of scale move up? Instead of 10 megawatt plants think in the gigawatt range. How would it compare then?

    “A solar thermal power station is to be built in Cloncurry, in north-west Queensland. The solar thermal power station will have a capacity of 10-megawatt and will deliver about 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power the whole town.[1]

    The total cost of the project is A$31 million including a A$7 million gift from the government.[2] The plant should be running by early 2010.[3]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloncurry_solar_power_station

  64. Hmm, nice reply, except I’m still wondering if you’ve even seen the CETO animation let alone read their briefs? The floatation device is NOT all steel like the Pelamis, there’s a steel pump for the water pressure but if push came to shove I’m sure the piping could be made from a variety of materials.

    The point was about the *potential* energy out there, and I’m not saying it is going to happen overnight, or that CETO will be the only solution. But if you look at the solar pv and wind statistics for the last few decades you see an exponential doubling curve. Solar PV is doubling something like every 2 years? So all these pessimistic statements about renewable energy *only* occupies 0.5% of the market have to change, because they’re doubling up from a starting point (as EVERYTHING had to at one stage, even oil!) And doubles… and doubles again… and now suddenly the USA is the world’s largest wind nation and is on an exponential curve… and the USA’s wind penetration is now 1.5%! When just a few years ago it was impossible because it was only less than half a percent. What happened? Exponential growth.

    And so CETO has gone from concept to commercial feasibility tests to development to its first commercial deal. Once it is commercially demonstrated, refinements can occur and new piping materials for the seawater, new pumps, new floatation devices etc can all be developed. CETO is there as a potential baseload supplier of renewable energy, and just because current market penetration is low doesn’t mean it won’t be a significant player in the future. As I said, even oil had a starting point.

    But as I always say, I’m not for one single renewable. Experts like Herman Scheer are talking about a diverse range of energy sources complementing each other. Some places are better for higher wind penetration, some CETO, some solar & geothermal, some biomass energy such as the German Village of Jühnde which is now totally renewable.

    http://tinyurl.com/n348ch

    And no doubt some places will require nuclear, and if Gen4 truly burns up the waste and especially weapons grade material, then all the better. It all depends on the speed of deployment, and given equal technical capacity, the economics.

  65. Peter, Finrod,
    “It seems there is a lot of debate about minutiae, while losing sight of the big picture.

    I see the big picture, the desperate need to replace coal fired power generation within the next 20 years and to start making immediate reductions in CO2 emissions before 2020.
    In Australia about 10% of electrical power is from renewable energy and the government target is for about 20% to be generated from low CO2 emission sources by 2020. That seems an achievable target using solar, hydro and wind energy.

    A small amount of geothermal energy is a possibility before 2020. I see no chance of any contribution from nuclear power by 2020, but a possibility if we start now to make a significant contribution perhaps 20% of our electricity from nuclear by 2030. At least until 2030 we will have an energy gap of 60% of an expected total 45GW average power. Renewable energy can fill part of that 60%gap (beyond 20%), the balance will have to come from NG or we continue burning coal(no CCS is expected before 2030).

    Countries such as China are struggling with similar issues, but have much less NG available so choices are renewable, nuclear or coal. China has a nuclear building program in progress and their objectives are 5% nuclear by 2020, about 15% renewable, with nuclear perhaps 10-20% by 2030. You may think we could built up nuclear faster than China or that China is deluding itself that it can achieve 15% renewables by 2020. The 3 year built time for nuclear proposed by Charles Barton is a myth, China certainly is taking 7-9 years. Sometime in the future it may be possible to mass produce reactors and build at a faster rate but it’s not happening yet.
    Beyond 2030 to 2100 we should be working towards no CO2 emissions, but if it is not possible to do this with ONLY one of;nuclear or solar or wind or hydro, this is not a reason to discount any of these for use in the next 20 years and not a reason to discount a mix of two or more( probably all) being used in the future.

    Renewable energy is not a belief it’s a reality just as nuclear energy is a reality in many countries( but not in Australia or many small-medium sized economies). I can also do something personally about renewable energy but cannot make much of a contribution to nuclear.

  66. Neil,

    I have several problems with your approach:

    1. You believe that wind and solar and energy storage can be built and provide our electrcity needs economically. They cannot. (Your comments about increased hydro pumped storage in Tumut 3 and Eucumbene are examples of a complete lack of understanding of the technologies).

    2. You believe that the RE technologies will make significant cuts in GHG emissions. They will not. And they haven’t yet in other countries.

    3. By diverting resources and focus away from the real solutions, you are helping to delay the public gaining an appreciation of what are the real solutions.

    4. We have all our universities and research establishments tied up in RE research rather than in doing whatever we need to do to get nuclear implemented in Australia as quickly as possible. We had the same mis-direction of effort during the ESD (Ecologically Sustainable Development) in the early 1990’s and we are repeating the same mistake again now.

    5. Mandating Renewable Energy targets is diverting resources to the wrong solution. We should have “Clean Energy Targets” instead.

  67. The paper takes the approach of looking at the limit position. That is, it looks at the cost of providing all the NEM’s electricity demand using only solar power for electricity generation. Looking at the limit position helps us to understand just how close to or far from being economic is solar power.

    Well at least Peter is being quite transparent about the straw man being set up in his paper.

    Perhaps he should next write for us a paper on the feasibility and economics of supplying all the NEM’s electricity demand using only Open Cycle Gas Turbines (OCGTs), including a revelation of the hidden costs of the massive expansion of gas supply and transportation infrastructure that would be required to fuel these turbines, and the extreme challenges of providing ancillary services such as frequency control using plant that is not techincally suited for the task. As for the rate of gasfield depletion and emissions, including NOx and SOx in addition to CO2, …..

    Clearly this would be a “limit” position, but following Peter’s established modus operandi, the results of this analysis (ie extremely expensive electricity) would demonstrate the highly uneconomic nature of OCGTs as a source of electricity.

    The only thing left to wonder about then would be why on earth utilities and generating companies around the world continue to insist on installing the damn things as part of their supply mix!

  68. This is a great discussion (if only because of all the interesting links).

    First, I want to note that few here have argued against nuclear energy, most notably Neil who has stated he sees a mixture of non-carbon generation including nuclear. I take him at his word. I say this because most discussion on the Internet kind of degenerate into a “You really mean…” and this is not one of those discussion.

    Secondly, Peter brings up a very good point. It’s as true in the US as it Downunder: resources are being diverted, and have been, for renewables for R&D way out of proportion, I believe, than the pay back. It is, of course, like all things USonian, totally political (and it would be for nuclear as well, IMHO).

    But, nuclear is finally getting a revival of sorts in the nations engineering depts at various universities and classes are overbooked, always a good sign. Part of this, oddly, are the poll numbers, which, I were to plate ‘make-a-metaphor’ would say that the tide is as Neil would like to see it. Which is WAY better than it was 10 years ago!

    david

  69. Observer,

    The comparison of nuclear and solar is of two technologies both of which claim to have low GHG emissions. Secondly, for both technologies the capital cost is the main component of the cost. However, OCGT has low capital cost and high fuel and O&M cost as well as high GHG emissions. So the technologies are not comparable.

    However, if you did do the comparison you would find that, like nuclear, the cost of OCGT is around 1/20 the cost of the solar system.

    As a first pass, limit analysis is useful. It shows which options are worth further consideration. Any option that is 50% more than another option would be discarded at the first pass.

    So, I would argue, that the simple analysis is useful and certainly sufficient to demonstrate that solar power is totally uneconomic, and not as environmentally benign as nuclear.

    Focusing our efforts on renewables is wasting our resources. We will delay and have less resources available to take the actions that can have a significant effect.

  70. Peter

    Obviously the real point of my comment was nothing to do with OCGTs but to show the absurdity of the proposition that we can draw useful general conclusions about the role and economics of a given generation technology in the supply mix from an unrealistic strawman scenario where that technology powers 100% of the grid.

    If your sole aim was to convince a few diehard economically illiterate solar enthusiasts that a 100% solar grid is not a good idea then a) you probably won’t convince them whatever you say; b) you should explicitly state that that is the only aim of your paper; and c) you could have saved yourself a lot of wasted effort and proved that point much more quickly and simply.

    The big problem with your approach – and what my tongue-in-cheek comment sought to highlight – is that you seem to want to draw much broader and more general conclusions about the economics of the various technologies based on an extreme and totally nonsensical hypothetical. That is simply not a valid or useful approach to deciding what role renewables can play, rather than what role they individually cannot.

  71. “Looking at the limit position helps us to understand just how close to or far from being economic is solar power.

    In the real world we don’t plan on a limit position of 100% nuclear or 100% solar. What we want to know are the costs of adding an additional 5% or replacing an existing 5% of coal fired power and when this can be done, and then seeing where we could go for replacing the next 5% coal fired power etc. It’s fairly ambitious to be planning 10 years ahead for but the largest project(such as nuclear and hydro electric). Both solar and wind costs have been declining quickly as capacity has been increasing( 5-10% for each doubling), and nuclear may do the same when new building accelerates.

    So the relevant questions for 2020 and 2030 are what can be built by then and what will it cost? We can’t really have firm numbers for going to 20% low carbon by 2020 for either wind, solar or nuclear. About the only thing we can say is that they are all going to cost more than coal-fired power without CCS but since that’s not an option(by 2020) the only question we can answer is “what can be built now ?” and “what will it cost?”. One option would be for a government to order 4 or 5 nuclear reactors for completion by 2020 to produce 5GW power(10%). Another option is to have private financing of wind power and public financing of some small CSP and geothermal and subsidies for solar PV, adding in total 0.5GWaverage/year. If the latter option, ordering one 1GW nuclear plant as well this would still be a less risky and cheaper option for the next 10 years. By 2020 we would have a better idea of where costs for nuclear solar, geothermal and wind were going and could then expand what ever was appropriate knowing that we had a base of expertise to add nuclear, solar or wind. A second reactor would be planned for the same site and ordered if contracts for the first come in on budget, or canceled if bids were much higher than expected.

    This is exactly what China seems to be doing, not just with nuclear but all low carbon NON coal energy. So far renewables(5-15GW/year) are adding a lot more energy than nuclear(1GW/year) but this could change after 2015 when nuclear will be adding 8-10GW/year.

    The storage costs for integrating wind energy up to 20% seem to be about $5/MWh. SA is going to be exceeding this value in the next year or two so we will have Australian figures. For integrating 20% solar should be considerably less than wind because of the closer matching to daily demand( unless it’s installed in a totally unsuitable sites with low winter values and a high number of cloudy days).

    The costs of going from 0% to 100% power from solar or nuclear will never be relevant no one will plan for this.

  72. No, this is.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J%C3%BChnde

    http://peakenergy.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_archive.html

    “Upstairs over coffee Eckhard and his wife Sabine explain their investment. 140 local residents own the bio-gas plant, borrowing most of the money from banks. With the plant producing twice as much electricity as Juhnde requires, in 20 years time the banks will be paid off and the residents will be fully-paid-up energy barons.

    SABINE FANGMEIR: I think it’s a good idea because it is very environment friendly. There is no danger. No danger for us, no danger for our children, and the children of our children. And it’s all our own. Not one owner, not an oil company. It’s ours. And we all together are responsible for this plant.

    The bio-mass plant at Juhnde has only been running for around six months, but already some 30 neighbouring villages are so impressed they’re planning to invest in their own plants.”

  73. Interesting debate – I’d like to suggest that we expand the boundaries. It’s not only the cost of any particular technology that is at issue. It’s how they are all deployed to cut emissions. The McKinsey Greenhouse Gas cost curves are useful summaries. The global one is here>>>. Core point is that a lot of the reduction is cost neutral thanks to the profitable outcomes from efficiency. And the overall economic cost of deploying worldwide greenhouse gas measures is very achievable. For power generating sector the emissions abatement is based on costs less than or equal to 40 euro per ton by 2030 and a mix of technology.

    I’d further suggest that, as Nick Stern points out, behaviour change does not occur based on financial costs alone. Energy efficiency and the lack of action on viable profitable change – over the last two decades plus – is a great example of this. Links and a short summarised article here.

    Extend this a bit and it adds weight to what we anecdotally experience today. People make choices, paying for technology, in ways that are not necessarily (only) economically rational. Or more specifically we should consider if, armed with perfect knowledge on the relative costs of solar and nuclear – alongside near perfect predictions of future cost curves as technology scales and is implemented for both – people’s preferences mean that the more costly alternative is likely to be more capable of effective implementation.

  74. “No, this is.”

    So the article I linked to is mistaken is it? Kindly demonstrate this if you’re going to make those kinds of statements.

    The wiki article you link to is a stub with a brief description of a village powered by biofuel, gas from decaying plant matter found near the village. Do you seriously think this is a viable solution for the industrial world? Have you any idea what area of forest would need to be denuded to provide current demand?

    The text you quote from the second link cannot be found on the site you’ve linked to for it.

  75. And just why does she imagine that Russia and the USA(or anyone else)be crazy enough to have a nuclear war? Hasn’t she heard of MAD- mutually assured destruction- that turned out to be the best reason for having the “bomb”. It didn’t happen in the 60’s, during the Cuba crisis, when we were all expecting it and, as Caldicott is my generation, she should remember this period. Far more likely that we will have wars brought on by lack of land and resources due to climate change.
    She is being disengenuous and mischievious. Get over yourself Helen!

  76. Re your article:

    1. There are other policy models and energy pricing plans in other countries

    2. Competitive baseload renewables seems to be on the way (CETO + cheaper thin-film solar PV for daytime “top up” of peak demand + others mentioned above)

    3. I’m still not convinced NUCLEAR isn’t *externalising* too many costs in tricky ways

    The text I quote is from an SBS special on Germany’s renewable energy, and it IS on Big Gav’s page, it’s where I copied it from. Search down… because there is more.

    The village of Juhnde is just one example of a local village becoming economically prosperous by owning their energy. I was NOT mandating biofuels for the world! (Oh MAN I’m getting sick of the straw-man arguments on this thread!) Different horses for different courses. Basically I was just countering your blunt generalisation that people lose jobs from renewables when actually the right plan for the right place can generate income, stabilise international relations, and head towards “world peace”.

    Think that’s stretching it? Ever look up how the European Union started? Yep, a steel and coal agreement.

    Maybe the Desertec idea of importing African sunlight into Europe has more than energy security in mind. Maybe it’s an attempt to lift Africa out of poverty and DO something with just a tiny fraction of that desert.

    This CNN piece just emphasises energy security and avoiding climate change, but I’m sure I’ve read some geopolitical ponderings as well.
    CNN clip here

    http://www.desertec.org/en/foundation/

    This idea is spreading too. Check out the governments starting to adopt it…

    http://www.desertec.org/en/news/

    So if you’re convinced solar thermal really is “20 times more expensive” you’d better stop nagging us here and get out there to explain to the EU and AU why it can’t work. ;-)

    I mean, surely these big companies have some energy “bean counters” that can actually study the matters you critics of renewables raise, and just come to different conclusions to you?

    EG: Financial times

    “Solar power plants planned for Sahara

    “Around a dozen companies are set to launch a renewable energy initiative on Monday that its backers claim could within a decade provide Europeans with electricity generated from the Sahara – at a cost of €400bn ($557bn).

    Munich Re, the German insurer, Deutsche Bank, utilities RWE and Eon and industrial conglomerate Siemens are among the bluechip names that will form a company to explore the technical and geopolitical challenges of peppering the deserts of North Africa and the Middle East with solar mirrors.”

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/759b35a6-6f00-11de-9109-00144feabdc0.html?nclick_check=1

  77. “1. There are other policy models and energy pricing plans in other countries”

    Reality always bats last.

    “2. Competitive baseload renewables seems to be on the way (CETO + cheaper thin-film solar PV for daytime “top up” of peak demand + others mentioned above)”

    They’ve been ‘seeming to be on the way’ for at least three or four decades now. Somehow, they’re always ‘just a few years off’.

    “The text I quote is from an SBS special on Germany’s renewable energy, and it IS on Big Gav’s page, it’s where I copied it from. Search down… because there is more.”

    I’m not going to waste time going through vast swathes of drivel which has been thoroughly debunked many times before just because you’re fresh to the field and starry-eyed about all things renewable. If you have something you think is relevant, make it easy for people to find.

    “The village of Juhnde is just one example of a local village becoming economically prosperous by owning their energy. I was NOT mandating biofuels for the world! (Oh MAN I’m getting sick of the straw-man arguments on this thread!) Different horses for different courses. Basically I was just countering your blunt generalisation that people lose jobs from renewables when actually the right plan for the right place can generate income, stabilise international relations, and head towards “world peace”.’

    Sorry. I should have said ‘biowaste’. It doesn’t matter. It’s no more sustainable than ‘biofuel’ for a civilisation of our needs.

    For an energy plan to work it has to be able to support itself. Back in the fifties, coal could support itself (and still can if we ignore the environmental impact… but an economic plan which impoverishes and isolates populations will lead to war with dead certainty. Once again, if you believe the Spanish study flawed, kindly show how.

    “Maybe the Desertec idea of importing African sunlight into Europe has more than energy security in mind. Maybe it’s an attempt to lift Africa out of poverty and DO something with just a tiny fraction of that desert.’

    They’ll want to be a damn sight more successful than any CSP scheme has managed so far, and as for energy security, a bunch of terrorists on camels wielding hand grenades could sabotage the link to Europe.

    I’m sure all these power companies just love these renewables schemes. Think of the killing they’re set to make on natgas!

  78. Finrod,
    I noticed at the end of the Bloomberg article that you linked to:
    Microsoft and Google moved their servers up to the Canadian border because they benefited from cheaper energy there,” said the professor of applied environmental economics.
    Do I need to remind you that Canada get 58% of its electricity from renewable energy and the US 10%. Looks like jobs moving to renewable energy regions.

    And for the article about Spain:
    The premiums paid for solar, biomass, wave and wind power – – which are charged to consumers in their bills — translated into a $774,000 cost for each Spanish “green job” created since 2000, said Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at the university and author of the report.

    “The loss of jobs could be greater if you account for the amount of lost industry that moves out of the country due to higher energy prices,” he said in an interview.
    The article didn’t demonstrate that there were any job losses, in fact they were giving costs for each green job CREATED since 2000 not LOST.

  79. “Finrod,
    I noticed at the end of the Bloomberg article that you linked to:
    “Microsoft and Google moved their servers up to the Canadian border because they benefited from cheaper energy there,” said the professor of applied environmental economics. ”
    Do I need to remind you that Canada get 58% of its electricity from renewable energy and the US 10%. Looks like jobs moving to renewable energy regions.”

    So you continue with this mendacious tactic of lumping hydro in with technosolar. This is a strong indication of the paucity of your case.

    “And for the article about Spain:
    The premiums paid for solar, biomass, wave and wind power – – which are charged to consumers in their bills — translated into a $774,000 cost for each Spanish “green job” created since 2000, said Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at the university and author of the report.

    “The loss of jobs could be greater if you account for the amount of lost industry that moves out of the country due to higher energy prices,” he said in an interview.
    The article didn’t demonstrate that there were any job losses, in fact they were giving costs for each green job CREATED since 2000 not LOST.”

    I believe that the figure is 2.2 other jobs lost for every one of these unsustainable ‘green’ jobs created. what a disaster.

  80. I also wonder where we are with the idea of solar updraft towers.

    It seems to me that if we combined the idea of heliostats focusing insolation onto a surface capable of absorbing very substantial heat and placed a series of 1000-1500m updraft towers above it (perhaps blanketing the air mass with plexiglass to prevent warmed air escaping other than through the towers, then the combination of seriously warm air at the base and cool air at the top — the stack effect — could provide very substantial power to turbines.

    This solution wouldn’t require water or very expensive materials and low value desert land could be used. It seems worth some examination. I understand some small scale experimental towers have been examined though not with heliotats.

  81. I believe that before the costs for construction projects worldwide went through the roof a couple of years ago, solar updraft towers were being costed at around a billion dollars for a plant with an output varyin g from ~80MW to ~200MW. I’ll leave it to you to decide if that’s a good deal.

  82. At that installed cost, it sounds too high by about a factor of 3 to 6 depending on output, but I wonder what this figure was based on. Plainly, site costs would be a key issue, cost of materials would be highly variable and construction costs would reflect the cost of local labour.

    Moreover, given that backup storage might not be needed to the same extent as wind or other solar, perhaps the levelized cost might yet make it competitive.

  83. My understanding of this technology is that it operates on small differences in the temperature between the earth-heated air underneath the green house and the air outside the greenhouse above the chimney, which then effectively creates “baseload wind”.

    It’s like a hybrid between solar and wind power.

    http://www.enviromission.com.au/EVM/content/home.html

    Other benefits: it catches water, and the ground beneath the greenhouse could possibly be used to also grow biomass.

    However, it takes an enormous amount of land because it really is operating on the small temperature difference over a vast area.

    But I question Finrod’s power statements… these things are called the “hydro schemes of the desert” because they have some kick!

    “EnviroMission Limited is developing Solar Tower renewable energy technology in Australia. EnviroMission, which owns the exclusive Australian license to Solar Tower technology, is moving to commercialize the first of five planned Solar Tower power stations in Australia. A single power station development will have the capacity to supply renewable energy to more than 200,000 households.”

    http://www.enviromission.com.au/EVM/content/about_companyprofile.html

    I personally think I’ve heard more convincing arguments for baseload solar thermal than this one. Just say a certain baseload solar plant did need, say, half a week of backup heat above and beyond the normal liquid salt backup. Could compressed bio-gas be stored in sufficient volumes for this purpose?

  84. “At that installed cost, it sounds too high by about a factor of 3 to 6 depending on output, but I wonder what this figure was based on.”

    Well I’m not absolutely certain that the picture is that bad, I was just going from memory. The price may not be quite that high. These are very tall structures though, so some expense has to be anticipated.

  85. “But I question Finrod’s power statements… these things are called the “hydro schemes of the desert” because they have some kick!”

    From the Company Profile page of EnviroMission:

    http://www.enviromission.com.au/EVM/content/about_companyprofile.html

    “In June 2009, EnviroMission filed two land applications in the US for two prospective Solar Tower power station developments. The sites, now formally earmarked in Arizona, each total 5,500 acres (2225.85 hectares) suitable in size for development of a 200MW Solar Tower power station respectively.”

  86. OK, but where does it state the cost? The other interesting thing is that condensation drips. Deserts in Spain blossomed when their smaller test tower was put up in the 80’s.

    Also, this sucker seems truly baseload.

    “Can a Solar Tower operate on a cloudy day?
    Solar Tower technology is designed to operate 365 days a year in all weather including cloudy or wet days – a Solar Tower does operate in diffused sunlight.
    Radiant heat (not sunshine) from the sun is the critical energy source for Solar Tower technology, radiant heat will heat the air under a Solar Tower canopy in the same way the air inside a greenhouse or hothouse is always higher than the ambient external temperature due to the use of radiant heat.
    Air under the Solar Tower canopy will always have a higher temperature than the ambient external temperature – even on cloudy days. The design of a Solar Tower’s canopy will direct air flow to the central highest point where the hot air will pass through electricity generating turbines as it is constantly drawn up the tall hollow tower into the external cooler ambient (chimney effect) air.
    The design of the canopy – rising to a central high point just above the turbines – will result in a constant hot wind (hotter than the air outside the Solar Tower) to flow towards and through the turbines as the hot air is drawn up the tall hollow tower into the constantly cooler air at the tower’s opening (chimney effect) to cause the generation of electricity.”

    However, the wiki suggests peer reviewed studies are still out on the final cost. (Sounds like nuclear costings as well hey, especially the non-existent Gen4 reactors that are going to be sooo much cheaper?)

    Quote from the wiki, which is open source so I can copy the full quote.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solar_updraft_tower#Financial_feasibility

    “Financial comparisons between solar updraft towers and concentrating solar technologies contrast a larger, simpler structure against a smaller, more complex structure. The “better” of the two methods is the subject of much speculation and debate.

    A Solar Tower is expected to have less of a requirement for standby capacity from traditional energy sources than wind power does. Various types of thermal storage mechanisms (such as a heat-absorbing surface material or salt water ponds) could be incorporated to smooth out power yields over the day/night cycle. Most renewable power systems (wind, solar-electrical) are variable, and a typical national electrical grid requires a combination of base, variable and on-demand power sources for stability. However, since distributed generation by intermittent power sources provides “smoothing” of the rate of change, this issue of variability can also be addressed by a large interconnected electrical super grid, incorporating wind farms, hydroelectric, and solar power stations.[38]

    There is still a great amount of uncertainty and debate on what the cost of production for electricity would be for a solar updraft tower and whether a tower (large or small) can be made profitable. Schlaich et al.[1] estimate a cost of electricity between 7 (for a 200 MW plant) and 21 (for a 5 MW plant) euro cents per kWh, but other estimates indicate that the electricity cannot possibly be cheaper than 25-35 cents per kWh.[39] Compare this to LECs of approximately 5 US cents per KWh for a 100 MW plant, wind or natural gas.[40] No reliable electricity cost figures will exist until such time as actual data are available on a utility scale power plant, since cost predictions for a time scale of 25 years or more are unreliable.[41]“

  87. Sorry, my formatting above broke… I meant the last 3 paragraphs to be “cited”. But on second thoughts, those italics are not that easy to read.

    Barry, any desire to get a geeky friend to turn this into a forum? The main WordPress article could have a simple link at the base to the forum discussion of the article. Ever been to Online Opinion? Your webhost should have Fantastico, which allows an easy setup of either SMF or phpbb3 forums for enabling an easier debate…. graphics, better quoting, better formatting… anyway, your call.

  88. Interesting.

    “100,000 MegaWatts (MW) capacity. By comparison, the extremely successful U.S. wind energy industry had total installed capacity by the end of 1st Qtr 2009 equaling 28,206 MW, and “new nuclear power” Generation III+ nuclear plants installed worldwide to date equals zero MW.”

    No Generation 3 (or above) plants worldwide. How on earth do we know what they’ll cost? ;-) What working examples do we have? What costs were externalised? And here I was thinking that these guys at LEAST had a Gen3 to point to, let alone Gen4 with the wiki saying there’s nothing due till about 2030.

  89. Interesting maybe, but it’s not true (unless you are talking about Gen III+ instead of Gen III — Gen III+ models include the EPR, AP-1000 [both currently under construction], A-CANDU, ESBWR, etc.). You might call Russia’s BN-800 a Gen IV. Then again, the article was written by Craig “Nuclear power will cost 32c/kWh” Severance.

    Japan has built 2 x Gen III ABWR in the late 1990s for <$2,000 kW overnight costs. And to quote from Charles Barton’s latest post:

    … the Asian reactor construction experience suggests that reactor construction with reasonable cost is the rule rather than the exception. For example the cost of the South Korean Generation 3 APR-1400 currently runs $2330 per kW of capacity. Unlike the Finns, the South Koreans have built 12 reactors during the last twenty years, suggesting that the learning curve is alive and well in South Korea.

  90. What!? I was lied to by something on a blog!!!

    OK, I’ll concede that one, just read through the ABWR wiki and Japan’s way ahead in this design. But these ABWR’s are still subject to the old “peak uranium” issue aren’t they? So what’s the inside gossip on Gen4’s?

    Electrifying the means of building reactors
    Also as a side issue again: sorry to sound all doomer on you (I’m NOT a doomer) but if we really are moving to an electric transport society (simply because the oil is running down and is shocking for the climate as well), how quickly can we electrify our society’s transport and ESPECIALLY the construction sectors?

    I’d love to see a paper indicating costs of transport electrification AND costs of replacing our coal with Gen4 reactors to see what % of GDP this task worked out to be. The peak oil “Export Land Model” has cost me some sleep. 5% to 8% p.a. decline worldwide sounds manageable, a 50% reduction in oil-to-market in 10 years sounds pretty darn scary.

    This is where the 10 year BZE zero carbon plan has its attractions… even if you’re convinced nuclear is the way to get our power, check out their 10 year transport plan.

    http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/zerocarbonplan

  91. They can find the money for Gen III if they really want to. For starters half the fibre optic rollout budget of $43bn could be saved. Wireless or satellite broadband (which I have) could be cheaper in rural areas. I’m not sure who the bad guys are but maybe $6bn for the next lot of whizzbang jet fighters may not deter them. Later dozens will be bought. Thirdly there are big savings from co-locating desalination with Gen IIIs as opposed to standalone reverse osmosis plants powered by the coal dominated grid. The powers-that-be just have to adjust their thinking.

  92. Hope this doesn’t mean that we have to build 12 reactors to get the price down to what the S Koreans are doing, and can learn a few good lessons from the Finns experience.

    I knew I shouldn’t have clicked on to the Nuclear Green Web site, but couldn’t help myself.
    “Between 2002 and 2007 the cost of wind generation facilities double.” I saw a completely different message in the same data!

  93. “No reason why ‘we’ (other countries starting to roll out Gen III+) can’t learn from the Korean and Chinese experience either.”

    It occurs to me that one of the earlier tasks the organised peo-nuclear movement in this country will need to undertake once we have some real power is to consider the regulatory environment we want to impliment. I’m sure there are lessons to be learned on that front as well as the engineering/technical front.

  94. Finrod upthread:

    Well I’m not absolutely certain that the picture is that bad, [i.e. 3-6 times the installed cost of wind: FB] I was just going from memory. The price may not be quite that high. These are very tall structures though, so some expense has to be anticipated.

    I was using the $1600 per installed Kw of wind.

    AIUI, these updraft towers were mere prototypes. I was proposing heliostats — which would make them more expensive but perhaps these would pay for themselves over time by lifting the output dramatically.

  95. In fact, the two Japanese ABWRs were brought in under budget and ahead of schedule. We learn from that. There are ABWR apps. submitted to the US NRC. Think we can learn from their experience; with the same vendor; same design? I think so.

    This why the hard core anti-nuclear activists are afraid of what is going on in China. The Chinese are actually expected to bring their AP1000s and their own version of the same reactor in *cheaper* than the Japanese did in the 1990s with their ABWRs. See where this is going?… exactly.

    2013 will be when these new reactors start coming on line. It will be a red-letter year for nuclear.

    David

  96. Dr Mark Drummond did a Phd in how Australia could save $50 billion a year by abolishing State governments and writes:

    “My 2007 PhD thesis dealt extensively with government structure reform options, with an emphasis on the financial costs or benefits of reform options such as New States, Unification – or the abolition of the States, regional governments, and functional transfers to achieve national systems of health, education, public order and safety, and so on. I am confident that my thesis demonstrates that intelligent government structure reform can achieve financial and economic benefits for Australia amounting to about $50 billion (based on June 2002 dollar values), or about five per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Chapter 5 of my thesis observes that there’s a good deal of consensus that gains in this order are indeed possible through well designed government system reforms.”

    http://members.webone.com.au/%7Emarkld/PubPol/GSR/gsr.html

    Only by creating a truly National and Local government scheme can we act fast enough to the challenges ahead. Power creep is already happening from the States to the Federal government as more and more taxes are Federal and the States beg for money back. So it’s time to discuss other checks and balances in a more streamlined National Local model rather than just let the States gradually be taken over by default. Without a proper public debate and referendum over exactly HOW to guarantee checks and balances, we could end up with a truly frightening all powerful Federal government as the process continues by default.

    COAG has failed to deliver on climate or the Murray Darling. Everyone blames everyone else for health, and not having a National education and police policy for a nation of only 21 million is a joke. And the local governments are not even described in the Constitution, and are the kicking boys of both the State and Federal governments. Local government and local school boards making local decisions about who to hire, and how to plan schools etc, are going to be more important to community identity in the years go come.

    It’s time Australia had the public debate about how to guarantee local government powers, what they are, how they can provide the health and education services that a National government could implement.

    http://www.beyondfederation.org.au/

    Dr Drummond’s Australia United plan details how rolling State governments into a more streamlined National legislative model with local government service provision could be “all carrot and no stick” to State government employees. After 5 or so years we could finally have a democracy where the responsibilities of 2 tiers of government were obvious, there was no more buck-passing, and more money for local governments than they ever dreamed of.

    http://members.webone.com.au/%7Emarkld/PubPol/GSR/AusUplan250609.pdf

  97. On this one, I’m with you Finrod… the idea with updraft towers is not concentrated heat in a small area, but heat differentials over a very large area to create the updraft. On a solar insolation / meter basis it is very inefficient by nature, but depends on new construction materials to decrease cost*… and maybe flooding underneath with salty water to retain more heat.

    Bottom line: it works at night and even on overcast days.

    (* New materials: Glasshouse built by some new super-strong plastic from bug-poo? Who knows what future green chemistry will provide… in a world where carbonised chicken feathers are seen as a potential storage method for hydrogen gas or ultra-cheap replacement for carbon nanotubes in making wind turbine blades, anything seems possible).

  98. Barry Brook – You posted this ““… the Asian reactor construction experience suggests that reactor construction with reasonable cost is the rule rather than the exception. For example the cost of the South Korean Generation 3 APR-1400 currently runs $2330 per kW of capacity. Unlike the Finns, the South Koreans have built 12 reactors during the last twenty years, suggesting that the learning curve is alive and well in South Korea.“”

    Is this the overnight capital cost or the final cost of everything plus financing?

  99. Barry,
    The issue with overnight costs is that nuclear takes another 4-10 years after construction starts before producing any power, so capital costs continue to rise.
    Wind takes 3-12 months, so capital costs are very similar to overnight costs.
    Both require years of operation to pay-off and are sensitive to interest rates. The low interest rate environment at present is a great boost to both nuclear and renewable energy costs if government guarantees are available.

  100. Barry Brook – “I would say it was capital (overnight) costs. The final cost of everything plus financing plus plant lifespan, fuel/O&M costs etc. results in a levelised cost estimate, for whatever technology you care to examine. Two quite different things.”

    As this is generally true:

    “On the assumption that overall costs to the utility are twice the overnight capital cost of the actual plants, then the figures quoted above give:”

    so the actual cost would be $4660/kw – why not just give the actual value. As Neil said renewable plants are so much quicker to build so the overnight cost is closer to the final.

  101. ““On the assumption that overall costs to the utility are twice the overnight capital cost of the actual plants, then the figures quoted above give:”

    so the actual cost would be $4660/kw – why not just give the actual value. As Neil said renewable plants are so much quicker to build so the overnight cost is closer to the final.”

    I would think that with nuclear plants, the opposite would be true. Ongoing operating, maintenance and fuel costs, combined with high capacity factors and long lifetimes, should reduce the levelized cost, not increase it.

  102. Ouch… that’s a point even I can understand. Replacing the wind turbines 3 times as opposed to building the nuclear just once.

    But don’t forget Barry, solar thermal plants don’t have to be replaced as frequently as wind turbines. This is the solar thread, after all.

    So when are these Gen4 waste-burners coming out again? Then we might have a chance of really understanding these costs… otherwise peak uranium is going to be an issue with Gen3?

  103. Solar thermal plants are in the 25 to 30 year time frame, so nukes still live twice as long.

    Gen IV could be delivering significant electrons in 10 years (or less — some interesting plans are afoot that I can’t elaborate on at this stage) and will be the only type of nuclear plant being built within 30 years. In the meantime, there is more than sufficient uranium to be ramping up Gen IIIs at a frantic pace — with their spent fuel providing the start charges and ongoing fuel (along with depleted U and thorium) for the Gen IVs. Uranium supply is NOT a constraint to massive expansion of the nuclear industry over the next 10 or 50 years (with millions of years worth from Gen IV thereafter, if we bother to look that far ahead), provided there is a Gen III/Gen IV synergy with a % transition from one to the other taking dominant position.

    Given that the EREOI for even Gen II/III with centrifuge enrichment is >50 (better for CANDUs), ‘peak uranium’ is an utter nonsense.

  104. Eclipse,
    You may be jumping the gun making claims for the effective life-time of either wind turbines or nuclear reactors. Certainly turbines built in the 1980’s were replaced in less than 20 years, but these were as different as graphite moderated reactors are to Gen II and Gen III reactors.

    For turbines over 1.5MW it’s unlikely the towers will be replaced in 20-30 years, most concrete and steel structures last a lot longer than that, more like 60-80 years. Some of the newer turbines have no gearboxes or very much improved gearboxes that will last longer( the main repair costs). Turbine blades are likely to need replacing within 20 years and the technology is still advancing rapidly so may be replaced earlier. this is not so different to replacing boiler tubes or turbines in a nuclear or coal fired power plant, but keeping the reactor with some re-furbishing of the fuel rods etc on a more frequent basis.

    Financing for wind power is often over a 15 year amortization period because of the uncertainty of life-time operation. This means that many wind farms will be very profitable if they operate beyond the 15 year financing times, just as nuclear power plants are now that are being re-licensed after >20years ( and sometimes 40 years?) operation.

  105. This sounds like a bit of a generalisation.

    The concrete base is no more likely to wear out in a wind farm that the concrete structures of a nuclear power plant. The transition lines are common to both. I am not sure that the towers life is finite to 20 years. The blades I would understand having a finite life. The turbine unit within the nacelle probably has a shorter life (being exposed to the elements and stresses), but I am not clear on whether the life of is only one third of the spinning generation components in a nuclear power station. I do acknowledge that sometimes wind turbines burn out (as in any facility) or get hit by lightening but this does not mean that the lifespan of a windfarm is three times shorter than turbines in a nuclear power plant.

    In fact I would guess that because of the high safety standards in a nuclear power plant that there are many replaced and repaired components all the time, and it may be a question of how asset life is being defined rather than a true comparison of asset life.

    So exactly what is it that would require a wind farm to be totally demolished to start again?

  106. Oh yeah, who is your friend at UIsomething blogspot something who debunked the ‘Greenpeace’ study (which was actually a summary of other studies as well)? See, when I go to a blog that has a certain barrow to push and the author doesn’t have a big “About me” button I can click on, I get suspicious.

    Better Place is on the way Finrod, and by the time wind management is a problem here in Australia there will be millions of batteries the grid can store electricity in… for free. Sure the grid will pay users for the electricity back again, but not for the battery. That will not even be the responsibility of the car owner! “Better Place” has to swap the batteries out and replace them as they age.

    2012 they start rolling out in Canberra.

    Macquarie bank saw the next big thing and has promised a billion dollars towards it. After Canberra, they roll out across Australia. And they are already talking about selling electricity back to the grid.

    Oh, and if that doesn’t work for some reason you’ve just found on a mysterious blog somewhere, you’d better tell Professor Peter Newman quick smart because he’s been busy informing the Science Show that electric cars WILL be a big part of the intermittency solution.

    http://www.abc.net.au/rn/scienceshow/stories/2009/2571785.htm

    But hey, what would he know? He’s only been studying this stuff for 30 years and is on the board of Infrastructure Australia. Better go whisper in his ear that he’s barking…

    http://www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/files/IA_Council_Members_Short_Biographies.pdf

  107. Oh yeah, who is your friend at UIsomething blogspot something who debunked the ‘Greenpeace’ study (which was actually a summary of other studies as well)? See, when I go to a blog that has a certain barrow to push and the author doesn’t have a big “About me” button I can click on, I get suspicious.

    Say what?

    Better Place is on the way Finrod, and by the time wind management is a problem here in Australia there will be millions of batteries the grid can store electricity in… for free. Sure the grid will pay users for the electricity back again, but not for the battery. That will not even be the responsibility of the car owner! “Better Place” has to swap the batteries out and replace them as they age.

    Ah. Vehicle to grid. I have heard of this.

    Mind you, I never quite got just why people who relied on a fully charged car to get around would be so sanguine about letting the utility drain it while it’s on standby.

    I suspect that electric vehicles will be far more practical if we have a reliable source of electricity (rather than demanding they be part of the grid hemselves).

    Your faith in authority is touching, but not useful.

  108. Finrod, don’t get the car selling back thing hey?

    1. Most cars sit most of the time… 22 or 23 hours a day.
    2. Drive to work, plug in.
    3. Car has a 160 km range.
    4. At end of day, car is fully charged and drives home.
    5. Plug car in when you get home after 40km. Still 120km to sell to the grid.
    6. Sell during peak evening demand hours.
    7. Sell, sell, sell, down to the minimum distance programmed by owner, which is usually the distance to the nearest Better Place battery swap. (Just in case of emergency).
    8. Selling during peak demand attracts premium rates, helps the consumer with the cost of the car.
    9. Then, as peak demand drops off around 9, 10, 12pm… some of that night wind that’s got NOTHING TO DO AND MISSES PEAK DEMAND HOURS (according to all the whining on this blog) charges the fleet of cars up again for the morning drive to work.

    That’s the model. I’m surprised you hadn’t heard of it.

  109. Also, some of us work from home and only drive 15 minutes a day. I could sell electricity to the grid when it needed it most, and charge whenever it had the most to supply.

    That’s why it’s a SMART internet connected car.

    And the best bit? (I’ve already said it).

    I don’t have to replace the battery from over use, as it gets swapped out maybe 20, 30, or 40 times a year… every time I pull into a Better Place garage.

    Now my understanding is that they’re saying with HVDC lines (which are required to modernise the aging grid anyway), future “super-grids” will be more efficient and spread the load a lot more, so that even 40% wind is not that big a deal.

    But worldwide there are 800 million vehicles, and the vehicle fleet changes over every 16 years or so. So by the time wind is 30% of the world grid decades down the track… I’m guessing big car companies will be the answer to “intermittency”… if some supercheap supercap hasn’t solved it economically by then already.

  110. Ooops…

    “I don’t have to replace the battery from over use, as it gets swapped out maybe 20, 30, or 40 times a year… every time I pull into a Better Place garage.”

    I of course meant to say I’m not in charge of buying a new $3000 battery for my car after 2 years of over use, as the car company sells me the car, not the battery. They retain ownership. I hope that was clear.

  111. 9. Then, as peak demand drops off around 9, 10, 12pm… some of that night wind that’s got NOTHING TO DO AND MISSES PEAK DEMAND HOURS (according to all the whining on this blog) charges the fleet of cars up again for the morning drive to work.

    Of course, it’s always windy every night…

    That’s the model. I’m surprised you hadn’t heard of it.

    I’ve heard of it. I’m just a bit suprised anyone buys it. You do realise, of course, that sometimes several days can go by without any wind to speak of on a continental scale? and that sometimes these events will correspond with cold, overcast days which will cripple any CSP plants in the area?

    Whining is something I expect to hear a lot more of once large numbers of suburban weekend ecowarriors realise that the comfortable scenarios they’ve been sold leave them stranded in the dark. Especially after all the food in their fridge has gone off.

  112. Selling back to the grid is nonsense. Talk about marketing hype! WHO…really, would ‘sell back to grid’? WHO would risk running their car battery down to zero over night and not be able to get to work? With a car that gets 300 miles, *maybe*. It’s simply not worth the risk given the huge limitation on battery *life* and battery *charges* (both are a function of each other for the foreseeable future).

    Plus…when you’d be ‘selling back’ power to the grid is when the prices are *cheapest*…. It’s all quite silly….not to mention totally and absolutely unnecessary.

    The great thing about nighttime *charging* is that’s ideal for a nuclear grid where that peak power can be flattened by raising the baseload quantity higher during the evening…without a *single* additional power plant of any sort being built.

  113. Eclipse,
    I am not sure about the Better Palace business plan, I think most drivers will go for PHEV’s and therefore have no need to ever swap out batteries. For EV’s faster charging and less expensive batteries are likely to make Better Place obsolete;why pay to swap when you can re-charge in 5-10 mins at any service station that has a high power capacity.

    The V2G seems more promising especially with an aging population with more people retired and therefore not needing a fully charged car at 7am or 5pm.
    Overnight charging will be most valuable for both nuclear and wind energy, but not for solar, but since solar will be used for the more valuable peak demand that’s not an issue. A 33% for each of nuclear, wind and solar with some V2G and hydro pumped storage could work very well in a low carbon world.

  114. Feeling threatened are you David Walters?

    1. Battery life is NOT an issue! Watch this TED talk by Shai Agassi, the “Steve Jobs” of electric cars. He is personally going to change the world. $2 billion have already been dedicated to his new business model which Deutsch bank calls a “game changer”.

    Basically unless you watch this 20 minute presentation I don’t think you’ve got anything to say on this subject. I’ve already explained that battery life has NOTHING to do with us car drivers, as I’m getting a new battery every week and “old” batteries that aren’t functioning well are gradually siphoned out of the system at the garage battery swap.

    http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/shai_agassi_on_electric_cars.html

    2. The car doesn’t even get 300 miles, and doesn’t HAVE TO to have people selling back to the grid. As I said, people program in the minimal charge they’d let it get down to… but unless they had an emergency, the car would be fully charged by morning anyway.

    3. When is the premium electricity rate? The car would be SELLING in the afternoon/evening peak demand, and CHARGING during “off-peak” overnight cheap rates, just as I have my hot water set up to save money. Go figure.

    4. FINROD, doesn’t blow at night for how long exactly…. on WHAT prime wind farm site exactly… for what measurement period exactly… not offset by which OTHER wind farms 500 km up the coast exactly…

    you’re both sounding like you’re clutching at straws now.

  115. Hi Neil,
    why have our vehicles bogged down by all those heavy motors that are expensive and need to be serviced more frequently? Given the choice, I’d go for the car that is lighter, more energy efficient, doesn’t require ever declining liquid fuels, and can swap a battery MUCH faster than 5 to10 minutes.

    Indeed, Shai Agassi is so confident that we’ll have charging points everywhere that he says he’ll PAY US if we have to Battery Swap more than 50 times a year!

    I agree that the future will probably be an energy mix, and I’m not totally against nuclear, but I’m not yet convinced that it is the ONLY solution as these guys are presenting it.

    As I keep saying, in the long run I think the ECONOMICS of a new generation of wind-materials (chicken feathers), solar thermal storage technologies, and new car schemes like Better Place will give nuclear a good run for its money. Only time will tell.

  116. 4. FINROD, doesn’t blow at night for how long exactly…. on WHAT prime wind farm site exactly… for what measurement period exactly… not offset by which OTHER wind farms 500 km up the coast exactly…

    EN, you’re the one trying to sell us on this. It’s up to you to convince us that the wind power is going to be there when we need it. I’m advocating a technology not dependent on such fickle sources.

    With all this corporate hero-worship and adulation of unproven technologies, you’re frankly beginning to sound like a crank.

  117. Eclipse,
    The PHEV design has some major advantages over EV, it’s not a matter of having the weight of an engine replaced by batteries. Most trips are short( within city driving) but most people do a few long trips now and again. A 200km EV has more battery capacity than is needed for every day driving and not enough for a 500Km day trip, unless rapid charging is developed.Ten minutes would be plenty, I usually have a coffee or food when buying petrol so I don’t see this an issue if batteries can take the fast charge.
    Having battery swap on major roads is great for those long trips( if enough swap sites are available) but is of little use for most daily use. I can see this working for car rentals but not for car ownership. I know what I will be buying in next few years, a PHEV not a EV but good luck to those who choose to buy an EV.

  118. Everything in the wind farm needs to be replaced because the wind turbine technology evolves, as others have pointed out is one of their ‘advantages’. As the turbines get bigger the footing must be made larger. The wind farms installed in Australia just a decade ago or already old technology that would not be replaced on the same footings. Not even the road and access erection sites would be the same. So more area will be torn up when the replacements are buil in 20 odd years time. The power lines will need to be built for higher capacity.

  119. Aren’t many of the RE advocates missing the big picture? In summary, to meet a the demand:

    1. solar capital cost is some 20 times that for nuclear;

    2. Solar GHG emissions (LCA) are some 20 times those of nuclear;

    3. Solar, with least cost energy storage, requires some 20 times the land area of nuclear; and

    4. Solar requires more mining, processing, fabrication, transport and construction than nuclear.

    Although the paper referred to here uses PV as the example, the reference provided in the paper suggests these figures would not be significantly differenct for CST. Certainly not sufficiently different to make solar better than nuclear in any of these key cost and environmental criteria.

  120. Eclipse, you don’t get it.

    First, why would I ‘feel threatened’? ALL nuclear advocates are BIG time supporters of EVs of all types. Since it will be cheaper, unsubsidized power, everyone will want to use it, even for this Israeli batteryswap.

    Secondly, that YOU don’t own the battery is totally irrelevant. *Someone* does, and these batteries will have limited runs. Hopefully the technology will be available to make them longer lasting and…longer lasting.

    Thirdly, you are paying for the swap out for at least the a % of the cost for the battery purveyor’s cost, cost of manufacturing, etc and, the cost of power. You are assuming the power bought will be power *cheap*. Why do you do that Eclipse? You are also assuming you will be able to sell power back at a greater price than you buy it for. You are assuming there is no lost in going back and forth between stepdown AC/DC inverters and the the DC/AC inverter at your house. You are assuming a *perfect* relationship of forces of which there is no evidence for this.

    If can do this, make a perfect storm for two way power, why not? I’m not against it, it’s just a silly idea. No one will ever want to juice down their storage on their car. I think it’s a fantasy. Love the Battery swap-out idea, however. It needs to fly on its own merit.

    BTW…France is building charging (non-swap out) station…nuclear powered cars anyone?

    David

  121. Peter Lang – “Aren’t many of the RE advocates missing the big picture? In summary, to meet a the demand:”

    After not researching properly these are pretty big claims. I cannot believe that you could think that solar PV has equivalant costs to CSP when you have not even bothered to get costings for CSP.

    All this paper does is cherry-pick one technology and then apply this incorrectly to a completely different technology without any justification.

    Solar PV in its place is outstanding technology. Solar panels are maintenance free and will give electricity for as long as they are placed in the sun. We do not even really know their lifetime as they have not been around long enough to find out. No other power plant can be carried to a remote village via horseback and be set up with semi-skilled labor and give the gift of light at night to people that otherwise would not have it. School children can study after dark and schools can be lit by the amazing efforts of largely volunteers that make solar panels, batteries and LED lights available to people that do not have the advantages we have. Some of them are right beside the grandiose plans of the World Bank with its billion dollar loans that bankrupt the country while the major schemes that are supposed to change the lives of the people descend into decay as the money is siphoned off by corruption. Micro credit and solar power is doing more with less than any thing that nuclear could do.

    So lets have horses for courses. Solar PV at the moment is wonderful for remote power and places, like my roof, where silence and longevity is the most important thing.

    The thing that you have ignored is solar thermal which is totally different to solar PV which I am sure you know. It includes economical storage of thermal energy. One of the promising ones is Solar Reserve http://www.solar-reserve.com/. This technology uses molten salts as the working fluid AND the storage so storage is integral to the plant and not an add-on. The heat can be kept for up to two weeks and the plant can supply power on demand day and night.

    You have proved nothing in your paper other than you cannot see anything other than nuclear and you will not see anything that disagrees with this view. I suggest that you do a lot more research.

  122. Barry Brook – “(wind turbines last 20 years, nuclear power plants last 60″

    How do you know they last 20 years? Nuclear plants are lasting 60 years because of life extensions because it is uneconomical to build new ones. Do you not read any links I post? The fact that NP plants are being extended is a sad inditement of the true cost of nuclear power.

    Wind turbines are replaced because the technology is changing so fast. As it plateaus like any technology does the large gearless wind turbines now being installed will still be turning in 40 years with normal maintenance.

    The argument you are putting forth is not supported by any facts and actually supports the argument that nuclear is not economic.

    http://www.cleanbreak.ca/2009/07/27/lower-demand-nuclear-renaissance-being-pushed-aside-in-favour-of-refurbs-uprating/#more-1747

    “The common theme is simple: the economic downturn has reduced electricity demand and with it the need for new reactors. Utilities are also realizing that refurbishing/uprating units is cheaper than build anew. Exelon has said that uprating existing plants costs half as much as building new and carries far less risk. Investors, apparently, don’t like the risk involved with spending billions and billions of dollars on a 1o-year project when electricity demand is dropping, not climbing. As Murray Elston, a vice-president at Bruce Power told me, “We were not prepared for the decrease in electricity demand. I think it’s been a surprise to almost everyone.” And while you can argue that the downturn is a blip and that long term the power will be needed, it comes down to who’s paying the money. “We have to be prudent with our investors’ money and it makes us really refocus ourselves so we can be the best with the site we have.” Bruce Power has already been hit by the downturn because power coming from its existing fleet is often surplus and must be given away to balance the grid. This has affected the company’s cash flow and in some cases has forced it to temporarily shut down reactors to cope with the excess power supply.”

  123. The thing that you have ignored is solar thermal which is totally different to solar PV which I am sure you know. It includes economical storage of thermal energy. One of the promising ones is Solar Reserve http://www.solar-reserve.com/. This technology uses molten salts as the working fluid AND the storage so storage is integral to the plant and not an add-on. The heat can be kept for up to two weeks and the plant can supply power on demand day and night.

    Fascinating. How many GWhe of power were delivered worldwide by that system last year?

  124. How do you know they last 20 years? Nuclear plants are lasting 60 years because of life extensions because it is uneconomical to build new ones. Do you not read any links I post? The fact that NP plants are being extended is a sad inditement of the true cost of nuclear power.

    Do you ever get tired of blatent lying, Gloor?

  125. Nuclear plants are lasting 60 years because of life extensions because it is uneconomical to build new ones. Do you not read any links I post? The fact that NP plants are being extended is a sad inditement of the true cost of nuclear power.

    !!!! DUDE !!!! Wow…I really have to say that only one thing comes to mind when I see this sort of thing: “desperation”. So “if they were economical”, you’d shut it down before it needed it’s first external paint job???? I hope you are NEVER in charge of anything to do with power production…even tread mills!!! OMG….

  126. Announcement

    I’ve decided to kill comment nesting. It was causing more problems than it was worth. It had the advantages of being easily able to ‘reply’ to another comment, but I’ve decided this is offset by 3 big disadvantages:

    1. It’s tough keeping track of what is new and what is old, when the comments aren’t in simple chronological sequence.

    2. There is a bug in WordPress that, under certain circumstances, can cause the comments to start appearing in random order — this is extremely difficult to fix without editing headers etc.

    3. Depending on your screen size (laptops are a problem), the nested comments can get very compressed in width.

    I liked the advantages of nested comments, but as with most things in life, it’s a trade-off, and I’ve now decided that the old, simpler system, wins.

    This may cause a few issues with old threads where people replied to another comment without indicating its comment # (i.e. they didn’t say “Finrod #159: response”) or quoting the relevant text. Henceforth, you’ll have to do that when you intend to reply to someone.

    Barry Brook

  127. “2. There is a bug in WordPress that, under certain circumstances, can cause the comments to start appearing in random order — this is extremely difficult to fix without editing headers etc.”

    I’m looking at switching something I run to BBpress. It isn’t a blog, but a forum. The advantage is that ALL the new articles I allow certain people in my forum to post can come up in the top of the page and act as “blog articles” but then you’re straight into the power of a forum for commenting.

    See how this page says “Latest Discussions”?

    http://bbpress.org/forums/

    That’s just the active threads in the different forums below “Latest Discussions”. Another advantage is that the email takes you straight to the comment, you can read the rest of the comments since then on the browser, and then reply in order with quote functions and nice formatting.

  128. For now, that makes REALLY good sense Barry. It would be great if you and Eclipse could work something out. I was actually *composing* a letter to you to see if you can get a ‘new’ stamp for new comments…it was becoming insane in this discussion. Many forms of blogs carry such ‘new’ stamp for the reader so they know what they’ve read. theoildrum.com and dailykos.com both have this. At any rate, it’s good you turned off nesting.

    Thanks,

    David

  129. David Walters – “!!!! DUDE !!!! Wow…I really have to say that only one thing comes to mind when I see this sort of thing: “desperation”. So “if they were economical”, you’d shut it down before it needed it’s first external paint job???? I hope you are NEVER in charge of anything to do with power production…even tread mills!!! OMG….”

    No please do not put words in my mouth. What I am saying is that some of the older plants would have been replaced at their design lifetime rather than extended the way they are now. Extending is cheaper and easier than building new ones as there is less risk for investors.

  130. David Walters – “Selling back to the grid is nonsense. Talk about marketing hype! WHO…really, would ’sell back to grid’? WHO would risk running their car battery down to zero over night and not be able to get to work? With a car that gets 300 miles, *maybe*. It’s simply not worth the risk given the huge limitation on battery *life* and battery *charges* (both are a function of each other for the foreseeable future).”

    Are you serious? Have you heard of this new thing called the Internet and mobile phones?

    V2G will work using modern communications. You will be able to from work open your car’s web page and set the limits of charging and discharging. You will also be able to set it to charge because you have a long trip or discharge a bit more because you are not using it. The utility only needs 10% or 20% which will not affect the life of the battery at all. Just about all batteries now have cycle lives of thousands of cycles at this depth of discharge.

    Also when wind is plentiful all the cars can be commanded to fully charge or when wind is not plentiful set to only charge to the minimum necessary that you can set from your Web browser.

    Be very careful at what you call nonsense.

  131. @ Finrod #154
    Raise the height of the dam and if possible build something like depicted in the article above. If that’s not feasible use a separate but cheap DC system for the pumps and install another one way water turbine in the dam. If the wind system is producing near max and drops to near zero it should be able to possible to ramp the combined output down more slowly (days not hours) using the extra water. This will depend on the cross section and contour profile of the valley. I have no idea of the costs but the 20% RET should provide incentives.

  132. John#153, Finrod#154;
    There are a few places in the world where handling variation in wind power is almost zero cost. Tasmania has 2,200MW hydro capacity, producing an average of 1,100MW power. Adding 225 MW of wind capacity together with the 140 MW from Roaring Forties is going to mean 365MW at maximum but usually 50-200MW. If wind power goes up to 365MW Tas Hydro can cut back 15% of its generating capacity(in about 1min). If wind dropped to 50MW they could ramp up an additional 365 MW. There lowest TAS consumption is about 700MW off peak, so while less than about 1400MW, of wind power they can shut off all hydro ( maintaining spinning reserve) and export 600MW by Bass-Link, saving water for use another day.
    Any more than 1400MW wind capacity may need some pumped storage to be added, not a big cost as many dams are suitable for this. In reality probably 3,000MW wind capacity could be absorbed with little cost provided an export market was available or local industry expanded.

  133. Barry @ 161
    I,for one, am really glad you have returned to the old format. I found it difficult to keep up with replies, especially if I had been off-line for a couple of days, and am sure I missed comments I would have liked to read and answer. It is so easy just to check the posts from the last date I looked at them and catch up that way. The “nesting” had some good points but the drawbacks showing up, which you pointed out, outweighed the good. Thankyou.

  134. Yay for killing nested comments.

    Barry, if Peter’s analyses are right it knocks a big hole in your sketch plan timeline. Thats a real shame – I’d been relying on renewable deployment to get us moving towards significant carbon emission reduction until nuclear power achieves significant penetration.

    I think all the contributions to this blog in the time since you wrote that have added a lot to our understanding of both the renewable and nuclear components of that plan, and an update would be good. Its been a good reference scenario, and rolling in Peter’s work, the Gen III vs Gen IV staging, implications of cost and timings of China’s nuclear rollout, implications of HVDC ability to handle intermittent generation (if in fact that is an issue), any further advance on the IFR front, etc. would be a worthwhile exercise.

  135. How many nukes to replace Australias coal?

    Now the hard one: How many nukes to replace Australia’s OIL?
    (And what assumptions are you using to do that? What about agricultural harvesters, mining, trucking, etc. 90% — or more — of our freight is by truck.)

    What cost?

    How soon?

    How will we mine down 1km to the ore… with these?

    (You’ve just GOT to see this image of a full-sized mining truck on a trolley-bus line!)

    http://tinyurl.com/ko2l2e

    From this great article. Did you know trolley bus lines are 5 times cheaper to install than trams!? Hmmm, even I can do the math on that one… 5km tram line or 25 km trolley bus line when the oil crisis hits. AND trolley buses can go “off the lines” if they’re hybrids… dodge accidents or problems on the line ahead if they need to.

    http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2009/07/trolleytrucks-trolleybuses-cargotrams.html

  136. How many nukes to replace Australias coal?

    From memory, I think Australia is currently at about 28GWe production capacity. Assuming as a rule of thumb 1GW/nuclear plant, we may be able to do it with 30-35 (demand will expand during the construction process). This should certainly enable us to replace coal, and just about everything else as well.

    Now the hard one: How many nukes to replace Australia’s OIL?
    (And what assumptions are you using to do that? What about agricultural harvesters, mining, trucking, etc. 90% — or more — of our freight is by truck.)

    Not exactly sure. Possibly as many nuclear plants again as for the electricity sector. I’m currently enthusiastic about nuclear-derived Dimethyl Ether, which can be both burned in natgas plants (useful for electricity peaking) and in deisel engines. But I’d want to check the figures on that.

  137. @173/Finrod….28 GWe if that is the case…then it would take about 20 plants given the average is closer to 1400/1500 MWs if you combine the various models out there. I think we all get fixated on the AP1000 which is 1150 but most other models are larger.

    @167/Stephen….I don’t see the utilities really gaining anything from this process. I wish it luck, but it seems unnecessary. A grid has to rely on demand power not put into the system willy-nilly. Most charging as EVs come on line with be done more or less at night. You are assuming this Israeli system “is the future”. You are projecting. I may well be but I have a sense the future is going to be a lot more complex than that, especially with regards to EV. Furthermore, why are you so fixated on “wind”? You assume, again, it’s all wind and solar when there is not a country in the world that has that as a plan.

    @165/Stephen….you view on why nukes get run a long time…is not based on any reality I know of. At no point was the “life” of a nuke set at 40 years. Where do you get this stuff from? When you state: “What I am saying is that some of the older plants would have been replaced at their design lifetime rather than extended the way they are now. Extending is cheaper and easier than building new ones as there is less risk for investors.”…. you are showing a rather stark ignorance. The ‘designed lifetime’ was totally unknown…you are confusing *licensing* with *design*. The licensing was simply based on the only other long term power projects they had back in the 1960s and that was hydro. So they simply transferred the 40 year regime of the hyrdo licensing to nuclear. At the time they thought the plants maybe able to run up to 60 years and beyond. And yes, it’s *always* cheaper to maintain good technology that throwing it away for something new…it’s called sustainability. Now, all new nukes are designed for a 50 to 80 year life span. That’s a GOOD THING, not a bad thing, Stephen.

    David

  138. @David Walters on electric cars:
    “Most charging as EVs come on line with be done more or less at night. You are assuming this Israeli system “is the future”. You are projecting.”

    “Projecting” with good reason, as it is NOT just an Israeli system but a Hawaii system, a Japanese system, a Denmark system, and it looks like a Californian system (soon). Oh, and they open in Canberra in 2012. Hows that for “projecting”?

    http://www.betterplace.com/global-progress/

  139. One day, 800 million cars globally *might* be able to provide some charge back to the grid with even better batteries of the future. Just think about that before being too dismissive of wind and solar.

    There are economic reasons to do so now, and there could be important cultural reasons as well. EG: Instead of just “be water smart for the environment” or “change the light globe for the environment” it could be “plug in and sell after work for the environment, you’ll be fully charged by the morning anyway. You can always battery swap in an emergency”.

    (The whole basis of selling back to the grid is that the car will be ‘smart’ and will NOT sell below the charge required to get to the nearest battery swap).

  140. One day, 800 million cars globally *might* be able to provide some charge back to the grid with even better batteries of the future. Just think about that before being too dismissive of wind and solar.

    Let me clue you in, EN. We have thought about it.

    By your own admission in your comment above, this is nothing but a Rube Goldberg scheme to try to find some way… any way… to make it appear that renewables might somehow work.

  141. Wow, I’m so blown away by the peer reviewed academic reports you quoted in that highly informative and objective contribution! I’ll get right onto Shai Agassi now and let him know you’ve disproved the whole scheme.

  142. When you do more than just sneer I might be bothered googling something… *might* be bothered.

    But really, it’s not up to me to prove anything… this is just possible. They’re currently out there mapping the best potential charge points for Canberra and discussing selling power back to the grid on the airwaves. The idea is being popularised, seems technically feasible, and even if a percentage of people won’t take up the sell-back deal out of sheer paranoia many will to offset some of their car costs.

    http://podcast.beyondzeroemissions.org/index.php?id=112

    So the arguments against this so far on this site at least are mainly cultural. “People won’t do it!” I say rubbish, the economics of it will have people doing it if it is technically feasible. But imagine the cultural “greenie points” they’ll earn in the eyes of their neighbour or their own “greenie conscience”. This will be much more important than changing a few light globes as it will contribute to the feasibility of a renewable grid.

    I can see the adds now.

    “I plug and sell, do you? It’s simple, just click “YES” on the “SELL BACK” button on your SatNav, and your car will help wind and solar become the energy source for this country. You don’t have to do anything else, it will discount your overnight charge cost, and you’ll have a full charge in the morning. Plug and sell, it’s easy!”

    Talk about sissy little lifestyle changes in the name of “feeling green”, this one’s just a no-brainer!

  143. Reply to Eclipsenow’s questions (#172), and further to Finrod’s reply to those questions (#173):

    “How many nukes to replace Australia’s coal?”

    Two multi-unit nuclear power stations in each of NSW, Victoria and Queensland, and one in each of South Australia and Western Australia could provide most of our electricity needs to 2050 and beyond. Eight NPPs each with eight units of 1GW each would have an installed capacity of 64 GW and capacity factor of around 90%. That about double our current peak demand and about three times the installed capacity of coal fired generation.

    Of course, we could use larger units if we wanted to or smaller units, and we could distribute them more widely if we want to.

    What Cost?

    Roughly $100 to $120 B capital cost to provide all Australia’s current demand

    How soon?

    They could all be commissioned over two decades between 2020 and 2040. In fact, they would probably come on line at an increasing rate and replace cola fired power stations as they reach the end of their economic lives. France commissioned its NPP fleet in about 2 decades.

    How will we mine down?

    Same way as we mine down for the materials required for renewable energy. However, the quantities to be mined for nuclear are less for nuclear than for renewables. So the mining problem is much greater fro renewables than for nuclear. We have hardly scratched the surface exploring for uranium so far. The status of our knowledge of Uranium ore bodies in Australia is equivalent to where iron ore was in the 1950’s before the embargo on exporting iron was lifted. At that stage we thought Australia had some 80,000 million tons of iron ore (I think that was the number from memory). By the way, uranium is about the same concentration in the Earth’s crust as tin. There is plenty near the Earth’s surface. This concern about nuclear energy is a red herring. As others have pointed out, the current reactor designs use only about 10% of the available energy in the fuel. Improving reactor designs mean there is sufficient uranium on land to power world electricity demand for centuries. Add uranium from sea water, and thorium and nuclear fuel is effectively infinite.

    Now the hard one: How many nukes to replace Australia’s OIL?

    Not sure, but I am sure nuclear will be cheaper, and less environmentally damaging than solar, wind wave, tidal power. It will depend what the solution turns out to be – electrified land transport, hydrogen, other synfuels, ‘nuclear batteries’. What ever the solution, it appears nuclear power is most likely to provide most of the energy to drive the processes to produce the fuels, whatever they are.

    I agree, charge back could become economic in the future and could make some intermittent renewables economic to provide, I would guess, up to perhaps 20% of the electircity supply.

  144. David Walters@174 – “@167/Stephen….I don’t see the utilities really gaining anything from this process. I wish it luck, but it seems unnecessary. A grid has to rely on demand power not put into the system willy-nilly.”

    What would be will-nilly about it? Studies done in LA showed that even a peak times up to 80% of the cars were parked. Any utility would be able to count on and quickly determine the amount of energy available by the second if necessary.

    Also car AC controllers are fully programmable. They can synthesise any output waveform in three phases, fully controllable in phase, voltage and frequency and all available in millisecond timeframes. As ancillary services V2G cars would be unmatched their grid balancing ability. Utilities get from V2G cars storage that they do not have to pay for, only rent now and then when they need it and fast reacting controllable power generators.

    “@165/Stephen….you view on why nukes get run a long time…is not based on any reality I know of. At no point was the “life” of a nuke set at 40 years.”

    I am sure it wasn’t however neither is the life of a wind turbine set at 20 years which was the original statement of Barry. The life of a nuclear plant is set by the amount of radioactivity of the core as far as I am aware. At a certain point it becomes harder and harder to maintain safer operation.

    Also nuclear people are always gushing on about how safe the new GEN III and GEN III+ plants are. Isn’t it better to replace the older plants with newer safer plants that are apparently cheaper, have less parts and have vastly better passive safety features?

    Surely it is not good for the nuclear industry to keep older less safe plants creaking along – sooner or later there will be an accident in the less safe plants.

  145. Peter Lang – “Roughly $100 to $120 B capital cost to provide all Australia’s current demand”

    64GW at $6000/kw = $384 billion – you are out by at least a factor of 2. Final cost is at least twice the overnight capital cost. AP-1000 overnight costs come in at $3000/kw at the moment.

    This is of course before you spend 2 to 4 billion on an enrichment plant and 20 billion on a waste disposal facility.

    Why not put the real costs down?

  146. There are a number of problems with the vehicle-to-grid or V2G idea:

    1) Daily peak demand occurs in the late afternoon, when most vehicles are being used, this is during peak commute times. There may be some that can be plugged in at work, but that is asking the consumer to plug in when and where it is inconvenient – with little incentive to do so.

    2) You could use vehicle batteries that are plugged in to absorb peak late evening or nighttime wind energy, with a smart grid type nation wide charging system, but it is much better to supply those peaks close to the Wind Turbines, to reduce the power fluctuations at the source. In other words it is preferable to have battery storage close to the fluctuating source for Wind, and for daily load swings you want them close to the load – typically the consumer. Companies like Altairnano are already selling battery banks for Wind Energy surges at source, so why spend money on V2G batteries, for that purpose. You are just prematurely aging the vehicle batteries. With Li-ion maybe good for 1000 cycles, you are reducing the vehicle battery life from maybe 8 yrs to 3 yrs. With a $5,000 to $18,000 replacement cost.

    3) A problem people sometimes have with electric vehicles is called range anxiety. It doesn’t help when the grid may have used most of their batteries energy just when they happen to need the vehicle.

    4) Vehicle batteries are very expensive and specialized in their specifications. They must be compact, lightweight and have a high Power to Energy ratio – typically a C-factor of 5 to 10 times is desirable. These high output batteries typically cost at least double that of an ordinary storage battery. For grid energy peak shaving application you do not need expensive high output batteries. Typically you would use say 20 kwh of storage energy over the 6 hrs afternoon peak, and supply a load of around 2 to 5 kw. That is a C factor of only 0.1 to 0.25, much lower than the C-factor of 5 to 10 times for a vehicle battery.

    The conclusion is that a much better way to absorb Wind Energy peaks, would be to have utility battery banks located close to the Wind Turbines. Instead of going Wind Turbine DC output to Synchronizing Inverter to AC output to Utility Grid. Go Wind Turbine DC output to Battery Charger to Synchronizing Inverter to AC output to Utility Grid. These could be specialized utility battery banks like the Vanadium Redox Flow batteries.

    For supplying the afternoon peak load demand, a much better idea is the home battery bank. For this application about 10 kwh of storage batteries would suffice. These could be expired vehicle battery banks, which may be unable to supply the vehicle’s surge power or just have a lower capacity than is economical, that is a lot of extra dead weight. Utilities have already been negotiating with GM on the purchase of expired Volt battery packs. However storage batteries do not require high surge capability and extra dead weight is a minor issue. This would not only supply grid energy peak daily demand but would give the homeowner an excellent emergency power supply. It would also make an excellent standard interface between a homeowners or building power system and the utility grid, so if a building or home has its own emergency or CHP power generation, it can use it most efficiently by charging a battery at full generator output, and shutting the generator off when the battery is fully charged. No need for an expensive automatic transfer switch to change household power from Grid to Generator. The battery would then link to the grid through a synchronizing inverter. If a building operator or homeowner wants to add Solar Panels it is much easier to utilize them and install them if you already have a battery bank. And also is a way of supplying a quick charge to an electric vehicle without requiring an extreme high power battery charger.

    No matter how you supply Peak Grid Energy you are looking at around $2000 per kw for 6 hrs storage, whether it be Pumped Hydro, Batteries or NG Turbine (with O&M costs converted to capital cost). With Wind Energy you would want around 30-60% of peak output in storage. So for a purchase cost of $2000 per pk kw for the Wind Turbines, you would be adding another ~$800 per pk kw, which equals $2800 per pk kw. At a US avg. 25% load factor that’s $11,200 per avg delivered kw. Add installation cost & power transmission additions and you are over $12,500 per kw. With factory produced nuclear coming in at under $2000 per kw – THAT’S LESS THAN THE COST OF YOUR LOWSY 6 HRS OF BATTERY STORAGE!! And Wind Energy has lulls of several days and even several weeks or a month or more, quite commonly in the heat of the summer and in northern areas, in the bitter cold of winter, when energy demand is highest.

    The Hyperion Nuclear reactors are selling for $1,400 per kwe and $500 per kwth. Westinghouse sold four 1.2 GW nuclear power plants to China for $5.5 billion. This is the actual cost of the power plants – take away your NRC (Nuclear Refusal Commission) roadblocks put there by the Fossil Fuel lobbies. USA new nukes are coming in at around $5,000 per kw, with zero supply chain established yet. Pre-NRC nukes came in at about $1000 per kwe in 2007 dollars, and typically 2-3 yr construction times, with Quad Cities (1800 MWe) built for $680 per kwe 2007 dollars. The Coal to Nuclear Pebble Beds will cost $1000 per kwe to replace the Coal Burner with a Pebble Bed reactor. Even the First-of-a-kind Darlington ACANDU’s with initial cost including the development cost, is C$26 billion for 2400 kwe = C$10,800 per kwe.

  147. Stephen #183:

    Cost of 2 x Chinese CPR-1000 nuclear reactors cited as US$3.8 billion – that’s $1,760/kW if they come in on budget: http://tr.im/uPNR

    Remind me why you would want to spend $20B on a waste disposal facility. What waste are you referring to? Also, why would Australia want to build an enrichment plant?

  148. Stephen Gloor, (#183)

    The $120 billion figure (quoted the paper and in post# 181) is a rough calculation to provide the current NEM demand. The 64 GW figure was to provide all our power to 2050. (Of course you can add more if you want to). The $120 billion was calculated as follows:

    Average demand in 2007 = 25 GW

    Capital Cost @ $4,000/GW (settled down cost based on escalated figures from EPRI) = $100 billion
    (http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/66043/200703010000/www.pmc.gov.au/umpner/docs/nuclear_report.pdf)

    http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/66043/200612010000/www.dpmc.gov.au/umpner/docs/commissioned/EPRI_report.pdf

    Allowance for energy storage to provide peak power (10 GW) – $20 billion
    (about twice the rate quoted here: http://www.electricitystorage.org/site/technologies/technology_comparisons/)

    As noted previously, there is no point estimating the cost of one option (nuclear) accurately, when the alternative (solar) is some 20 times more costly.

    Before chasing the detailed costing of nuclear further, perhaps it would be more valuable to check the costing of the solar option to provide the same demand.

  149. Peter#186,
    Lots of different figures are out there for nuclear and wind power in China. We will only know the costs in Australia after tenders are called for building one or two nuclear plants to start production by 2020. We probably don’t have a good idea about either solar PV or solar CSP for completion 2010, except prices should be less than present. Wind power we have very good data on costs of wind farms in Australia, at present, as some have changed ownership in last few years. Prices seem to be about $AUD2,000/kW capacity of wind farms which is $6,000 per kW production.
    If our commitment is to generating 6GW out of 30GW average in 2020 with low carbon energy( either renewable now, but that could be changed to renewable and nuclear). At best we may bet 2 reactors up and running by 2020, but it would be sensible to plan for one(1GW)by 2020 with additional ones every 2 years to 2040. Of the other 5GW we have about 2.5Gw hydro and 0.5Gw(av) wind so would need 2GW additional power. IF that comes from wind would need to install 600GW/year( about what we are doing now). Any solar would be a bonus.

    If our aim is to retiring all coal fired power by 2040 or retro-fitting with CCS, we will need another 34 GW of nuclear plus renewable(or CCS coal) with the rest NG peak(20Gw average). That would be a 80% reduction in CO2 from energy use assuming 60GW total energy. One third from nuclear(1GW/ 2years) would seem possible. That would leave 24GW from other sources. I can’t see much coming from CCS before 2035, say 4GW by 2040. The other 20GW could come from wind and solar ( would need 1GWav/year or about X5 today’s rate of build.

    Completing both one new nuclear plant/2 years and 1GW av wind/solar per year would be a big challenge but possible. If you think we can build up our nuclear capacity faster than 1.1GW reactor/2 years when we have no military nuclear program perhaps Canada is the best example in terms of economic power( 80% larger than Australia.)Canada has built 16GW( not all operating)over 40 years and has half a dozen research reactors. Alternatively S Korea with 17GW reactors, over 40 years with considerable heavy industry infrastructure support. They installed about 8GW after the first reactor was commissioned in 1978 in the following 20 years. A target for 10GW nuclear from 2020 to 2040 for Australia is ambitious but possible, but not enough to displace coal.

    Coal CCS, solar and nuclear are going to need large direct government support, wind will need increased REC targets for continued private investment. NG expansion will only need a carbon tax for private investment to replace coal.

  150. Neil (#187),

    I’ll exaggerat here to make the point simple. I’d argue we should not waste our resources on wind and solar power. Don’t waste our money and our human resource effort (eg all our research establishments’ effort). These technologoes avoid little GHG emissions at high avoidance cost (when all the emissions and costs from back up are properly attributed). These technologies produce low value electricity.

    Once we have economic energy storage sited at the wind farm and solar farm, such that solar and wind can genuinely compete with nuclear to provide high value power, then they should be built. They should compete in the market without subsidy or being mandated.

    As I’ve said in a previous post, if we want the developing countries to implement low-emissions electricity generation, we must develop least cost technologies as quickly as possible. There is no sign that that is achievable with wind and solar in the foreseable future.

    Regarding your comment “Lots of different figures are out there for nuclear …”. True, but the differences are of the order of 25% when compared on a proper basis. This is completely insignificant compared with a factor of 20 higher cost for soalr. You need to focus on how to get the costs of solar down to 5% of what they are now. That is where your focus should be. Not on nit picking about the accuracy of the estimates of the costs of nuclear.

  151. “Once we have economic energy storage sited at the wind farm and solar farm, such that solar and wind can genuinely compete with nuclear to provide high value power, then they should be built. They should compete in the market without subsidy or being mandated.”

    Hello, I think you missed the memo. Better Place is coming, remember that? The wind utility doesn’t have to store anything… we will. In our cars. And don’t forget the MAGICAL properties of EEstor should it come to market as promised.

    And solar thermal with a little storage probably already IS competitive with nuclear considering when one scales the Ausra styled plant up large enough it is competitive with coal+ccs.

  152. Hello, I think you missed the memo. Better Place is coming, remember that? The wind utility doesn’t have to store anything… we will. In our cars. And don’t forget the MAGICAL properties of EEstor should it come to market as promised.

    EN how is it that you have been so totally taken in by a flashy website? This scheme isn’t even due to be rolled out until 2012. If something goes wrong with the financing, it may never be rolled out (as I suspect will indeed be the case). Trumpet your brilliant foresight and your victory when it is won. The race hasn’t even begun yet.

  153. Barry Brook – “Cost of 2 x Chinese CPR-1000 nuclear reactors cited as US$3.8 billion – that’s $1,760/kW if they come in on budget: ”

    If they come in under budget and how will you know if they do – can you look at the figures in an independent audit? Does the expenditure need legal disclosure? What part of the plant is the 3.8 billion for – the total plant cost?

    “Remind me why you would want to spend $20B on a waste disposal facility. What waste are you referring to? Also, why would Australia want to build an enrichment plant?”

    To dispose of the nuclear waste from the reactors safely – if GEN IV nuclear is a bust then there will be 30 tons per year per reactor of high level waste to store.

    So instead of depending on imported oil you would substitute a total dependance on imported nuclear fuel?

  154. EXACTLY!

    This is EXACTLY what I’m trying to say. Drop your crystal ball Finrod, it’s broken, OK? You don’t know the future, neither do I. You have to allow for my slightly dramatic writing style. I tend to indulge it due to my allergies with strawmen. When I say “Better Place is coming” I mean a whole range of Plug-in EV’s are coming… whether Better Place or EEstor or others. They have to, because nothing else can scale up!

    Sadly, hydrogen seems too problematic and expensive to create. Split water (costs energy) and either freeze or compress the hydrogen gas (costs energy) and then fill the car, only to run it through the fuel cell to get… electricity again? Expensive madness that loses far too much of the original electricity in the process. What kind of charge efficiencies are batteries at? In a world constrained by the need for energy efficiency, Hydrogen seems like MANDATING THROWING OUT 80% OF YOUR ENERGY

    You guys are all acting like your Gen4 reactors are fool-proof, materials shock-proof, economy proof deals already signed in at a certain guaranteed price, factored into the policies of the land, and… um… built.

    I can’t see any? Heeeelloooo Gen4’s… aaaareee you theeeerrreeeee…. nope. So just as Lagrange Space Stations were a “guaranteed economical proposition” by 2001 (according to certain 1960’s and 70’s papers) we can be SURE that Gen4’s will come in on time and on budget. ;-)z

    NOT! We don’t know the future. But I can see a Better Place battery swap station operating before my own eyes, I can read about the plans for Better Place in Canberra, I have met people who have met Shai Agassi, I have watched his talk, seen our ministers sitting at the same table with him, seen the standing ovations he gets around the globe….

    Where’s your Gen4 TED talk with a standing ovation? Where’s your contracts, your Deutsch Bank raves, your ministers patting your Gen4 representative on the back?

    At least Ausra, CETO, Geodynamics and many other renewables have precommercialisation test plants!

    And we’ll know within a year or 2 how Queensland’s Cloncurry solar thermal graphite storage goes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloncurry_solar_power_station

    We’ll know how California’s massive roll out of Ausra’s solar thermal plants are going, and have accurate, DEMONSTRATED costings in.

    Pfffffft… as for Peter Lang’s strawman of all solar costing 20x more… repeating that after being so thoroughly spanked by Stephen Gloor is just internet trolling. Peter, PROVE it applies to CSP! If you just repeat a statistic like that from a completely farcical bit of BLOGGING you call “evidence” then you’ll lose all respect on this blog. Even I can see through this one!

  155. Peter Lang – “As noted previously, there is no point estimating the cost of one option (nuclear) accurately, when the alternative (solar) is some 20 times more costly.

    Before chasing the detailed costing of nuclear further, perhaps it would be more valuable to check the costing of the solar option to provide the same demand.”

    As noted previously the only place solar is 20 times more expensive that nuclear is in your flawed and incomplete analysis. The world nuclear association that I link to has current prices. The links you posted do not work and seem to be archives that may be out of date.

    I am trying to get basic costing for Solar Reserve – when I do I will post them.

  156. Stephen #191: If Gen IV is ‘a bust’ then we have much bigger things to worry about than not spending $20B for a deep geological repository. Yes, I would be happy to import fuel rods from China for our fleet of Gen III reactors, whilst we wait for our Gen IVs to take over the role. We are talking about a TRIFLING amount of fuel compared to our current oil exports.

    EN #192: “I can’t see any? Heeeelloooo Gen4’s… aaaareee you theeeerrreeeee…. nope. So just as Lagrange Space Stations were a “guaranteed economical proposition” by 2001 (according to certain 1960’s and 70’s papers) we can be SURE that Gen4’s will come in on time and on budget. ;-)z”

    You are starting to sound a bit crazy, mate. And you really don’t understand what Gen IV is, do you?

    “after being so thoroughly spanked by Stephen Gloor”

    Sorry, run that by me again. How exactly did that happen and slip under my (our) radar? Peter Lang explained, as I described in my post above (you did read it I presume), that:

    …it all comes down to those nasty ‘extremes’ — those few days of the year when solar power will give you almost nothing (yes, even the deserts have cloudy winter days, although the problem would be much worse if we were reliant on a distributed system of rooftop PV which was largely sited in the major population centres along the southern and eastern coastlines).

    If you’ve only got enough solar PV storage to maintain continuous power supply for 1 day, then you need to overbuild your installed capacity by a truly massive amount to cover yourself for those days when the 24-hour capacity factor of your national system is not 20%, but 5%, or 2%, or 0.75%. To borrow a suitable analogy, under a small energy storage system, you’ve got no money in the bank to tide you over until the next paycheck comes in.

    So please, for stupid people like me, tell me why CSP will be any different to PV in this regard?

  157. Peter, Gloor is correct. The links you put up don’t lead to anything. Do you have another link which will reach them?

    EN, I don’t see what you’re getting at. There is more than enough experience with prototype breeders worldwide to regard their potential with high confidence. As for you only using Better Place as an example to represent a general class of EV schemes, I frankly don’t believe you… but if it is true, you should have stated it outright.

  158. Obviously Peter could not have done the research properly as I just found this.

    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/pdfs/34440.pdf

    which contains the following:

    “Solar Two demonstrated molten salt as a viable, large-scale thermal energy storage medium. Energy storage efficiencies of 99% were achieved. The storage design point efficiency is projected to be 99.9% for all cases. The efficiency of Solar Two was demonstrated to be 99.9%, and since there is no significant technology changes, it can be expected to remain constant. The design, construction, and performance of large, fielderected, externally insulated tanks for storing molten salt were demonstrated during Solar Two.”

    It is a 344 page report on all aspects of solar thermal technology from the NREL.

    The upshot is that Solar Reserve type plants with storage will start at about $3500/kW and have capacity factors of 60% or more. I think they did a bit better job than you. Solar thermal is still cheaper than the real cost of nuclear. Perhaps you should have another go at the paper.

    Here is the executive summary for a quick read.

    http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy04osti/35060.pdf

  159. Barry Brook – “So please, for stupid people like me, tell me why CSP will be any different to PV in this regard?”

    I know you are not stupid so it is a mystery to me why you accept a paper that is about solar power however does not include a major branch. Any reference to this is just brushed away with the comment “well they should be about the same”.

    Read the report I posted and then see if Peter’s ‘paper’ still makes sense.

  160. So Barry, do the overbuilds for solar thermal really add up to 20 times as expensive for that one day? Really? Where’s the paper that proves this?

    My understanding was that future grids were to be a mix of diverse options. So first of all, we would not need to backup the whole power supply, solar thermal might only be a third, quarter, or fifth of the grid, depending on what energy mix is built.

    So sure there might be the odd day or 2 when solar thermal finally “goes down”, but it’s not like a massive weather system like that goes unnoticed! There would be warning and plans enacted.

    Overcast days are often *windy*. There are still *waves* when it is overcast. There are still *hot-rocks* down in the earth’s crust. And solar chimney’s operate oblivious to the overcast. With a mix of options I’m sure the overbuild won’t be as large as you’re making out. If coal plants can have a week off for servicing and not cost 20 times as much, then why are you insisting the same will occur for solar thermal?

  161. Dang, I knew I’d regret writing too much in the “About me” pages.

    I’m not that young, I just sound a bit “left of field” when a little miffed. I don’t like it when people more technically qualified than I am start deliberately avoiding whole segments of the renewable power industry to ram home some agenda they have.

    Cranking out some (exaggerated) claims about Solar PV as universal truths to all solar just seems slippery. That’s no way to win people over to your cause.

  162. “There is more than enough experience with prototype breeders worldwide to regard their potential with high confidence.”

    Finrod, I take it you mean technical potential… but my understanding from major USA nuclear reports was that breeders had all so far proven far more expensive than all previous models. (Keely? Can’t remember… memory lapse, and I deleted reference to it on my blog in honour of the fact that you guys have made me *undecided* about nuclear for now.)

  163. Stephen #198/199: You seem to be totally missing the point. It doesn’t matter if the thermal conversion efficiency is 99.99999% efficient. It’s about extreme capacity factors, and their frequency/return times distributed along a probability density function. Its importance ramps up in proportion to the amount of high-variability renewables you have on the grid. If Peter Lang’s point on this matter holds for PV, it axiomatically holds for wind and CSP also. I’m not sure how else I can explain it to you.

    Perhaps it’s a science/non-science thing. Do other readers get this point? If so, can you try to explain it better to Stephen? EN, you seem to understand the problem, but believe that a renewable mix can solve it. This would only be true if you had sufficient installed capacity of each of the other renewables that the cumulative multi-renewable capacity factor never dropped below demand or storage recharge. How much overbuild of each of these diverse wind, wave, CSP, PV etc. does this take — how much is economically acceptable? And what do you do with the extra power when they are ALL producing to their nameplate capacity?

  164. Peter#188,
    I think we are talking about two different time frames. I am interested in the next 30-40 years when we need to have all coal fired electricity replaced. We are very unlikely to have more solar energy than a small part of peak daytime demand and still have a lot of NG peak. I can’t see how we can replace all energy by renewable or nuclear but we could replace 10GW by nuclear, 20 GW by wind,solar and hydro and the balance by NG(with a little CCS).

    Sometime in the future we could use nuclear with expanded hydro storage for all power but I cannot see how that could be done by 2040. The US may be able to do that but it would be a big risk to put all eggs in the nuclear basket.

    Developing countries may need a different energy mix, but I can’t see China expanding nuclear much faster than planned up to 2020. They seem to be putting a lot of resources into more hydro, wind and solar WHY if nuclear is so cheap and so quick to build, an why has only one reactor been completed since Oct 2004 when the latest nuclear acceleration was announced and the building process started for reactors to be completed from 2010 to 2014?

    What I am saying is Australia has no nuclear program except one research reactor.We don’t have nuclear reactors in submarines, or a weapons program. We cannot go out and buy 30-50GW of reactors as A350 or B777 aircraft are ordered and even aircraft have delays or years. If we could do this do you not think China would have ordered 200 reactors for delivery 2005- 2010? Can we expand nuclear faster than Canada or S Korea did over last 40 yearse?

    Solar is only 20 times more expensive than nuclear when you use a poor location and assume 100% energy is coming from solar( and rather expensive storage options). So little solar is going to be built in the next 20 years it’s funding is to develop the capacity to produce it here in Australia. We should have also funded one or two reactors 10 years ago for the same reason, but we have not that’s the reality. Furthermore the only low carbon energy we can build in significant quantities in the next 10 years is wind energy(because we have been building and operating it for 10 years). In the following 10 years(2020-30) it’s wind and nuclear(with a small amount of solar). From 2030-40 more nuclear( but not enough) more wind and perhaps considerably more solar. All of this time we will have to use NG for the balance OR coal as it is being phased out.

    Thanks for your article on wind power reliability. I have looked over “low wind events” using data for each wind farm, as the low wind system moves across the wind farm locations. It seems wind systems last about 24 hours at one location and more at about 100km/h from Eyre Peninsula, through VIC and TAS and to southern NSW(1250km E_W and 750 km NE-SW).This suggests it would be optimal to have wind farms spread over >2500kms. This is a considerably smaller region than the NEMMCO grid and much less geographic separation from Geraldton, Esperance, Ceduna, Portland, southern TAS, and up to Cooktown QLD the regions where good wind resources are available(>6,000km coastline). All but 1250km is connected to one of two grids( Norseman to Esperance and West of Ceduna being the gap) with excellent wind resources along the Great Bight grid gap.

  165. Gloor@#198:

    This report is from 2003. It cites the need for advances in materials technology to make the scheme a practical reality. Increases in construction costs since then are not factored in. Ausra has been singularly unwilling to share its results lately, a rather suspicious development. These schemes have never lived up to their promises in the past. The Power Tower technology has been tried in Spain and is coming in as a costly failure. There is no good reason to suppose that CSP will be any better at solving our power problems than PV has been.

  166. Hot salt anyone? One of the positive things about CSP is the huge, multi-hundred-million dollar experiment in hot-salt storage as an R&D project. I like it. What you find with many pro-renewable folks is their naive belief that such technology is ‘theirs’, a kind of ‘ownership’ perspective that is natural since, well, they talk about it so much, because, well, without it, their world energy view will be so much white-elephants. This is as true for hot salt as it is for SG and UHVDC and UHVAC and pump storage and EVs, etc etc. I like it. I’m repeating myself. This happens when I’m happy.

    The reason for this is that everyone of the above mentioned technologies works *better* with nuclear, most notably Gen IV fission technology, specifically the LFTR but I suspect the IFR as well. As well it should. HSS (hot salt storage) is a great way to store any Gen IV reactor that has high temperature process heat out put. Pump storage will work much better with nuclear (any) since it’s a great way to store non-peak/non-intermediate and any extra energy. SG/HVDC/HVDC/and especially the new triple capacity UHVAC lines are ideal for distribution of nuclear energy, especially in the smaller *distributive* forms that can be represented by IFR and LFTR. And EVs? The Mr. Atomic Automobile Mark I is just waiting for new nukes to come on line.

    So…all this makes me very pleased.

    David

  167. Barry Brook – “It’s about extreme capacity factors, and their frequency/return tiems distributed along a probability density function. Its importance ramps up in proportion to the amount of high-variability renewables you have on the grid. If Peter Lang’s point on this matter holds for PV, it axiomatically holds for wind and CSP also. I’m not sure how else I can explain it to you.”

    Then it also axiomatically holds for any system that has a capacity factor less than 100% which is every power system on earth. Thermal storage CSP removes the variability of solar so the capacity factor of the plant can be set to whatever you like. Given geographically spaced wind/solar plants the variability is reduced even further.

    As far as I can see in the paper Peter did not do any probability analysis of solar resources available. It is totally based on one PV Plant in Queanbeyan which is hardly the solar capital of Australia. So if anyone can explain it to me, in baby talk, how one station in Canberra can be applied to the whole of Australia and show me the probability distribution of solar resources and an analysis of the risk of a zero solar event in either a peer reviewed journal or technical paper I will be all ears.

    Better yet combine it with http://www.environment.gov.au/settlements/renewable/publications/pubs/windstudy.pdf and then analyse the probability of a zero wind/solar event.

    Analysis that have been done, such as this for the US:

    http://ausra.com/pdfs/ausra_usgridsupply.pdf

    “This paper suggests not only that STE is a energy option of great significance, but that with only 16 hours of storage it has sufficient diurnal and seasonal natural correlation with electricity load to supply the great majority of the US national grid (and by logical extension, those of China and India) over the year, with the hourly solar radiation data including typical cloudy weather patterns.”

    There is actually no need to explain it to me, simply if Peter can explain the difference in his conclusions and/or where Dr David Mills is wrong. I think David actually did modelling to come to his conclusions something that is lacking in Peter’s paper.

  168. Finrod – “This report is from 2003. It cites the need for advances in materials technology to make the scheme a practical reality. Increases in construction costs since then are not factored in. Ausra has been singularly unwilling to share its results lately, a rather suspicious development. These schemes have never lived up to their promises in the past. The Power Tower technology has been tried in Spain and is coming in as a costly failure. There is no good reason to suppose that CSP will be any better at solving our power problems than PV has been.”

    Did you happen to notice the consortium members of Solar Reserve? One is RocketDyne – the makers of the space shuttle, Delta IV rocket motors. They are applying their extensive knowledge of heat transfer materials science to the collector. BTW Solar Two operated for 4 years entirely successfully demonstrating and proving all aspects of Solar thermal with storage. The first commercial plant is being built now in Spain.

    Please provide a reference to the failed solar power plant is Spain if you can.

  169. Then it also axiomatically holds for any system that has a capacity factor less than 100% which is every power system on earth. Thermal storage CSP removes the variability of solar so the capacity factor of the plant can be set to whatever you like. Given geographically spaced wind/solar plants the variability is reduced even further.

    No, it doesn’t hold for any power system, at least when working with real world probabilities. Again, this says to me that you don’t understand probability and stochasticity.

    Let’s say we had a country with 10 x 1 GW nuclear power stations, each with a capacity factor of 90%. They generate an average power output of 9000 GWe. Let’s also say that their downtime was always unscheduled (it’s not), so that they could drop out at any time. Let’s also say that the capacity factor in this case approximately represented the number of units online.

    The probability of all of them simultaneously going down and requiring 100% storage/backup is 0.1^10 = 0.00000001%.

    What about 30% storage/backup? 0.1^2 = 0.1% of the time.

    Now look at the June wind graph presented in the Peter Lang responds post. How many times during that month did the entire geographically dispersed wind grid deliver virtually nothing (<5% output)? About 5 days. How many days during that month required >80% backup? About 19 days.

    For solar, we also have many issues to consider; for instance, the inevitable ~16 hour nighttime storage (implying 3x collecting area for power delivered vs nameplate), the requirement to build sufficient output to cover the winter lows (about half that, or worse, than summer output), the need to cover a run of a few cloudy days in a row (when the CSP generates nothing), and the need to have sufficient redundant generating capacity to recharge storage when output is not zero, but still far below nameplate (Lang’s point).

    There is absolutely nothing comparable between coal/gas/nuclear and (to quote what I said above)”high-variability renewables”.

  170. Stephen Gloor (212) – “It is totally based on one PV Plant in Queanbeyan which is hardly the solar capital of Australia. So if anyone can explain it to me, in baby talk, …”

    The sun goes down at night, everywhere. Overcast conditions occur from time to time, everywhere. Neither PV nor CST produce as much power when the sun is not shining. They need energy storage or back-up generation to provide the power when the sun doesn’t shine (to replace coal fired generation). Low capacity factors from time to time (such as measured at Queanbeyan) are typical.

    Here is another example: look at Table 1 and the minimum for June in http://www.ceem.unsw.edu.au/content/userDocs/WattMorganPasseySolar06_000.pdf

  171. Some rules of thumb for PV I’ve inferred at Lat 43S. For every nominal 1kw expect 4-6 kwh in clear days mid summer, 2-3 kwh mid winter. Day long high white clouds (cotton balls) may cut this 20% but day long cloud cover which will set off the automatic flash using a camera may cut 80-90%. If the denominator is 24 hours X 1 kw then we have average summer and winter c.f.’s of 17% and 9% with a winter low of ~2%.

    I like the idea of thin film solar (not polycrystalline) on every house roof but not sodium-sulphur batteries near kids. If storage was held at electricity substations for safety then every house should get a real time reading on their daily input and usage. The cost would have to come way way down which may never happen.

  172. John,

    Your calculation of the CFs is close to the actual measured CFs, although the actual measured minimum was 0.75%.

    If the energy storage is at the substations, we need to include the cost of transmission from the solar panel to the substation. The transmission capacity must be sized to carry the peak power, not just the average power, of the solar panels.

    The current cost of solar panels for residential installations is ablout 2-3 times the costs used in the “Solar Power Realities” paper. So instead of $2.8 trillion, I’d expect the capital cost would be $5 to $8 trillion. That’s for a system with a life expectancy of about 20 years.

  173. Hi Bryen,
    “When the wind IS blowing it is still highly variable and unpredictable. ”
    It amazes me how many times I have to repeat the following 2 points.

    1. Battery swap stations and cars parked 22 to 23 hours a day won’t miss the wind electricity. They’ll CREATE a market for that wind energy, *whenever* it is blowing.

    2. The Peterson paper analyses the economics for car owners based on ownership of the battery, which does *not* apply to the Better Place model. You buy the Renault-Nissan EV, not the battery.

    I repeat for the 20th time, *they* retain ownership of the battery, which facilitates the battery swap program and the range extension on trips. (The difference between the price of oil ot the consumer and the cost of electricity allows a margin for Better Place to budget for removing old batteries out of the system).

    It’s all in this talk. 20 minutes, so grab a coffee and enjoy. Notice the standing ovation at the end, and then google them in Australia and check out the press interviews. This is simply the most desirable business model for selling EV’s, period. I can’t imagine the old “user-owns battery” model surviving long in a Better Place world. Other car companies will soon be in a frantic dash to either copy the system or join it. It just makes sense.

  174. If the average suburban roof is 140 square metres (in the US) then cheap enough thin film could generate 50kw in summer, say 10 kw average in winter. At peak some roof sections might have to be switched off if not running the AC or charging a plug-in car. It would still cost $50k at $1 a watt, far too expensive. However in winter with gas cooking and heating (I use free firewood) a house could get by with 10 kwh average (no AC, no EV) if it was buffered by large stationary batteries in the neighbourhood. Perhaps 10 kwh per day could be the basic adult allowance reflected in pricing penalties, akin to household water allowances or download limits.

    In reality of course we’ll just burn more coal, emission cuts be damned.

  175. Hi John, what we need to remember is that residential is a minor component of total demand. We need to power industry, hospitals, infrastructure, etc., 24/h per day.

    What do you calculate would be the cost to provide 20GW baseload, 25GW average power and 33GW peak power?

  176. @ PL
    I’m not saying this is a total solution just a ‘helper’. Neither thin film PV nor small scale sodium-sulphur have the bugs worked out yet so cost estimates are premature.

    Asking a single technology to do everything ignores the possibility of a least cost combination. In the classic diet problem we want to keep people alive on the cheapest feasible combination of say sausage, bread and cabbage. If we omit one food type some essential nutrient will be omitted. Constraints in the energy mix include build time, capital rationing, carbon intensity, nimbyism, input competition, self replacement and risk spreading. Therefore the optimum energy mix is likely to have sizeable shares allocated to several forms of generation.

  177. “….Asking a single technology to do everything ….optimum energy mix is likely to have sizeable shares allocated to several forms of generation….”

    That’s right. Replace the current energy mix, almost entirely stored solar energy, with stored energy from Supernovae, and the Big Bang, namely Nuclear.

    Optimal Energy Mix: Hydro (still worth keeping), and some optimum combination of the following, yet to be determined: LWR, LIFTR, IFR, PBMR, GCHTR, Nuscale, Hyperion, Toshiba 4S, Bussard IEC fusion, Focus Fusion, Tri-Alpha Energy’s Aneutronic fusion, General Fusion’s Magnetized Target Fusion, Blacklight Power (if for real), Jovion Zero-point energy, Cold Fusion may still have promise. Why piss pot around with MICKEY-MOUSE RENEWABLES with energy densities that are pathetic to the point of embarrassment? Makes the Human Species look like a degenerating organism, which is too stupid, puny and weak to handle the energies that power the universe.

  178. I forgot to add CERN’s accelerator driven, subcritical thorium fission reactor, which preliminary analysis shows excellent promise.

    All the above technologies could be developed to the point of either: determined to be infeasible, or determined to be uneconomical, or economical & viable for commercial development, to genuine Black Swan – a total game changer that blows away all other energy options. Cost? Less than the money that we are currently throwing down the sewer on impractical renewables and so-called “Clean Coal”.

  179. Barry Brook – “Again, this says to me that you don’t understand probability and stochasticity.”

    Obviously I do not as I am struggling with your calculation. Why is the probability of the wind part 0.1^2?

    “Now look at the June wind graph presented in the Peter Lang responds post. How many times during that month did the entire geographically dispersed wind grid deliver virtually nothing (80% backup? About 19 days.”

    Yes we should have another look at it as it compares completely different size wind farms and leaves out others that could have been included. When there is 5% available it is because only the small wind farms are delivering power. A large wind farm in the same place would have completely changed the graph. The idea is to disperse 100MW to 200MW wind farms into the best wind spots.

    “For solar, we also have many issues to consider; for instance, the inevitable ~16 hour nighttime storage (implying 3x collecting area for power delivered vs nameplate), the requirement to build sufficient output to cover the winter lows (about half that, or worse, than summer output), the need to cover a run of a few cloudy days in a row (when the CSP generates nothing), and the need to have sufficient redundant generating capacity to recharge storage when output is not zero, but still far below nameplate (Lang’s point).”

    So David Mill’s analysis is wrong? I am sure we have been here before so lets leave this one. Again I fail to see the objection to 3X collector area. In the scheme of things the collectors are modular units that with mass production will decline in price. The power tower can use any heliostats and when these are available off the shelf then price will drop dramatically. Making a 3X collector area is no more difficult or expensive than providing a fuel reprocessing plant for every IFR. The eSolar heliostats do not even require precise positioning as the use GPS and advance algorithms to maintain pointing accuracy.

    http://www.esolar.com/our_solution/

    We also have to get rid of one concept and that is off-peak power. Because a renewable solution will consist of devices that can and/or are off at night off-peak power is dead. It is only an artifact of the present thermal power stations that are more economical to keep running therefore power is sold cheaply to try and keep them running as much as possible.

    I believe it will be replaced in the smart grid with opportunity off peak tariffs. Devices with smart controllers can be told that there is surplus of wind at a particular time and now would be a good time to switch on and charge up or whatever as electricity is cheap.

    Once dumb timed off peak is gone then the overnight demand should drop as some of this load is off-peak load that is there only because power is cheap. This is also a good incentive for big loads to install smart controllers to take advantage of the new low tariff times.

    Also the thing that you have to get is the TIMING of low solar and wind events. This is what David Mill emphasises and you seemed to have missed. Yes a nuclear plant has a 90% capacity factor however for at least 50% of that time nobody really wants the power and it has to be sold sometimes below cost to keep the nuke running.

    A solar plant without storage may have only a 20% capacity factor however at least 80% or 90% of that time is when people want power. So 30% or 40% of the solar plants will not need storage of only 2 hours as they can sell power into the morning and afternoon peaks as they do now.

    The remaining 60% or so 40% of them can have 16 hour storage and the rest be derated and have 4-5 days storage available and a 90% capacity factor even before you need to start burning gas. In concert with wind/tidal/wave this will provide the same reliability as your 90% CP nuke or coal plants.

    Also something you have not considered and I have not seen this in the literature however I am sure it will be possible, the storage fluid can be heated. They do have electric heaters to ensure that the salts do not freeze in extended downtimes (2 weeks or more). My idea is to simply have a pipe and pump from the cold tank to the hot tank that includes a highly efficient induction heater and heat exchanger. Cold salt from the cold tank can be heated with surplus electricity from elsewhere and pumped into the hot tank, even if the particular solar plant in in cloud cover enabling it to continue to deliver power. In this way any solar thermal plants with storage can be a repository for the inevitable times when there is too much renewable energy for demand. This would ease the pressure on pumped hydro and allow places with very little hydro to still have storage.

    It also negates the problem of 3X overbuild of the collector. Instead of a 3X overbuild just build it 2X over and then get the other 1X when you need it from other power stations that have the capacity.

  180. Peter Lang – “The sun goes down at night, everywhere. Overcast conditions occur from time to time, everywhere. Neither PV nor CST produce as much power when the sun is not shining. They need energy storage or back-up generation to provide the power when the sun doesn’t shine (to replace coal fired generation).

    Yes it does however during the day the insolation and amount of cloud per year varies widely. Up north of me here there is a pocket of land that gets an AVERAGE of 10.5 sun hours per day all year round. I have lived in Canberra and I know what the conditions are like there in winter. Are you trying to say that Narrabri has the same sun conditions as Canberra?

    CST based on molten salts produces as much power at night as you need. As the solar reserve CSP plants have storage as an integral part of the system the only consideration is how much do you need. This where your analysis is so flawed.

    “Low capacity factors from time to time (such as measured at Queanbeyan) are typical.””

    For a person that has worked in the power industry for so long you are very loose with your terminology. Low output is observed however this will contribute to the CP which might be low. Tell me Peter does the power station in Queanbeyan track the sun or are the PV panels fixed in place? This is really important so I would really like a reply.

  181. Stephen Gloor (#225),

    The Queanbeyan site is fixed array.

    But you are missing the point. Yes, capacity factors vary from site to site and by technology. So do capital costs, operating costs, reliability, life expectancy, transmission and storage costs. BUT nowhere near sufficient to make a factor of 20 difference to the capital cost. And solar PV currently seems to be about the most economicaL solar option – as demonstrated by investment.

    Can I suggest, instead of picking at minutiae, do your own calculation of the cost of a solar system to provide 20GW baseload, 25 GW average power, and 33GW peak (at 6:30 pm). We are trying to replace coal and fossil fuel use, so do the calculations of the cost of a system that can do that. Just the dollars, no more “could do this and could do that”.

  182. Stephen, in your post #225 you said “Up north of me here there is a pocket of land that gets an AVERAGE of 10.5 sun hours per day all year round”

    As Barry, I and others have pointed out repeatedly on this thread, the annual average is not relevant. It is the minimum output over the period defined by the amount of energy storage available, that is the key determinant of the cost of the system. The “Solar Power Realities” paper explains this. Some of your comments make me wonder if you have understood this key point.

  183. Stephen Gloor deserves a standing ovation!

    We also have to get rid of one concept and that is off-peak power. Because a renewable solution will consist of devices that can and/or are off at night off-peak power is dead. It is only an artifact of the present thermal power stations that are more economical to keep running therefore power is sold cheaply to try and keep them running as much as possible.

    I believe it will be replaced in the smart grid with opportunity off peak tariffs. Devices with smart controllers can be told that there is surplus of wind at a particular time and now would be a good time to switch on and charge up or whatever as electricity is cheap.
    So true, and basically what I’ve been trying to say is the consensus out there amongst the smart grid authors, many of whom I read at Worldchanging.com.

    Once dumb timed off peak is gone then the overnight demand should drop as some of this load is off-peak load that is there only because power is cheap. This is also a good incentive for big loads to install smart controllers to take advantage of the new low tariff times.
    Another good point.

    Also the thing that you have to get is the TIMING of low solar and wind events. This is what David Mill emphasises and you seemed to have missed. Yes a nuclear plant has a 90% capacity factor however for at least 50% of that time nobody really wants the power and it has to be sold sometimes below cost to keep the nuke running.

    A solar plant without storage may have only a 20% capacity factor however at least 80% or 90% of that time is when people want power. So 30% or 40% of the solar plants will not need storage of only 2 hours as they can sell power into the morning and afternoon peaks as they do now.

    In my layman’s terms, solar thermal gives us maximum kick when we need it, and wind can top up various charging demands when it kicks in, and the smart grid will tell our devices when to charge at maximum speed and (maybe even) when our cars should sell back to the grid at maximum profit.

    …and lets not forget CETO and Geodynamics which have passed the precommercial testing points and are about to be deployed.

    IF Gen4 nukes can work as safely, cleanly, and cheaply as advertised (with not as many hidden “externalities” as today), then by all means we can move on those when they actually exist somewhere other than our imaginations. But for now let’s roll out what we already have as off-the-shelf technology.

  184. Stephen #224: “Obviously I do not as I am struggling with your calculation. Why is the probability of the wind part 0.1^2?”

    That is not referring to wind, that is for the nuclear stations. I had said 30% backup in the line preceeding that calculation, so had obviously meant to write 0.1^3, not 0.1^2. But no matter, the question being answered (simply) was, if each nuclear power station had a 10% uncorrelated probability of an unscheduled downtime during a given time interval, what is the probability of x going down simultaneously? If x = 2, then it was 1%, if x = 3 it was 0.1% and so on.

    “So David Mill’s analysis is wrong?”

    What analysis? Mills calculations are for a single solar thermal plant that can be backed up for 16 hours on the majority of days. How is that relevant to a grid-wide systems analysis in which renewables are the major contributor? Apples and oranges.

    In concert with wind/tidal/wave this will provide the same reliability as your 90% CP nuke or coal plants.

    Where has this ever been demonstrated? I’d be interested in reading this analysis. And not an ‘analysis’ that says this is the case, an analysis that shows, quantitatively using modelling and real-world data, that this is the case. Everything I’ve seen has said essentially the very opposite.

  185. EN #228: IF Gen4 nukes can work as safely, cleanly, and cheaply as advertised (with not as many hidden “externalities” as today), then by all means we can move on those when they actually exist somewhere other than our imaginations.

    Could you clarify what you mean here by Gen IV? And Gen II/III already does all of the above, so I assume you are also supporting that? What hidden externalities are you referring to?

  186. Hi Barry,
    Could you clarify what you mean here by Gen IV? And Gen II/III already does all of the above, so I assume you are also supporting that? What hidden externalities are you referring to?

    1. My definition of Gen4? Nuclear waste-eating and bomb-devouring breeder reactors that come off the line in modular form in such vast quantities that they cease to be some of the most expensive electricity ever invented.

    2. Gen2/3? No, because the “externalities” of burying and protecting the waste for the next 100,000 years doesn’t seem “cost effective” to me, and ANY means of running a renewable energy grid has got to be cheaper, in the long run, than that. I’m all for Gen4 **IF** it can be “walk away safe” and truly economically competitive. But refusing to count the waste disposal for 100,000 years is like not counting the true cost of coal. Different problem, but same basic vibe of an energy company trying to dump its real expenses on the government purse.

  187. Barry Brook – “That is not referring to wind, that is for the nuclear stations.”

    OK I see that now

    “Now look at the June wind graph presented in the Peter Lang responds post. How many times during that month did the entire geographically dispersed wind grid deliver virtually nothing (80% backup? About 19 days.”

    What about if the system consisted of equally sized wind farms? In some of the cases as I have said over and over is that only a small wind farm was operating some of the 5% days.

    In the literature (Robert Davy et al 2003) that is available this is the result:

    “It is evident from this figure that when the wind power output across all states is combined, the likelihood of extreme events (at the level of aggregate power production) is lowered substantially.”

    In the graph the all states probability of output < 5% is less than 1%.

    Also in Brian Martin etal 1984 http://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/pubs/84pswc.pdf there is this
    "To maintain grid reliability (LOLP), additional thermal peak load plant, equivalent in rating to about half the average wind power has to be installed. But since this peak plant is rarely used, and has low capital cost, it plays the role of reliability insurance with low premium."

    I think that this work and Mark's previous papers is the basis of the Base Load Fallacy. Peter Lang's paper is at odds with peer reviewed literature and is therefore very suspect. Basing his conclusions on 11 stations of varying capacity for one month is wrong. Even the Coppin study was based only on where automatic weather stations were situated not the best wind sites so it is far lower that if 9 really first class wind sites were chosen. Even then the chance of output less than 5% is less than 1% completely at odds with Peter's cherry picked data.

    As it is completely at odds with what peer reviewed literature exists I am surprised that you give it any credence at all especially considering the treatment climate change skeptics get presenting their non peer reviewed single papers as evidence that AGW is incorrect.

    "What analysis? Mills calculations are for a single solar thermal plant that can be backed up for 16 hours on the majority of days."

    I don't think you read the paper. It is an analysis of replacing the entire USA demand with solar power.

    "Where has this ever been demonstrated? I’d be interested in reading this analysis. And not an ‘analysis’ that says this is the case, an analysis that shows, quantitatively using modelling and real-world data, that this is the case. Everything I’ve seen has said essentially the very opposite."

    Here I admit there is not much data as no-one has done the figures yet. Any graduate students out there looking for at thesis? Perhaps you can post links to what you have seen that show the opposite.

  188. 1. My definition of Gen4? Nuclear waste-eating and bomb-devouring breeder reactors that come off the line in modular form in such vast quantities that they cease to be some of the most expensive electricity ever invented.

    2. Gen2/3? No, because the “externalities” of burying and protecting the waste for the next 100,000 years doesn’t seem “cost effective” to me, and ANY means of running a renewable energy grid has got to be cheaper, in the long run, than that. I’m all for Gen4 **IF** it can be “walk away safe” and truly economically competitive. But refusing to count the waste disposal for 100,000 years is like not counting the true cost of coal. Different problem, but same basic vibe of an energy company trying to dump its real expenses on the government purse.

    GenII/II reactors would already fulfill most of your requirements with the addition of fuel reprocessing. Once the useable fuel is processed and burned, the final end-product needs to be sequestered from the environment for less than 1000 years… an easy task. Modularity of construction would be an improvement, but your contention that electricity from gen II/III nulear power stations is “some of the most expensive electricity ever produced” is nonsemse. Once these plants are amortized (something that takes only a fraction of their service life) they are ALREADY the cheapest source of electricity, with the possible exception of hydro.

  189. Peter Lang @226

    “The Queanbeyan site is fixed array.”

    Now you did not make this plain at the start so this is false:

    “Power output versus time is a parabolic distribution on a clear day: zero at
    sunrise and sunset, and maximum at midday (See Figure 5).”

    This is only the power output V Time for a FIXED array which you did not make plain. A tracking array has a more level output during the day and gives quite a bit more output. I thought from the graph that it was a fixed array.

    “As Barry, I and others have pointed out repeatedly on this thread, the annual average is not relevant. It is the minimum output over the period defined by the amount of energy storage available, that is the key determinant of the cost of the system. The “Solar Power Realities” paper explains this. Some of your comments make me wonder if you have understood this key point.”

    However you have taken no notice of the points that others have made. Basing your calculations on a single fixed PV array in Queanbeyan is not valid. Also you the power for Queanbeyan does not have to come from Queanbeyan so the CP is determined by the placement of a solar plant in a prime solar location. You also have ignored research by the NREL that gives indicative prices for solar thermal plants with storage that completely contradict your results.

    The minimum output of a solar thermal plant is entirely determined by the amount of storage and the frequency of low insolation events for particular sites and whether they correlate with other low insolation events in other connected sites.

    Lets summarise your paper.

    1. You are basing your calculations of solar costs from on fixed PV array in Queanbeyan.

    2. You are ignoring tracking, concentrating PV and solar thermal with storage.

    3. You did not disclose that the PV array was fixed and presented the output V time as a characteristic of all PV stations.

    4. You base your storage requirements on a 9.4% CP for a day because this is what a fixed array in Queanbeyan does.

    I am not sure however I do not think that you could have been more unscientific. I wonder if Barry was presented with such a paper from one of his students or you had presented this to any one in the solar field what your grade would be.

  190. EN #231:

    1. MOX eats bomb material. That is Gen II/III. The French reprocessing eats spent fuel. That is Gen II/III. Vast quantities? So that rules out technosolar also.

    2. “But refusing to count the waste disposal for 100,000 years is like not counting the true cost of coal. Different problem, but same basic vibe of an energy company trying to dump its real expenses on the government purse.”

    So the fact that the nuclear industry has been paying for this for the last 40 years, via their electricity charges (0.1c/kWh in the US, for instance), is ‘refusing to count’? Ignoring this fact certainly is.

  191. Stephen #232: “Peter’s cherry picked data”.

    It was June 2009, which I presume was the latest month of data available. Here’s a challenge Steve — why don’t you find a month of data (any month, any year) from a regional array of wind farm that DOESN’T show those same characteristics?

    “It is an analysis of replacing the entire USA demand with solar power.”

    No, it isn’t. It’s speculation via simple extrapolation of small to large scale, which is ultimately no different to what Garnaut and Stern do with their top down approaches.

    As it is completely at odds with what peer reviewed literature exists I am surprised that you give it any credence at all especially considering the treatment climate change skeptics get presenting their non peer reviewed single papers as evidence that AGW is incorrect.

    That is an absurd comparison. The peer reviewed literature on this matter of large-scale renewable energy systems analysis is sparse, bordering on non-existent. The literature for AGW is massive. Further, the climate change sceptics simply recycle long-refuted arguements. In this case, by comparison, the arguments haven’t been refuted (except by saying ‘it isn’t so!’). Indeed I can see no one is using scientific data or modelling to come up with a rational supporting analysis that refutes what people like Lang, Mackay, Trainer, Hayden, Barton, me (and many others) are now saying. They simply side-step the issue. Now the work of Jacobson, Diesendorf and others starts this process (which is good and necessary), but it is just the first mile of the marathon.

    Your post at #234 focuses on minutiae and ignores the bigger issue of overbuilding vs capacity factors. Now, certainly I’ll agree that no one can be sure on these matters at this stage — how representative the current data are — and large-scale spatial analysis and modelling studies, underpinned by real-world data, are critically needed. I’m tempted to get into this professional work myself.

  192. Stephen (#234),

    It is becoming increasingly obvious you never even read the paper. If you’d been interested you would have lookewd up the references.

    I’ll repeat the suggestion I made in post #226.

    “Can I suggest, instead of picking at issues that are down in the weeds in the context of the simple analysis described in the paper, you do your own calculation of the cost of a solar system to provide 20 GW baseload, 25 GW average power, and 33 GW peak (at 6:30 pm). We are trying to replace coal and fossil fuel use, so do the calculations of the cost of a system that can do that.”

    If you are are unwilling to attempt that, I’ll assume you are intent on taking issue with minor points that make no difference to the conclusions while ignoring the important points exposed.

  193. Barry, re: storage: “So the fact that the nuclear industry has been paying for this for the last 40 years, via their electricity charges (0.1c/kWh in the US, for instance), is ‘refusing to count’? Ignoring this fact certainly is.”
    Oh really? Who is paying for all the research going into Yucca Mountain?

    “To get a sense of the costs of nuclear waste disposal, we need not look beyond the United States, which leads the world with 101,000 megawatts of nuclear-generating capacity (compared with 63,000 megawatts in second-ranked France). The United States proposes to store the radioactive waste from its 104 nuclear power reactors in the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository, roughly 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada. The cost of this repository, originally estimated at $58 billion in 2001, climbed to $96 billion by 2008. This comes to a staggering $923 million per reactor—almost $1 billion each—assuming no further repository cost increases. (See data).”

    http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update78.htm

    Ooops.

    Also, has 40 years of electricity prices really paid for security monitoring of such sites for 100,000 years? (Nudge nudge, wink wink).

    This is one of the main reasons I’m against any nuclear that doesn’t eat its own crap.

    “Despite all the industry hype about a nuclear future, private investors are openly skeptical. In fact, while little private capital is going into nuclear power, investors are pouring tens of billions of dollars into wind farms each year. And while the world’s nuclear generating capacity is estimated to expand by only 1,000 megawatts this year, wind generating capacity will likely grow by 30,000 megawatts. In addition, solar cell installations and the construction of solar thermal and geothermal power plants are all growing by leaps and bounds.

    The reason for this extraordinary gap between the construction of nuclear power plants and wind farms is simple: wind is much more attractive economically. Wind yields more energy, more jobs, and more carbon reduction per dollar invested than nuclear. Though nuclear power plants are still being built in some countries and governments are talking them up in others, the reality is that we are entering the age of wind, solar, and geothermal energy.”

    http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update78.htm

  194. Peter Lang in #237 completely ignores the valid points Stephen Gloor makes. It’s a classic *whine* then *diversion* tactic.

    “Stop nitpicking!” and “Now run along and do this for me!”

    Peter, how about you actually address the points Stephen makes, or even admit you were wrong to admit these very important facts from your “article”?

    I agree with Barry that this is a fairly new field. Most “off-the-fossil-grid” places seem to be small unconventional villages either running on biomass power or are in hippie “Earthship” lifestyles.

    However, that is no excuse for what appear to be enormously *convenient* omissions in whole sectors of this discussion. Try again Peter.

  195. The reason for this extraordinary gap between the construction of nuclear power plants and wind farms is simple: wind is much more attractive economically. Wind yields more energy, more jobs, and more carbon reduction per dollar invested than nuclear. Though nuclear power plants are still being built in some countries and governments are talking them up in others, the reality is that we are entering the age of wind, solar, and geothermal energy.

    This is utter BS. Their is only ONE reason wind is built *anywhere*, and it’s not ‘economics’ or because wind, as wind, is ‘profitable’. It is because in a place like Europe, EVERY windturbine gets 8 cents per KW/nameplate and the same for producing power per KW/hr. That’s it. As Jerome de Paris what would happen to even operating wind turbines if their much vaunted public subsidey called the “Feed in Tariff” was removed. “Profitable” my ass. It’s my pocket into the wind manufacturers and utilities pockets. SAME in the US, albeit it is “only” 1.8 cents KW/hr here. On, and PV? 50% of the cost is paid for in California. Again, my pocket into the PV manufacturers.

    If wind, PV or CSP had to truly compete with nuclear we’d be *exactly* where we were 10 years ago with No wind; No PV and no CSP…just a lot of nuclear.

    David

  196. Never mind, wiki had an good entry on this (in fact flash desal is often paired with power plants):

    First, the seawater is heated in a container known as a brine heater. This is usually achieved by condensing steam on a bank of tubes carrying sea water through the brine heater. Heated water is passed to another container known as a “stage”, where the surrounding pressure is lower than that in the brine heater. It is the sudden introduction of this water into a lower pressure “stage” that causes it to boil so rapidly as to flash into steam. As a rule, only a small percentage of this water is converted into steam. Consequently, it is normally the case that the remaining water will be sent through a series of additional stages, each possessing a lower ambient pressure than the previous “stage.” As steam is generated, it is condensed on tubes of heat exchangers that run through each stage.

    Such plants can operate at 23-27kWh/m3 of distilled water.[1]

    Because the colder salt water entering the process counterflows with the saline waste water/distilled water, relatively little heat energy leaves in the outflow- most of the heat is picked up by the colder saline water flowing into the process and the energy is recycled.

    In addition MSF distillation plants, especially large ones, are often paired with power plants in a cogeneration configuration. Waste heat from the power plant is used to heat the seawater, providing cooling for the power plant at the same time. This reduces the energy needed from one-half to two-thirds, which drastically alters the economics of the plant, since energy is by far the largest operating cost of MSF plants. Reverse osmosis, MSF distillation’s main competitor, requires more pretreatment of the seawater and more maintenance.[2][3]

  197. “Nudge nudge, wink wink”

    Considering the juvenile nature of that comment, I won’t bother to answer in detail. Please try to grow up if you’re going to be taken seriously on this blog. I might disagree with Stephen Gloor about most things concerning sustainable energy, but at least he has the courtesy to be polite and not condescending.

    But to your basic question: who pays? As I already said, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, requires utilities which generate electricity using nuclear power to pay a fee of one tenth of one cent ($0.001) per kilowatt-hour into the Nuclear Waste Fund. This has paid for all the work (~$9 billion) at Yucca Mountain to date. As of December 31, 2008, payments and interest credited to the Fund totalled $29.6 billion.

    http://www.politicalbase.com/groups/office-of-civilian-radioactive-waste-management/14282/

    http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/repository/index.shtml

    For now, Yucca Mt has been halted, which is a good thing since with fast reactors, it should only ever be conceivably used to store vitrified fission products.

  198. Barry Brook – “Indeed I can see no one is using scientific data or modelling to come up with a rational supporting analysis that refutes what people like Lang, Mackay, Trainer, Hayden, Barton, me (and many others) are now saying.”

    I would agree with you there and more work needs to be done. However flawed work like Peter’s paper do not do the nuclear side of the equation any favours. If you have to nobble the opposition (so to speak – renewables are not opposition) by only using the most expensive type in an unfavourable location then your own arguments look weak in the process.

    I would like to see more research however the work that has been done shows us the way and operational experience in wind and solar I am sure will back up the work that has been done.

  199. Peter Lang – “It is becoming increasingly obvious you never even read the paper. If you’d been interested you would have lookewd up the references.”

    I read the paper thoroughly however you need to address the flaws and do more research.

    “If you are are unwilling to attempt that, I’ll assume you are intent on taking issue with minor points that make no difference to the conclusions while ignoring the important points exposed.”

    The ‘minor’ points that you refer to completely change the conclusions. They are fundamental points that show weaknesses in your research skills and knowledge of renewable energy. They show that your conclusions are based on flawed data and incomplete research and are therefore invalid.

    Before patronising me with a little task to do how about you address the ‘minor’ points I brought up or retract the ‘paper’. I was not the one that set myself up as a energy expert.

    Or lets just call it a day. There are 200 odd comments in this thread and I can see that nothing I can say will cause you to change what is in the paper or even admit what is wrong with it.

  200. Barry Brook said
    24 August 2009 at 9.39

    “Nudge nudge, wink wink”

    Considering the juvenile nature of that comment, I won’t bother to answer in detail.
    So I take it you’re not going to support any nuclear power system that produces the long term waste? Because then at least we could have agreement on the type of nuclear power to construct *IF* it is actually demonstrated to be cheaper, more stable, and politically acceptable. Storing waste for 100 thousand years is NOT going to be covered by the money collected so far!

    “Please try to grow up if you’re going to be taken seriously on this blog. I might disagree with Stephen Gloor about most things concerning sustainable energy, but at least he has the courtesy to be polite and not condescending.”
    And stubbornly ignoring major flaws in Peter’s paper isn’t also condescending? I was just responding in kind. Stephen has been patient in the manner in which he has persistently pointed these out to Peter. Peter has NOT addressed them in any substantive manner, but responded with the blogging equivalent of “Look, bright shiny thing over there!” Unless Peter substantively replies to the main flaws Stephen has highlighted, the sad fact is that this blog will no longer be worth reading.

    And that would be a sad thing indeed. I mean that sincerely. This is an important blog asking important questions, and I’ve learnt a few salient points here. But Peter has stubbornly refused to show integrity in addressing Stephen’s points, and you’ve stuck by him as he does so. It brings into question the integrity of this whole blog. I’m not calling you a liar, but merely highlighting how blogs can quickly be interpreted and dismissed by the vast majority of readers… the “silent lurkers” that read “over the shoulder” of the discussions being had here. Readers can be a fickle mob, and if they get even a whiff of your “experts” not addressing certain questions, they’ll leave.

    “But to your basic question: who pays? As I already said, the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982, requires utilities which generate electricity using nuclear power to pay a fee of one tenth of one cent ($0.001) per kilowatt-hour into the Nuclear Waste Fund. This has paid for all the work (~$9 billion) at Yucca Mountain to date. As of December 31, 2008, payments and interest credited to the Fund totalled $29.6 billion.

    http://www.politicalbase.com/groups/office-of-civilian-radioactive-waste-management/14282/

    http://www.ocrwm.doe.gov/repository/index.shtml

    For now, Yucca Mt has been halted, which is a good thing since with fast reactors, it should only ever be conceivably used to store vitrified fission products.

    Hmm, 29.6 billion? So Lester Brown is lying?
    “The cost of this repository, originally estimated at $58 billion in 2001, climbed to $96 billion by 2008. This comes to a staggering $923 million per reactor—almost $1 billion each—assuming no further repository cost increases. (See data).

    http://www.earthpolicy.org/Updates/2008/Update78.htm

  201. The nuclear waste issue is bogus, the fossil fuel pseudo-environmentalist surrogates blockade ANY METHOD of dealing with Nuclear Waste, which amounts to a coke can full, weighing 2 lbs, for the average citizen’s lifetime energy needs. While YOUR REAL SUBSTITUTE Coal power plant will produce 69 tons of solid waste for the same amount of energy & 1300 tons of total noxious waste. Disposal of waste in Salt Domes, deep Seabeds or deep oceanic trench subduction zones is simple, cheap & safe. The coal power plant produces 2 to 100 times more radioactive waste than the Nuclear Power plant, which they are allowed to happily dump into the environment. So why can’t Nuclear Power plants simply dilute their waste with 1/2 to 1/100th of a Coal Power plants volume of waste, i.e. grind it into a fine powder and mix with sand or dissolve in acid and simply dump in the ocean, at least ONE HUNDRED TIMES less toxic to the environment than your typical Coal Power plant is allowed to do. Or burn the waste in a LIFTR or Liquid Chloride or IFR and get a Trillion dollars worth of clean energy.

    A 1000 MW coal power plant annually produces 6,200,000 tons of CO2, 20,000 tons Sulfur Dioxide, 20,400 tons of Nitrogen Oxides, 1000 tons of Particulates, 250,000 tons of Ash, 386,000 tons of Sludge, 450 pounds of Arsenic, 228 pounds of Lead, 8 pounds of Cadmium, 16 tons of radioactive Uranium and Thorium, and 800 lbs of Mercury.

    The Thorium Molten Salt Reactor would fuel a 1000 MWe power plant for 1 year with 1000 kg of Natural Thorium and generate 1000 kg of waste, 83% of which is valuable for industrial instrumentation, agricultural irradiation and medical cancer treatment and diagnostic imaging. The remaining 170 kg of radioactive waste only needs containment for 300 yrs. The Coal Power Plant thorium waste would run the equivalent Thorium Nuclear Power Plant for 11 years.

    Speaking about storing waste for thousands of years, how is it that Coal with CCS fantasy can pretend to store trillions of tons of CO2 underground, which will be released in an Earth Tremor suffocating any human or animal in the region – perhaps even one million years from now? How is it that the Canadian Government can happily store 237,000 tonnes of Arsenic Trioxide right on the shores of Great Slave Lake – permanently like forever – by keeping it frozen – which requires constant maintenance – enough to kill every person on the Earth 300 times over – and the anti-Nuclear Environmentalists are completely silent about it? The double standard against Safe, Clean, Green Nuclear is incomprehensible until you realize the power and influence of the Fossil Fuel Lobby.

  202. Hi Warren,
    all good points against coal which I think the common greenie now knows, and I’ve never heard of this Canadian “Arsenic bomb”! Wow.

    However, it doesn’t resolve the case in the affirmative for nuclear, just in the negative against coal.

    Now, back to watching whether or not Peter will respond substantively to Stephen’s points…

  203. EN #245: So I take it you’re not going to support any nuclear power system that produces the long term waste?

    I would have no problem with the storage of the small amounts of Gen II/III waste in geological repositories, if that was necessary. But it won’t be, since this spent fuel will be used in Gen IV reactors. The Gen III / Gen IV synergy is splendidly neat. In that context, we should be building as many Gen III plants as we can, as fast as we can, in places like China. US and other well-developed nuclear nations should be building a whole lot more Gen III, with a serious plant to start bringing Gen IVs online ASAP.

    Unless Peter substantively replies to the main flaws Stephen has highlighted, the sad fact is that this blog will no longer be worth reading.

    Well, that’s your choice and the choice of other readers. But you and Stephen are the only ones complaining about this apparent problem. I think the fundamental issue here is that neither Peter, nor myself, can see anything “substantial” to answer. I don’t say this flippantly — I just don’t see what Gloor is getting at, other than sweeping up dust whilst ignoring the elephant in the room.

    Perhaps I am missing something important, but either way, this might constitute a form of cognitive dissonance. To break it, I suggest this. Post one ‘substantive point’ at a time, and I (or Peter) will provide an answer to it**

    Hmm, 29.6 billion? So Lester Brown is lying?

    Brown, in citing the $96 billion figure, is quoting projected costs through to 2133. I’m talking about costs to date ($9 billion) and the size of the funding base provided by the utilities to date ($30 billion). Given (a) utility funds will continue to accumulate (so $96 billion by 2133 will be easily met) and (b) we don’t need to spend that money on Yucca Mt anyway because fast reactors will better solve the issue, I think agonising about this is a pointless exercise.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yucca_Mountain_nuclear_waste_repository

    **I fly out to Spain in 30 min, so any response from me won’t be for about 36 hours.

  204. Barry Brook – “I think the fundamental issue here is that neither Peter, nor myself, can see anything “substantial” to answer. I don’t say this flippantly — I just don’t see what Gloor is getting at, other than sweeping up dust whilst ignoring the elephant in the room.”

    If you cannot see the problems then we should end the discussion here. To anyone that has the smallest knowledge of renewable energy, like me, the problems stand out like you know what. Neil posted many of the problems with the first paper let alone the second.

    Again if the answers in the ‘papers’ are what you want then nothing I say will make a difference – the same thing I said to Peter.

  205. (about to get on a plane, definitely my last comment for 36 hrs!)

    Stephen, please humour me and state the first major problem with Lang’s analysis. I will answer that (if I can) and then move to objection #2. I really do believe that breaking the problem down into pieces will help to get to the bottom of this.

  206. I’ll take a wild stab in the dark and summarise Stephen’s problems with the paper from post #234

    ***

    1. You are basing your calculations of solar costs from on fixed PV array in Queanbeyan.

    2. You are ignoring tracking, concentrating PV and solar thermal with storage.

    3. You did not disclose that the PV array was fixed and presented the output V time as a characteristic of all PV stations.

    4. You base your storage requirements on a 9.4% CP for a day because this is what a fixed array in Queanbeyan does.

    I am not sure however I do not think that you could have been more unscientific. I wonder if Barry was presented with such a paper from one of his students or you had presented this to any one in the solar field what your grade would be.

  207. Barry Brook – “Stephen, please humour me and state the first major problem with Lang’s analysis.”

    Honestly if you can’t see a problem with a fixed array of mono or poly crystalline cell PV panels in Queanbeyan being used to represent solar power in general then we can stop right here.

    Objections are.

    1. Any large PV array for bulk generation of power would track the sun
    2. If it did not track the sun then you would use thin-film that are cheap enough not to bother.
    3. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer
    4. The large scale PV answer is concentrating solar PV and it defineately tracks.
    5. The large scale solar solution is solar thermal as it is far cheaper in large arrays
    6. Solar thermal has the potential to have storage added at reasonable cost allowing 24X7 operation.

    So that’s the first one – enjoy the renewable energy in Spain.

  208. Lets start by focussing on just the fixed vs tracking array criticism.

    A key issue that both Stephen and Eclipsenow have is that Peter used a fixed array solar farm, rather than a tracking array. Obviously a tracking array will achieve better output. If the difference between a fixed and tracking array is sufficiently large, it might invalidate Peter’s conclusions.

    This is Eclipsenow’s points 1, 2, 3, and 4. It is Stephen’s points 1, 2, and 4. They raise other points in combination, but clearly this is a big deal for them, so I suggest we try to deal with this first. The list of criticisms might be reduced if the difference between a fixed and tracking collector is quantified.

    Data for fixed plate collectors vs tracking collectors is available for the US at http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/old_data/nsrdb/redbook/atlas/Table.html. Lets consider average insolation for August (over 30 years) for fixed collectors tilted south at the site latitude, and compare it to solar collectors that track the sun in two angles.

    The insolation numbers vary according to location. Lets take the numbers for Hawaii.

    The August 30-year average insolation for fixed collectors is 5.13 kWh/m^2/day.
    The August 30-year average insolation for 2D tracking collectors is 6.61 kWh/m^2/day.

    A tracking array in Hawaii in August does about 29% better than a fixed array. . The percentage improvement is about the same elsewhere in the US, and at other times of the year. Its probably about the same in the mid latitudes here. In particular, its probably about the same in Queanbeyan.

    So Peter’s cruelly underestimated solar PV output by a factor of 1.3x. Does this change his conclusion?

    Peter’s summary conclusion is,

    The capital cost would be 25 times more than nuclear power. The least-cost solar option would require 400 times more land area and emit 20 times more CO2 than nuclear power.

    Before going on, just note that we are going to make about a 1.3x adjustment to Peter’s numbers in favour of the solar pv option, and check whether it makes up for factors of 20-400x. This is what Peter means when he says picking at minutiae or hunting down in the weeds. Its not whining, its just having a basic sense of quantity.

    So, the capital cost $/MWhr would probably not be much different, since part or all of the 30% greater plant output has to be paid for with more expensive tracking collectors. And you also need to invest in dams, pumps and turbines, or a lot of batteries. And transmission. So the 30% benefit of tracking first gets eaten up by more expensive collectors, and then diluted by other major capex in the solar plant.

    Stephen writes, Any large PV array for bulk generation of power would track the sun. Well, someone built one in Queanbeyan which doesn’t, apparently. I can only guess they looked at the ROI for cheaper fixed PVs vs higher output but more expensive tracking collectors, and found power from the fixed array was more economical.

    This suggests the capital costs do not come down substantially for tracking arrays.

    On the land area, suppose it is reduced by a factor of 1.3. So the solar pv only occupies 300x the land area of a nuclear plant. Does this change matters, from the original 400x factor? Frankly, I don’t think so.

    Its not clear to me how the lifecycle co2 emissions have been calculated. But, to keep focus on the question of whether a fixed collector or tracking collector changes the conclusion, I’ll take the factor of 20x at face value. If the co2 emissions are reduced, the best that could be hoped for would be a reduction of 1.3x, to only 15x as much co2 as nuclear. But, since the collectors are not the only contributor to plant lifecycle co2 emissions, it won’t be that good. Its probably still closer to 20x than 15x the co2 output.

    So, to conclude – is Lang’s conclusion that nuclear is far superior on the key metrics than solar pv changed if we consider a tracking array rather than a fixed array? Lets see:

    – the capital cost does not look like it goes down, in fact it probably goes up a bit
    – the land area might come down, but not by enough to have any policy implication
    – the co2 emissions do not change enough to change any policy assessment away from Peter’s conclusion

    So I don’t see how deploying tracking arrays changes Peter’s headline conclusion.

  209. Warren Heath writes,

    … Coal with CCS fantasy can pretend to store trillions of tons of CO2 underground, which will be released in an Earth Tremor

    Coal with CCS is a fantasy, but CCS is not. The distinction is important because it may become necessary to capture and sequester carbon that is already in the atmosphere, without regard to which fossil fuel it came from, and without, of course, building special new converters of coal to CO2.

    Let me stress that. Serious sequestration does not have, as its first step, the production of more CO2 so as to have something to sequester. We’ve got that.

    It is true that burial of fluid CO2 is rarely discussed by serious people, but this is not because it would necessarily be unreliable. I seem to recall natural pools of CO2 exist some places on the ocean bottom, and this, if true, would not be very surprising because CO2 is stable there.

    However, thermodynamics favours the conversion of dilute atmospheric CO2 into even stabler forms: bicarbonate ion dissolved in the ocean, or solid carbonate or bicarbonates on land. This occurs naturally, and speeding it up by pulverizing the carbonate-forming minerals is the easiest and cheapest way to get CO2 down. The mineral does the work, we just catalyse.

    This is the only form of CCS that has aggressively demonstrated itself.

    So, Warren Heath, are you going to repeat my above message in other conversations, in your own words, at least ten times? Or do I have to?

    (Why, in “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, was it not mentioned that the little boy had to repeat himself 30,000 times, and ~25,000 of the listeners said something like, “You’re right, the Emperor has really made a fool of himself. Green corduroy! What could he have been thinking?!”?)

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  210. John,
    I just copied and pasted Stephen’s summary points, they were not mine.

    I did so because he has repeated them about 3 or 4 times on this thread, and then it became truly surreal and comical.

    He got fed up that his MAIN points had been ignored and said so.
    Barry said he should post them again.
    Peter asked why, nobody had addressed them so far.
    Barry said: “Stephen, please humour me”
    I was nervous that the discussion was just going south because Stephen looked like he was about to leave, and so copied and pasted his summary points.
    Then Peter was good natured enough to paste them in again (5th time this thread?) and you addressed…. maybe one of them on PV tracking.

    So, once again, I’ll copy and paste Stephen’s MAIN points.

    (subtracting the tracking for now)

    *****

    3. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer
    4. The large scale PV answer is concentrating solar PV and it defineately tracks.
    5. The large scale solar solution is solar thermal as it is far cheaper in large arrays
    6. Solar thermal has the potential to have storage added at reasonable cost allowing 24X7 operation.

    *****

    Eclipse here again: remember, Stephen includes 3,5,6 because this article attempts to debunk ALL solar on the basis of the MOST EXPENSIVE SOLAR BY FAR.

    He TOTALLY IGNORES the cheapest solar which is now also approaching baseload. There must be 10 new approaches (or refinments to existing approaches) to solar thermal with storage that I’ve heard of this year alone, and so the costs just keep tumbling down. When these companies finally move beyond “getting established” in the peak demand market and start to deploy in the night time market it will be a really exciting race to the lowest price and most reliable technology matrix. It’s not like there is only 1 or 2 technologies out there to cost, but literally dozens of variations on the solar thermal theme, with dozens of new heat resistant materials and fluids that should be mixed and matched for the best fit with the best approach.

    No wonder Peter Lang directs our attention to solar PV, it’s a much easier target!

  211. Let’s not just focus on that, because:-
    1. I’ve already conceded the point… I don’t know if Stephen Gloor has more to add on that, but I actually think it is one of the minor points.

    2. The WORST of Peter Lang’s omissions is that he tried to generalise his PV findings across into Solar thermal. That’s as bad as anti-nuke campaigners arguing we shouldn’t develop nuclear because of Chernobyl. Nuclear technology has progressed so much since then you guys are arguing another Chernobyl is IMPOSSIBLE, and that it is a TOTALLY different technology today! Well buddy, it’s the same with solar thermal. So let’s NOT just focus on the one point I (for one) have already conceded, and let’s concentrate on the fact that we are now at post 257 and Solar thermal has STILL not been addressed. Again, it is making this blog appear agenda driven propaganda rather than science. Have you guys got shares invested in nuclear or something? It’s simply getting that bad. (And that boring to have to keep repeating this!!!!)

    Once again…

    *****
    3. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer
    4. The large scale PV answer is concentrating solar PV and it definitely tracks.
    5. The large scale solar solution is solar thermal as it is far cheaper in large arrays
    6. Solar thermal has the potential to have storage added at reasonable cost allowing 24X7 operation.

  212. Let’s not just focus on that, because:-
    1. I’ve already conceded the point…

    OK, thats great. I think we might have made some progress, assuming Stephen also feels that the fixed vs. tracking array question has been addressed to his satisfaction.

    Got to run now, but I’ll look at the next item on the list when I can (or some else can).

  213. I hope so, because Stephen’s point 3 kind of rules the previous point which I (not Stephen) have conceded as IRRELEVANT anyway!

    *****
    3. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer
    *****

    So I hope you’re not thinking “Phew, glad I’ve the problem 50% solved with these guys…” because as far as I can tell, this minor point really was one of the ‘weeds’. You’ve still got the ‘forest’ to clear.

    *****
    5. The large scale solar solution is solar thermal as it is far cheaper in large arrays
    6. Solar thermal has the potential to have storage added at reasonable cost allowing 24X7 operation.

  214. #3. So…if PV is not an answer, why is it being *pushed* so much? California is building ridiculously expensive PV ‘farms’, for example. So, obviously, ‘some people’, those with tax dollars, ARE talking about this expensive boutique power as ‘large scale’.

    5. The large scale solar solution is solar thermal as it is far cheaper in large arrays
    6. Solar thermal has the potential to have storage added at reasonable cost allowing 24X7 operation.

    #5/6. CSP, because it’s based on a very traditional Rankine cycle power plant configuration has “potential”. Hmmm…

    One has to ask, since just about all the technology is “proven” why no is building it for 24/7 power output? I see “12 hours”, “17 hours” etc. One of the problems is that the TRUE name plate capacity crashes if you go to a real 24 hour system (also being proposed, seriously in my state). This means, because you are still talking about an average of .22 capacity factor for a day, of dividing THIS amount by the remaining 18 hours of non-use with storage. So your “200MW CSP plant” ends up looking like a “50 MW CSP” plant. That’s one issue…

    But it points to the larger issue of having to hugely overbuild, way and above the cost of nuclear, for geographically isolated power plants. *What would be the point*?

    Now I suppose we are talking about “well, it only has to produce on demand power for say, the peak period, only few hours after solar peak”. True. But a half truth. If you want to run a GRID, you better have full capacity 24/7 available. CSP can’t, and will never, deliver this at a reasonable cost and *abundant* quantity.

  215. Hi All:

    Just finished reading through all 257 posts, and feel I must add my ten cent’s worth.

    Firstly if the Australian population is going to double by 2050 (to 44 million), the energy demands will scale accordingly. The existing generation and supply infrastructure is already borderline inadequate (and with power outages a regular occurrence, one could argue that the borderline term is being particularly generous!). In order to meet the demand shortfall, there will be a need for fairly urgent commitment to additional generation & diswtribution infrastructure. Present options for generation include:

    1. Coal / Oil / Gas fired conventional generation expansion. From the above posts. not a preferred option becaulse of the pollution burden (gaseous and solid wastes), and finite supply limitations on the fuelstock. The technology is however mature, reasonably inexpensive and rather less emotionally inflammatory than Nuclear, Wind Farms, etc. Advantages are that power output is independent of external climatic variables (i.e. effectively demand-led)

    2. Solar: PV. Cost is the major issue here. Top quality monocrystalline panels are extremely expensive, and the production process isn’t exactly environmentally benign either. Seasonal and diurnal variation in output means that a means to store excess capacity will need to be considered, and if a tracking system is included then the cost increases. The perception that PV is a fit and forget option is only valid if one is happy with a very much reduced efficiency. Any tracking system will require added capital investment, and a significant ongoing maintenance programme, all of which cost.

    3. Solar: Thermal. More efficient (maybe 4x more efficient) than PV. Great work being done in this area by Queensland Centre for Advanced Technology (QCAT) with their Solar Stirling programme. Stopped owing to lack of funding (seems Horse Racing / V8 Supercars / football are more important . . . . ), however with a little more funding this idea could provide a local generation capacity, and generation diversity (i.e. not putting all our eggs in the one basket!) Solar thermal has been shown to work in the US, however the set up costs were high, and ongoing maintenance is not cheap either.

    Big problem with solar – no matter what system you choose, to get a lot of energy out means a large collecting area. Large areas of critically aligned movable collectors (PV panels, Mirrors, whatever) will require regular maintenance, need an inexpensive site (cheap land = remote land), and will require a link to “civilisation”, to provide the energy input, and to provide spares, personnel, etc. Personnel might be a problem too; people prefer not to work in the back of beyond, so to attract the staff needed (who will need to be reasonably well qualified too) will add to the “running costs” – higher than usual salaries, pleasant living conditions, probably accepted home comforts (including water . . . .), etc.

    Best of all – the Outback is famous for it’s dust storms – and dust = surface contamination. Looks like the collector arrays will also need regular cleaning (and with abrasive dust getting into moving parts, maybe more than the occasional lubricate).

    Without cheap, bulk energy storage, definitely not a “base-band” proposition, and seasonal variation would see a reduction in max. output in the Winter months (when electrical heating demands are highest).

    4. Wind: A Straightforward technology, using established systems. More efficient in terms of kWh per $ than PV or Solar thermal, and offers potentially a much higher energy yield per area. Downside is that the towers are visually intrusive (brings up the “Not in MY Back Yard” phenomenon), occasionally noisy, and maintenance is not inexpensive. There have also been disturbing reports of unexpected, catastrophic blade failures resulting in tower collapses. On a small scale wind power is safe and useful (I’ve got one I built myself), however wind power is particularly variable, even in exposed coastal locations, and the optimum location for good wind harvesting is usually offshore, with the problems associated thereof.

    5. Tidal / Wave: Tidal is an established technology, but dependent on a reasonably high tidal range to provide sufficient head of pressure. Wavepower using a bobbing “duck” mechanism has been trialled with interesting results (using the “ducks” to operate air pumps, thence operate a small generator), however seawater is a very chemically and biologically hostile environment, so maintenance will be a major cost. The Scandinavian Wave Flume system is less demanding on maintenance but visually more intrusive. Advantages are that Tidal is extremely reliable, and output planning may be performed months (or years) in advance. Wavepower is somewhat more capricious, so can not be relied upon for a baseband provision.

    6. Geothermal. This is my favourite! The technology is do-able, and as far as we can determiine the energy source is enduring. The Oil Industry has been digging deep holes for decades, as has the Mining Industry, however the costs of deep drilling are not insignificant!! There has been a successful trial in Western Australia, and there have been prior programmes in the US and Europe. Water-based steam generation would be a simple method, although there are other options. An attractive idea is to use seawater as a feed, and condense the steam as an additional source of fresh water (got to be cheaper than Coal-fired electric desalination!). Land surface area commitment is minimal, and (as far as we can see) environmental impact minimal, so this technology would be ideal in areas where hot subsurface strata are easily accessable. On the basis of continual availability, this is an ideal baseband power source.

    7. Nuclear: Established mature technology. Very high energy density, small land area commitment, ideal baseband source (continuous output), not fashionable (“Chernobyl Effect”) but actually considerably safer than fossil fuel generation in terms of net health impact on the local population. No-one seems happly to live near to a Nuclear station, and there are significant extra capital costs in construction, maintenance, fuelling management (including reprocessing / waste management)and decommissioning.

    8. Thermonuclear: Still “Work in Progress” with many technical obstacles yet to be surmounted. Heaps of potential but not yet a practicable contender.

    Personally I’m a great fan of Geothermal as along term solution. Yes I know that drilling deep holes is challenging, but the technology DOES exist, and steam generation systems have been around for a very long time. Using saltwater as a feedstock might help with the freshwater problem facing Australia, and the smaller land area commitment would allow the generation centres to be nearer the end users (so minimising transmission line costs, losses and maintenance).

    p.s. At home we use geoexchange AC – and Geoexchange HWS. Not cheap, but pays for itself in the long term, and that’s what we all need to do – forget “short-termism” and concentrate on the LONG term solution!

  216. Curious how the Ontario Gov’t, which has probably the strongest Renewable Energy Subsidy program in North America, offers no subsidy for CSP, but offers a 44 to 80 cent per kwh subsidy for Solar PV, plus generous subsidies for Wind, onshore & offshore & home, biogas, micro-hydro, landfill gas & biomass. Seems the Ontario Gov’t doesn’t feel CSP is not viable there.

    Apparently that huge subsidy is insufficient, however:

    “….Developers of multi-megawatt solar projects, meanwhile, said a tariff of 44.3 cents for power from large solar farms still wouldn’t make such initiatives economical enough to proceed. One solar-industry executive, who didn’t want to be named, cited a tight capital market and poor exchange rate for the concern. “The math still does not work,” he said….”

    “…”We are angry because the various government agencies kept telling us not to make waves, that the new numbers would play into the developers’ favour. All are feeling shafted.” …”

    <a href"http://www.thestar.com/Business/article/601464&quot; title="Ontario's Feed-in Tariff Program"

  217. First Warren, your article doesn’t actually discuss solar thermal but solar PV, from the graph through to home owners through to the utilities. I see NO evidence of solar thermal being discussed! You’re basically doing a Peter Lang and debunking Chernobyl again.

    Second, the Australian government only just learnt the words “Solar thermal baseload” because Matthew Wright bothered to rock up to our energy and resources minister and show him a video of one on his laptop. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Ontario was having trouble keeping up with the technology changes.

    Third, some of the technologies are being incrementally improved as we speak. Fresnel lenses for solar thermal are being implemented in a system with a new thermally resistant processor so that higher steam temperatures can be endured by the equipment. The technology exists, but the fastest way the company can make a profit is by hitting the peak load market. Once they have a market foothold they can deploy even larger investments with the profits. But sadly, it is the nature of cautious governments with so many alternative technologies that they have a “let the market fix it” approach, and “wait and see” which technologies survive that initial round of jousting in the marketplace. Then they might actually back a certain new proven solar thermal technology.

    Which slows down the initial deployment, but could have the effect that when we DO deploy a better solar thermal system does so. We shall see. These are just some of the new refinements in solar thermal technology. Download them to your iPod and enjoy on a good long walk… especially the first one on the Lloyd graphite system for storing solar thermal energy in graphite blocks DIRECTLY! (the heat is not siphoned off for storage, but is all directed straight onto the graphite block first of all!)

    http://beyondzeroemissions.org/lloyd-energy-systems-graphite-block-storage-steve-hollis

    http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/solar-power-with-storage-firming-wind-power-for-continuous-supply-chris-turchi-nrel

    http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/combined-heat-and-power-for-urban-and-industrial-environments-graham-ford-heliodynamics

    http://www.beyondzeroemissions.org/solar-power-salt-storage-baseload-power-rainer-aringhoff-solar-millennium%20

    http://podcast.beyondzeroemissions.org/index.php?id=125

  218. David Walters – “One has to ask, since just about all the technology is “proven” why no is building it for 24/7 power output?”

    Solar Tres will have 17 hours of storage which will give it 24X7 capability.

    http://www.solarpaces.org/Tasks/Task1/Solar_Tres.htm

    So far the market is such that commercial plants being built are selling into certain portions of the market such as morning and afternoon peak. They have calculated the minimum storage necessary to give firm capacity with little risk of missing contracts.

    Distributed solar plants will lessen the need for storage however when/if solar thermal starts to replace thermal coal on a large scale then certain plants will have to have more storage than others. Also as operational experience with other forms of renewables builds up then this will also determine the amount of storage required.

    I regret mentioning the tracking point however you have all missed an important point. With solar PV there is always a problem with tracking as often the cost of the tracker is more than the revenue from the extra solar energy you receive. Most fixed solar PV arrays are fixed because they are optimised for a particular market and deliver maximum power then. Also thin film cells are cheap enough not to need tracking as the cost of extra cells is far below the cost of the trackers.

    However the large scale PV solution is concentrating solar PV that has to be tracked otherwise it does not work. Because they use far less expensive silicon and more cheaper reflectors they are possibly economical in large scales. They also have the advantage of needing far less water than solar thermal.

    http://www.solfocus.com/en/index.php

    The tracking issue I should have left out until I mentioned the error of fact.

    This is the actual issue that I would like a response on:

    “Honestly if you can’t see a problem with a fixed array of mono or poly crystalline cell PV panels in Queanbeyan being used to represent solar power in general then we can stop right here.”

    If nobody can see a problem with this then we can leave the discussion.

  219. Stephen, I’m glad the question of fixed vs stationary arrays has been resolved.

    I’m going to remove the tracking array question from your list of issues with Lang’s analysis, and see which issues remain:

    1. Any large PV array for bulk generation of power would track the sun
    2. If it did not track the sun then you would use thin-film that are cheap enough not to bother.
    3. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer
    4. The large scale PV answer is concentrating solar PV and it defineately tracks.
    5. The large scale solar solution is solar thermal as it is far cheaper in large arrays
    6. Solar thermal has the potential to have storage added at reasonable cost allowing 24X7 operation.

    Some of these items appear to repeat, so I’m going to refactor the list to try to get a single issue per point. The remaining issues I can pull out of this list are (and I’m going to call this a revision 2 of your list, to avoid confusion):

    2.1. Cheap thin film PV could be viable
    2.2. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer (ie Lang’s taking down a straw man)
    2.3. Lang’s analysis doesn’t consider concentrating PV, which could be viable
    2.4. Lang’s analysis doesn’t consider solar thermal (which is both cheaper in itself and has more economical storage solutions)

    Would you agree that this list represents your issues with Lang’s analysis? Have I been fair to your position in listing them this way? Are there separate issues you want to add (the error of fact you allude to, perhaps), or remove?

  220. John D Morgan

    “2.1. Cheap thin film PV could be viable
    2.2. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer (ie Lang’s taking down a straw man)
    2.3. Lang’s analysis doesn’t consider concentrating PV, which could be viable
    2.4. Lang’s analysis doesn’t consider solar thermal (which is both cheaper in itself and has more economical storage solutions)”

    Looks good for me however this was the start. The first issue is Lang is taking down a straw man because solar PV is not SOLAR total. It is one aspect of solar that has it’s advantages and disadvantages.

    The error of fact is this – from Langs paper

    “2. Power output versus time is a parabolic distribution on a clear day: zero at
    sunrise and sunset, and maximum at midday (See Figure 5).”

    This should be “Power output versus time for a fixed array …..” Because Lang does not specify this a reader could think that this is a characteristic of all solar power. Errors of fact this fundamental go to the authors credibility.

    Other big problems are:

    “The capacity factor on the worst days, or worst period of continuous days, defines how much energy storage is needed.”

    This is only true for an isolated system when in fact no grid connected system is isolated. If this were true then when a nuclear power station was being refuelled all the consumers would be in the dark for two months. In reality all grid connected power stations support each other to supply demand and this is no different when considering solar power.

    The storage requirement is determined by analysing the risk of a low power event and applying the correct amount of storage to make this risk as small as possible. No one single solar power station has to supply 24X7 power 365 days of the year and therefore does not have to have storage to do this.

    “Pumped-hydro storage is the least cost option that can meet these requirements”

    Langs neglect of Solar Thermal means that the least cost storage may not be pumped hydro.

    “But all of eastern Australia can be covered by cloud at the same time so the problem is reduced but not removed by having distributed solar
    farms.”

    Where is the reference for this? When was the entire east coast covered in cloud?

  221. Love geothermal as well, but since when was wavepower not baseload?

    http://www.ceto.com.au/home.php

    The circular motion rather than up and down motion means it can operate in high or low waves. The energy is there, and this seems to be the most low-tech “plumbing” way of harvesting it. No electronics at sea, underwater, not intrusive visually or to shipping.

    And… did you watch Shai Agassi’s “Better Place” electric car schemes for Ausralia? He’s already planning that these cars will sell back to the grid. Every 50 thousand cars = 1 gigawatt worth of “grid smoothing”. So I guess roll out those EV’s in tandem with the wind… as is the Better Place model anyway!

    But I’m with you in that I love geothermal as well, especially the Hot Rock approach by Geodynamics.

  222. Stephen,

    2.2. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer (ie Lang’s taking down a straw man)
    2.4. Lang’s analysis doesn’t consider solar thermal (which is both cheaper in itself and has more economical storage solutions)

    I think you make a fair point here. Neither the title to Peter’s paper, nor its abstract, nor its introduction, nor its conclusion, make mention of the fact that the scope of the analysis is limited to photovoltaics and excludes solar thermal. Barry’s post title is similarly unqualified. I think it would be reasonable to request Peter issue a revision of the paper that makes those qualifications apparent in title, abstract, intro and conclusion. Peter – how about it?

    Having said that, Barry’s post states quite clearly up front:

    “This is about solar photovoltaics (PV), which generate electricity directly via the photoelectric effect.”

    When I read Peter’s article, I understood I was reading about PV. But without Barry’s intro, I probably would have got a long way through his paper before realizing it.

    On the question of CSP analysis, Barry has said above,

    “[Ted Trainer] has attempted an analysis of CSP, and I might post up a highlight of this shortly ..”
    “As noted above, the solar story is not complete without also looking hard at the situation for solar thermal power. I will address this in due course.”
    “Anyway, as I said a couple of times in the above post, I will do another post on CSP shortly. I’m hardly refusing to talk about it.”

    He’s made it abundantly clear that he intends to address this topic I’m prepared to take him at his word and see what he has to say on the matter.

    If Peter were to revise his text with suitable qualifications on the scope of his treatment, and we accept that an analysis of CSP is forthcoming, could we put items 2.2 and 2.4 to rest? That would mean we are talking about an analysis of PV here.

  223. Eclipsenow re post – 264

    “Second, the Australian government only just learnt the words “Solar thermal baseload” because Matthew Wright bothered to rock up to our energy and resources minister and show him a video of one on his laptop. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Ontario was having trouble keeping up with the technology changes.”

    A very minor point I should add :

    The Australian gov have known about all these technologies for a long time, if an individual politician doesn’t know that tells you more about the politician’s ignorance I would say.

    See the Australian Federal Government’s 2007 “Inquiry into developing Australia’s non-fossil fuel energy industry in Australia: Case study into selected renewable energy sectors” most gov’s are fully aware of all the choices I think, they just get lobbyed by various industries too much.

    In fact they all got together in Canberra and had a big scrap over our tax dollars recently, this article makes interesting reading :

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/business/story/0,,25970677-36418,00.html

  224. re post 221 :

    John Newlands said

    “Constraints in the energy mix include build time, capital rationing, carbon intensity, nimbyism, …”

    & Furball post 261

    “Downside is that the towers are visually intrusive (brings up the “Not in MY Back Yard” phenomenon)”

    This is slightly off topic so I apologise in advance, but it appears very often in posts around the net, so I’ll be quick :

    It pains me every time I see this word, because it downplays peoples legitimate concerns and rights. The industry and gov’s love it because it is easy to name call, and this is really just all that it is, a schoolyard name calling tactic.

    Sustainability also encompasses people and the places they live, its not just about technology and numbers.

    I recommend this study “Beyond NIMBYism” ->

    http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/research/beyond_nimbyism/

    Project Summary :

    “The Energy White Paper (2003) and recently published Energy Review (2006) contain ambitious goals for decarbonising the UK economy, including increasing development of renewable energy technologies (RET) to provide 20% of UK electricity supply by 2020 (it is currently about 5%) and thus facilitate a step change in carbon emissions reduction by 2050.

    The significance of issues of public acceptability are being increasingly recognised by policy makers, the research community and other stakeholders as a necessary condition of reaching this 20% goal. However, our current level of understanding of public views and how they might be relevant to the way in which RETs are evolving (including understandings of the public based upon the NIMBY ‘Not In My Back Yard’ concept), is both limited and restricted, excepting a few case-studies of onshore wind energy development.

    In this light, this project, which is part of a major national programme funded by the Government’s Economic and Social Research Council, seeks to significantly extend the current research base by examining a range of forms of technology which are expected to figure, to varying degrees, in the UK renewable energy profile – offshore wind, biomass of various forms, small scale HEP, large scale photovoltaics and more speculatively the various ocean technologies currently under development.”

    Their reports and project summaries are available :

    http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/research/beyond_nimbyism/deliverables/outputs.htm

    http://www.sed.manchester.ac.uk/research/beyond_nimbyism/deliverables/reports.htm

  225. Forgot to add the link for the Australian Federal Government’s 2007 “Inquiry into developing Australia’s non-fossil fuel energy industry in Australia: Case study into selected renewable energy sectors”

    This is the transcript of the solar discussion, Steve Hollis from Lloyd Energy Systems spoke at length.

    Solar : http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/reps/commttee/R10337.pdf

    The Australian Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism

    http://www.ret.gov.au/energy/Pages/index.aspx

    has recently announced its $500 million Renewable Energy Fund and the $150 million Energy Innovation Fund, $100 million of which is allocated to the establishment of the Australian Solar Institute. There is also an Energy White Paper scheduled for release at the end of 2009 to announce Australian energy policy

    http://www.ret.gov.au/energy/facts/white_paper/Pages/default.aspx)

    For recent research in solar see the ARC Centre for Solar Energy Systems at ANU

    http://solararc.anu.edu.au/

    Solar Energy at ANU :

    http://solar.anu.edu.au/

    and the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems :

    http://solar.anu.edu.au/cses.php

    The most recent research I’ve heard about supported by the Australian Government Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism for storage technologies for solar power stations are $7.4million

    http://www.wizardpower.com.au/

    and $5million for Lloyd and the graphite block + solar concentrators :

    http://www.lloydenergy.com

    Other recent advances in photovoltaic solar panels in Australia are Sliver Cells :

    http://solar.anu.edu.au/research/sliver.php

    which have been licensed by Origin Energy :

    http://www.originenergy.com.au/1233/SLIVER-technology

    It is interesting that SLIVER have caused much of a stir, and have been in the research stage for many years, ORIGIN however have yet to get it to market…

    Other research in solar technology are the flexible printable organic cells being developed at Monash University :

    http://www.chem.monash.edu.au/solar/index.html

    + the Victorian Organic Solar Cell Consortium :

    http://www.vicosc.unimelb.edu.au/index.html

    apologies if these links are already given above, not had much time to catch up on this thread. Just how viable this tech is of course remains to be seen. I’ll need to do more research on the tech, Peter’s paper and read through all the posts here properly.

  226. John D Morgan – “If Peter were to revise his text with suitable qualifications on the scope of his treatment, and we accept that an analysis of CSP is forthcoming, could we put items 2.2 and 2.4 to rest? That would mean we are talking about an analysis of PV here.”

    However then what is the point of the original paper other than conventional PV panels are not really suitable for large scale power plants which everybody knew anyway!!!

    I would prefer him to retract the paper, do some more research, perhaps using the link that I posted ages ago as a start and making a meaningful contribution.

    What I cannot reconcile, if we accept the points you mentioned, why the paper was posted in the first place.

  227. Re Eclipsenow posts regarding Better Place

    We need a “Better Plan” for the Better Place :

    http://betterplan.squarespace.com/

    The Better Place sticker saying “my next car will run on the wind” should also come with a large print warning, a bit like on cigarette packets saying “Caution : Wind energy can be harmful to the public and the environment”

    Dont be suckered in by “ad campaigns”. Have you asked the Better Place people how ethically they intend to obtain all their “clean and green” energy? Are they going to guarantee that no communities or ecologies were harmed in the obtaining of this electricity?

  228. Sorry mate, I’m not in control of all that. These will need to be NIMBY battles fought out in local areas. If I were in control there would be an absolute minimum distance from any home. Wind turbines would also probably have to be built in rural areas already developed for farming cattle etc. As the wind farming health effects come out into the media, they’ll make better decisions. But I don’t run the show.

    It doesn’t disprove the physics of the Better Place plan though, and is only a concern about wind turbines that can be solved by the following 3 words:

    *Use where appropriate*.

    For instance, we’re not going to stick nuclear power plants on Farm Cove and ruin our view of Sydney Harbour and our botanical gardens are we?

  229. I will be pleased to make changes to the paper to improve it.

    However, I will make any changes at one time.

    John D Morgan, at post #266, you were part way through a process to clarify the issues.

    I’d like to see that final outcome of that process first.

  230. Thanks Peter, thats great.

    Stephen: “What I cannot reconcile, if we accept the points you mentioned, why the paper was posted in the first place.”

    I think any analysis of these issues is worthwhile, and even if “everyone knows” PV is not suitable for large scale, its worth knowing with some quantification how unsuitable it is, and under what sorts of conditions or assumptions. Its useful to see where PV stands relative to other technologies, and for the discussion of a grid composed of a mixture of power sources, it helps see just how big a fraction PV might reasonably take. I also think, even though the numbers in the analysis will be different, that the same qualities of intermittency that are described for PV, and the issue of backup or alternative generation, will factor in any analysis of csp, as they have done for wind, so its a worthwhile exercise to make that analysis for pv as well.

    Again, Peter has offered above to make appropriate revisions, and I’m assuming Barry will make good on his promise of a csp analysis. So, assuming those issues are dealt with, I’m going to have another go at your list:

    2.1. Cheap thin film PV could be viable
    2.2. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer (ie Lang’s taking down a straw man)
    2.3. Lang’s analysis doesn’t consider concentrating PV, which could be viable
    2.4. Lang’s analysis doesn’t consider solar thermal (which is both cheaper in itself and has more economical storage solutions)
    2.5. Lang is in error: Power output versus time is a parabolic distribution on a clear day: zero at sunrise and sunset, and maximum at midday (See Figure 5)
    2.6 “The capacity factor on the worst days, or worst period of continuous days, defines how much energy storage is needed.” This is only true for an isolated system when in fact no grid connected system is isolated.
    2.7 “Pumped-hydro storage is the least cost option that can meet these requirements”. Langs neglect of Solar Thermal means that the least cost storage may not be pumped hydro.
    2.8 Peter contends “.. all of eastern Australia can be covered by cloud at the same time so the problem is reduced but not removed by having distributed solar farms.” This is false, or at least unreferenced.

    John D Morgan, at post #266, you were part way through a process to clarify the issues.

    Anyone else feel free to chip in, otherwise this will take a long time ..

  231. Thanks John, for holding the fort on this. Coming back into this discussion after a few days AWOL, I’m not entirely sure where we are up to. Perhaps this one is a good point to go from, because it gets to the heart of the matter:

    2.6 “The capacity factor on the worst days, or worst period of continuous days, defines how much energy storage is needed.”

    This is only true for an isolated system when in fact no grid connected system is isolated.

    I infer from this that you expect the capacity factor of a large dispersed network of solar power stations (PV or CSP, irrelevant for this point) to be higher than any single station? I’ve no problem with this argument, trivially, it will always be as high or higher than the worst performing plant — I doubt anyone does. But some key points which follow are — how much higher, and with what frequency? Do you build to cope with winter conditions and then use the excess summer power for other purposes? What do you do during the (presumably rare) times when a large proportion of the network is clouded in by continental-wide weather systems?

    John, yes, I’ll post the CSP comments in due course.

    2.8 Peter contends “.. all of eastern Australia can be covered by cloud at the same time so the problem is reduced but not removed by having distributed solar farms.

    This is false, or at least unreferenced.”

    It is not false, but it requires a reference — or, more pertinently, an analysis of the return time of such events.

  232. Re. the “NIMBY” effect and the current wind turbine design:

    Let’s be honest, the current turbine designs are a bit utilitarian, and all follow the basic design of a large 3-bladed propeller – like structure on a tubular support (often concrete or galvanised steel). Hardly inspiring, and probably one of the reasons why many (possibly most) “normal people” (acc. to a recent editorial in the Illawarra Mercury) would prefer not to have these built anywhere near them.

    Compare this sad situation with the situation in the Netherlands, particularly the town of Zanse Schans – FAMOUS for it’s windmills, and a major all year round Tourist attraction – to see the WORKING Mills. OK these are of a “traditional” design and “old tech” by today’s “must get every last milliwatt out” obsession with “efficient” design, however these mills (actually they are water pumps) are responsible for today’s Holland, and they are actually very efficient. The 4-bladed design may have some shortcomings in efficiency for a fast rotating aerofoil, but remember these mills are NOT designed to rotate fast. They ARE designed to harvest wind over a large sail surface area, and rotation speeds may be easily managed by a suitable gearing system.

    Not only is the design popular aesthetically, these structures have a significant interior space, which in the “old” days would have been the Miller’s family home as well as the working area of the Mill. This was a common arrangement (reflecting the commonality of the Dutch surname Van Der Molen – literally “of the Mill”). Nowadays restored Mills are popular as holiday accommodation, and as premier Restaurants and similar. Unlike the situation with the austere Wind Turbines, people are prepared to pay over the odds to visit or stay in these mills, and rather than being an eyesore, they are a key feature of the Dutch Countryside and Towns.

    My point is – Australia has a good reputation Nationally and Internationally for producing Modular and Kit Form housing. If an enterprising Organisation was to design a modern variant of the Traditional Dutch Mill, as a modular structure, such a multi-use structure might help to eliminate the present “turbine phobia”, and be seen as a desirable addition to the locality rather than a utilitarian necessity. Owing to the Termite issues maybe “traditional” (i.e. timber based) construction would not be a great idea, however modern Architects have access to a very wide range of effective, visually appealing structural and cladding products, whilst the traditional sail design could be subtly re-engineered to retain the “Traditional Mill-on-the-Hill” appearance, but provide better, more effective energy extraction. Also, by opting for a larger sail area, but slower rotation rate, stresses on the sails would be minimised.

    Such a development strategy could well be seen as aesthetically beneficial by the local population. It is even possible that we might be in the situation where the local Councils would be very keen on such “visual enhancements” and the demand would be quite high! Even if these mills were not as efficient as the present turbines, the loss in efficiency might be more than offset by the reduction in transmission distances (and associated infrastructure), owing to the locality of the mill.

    As for uses for the interior spaces – simply copy the Dutch – Museums, Art Galleries, Restaurants, Hotels – all popular, and all revenue generating activities that can reduce investment payback times. GOT to be worth more consideration I’d have thought??

  233. Barry Brook – “It is not false, but it requires a reference — or, more pertinently, an analysis of the return time of such events.”

    With respect Barry you do not know, at this point, if it is true or false. I admit that I do not know also so I should have said that this statement is potentially false not false as I stated.

    BTW why are you and John D answering these questions and not Peter?

  234. Eclipsenow, they are weeds (at least some of these issues). I went into considerable detail on, for instance, the question of fixed vs tracking arrays, to show why it was a weed, at post #253. I even explained the metaphor to you:

    “Before going on, just note that we are going to make about a 1.3x adjustment to Peter’s numbers in favour of the solar pv option, and check whether it makes up for factors of 20-400x. This is what Peter means when he says picking at minutiae or hunting down in the weeds. Its not whining, its just having a basic sense of quantity.”

    You accepted the argument on the fixed vs tracking arrays on the basis that it was, numerically speaking, a weed. I took care to ensure you acknowledged this explicitly, which you did at post #257, so we know you accept this.

    And yet here you are again apparently say that the ‘weeds’ are fundamental issues.

    One of the reasons I’m trying to answer these questions in this way is I’m sick of seeing the argument run in circles without resolving these issues and moving forward, and you’ve just tried to loop back again.

    One of the reasons Peter might not be more active is he might not regard expending the considerable effort required to keep the obstinately innumerate on track as worth his while.

  235. John and Bryen,
    I’m a bit miffed at the way you’ve both taken things I said completely out of context and then tried to spank me for it. Bryen insinuates I’m economically tied to Better Place simply because EV’s are so devastating to his bias against wind. I only raved about it because I was making a prediction to do with the future of the car market, and to explain why I thought that model was so important. But I guess the Vehicle to Grid statistics Shai Agassi discusses helps smooth the wind power issue so dramatically that of COURSE you have to attack ME personally for mentioning it! Nice strawman attempt there mate, but wrong, I have no financial investment with them.

    Also, regarding quoting me out of context, if that’s all you think my post about wind power said then that’s a nasty character attack. Please withdraw it because my post was more nuanced than you have presented it. If you don’t, I’ll be completely ignoring all future long winded posts from yourself as those of a charlatan unwilling to accept any data that does not fit his preconceptions.

    So John, here’s the complete post. How on earth can you insinuate my position was that all significant ‘weeds’ had been addressed? The small matter of tracking V fixed PV is out the way, and even Stephen Gloor said it was not that big a deal. But please read on! Also, for the record, I’m adding Vehicle to Grid as point 7 as another *fundamental* that should be addressed. I’m with Stephen that this “article” is a confusing attempt to debunk a solar PV baseload system no-one in the world is proposing!

    *****************POST #257*****************

    Let’s not just focus on that, because:-
    1. I’ve already conceded the point… I don’t know if Stephen Gloor has more to add on that, but I actually think it is one of the minor points.

    2. The WORST of Peter Lang’s omissions is that he tried to generalise his PV findings across into Solar thermal. That’s as bad as anti-nuke campaigners arguing we shouldn’t develop nuclear because of Chernobyl. Nuclear technology has progressed so much since then you guys are arguing another Chernobyl is IMPOSSIBLE, and that it is a TOTALLY different technology today! Well buddy, it’s the same with solar thermal. So let’s NOT just focus on the one point I (for one) have already conceded, and let’s concentrate on the fact that we are now at post 257 and Solar thermal has STILL not been addressed. Again, it is making this blog appear agenda driven propaganda rather than science. Have you guys got shares invested in nuclear or something? It’s simply getting that bad. (And that boring to have to keep repeating this!!!!)

    Once again…

    *****
    3. Nobody seriously expects solar PV to be the large scale answer
    4. The large scale PV answer is concentrating solar PV and it definitely tracks.
    5. The large scale solar solution is solar thermal as it is far cheaper in large arrays
    6. Solar thermal has the potential to have storage added at reasonable cost allowing 24X7 operation.
    7. Vehicle To Grid systems (yes, like Better Place in Canberra 2012).

  236. EN #286:

    3. Yes, they do. People talk about ultra-cheap flat panel PV at well under $1/W all the time.

    4. Tracking is essentially irrelevant to the argument. To cite Mackay:

    I’m confused! In Chapter 6, you said that the best photovoltaic panels deliver 20 W/m2 on average, in a place with British sunniness. Presumably in the desert the same panels would deliver 40 W/m2. So how come the concentrating solar power stations deliver only 15–20 W/m2? Surely concentrating power should be even better than plain flat panels?

    Concentrating solar power does not achieve a better power per unit land area than flat panels. The concentrating contraption has to track the sun, otherwise the sunlight won’t be focused right; once you start packing land with sun-tracking contraptions, you have to leave gaps between them; lots of sunlight falls through the gaps and is lost. The reason that people nevertheless make concentrating solar power systems is that, today, flat photovoltaic panels are very expensive, and concentrating systems are cheaper. The concentrating people’s goal is not to make systems with big power per unit land area. Land area is cheap (they assume). The goal is to deliver big power per dollar.

    You don’t magically get a whole lot more W/m2 by tracking — this is not voodoo science, it’s physics.

    5. I hope and expect it will be far cheaper. It isn’t right now, but there is no reason to expect prices won’t fall considerably.

    6. Heat storage will allow 24X7 operation ONLY IF THE SUN HAS BEEN SHINING THAT DAY. If it hasn’t, or if it’s been weak most of the day, you need commesurately more storage to maintain the 24X7. If it has been 2 days since significant sunshine, you go from needing 16 hours to 40 hours storage. An so on. This is the whole point of Lang’s paper, and on this point, it is IRRELEVANT whether the generating mechanism is PV or CSP, and IRRELEVANT whether the storage method is pumped hydro or heat storage. If you understood this, you and Stephen Gloor wouldn’t be harping on about how the analysis is flawed because it looks at PV with pumped hydro and not CSP. How else can I put this? The type of solar AND the type of storage is largely IRRELEVANT to this problem (the only major relevance is that desert-based CSP should have somewhat higher capacity factors, so the magnitude of this gap may be lessened).

    7. EVs are a really good idea to level-out short-term fluctuations in wind, and really do hold some decent promise in this respect. But the EV batteries will only hold a few hours storage for the whole grid demand, so if the wind (or mix of wind and sun) goes out for a longer period than this, the solution breaks. Everyone has flat batteries with no way to charge them. That’s a caricature, to be sure, but no a wholly inaccurate one.

  237. Thanks Barry.
    Don’t forget that Solar chimney’s (although VERY inefficient with the sunlight / m2) are meant to have demonstrated 24/7 baseload power even in overcast days because it is based on low temperature differentials driving artificially created baseload wind power, so I’m not sure if this hybrid solar-wind synergy goes under this topic or wind. ;-)

    CETO and geothermal are also meant to be baseload and also meant to be quite abundant in Australia.

    If you’re *really* convinced nuclear is the fastest way to get off coal, then this blog is a good way to start, and I commend you for going with your convictions and working this hard on the blog. Also, the Science Show interview wasn’t a bad gig for your side either! :-)

    What are your plans for the future? You strike me as the type that could organise some volunteers to produce a free downloadable movie that nuclear-green activists can burn to DVD and show at parties? You know, making a viral movie, the way the bad guys seem to be? (This looks like PERFECT TIMING by the bad guys as we head towards Copenhagen!)

    http://www.noteviljustwrong.com/trailer

    The reason I ask is that the “renewables can do it” meme is so strong in greenie circles, and nuclear power has SUCH a bad rep, that on the chance you are technically correct and nuclear happens to be the cheapest, most reliable way we can head into a post-fossil fuel world, I’d love to know that society was having the debate out there on the table. A viral greenie meme-building DVD could propel this into investigations by 4 corners etc. “Earth, Wind and Fire” on 4 Corners definitely leaves the argument in favour of renewables being able to do it.

    http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/content/2007/s1895335.htm

  238. Eclipse, we are not talking about CETO, we’re talking about solar. Where you and Stephen go wrong is believing that there is exist such a big difference between PV and CSP. That CSP is a superior technology due to it’s inherent ability to store thermal energy (at a huge expense) does not get you away from the fact. But as already pointed out, it’s “peak” energy conversion exists in a small approx 3 hour window with power produced falling off on either side of it.

    Why invest in anything like this in sunny Australia or anywhere when you really have to over build to make enough baseload power? I know, you think there is a serious renewable energy ‘mix’ that when combined can do this. I would not want to see a industrial Australia sink into every increasing *panic* when people’s AC doesn’t work after a few days of cloudy cover or zero to near-zero wind days over an entire region.

    We think this is so wasteful, so unnecessary when nuclear can *easily* handle all this. What we see now is that the trend to acceptance of nuclear for these reasons, along with climate change, has increased and there shows no sign of reversing.

    Personally, I going to hold judgment of CETO until we see the results, which should be within a few years, maybe next year, for costs and reliability on a larger scale project (say, 20 MWs). There are quite a lot of wave power projects out there (none of which are economically sensible right now) so we’ll see.

    We will also see how the new builds around the world, especially in China, work out.

    David

  239. Barry Brook – “Heat storage will allow 24X7 operation ONLY IF THE SUN HAS BEEN SHINING THAT DAY. If it hasn’t, or if it’s been weak most of the day, you need commesurately more storage to maintain the 24X7. If it has been 2 days since significant sunshine, you go from needing 16 hours to 40 hours storage. An so on. This is the whole point of Lang’s paper, and on this point, it is IRRELEVANT whether the generating mechanism is PV or CSP, and IRRELEVANT whether the storage method is pumped hydro or heat storage.”

    This is only true if the solar generating station is isolated. The worldwide average capacity factor of nuclear plants is about 80%. If Peter’s statement applies to solar power generating stations then it equally applies to nuclear and coal. That is nuclear only has 24X7 operation WHEN IT IS SUPPLIED WITH FUEL to use your italics. If we apply this thinking to nuclear and coal then they would need storage for the times that they fail or are, in the case of nuclear, completely down for refuelling once a year or two years.

    What you are asking any particular solar station is to be the sole power station in isolation and then doing the analysis on that basis – no wonder it comes out so expensive. You could do the same with nuclear as every single nuclear power station would have to be duplicated so that there was generating capacity available when the other failed or was being refuelled. This is of course ridiculous.

    The other point is that Lang has picked the one solar resource where the storage is still very expensive. You can only, at the moment, store electricity from Solar PV in batteries. Solar thermal has a tested and proven method of storing heat at a small fraction of the cost of batteries. In the types of CSP that have come from the Solar Two pre-production plant, the storage is not an expensive add-on but a fundamental working part of the plant. It DOES matter what the storage is as heat storage at the solar plant is by far the cheapest and most efficient method of storing solar energy with present technology. Pumped hydro works well however it is expensive and depends on topology and rainfall to provide the storage media.

    Solar thermal will use pumped hydro however it is just as likely to work with gas turbine plants that are perfectly adequate in both reactivity and ramp rate to maintain the grid. Cloudy periods during the day will be covered with the storage as will night-time operation. Also most, if not all, solar thermal stations can have a gas fired boiler for desperation times that can be fired up in the case of very unusual weather conditions. As this will be used very seldom it can easily supplied from renewable sources such as biomass, plasma converters or solar hydrogen. Solar PV cannot have this form of backup as economically.

    Finally as you have not noted some of night time demand is ‘manufactured’ demand. That is demand that is only there because up till now it more economical to run thermal coal and nuclear continuously therefore off-peak power is sold off really cheap. This timed nighttime off-peak will end with renewables. This, I believe, will cut night time demand to a point where a certain amount of solar plants with say 48 or 96 hour storage will be able to maintain the grid 99% of the time. For the other 1% they may have to fire up the gas boiler. Also let us not forget that wind blows at night so it would take a 48 or 96 hour period of clouds that was also completely still over the whole south east of Australia to force the solar plants to start burning gas. I will leave it to others to work out the odds that this happens in any one year. My guess that this would be at least a one in 10 year event. And also I have already noted a method where long-term storage solar plants could recharge their storage EVEN WHEN THE SUN IS NOT SHINING (again to use your italics) with surplus wind or energy from other peak (CPV) and intermediate solar stations (CPV and Trough thermal) with little storage, by heating the cold tank fluid with an efficient electric heater to be put back in the hot tank.

    In summary Peter Lang’s paper is flawed because it treats a solar power station in isolation and costs it from there and does not mention the solar technology with economical storage therefore completely distorting the costs of solar.

  240. “Solar thermal will use pumped hydro however it is just as likely to work with gas turbine plants that are perfectly adequate in both reactivity and ramp rate to maintain the grid.  Cloudy periods during the day will be covered with the storage as will night-time operation.  Also most, if not all, solar thermal stations can have a gas fired boiler for desperation times that can be fired up in the case of very unusual weather conditions.  As this will be used very seldom it can easily supplied from renewable sources such as biomass, plasma converters or solar hydrogen.  Solar PV cannot have this form of backup as economically.”

    Again all great points Stephen. Also consider biochar. It currently only gets to keep 50% of the gas generated as the other half is used up in the next burn. Imagine a biochar plant rigged up near a large solar thermal plant that could use some of that SOLAR heat to run the biochar burn, thereby freeing up that 50%. In a liquid fuels / gas constrained world, it seems like a winner to me. Indeed, local council green bin waste should go to a local solar thermal biochar plant to:-
    * generate some gas to backup the solar thermal energy for a “rainy day” or 2.
    * generate carbon credits and biochar income for the council, as it sells biochar to local gardeners & farmers.
    * generate some gas for hybrid trolley-truck / gas council trucks, so that councils can be prepared for peak oil. Or do you think trolley trucks could mainly run off the trolley lines and then for side streets run off a “Better Place” styled battery? Hmmm, love to see some papers on the fastest way to wean local council services off oil.

  241. Stephen Gloor (#290),

    I disagree with many of the statements in your post #290 and previous posts. But it would take me some time to address them all. Here are a few quick responses.

    1. You keep repeating that CST is cheaper than large scale PV. Can you provide evidence for this assertion. The costs used in the ‘Solar Power Realities’ paper are based on current costs.

    2. The important point to understand is that there is an order of magnitude difference in the costs of nuclear and solar to do the same job. Unless CST is in the order of 5% of the cost of PV, now, nuclear is still the cheaper option, now. We could argue about which will be the cheaper in the future for ever.

    3. The ‘Solar Power Realities’ paper is not about a standalone solar power station. It requires a network and central storage. Refer to points 3 and 4 , page 11, 12 which states in part:

    “This calculation assumes that, by having widely distributed solar farms, the
    total power output of all solar farms would never fall below the ‘Total Power Demand’, at any time between 9:00 am and 3:00 pm during any day.”

    4. The comparison between solar (an intermittent generator when lacking sufficient energy storage) and nuclear is wrong. Coal, gas, hydro, etc. all need redundancy to back up for scheduled and unscheduled outages. Roughly, nuclear running at 90% capacity factor needs one back-up power station for ten power stations. The situation is totally different with intermittent, generators. They also need redundancy to cover for system failures, upgrades, etc. in addition to the problem with their intermittent ‘fuel’ supply.

    5. Why would we want to spend the full capital cost for solar generators + gas generators + the much higher capacity transmission system for the solar system, just to save some fuel? It makes no sense if you can meet the demand with nuclear at lower cost.

    6. I suspect it is unlikely I can give you answers that will satisfy you unless you are prepared to work out the costs of the systems you are proposing as an alternative. The objective of course is to replace fossil fuel generation with a least-cost, near-zero-emissions system.

  242. “5. Why would we want to spend the full capital cost for solar generators + gas generators + the much higher capacity transmission system for the solar system, just to save some fuel? It makes no sense if you can meet the demand with nuclear at lower cost.”

    That seems to be the core of it. The solar guys are saying their technology is constantly inching along in cheaper materials, cheaper methodologies, and cheaper per unit costs once we scale up production.

    The same argument is being made by you guys with your Gen4 modular claims. We’ll only really know after both technologies are rolled out on the large scale.

    Until then I think I’m agnostic either way. We just don’t have the real world data. But in the end I’m glad. All these technologies are in a race to provide the cheapest most abundant sustainable electricity, and if we can just adapt transport, mining, and agricultural systems to the new energy flows fast enough we’re home and hosed.

    I’ve moved from the “Mad Max” position 5 years ago to seeing a “bright green future” as a serious contender. Still, if things get funky internationally over the remaining oil, we could still end up in a lot of trouble. We shall see.

  243. Peter Lang

    “1. You keep repeating that CST is cheaper than large scale PV. Can you provide evidence for this assertion. The costs used in the ‘Solar Power Realities’ paper are based on current costs.”

    From the analysis that I posted (http://www.nrel.gov/csp/pdfs/34440.pdf) which is comprehensive even though it is from 2003 it can be used as the basis for evaluating tower technology. On page 21 is a summary of a base case that can be used to estimate tower costs. It comes in at $3622.00/kW. Solar PV on current solar panel prices even assuming a major volume discount is 5 X 200W solar panels@$2000 each = $10 000/kW which is at least three times the cost just for the panels, let alone the balance of the plant which could raise it to at least $15 000/kW which is 5 times the cost.

    “2. The important point to understand is that there is an order of magnitude difference in the costs of nuclear and solar to do the same job. Unless CST is in the order of 5% of the cost of PV, now, nuclear is still the cheaper option, now. We could argue about which will be the cheaper in the future for ever.”

    Only in your flawed analysis.

    “3. The ‘Solar Power Realities’ paper is not about a standalone solar power station. It requires a network and central storage. Refer to points 3 and 4 , page 11, 12 which states in part:”

    You say these things however how does this reconcile with the amount of storage that you think that a solar power station needs to function? You say this with this statement from page 7.

    “The capacity factor on the worst days, or worst period of continuous days, defines
    how much energy storage is needed.”

    How is this true when the solar power station are networked?

    “4. The comparison between solar (an intermittent generator when lacking sufficient energy storage) and nuclear is wrong. Coal, gas, hydro, etc. all need redundancy to back up for scheduled and unscheduled outages. Roughly, nuclear running at 90% capacity factor needs one back-up power station for ten power stations. The situation is totally different with intermittent, generators. They also need redundancy to cover for system failures, upgrades, etc. in addition to the problem with their intermittent ‘fuel’ supply.”

    The worldwide capacity factor for nuclear is 80% (http://www.euronuclear.org/info/encyclopedia/n/nuclear-power-plant-world-wide.htm) so actually they need 1 backup generator for 5 power stations. Wind farms are highly reliable as the loss of a single generator does not mean the total loss of the plant. Solar power stations likewise can be modular so that the whole plant is not taken out for maintenance.

    “5. Why would we want to spend the full capital cost for solar generators + gas generators + the much higher capacity transmission system for the solar system, just to save some fuel? It makes no sense if you can meet the demand with nuclear at lower cost.”

    Because the gas generators are needed for nuclear or solar/wind for peaking. Renewable actually only need a relatively small increase in peaking power. The reason for renewables is that they are faster to deploy, cheaper and without the attendant problems of nuclear, the ones you refuse to acknowledge. Only in your flawed analysis is nuclear cheaper than renewables. You did this by making ridiculous assumptions about the storage required for solar and then used the one form of solar that has to have the most expensive storage.

    “6. I suspect it is unlikely I can give you answers that will satisfy you unless you are prepared to work out the costs of the systems you are proposing as an alternative. The objective of course is to replace fossil fuel generation with a least-cost, near-zero-emissions system.”

    Hang on a second – I am not the self styled energy expert with a flawed analysis. It is up to you to correct this, not for me to propose an alternative. I may in the future however you need to correct the problems or retract the ‘paper’.

  244. Ender Fatigue returns with a vengeance. I wouldn’t blame Peter Lang is he doesn’t bother to engage again with your patronising, repetitive and illogical diatribe. I certainly won’t be bothering.

  245. Me, on August 16, above:

    … I believe these dishes have been popping up in Spain, driven by a massive feed-in tariff.

    Such feed-in tariffs cannot scale up past the point where their cost to a government exceeds some critical fraction, maybe ten percent, of the fossil fuel tax revenue they protect.

    Emphasis added. The NYT, August 18th, hat tip to The Capacity Factor:

    Well, I was going to quote something, but it’s hard to tell, in that NYT article, whether anything happened on the 17th or 18th. Maybe I prophesied the past.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  246. Barry and Peter – “Ender Fatigue returns with a vengeance. I wouldn’t blame Peter Lang is he doesn’t bother to engage again with your patronising, repetitive and illogical diatribe. I certainly won’t be bothering.”

    May I remind you of this at #250?

    “Stephen, please humour me and state the first major problem with Lang’s analysis. I will answer that (if I can) and then move to objection #2. I really do believe that breaking the problem down into pieces will help to get to the bottom of this.”

    I have done this and no such answer has been forthcoming. I was prepared to leave this before this post and you asked me for objections. It is totally unfair to ask for a discussion and then cry “Ender fatigue” when neither you or Peter seem to be able to give satisfactory answers the questions that I have posed and others have acknowledged as problems with the paper.

    For my part I have a bit of Barry fatigue refuting your baseless objections to ‘technosolar’. So lets leave the discussion here. I certainly will be posing no more questions.

  247. We worked through to the end of your list, answered your ‘objections’ in manifold ways (it not just me who did this, John Morgan for instance did an admirable job). And then, in the last few comments, we were apparently starting it all over again. That is what induces fatigue. Your demands that Peter ‘withdraw his paper’, whatever that might mean, and your characterisation of him as ‘self-styled’ were frankly insulting.

    You may like to claim, as is your predilection to so often do, that the objections raised here and elsewhere to technosolar being a large-scale energy solution are ‘baseless’ and ‘refuted’. You are also free to claim that nuclear power is ‘unnatural’, dangerous and unneeded. But saying these things doesn’t make them so, and I suspect most readers of this blog are now of that opinion, being interested as they are in evidence, logic, and pragmatism, rather than myth, zealotry and ideology.

  248. I’m sorry Barry but I missed the bit where Stephen’s case was overwhelmingly batted out of the game?

    You asked him to break it down.

    Peter Lang finally answered in #292, but answered with unsubstantiated dogma. Stephen replied in #294 with important points that were on-target and backed by substantiated papers. So when he’s thrashing you guys you cry “Ender fatigue”? You never really wanted to go over his problems with the paper point by point did you? I mean, Peter even bumps the capacity factor of nuclear up by 10% and no one blinks when Stephen quotes the real capacity factor.

    So when you say Stephen’s post was a “patronising, repetitive and illogical diatribe”, all I can hear is sulking.

    Yeah, I really think you wanted to discuss the actual subject with Stephen. ;-) Nice agenda poking through there mate. I’m done with this blog.

  249. Right EN, and that agenda would be what, exactly, other than getting to real, full, workable solutions? From someone who, on his own blog, says things like “Eeewwwww! Imagine all the nuclear boosters learning this! What a foul way to power the world!“, I don’t think it is me who has the agenda.

    Gloor never did break it down as requested. It was left to folks like John Morgan to try to do that, and as far as I could see, John ended up with ruled lines through most of those arguments. Peter Lang and I then addressed the remaining ones.

    And if you want to understand the concept of ‘Ender Fatigue’ to its full extent, I strongly suggest you trawl back through the reams and reams of comments by him, and the detailed responses from me and others (such as Tom Blees), of the same general nature as the ones that arose here, on literally dozens of other threads. There is a good reason why that term exists.

    As to your other points, give me a break. The capacity factor of nuclear power in the US is 93%. The only ‘paper’ he cited was from a 2003 study from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Why not use the 2009 EIA estimates, or a dozen other similar recent costings? And you’d know it was irrelevant anyway, if you understood the point being made (again, and again, and again), because it is not the capital cost of the generating infrastructure that is at issue here, it’s the cost of the required backup for the inherent variability.

    Anyway, I’m glad you’re ‘done with this blog’, if you do indeed feel comforted that a technosolar dream for our energy future remains intact — and if it doesn’t, well hey, then you have your Mad Max scenarios to take pitiable solace in once again. For the rest of us, it’s back to doing our bit to help realise what we understand to be demonstrably workable global solutions.

  250. … if you want to understand the concept of ‘Ender Fatigue’ to its full extent …

    To play Gloor’s game is to destroy the planet. Just like Alderaan, boom, gone.

    I thought of saying that the first time I saw him here, but it wouldn’t have done any good. We always believe that finally, this time for sure, the football won’t be pulled away as we try to kick it.

    — G.R.L. Cowan, (‘How fire can be domesticated’)

    http://www.eagle.ca/~gcowan/

  251. “Eeewwwww! Imagine all the nuclear boosters learning this! What a foul way to power the world!“
    I forgot I’d written that. If you look at my right hand link bar, my ‘summary thoughts’ on nuclear power have actually changed as a result of your blog! I’ve stated that I remain “agnostic” about nuclear power, and will wait and see what develops in terms of safety specs and cheaper modular production. I deleted all my “traditional greenie” objections to nuclear, and if I haven’t done so through all my previous blog posts, well tough, my link bar sums up my latest position and that should be good enough.

    Gloor never did break it down as requested. This is what I’m “done with” Barry. He DID, you just didn’t like it. Basically I see Stephen as pointing out that renewables may not be as “intermittent” as you argue, but when ever this is pointed out the response is a semantic shift from either capacity to storage to name-plate to some other verbal dance and ignoring the basic point.

    I really hope you are right and that “they” can build SAFE, CHEAP nuclear power that eats its own waste. It would be great to know we had another backup plan in case the solar-thermal, CETO, OTEC, geothermal, kite-wind, wind, biomass, biochar, solar PV, hydro, micro-hydro, solar chimney grid backed by the VTG-EV market actually DID NOT work 365 days a year after all.

    As for Cowan’s suggestion that renewables would make earth go “boom, gone”… that’s just childish. We’re on the same side guys, we want global warming dealt with. IF the mix of renewable energy supply above doesn’t work as advertised, we might have a few days blackout. North America survived that. It was nasty, but a civilisation capable of building reactors is still there. So much for “Boom, gone”! Grow up!

    In short, thank you for this blog Barry, it is genuinely interesting to think that one day we might finally be dealing with the waste issue and even power our civilisation for the next few hundred years on the stuff! But your debating style, and that of some of the other contributors here, leaves much to be desired.

  252. I am becoming increasingly agnostic about the lay-person’s ability to know ANYTHING about energy matters! Only a few hours ago I sent an email about how while I was a fan of solar thermal power as one option, I thought the “solar roads” project was probably developed by a few dreamers intrinsically aware that America should be ashamed of all it’s tarmac. Now it seems they’ve got funding, but in American terms it seems to be the equivalent of giving the kiddies a couple of cents to play with and see what they can do.

    *****

    “”Solar Roadways, a project to replace over 25,000 square miles of road in the US with solar panels you can drive on, just received $100,000 in funding from the Department of Transportation for the first 12ft-by-12ft prototype panel. Each panel consists of three layers: a base layer with data and power cables running through it, an electronics layer with an array of LEDs, solar collectors and capacitors, and finally the glass road surface. With data and power cables, the solar roadway has the potential to replace some of our aging infrastructure. With only 15% efficiency, 25,000 square miles of solar roadways could produce three times what the US uses annually in energy. The building costs are estimated to be competitive with traditional roads, and the solar roads would heat themselves in the winter to keep snow from accumulating.”

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/09/08/29/0018256/Solar-Roadways-Get-DoT-Funding

  253. Solar Thermal

    The system must be able to provide the power requirements at all times, even during long periods of overcast conditions. We must design for the worst conditions.

    We’ll consider two worst case scenarios:

    1 All power stations are under cloud at the same time for 3 days.
    2 At all times between 9 am and 3 pm at least one power station, somewhere, has direct sunlight, but all other power stations are under cloud.

    Assumptions:

    The average capacity factor of all the power stations when under cloud for 3 days is 1.56 % (to be consistent with the PV analysis in “Solar Power Realities”; refer to Figure 7 and the table on page 10).

    The capacity factor in midwinter, when not under cloud, is 15% (refer Figure 7 in “Solar Power Realities”).

    Scenario 1 – all power stations under cloud

    Energy storage required: 3 days x 450,000 MWh/d = 1,350,000 MWh

    Hours of the day when energy is stored (9 am to 3 pm) = 6 hours

    Power to meet direct day-time demand = 25 GW

    Average power required to store 450,000 MWh in 6 hours = 75 GW
    Installed capacity required to provide 75 GW power at 1.56% capacity factor (say 6.24% capacity factor from 9 am to 3 pm) = 1,202 GW.

    Add 25GW to meet the direct day time demand.

    Total peak generating capacity required = 1,227 GW

    If the average capacity factor was double, the installed capacity required would be nearly half. So the result is highly sensitive to the average capacity factor.

  254. Scenario 2 – at least one power station has direct sun at all times between 9 am and 3 pm

    One power station provides virtually all the power. The other power stations are under cloud and have a capacity factor of just 1.56%.

    Energy storage required for 1 day = 450,000 MWh

    Hours of the day when energy is stored (9 am to 3 pm) = 6 hours

    Average power to meet direct day-time demand = 25 GW

    Average power required to store 450,000 MWh in 6 hours = 75 GW

    The capacity factor in midwinter, when not under cloud, is 15% (refer Figure 7 in “Solar Power Realities”).

    Installed capacity required to provide 75 GW power at 15% capacity factor (say 60% capacity factor from 9 am to 3 pm) = 125 GW.

    Add 25 GW to meet the direct day time demand.

    Total peak generating capacity required for the station in the sun = 150 GW.

    But the clouds move, so all the power stations need this generating capacity.

    To maximise the probability that at least one power stations is in the sun we need many power stations spread over a large geographic area. If we have say 20 power stations spread across South Australia, Victoria, NSW and southern Queensland, we would need 3,000 GW – assuming only the power station in the sun is generating.

    If we want redundancy for the power station in the sun, we’d need to double the 3,000 GW to 6,000 GW.

    Of course the power stations under cloud will also contribute. Let’s say they are generating at 1.56% capacity factor. Without going through the calculations we can see the capacity required will be somewhere between the 1,227 GW calculated for Scenario 1 and the 3,000 GW calculated here. Let’s say 2,000 GW for a quick number as a basis for the cost calculation for scenario 2.

    So, Scenario 2 requires 450,000 MWh storage and 2,000 GW generating capacity. It also requires a very much greater transmission capacity, but we’ll ignore that for now.

  255. Some notes on cloud cover

    A quick scan of the Bureau of Meteorology satellite images produced the following:

    This link http://www.bom.gov.au/sat/archive_new/gms/
    provides satelite views. You can choose IR or visible wave lengths. I looped through June, July and August 2009, and noticed that much of SA, Tasmania, Victoria, NSW and southern Queensland were cloud covered on June 1, 2, 21 and 25 to 28. July 3 to 6, 10, 11, 14. 16, 22 to 31 also had widespread cloud cover (26th was the worst), as did August 4, 9, 10, 21, 22.. I have not conducted a rigorous study.

    I also looked at the BOM Solar Radiation Browse Service for March and April 2002 (the data on this site only goes up to 14 April 2002). http://www.bom.gov.au/nmoc/archives/Solar/index.shtml
    I’ve included the URL below so you can run the loop yourself if interested. Notice the low solar radiation levels for 25 to 30 March and 8 to 12 April 2002 over the area we are looking at. Following is the actual URL for the loop I looked at:

    http://www.bom.gov.au/cgi-bin/nmoc/nmoc.sat.monthlylp.pl?satellite=sat/archive_new/solar_radiation&files=IDE3GS01.20020320.gif,IDE3GS01.20020321.gif,IDE3GS01.20020322.gif,IDE3GS01.20020323.gif,IDE3GS01.20020324.gif,IDE3GS01.20020325.gif,IDE3GS01.20020326.gif,IDE3GS01.20020327.gif,IDE3GS01.20020328.gif,IDE3GS01.20020329.gif,IDE3GS01.20020330.gif,IDE3GS01.20020331.gif,IDE3GS01.20020401.gif,IDE3GS01.20020402.gif,IDE3GS01.20020403.gif,IDE3GS01.20020407.gif,IDE3GS01.20020408.gif,IDE3GS01.20020409.gif,IDE3GS01.20020410.gif,IDE3GS01.20020411.gif,IDE3GS01.20020412.gif,

  256. Some thoughts on Future Costs?
    How much cheaper can solar power be?

    NEEDS figure 3.7, p31 suggests that the cost of solar thermal may be halved by 2040.

    How much cheaper can nuclear be?

    The first large reactor ever made was built in 15 months, ran for 24 years, and its power was expanded by almost a factor of 10 during its life.

    If we could do that 65 years ago, for a first of a kind technology, what could we do now by building on current designs if we wanted to put our mind to it.

    Is it unreasonable to believe that, 65 years later, we could build nuclear power plants, twenty times the power of the first reactor, in 12 months, for 25% of the cost of current generation nuclear power stations?

  257. Solar Thermal

    I should have said before comment #304:

    The solar thermal system is required to provide the following:

    20 GW base load power;
    33 GW peak power (at 6:30 pm); and
    25 GW average power.

    This power is to be provided during winter months.

  258. So, Peter, you don’t need to convince me of the huge over build needed to supply a 100% renewable package for Australia. It seems astounding that people hold on to this dream as an almost religious necessity. But, I would agree with some here that a ‘true’ renewable portfolio would be a combination of things: residential PV (NEVER, EVER, build an industrial PV system, it’s just plain stupid financially), “CETO” if it works out, CSP, wind etc.

    From what you’ve provided, at best, the numbers seem to work out to still a huge 3x over-build regardless of combination, along with a continental HVDC and a continental SG. I don’t ever see this happening in the ‘time frame’ demanded by renewable advocates, nor is it technologically nor financially feasible.

    In discussing storage, and that you point out the fact that you need MORE than just 16 hours of storage, it seems totally impossible what they advocate.

    David

  259. Talk about solar or wind providing “on-demand” energy always has the additional issue of energy storage for times when the “sun ain’t shining or the wind ain’t blowing.”

    This adds tremendous costs to these approaches.

    Shai Agassi has an (integrating) idea on using the energy stored in electric car batteries to provided a distributed storage source for intermittent power like solar or wind. His talk focuses on infrastructure solutions on batteries and electric cars. Countries and car manufactures are already on board. The issue of using car batteries as distributed storage doesn’t come up until the end of his talk and the Q&A session. Electric car batteries are a given no matter how you generate the electricity but Shai’s suggestion would _seem_ to provide some leverage for the solar and wind technologies. Any comments on whether his storage idea would help solar or wind be economical enough so they could compete with nuclear?

    http://fora.tv/2009/07/22/The_Electric_Horizon_Shai_Agassi

  260. At current penetration levels (of 5 – 15% of average electricity demand in many developed countries), one of the biggest concern facing utilities / grid managers is dealing with the 30 second, 5 min, and 30 min slews that are introduced by wind power (wind constituting 90+% of the technosolar contribution so far). For this, I can see a huge fleet of BEVs having great appeal. But with larger and larger % wind/solar penetration, the BEVs will not, in my humble opinion (and that of many others, though it’s not an exclusive belief by any means), be useful in coping with extended lulls of 12 hours through to a string of a few days in a row. Other storage methods will be needed for this, which is where the major future costs would lie.

  261. Pingback: Solar thermal questions « BraveNewClimate.com

  262. I actually work for a oil and gas company and we try to be environmentally friendly as much as possible, but like anything dealing with fossil fuels we are contributing to the problem. I have recently decided to talk out about it and am in the process of converting my home into using solar power. Even if i only cut my useage in half i am helping and am working with others in my area to do the same. It’s time we showed everyone that changes only takes one person to start it and then for them to help the next person to start and on and on……

    Just my 2 cents.

  263. David Walters,

    Thank you for your comment #309. In part you said:

    “But, I would agree with some here that a ‘true’ renewable portfolio would be a combination of things: residential PV (NEVER, EVER, build an industrial PV system, it’s just plain stupid financially), “CETO” if it works out, CSP, wind etc. ”

    Several others have made this comment on this thread. Ted’s article on the “Solar Thermal Questions” thread (started by Barry this morning) explains the problem clearly: Renewables are not additive. However, the cost is additive.

    We can keep adding more types of generators but there will still be periods when they do not supply sufficient electricity to meet demand. If we have 1000 MW of each of Wind, solar, CETO and tidal, and each one is $4000/kW (to keep it simple), then the total cost is #16,000/kW, but there will still be times when they cannot generate 1000 MW. So we need a nuclear power plant at $4000/kW for back up (fossil are fuel plants are not allowed).

    Since the nuclear plant can do the whole job on its own, we do not need the renewables.

    This is obviously an over simplification, but I am attempting to clarify for several of the others who have commented about this on this thread.

  264. Except that CETO, OTEC, Geothermal and solar chimney’s are pretty much baseload, no matter what the cloud cover is like. So your contention that we need to overbuild by a factor of 4 is just plain ridiculous because we are NOT building 100% of the grid for wind, and then another 100% of the grid for solar thermal just in case the wind stops blowing, and another 100% of the grid in CETO just in case there’s a still, overcast day… indeed, if we built a 100% CETO grid the job’s pretty much done!

    (Nice attempt at a straw-man, but FAIL! Even I can see what a caricature this is.)

    Now I don’t know what % of each we’ll end up with. But you are simply misrepresenting what renewable advocates are arguing for.

    EG: A mix of the baseload providers such as CETO, geothermal, solar chimneys and solar thermal could supply say 80% of the energy BETWEEN THEM, with wind topping up the grid with its high EROEI energy, but mainly topping up those sectors that can handle intermittent supply, like VTG-EV’s, then no problem.

    Now, cloud cover? You would argue that this means a complete 100% overbuild is required… but not if solar thermal is only about 20% of the grid. Cloudy days are often windy. That’s where the wind may come to the rescue, and even the cars. If not, that’s when those solar thermal plants turn on their biogas burners for a few days. Then hey presto, the sun shines again, and they’ve got a few weeks to build up enough biogas before the next burn.

    Yes there will be some overbuild, but there already is for the fossil fuel energy market. All these points have been made by Stephen Gloor with far more detail than myself. Is it that you feel safe to construct such a ridiculous straw-man now that you’ve all shouted Stephen off the list with rude “Ender Fatigue” routines?

    You’re also ignoring that mining companies are already starting to buy solar thermal energy because they CAN guarantee the price of the “fuel” for the next 20 years. They’ll have plans for those 3 day stretches you’ve been discussing. It’s not rocket science… but economics. Maybe their situation is so remote and off the grid that solar thermal with a bit of extra backup (gas or diesel generators?) is economical.

    So once again it comes back down to economics, and a diverse energy supply to the grid. We shall see. But please don’t harp on about 100% overbuilds any more hey, because that is just dishonest.

  265. Peter
    my feeling is that future cloud cover will be different to the past, as in unpredictable. It has rained from 1-24 hours a day in SW Tas in June-July-August while Queensland has had record temperatures. Maybe that will reverse in a month or two. My gut feeling is that it is getting cloudier everywhere, not just Tas but probably in Alice Springs and Broken Hill. If so traditionally sunny areas can expect a lot less insolation for periods of a month or more at a time regardless of El Nino or La Nina. I don’t know how to quantify this.

  266. Eclipsnow,

    I don’t understand how you still don’t get it.

    You say “Except that CETO, OTEC, Geothermal and solar chimney’s are pretty much baseload, no matter what the cloud cover is like.”

    Well pick one of them to provide our baseload power and calculate the system.

    Ir it provides baseload, all we need to do is pick the least cost. Trying to muddy the waters by saying we’ll have a mix is nonsense. Either the technology can or it cannot provide reliable power at stable and controllable output 24/365. None of these technologies can do this, and adding them together increases the cost but does not solve the technical problem.

    I would have thought this point is made absolutely clear in the “Solar Thermal Questions” article Barry posted this morning. I thought that article was so clear it would have convinced anyone that Solar is a complete waste of resources, especially solar thermal.

  267. Barry Book –

    This may be my last post here so indulge me for a minute and at least read it before lapsing into “Ender fatigue”

    The fundamental problem here is a difference in concepts. To try and explain it I will delve into my world of IT for a minute. To me a PC not connected to anything is completely useless. I would have a hard time doing anything useful with it other than a couple of standalone games which I do not play anyway.

    Where the PC gains its power is by connecting it to other networks. No longer does the PC have to have terabytes of storage because it can connect to a computer that does. No longer does a single PC have to have all the information on it’s hard drive because it can connect to any server in the world that does. In fact it would be very hard to find a PC now that does not have an ethernet connection or a connection to the Internet.

    The problem I see with Peter Lang and others that seek to dismiss renewables as toys that serious people do not play with is that they do not understand the concept of networking. When I see a PC I see a network node. When I see a Solar thermal power station I also see a network node not a power station. I am completely used to the concept of networks as I use them everyday and in fact my job would be impossible without them. I can log onto a fix a server in Columbia as easy as one next to me in Perth and I think nothing of doing this because of networks. One of the reasons that I think that renewables can is because people that have used networks get used to the idea and concept of networks and get used to the idea of shifting loads around the network seamlessly. Even on a very simple level the wind/gas network at Esperance gives an idea of what can be done. The smart connection between the wind farm and the gas turbine allows the wind, which comprises 15% of the generating capacity, to contribute 22% of the electricity supply.

    Although Peter Lang says that he has allowed for networking I do not really think that he ‘gets’ it because he is unused to thinking in terms of the power of the network controlled by intelligent controllers. I used to get this a lot twenty years ago arguing with mainframe computer people who now supervise empty computer halls where mighty mainframes used to be.

    When Peter says things like this:

    “If we have 1000 MW of each of Wind, solar, CETO and tidal, and each one is $4000/kW (to keep it simple), then the total cost is #16,000/kW, but there will still be times when they cannot generate 1000 MW. So we need a nuclear power plant at $4000/kW for back up (fossil are fuel plants are not allowed).”

    Even assuming a non-despatchable baseload power plant could back up renewables which it can’t, it shows that he is unable to think network and see that a network of renewables can respond and supply 24X7 power.

    As the the other accusations I did break it down however the first point that Solar PV cannot represent solar in general never did get answered properly we never moved from there.

    You have moved from a reasonable position to one highly polarised in favour of nuclear to the exclusion of all else and in doing so you have, in my opinion, “jumped the shark” leading to reduction in quality of discussion. Your blog, at least on the subject of nuclear power, is starting to resemble Jennifer Morohasy and Andrew Bolt’s where only discussion that agrees with their point of view is tolerated. Perhaps this is natural route of all blogs as Jennifer’s blog started out pretty reasonably as I was one of the first lot of commenters there. Perhaps they got Ender fatique as well however that was when I was vehemently opposed to the idiots there and there pathetic arguments against AGW.

  268. Peter#306,
    Examining the AEMO(NEMMCO) data of the 13 operating wind farms with a capacity of 1100MW, we find that on most cloudy days significant wind power is being produced. For example you stated July 26( worst cloud cover); on 26thJuly wind farms produced 6am;270MW, 9am;300MW, 1200noon;160MW, 3pm;179MW ( with the most westerly site back up to 40% capacity and most Easterly site zero), 6pm; 372MW, 9pm;372MW. At 35% capacity factor would expect 400MW( maximum was 860MW July to August)
    An expanded wind and solar energy may need some short term (6h back-up) and that’s exactly what hydro is very good at providing and the present 2,240MW of pumped hydro could be very easily expanded to 10,000MW to provide 6-60 hours storage without any significant new dam building( at most expansion of lower small pondages similar to Journama Pond), some additional turbines, pipelines and upgraded grid capacity.

    Your second statement that we can’t use any fossil fuel back-up is completely ignoring realities at least until 2050. We are going to have significant OCGT for rapid peak demand response, and significant coal fired capacity that could be used on 12-24 hour notice. Neither fuels have to contribute significant CO2 if used only as back-up to renewable and nuclear.
    For example OCGT or coal-fired used for 6 hours 3-4 times each month for 50% of peak demand implies a capacity factor of 3% or about 1.5% of present CO2 output. If we can reduce Co2 emissions by 98.5% by 2050 I do not think we will need to be concerned about the remaining 1.5%.
    It’s improbable we would overbuild 40% nuclear to avoid using pumped hydro or OCGT back-up, and just as improbable that we would overbuild solar or wind for the same reasons.

  269. Stephen Gloor,

    Wow, Stephen, I was sort of hoping I might get an appology after you’d read the posts I put up last night. I should have known better.

    I thought what I posted last night, and what Barry posted this morning would make it absolutely clear for you.

    But now I realise you do not have even a basic understanding of the electricity supply and distribution system.

    When there is demand (someone turns on a switch) the power must be generated immediately. It cannot be stored (other than by generation or release from energy storage).

    Your comparison of electricity networks and computer networks is not valid. You talk about storing data somewhere, and about shifting data around the system. How does this compare with storing energy if you don’t have sufficient energy storage? What are you intending to shift around in the electricity network? Where are you going to store? How much storage do you need? What is the cost?

    With renewables you need massive amounts of storage. With nuclear you do not need any (although it would be more economical to have some).

    The “Solar Power Realities” paper and my posts on this thread last night explain the amounts of storage needed and the costs.

    I suggested some time ago that you do a rough cost estimate of the system you are proposing. The reason I proposed that is because doing the analysis would help you to understand what is involved. I’d still suggest you do that.

    By the way, nuclear IS dispatchable, wind power is NOT!. Dispatchable means the generator can provide power when the grid controller calls for it, and can turn down the power on instructions from the operator. The power requirement is ‘dispatched’ from the network operator to the generator who responds and provides the power requested. Wind cannot respond on demand. Nuclear can.

    If you think nuclear cannot follow load, look back to a previous post where that is described.

    Have you ever thought how embarrassing it might be if you told the captains of a nuclear powered submarine or nuclear powered ice breaker that he could only run at full power whereever he goes. What fun it would be to watch them dock their boats!

  270. Hi Peter,

    1. Why a diverse energy market?
    Because we’re in unknown territory, and as a matter of policy governments seem to be backing all these different approaches to try and crack the cheapest combination. An energy market is the best way to go, as the marketplace comes up with some surprising solutions. As various energy niche’s grow we’ll see various problems and solutions, winners and losers, and I’m OK with that.

    2. Solar thermal storage unable to cope with 3 days?
    Apparently these new graphite blocks are incredibly efficient means of storing thermal energy and hardly lose heat overnight. They mentioned storing heat for a month on the BZE podcast but I can’t seem to access their backup files right now, they’re doing a site redesign. Anyway, these are the graphite modules.

    http://www.lloydenergy.com/heatstorage.htm

    So again, economics. How expensive would it be to have a few extra of these graphite blocks siphoning off say 5% of each day’s heat for those 3-5 day stretches we’re all worried about? Or would the economics allow biogas as a stand-bye? I’ve emailed them to as for more detail, we’ll see if they have time to engage the thread.

  271. Neil Howes,

    There are many things I disagree with in your post #319. I believe the papers, the covering articles by Barry, the posts by Barry and others, the posts I made on this thread last night, and the “Solar Thermal Questions” article Barry posted this morning explain clearly that intermittent renewables are not viable. The cost of these options is at least an order of magnitude higher than nuclear.

    The first paragraph in your post #319 is about combining wind and solar to produce baseload power. It cannot be done economically. Ted explained it very well. You will get the sum of the cost of both systems, but not reliable, dispatchable power. You only need one time when the combined systems are not producing the power to meet demand to demonstrate this. So instead of going through the wind and solar records looking for the maximum output, you should hunt for the times when the power output from the two systems is less than demand.

    You say “that’s exactly what hydro is good for”. True. But that is also why stored hydro energy is very valuable and is used for balancing the system and for emergency use. We don’t have the hydro capacity, or topographic and hydrologic conditions suitable to provide it.

    You say “the present 2,240MW of pumped hydro could be very easily expanded to 10,000MW to provide 6-60 hours storage without any significant new dam building at most expansion of lower small pondages similar to Journama Pond), some additional turbines, pipelines and upgraded grid capacity.”

    This is simply nonsense. There is no point in debating this in sentences. The only way you will get an understanding of this is if you go through the exercise of working out what is involved and calculating the cost.

    You make all these statements, with absolutely no thought about the cost. That is just arm waving. The proposals are irrational if not costed.

    You say “Your second statement that we can’t use any fossil fuel back-up is completely ignoring realities at least until 2050.” This totally misses the point of the paper. The paper is an exercise to compare the cost of nuclear and solar to provide our baseload power needs without producing GHG emissions. It is a way to determine which technologies are the most cost effective and, therefore, the ones we should focus on. Of course I realise there will be a transition period.

    It is frustrating that you say your proposals are easy, but you do not attempt to understand the costs of the various options.

    It seems to me that you and some other people posting here have very strongly held beliefs and do not want reality to spoil them.

  272. Eclipsenow,

    It is pointless suggesting more and more expensive alternatives. You seem to have no appreciation of the cost comparisons. Your latest proposals are all more expensive than the options considered in the cost comparisons.

    Can you grasp the concept that if something is 20 times more expensive than an alternative that does the same job, there is no point spending most of your effort researching the expensive option?

    There is a factor of 20 difference in the costs of solar and nuclear to do the same job.

    Start learning about nuclear, instead of spending all your time flogging a dead horse.

    Flogging the renewables horse is delaying Australia progressing. As long as Australia remains anti-nuclear it is politically impossible to progress. The public needs to learn. There is some excellent material on this web site. But you need to be open enough to begin to digest it.

    The message is clear, but can the die-hard renewable fanatics understand it?

  273. Again you *assert* that it is 20 times more expensive, but without actually addressing the issues.

    We live in a world with coal fired stations, gas fired stations, gasoline, LPG, diesel, trains, trams, trucks, cars, semi-trailers etc. Different energy streams doing different jobs in different sectors of the economy.

    You want it too simple. You want to close your ears and say “La la la” to all that and just plain ignore reality. EG: Assuming there is enough power for business and home use, what is wrong with wind “topping up” the extra demand of EV’s? No no no! chants Peter, “IT HAS TO BE ABLE TO SUPPLY THE WHOLE GRID ALL THE TIME OR IT IS NOT WORTH IT” you insist. What rubbish!

  274. Peter

    While I applaud your sentiment in favour of low cost removal of CO2 the hard reality of Australia’s political arrangents is that nuclear is out as a short oer even medioum term (up to 15 years away) proposition. I wish this were not so but in practice it is.

    Neither major political party will advocate wholesale replacement of coal fired or gas fired power with nukes because that would be a death wish and expending your energy showing that the altertnatives won’t work really amounts to doing the work of dirty power advocacy even though I accept that you are sincere in your desire for getting rid of dirty power. Look at Victoria where one of the dirtiest power stations in the world — Hazlewood — has been extended to 2031 which will make it 62 years old at retirement. Bucketloads of cash are being wasted looking at CC&S.

    Pumped storage is a viable technology and it need not cost much if it is built coextensively with buttressing local grey, sewage and stormwater capture and processing as the costs could be spread across multiple necessary usages. We save energy pumping water, we foreclose the need for new dams and desal and we have large amounts of localised energy storage capacity with round trip efficiencies of about 80% — and maybe more if we get good rain over the upper reservoirs. These resources could immediately lower the CO2 intensity of even coal fired generation and of course provide a ready store for all intermittent output, including V2G, PV, etc. If we ever get nukes, even better.

    The fact of the matter is that if most people don’t like nukes, even if their animus is unsound, they are entitled to agree to pay more to have something else. IMO we should not put the case as if it is ‘take it or leave it’, because right now, most people, for a variety of reasons, will leave it, and where does that get us?

    In this country we have pretty much unlimted wind, solar, wave/ tidal, waste biomass, geothermal etc. If we can store that energy we can get by without nuclear or coal and on very little gas.

    We ought to do it

  275. Stephen, on networks, and an information-inspired approach – you’ve mentioned this before, and then as now it reminds me of situations I frequently encounter at work.

    I work in a company comprising both computer scientists, and physicists and engineers, working on a particularly challenging problem. There are cultural differences between these different backgrounds that can create cognitive dissonances or communication difficulties, which are often just as you described above. I’ve thought about why this is so. It seems to me the domain of the information sciences is that of rich and complex logical structuring of information and operations, but which are nevertheless abstractions. Intuition is something that is developed through years of working in a domain, but can mislead if applied to a different domain – intuition developed in classical mechanics will lead you astray if applied to relativistic mechanics.

    In this case I think an intuition forged by working with information flows in networks may not map well to power generation and transmission through networks. Information networks are extremely ‘light’ – almost non-spatial, non-temporal, zero cost function data structures. To apply network ideas to a power grid, the network model needs to be spatial, temporal and suitably weighted. The links have multiple cost functions (establishment, dynamic losses), the nodes have costs (establishment, running, fuel), their latency is good to dreadful to infinite, and it all has a side effect of co2 emission. Imagine running a network where the servers had random, long, latencies, random failures, information can’t be left on a server but is deleted when read, there’s no hard drive or tape storage on these servers, the server bandwidth is a strong function of geographical proximity, etc. etc. This is a network with very different properties to the internet. The connectivity that gives networks their value is much reduced when they are aggressively pruned and weighted.

    I’m not saying you’re unaware of this, I’m really just musing on some cultural differences.

    I for one hope you’ll continue to post here, as I’ve said before. Even if the exchange is exasperating there’s usually something worthwhile in the discussion.

  276. Fran Barlow, you say (#325)

    “Pumped storage is a viable technology and it need not cost much if it is built coextensively with buttressing local grey, sewage and stormwater capture and processing as the costs could be spread across multiple necessary usages.”

    This is an assertion. Without costs it is not helpful. You say it need not cost much. How do you know.

    I can tell you it is totally uneconomic, ny orders of magnitude. The solar power realities paper explains what is required for hydro generation and pump storage. If you want to work with less than Australia’s 1 day energy demand, scale the figures down.

    You sau: “In this country we have pretty much unlimted wind, solar, wave/ tidal, waste biomass, geothermal etc. If we can store that energy we can get by without nuclear or coal and on very little gas.”

    It is an enormous IF. It is not feasible. Simply do simple costs for your self if you do not believe the costs in the papers provided.

    You say “We ought to do it” meaning build renewables. I say we definitely should not do it. It will make next to no difference to Austrralia’s GHG emissions, will damage the economy, and will make us less able to take the correct actions.

    All is explained in the papers. The posts 304 to 308 address the main points that have been raised on this thread. Barry’s new post this morning supports the conclusions presented in the papers.

    I’d just like to say, one more time, without costs, asll these suggestions are simply arm waving.

  277. Peter #322,
    It’s relatively easy to check some of the hydro dams that exist in Australia, and their capacity to expand the present 2,240MW pumped storage(4-10hours duration) to >10,000MW power and >100GWh storage.
    It is true that we have very limited water resources but we do have a number of very large reservoirs. You may be confusing the costs of purpose built pumped hydro with modifications of present dams to enhance existing infrastructure. The Tumut3 power station is a good example of what has been done, with the construction of a very small(170Ha, 23,000ML) short term storage and the modification of 3 turbines with additional pumps.
    What would be possible with the addition of booster pumps at Blowing Res(1,600,000ML capacity) the present 23,000ML storage could increase pumped volume to 230,000ML, allowing Tumut3 to be expanded(with 12 additional turbines from 1,500MW to 4,5000MW peak with 18hours duration. The present Snowy Scheme has >40 turbines, >10 major dams and a total capacity of 3,800MW(9GWh storage), while the addition of 12 additional turbines and 3 booster pumps to increase the capacity to 6,800MW( with a x10 increase(90GWh) storage) is “relatively” minor.
    Two major storage dams in VIC should be suitable for pumped storage upgrades. Dartmouth Dam 180m height storage(3,906,000ML) has a small(10,000ML) Lake Banimbola Pondage that would be suitable for increasing present 180MW to 2180MW or 3,000MW(with minor modifications to the pondage. The second potential pumped storage is Eildon Lake(3,330,000ML)which with the construction of a lower(or upper) pond could expand the present 150MW turbines to 2-3,000MW capacity.
    Tasmania has a number of suitable dams that could allow most of the present 2,200MW to be converted to pumped capacity but would require an upgrade of the Bass-Link to contribute to mainland Australia.
    If Australia has 40GW average demand by 2030, whether supplied by, wind, solar or nuclear there will be a need for >20GW peak power. For the cost of one 1,000MW nuclear reactor >10,000MW pumped hydro capacity and >100GWh of storage could be added to the present hydro storage.

  278. Fran,

    Have you seen any capacity or cost estimations for storing and leveling power generation/consumption using pumped storage via water and and sewerage infrastruture?

    This is an interesting idea. It becomes more interesting if it can cuts costs by employing existing sewerage and water infrastructure. Even if new infrastructure can be desinged for duel use.

  279. If you’re right Peter, then we are at the end of the section. Lower the curtain and kiss everyone good night.

    I don’t accept that is so. We are committing to $25-40 billion on submarines by 2025, and desal in every city at 2 billion a throw, so don’t tell me we can’t build basic water infrastructure in cities.

    Please understand: no amount of persuasion is going to get enough people in this country to accept nuclear power within the time window we need. Even if it were free, proposals for nuclear are nearly as appealing as a half-way house for pedophiles near the local kindy. We need to start now — well ten years ago really but we won’t start for at least another 15 years, if ever if it all depends on nukes.

  280. Peter,
    The 3 Gorges Dam has a total construction cost of $US 51Billion for 22,000MW. The dam has a lower head than the Australian dams and the turbines were supplied by international companies, so guessing that the turbine cost was 15% of the total cost that would be $340million/1,000MW of turbines($340/kW),so the major costs in expanding Australia’s pumped hydro by 10,000MW would be a total of $US 3.4Billion. Expanding the Tumit3 storage from 9GWh to 90GWh would cost <$700Million or <$10/kWh, probably a lot less than this.

    If anyone has a better cost estimate for 1,000MW of hydro turbines I would appreciate the information.

  281. Mark

    I’d love to see them. I’ve tried looking up the costs of water treatment plants but I suppose the site costs would be pretty specific.

    The way I see it, we currently use a bundle of energy essentially pumping water to treatment plants that then get pumped out of ocean outfalls. We don’t use stormwater at all, but leave it to flood local roads during storms and wash crap into creeks. We also use a bundle of energy pumping water from dams to local reservoirs. Apparently about 3-6% of the potable water escapes from the ageing pipe infrastructure.

    If we could reconfigure the system to pump water from local residential, industrial and commercial sources to local treatment then the total distance each gallon of water would be pumped would decline quite sharply. We could foreclose building new dams AND use these local reservoirs to do pumped storage. The only extra cost would be the extra volume of the reservoirs and of course the energy capture infrastructure. Given the elevations, you could put VAWTs on the top and in most places get some reasonable energy output.

    I’m not against nuclear energy — indeed, I rarely miss an opportunity to mention its potential efficacy, but most people who are interested in the idea of reducing CO2 favour “clean energy” aka renewables and for them, nuclear doesn’t count.

  282. Mark Bryen (#330), Fran Barlow (#331, #333),

    Mark, you asked for costs for micro hydro. Before you do the costs, you need to work out how much energy you can get, how much storage you will need so you can have dispatchable power for peak load only, and how you are going to build the system. To assist you with the first part of this, can I suggest you read the section in David Mackay’s book about how to calculate hydro. You could take a simpler approach. You could say “if this is not being applied anywhere else in the world, even in places with high rainfall, falling regularly and frequently throughout the year, why would it wortk in Australia where we have low rainfall and long periods between showers. That would be a sanity check before you start.

    For pumped hydro storage costs, and to get an idea of the dimension of the larger facilities, look at: http://www.electricitystorage.org/site/technologies/ and http://www.electricitystorage.org/site/technologies/pumped_hydro/

  283. Mark Bryen (#330), Fran Barlow (#331, #333),

    Mark, you asked for costs for micro hydro. Before you do the costs, you need to work out how much energy you can get, how much storage you will need so you can have dispatchable power for peak load only, and how you are going to build the system. To assist you with the first part of this, can I suggest you read the section in David Mackay’s book about how to calculate hydro. You could take a simpler approach. You could say “if this is not being applied anywhere else in the world, even in places with high rainfall, falling regularly and frequently throughout the year, why would it wortk in Australia where we have low rainfall and long periods between showers. That would be a sanity check before you start.

    For pumped hydro storage costs, and to get an idea of the dimension of the larger facilities, look at: http://www.electricitystorage.org/site/technologies/ and http://www.electricitystorage.org/site/technologies/pumped_hydro/

    Fran Barlow (#331),

    You say: “If you’re right Peter, then we are at the end of the section. Lower the curtain and kiss everyone good night. “
    False. We have the option of nuclear power to provide least-cost, low-emissions electricity generation.
    You say: “I don’t accept that is so. We are committing to $25-40 billion on submarines by 2025, and desal in every city at 2 billion a throw, so don’t tell me we can’t build basic water infrastructure in cities.”
    False premise. Adding mini- and micro-hydro is not “basic water infrastructure in cities”. When someone needs water do we say “no, we’ll let you have some water when we are generating peak power; you’ll have to wait until then.”? There are many other issues such as where will we creat the storage, irregular flow, insufficient hydraulic head, etc. Refer to my post to Mark Bryen. And please read David Mackay’s section on hydro.
    You say: “Please understand: no amount of persuasion is going to get enough people in this country to accept nuclear power within the time window we need. Even if it were free, proposals for nuclear are nearly as appealing as a half-way house for pedophiles near the local kindy.”
    I agree that that is the position now. But perceptions can change quickly. I was in Sweden in the mid to late 1980’s watching and listening to the nuclear debate. I could go into a restaurant and ask a person sitting next to me “what do you think about nuclear energy”. People would willing, openly, intelligently discuss it. They were informed and knowledgeable. That situation hasn’t arrived in Australia yet.

    It will, and probably much sooner than we expect. Once people are persuaded that we really do have to cut emissions from electricity generation, it needs to be done quickly, and it is going to cost a lot, people will take an interest in the options.. There is no question, by far the least cost way will be with nuclear. Renewables are a total waste of our money. And they save very little greenhouse gas emissions. Once people realise this, it wont take long for the perceptions to change.
    If you doubt these statements, re-read the wind and solar papers. The questions have been asked and ansewwered in the follow up articles and the comments. There should be no lingering doubts at this stage. The least cost option is nuclear by a country mile.
    BNC is doing an excellent job in explaing the options. This is the start of the debate Sweden and Canada had in the 1970’s and 1980’s.

  284. I’ve done some simple, rough calculations on the cost of solar thermal based on their figures for their reference technology (solar thermal trough). http://www.needs-project.org/docs/results/RS1a/RS1a%20D12.2%20Final%20report%20concentrating%20solar%20thermal%20power%20plants.pdf

    It seems to me, it is impracticable to produce baseload power from solar thermal. The size of the collector field has to be too great to provide sufficient energy on overcast winter days.

    The NEEDS report projects we will have trough technology (the least cost option) able to store 16 hours of energy by 2020. But that is based on average annual hours of daylight. In winter we need 18 hours of storage and charge it in 6 hours. And that is on a sunny day. So when might we reach this capability? Perhaps 2030? But, how can we provide sufficient storage and generating capacity for when it is cloudy?

    Solar thermal seems to me to be impractical at any cost (as a solution to replace coal for baseload generation).

    A rough calculation of the cost for a Solar Thermal trough system, with 18 hours storage, to meet Australia’s NEM demand, is $8.5 trillion. This is for a system which can provide the power requirements on the most overcast day.

    To keep this in perspective, recall the cost to do the same job with nuclear was ($120 billion); i.e 1/70th of the cost!

    This is optimistic because I used the storage cost rate for 7.5 hours, and applied it for 18 hours without any increase in the rate, and I used the cost rate for the collector field, thus not making any allowance for the technological improvement that would be needed in the 100 times greater length of tubing to maintain themperature in the fluid over the greater length.

    I’ve done the calculations with 3 days of storage using the same unit rates, ($4.3 trillion) but the technology seems even further in the future.

    I haven’t included transmission in any of these estimates.

    My conclusion: forget solar thermal, forget solar PV, forget wind. Furthermore, since these are considered to be the most likely technologies to be viable, it is unlikely that any of the other non-hydro renewable technologies will be more viable. (Hot fractured rock geothermal may make a small contribution, we’ll have to see).

    Before suggesting other possibliities, can I urge you to do some calculations on what you are proposing. David Mackay’s book, referenced on this web site, and accessible on line, explains how to do the calculations. David Mackay summarises the purpose of his book, in the first sentence of the Preface, as “To reduce the emissions of twaddle”

    “TO REDUCE THE EMISSIONS OF TWADDLE”.

  285. (sighs)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloncurry_solar_power_station

    “A solar thermal power station is to be built in Cloncurry, in north-west Queensland. Thhttp://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/e solar thermal power station will have a capacity of 10-megawatt and will deliver about 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power the whole town.[1]”

    “The total cost of the project is A$31 million including a A$7 million gift from the government.[2] The plant should be running by early 2010.[3]”

    So what’s that… $3100/kw nameplate at the small scale of production, not enjoying economies of scale? Yep, 70 times more expensive indeed!

  286. Neil Howes, #329

    Neil,

    Thank you for your two posts (#329 and #332). There is lots to answer, and it will take me a little time. I am not sure I’ll be able to answer in detail today. But here are a few quick randonm points.

    You have some excellent points, and I will consider them in more detail, but later.

    The ESA site at http://www.electricitystorage.org/site/technologies/ provides some costs for pumped hydro. I find these useful for initial scoping studies. I recently provided ESA with the missing information for Tumut 3 and they are about to update the pumped-hydro table with the Tumut 3 information. This is the information I sent:

    Tumut 3
    On-line date 1973
    Hydraulic Head (m) 151
    Maximum Total Rating (MW) 1500
    Hours of discharge at maximum generation rate 44
    Plant cost (in 1967 A$) A$64.3 M

    Maximum pump storage rate (assume 80% efficiency) (MWh/h) 440
    Hours of storage in lower (smaller) reservoir at maximum pumping rate (h) 21
    Note: The hours of discharge that can be stored in the lower reservoir at full generation discharge rates is just 6

    The costs for the Three Gorges hydro scheme cannot be applied to the Australian situation. The river flow is enormous. There is nothing like it in Australia. Regarding the turbine costs, you can’t pull just that component out and say that is the major cost and then use that as the basis of estimate. Costs for hydro, of all sizes, are readily available. But actual costs for a specific site are highly site dependent. Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation (SMEC) and Pacific Hydro have conducted feasibility studies for many sites.

    Recall that the technically and economically excellent Tulley-Millstream hydro plant in Queensland was cancelled in about 1990 because of opposition from environment groups. There is no chance of building hydro in Australia at the moment. It is about as popular as nuclear.

    Most Australian dams are for water supply not for hydro. If we want to use the dams for pumped-hydro storage, they cannot be used for water storage. The reason is because when used for water storage the water level is drawn down to a low level (even emptied, as at Goulburn a year or so ago). For pumped storage hydro, the water levels in the dams must change by a small height. The active zone for Tumut 3 is about 10 m in both the top and bottom reservoirs.

    You say: “You may be confusing the costs of purpose built pumped hydro with modifications of present dams to enhance existing infrastructure. The Tumut3 power station is a good example of what has been done, with the construction of a very small(170Ha, 23,000ML) short term storage and the modification of 3 turbines with additional pumps.”

    The pumps at Tumut 3 were not added after the power station was built. They were part of the original power station. The pumps are below three of the six turbines. Adding three more pumps would not increase the peak power output. It would only increase the amount of energy stored – so that we can produce 1500 MW for longer. That also requires that the lower dam’s activity capacity be doubled. Not an easy thing to do. It probably would require building a new dam downstream. I suspect a suitable site does not exist, because if it does that’s where the downstream dam would have been built originally. You may have more details on this.

    The lower dam and reservoir, Jounama Pond, was not added afterwards. It was constructed as part of the original scheme; the dam was completed in 1968. Just for details, the dimensions I have for it are: active capacity = 27.8 ML and area at full supply level = 380 ha.

    If we want to use Blowering for the lower storage reservoir, I suspect we’d have to stop using it as water storage for irrigation, or at least curtail it. I have no idea what the cost would be of a ‘virtual dam’ (ie pipes and pumps) that you suggested here. You seem to have done quite a bit of work on this. It is interesting. It will get me thinking some more on some of what you suggest. Good stuff!

    You do have some good points about what could be done theoretically. However, I suspect nowhere near the power, and duration at full power, figures you are suggesting. I also expect most of it would not be economic – except perhaps together with nuclear. Then it would make sense. The least cost nuclear option would be with about 8 GW of pumped hydro storage, and more to reduce the amount of redundancy required in nuclear power stations.

  287. EclipseNow,

    Haven’t you understood yet.

    Intermittent renewables cannot supply ANY houses without sufficient storage to get through the night and cloudy days.

    You quote the site as saying ” enough to power the whole town.[1]”

    People keep falling for this spin. It is total rubbish. Just think of what you are falling for. Haven’t you understood anything that has been explained to you on this web site?

  288. I think you’ve missed a vital element of this Cloncurry power station. It’s a graphite heat storage. It’s the “missing battery” technology that you’ve been worried about. The mirrors point the sun’s heat directly onto a block of high purity graphite that can store the suns heat for weeks depending on the rate of energy in V energy out. Now it all depends on the cost as these graphite units are scaled up, but there is no TECHNICAL reason they cannot store enough solar heat to last the 3 or 4 days of overcast weather you are worried about. That’s “as advertised” anyway. It’s just how much money do we want to pour into the graphite blocks to store for what period of time.

    You also haven’t responded to many of the hybrid solar thermal options that are arriving, which can have biogas storage tanks that are CO2 neutral (or negative if coming from biochar) and cover those 3 or 4 day scenarios.

    Anyway, back to the graphite.

    “The Lloyd Energy Storage System, (pic here) is, in own words,”a breakthrough technology in that it provides energy storage from tens of kilowatts to hundreds of megawatts with applications varying from short duration standby generations to mainstream continuous power plants and almost all combinations in between.” The Lloyd system, developed in Australia, is a block of high purity graphite, which is said to accept heat in any form and can then store it for many days or even weeks, “depending on the rate of energy extraction to the rate of energy replacement.” The trick that Lloyd have on their side is apparently they’ve managed to figure out how to refine low grade graphite into high quality crystalline graphite. The storage capacity of which we’re told “ranges from around 300kWh (thermal) per tonne at a storage temperature of 750°C to around 1000kWh (thermal) per tonne at 1800°C.” Now, if this all sounds like it should be in the ‘too good to be true’ basket, well the Australian government announced (PDF) a couple of months ago that Lloyd Energy Systems were beneficaries of $5 million AUD in research funding, with plans to support a 16-tower solar array for a regional NSW centre. The proof of the pudding, as the proverb goes, will be in the tasting.”

    http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/07/lloyd_energy_th.php

  289. ” enough to power the whole town.[1]”

    Says who? On what basis?

    If you look at Lloyd’s promotional material, you see the project aims are to:

    1. Demonstrate solar energy “on-demand” through Lloyd’s solar storage system
    2. Provide peak and backup supply for Cloncurry
    3. Ensure power quality in the area

    This is not “powering the whole town”. Instead, this is apparently a technology demonstration with limited aims, namely to demonstrate the graphite block thermal storage.

    It should be obvious that the aims of providing peak and backup supply, and ensuring power quality, are limited aims, and are simply not attempting to power the whole town.

    Now, if they were to attempt to power the whole town, then they would start to hit the intermittency and storage constraints we’ve discussed at length here. To overcome those constraints requires the kind of overbuild Peter has analyzed, and the cost turns into a very different number than the $31m/10MW value you cite, which is not the cost for powering the town, but the cost for “ensuring power quality”.

  290. I just received this email from a colleague I asked to check my rough cost calculations for solar thermal.

    “Certainly based on NEEDS costings a solar multiple of 4 will cost over $15,000/kW. For this reason I don’t think we will see 18 hour storage systems unless the cost of the solar field reduces significantly. Remember the NEEDS costs are for parabolic mirrors. Fresnel fan David Mills from Ausra would argue that his collectors are cheaper.

    I suspect that the market for solar thermal over the next couple of decades will be daytime peaking power only so storage will be limited to a couple of hours max to cover for short term cloud periods.

    It’s worth looking at what the real field engineers (not academics like ….) are actually doing. Worley Parsons the engineering company with a consortium including BHP and Rio plus others is planning a 250 MW solar thermal plant with a solar multiple of 1.35 using 1000 MWh (thermal) molten salt storage with no co-firing which will cost $1 billion ($4000/kW). The solar field will be 6 sq kms. This is a peaking plant only and is only justified on peak wholesale rates. The cost seems less than your numbers would suggest even for a 1.35 solar multiple (my estimate based on your numbers would be about $1.5 billion – the $1 billion quoted could just be an “order-of-magnitude” number).

    I think we can forget solar thermal baseload for quite some time to come.

  291. Neil Howes, and others interested in hydro,

    I have an excellent power point presentation of the Russion hydro plant failure. It was produced 1 week after the failure, has excellent photographs and annotation on the photos. It is 57 slides. If you want it post your email address and I’ll send it to you (or to Barry, if he wants me to).

    Here is web site with some slides from the accident: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1207093/Accident-Russias-biggest-hydroelectric-plant-leaves-seven-workers-dead.html

    This accident puts some perspective on the scale of what is involved in electricity generation. If Stephen Gloor is still reading these comments, this might reinforce what John D Morgan said in his excellent post #327. (I would commend this post to other readers to read again).

  292. John and Peter, what do you make of the following claims?

    “Renewable Energy cannot become mainstream without Energy Storage. Put simply the wind may blow or the sun may shine when you don’t need it or it is not cost effective to sell. The reverse is also true. The times when the need for energy is high may correspond to times when the availability of the wind or sun may be low or nonexistent. Energy Storage allows owners and operators of power systems based on wind wave or solar, to forward sell power to maximise returns as there can now be certainty that power will be there to dispatch at the time designated. Energy Storage enables owners of renewable assets to better maximise the use of their assets. In wind systems this means being able to capture more of the available wind.”

    http://www.lloydenergy.com/despatchable.htm

    Also, “The storage capacity of high purity graphite ranges from around 300kWh (thermal) per tonne at a storage temperature of 750°C to around 1000kWh (thermal) per tonne at 1800°C.”

    http://www.lloydenergy.com/heatstorage.htm

    They also talk about being able to store heat for weeks… and I WISH I could get the BZE interview because they mentioned how much loss there was after a MONTH!

  293. Neil Howes,

    You’ve caught my attention. Got me interested..

    I’ve just looked up the details for the Tumut 3 and Blowering schemes. Here are the relevant stats:

    Surface areas at full supply level:

    Talbingo reservoir (Tumut 3’s top reservoir) (ha) = 1943
    Jounama Pond (Tumut 3’s lower reservoir) (ha) = 381
    Blowering Reservoir (ha) = 4303.

    Water levels:

    Tumut 3 Pumps (existing) maximum operating level in lower dam = RL 392.6 m
    Tumut 3 Pumps (existing) minimum operating level in lower dam = RL 381.0 m
    Blowering Full supply level = RL 380.4
    Blowering (proposed minimum operating level) = RL 376.4

    Blowering Reservoir has over twice the surface area of Talbingo Reservoir at their respective full supply levels. If we could use Blowering as the lower reservoir for Tumut 3, we could increase Tumut 3’s energy storage capacity for pumped-hydro from 9 GWh to 66 GWh.

    How could we achieve this?

    1. Keep Blowering reservoir near full supply level. It could not be used for irrigation water storage anymore. It would have an active zone of 4 m (full supply level minus minimum operating level).

    2. Lower the elevation of the Tumut 3 pumps by about 5 m (from RL 381m to RL 376). Deepen the tail water channel by 5 m and extend it down stream as far as necessary. Lowering the pumps could be costly and adds no generation capacity.

    3. Perhaps it might be practicable to leave the old power station as is for generation only and add a second pump and generation station.

    Very interesting, Neil. Thanks for prompting me on this. Are you the author of letters suggesting the Snowy Mountains Scheme could be converted into a “battery” for SE Australia, or something to that effect?

  294. EclipseNow,

    You asked what do I think? I’ll take the question to refer to all the stuff you keep posing.

    The answer that comes to mind is “obstinately inumerate”.

    Suggest you read David Mackay’s book so you can get a handle on how to do some calculations for yourself.

    The stated purpose of the book is to “Reduce the emissions of twaddle”.

    Of course, it can only succed in that aim if people are prepared to do some simple calculations for themsleves.

  295. Don’t forget 50 thousand V2G cars = 1 gig storage. Australia has 15 million vehicles. Say half convert to EV that’s 150gigs. Allow for Moore’s law in battery storage over the next decade or so (being deliberately vague just to make a point) as the fleet changes to 50% electric, and maybe we’ve got 300 gigs storage? Eventually replace the WHOLE fleet to EV down the track, allow a little bit more of Moore’s law, and that’s 600gigs storage?

    If we’ve learnt anything about batteries after the laptop market wars it is that we’re incrementally improving them to a very rough Moore’s law. Just wait till the EV market wars start.

  296. Neil, and others, I’d like to put some perspective on this statement I made in post #346,

    “If we could use Blowering as the lower reservoir for Tumut 3, we could increase Tumut 3’s energy storage capacity for pumped-hydro from 9 GWh to 66 GWh.”

    Making Blowering the lower reservoir for Tumut 3, and adding a new pumped hydro station would give us 66 GWh of energy storage.

    We need 450 GWh to power us through the night from 3 pm to 9 am. So, about seven of these (Talbingo, Blowering and new power station) could allow solar PV to power Australia’s NEM at a cost of about $2.8 trilion, versus about $120 billion for nuclear to do the same job.

    I just thought I’d mention that in case anyone missed it :)

  297. EN, I think the first statement in quotes is quite correct. But what is at issue is how much energy storage is available, and the argument here is that the storage, plus additional generation capacity, sufficient to cover day or multiday gaps in generation is ruinously expensive.

    “The storage capacity of high purity graphite ranges from around 300kWh (thermal) per tonne at a storage temperature of 750°C to around 1000kWh (thermal) per tonne at 1800°C.”

    I’ve no reason to doubt these numbers, or that Lloyds have developed low loss storage. Again, its not the issue. The issues are that (i) you need sufficient storage to cover energy requirements through the intermittent outages, (ii) you need sufficient storage to cover the power requirements during those outages (this is different to (i)), (iii) you need sufficient extra generation capacity above usage requirements to be filling that storage up, (iv) that the cost of the storage and additional capacity is very large, and (vi) you’d want to have a long hard look at other options before you spend that sort of money.

    For example, the hot block project will cost about A$31m, and will not provide Cloncurry’s power requirements. Truly providing the power to take Cloncurry off grid would cost much, much more if done with solar. But for about the same money as the demo, US$25m, they could buy a Hyperion power module with 25 MWe, stick a fork in it, its done. Why would they not do that? With a 10 year life thats about $1000 per person per year of reliable zero emission power. Why why why would you futz around with solar thermal plus graphite blocks that will be vastly more expensive and won’t do the job? If this power was being bought with ratepayers money the Cloncurry councillors would be lynched in the main street if they bought the solar solution instead of Hyperion’s solution.

  298. John, very well explained in you post #350.

    I don’t understand why the renewable energy advocates blogging here cannot understand it.

    The reason for my interuption here is that I made a mistake in my comment #349.

    Wait. Much excitment. hoping. hoping.

    “I said “We need 450 GWh to power us through the night from 3 pm to 9 am. So, about seven of these (Talbingo, Blowering and new power station) could allow solar PV to power Australia’s NEM at a cost of about $2.8 trilion, versus about $120 billion for nuclear to do the same job.”

    But, that’s enough energy for 1 night. So we need sufficient solar paneles to generate that power even on the foggiest days. If you refer to the Solar Power Realities paper, Figure 9, you will see that the cost of the system with 1 day of energy storage is $20 trillion, not 2.8 trillion. My appologies. But it all helps to get an understanding.

    Of course the solar alternative is about $120 billion, or about 0.6%

    That is, with SEVEN of the enhanced and integrated Tumut 3 plus Blowering systems, solar PV (the least cost solar option) would be 166 times more expensive than nuclear.

  299. Peter Lang@335

    You quote some pumped storage costs in a tadbel at the ESA

    Thanks for this link (though I note it leaves out Ben Cruachan in Scotland). The table leaves unclear the time each unit can deliver at peak.

    Fairly obviously, the cheaper it is to get head pressure, the better the numbers look, so I’m not sure what to mkake of these numbers. Helms Ca with 520 meters of head pressure and a rating of 1.22GW for 153 hours @ only $416million (1984 dollars?) looks pretty damned cheap though. Racoon Mt Tn with 310m of head pressure at $288m with 21 hours of 1.9GW doesn’t look bad either.

    Fairly obviously, we could cut the cost in much of Australia by using the sea as the lower reservoir and some elevated land near it as the upper. Most of us live near the ocean and we are going in the direction of desal. We could use hydraulic wave machines to pump water directly — cutting out some of the electricity and have the pumped storage dual personality supplying either desal or power or some combination of the two. That wouldn’t prevent us from using pumps powered from the grid to do some of this work.

    You say:

    False: We have the option of nuclear power to provide least-cost, low-emissions electricity generation.

    In practice we don’t. That’s not an option as I said, because no party will dare propose it. The friends of nuclear for the most part are also friends of coal, and since coal is cheaper and part of Australia’s competitive advantage they see no reason why we should switch. When these people mention nuclear, they do it simply to wedge the people like us who want to lower CO2 emissions. Barnaby Joyce would never really advocate nuclear, and he doesn’t have to because the ‘friends of the earth’ will keep it off the agenda for him.

    Nuclear is pretty much friendless in this country and that won’t be changing any time in the foreseeable future. I genuinely wish that were not the case. I’d love to switch the coal fired capacity of this country and the world to nuclear starting tomorrow, but it isn’t going to happen. If the choice is between “cheap” coal and renewables with expensive storage, I choose the latter, and I suspect most people will too. If as you say, people eventually decide that nuclear is acceptable, then having pumped storage won’t be a waste — indeed, it will reduce the amount of nuclear we need which may make it more saleable politically.

    Adding mini- and micro-hydro is not “basic water infrastructure in cities”.

    It could be.

    When someone needs water do we say “no, we’ll let you have some water when we are generating peak power; you’ll have to wait until then.”?

    Of course not, but what we do is build the facilities big enough so that both needs can be supplied. It would only be on those occasions when large amounts of power and water were needed within the same time window that there would be a conflict, but even in this case we still have access to the dams and the regional potable water supply. We should also meter water so that it reflects the actual cost of delivery and collection. As we have seen, demand for water is even more elastic than power. Some people would choose to water their gardens, run their washing machines and wash their cars when the cost was high and others wouldn’t. In Sydney, the recent trend involved people largely not washing their cars and watering their gardens until after dusk.

    There are many other issues such as where will we create the storage, irregular flow, insufficient hydraulic head, etc.

    We can create as much hydraulic head as we need by choosing high ground and boring down as far as the budget will permit. Ideally, we can substantially improve urban densities, creating spaces on the best ground for these facilities. This would facilitate rooftop capture, local use of subsurface grey water (foreclosing wasteful open watering)

    I agree that that is the position now. But perceptions can change quickly. I was in Sweden in the mid to late 1980’s watching and listening to the nuclear debate. I could go into a restaurant and ask a person sitting next to me “what do you think about nuclear energy”.

    That’s as maybe. Firstly the Swedes have had nuclear power since 1965. Secondly they are phasing it out. The Forsmark matters have damaged nuclear’s credibility. Some polls suggest that about half the populace favour new reactors. This is all quite unlike Australia, but even in this more fafvourable setting, on your timeline you are hoping to be able to do that here in about 2029 … so the first nuclear plants get here when — 2037? Too late. We need solutions much earlier than that.

    It seems to me that the most likely route to getting nuclear accepted here is to advocate it everywhere else as the single most obvious way to cut CO2 emissions at acceptable cost, while setting ourselves up here to make good use of renewables with good storage technologies. With pumped storage we could make coal usage a lot less dirty and make much better use of wind, wave, tidal and solar and we could sell this as dealing with our water problems too. Once we have the storage capacity to make very good use of nuclear’s low marginal cost, then coal can be phased out more aggressively.

  300. Fran Barlow,

    Why don’t you propose a solution that can meet Australia’s power demand and cost it. Just simple calculations will show you that none of what you are proposing works.

    Your argument about nuclear is not accdeptable is silly. If it is not acceptable we can’t make any significant cut to emissions. It’s that simple. Gas will cut emissions from electricity generation, but not much when you consider that demand is projected to double by 2030. It will double that again if land transport moves to electricity or to fuels mande by electrricity.

    So, in reality, we have two options. Nuclear or keep emitting GHG’s.

    It’s that simple.

    There is not point continually repeating the same mantra you’ve said over and aover again.

    Why don’t you do some calculations. Are you scared of what they might show you?

  301. Peter,
    My information was that Jounama was 23,000ML. The idea would be to install a separate pump turbine in Blowering to transfer water up to Jounama and use existing return pumps. This would not be done daily but only to recover water after a large “low wind” or low solar event. I don’t see any comprimise with Blowering as a water storage, as Eucumbene is at the top with 4.8Million ML storage.
    Will follow up tomorrow( my home hard drived crashed)
    Neil

  302. Show me, Peter, where I can get good costings on pumped storage (or a model I can map across) here in Australia.

    Really though, whether going the renewable route costs more is irrelevant if people won’t accept nuclear. I suspect it will cost a fair bit more, at least initially, but not the orders of magnitude you are invoking. The logic of your argument in Australia is that the discussion over reducing emissions here is over, but I can’t accept that. I’m for the least costly emissions reductions available at any cost. If nuclear is out, then I’m for the next least expensive, and so forth. Why aren’t you?

    We have in Australia a major crisis over water supply and we can use that to bed down the foundation for intermittents. I can’t see why that shouldn’t be done at whatever the cost is, because as I said, right now the major cities are doing dirty desal and stupidly paying people to get water tanks. That’s mad.

    And no, I’m not scared of what the cost-benefit calculations might show. You seem to be implying I have some axe to grind against nuclear power. The only ‘axe’ I’m grinding is in favour of lower emissions and reductions in energy-related pollution. Unlike you it seems, I’m in a hurry to get the wheels in motion rather than chasing some fantasy about nuclear power replacing coal in the next decade — which is really what we need — or waiting another 30 years to get started.

    If large numbers of people do change their minds on nuclear tomorrow (and believe me, I make the case at least twice each week to someone new, who is suitably horrified that I can be suggesting such a thing: “aren’t you an environmentalist?”), then count me in, but in the meantime I’d sooner get agreement on something that gets us moving in the right direction.

  303. Fran, this is something I’d like to explore further. The time progression to a zero carbon economy that goes efficiency -> renewables -> nuclear seems to have had the middle stump knocked out. I had hoped for an assist from renewables, but Peter’s analysis points to the very limited co2 impact of even partial integration of renewables into the grid, at high cost. Nevertheless, there is a lot of power out there. What applications of renewables make sense, in terms of net co2 reductions?

    Creating stable high embodied energy materials, like desalinated water, aluminium, cement or hydrogen might make sense since there’s no requirement for energy storage, the scale is large enough for an impact to be felt, and the aim would only be to augment existing material supply capacity, not to repower the grid. If v2g plays nice with renewables that might offer some co2 savings as well.

    If our only option for co2 reductions over the next 20 years is efficiency then things are pretty grim.

  304. Fran,

    I find this discussion with you pointless. You havent read or understrood the material. The aregument is going around and around because you are tied to a deeply held, but irrational belief. You are ignoring the logic and facts. You say:

    I’m for the least costly emissions reductions available at any cost. If nuclear is out, then I’m for the next least expensive, and so forth. Why aren’t you?

    Firstly nuclear is not out.

    Secondly, the renewabls cannot provide power to meet the demand

    Thirdly, renewables cannot significanlty cut GHG emissions.

    We’ve been over that.

    Your are stuck on a religious like belief. No amount of facts and figures is going to change your mind.

    There is no point in me answering anymore of your questions.

  305. Neil Howes,

    My mistake on the active storage capacity of Jounama pond. I meant 28.7 GL (28,700 ML).

    What is your data source, not that it matters very much. But I’d still be interested to know if there is newer data avilable than I have. They recently remeasured the volume of many dams and also Sydney Harbour. The latter is abit of a problem because it is no longer 500 GL, which is a bit of a problem because the unit Sudharb is 500 GL. It still is, Sydney Harbour is now a about 5.1 Sydharbs.

  306. Nuclear is pretty much friendless in this country and that won’t be changing any time in the foreseeable future.

    I’d also question this. I’m under no illusions of the difficulty of changing this situation, but nor am I without hope that it could change quicker than you might imagine.

    The reality and seriousness of climate change is now broadly accepted, and it seems to me this happened fairly quickly and due to leadership from a few individuals like Gore, and Flannery here. Objectively, nuclear has a very strong and coherent case to make. Leadership, effective communication, the climate crisis, the water crisis and the fossil fuels crisis *could* change things quickly. So could apathy. I’m not entirely sure the nation of consumerists we’ve created particularly give a damn beyond the bottom line of their electricity bill. Frequent brownouts and high electricity bills could soon turn them around.

    Its a national debate we need to have, and there are signs its starting to happen. The discussion here is a start. Again, leadership, vision and communication could change things quickly. Sadly it doesn’t seem to be our strong suit.

  307. Hi John,
    I just googled Hyperion. Very interesting! If I were heading off to colonise Mars I’d want a dozen! But that’s in space.
    But as Fran says, it’s politically unacceptable here.

    Also, it’s in the future. Not available till 2013. Cloncurry will have had a year or so running by then. So will Better Place. So may Eestor batteries!

    Wind is about as cheap as coal, but not when we consider backup. OK, check this out. As I was saying, Moore’s law in batteries chugs along…

    From Yale 360.

    http://www.e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2170

    “EEStor claims that its device, which is one-quarter the weight of a similar Nocera Donna Coveney/MIT Work being done by Daniel Nocera at MIT could open up the possibly that electricity could be stored by splitting (and later recombining) abundant water molecules.
    lithium ion battery, can hold a large charge for days. Its patent describes a 281-pound device that would hold almost the same charge as a half-ton lithium ion battery pack installed on the Tesla Roadster. The company’s ultracapacitors have yet to prove themselves in commercial products. But industrial giant Lockheed Martin has already signed up with EEStor to use future ultra capacitors in defense applications, and Toronto-based Zenn Motors, which has also taken an ownership stake in EEStor, says it will have electric cars on the road using the technology in 2010.”

    http://www.e360.yale.edu/content/feature.msp?id=2160

    Now apply future ‘super-batteries’ to a Better Place car model, and you have V2G on steroids. Moore’s law in batteries means slowly increasing electrical storage per battery, in a fleet of car batteries covered by car consumers paying LESS than the price of oil today. Indeed, the cost / km will progress downwards as battery technology improves. Soon it may well become a case of “what intermittency?” Super-batteries are coming, and they may not even be nuclear. ;-)

  308. Fran,

    Ok, I’ve “put my manners back in” and here is another go at replying to your post #356.

    You say: “Really though, whether going the renewable route costs more is irrelevant if people won’t accept nuclear.”

    I don’t agree with this on two accounts, First, if people accept that we have to cut emissions they will not only accept nuclear they will demand it. People respond to the hip-pocket nerve.

    Second, cost is not irrelevant. If we make bad policy decisions, (like pushing mandating, subsidising renewables for ideologicl reasons), we will seriously damage the economy. People still want their hospitals, nurses, schools, and teachers. With less money in the economy something has to suffer. It will be the environment.

    You say “If nuclear is out, then I’m for the next least expensive, and so forth. Why aren’t you?

    Firstly, nuclear is not out. It is the only option. Iyt is a matter of having the debate, not avoiding it.

    Secondly, There really is no other alternative if we want to cut emissions. I think that is quite clear. Have you looked at David Mackay’s book, p335? What do you notice. Do you see that the EU countries with the highest wind power penetration have the highest GHG emissions from electrcity generation. Do you also see that the countries with the most nuclear have the lowest GHG emissions from electrcity generation?

    The options are not nucleasr versus renewables. It is nuclear versus no GHG reductions.

    That really is the key point.

    You say: “Unlike you it seems, I’m in a hurry to get the wheels in motion rather than chasing some fantasy about nuclear power replacing coal in the next decade — which is really what we need — or waiting another 30 years to get started.”

    I’m in a hurry too. But I’ve seen us waste two decades for the same reason as you are saying now. In 1991 to 1992, Ecologiclly Sustainable Development” was the rage. All the government departments were heavily involved, industry was invloved, policy was flying everywhere. Modelling was being done, David Mills was sying Solar Thermal is just 3 years away from providing economic baseload power. He’s still saying the same thing now, and a new crowd of gullible people believe it. The imporatant point is that, back then, just as now, nuclear was not government policy. It was made clear to the bureaucracy they should not embarrass the government by mentioning it. The bureaucrats got the message and it was not to be mentioned. We’ve lost 20 years and we are doing the same again. If this isn’t tackled, we’ll be in the same place in another 20 years.

    You wqant aan agreement to do so,etning. I don’t want an agreement on rally bad policy. Hiding from nuclear is bad policy.

    You say nuclear cannot be built quickly enough. I say the only way we are going to make major reductions to electrcity emissions is with nuclear. We need to get started. We could have near emissions free electrcity bu 2040 (more likely 2050) bu replacing old coal fired power plants as they reach the end of their economic lives. We could replace the whole coal fleet between 2020 and 2050 if we start now France commissioned its fleet in 2 decades, and that is twice the size of Australia’s needs.

    Any coal fired power stations that need to be retired between now and 2020, and any new capacity required should be gas fired. We should continue with geothermal, but I don’t expect much from it.

    We need cheapest possible electrcity. The cheaper electrcity is the faster land transport will convert from oil. Also the cheaper clean electrcity is, the faster China and India will adopt it.

  309. From Fran Barlow:
    If large numbers of people do change their minds on nuclear tomorrow (and believe me, I make the case at least twice each week to someone new, who is suitably horrified that I can be suggesting such a thing: “aren’t you an environmentalist?”), then count me in, but in the meantime I’d sooner get agreement on something that gets us moving in the right direction.

    The key to building a political concensus for nuclear power in Australia is not to attempt to convert the religiously anti-nuclear, or even the doubtful pro-renewables environmentalists. the key is to mobilise the substantial latent support for nuclear power which already exists.

    I fully intend to do this, and am currently putting the pieces in place for an organisation to serve as the vehicle for this cause (would’ve been a bit further along by now if I hadn’t come down with the flu a couple of weeks ago, but we are now back on track).

  310. Neil Howes (#355),

    You said ” I don’t see any comprimise with Blowering as a water storage, as Eucumbene is at the top with 4.8Million ML storage.”

    I don’t see how Eucumbene can be involved in any other way other than how it is involved now. Eucumbene is the main storage reservoir for the scheme. The problem with the Snowy system is insufficient water inflows. So, no matter what we do we are not going to be able to fix that problem. We already let the water down stream at the optimum rate to maximise the generation capacity of the scheme (at least that is true when engineers are in control – it goes off the rails when the accounts are in charge as has happened with disasterous consequences).

    Are you suggesting connecting Eucambene to Talbingo and making pump storage between these two reservoirs? Eucumbene is higher than Talbingo Reservoir, and some 20 km distance. Eucumbene’s height data is FSL = RL 1165 m and MOL = RL 1116. Talbingo FSL is 544. So there is about 550m hydraulic head – good for pump storage. There would be quite a bit of head loss in 30 km of tunnel. Do you know of any pump storage schemes with 30 m of tunnel? Tantangara to Eucumbene has an existing tunnel, a head of only 40 m. Probably not worth the cost. Jindabyne to Eucumbene has 200 m head and is about 20 km up stream. So no tunnels required, just very large diameter pipes (probably 6 pipes about 6 m diameter each for 1500 MW generation capacity).

    I don’t see how it will help to pump water back from blowering “occasionally”. If we want to increase Tumut 3’s energy storage from 9 GWh to 66 GWh we need to use the top 5 m of Blowering Reservoir. Pumping back from Blowering will not add anything significant.

    I think you have probably done a lot more thinking about this thn I have. So I probably do not understand what you have in mind. I look forward to hearing from you when you uncrash your HD.

  311. Looks like you’re all arguing on azimuth tracking without elevation tracking – this is ridiculous and outdated.

    You’re not looking at geographical sun incidence for different geographical regions.

    For a 220MWe (217MWe with air cooling) 74% capacity factor plant see the Solar 220 using double reheat supercritical turbines (now used in coal plants around the place)
    from the US Department of Energy NREL costings confirmed by the Sargent and Lundy Company which does the due diligence on Nuclear, Coal, Gas and Solar plant proposals from utilities.

    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/pdfs/34440.pdf

    Solar thermal technologies have the ability to store energy which is really rare for renewable energy technologies. Really only hydro power has a similar capability. But because we are creating heat we can actually stick that heat in a big tank, much like a large thermos, and then we can pull that heat back later on and use it to create steam and make electricity. Dr Craig Turchi PhD – US DOE NREL

  312. Looks like you’re all arguing on azimuth tracking without elevation tracking – this is ridiculous and outdated.

    Back at post #253 I went through the analysis of 2D track vs non-tracking collectors. It makes no difference to the overall numbers or the conclusions you would draw.

  313. John,

    1. Re Hyberion reactors: these things “might” work as advertised in 2013. You’re willing to quote them as a going concern, yet CETO wave power probably WILL work as it has already been tested at the precommercial level! I note good old Peter Lang’s just *all over* CETO with facts and figures to debunk it. ;-)

    But Hyperion reactors would have to be buried in the back of every local police station for security! Terrorism remember? If they’re that small, then what’s to stop terrorists grabbing a forklift or other heavy machinery, shoving it on the back of a truck, and trucking one up to Warragamba dam and cracking it open there, poisoning our water supply? Nice! Instead of 30 to 40 sites around Australia being nuclear and highly guarded, we’d need *hundreds* of such sites with high security.

    And mini-nuclear reactors moving all over the globe on the backs of trucks… I don’t know that the Australian public are going to like that.

    2. Alternatives: Then of course there’s OTEC (not CETO!), that other vast untapped baseload ocean power source, still being developed and kinks worked out, geothermal, and of course… the future smart grid which is the best battery of all really.

    That smart grid-battery will function with ever more V2G EV’s (which will also be ever more powerful & efficient).

    Then there’s the fact that the grid will have ever greater regional spread. Dr Karl talks about the future worldwide supergrid that can push energy from almost anywhere to almost anywhere. So Victoria’s cloudy? Big deal, we’ll grab some wave power locally. Not enough? We’ll grab some wind power from WA or PNG if we need to!

    http://www.terrawatts.com/

    http://www.geni.org/

  314. Peter Langer,
    The cost of adding or expanding pumped storage( as in Tumut3) is not the cost of the whole project, just the additional turbines and water pipelines. I am not sure of the cost of 4x 250MW turbines but since OCGT costs are $800/kW I would imagine the generators would be less than $400/kW. I am not sure where I find figures for say installing an additional 12x250MW turbines. Costs of about $400-500Million/GW capacity and $5-50million/GWh storage would seem about correct, a lot less than purpose built storage.
    The situation with the Snowy is that water can be stored at Eucumbene, Talbingo or Blowering but it presently makes sense to store as much as possible at Eucumbene.
    The most efficient way to use an expanded Tumut3 would be to use the Jounama Pond most of the time( each day peak) but for exceptional demand allow water from Talbingo to overflow Jounama into Blowering and pump it back to Jounama. Most of Blowering is stored in the top 30m so a lower pump would have to lift water usually 10m but sometimes 30m. This could be a low capacity pump taking a week to restore the water that overflowed Jounama(being pumped back to Talbingo each off-peak period).
    Talbingo has an area of 30km sq so top 1m stores 30,000ML. Since Tumut3 uses 4,000ML/h generating 1.5GWh/h the top 10m of Talbingo could store up to 120GWh. Probably more than the top 10m could be used at a lower power rating(ie 450,000ML would reduce head by 20%). Since some water is exiting Eucumbene(max 0.24ML/sec), Talbingo would never get have to be lowered to 50% capacity. Usually there is no storage issue with Blowering as it is only full during exceptionally high low rates when pumping would not be used. Dartmouth has a small lower pondage (10,000ML) that could possibly be enlarged or an additional lower pondage added to expand this volume and allow much higher turbine flow rates to be held for a few hours. TAS Hydro also has some good pumped storage potential again without any major new dam construction, but the cost of additional turbines.

    If high cloud and low wind conditions persist for several days this is ample time to bring on idle NG and coal-fired power, even 7 days use per year is only going to contribute 1% of present CO2 emissions.

  315. Neil,

    I there are a few misunderstandings in what you say about Tumut 3. It is not a low cost option to increase the pump storage capacity.

    We need more energy storage and more generating capacity. You seem to be talking about the generation capacity only. And you can’t just dump them on the side of a hill and hope they’ll work.

    To increase the pump storage capacity of the Tumut 3 system significantly, we’d need to keep Blowering full, and add massivce pump storage capability. We could take it from the currrent 9 GWh of pump storage capacity to 66 GWh by keeping Blowering full, adding the pumps and turbines. The pumps would need to be able to pump 66 GWh of water in 6 hours (from solar). That’s 11 GWh per hour. We’d need about 14 GW of pump power. Have you thought any of this stuff through?

    I don’t know where the idea aof pumping from Blowering to Jounama ‘occasionally’ comes from. Jounama holds only 6 hours of water at maximum generation rate. To increase the pump storage capacity to more than 6 hours at 1.5 GW, you’d have to pump water up from Blowering every day.

  316. “The pumps would need to be able to pump 66 GWh of water in 6 hours (from solar).”
    Why? This seems like your “all or nothing” strawman again.

    Don’t tell me you still haven’t looked into the graphite blocks? Or even the hybrid solar thermal being produced in Israel, that can be mainly solar backed by biogas? Surely a hydro-solar-thermal system would make use of SOME solar thermal storage.

  317. Peter#370,
    I think you are mixing up 1)daily variations on demand( peak versus off-peak) where pumped hydro, NG peak, solar peak can top up wind power and 2) “widespread low wind events” or “widespread high cloud cover events” that may be 1-2 times a month. The second events require a large storage capacity perhaps half daily energy demand but does not have to be “recharged” in 6hours. Several days recharge would be adequate.

    Tumut3 can provide 60-120GWh(about 60hours operation at 1500MW) now, but none of the water can be returned except for what is stored in Jounama. The return pumping time used presently at Tumut3 is about 16 hours(about 1,200ML/h). Blowering doesn’t have to remain full to be able to pump out 300,000ML over a period of perhaps 1-2 weeks, via Jounama, the inlet could be 30 or 40 m below the maximum surface level lifting 10-30 meters depending upon water levels. Jindabyne has a similar booster pump to transfer water to Eucumbene.
    It would probably be better to have double the present pumping rate with double or tripe the number of turbines to give a potential 6000MW peak(120GWh storage return pumping at 2400MW) , but operate most of the time using 9GWh with minimum water toping Jounama. Other pumped storage could be available to add to short term storage, with just a few dams providing 24h storage.
    Adding even a low return pump rate to Eucumbene( perhaps a separate pipeline) would allow additional flexibility to also draw down through Tumut1 and Tumut2 with additional pumped hydro capacity. This could take months to restore(perhaps during months of solar or wind maximum output), as long as Blowering capacity was not exceeded. I don’t see pumping up 500m to Eucumbene from Talbingo to be a problem many pumped hydro systems use this head height.

  318. Steven Goor made criticisms of the Solar Power Realities paper regarding the following:

    1. “Power output versus time is a parabolic distribution on a clear day”

    2. Fixed versus tracking PV

    3. Solar thermal is lower cost than large scale PV

    4. “All of SE Australia covered by cloud at the same time”

    5. “The capacity factor on the worst days, or worst period of continuous days, defines how much energy storage is needed.”

    I addressed these criticisms in previous posts. Here is a summary:

    1. “Power output versus time is a parabolic distribution on a clear day”

    a. Valid criticism. The word “parabolic” will be changed to “curve” when I next update the paper

    2. Fixed versus tracking PV

    a. Insignificant difference. John D Morgan did the research and showed that the difference is at most 30% This is insignificant given we are dealing with an order of magnitude difference in the costs.

    3. Solar thermal is lower cost than large scale PV

    a. False. Solar thermal is higher cost than PV. In fact, solar thermal is not yet capable of providing baseload power at any cost. It is physically impracticable. NEEDS projects that Solar Thermal may be able to provide baseload power by 2020, but that is for the case where there is no cloud cover for a full day or more, ever.

    4. “All of SE Australia covered by cloud at the same time”

    a. I’ll change “All” to “Most”. A quick search of BOM cloud cover and solar radiation showed that a large part of this area is frequently covered by cloud, all at the same time. I provided a link to the site and to a loop of satelite images at midday each day for a month. However, this doesn’t make any difference to the conclusions because ‘Scenario 2′ is higher cost than the ‘Scenario 1′. Scenario 1 is all power stations in cloud at the same time. Scenario 2 is at least one power station in the sun but need every power station to be able to generate the power because the clouds move.

    5. “The capacity factor on the worst days, or worst period of continuous days, defines how much energy storage is needed.”

    a. True. This is the most important point to understand from the paper.

  319. Neil,

    You think I don’t understand, and I think you don’t understand.

    I don’t know whether we are going to make any progress.

    Perhaps you can let me know if you follow and agree with the Solar Power Realities paper, and if not, what do you disagree with. If we can nail down just where the disagreement is, we could make progress.

    I suggest you do need to read from the beginning, and look at the references. Please ask me if you do not understand the reason for any of the assumptions and statements.

  320. Neil,

    I’ll have another go at this.

    Humour me while I try to get my point across. You need to consider all the following together.

    1. In an earlier post you said we could get a lot more pumped hydro storage capacity. You mentioned we could easily get another 10 GW of power.

    2. Renewable energy advocates have been saying that renewables like solar and wind, but mainly solar, can provide our baseload electricity needs.

    3. For intermittent renewables, like solar, to be able to provide our baseload power they must be able to meet the demand throughout the night, throughout the winter, and through extended periods of overcast weather.

    4. We need 450 GWh of energy to get us through the night in winter (3 pm to 9 am).

    5. If a pump storage system was made between Blowering and Tumut 3, the system could provide 66 GWh of energy. That is about 15% of what we need. And we need to pump and release that every day!!

    6. To get 10 GW power out of Tumut 3 every day we would need 7 times the Tumut 3 generation capacity. Where do you think we can locate 7 Tumut 3 power stations?

    7. We would also need the pumping capacity of 25 Tumut 3 (to pump 66 GWh or water in 6 hours of sunlight).

    And this would give us just 15% of what we need for solar to power us through the night.

    Do you understand what I am trying to highlight?

    There is no point in saying solar is not intended to be the only generation technology, it will be a mix of technologies. That does not avoid the problems. And the more you have to double up technologies the higher the cost. Do you agree with me on this point? If not, we can debate that further.

  321. I just googled Hyperion. Very interesting! If I were heading off to colonise Mars I’d want a dozen!

    Yes, they’re nice little units. Also look at the Toshiba mPower reactor, and other small designs.

    But as Fran says, it’s politically unacceptable here.

    Well, as I said, I think that can change. In particular, if it were ratepayers paying for their own power, you might be surprised how objective people can be about value for money, and how quickly purely ideological objections might fall away.

    Also, it’s in the future. Not available till 2013.

    2013 is only three and a bit years away. Of any serious repowering solution, these should be available in the short term.

    Now, they have yet to get their design certification, and that could blow the timelines, but even so, this is a real solution that will be available in the near term.

    Wind is about as cheap as coal, but not when we consider backup. OK, check this out. As I was saying, Moore’s law in batteries chugs along…

    Unfortunately, Moore’s “Law” does not apply to technology in general. Its been a remarkable descriptor of progress in semiconductor processing, partly because of a strong connection to information science which allows arbitrary complexification of design, and partly because in 1965 the physics was a long way from absolute limits. Other technologies either don’t benefit from abstract structuring the same way, or are already much closer to physical limits, or require fundamental breakthroughs rather than incremental engineering in order to advance.

    This is another example of the difference between the information sciences and the more physical sciences that I talked about in post #327. Moores law does not apply to materials science, and batteries are a materials science application.

    For what its worth, this is the most significant recent advance in battery technology, in my opinion, and it’s not improving storage capacity, it’s improving charge/discharge rates. This has huge implications for electric vehicles.

    If they’re that small, then what’s to stop terrorists grabbing a forklift or other heavy machinery, shoving it on the back of a truck, and trucking one up to Warragamba dam and cracking it open there, poisoning our water supply? Nice!

    Do you think this scenario is realistic? These reactors are intended to be buried underground encased in tonnes of concrete. Accessing them is not trivial, time consuming, and not likely to go unnoticed by the plant operators, the community being serviced, or the government.

  322. If they’re that small, then what’s to stop terrorists grabbing a forklift or other heavy machinery, shoving it on the back of a truck, and trucking one up to Warragamba dam and cracking it open there, poisoning our water supply? Nice!

    What’s to stop these hypothetical terrorists getting hold of any one of a suite of potent chemical or biological agents and doing exactly the same thing? What’s so special about nuclear fuel, other than it would be the most damned difficult to access and would be less effective than dozens of other more readily accessible toxins? This is just crazy stuff.

  323. Peter#

    “There is no point in saying solar is not intended to be the only generation technology, it will be a mix of technologies. That does not avoid the problems. And the more you have to double up technologies the higher the cost. Do you agree with me on this point? If not, we can debate that further.

    You have proposed that solar energy would need to be overbuilt x>20 fold or have up to 90 days energy storage. Let’s look at a fairly simple scenario (when all NG is exhauisted) where solar provides 50% of power and wind provides 50%, and both wind and solar farms are dispersed across Australia solar in both southerly deserts and in northern deserts, and wind along the high wind regions from Geralton, via SA, VIC and NSW to Cooktown. (I think a mix of nuclear, wind and solar is more likely but use this for illustration)
    1st problem: low solar energy in SE Australia(Queanbeyan) during winter days. Wind energy is available (100%) and solar in N Australia so total solar may be 70% of average. Would need 130% of average solar capacity.
    2nd problem: no solar after 5pm; 2h time shifting E to W would allow some solar to about 7pm, 3h molten salt storage brings this to 9pm. Wind is still available so 50% of average power is available MOST times.
    3rd problem: cloudy periods of SE Australia; wind still available, sun available in West and North, about 50%solar available MOST times.
    4th problem: Wind variation in SE, sometimes no wind available. Just looking at most low wind periods in June2009, and comparing Gunning with Capital sites( high correleation) shows that if Capital had been operating with all 140MW capacity on line, some of those low wind periods would have been giving twice as much power. The variance of sites is very high so clearly having say 100 sites over 4,000Km rather than 11 sites over 1200Km is going to greatly reduce wind variability(but possibly still deliver 50-150% of average output).

    Bottom line is you are overestimating storage. The present variation of the NEMMCO grid would suggest that about 8GW x6h storage is going to be needed with any power source ( or 25% over-capacity). The more diverse sources of energy the less overall storage is going to be required but with wind and solar probably 12h of average consumption(25×12=300GWh) would be required after we stop using NG for peak power( would be higher than this due to higher power demand >2050, lets say 600GWh).
    If we get it wrong and have a nation wide cloud cover and no wind we do what we do now, or would do if one nuclear design had to be shut down( due to a need to correct a design flaw); ration power for a few hours by power shedding.
    To deliver that 600GWh in 40 years time would require an additional 36,000MW hydro of turbines (1000MW per year) and some minor storage building(not major dams) additional raceways and transmission lines. At todays costs 1000MW of turbines/year is going to be about $400million per year.

    The big costs are going to be generating wind and solar power and the transmission lines to cities. Energy storage costs will be minor so there will be little incentive to over-build nuclear solar or wind.

  324. You said “You have proposed that solar energy would need to be overbuilt x>20 fold or have up to 90 days energy storage.”

    Allow me to clarify. The least cost option is with 30 days storage if we use pumped hydro or 5 days with chemical storage.

    You said “Let’s look at a fairly simple scenario (when all NG is exhausted) where solar provides 50% of power and wind provides 50%”.

    Do you mean the installed capacity of wind and solar are each 50% of peak installed generating capacity, or do you mean the system is designeed so each contribute 50% of energy on average over a year (or some other time frame)?

    You said: “1st problem: low solar energy in SE Australia(Queanbeyan) during winter days. Wind energy is available (100%) and solar in N Australia so total solar may be 70% of average. Would need 130% of average solar capacity.”

    I presume you recognise that for solar thermal we need a solar-multiplier of 4 just to store sufficient energy to last the night in winter. It is actually worse than this because this does not allow for the lower capacity factor in winter.

    In problem 4 you mentioned Capital wind farm. Do you realsise that Capital and Cullerin Range shut down suddenly at the same time about a week ago because wind speeds were too high.

    You have not considered the cost of the transmission system. (you will recall that yesterday you pointed out local peaks in Melbourne and Adelaide which result because the existing transmission system is not adequate.) If we want to rely on all the power being supplied at a point in time from solar power in say NT or from the SW coast of WA, for example, the transmission system has to be sized to carry the full 33 GW of power from every region. Ever considered what the cost of this would be?

    Regarding your 4th problem. You are being swayed by statistical analysis rather than actual figures. There is evidence from all over the world that wind is highly variable, over large areas, and frequently drops suddenly to near zero.

    Regarding your last paragraph, I recognise it is a simple analysis, but I do not agree with your highly optimistic analysis which is based on statistics and computer simulations.

    You say: “To deliver that 600GWh in 40 years time …”. The 600GWh is what we use per day now. So if you want to use wind and solar as your generators, that is the power that we need to deliver now, in 2007. It will be double that by 2030.

    Neil, when I got to the last few sentences, the are so optimistic that I don’t know where to begin.

  325. The question is how could we supply NEM 2007 demand with near zero GHG emissions, and how soon could we achieve that? Also what should we do in the interim?

    Let’s keep this simple for a start. We can get more complicated later if we need to.

    The aim is to get to near zero emissions electricity generation as quickly as possible.

    To keep it simple, so we can illustrate the point about intermittent renewables, let’s restrict the preliminary discussion to the following technology options: wind, solar and nuclear. We can use pumped hydro, chemical and thermal energy storage.

    We are basing the calculations on 2007 NEM electricity demand, because we have the detailed data at 5 minute intervals, but we recognise that demand is likely to double by 2030.

    We could commission large nuclear power plants from 2020 on if we wanted to, and smaller ones earlier.

    We recognise we want to reduce emissions as much as possible to before 2020, but without wasting resources or damaging our capacity to take the best possible actions over the long term.

    Again keeping the analysis simple, we have two options from now until 2020:

    1. All new plant is gas generation (mostly CCGT)

    2. Wind, backed up by gas generation (mostly OCGT)

    OCGT will reduce emissions compared with new coal by about 25%
    CCGT will reduce emissions compared with new coal by about 50%

    So wind power backed up by OCGT will displace very little GHG emissions compared with installing just CCGT instead. This is the result although it is much more complicated than this. See the paper “Cost and quantity of greenhouse gas emissions avoided by wind farms” on the BNC web site for more information about this.

    Furthermore, CCGT will be valuable beyond 2020. OCGT less so. So investing in wind plus OCGT instead of CCGT is a waste of resources.

    Regarding the capital investment, the choice is either CCGT or wind power plus OCGT. Wind power avoids almost no investment in the fossil fuel back up generator capacity. (the statements to the contrary by RE advocates are not correct – see “The fallacy of the Mark Dr Diesnedorf’s Baseload Fallacy”). So the full cost of wind power is an additional cost of generation and purely to save some fuel and little GHG emissions. A very low benefit / cost ratio.

    Remember, I am keeping this simple to get the main concepts across for all readers.

    Now let’s move to beyond 2020. Our options are: wind, solar and nuclear.

    Nuclear can do the whole job on its own. It can be done at about 10% lower cost by using some back up for peak generation. 10 GW of hydro would be ideal. Nuclear could be implemented over two to three decades from 2020, by replacing coal fired power stations as they reach the end of their economic lives and or as we buy them back through our new ‘Cash for Coal’ program. The capital cost of the nuclear and pumped hydro option would be about $120 billion.

    The alternative to nuclear is solar plus wind plus energy storage.

    There are occasions when the sun is not shining anywhere (eg at night) and the wind is not blowing sufficiently anywhere. At that time, all power must come from energy storage. So we need energy storage capacity to provide the full peak power demand and sufficient energy storage to last through the longest period of low generation days.

    Sometimes the wind isn’t blowing and sometimes the sun isn’t shining, so we would need a high installed capacity of wind power and of solar power, to provide the immediate demand and to store energy for night and cloudy, low wind days.

    The estimated cost of the solar PV options with pumped hydro storage is $2,800 billion. Solar PV and chemical storage is $4,600 billion. Solar thermal with 1 days storage (this technology does not yet exist) about $8,700 billion.

  326. Following is a ‘ball park’ calculation of the cost of a trunk transmission system to support wind and solar farms spread across the continent and generating all our electricity.

    The idea of distributed renewable energy generators is that at least one region will be able to meet the total average demand (25 GW) at any time. Applying the principle that ‘the wind is always blowing somewhere’ and ‘the sun will always be shining somewhere in the day time’, there will be times when all the power would be supplied by just one region – let’s call it the ‘Somewhere Region’.

    The scenario to be costed is as follows:

    Wind power stations are located predominantly along the southern strip of Australia from Perth to Melbourne.

    Solar thermal power stations, each with their own on-site energy storage, are distributed throughout our deserts, mostly in the east-west band across the middle of the continent.

    All power (25GW) must be able to be provided by any region.

    We’ll base the costs on building a trunk transmission system from Perth to Sydney, with five north-south transmission lines linking from the solar thermal regions at around latitude 23 degrees. The Perth to Sydney trunk line is 4,000 km and the five north-south lines average 1000 km each. Add 1,000 km to distribute to Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane. Total line length is 10,000km. All lines must carry 25GW.

    Each of the double circuit 500kV lines from Eraring Power Station to Kemps Creek can transmit 3,250MW so let’s say we would need 8 parallel lines for 25GW plus one extra as emergency spare.

    The cost of the double circuit 500kV lines is about $2M/km.
    For nine lines the cost would be $18M/km.

    So the total cost of a transmission system to transmit from the ‘Somewhere Region’ to the demand centres is 10,000km x $18M/km = $180 billion

    The trunk transmission lines might represent half the cost of the complete transmission system enhancements needed to support the renewable generators.

    Just the cost of the trunk transmission lines alone ($180 billion) is more than the cost of the whole nuclear option ($120 billion).

  327. Peter … not sure whjat you base your Eraring estimate on

    Here’s another example:

    Son La to Soc San in Vietnam.

    Here it’s unlear what the exact cost is for, but taking the shortest 500Kv line of 120km the project cost is $425,385. That works out at $3544 per Km … and if you look at the terrain and vegetation between the two parts of Northern Vietnam (hilly and densely cvovered), it’s nothing like the wide open terrain the Australian lines go over. Bear in mind too that all of the initial project costs get spread over your much larger project (10,000 km)

    Sure we pay people better here, but the job would get done much faster and the copper comes at a bulk rate. So the coast per Km is $3544 * 8 * 10000 … =$283.52 million, and less if it’s not 10000km.

    Still a lot but orders of magnitude smaller than you suggest, even if we allow for a much higher wages bill.

  328. Fran, as I understand it the $1 to 2 million per km is a fairly standard cost quoted for high capacity HVDC lines that can carry 3 GW.

    Take Murraylink as an example. A 220 MW capacity line at ~150 kV DC which runs for 180 km cost $100 million. That is $560K per km, for a much lower capacity line than Peter is talking about. So Peter’s figure seems correct.

    Indeed, I asked Gene Preston about this and here is what he had to say:

    “The analysis that was done is a simplified one, probably way oversimplified. I doubt the wind plan is reliable as stated, even with the rather massive amount of transmission. I would throw in some storage in each area an then redo the economics. With storage in each area, there could be less transmission. But the storage costs would have to be added. I would use $0.7/W for the storage capacity (inverter and switchgear) plus $0.4/Wh for the amount of energy to be stored (batteries). This complicates the problem, so it will require a really long coffee break to do the wind system economics and many many napkins”

  329. I agree with all this, including Gene Preston’s statement. It is a very simplified analysis – (‘ball-park’, ‘book-end’, etc).

    However, this simple analysis assumes that all storage, necessary to provide a steady 25GW of power to the eastern states, is located at the generators. That is why the estimated cost of the solar thermal generators to provide the total NEM demand is … (Barry will reveal this soon).

    In addition we have 8GW of energy storage (e.g. pumped hydro and/or Compressed Air Energy Storage) as close to the demand centres as possible. This energy storage will store energy when demand is less than 25GW and generate the additional power when demand is greater than 25GW. You will recall that baseload is about 20 GW in July and the peak is about 33GW. The peak on the National Electricity Market (NEM) occurs at about 6:30pm in winter (based on 2007 figures).

  330. Further to my comment above, and doing a very simplistic analysis using Gene Prestons unit costs for storage, the cost of the energy storage at the generators is:

    25GW x $0.7/W = $17.5 billion
    450 GWh x $0.4/W = $180 billion

    So more than double the cost of the transmission. And we still need to get 25GW power to the demand centres.

    But that is storage for just one night. We need sufficient storage at each generator to provide full power through several days of overcast weather or no wind. That is, because the storage is decentralised, we have to overbuild the storage as well. If we want to centralise the storage instead, then we have to build very much higher transmission capacity.

    Any way you try to do the figures, intermittent renewables are simply not viable. Not even close.

  331. Fran Barlow #382,

    I asked a friend who is more knowledgeable than me on transmissions about your comment. Here is his reply:

    “Peter,

    Absolutley no-one uses copper for conductors any more anywhere – your critic is an idiot hasn’t a clue what she is talking about.

    Our 500kV lines are double circuit, 3 phase, quad Orange ie is 2 circuits times 3 phases times 4 conductors per bundle ie 24 wires per tower. Orange is ACSR, Aluminium Conductor Steel Reinforced, with 54 strands of 3.25mm dia aluminium surrounding 7 strands of 3.25mm dia steel. Roughly 1/3 of the cost of a line is in the wires, 1/3 in the steel towers and 1/3 in the easements required to run the line.

    “Bonneville Power Administration Grand Coulee-Bell 500-kV…would cost about US$152 million. These are reasonable costs for the construction of 84 miles of single circuit 500-kV line and associated substation work” – (NB single circuit!)

    “The Pepco Holdings 500-kV line, designated as the Mid-Atlantic
    Power Pathway (MAPP), … The (230 mile) MAPP line is expected to
    cost $1.05 billion and would be built in stages over …”

  332. Hi Fran, #382, #389

    There will always be variations from one project to another, one site to another, one country to another. But for the +/-50% estimate we are doing here, I submit to you that the variations wouldbeb well inside that. Do you believe the $2M/km should be $1M/km? If so on what basis?

    Just to remind you of the figures in my earlier opost, the rate is about $3M/km for similar transmission lines in the USA.. Victoria and NSW both use $2M/km as their basis for planning.

    I agree that there are variables. In the desert the cost of easements would be next to zero. But the cost of access roads would be higher as they must all be built from scratch (and then maintained). Also, we haven’t included the cost of the feed in and step up of hundreds of small capacity lines from wind farms and solar farms into a trunk lines. I haven’t allowed for any of that.

    Do you believe the estimate is out by 50%?

    Even if the estimate is too high by a factor of 2 (highly unlikely, it is more likely to be too low that too high), it is insignificant in the overall cost comparison. The transmission system alone for RE, let alone the generators and the storage, are as much as or more than the total cost for the nuclear option including 10GW of pumped hydro storage. Add the reneweable generators and on-site storage and the renewable system is 20 times (for PV) to 100 times (for solar thermal) higher cost than nuclear.

    I find it hard to believe that you cannot see that the difference is an order of magnitude or more.

    Choosing RE instead of nuclear when there is a cost difference of a factor of 20 would be like buying a new Holden car for $600,000 from Dealer A when Dealer B could have suppiied you exactly the same car for $30,000 but you didn’t like Dealer B. Even if the costs are half what are used in the estimate, we still have a factor of 10 difference.

    Please tell me what is the source of our misunderstanding of each other’s position.

  333. Choosing RE instead of nuclear when there is a cost difference of a factor of 20 would be like buying a new Holden car for $600,000 from Dealer A when Dealer B could have suppiied you exactly the same car for $30,000 but you didn’t like Dealer B. Even if the costs are half what are used in the estimate, we still have a factor of 10 difference.

    Please tell me what is the source of our misunderstanding of each other’s position.

    Now Peter your analogy is overdrawn. It’s more like paying $100,000 for a Tesla Roadster when someone will sell you Kia for $12,000

    We don’t disagree fundamentally — all things considered, nuclear power would be quite a bit cheaper for Australia and better in a global sense too. I’d favour making Australia a place where IFRs could degrade reactor waste from other places.

    My problem is a political one. Hardly any of the people who’d need to support such an approach are likely to do so. And if the best option isn’t politically saleable, then the next best one is what we should be willing to try and make work. The near perfect should not be the enemy of the pretty good. Renewables are not as expensive you claim, and even if Australia defers nuclear, other countries won’t. Fortunately, Australia’s attitudes are not shared by the whole planet.

    Interestingly, the best places for nuclear here politically might well be in remote areas and there’s the cost of those 500KV lines … (admittedly you’d need fewer)

  334. My problem is a political one. Hardly any of the people who’d need to support such an approach are likely to do so.

    I think you are very much mistaken about this. I believe there is sufficient support for nuclear power already in Australia… it just needs to be organised.

  335. Is there a single political party in Australia campaigning for the inclusion of nuclear power in the energy mix?

    None that I know of. Who cares? The parties will follow where the public leads.

  336. The parties will follow where the public leads.

    There is no pro-nuclear public to ‘lead’. Totally wacky causes get political parties but not nuclear, which does tend to suggest there aren’t many who think it’s an issue, and most who do are on the far right and are typically climate change denialists.

  337. There is no pro-nuclear public to ‘lead’. Totally wacky causes get political parties but not nuclear, which does tend to suggest there aren’t many who think it’s an issue, and most who do are on the far right and are typically climate change denialists.

    I don’t know who you talk to Fran, but my experience of discussing nuclear power with people suggests that a substantial number are supportive, and enough of the rest can be swayed in favour of nuclear.

    I shall have every opportunity to put this contention to the test in the near future when we launch our membership drive.

  338. As a physicist and an activist I have had much discussion on the approval of nuclear power from the Australian public, scientific community and activist community.

    Within the scientific community there is a fair acceptance of nuclear power as a future option for the world, and great acceptance of uranium free options (Gen V+) but reluctance to accept that Australia should build uranium powered plants. The excess of (good/black) coal and sun/potential renewable power is usually sited along with our excessive western lifestyle and the reductions that could be made in energy use without reducing quality of life. Nuclear proliferation, waste and accidents are all still concerns.

    The activist community, especially environmental activism are still strongly opposed to all uranium related activities. Mining, processing, power production, waste, bombs, depleted uranium etc. Mining and waste are issues which greatly effect the aboriginal populations of Australia and the campaigns seem to have been combined to an extent. The bombs and depleted uranium are very much associated with the current/recent wars which we have been involved in and the campaigning is included in that. Power production is of course associated with climate change. Many activists have noted this change in recent years while reaffirming their disapproval of any part of the nuclear debate. If these groups combine to counter a pro-nuclear movement it would still be substantial.

    The Australian public seems to be fairly uninformed about possible nuclear options. They know nuclear used to be bad but assumed that science has taken care of most of that by now. Unfortunately Australia is most likely to go with very old technology that still has many of the same problems as it did 50 years ago due to cost, and the cost/kwh will still be significantly higher than coal fired elec.

    And of course – we have a lot of NIMBY’s. There is no where near enough trust in nuclear power for an average Australian to live in the same city as a nuclear plant, especially not with children. Many of these people would join the environmental activists to stop nuclear plants.

  339. Fran,

    I agree that politics is a total block to nuclear in Australia at the moment. But this can change. Educate people what the real cost diffenence between nuclear and renewables is, and they will change in a hurry. Explain how many hospitals, nurses, schools and teachers will have to be forgone. Put it in terms that people understand. Their idelogical beliefs will fall by the way side quite quickly.

    So that brings us back to the fundamental question. What is the cost difference between a least-cost zero-emissions generation system with nuclear allowed and not allowed.

    To help me understand, and also to clarify it in your own mind, could you jot down what you believe would comprise a system to provide the following:

    25GW average power
    33 GW peak power at 6:30 pm in July
    20 GW baseload power
    600 GWh per day
    450 GWh between 3pm and 9am.

    What would be the components you would assemble for such a system? Where would they be located? How would you provide power quality?

  340. Peter

    I’ll get back to you on the load composition if that’s OK …

    On the political questions I think we should steer clear of running the negative side of the opportunity costs question. It’s going to sound like a long bow to most people who don’t accept the bona fides of government on most of the services you have put into the mix.

    I think a better approach would be more like the tone adopted by David Mackay, whose work we evidently both admire, with a touch of reverse psychology.

    Australia is very lucky at having such ready access to such a diverse array of high quality renewables we’d say. Few other countries are as well placed as we are to make use of nature to meet their energy needs … we’d continue, affirming our green credentials, pride in the country and what most people believe. While it will likely prove considerably more expensive to harness this bounty without resort to nuclear power, the premium we wish to pay to avoid nuclear power is worthwhile if it allows others not so fortunate as we are to decarbonise at a lower cost and reassures those here who would be troubled by the creation of a localised nuclear power industry. What we must above all things do however is decarbonise as rapidly and as cheaply as it is possible to do, not merely to answer thew challenges of climate change, but to clear our skies and our waters of the toxic radioactive effluent emitted by coal-fired power plants. And overseas, where nuclear power has achieved acceptance, we should press for the replacement of coal fired capacity with the very best nuclear technology.

    Given that you and I both know that nuclear power will not see the light of day here for at least 10 and probably 15 years, we are giving up nothing by putting the matter this way. We do however put into the heads of those who are not religious about opposing nuclear power, the idea that Australia is in fact scoring an own goal by passing on nuclear power, and handing a competitive advantage to others. Like Mackay, we say not that we are pro-nuclear, but pro-arithmetic. We don’t get piegeon-holed as enemies of renewables or the environment but we lay the foundations for circumstances in which the heat will be turned up on nuclear’s main competitor — coal.

  341. Given that you and I both know that nuclear power will not see the light of day here for at least 10 and probably 15 years…

    If the mini-nuke startups such as Hyperion and Nuscale can get themselves licensed, I think we can see them being introduced to Australia within seven or eight years. If we rely solely on gen III reactors to begin with, ten years is probably about right.

  342. Fran #399)

    I agree with Finrod (#400). I do not agree with the approach you advocate. We’ve followed that route in the days of “Ecologically Sustainable Development” in about 1990 to 1993. We’ve lost nearly 20 years as a result. I do not see any value in following that failed path again.

    Instead, I believe we need to get out and explain. Australia is educated and intelligent. They can see through the anti-nuclear spin once its put to them as a choice between clearly spelled out options and costs to the individual, and to future generations, and to the environment.

    What I feel you have not yet accepted, or grasped, is the enormous cost difference between nuclear and renewables to provide our electricity demand. That is why I encourage you to do the sums yourself. Or, genuinely try to find fault with the papers on wind and solar on the BNC web site. Don’t concern yourself with finding errors of 50% or less. We need to find fault with a factor of twenty for solar.

    As I’ve said previously, I do not believe it is wise to waste our resources (I’d say massively waste our resources, on renewable energy. The calculations show that they have very little effect on reducing GHG emissions and are very costly. So why do it?

    In my opinion it is a wrong policy. Better would be to get on with nuclear right now, explain the options, benefits and costs to the population and get started asap. I do realise what is involved.

  343. Fran,

    Further to my post #401 in reply to your #399, It is very important that we (the world) does everything possible to have least-cost, low emissions electricity.

    I put least cost before low emissions intentionally. Electricity is enormous benefit to mankind (more on this below). The lower the cost, the more rapidly it can be provided to the poorest people of the world. The lower the cost of low-emissions electricity the more rapidly it will be adopted instead of high emisions electricity. If we want China and Indoia to reduce their emissions as quickly as possible everyone need to focus on building the least cost low emissions electrcity – and implementing it as quickly as possible.

    Also importantly, the lower is the cost of low emissions electrcity, the faster it electrcity will displace fossil fuels for land transport and heat.

    There can be no questions, from a logical perspective, mandating and subsidising renewable energy is bad policy.

    Regarding the benefit of electrcity, have a look at the link below. This is a lovely package on the net that pulls UN data and charts it. You can run ‘Play’ and it runs through the data as a video and you can see how the statistics change over time. You can select what data you want to display on two axes and what countries you want included. You can pick log or linear for the axes.

    Follow the steps below to see an example that shows the more electricity we use the lower is the infant mortality. Conclusion, if we want to save the planet, the more electricity we use the better, so the cheaper electricity is the better!!:

    Go to: http://www.gapminder.org/

    Click on the “Explore the World” chart

    Select ‘Electricity generation per person” on the X axis and ‘Infant Mortality Rate’ on the Y axis. Select log scale for both axes.

    Run ‘Play’ and watch the chart change through 1965 to 2006.

    Next: change the X axis to ‘Nuclear consumption per person’. Select log scale

    This is even better.

    Conclusion: the more nuclear power the better^2 for the planet.

    So we need to keep electricity prices as low as possible for the good of the planet and for the benefit of future generations.

  344. Fran,

    Look at the first slide here:

    http://air-climate.eionet.europa.eu/docs/meetings/061212_ghg_emiss_proj_ws/FR_power_system_061212.pdf

    One third of the nuclear and hydro capacity plu 2GW to replace the 27.5GW of coal oil and gas capacity would meet our 2007 NEM demand wiht near zero GHG emissions.

    The nuclear was commissioned over about 2 decades. Some 20 years later, surely Australia should be able to install one third of that capacity in substantially less than 2 decades if we wanted to.

    We just need to educate the population and make the decision to get started.

  345. Peter

    I don’t agree that the approach I am advocating has been tried before. More than any other single event, Chernobylk and concern over nuclear hazmat in the post-Soviet Russia did much to form up attitudes to nuclear power as an unsafe technology. In the early 1990s, AGW was still a fairly controversial idea. And no, we didn’t discuss the comparative utilities then. What essentially happened then was a plebiscite on nuclear energy.

    One of the key components of the energy system would be pumped storage. This can be sold bothas basic water infrastructure and as a way of reducing the carbon intensity of coal pluis integrating intermittents since with substantial pumped storage, you could keep coal plants either running optimally or at black start.

    There are lots of sites within urban areas and on the fringes where, in aggregate across the country you could have 600GwH of storage — enough to cover 15 hours of zero energy from intermittents.

  346. More than any other single event, Chernobylk and concern over nuclear hazmat in the post-Soviet Russia did much to form up attitudes to nuclear power as an unsafe technology. In the early 1990s, AGW was still a fairly controversial idea. And no, we didn’t discuss the comparative utilities then. What essentially happened then was a plebiscite on nuclear energy.

    People’s attitudes have moved on now that we have a greater general understanding of the causes and consequences of the Chernobyl event, and the public has gained a more accurate picture of nuclear technology (at least in some quarters).

    We need to stop living in the past and take advantage of today’s situation and opportunities.

  347. Fran Barlow (#404)

    I respectfully disagree with all three of your main points (your three paragraphs).

    You say: “In the early 1990s, AGW was still a fairly controversial idea. And no, we didn’t discuss the comparative utilities then.”

    Your statement suggests you were not involved in the ESD processes. Do you recall the “Toronto Targets” – i.e. we shall cut CO2-eq emissions to 20% below 1988 levels by 2005 – with an important caveat. Both the main political parties supported that policy. Nuclear was supported by the Oppostion but not by the Government. The Government went to the 1993 election opposing nuclear, the Opposition saying we’ll allow it and let the market decide. The bureaucracy was effectively banned from mentioning nuclear in the ESD reports. However, many studies showed that it was the only way we could have any chance of achieving the Toronto Targets, and even with nuclear it could not be achieved in the 12 years left until 2005. Have a look at the ESD Energy Production report. ABARE did a lot of excellent modelling. They also wrote the original report which showed that ETS is preferable to Carbon Tax. (“Tradeable Emissions Permit Scheme” ABARE Report 93.5, 1993), and Productivity Commission and Energy Research and Development Corporation (ERDC) were all heavily involved. By the way, ERDC also funded a study on the compariative costs of IGCC, gas CCGT and solar thermal for Australia’s electrcity generation as part of trying to meet the targets without nuclear. So, I do not agree with your statement “And no, we didn’t discuss the comparative utilities then.”

    You said; “One of the key components of the energy system would be pumped storage. This can be sold both as basic water infrastructure and as a way of reducing the carbon intensity of coal plus integrating intermittents since with substantial pumped storage, you could keep coal plants either running optimally or at black start.”

    Fran, we do not have suitable hydro sites available in Australia. Even if we did, it is very expensive. If you have centralised storage with intermittent generators, the transmission system to every intermittent generator must be sized to transmit the full installed capacity of each generator. Say ten times higher transmission system cost than having storage at the generator site. Lastly, hydro is not acceptable on environmental grounds. Tulley Milstream got killed off in about 1992 for that reason. No new large hydro sites have been built since.

    You says; “There are lots of sites within urban areas and on the fringes where, in aggregate across the country you could have 600GWh of storage — enough to cover 15 hours of zero energy from intermittents.”

    Fran, that is complete an utter nonsense. Can I suggest you look up David Mackay’s book on how to calculate the energy you can extract from hydro, and then do some calculation yourself. You could also read “Solar Power Realities”. It explains the area of land that must be innundated and the hydraulic head required. You havce absloutely nbot a clue about what you are talking.

    Please read the “Solar Power Realities” paper and do some arithmetic.

    Fran, Intermittent renewables are totally uneconomic.

  348. Peter

    You quote me:

    There are lots of sites within urban areas and on the fringes where, in aggregate across the country you could have 600GWh of storage — enough to cover 15 hours of zero energy from intermittents

    Then you say:

    Fran, that is complete an utter nonsense.

    One can extract 0.272KwH per cubic meter of water at 100m of head pressure. There are lots of locations along the Great Dividing Range and its spurs that have elevations inexcess of 1000m — ten times that figure. Parts of the Newnes Ranges near Oberon are 1390 meters up and some of these are in areas where old worked coal mines exist allowing even greater head pressure. An upper reservoir of 100m*100m*1000m gives 10,000,000 cubic meters of water or about 27GwH of theoretical output. How many of these would we have to buiild across the country for 600GwH? About 40. Actually, some would be larger and most would be smaller, since we’d be looking at them as local water resources. I suspect what would be more sensible is to have the large ones where there was serious head pressure as a consequence of the topography and where good rainfall could top up the upper reservoir and much smaller ones would exist in suburbia where you might be happy with 100m of head pressure and about 1,000,000 cubic meters of water.

    The cost of doing this would be considerable, but of course it is not just storage but water and desal and it would be saving on energy demand, the cost of new dams etc.

  349. Fran, although I disagree with your relatively rosy optimism about just how much renewable energy can contribute to our low-carbon energy future, and also disagree with your view on how far off the Australian public is in supporting nuclear energy, I have to feel sorry for your recent blogosphere experiences! For those who don’t know, I’ve seen two other forums (Quiggan and Deltoid) where Fran’s been bounced around like a basketball by their regular commentators for supporting nuclear power as part of the energy mix! It’s ironic, I know, but at least Fran seems to have a fair bit of resilience to her (which you need to engage in this process).

  350. Thanks Barry … it is odd. Here I’m cast as the overly credulous supporter of renewables and elsewhere people thinking I’m spruiking for the nuclear power industry! I think I gave as good as I got, but you can see the problem. Many of those that are as exercised by the health of the biosphere as you and I, see nuclear power as anathema and respond with the kind of animus one expects from culture warriors from the denialosphere. The worsdt thing is, as I pointed out on my post at Deltoid, that I can empathise. I was in that place not so very long ago. I have to hope that means that others can make the journey too, though I wish they’d get on about it.

    Like you I’m keen to see that we shut down coal and other significant sources of new CO2 emissions ASAP, especially since most of these sources are also undesirable on other grounds. Mackay makes the fair point that contrary to popular belief, coal is unlikely to last much past 2090 if the world continues to grow and it is not replaced (even putting aside climate change issues).

    I did like your piece on Stateline but mentioning the 100,000 year hazmat figure probably wasn’t the best thing to say. Probably better to refer only to the periodicity of the hazmat that is in practice a serious risk on human contact — which is much shorter. I think it’s also worth pointing out how long the CO2 from any CCS project would have to be sequestered and ther implications/relative probability of that escaping near a populated area. The only other weak point in your Stateline piece was that IFR was called ‘just a theory’. It would have been nice to counter that term.

  351. Barry (#408),

    Well said, point taken.

    Fran (#407),

    you say: “The cost of doing this would be considerable, but of course it is not just storage but water and desal and it would be saving on energy demand, the cost of new dams etc.”

    No, you cant effectively mix the uses of hydro and water storage for town and irrigation use. If it is for electrcity we manage and use the stored energy to meet peak demand, to maintain steady power and frequency on the grid and for emnergency use (i.e. when a big generator trips out). This use cannot be effectively mixed with water supply.

    Secondly, the pumped storage sites are simply not available. Your calculations are too simplified, but it will take too long to explain the basics of hydro here. You can’t simply use the elevation above sea level in your calculations. You need to calculate the elevation difference between your upper and lower reservoir. And the active storage volume in the two reservoirs. Then calculate the area of land that will be required. I’ve done that for you in the “Solar Power Realities” paper. I also did it earlier (#365, #370, #375) for example to demonstrate how much energy could be obtained if we stopped using Blowering for irrigation and instead converted it to be the lower reservoir for Tumut 3. I also pointed out, in those posts, what would be required to turn other existing reservoirs into pump storage schemes. Did you see that? We nedd very long lengthes os tunnels and pipes. Lewngth leads to head loss (meaning a reduction in the efficiency of energy storage and recovery, as well as high cost for the energy recovered. In simple terms, Australia simply does not have the topography or hydrology to make much hydro viable. If it was viable, we’d be building it. Remember, one the best sites in Australia that is not yet developed is Tulley Millstream. That got canned for environmental reasons.

    If you want to calculate costs for generic sites you could use this unit rate as a starting point (although I’d suggest you double it for Australia): US$1000/kW and US$100/kWh for pumped hydro storage (http://www.electricitystorage.org/site/technologies/).

  352. Fran, peter,
    I don’t think we would need more than 15GW pumped storage with a storage capacity of 300GWh( ie av 20 h operation), and I used this figure in my reply to Peter’s challenge of (see #82,Solar thermal questions). This would also need 10-20GW of OCGT but would only use at 0.10 capacity factor, so a lot less CO2 than using nuclear for next 50 years, assuming we can build about 1.2 GW per year.

    None the less, lets see what would really be possible using only the Snowy Mountains existing dams.
    Eucumbene is >1150m and has 4,800,000 ML capacity. Blowering is about 600-700 m lower and has 1,600,000 ML cpacity(say 600m for calculations). Pumped hydro use is not going to compromise Blowerings use for irrigation as it is rearly full and when full would not need pumped storage. It would require pumping intakes about 40m below full height. If we assume that only 1,000,000 ML is moved around this would generate 1,500MWh/1,000ML or 1,500GWh/million ML.
    This would require keeping at least 20% of Eucumbens capacity or 70% of blowerings or a little of both. Alternatively all of Talbingo could be bypassed and its 900,000ML used just for pumped hydro, so irrigators don’t give up any storage.
    Adding a continuous tunnel about 30km in lenght over the 600m drop, and a lot more turbines, perhaps the size of the Three Georges Dam( 22GW ). This would more than make up for any shortfall in wind or solar energy for a day or two, because we are always going to have some wind energy and some solar energy over the entire 8million sq km of Australia.

    I don’t think we need that much storage but the argument that we don’t ahve the existing sites is clearly wrong.

  353. Neil,

    I am working on a asimple spreadsheet to allow me to calculate cost and CO2 emmission for options of nuclear versus RE with storage.

    However, this statement just caught my eye on ths thread so I thought I’d beter check your assumptions. You said: “This would also need 10-20GW of OCGT but would only use at 0.10 capacity factor, so a lot less CO2 than using nuclear for next 50 years, assuming we can build about 1.2 GW per year.”

    Are you saying that OCGT emits less CO2 than nuclear, even at 10% capacity factor.

    The round figures I use for Australia, net at power station boundary, are (in t CO2-eq/MWh) brown coal 1.3, black coal 1.0, OCGT 0.75, CCGT 0.5. Nuclear in a fossil fuel environment 0.15. Wind, excluding fossil fuel back up and other impacts on the system, 0.15. These figures are rounded and based on both the table from international comparisons and the Department of Climate Change.

    Are you using similar figures, especially for nuclear, wind and OCGT? If not, we have a serious problem because if you are using the GHG emissions figures from sources such as Leuewen and Smith, we have a long way to go before we can even start comparing figures. Did you see the article at the top of the “Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang responds” thread. The international studies on GHG emissions factors are summarised there.

  354. Neil,

    I can do all these calculations and check your figures, but it would really be better if you did it your self. I’ve provided figures on the Snowy potential from about comment #346.

    There are lots of problems with what you are saying. Snowy system is for bot irrifgation and hydro. Eucambene is the main storage reservoir and rises and falls throughout just about its full height to serve both objectievs. If we want to turn it into punp stoegag it will compromise its use. This applies much more to Blowering which is not kept near full as you say. It rises and falls throught its full active storage (most of its volume). It catches and stores the water being released from Eucambene to generate peak power in the three Tumut power stations. It releases it when needed to maintain the appropriate flows in the Murrumbidggee River for irrigation. So to make this into a lower reservoir for pump storage will require some serious options analysis and politics.

    Regarding your 30km tunnel, have you thought about that. How many tunnels and what diameter. And what would be the head loss in tunnels of that length used as pressure tunnels? I suspect you should cut your pump storage efficiency to 50% (from 80%). Is it continuous tunnel with sufficient overburden to revent hydrofracturing of the overlying rockmass (I haven’t checked but doubt it. If not we need steel lined tunnels). Does it surface at any stage?

    How many Tumut 3 sized generating stations do you need? How many Tumut 3 sized pump station capacities do you need? (I think I worked this out for you in an earlier post for Blowering).

    Where are you going to fit all these. Probably a lot will have to be underground. That is very costly

    Then lastly what is the transmission line length and capacity required from all your wind farms to the Tumut pump stations?

    Now what is the cost of all the works? I can tell you, without even doing the numbers, there is no way!

  355. Neil

    Regarding Pumped-hydro potential:
    For background Refer to: Neil #411, my replies #412 and #413, and several posts from #346.

    I’ve done a bit more research on a pumped storage project between Eucumbene and Blowering.

    In short the distance is 90km. If the flow rate was the same as Tumut 3, this project could generate 7.5GW. To get the flow rate, I expect we would need six tunnels of about 7 m diameter. I have not done the head loss calculations. I have not worked out what would be required to pump the necessary amount of water. The tunnels would be shared beteen pumping and generation, so this would definitely be a peak power plant only. Pumping time would be limited.

    A better option might be Tantangara to Blowering. It hasd 900m head. The tunnel distance would be shorter (55km instead of 90km). At the same flow rate as Tumut 3 this would generate 9GW. To get the flow rate I expect we would need 6 tunnels oof about 7m diameter (ie same as for Eucumbene-Blowering butr shorter, so less head loss and roughly 2/3 the cost).

    Tantangara-Blowering has another advantage over the Eucumbene-Blowering. Eucumbene Blowering would effectively strand the Tumut 1, 2 and 3 assets. Tantangara-Blowering, on the other hand it would not strand the Tumut 1, 2, 3 assets. They would continue to operate just as they do now. There would be a slight loss of effective storage capacity and regulation capability of Tantangara and Blowering.

    I like Tantangara-Blowering. I might do some more work on the head loss in 55km of 7m diameter tunnels, the pumping requirements, and the costs. I’ll see.

    By the way, I love hydro.

  356. Peter,
    The Tantangara/Blowering suggestion sounds like a better option, as this leaves the flexibility of having both an expanded Tumut and Tantangara. Adding even one 7m return pipeline from Talbingo to Eucumbene would allow a lower cost way of returning water to Eucumbene and allow >2000GWh storage, although at perhaps only 10-12GW peak output but for 150 hours operation.

    On the matter of maximum wind output, even using the figures now available form 13 wind farms very rarely is 75% capacity exceeded, while looking at any 3 of these they often exceed 95% capacity. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that 100 wind farms spread over 5 times the coastline is going to result in rarely exceeding 50-55% of capacity. This means we could probably build out about 40GW wind capacity now and be able to use 99% of output with existing energy storage, but still need considerable OCGT cpacity for those low wind periods. I think transmission capacity will be more important a limitation.

    Bye the way, I think we should build nuclear as fast as possible, but think that 1 reactor per year is going to be our limit for completion from 2020 to 2030. That leaves a lot of coal fired power to be replaced by OCGT or CCGT.

  357. Neil (#415)

    I need to build a wee spreadheet to look at the options for 2030. I’ll also look at each 5 years from 2015 to 2050. Of course, this has been done by many others before, and with much more powerful modelling capability than I can do. I like to approach these analyses from a perspecitve of ‘big-picture’, define the bounds and limits rather than get down to optimising all the possible scenarios. Once we get into looking into the future, the arguments are endless about the assumptions. So let me see if we agree the following inputs:

    Electricity demand to 2030 is as forecast in ABARE: http://www.abareconomics.com/publications_html/energy/energy_07/auEnergy_proj07_tables.pdf
    Nuclear can be installed at the rate of 3GW by 2025, 10GW by 2030, 1GW per year to 2035, then 2 GW per hyear after that
    We can remove 1GW per year of coal fired power stations from 2012
    We can replace coal and build new capacity using:
    CCGT
    Wind + OCGT until 2020
    Wind + storage
    Solar PV + storage
    solar thermal + storage
    pumped hydro and or CAES up to 15GW max
    nuclear
    Transmission

    Do you agree with these. No more options. This is big enough job on its own.

    I also want to cost the Tantangra-Blowering pumped hydro scheme. I’ll probably tackle this first.

  358. Neil Howes (#415),

    You said ” Adding even one 7m return pipeline from Talbingo to Eucumbene would allow a lower cost way of returning water to Eucumbene and allow >2000GWh storage, although at perhaps only 10-12GW peak output but for 150 hours operation. ”

    One tunnel from Eucumbene to Blowering (not Talbingo) would give you only 1.25GW power – not 10 to 12 GW as you stated – and that is only if the flow rate in 90 km of 7m diameter rough rock tunnel is the same as in 1km of 5.6m diameter steel pipe – which I doubt!

    I haven’t touched on the power reqired to pump the water back up and the efficiency losses.

  359. The 154MW solar power station being built at Mildura has just gone into adminsitration.

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/business/story/0,,26040367-36418,00.html

    “AUSTRALIA’S leading solar energy company was placed into the hands of voluntary administrators yesterday and almost all of its 150 staff stood down pending a review to see if the business can be salvaged.

    Solar Systems had received promises of $129m in funding from federal and state governments to build Australia’s first large scale solar power station, a $420m project near Mildura in Victoria.

    It also had ambitions for 1000MW of large-scale solar installations in Asia, using its unique solar dish technology, at an estimated cost of more than $3 billion, and to become one of the top five global solar energy companies over the next five years. ”

    I suppose some people will argue it is all the governmen’s fault – e.g the governments haven’t provided enough subsidies.

  360. It comes back to this (doesn’t it always?):

    It also had ambitions for 1000MW of large-scale solar installations in Asia, using its unique solar dish technology, at an estimated cost of more than $3 billion, … ”

    My my. $3000/kw overnight costs. Times…4? 5? Really, it gets so tiring people just will not get it.

    So you know, the US NEI site has a shout-out for this thread noting it’s “ridiculously long commentary that is well worth the read” to paraphrase, not quote.

    David

  361. peter#417,
    A single 7m returm to Eucumbene from Talbingo would be to restore water to Eucumbene ,not primarily power generation(0.18ML/sec).
    The existing Tumut1&2, or upgraded Tumut3 provides the power but you have an large long term store in the water at Eucumbene that can be used perhaps once every few months for extreme events.
    You would be draining Talbingo faster than refilling, but still add a lot more reserve

  362. Neil,

    Before I go to the trouble of estimating the cost of a Tantangara-Blowering pumped hydro scheme, have you already crunched some costs on this or other similar pumped hydro systems, using reasonably up to date costs?

  363. Neil #421

    You says; “A single 7m returm to Eucumbene from Talbingo would be to restore water to Eucumbene ,not primarily power generation(0.18ML/sec).”

    I don’t understand what you are trying to achieve with this.

    1. You would be pumping water out of Talbingo before it has generated power in Tumut 3. What is the point of that? Pumping 90 km is going to require in the order of twice the power generated.

    2. The flow rate you have suggested is twice the flow rate pumped by the Tumut 3 pumps.

    3. How much water spills over the spillway at Tumut 3? If very little, than there is nothing value to be gained by pumping water from Tumut 3 to Eucumbene. I expect very little does spill. I expect the releases down the Tumut River (through Tumut 1, 2 and 3 are very well controlled to optimise electricity generation. I doubt much is wasted. If I am correct, then there would be no spare water to pump back to Eucumbene from Talbingo. It would be better to pump from Blowering to Tantangara

  364. Heads Up …

    Tim Lambert over at Deltoid has just kicked off a topic on the utility of nuclear power.

    I might have been harangued, as Barry notes, but apparently Tim thought it worth taking up and specifically cited my text as the prompt, adding his own view, expressed in 1988, about the relative merits of nuclear power over fossil fuels in combating climate change.

  365. Neil and Barry,

    Here is an idea that someone might like to research further. The idea builds on suggestions about energy storage, especially those of Neil Howe, David Benson, and Fran Barlow. This idea might make wind power along the coast of the Nullarbor more economically viable.

    The bedrock under the Nullarbor Plain is limestone. I understand it is cavernous. Perhaps it could host Compressed Air Energy Storage (CAES) sites close to the wind farms along the coast. If so, we could store energy near the wind farms and supply high quality power from the CAES. There would need to be relatively short, high capacity transmission from the wind farms to the CAES but the trunk lines from the CAES to the demand centres would be much smaller that otherwise required – they would be sized to carry peak load (instead of having to carry the nearly full capacity of all the wind farms – for the occasions when they are all blowing flat out and we want to store the energy in pumped storage in the eastern ranges).

    I wonder how big are the caverns and how leaky are they. We’d also need a gas supply to the CAES sites.

    Barry, what a great little multi-disciplinary research project for some students. Perhaps even a role for the geologists!

  366. Peter#423, 424,
    I don’t have any firm figures for a 1000MW of turbines and generators, but it’s got to be less than 1000MW OCGT, or a 1000MW CAES the other alternatives for peak power.

    My information was that Tumut 3 uses 1.1ML/sec( about 4000ML/h) generating 1500MW(that fits in with Jounama’s capacity of 23,000ML). Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 are about 0.24ML/sec(from memory; on frozen hard drive).

    The value of being able to pump back from Talbingo is that it more than triples the actual storage, say 500,000ML from Talbingo to Blowering(150m; 200GWh), another 500,000ML from Eucumbene to Talbingo(550m? 600GWh)or even more if Blowering has the capacity.
    Tantangara only has 245,000ML capacity so perhaps 150,000ML could be pumped(150GWh?), useful if Blowering has the capacity( which it would have except in spring).

    Talbingo would be emptied about twice as fast as replaced by a total of 0.18 and 0.24ML(0.42ML)but this would keep Talbingo closer to full capacity longer.

    Any consideration of future energy demands should assume a nation wide grid, the 1500Km gap between NEMMCO and SW WA grid needs to be completed to take advantage of peak shifting, longer solar power output and wind variability, not to mention problems such as Vargus? Island gas explosion almost crippling the WA grid. WA has lots of OCGT capacity that could help close down coal fired power in Eastern Australia a little earlier.

    The best place for CAES would be in the limestone caverns on the Bight, using an E_W grid at double capacity( going both directions both E and W) and connecting to SA and NT solar farms and wind farms along the Bight coastline.

  367. Neil (#430)

    Below are some figures, (I think I gave you some of these in a previous post):

    Current costs for hydro schemes world wide are US$2000/kW to US$4,000/kW.

    Tumut 3 flow is 1,132.7m3/s generating at 1500MW (total of 6 turbines)

    Tumut 3 can pump at 297.3m3/s (total of 3 pumps)

    Journama Pond’s active capacity is 27,800,000m3. Area at FSL is 381ha

    Talbingo Reservoir’s active capacity is 160,400,000m3. Area at FSL is 1,943ha.

    Blowering Reservoir’s active capacity is 1,608,700,000m3. Area at FSL is 4,303ha.

    Tantangara Reservoir’s active capacity is 238,800,000m3. Area at FSL is 2,118ha.

    I don’t understand your third, fourth and fifth paragraphs. Do you have some reservoir names back to front. It looks to me as if you are pumping down stream. I don’t understand what you are suggesting.

    It seems to me it would not make sense to pump any water from Talbingo to Eucumbene. If we did so we would be removing the water before it had flowed through Tumut 3, which happens to be just about the most economic of all the Snowy projects. Pumping from Blowering to the top of the storage (Talbingo or Eucumbene) would make sense if the schemes are economically viable.

    By the way, I’ve done a first cut cost estimate for a Blowering-Tantangara pump storage scheme ($3.5 billion). At first glance that appears to be excellent if correct, but I need to check further.

    There is one problem. Francis turbines, which are by far the best for pump storage, currently have a head limit of about 600m. We have 900m hed. The manufacturers are working on increasing that. I understand there is a lot of work going on to double them up.

  368. Neil and others interested in pump storage,

    I’ve been looking at the Tantangara-Blowering pumped hydro scheme Neil suggested.

    As usual with these projects the mor you look at it the harder and more costly it gets.

    I’m writing this because some people may nbe interested in what is involved. One of the critical items to consider is thet the water table along the full length of the tunnel is above the full supply level in the dam. If the water table is below the full supply level, then water will be lost from the tunnel. We can grout small areas or line the tunnel, but both add massively to the cost.

    When I first looked I thought we could run a tunnel to within 5 km of Blowering reservoir and then run steel pipes down the slopes to the reservoir. Or alternatively run the tunnel down at a steady grade and line the last 5 km of the tunnel with concreate then steel as we get closer to the reservoir. But both options have difficulties (ie costs).

    I also looked at running a much shorter distance with the tunnesl and then running down the Tunut valley with pipes, This option seems to be a no go option because of the rugged topography.

    Getting back to the first two options, the problem is that there is barely sufficent cover (ladn height above the tunnel for much of the distance. So perhaps as much of the tunnel may have to be lined with a water tight lining, or extensive grouting (probably the former, because it is a known engineering solution that can be costed from the beginning). The last 10 m is a problem. Running the pipes down the slope so that the slope is always negative (ie no hollows) means the pipes will be longer than appears on the map. As to how much steel pressure pipe will be needed is an open question at the moment.

    Right now I have the project at about $4 billion including 20% contingency. It still seems to be exceptionally good benefit/cost ratio. I can’t work out why it hasn’t been built already.

    It would work beautifully with nuclear. Store that excess energy generated in the early hours of the morning and provide up to 9GW peak power every evening. Two beautifully reliable and controllable power supplies. Who could ask for more?

    Just like France. See the first and second slides on this presentation as an example of the near perfect electricity gereration system. That’s what we should model Australia’s generation system on. Notice on the second slide the rate at which France commissioned its nuclear power – and that was 30 years ago. What could we do now if we put our minds to it?

  369. Here’s an interesting thing from the Deltoid nuclear thread. I think it explains quite clearly why the above ‘arguments’ with Stephen Gloor came to nought. Why? Because it could never have been anything else:

    Stephen Gloor wrote:

    “Fran Barlow – “I’ve no problem at all with creating an incentive to reduce waste. If people waste less stuff, that is a very good thing. Even if the recovered waste heat comes from fossil fuels, then ceteris paribus that is agoodthing.”

    But the whole nuclear thing is in my opinion an attempt to perpetuate business as usual. Proponents of nuclear see nuke plants as a direct replacement for coal plants with no real need to reduce waste as there is in their view plenty of energy available. As far as I can tell from reading Blee’s book the road to world peace and prosperity is simply supplying energy in unlimited quantities so that we can continue on the unsustainable party.

    Embracing renewables as the primary solution also usually means energy efficiency and conservation are the number one priority BEFORE attempting to supply demand. Nuclear being primarily baseload encourages high demand so that the nuke plants can be run in the most economical mode ie: flat out 24X7.

    We have major problems with our society that cannot be fixed with more energy supply. We must reduce demand and demand growth to give our society any chance of avoiding collapse and/or dangerous climate change.”

    I suggest Stephen Gloor is firmly entrenched in the missing category E of Gene Preston’s classification.

  370. “We have major problems with our society that cannot be fixed with more energy supply. We must reduce demand and demand growth to give our society any chance of avoiding collapse and/or dangerous climate change.”

    That, folks, is the single biggest philosophical difference between Green renewable advocates/anti-nuclear activists and those that support nuclear energy. These wings of the discussion do not just represent different approaches to an “energy question” but how we view the advancement (and not retreat) of humanity in solving the issue of the day.

    Stephen Gloor is simply in the “We use too much energy” School of Energy Starvation Advocacy. He wants the world to use ‘less’ as if ‘more’ is somehow the root of all the planets evil. How wrong he is.

    What his proposing is the continued oppression, repression and subjection of the masses of Africa, Latin America and Asia to remain in that state. A state that leads to war, ethnic cleansing and eventual destructions of whole peoples on this planet. Stephen Gloor sees this (or perhaps doesn’t see it at all being in an Ivory Tower, perhaps) as *preferable* to the employment of nuclear energy or mix of nuclear and other non-carbon, non-fossil alternatives.

    In the world today, we need *more* not less energy of per-capita use. Do we need this with conservation? Efficiency? A reversal of the worst aspects of the US-imaged consumer society. Of course. But the premise…the material physical base of this, needs to be built on a foundation based on an abundance of clean, cheap accessible nuclear energy. Without this, simply put is a false promise of a “Green future” based on renewables that this discussion has proven beyond a doubt is not only too expensive, but impossible to actually implement.

    BTW…what do I mean in terms of “abundance”. I’ll tell you: a stinking light switch that’s what. 2 to 3 billion people don’t have the ubiquitous light-switch that gives LIGHT when you want it. Why? because there is no grid. There is no generation. It doesn’t exist. this means no light. No refrigerator to preserve food; no small 9″ B&W TV set; not internet access; no clinic that can preserve blood and antibiotics. Not industry to provide decent paying jobs. Just misery.

    The choice fellow activists is a future of shrinking energy usage, continued underdevelopment and massive poverty or one that is based on abundance. Stephen Gloor proves this more than anyone.

    D. Walters
    left-atomics.blogspot.com

  371. Peter#430,
    I had a figure of 920,000ML for Talbingo and 3000Ha surface, perhaps most is mot active storage?

    The reason for suggesting a pump back from Talbingo to Eucumbene would be to take greater advantage of the full storage of Blowering and adding active volume of Talbingo. So at full energy storage Blowering empty, Tantantaga, Talbingo full. At end of energy use Tantangara empty, Talbingo and Blowering full(the original water from Talbingo replaced by Eucumbene water( generating another 1GWh/800ML)so total storage could be 1,600,000ML at blowering( 245,000 from Tantangara @ 800ML/GWh=300GWh?) plus (Talbingo to blowering 1,300,000 ML at 2,600ML/GWh=500GWh) plus 1,300,000ML from Eucumbene to Blowering vias Talbingo with Talbingo finally full(800ML/GWh= 1,600GWh) for a total theoretical storage of 2,400GWh.
    The catch would be the slower flow rate from Eucumbene to Talbingo meaning that only 800GWh could be generated qwuickly.
    This would not have to compromise water release for irrigation, but would be a problem if Eucumbene and Blowering were full, but then could have greater environmental flows.

    Do you have turbine costs of your $2,000/kW of hydro costs, surely most will be for the dam construction( not needed in this case)?
    .

  372. David Walters (#434),

    You should publish that piece. It is spot on and eloquent.

    Neil Howes, (#435),

    Your proposal to pump from Talbingo to Eucumbine makes no sense to me. Talbingo has only 10m of active storage. It is designed that way to maintain the maximum head for genetrating power in Tumut 3. It is not intended to be a storage reservoir. It has much more storage than Jounama Pond the lower reservoir in the pump storagte system. So if we wanted to do anything to improve Tumut 3, we’d have to expand the volume of Jounama Pond. We could do that either by keeping Blowering full, as discussed before, but the water users downstream would lose out. Blowering would no longer be a storage reservoir. Just a very costly lower pond for pump storage. Bad idea.

    Another alternative is to replace Jounama pond with a new dam down stream. There is a site and it would approximately tripple the size of Jounama pond. Looks promising, but nowhere near the value of the Tantangara-Blowering pumped-hydro scheme. However, we can have both Blowering Tantangara and increased storage capacity in the lower reservoir for Tumut 3 if we build this new dam to replace Jounama Dam.

    Getting back to the Talbingo-Eucumbene tunnel, I see no value in it whatsoever. Talbingo is kept at its optimum capacity by filling from Eucumbene – by releasing water that flows down the Tumut River to Talbingo and then Blowering, where it is retained and later released to serve the irrigators needs and environmental flows down the Murrumbidgee. As the water is released from Eucumbene it generates power through Tumut 1, 2 and 3. Talbingo is maintined at the optimum level for maximum head but also allowing some capacity for water pumped up from Jounama. You could think of Talbingo and Tumut 3 as mainly a run-of-river hydro scheme with a small pumped hydro top up. I can see no value in pumping from Talbingo to Eucumbene.

    Regarding your question about turbine costs, they are a minor cost item in the Tantangara-Blowering cost estimate (1%). The main cost items are the tunnels (44%) and the steel pipes (35%). No dams are involved and no costs are included for the dams. The power station, including generators, turbines, pumps, transformers and the civil structures is about 5%.

  373. Neil Howes, #435,

    I’ll paraphrase what you are saying in your post #435, then give my opinion and a very, very rough cost estimate.

    You are proposing two pumped storage schemes:

    1. Increase the capacity of Tumut 3 to 4500MW by adding twice the existing generating and pumping capacity to the Tumut 3 Power station (probably in two new power stations similar to the original Tumut 3, but each with twice the pumping capacity of Tumut 3). Increase the storage in the downstream reservoir by pumping back from Blowering to Jounama [and tripling the storage capacity of Jounama (my suggestion)].

    2. Effectively make Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 into pump storage by pumping from Talbingo to Eucumbene and generating power by releasing from Eucumbene through Tumut 1 and Tumut 2.

    I doubt Option 1 is viable. Jounama is not big enough. Tumut 3 can suck it dry too quickly. It would be too costly to install sufficient pumping capacity to pump from Blowering to Jounama to make a significant difference. If we wanted to increase the pump storage capacity of Tumut 3, I expect building a larger reservoir downstream of Jounama would be the better option. There appears, from the contour maps, to be a dam site about 4 km downstream from Jounama that would give a reservoir with about three times the active volume of Jounama. The location is where the transmission line crosses the valley.

    My very rough calculation of the cost of this project is $1.9 billion for an extra 1.5GW generating capacity and $3.6 billion for an extra $3GW. This includes pipes and pumps from Blowering to Jounama with capacity to pump at the existing Tumut 3 rate (1.5GW option) or twice the Tumut 3 rate (3GW option).

    This also includes building a new dam at the site below Jounama. Without the extra storage capacity in Jounama, I doubt the scheme would be viable.

    I haven’t looked at option 2 in detail. However, the tunnel would be much the same cost as for the Tantangara-Blowering tunnel. Almost everything that is required for the Tantangara-Blowering pumped-hydro facility is required except the generators. So the cost is almost the same, but the head is much less and the generation through Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 is much less. The generation is less for two reasons: firstly because the head from Talbingo to Eucumbene is only 600m, and secondly, because Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 do not capture all the hydraulic head from Eucumbene to Talbingo. This proposal has little to recommend it that I can see.

  374. FYI…Californians don’t get “paid” anything for their PV into the grid. In our case the meter runs backward when feeding into the grid, the right way when taking power. AT the end of the year, you get a bill with $0 due if you supplied more power than you took out. So no one is going to make any money doing this except for the fact that your bills go away, if you get enough sun.

    David

  375. all of Charles Bartons figures ignore:

    -the cost of disposal of nuclear waste

    -the cost of decommissioning nuclear plants 20 + years in the future
    which we know will be vastly more than scrapping a solar plant

    -the fact no nuclear plant in the us has ever been built within budget
    in fact billions have been lost on uncompleted projects in the past
    as anyone living in washington state knows

    so these so called cost advantages to nuclear are a fantasy…

    and entirely irrelevant to put in nicely.. utter bs to be blunt

  376. Observer, you dhave failed to observe certain things. For example, Nuclear wast is produced by Light Water Reactors. If you introduce Generation IV nuclear technology into the generation system, you eliminate the so called problem of nuclear waste. Both LFTRs and IFRs can use “nuclear waste” for fuel. Most of the fissionproducts produced by LFTRs can be sold off within a few years for industrial use. Many LFTR fission products are rarte and valuable, and the sale of Fission by products would add to the LFTR revinue stream. The LFTR can be operated in a way that would avoid the production of long lived transuranium isotopes. Long lived radioactive fission products have their own uses in industry, food processing, medicine, etc. So far from ignoring cost of nuclear waste, I point out that with preferred nuclear technology, fission products become economic assets.

    I do not ignore the cost of scrapping nuclear planta. At present nuclear plant operators pay into a fund that finances their decommissioning. Their payment schedule can be adjusted periodically, to reflect decommissioning costs. Since Generation III+ reactors are now being designed with a 100 year lifespan, decommissioning payments will be small, and interest should cover decommissioning costs. The decommissioning cost of Generation IV reactors will be small.

    Even if it were true that all past United States nuclear plants were over ran construction schedules and cost estimates, this is not relivant to my cost estimates. First numerous reactors have been built in many countries that were completed on time and under budget. There is no reason why the construction methods used to successfully produce reactors on time ands on budget in ffrance, Japan, South Korea, india and other countries, could not be used in the United States. Secondly, I propose the construction of reactors in factories, where cost and scheduling factors can be better controlled.

    Observer, at present nuclear power provides 80% of French electricity at low cost and has been doing so without a hitch. Much of the electricity used in Japan and South Korea is generated by reactors. Again at low cost and without serious problems. 20% of American electricity is produced by reactors, at low price, and high reliability. The fantasy then is yours, not mine.

  377. The decomissioning issue is something that the renewable energy industry, particularly industrial scale wind, are quietly sweeping under the rug.

    See ->

    http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wind-decommissioning-costs-lessons-learned/

    where the decommissioning costs for Beech Ridge 124 turbine wind power station propsal were underestimated by the proponent to the tune of US$10MILLION :

    brief excerpt ->

    “The bottom line is that even if the permitting agency allows the salvage credit, the total net cost of decommissioning this project today would be $10.4 million ($83,900/turbine). Our analysis quantified the large scrap price and demo cost escalation risk being assumed by the local community. To protect the community, the permitting agency should require a bond of a minimum $100/K per turbine ($12.4 million) to capture demolition cost escalation risk. If the wind developer can convince the bonding company of the high salvage value, then they should be able to negotiate a lower rate for the bond. If they were right, there would be very little price difference for a larger $12+ million bond. Shift the risk to the bonding company. Let the developer and bonding company assume the price risk — not the community.”

    Bear in mind that all wind farm applications in Australia are happily perpetuating this nonsense, and claiming that decom is covered by the scrap value. The reality is as you can see in Hawaii and California, that these things get left to rust and leak out nasty fluids into the landscape.

    The other issue of course is that some of these “green” power co’s are part owned by super funds e.g. ->

    http://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/683454/fromItemId/751043

    Where it states that Industry Funds Management Ltd – proposed acquisition of Pacific Hydro Ltd :

    “A public company takeover bid was announced on 19 April 2005, advising that IFM proposed to acquire all of the issued shares in Pacific Hydro. On 26 April 2005, IFM filed a submission and request for informal clearance with the ACCC in respect of this proposed acquisition. IFM currently has a 31.6% interest in Pacific Hydro and interests in other renewable energy providers. Pacific Hydro is an Australian publicly listed company which develops and generates renewable energy through wind farms and hydro power plants in Australia and overseas.”

    So in terms of who foots the bill for decom it can go a number of ways, the unsuspecting super funds pay it, the unsuspecting landholder/farmer hosting the turbine pays or is bankrupted, or the local community / government pays it. Or of course no one pays and it gets quietly abandoned.

    Some pics at of many different renewable plants abandoned including wind, solar and hydro ->

    http://webecoist.com/2009/05/04/10-abandoned-renewable-energy-plants/

    +

    http://scotthaefner.com/photos/place/Kama%27oa+Wind+Farm/1935/

    There are 37 turbines at the abandoned wind farm in Hawaii.

    Also see ->

    http://www.windaction.org/pictures/4146

    http://www.windaction.org/pictures/4145

    http://www.windaction.org/pictures/4144

    + there is a video there of the Hawaii ones :

    http://www.windaction.org/videos/12990

    California :

    http://www.windaction.org/pictures/18606

    The description under the Palm Springs, California turbine : “More than 100 broken windmills dot the landscape in California near Palm Springs as does the growing litter of broken blades. Evidence of leaking fluids, a trash pile of wasted parts, and broken turbines.”

    Very recently in the USA some of the rulings state that an A rated credit institution must cover it with a bond, paid into yearly by the developer, and the bond has to be held by someone other than the developer e.g. the local council/gov. But what of the thousands upon thousands of industrial scale wind turbines already erected and under construction both in Australia and overseas with no decom bond ? who is going to pay to decom those… ?

  378. Bryen,

    Interesting post.

    Does anyone have an estimate of the cost of decommissioning and waste disposal of the thousands of square kilometres of solar panels that would have to be decommissioned and disposed of every 20 years or so? What is the cost of decommissioning and waste disposal per MWh of energy produced over the solar power plant’s economic life?

    Should these costs be internalised as they are for nuclear power?

  379. Jereme C said on thread “Remote Solar PV versus Small Nuclear”:

    From what you have posted and reading your papers I think your method is of limited use in assessing the usefulness of a PV installation. If you think it is worth it we can pursue it on the other threads but that may limit other people from contributing if they are interested.

    Since this question/statement refers to the thread, it is better to discuss it here. That way, the discussion can be linked to all the other discussion about this paper.

    Jeremy, can you please elaborate on this comment and I will attempt to answer it.

    1. Why do you think calculations from solar insolation measurements from satelites would be better than the capacity factor achieved by real installations? Or have I misunderstood what you are saying?

    2. Please rememeber that the analyses are a simple ‘limit analysis’. The intention is to ‘book end’ the options. If one technology is a factor of 2 or more higher cost than another, then there is little point in investigating it further.

    3. The costs used are cureent costs. We can argue about the possible future costs indefinitely. Many would argue that the costs of nuclear have far greater potential to come down significantly than renewable costs. So there is little point in arguing about what might be in the future.

    4. I’d refer you to the previous discussion on this thread about tracking solar PV and about solar thermal. The points about solar thermal woere answered in two follow-up threads, and about tracking PV on this thread.

  380. Peter,

    I’m going to continue to concentrate on flat plate PV.

    The reason I said that the fuel must be taken into acount wrt to a PV installation, aka insolation over time, is because that will tell you what energy is available, and you can make your decisions based on that as whether it is any use putting in a PV installation.

    I’ll give you two conceptual reasons as to why I regard your methodological approach as limited.

    Imagine you build a 1000 MW coal fired plant but you build a train line that allows you to only deliver coal to run the plant at 20% capacity. That would be a stupid and expensive thing to do wouldn’t it?

    The second, from another angle, is how would you use your method to calculate the capacity factor of a gas fired peaking plant? NEMCO (or AEMO) stats give us an idea as to how expensive such a plant is to operate.

    What it boils down to on a PV installation is how much insolation do you have and how much do you want out of it balanced with how much that is going to cost.

    On the subject of peaking, one combined electicity network operator and retailer that I have had dealings with in Australia over the past year told me that they like the idea of using grid connected PV to shave peak demand on afternoons in certain areas (they are goimng through a very expensive upgrading of their distribution network). It would be interesting to compare the costs of operating a MW of PV against a MW of gas fired peaking, its not something I have done.

    Regarding the Quenbeyan Solar Farm it might be useful to ascribe an efficiency rating to the installation e.g. the 6 inverters, if they are orginal devices may have efficiencies of @ 90% while there will be losses in the system overall ( the inverters will be more effcient under different current parameters which is why they might be slightly underrated for their individual wiring). It may sound a small thing but it can have an impact as will resitance losses through wiring. As well the pointing if its optimised for seasons, or afternoon or just latitude can have an impact.

    I’m not a cheerleader for PV, I just think the arguments over renewables vs nuclear are a zero sum game. They are for different situations.

  381. Jeremy,

    Thank you for your post. I appreciate constructive posts because they may expose an error in the paper. In which case the paper can be corrected.

    You make a number of points. I’ll try to give a brief answer here, but hope you may look back at the paper and also the discussion on this thread because a lot of the background has been discussed here previously.

    1. Firstly, the Queanbeyan solar farm ran with minimal prpoblems for the two years. The inverters had none of the problems that do occur elsewhere (eg Atlantic City Convention Centre to name just one).

    2. Your point that system efficiency may be a bit better with more modern inverters (and your similar points) is totally irrelevant in the context of this study. Nuclear is 20 times cheaper than solar PV for the scenario being analysed! (The reason for the scenario is explained).

    3. I accept that insolation changes from site to site. But again, that is a small % change. And there are higher transmission costs involved with locating in the desert. And even in the desert we get periods of overcast conditions.

    4. Tracking PV improves the capacity factor slightly, but this is more than offset by mechanical problems and maintenance costs. So, apparently, tracking PV is not a lower cost option that fixed arrary PV.

    5. I would totally disagree with you about insolation measurements being superior to actual output readings from the solar PV instalation. It is the output of actual power stations that is relevant.

    6. Even if we did use insolation instead of actual output, how much difference would it make to the conclusion? If it is not going to improve the output by a factor of 20 then it is irrelevant. As an engineer, you would have been trained to use the Pareto principle.

    7. “On the subject of peaking”, the NEM peak demand is at 6:30 pm in July (winter here) which is after the sun has gone down. There are local summer peaks in some cities, but the amount of difference the solar PV can make in those loacal areas is small and the cost to Australia, of expensive, inflexible generation like solar, is huge.

    8. Regarding your comments: “Regarding the Quenbeyan Solar Farm it might be useful to ascribe an efficiency rating to the installation” and “It may sound a small thing but it can have an impact as will resitance losses through wiring. As well the pointing if its optimised for seasons, or afternoon or just latitude can have an impact.” these are totally irrelevant in the context of this analysis. Chasing such tiny improvements in the analysis when we have a factor of 20 difference in the cost between the solar option and the nuclear option is the sort of nonsesne distraction that has kept Australia from progressing with nuclear energy for the past 35 years.

  382. Today Australia’s population is 22.0 million some 20X South Australia’s pop of 1.1 million on 17 March 2008. That day the State used over 2.8 GW in the mid afternoon. If there was a nation wide heat wave and other States had as many air conditioners that suggests a national peak demand of 56 GW. Can’t happen? The Bureau of Meteorology predicts Melbourne summer temperatures will routinely hit 50C in coming years.

  383. John Newlands (#449),

    The least cost option to meet the energy demand, with no GHG emissions, is nuclear energy plus centralised storage (eg pumped hydro). And demand side management to manage the air conditioning load. There may be a small role for solar, but I amn not convinced of that at the moment.

    What about in the interim until ewe get to the point of no GHG emissions from electrcity generation. The least cost option (I believe but have not completed my analysis yet), is bring nuclear on as fast as possible, make up the difference between demand other generators with CCGT until nuclear has replaced all the coal, then start decommissioning the gas fired generators as well. Peak power, abover average power, can be provided by gas and pumped hydro.

    The 2007 peak demand was 33GW across the whole NEM. Average demand was 25 GW and baseload was 20 GW in July. Ignoring redundancy requirements for the now, the 25 GW could be provided by nuclear for about $100 billion capital investment. 8 GW of peak power could be provided by the Tantangara-Blowering Pumped hydro scheme for say $15 billion. The nuclear plants pump to store each night between about 11 pm and 6 am while the baseload (18GW) is less than the average demand (25GW).

    Please show me an analysis that explains how we can provide a lower cost system to meet our needs using renewables instead of nuclear.

  384. Peter surely peak shaving via demand management could be a cheaper approach. That’s what ETSA seem to be saying

    http://www.etsautilities.com.au/centric/news_information/electricity_information/demand_management/demand_management_faqs.jsp

    I understand they want to implement a kind of odds and evens with home air conditioners. No. 10 Smith St gets the AC on 4.30-5.00 on a hot afternoon. It is then switched off by radio signal and no. 11 gets AC 5.00-5.30 pm and so on.

    If smart meters become standard and internet connected perhaps the utility could say electricity is $1 per kwh for the next 2 hours and the pre-programmed meters could decide whether and how to defer certain appliances like AC. However I don’t have cost data to enable a comparison between gas/pumped hydro and mass rollout of smart meters.

  385. John Newlands (#451),

    I agree peak shaving, demand management, smart grids efficiency improvements will all play a role. But I suspect the effect will be nowhere near as much as the advocates hope. The reason I say this is because we went through all the same arguments back in the early 1990’s. The pragmatists pointed out what could really be achieved in the real world given the real costs of changing existing systems and also that unknown new loads will be added. ABARE attempted to model the numbers provided by the DMS and greater efficiency advocates. ABARE also modelled based on its expertise. The result: the dreams are unrealistic. Some will be implemented, some will not.

    We are not going to power down. That is just reality. If we want to hang onto that dream, we’ll be a long time making any progress.

    But there is an alternative. In fact there are two alternatives:

    1. low cost nuclear

    2. high cost nuclear

    If we go with the low cost nuclear option, low emission electricity will be implemented much more quickly, not only in Australia, but around the world. As we progress with implementing low-cost, low-emissions electricity, the emissions from gas for heating and oil for land transport will also be reduced. Electricity will displace both. In the case of land transport it may be battery cars and/or synthetic fuels produced using electricity.

    High cost nuclear or any other high cost solution means we will take much longer to reduce emissions, not only in Australia, but also world wide.

    The choice is: take a long time to cut emissions, or get rational!

  386. Peter,

    You didn’t answer my discussion points on your methodological approach. As well you seem to misunderstand the point I was making on fuel resource ie.. why it is important to know what insolation parameterss might have to a site. Can you quote me figures that show that insolation is the same at different sites across Australia, or anywhere else. Table 1 in the Watt et al paper you pointed me to is a useful starting point for thinking about insolation. Let me repeat what I wrote above, “What it boils down to on a PV installation is how much insolation do you have and how much do you want out of it balanced with how much that is going to cost.”

    The other point I will repeat is its what you want to do with the energy in what situation that counts.

    As to the Pareto principle, I’m sorry but I didn’t do business studies and my attitude to economics is that at best its just accountancy with grammar……

  387. Re: 450
    “The least cost option to meet the energy demand, with no GHG emissions, is nuclear energy plus centralised storage (eg pumped hydro)”.

    Peter I really dislike such claims on nuclear or any technology being presented as “no emissions” or “zero emissions”.

    On a life cycle basis the scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions are important considerations and with nuclear energy the scope 3 emissions associated with the mining and construction of the power stations should always be acknowledged. Gen 1V reactors would be better than the earlier types of course.

    If we go down the path of failing to acknowledge indirect emissions then when I would be carbo neutral turning on the light because the light bulb emits no emissions.

    Please

  388. Tim Kelly (#454),

    You are absolutely right, of course. I was getting shorter and shorter with my comments. The original papers do use the emissions from full LCA. I should have said low emissions.

    I presume you are aware that the amount of materials that must be mined for intermittent renewable energy generators such as wind and solar are far more than for nucolear on a LCA basis. Liewise for every step of the process from mining, transport, milling, transport, processing, transport, fabrication, transport, manufacturing, transport, construction, transport, maintenance, transport, decomissioning, transport, waste disposal. And for renewable plants we must go through this at least twice during the life of a nuclear plant.

    I presume most also realise that wind and solar power have far higher emissions than nuclear on an LCA basis (don’t forget the back-up that is required for intermittent renewables and the emissions embodied in the energy storage).

    I agree with you Tim. I presume this is what you were aluding to. I wonder how many do realise this?

  389. Peter,

    I was wondering if you had had a chanace to look at my two conceptual points/questions above regarding your methodoloy re capacity. I would be interested in your answer/comments.

    Reagrding LCA. Thats a good point comparing between nuclear and PV. Where is there some good info on LCA for centralised and non centralised systems.

  390. Jeremy C,

    I read your post but thought it was not serious so didn’t answer. Since you ask a second time, I shall, but briefly:

    1. The comment about trying to compare capacity factor of OCGT and solar thermal on the basis of fuel availability is silly. OCGT is dispatchable, solar is not.

    2. You asked “Can you quote me figures that show that insolation is the same at different sites across Australia, or anywhere else”. Firstly, I said the opposite of that. Re-read what I said. Secondly, I haven’t used insolation anywhere in the analyses, so the answer is ‘no’. But you can look it up if you want it. I explained that, where actual output figures are available they are far preferable to satellite readings of insolation and theoretical calculation of what might be the output.

    3. I explained that chasing a few percent change in efficiency in the solar plant is a waste of time and resources when there is a difference of a factor of 20 between the solar and nuclear option. To do so shows poor engineering judgement. Furthermore, this issue was explored extensively in previous comments in this thread.

    4. You showed by your answer in #453 you have no idea what the Pareto principle is. You stated “As to the Pareto principle, I’m sorry but I didn’t do business studies and my attitude to economics is that at best its just accountancy with grammar……”

    5. I gained the impression (perhaps wrongly) you have not read the papers with an intention to try to understand. Also, there has been much valuable discussion on this thread, much of which bears on your questions/comments.

    6. Regarding LCA on solar and nuclear there are many studies. You can explore to find what you want. Here are a few leads:

    ISA, Sydney Uni: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/tep/66043 (the last in the list.)

    ExternE: http://www.externe.info/

    Environmental Product Declarations have been done a number of technologies and sites. Here is one for a UK nuclear power plant (this is useful for all who are interested in what is and what is not included in the calculation of the emissions – it’s a pity more of the nuclear detractors don’t understand this): http://www.british-energy.com/documents/EPD_Doc_-_Final.pdf

  391. Peter,

    It is very frustrating that you say you didn’t take me seriously…………

    You are coming across as someone who dismisses anybody who disagrees with points you make. I’m going to make the following points and criticism’s (but at least your manner is not as bad as Helen Caldicott’s).

    However, before I start thankyou for the references on LCA, I will get to them.

    You still haven’t answered the conceptual questions I put in # 447 (remember I originally quoted your footnote setting out your approach to capacity – so much for you saying I haven’t read your reports and the papers you linked to). You then appear to change the goal posts by suddenly introducing ‘dispatchability’. Plus saying its ‘silly’ is a non answer. It just comes across as trying to avoid answering something that I have been asking you about for a while.

    So I’m asking again.

    And so to the ‘Pareto Principle’. You said.

    “If it is not going to improve the output by a factor of 20 then it is irrelevant. As an engineer, you would have been trained to use the Pareto principle”

    Is it right for me to conclude from your above statement in #448 and other posts that you are saying that factor 20 improvement is part of the Pareto principle? If so then how do you explain these quotes.

    “PARETO – the 80/20 rule – the principle of imbalance.”

    “The 80/20 rule can be applied to almost anything:

    80% of customer complaints arise from 20% of your products or services”

    “During any set time period you will find that 80% of races are indeed won by the same 20% of jockeys, or the same 20% of trainers.

    It does seem you have either made a mistake in what the Pareto principle is in this and a number of other posts by talking about a factor of 20 in associating with this piece of inductive reasoning or you have expressed yourself very, very clumsily.

    If I have mistaken what you said then you should contact the Dean of engineering at UTS and ask why the Pareto principle wasn’t taught in the 1980’s amongst the engineering departments there and I am happy to give you an introduction to the Dean of Engineering at RMIT where I am finishing my masters in engineering (energy) and you can explain how RMIT’s undergraduate and post graduate engineering students are being shortchanged.

    On insolation

    Your comment.

    ” I explained that, where actual output figures are available they are far preferable to satellite readings of insolation and theoretical calculation of what might be the output.

    Just go back and read my posts as to why use insolation……….. it makes or breaks the decision whether PV will fit what is wanted. If you can harp on about me supposedly not reading then you have no excuse not to read why I said insolation measurements are important.

    As to the scenario, weeeelllll, one early post on this thread described it as a straw man approach, I’m sorry but I continue to agree with that.

    However, your tribal attitude to nuclear power resulting in a ‘yah-booh-sucks’ attitude to anything else is self-defeating. You could instead seek to get proponents of renewables onside as those who lobby for coal etc will use the sort of attitude you display to divide and conquer between the nuclear and renewables communities to slow the take up of both and we don’t have the luxury for that, because, as Barry repeatedly points out the situation is far too serious.

  392. Jeremy C,

    Pareto principle, in short, says put your effort where you will get the most return. It is central to an engineer’s approach. Thus if you have a series of options, eg to provide our electricity supply, and one option costs 20 times more than another, then rule out the one that cost 20 times more. Do no more work on it. Yet you want to keep discussing matters about solar that are down in the weeds. If you can show that the solar analysis is too high by a factor of 20, then it is certainly worth discussing.

    The comment about straw-man was addressed in the thread.

    Forget about insolation. There are actual output figures at half hour intervals for two years. Look at figures 6 and 7. Focus on the dots at the lowest level. These are what controls the cost of solar power. These are due to overcast conditions. It is explained in the paper.

    The comparision of capacity factor of OCGT versus solar and their fuel availability argument is not valid. OCGT is called up and turned off as required to meet demand. It is ‘dispatched’ by the grid control system. So fuel availability is not what controls its capacity factor. Solar power generates as much as it can. It is controlled by weather and seasons. Critically important is how much it can generate on heavily overcast days.

    Yes, I do not take you seriously, because you do not seem to have attempted to understand the key points:

    1. Why the scenario is based on the limit situation
    2. The relevance of the minimum capacity factor (ie. the minimium output) and its relation to the amount of storage available
    3. The Pareto principle – if something is 20 times more costl