Solar realities and transmission costs – addendum

Peter Lang’s ‘solar realities’ paper and its associated discussion thread has generated an enormous amount of interest on BraveNewClimate (435 comments to date). Peter and I have greatly appreciated the feedback (although not always agreed with the critiques!), and this has led Peter to prepare: (a) an updated version of ‘Solar Realites’ (download the updated v2 PDF here) and (b) a response paper (download PDF here). Below I reproduce the response, and also include Peter’s sketched analysis of the scale/cost of the electricity transmission infrastructure (PDF here).

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Comparison of capital cost of nuclear and solar power

By Peter Lang (Peter is a retired geologist and engineer with 40 years experience on a wide range of energy projects throughout the world, including managing energy R&D and providing policy advice for government and opposition. His experience includes: coal, oil, gas, hydro, geothermal, nuclear power plants, nuclear waste disposal, and a wide range of energy end use management projects)

Introduction

This paper compares the capital cost of three electricity generation technologies based on a simple analysis. The comparison is on the basis that the technologies can supply the National Electricity Market (NEM) demand without fossil fuel back up. The NEM demand in winter 2007 was:

20 GW base load power;

33 GW peak power (at 6:30 pm); and

25 GW average power.

600 GWh energy per day (450 GWh between 3 pm and 9 am)

The three technologies compared are:

1. Nuclear power;

2. Solar photo-voltaic with energy storage; and

3. Solar thermal with energy storage

(Solar thermal technologies that can meet this demand do not exist yet. Solar thermal is still in the early stages of development and demonstration. On the technology life cycle Solar Thermal is before “Bleeding edge” – refer: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_lifecycle).

This paper is an extension of the paper “Solar Power Realities” . That paper provides information that is essential for understanding this paper. The estimates are ‘ball-park’ and intended to provide a ranking of the technologies rather than exact costs. The estimates should be considered as +/- 50%.

Nuclear Power

25 GW @ $4 billion /GW = $100 billion (The settled-down-cost of nuclear may be 25% to 50% of this figure if we reach consensus that we need to cut emissions from electricity to near zero as quickly as practicable.)

8 GW pumped hydro storage @ $2.5 billion /GW = $20 billion

Total capital cost = $120 billion

Australia already has about 2 GW of pumped-hydro storage so we would need an additional 6 GW to meet this requirement. If sufficient pumped hydro storage sites are not available we can use an additional 8GW of nuclear or chemical storage (e.g. Sodium Sulphur batteries). The additional 8 GW of nuclear would increase the cost by $12 billion to $132 billion (the cost of extra 8 GW nuclear less the cost of 8 GW of pumped hydro storage; i.e. $32 billion – $20 billion).

Solar Photo-Voltaic (PV)

From ‘Solar Power Realities’ :

Capital cost of PV system with 30 days of pumped-hydro storage = $2,800 billion. (In reality, we do not have sites available for even 1 day of pumped hydro storage.)

Capital cost of PV system with 5 days of Sodium Sulphur battery storage = $4,600 billion.

Solar Thermal

The system must be able to supply the power to meet demand 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 for 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

Average power to meet direct day-time demand = 25 GW

Average power required to store 450,000 MWh in 6 hours = 75 GW

Total power required for 6 hours (9 am to 3 pm) = 100 GW

Installed capacity required to provide 100 GW power at 1.56% capacity factor (say 6.24% capacity factor from 9 am to 3 pm) = 1,600 GW.

Total peak generating capacity required = 1,600 GW

If the average capacity factor was double, the installed capacity required would be half. So the result is highly sensitive to the average capacity factor.

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

Total power required = 100 GW.

The capacity factor in midwinter, when not under cloud, is 15% (refer Figure 7 in “Solar Power Realities”).

Installed capacity required to provide 100 GW power at 15% capacity factor (60% capacity factor from 9 am to 3 pm) = 167 GW.

But the clouds move, so all the power stations need this generating capacity.

To maximise the probability that at least one power station 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 east South Australia, Victoria, NSW and southern Queensland, we would need 3,300 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 3,300 GW to 6,600 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 between the 1,600 GW calculated for Scenario 1 and the 3,300 GW calculated here. However, it is a relatively small reduction (CF 3% / 60% = 5% reduction), so I have ignored it in this simple analysis .

So, Scenario 2 requires 450,000 MWh storage and 3,300 GW generating capacity. It also requires a very much greater transmission capacity, but we’ll ignore that for now.

Costs of Solar Thermal with storage

NEEDS , 2008, “Final report on technical data, costs, and life cycle inventories of solar thermal power plants” Table 2.3, gives costs for the two most prospective solar thermal technologies. They selected the solar trough as the reference technology and did all the calculations for it. The cost for a solar trough system factored up to 18 hours storage and converted to Australian dollars is:

langsat1

This would be the cost if the sun was always shining brightly on all the solar power stations. This is about five times the cost of nuclear. However, that is not all. This system may have an economic life expectancy of perhaps 30 years. So it will need to be replaced at least once during the life of a nuclear plant. So the costs should be doubled to have a fair comparison with a nuclear plant.

In order to estimate the costs for Scenario 1 and Scenario 2 we need costs for power and for energy storage as separate items. The input data and the calculations are shown in the Appendix.

The costs for the two scenarios (see Appendix for the calculations) are:

langsat2

Summary of cost estimates for the options considered

langsat4

The conclusion stated in the “Solar Power Realities” paper is confirmed. The Capital cost of solar power would be 20 times more than nuclear power to provide the NEM demand. Solar PV is the least cost of the solar options. The much greater investment in solar PV than in solar thermal world wide corroborates this conclusion.

Some notes on cloud cover

A quick scan of the Bureau of Meteorology satellite images revealed the following:

This link provides satelite views. A loop through the midday images for each day of June, July and August 2009, shows that much of south east South Australia, 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.. This was not a a rigorous study.

Also see the BOM Solar Radiation Browse Service for March and April 2002 (the data on this site only goes up to 14 April 2002). Notice the low solar radiation levels for 25 to 30 March and 8 to 12 April 2002 over the area we are looking at. The loop animation can be viewed here.

Some comments 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? Hanford B, the first large reactor ever made, was built in 15 months, ran for 24 years, and its power was expanded by a factor of 9 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 experience to date 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?

Appendix – Cost Calculations for Solar Thermal

The unit cost rates used in the analyses below were obtained from: NEEDS, 2008, “Final report on technical data, costs, and life cycle inventories of solar thermal power plants“, p31 and Figure 3.7.

langsat3

Note that, although this table includes calculations for the cost of a system with 3 and 5 days of continuous operation at full power, the technology does not exist, and current evidence is that it is impracticable. The figure is used in this comparison, but is highly optimistic.

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Eraring to Kemps Creek 500kV transmission line. Each of the double circuit 500kV lines from Eraring to Kemps Creek can carry 3250MW.  The 500kV lines are double circuit, 3 phase, quad Orange, i.e.2 circuits times 3 phases times 4 conductors per bundle, i.e. 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.

Eraring to Kemps Creek 500kV transmission line. Each of the double circuit 500kV lines from Eraring to Kemps Creek can carry 3250MW. The 500kV lines are double circuit, 3 phase, quad Orange, i.e.2 circuits times 3 phases times 4 conductors per bundle, i.e. 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.

Capital Cost of Transmission for Renewable Energy

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).

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322 Comments

  1. I’m aware of two broad approaches to solar thermal. One involves the focusing of sunlight using mirrors or lenses. The other is the solar chimney which relies on temperature differentials at the top and the bottom of a very large chimney and has little to do with direct sunlight (although obviously the sun drives the atmospherics). I don’t know the exact facts but I am lead to believe that the latter is only modestly effected by cloud cover and in fact it continues to produce substantial amounts of power at night even without any dedicated storage infrastructure or using quite passive storage via water filled containers.

    Can you inform me as to which version of solar thermal you are refering to in this article?

    Some details:-

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

  2. Breaking News!

    The cost of the nuclear option is down from $120 billion to $105 billion.

    The 120 billion was based on 25GW nuclear at $4 billion/GW, i.e. $100 billion, plus 8GW pumped-hydro at $2.5 billion/GW, i.e. $20 billion.

    However the Tantangara-Blowering Pumped hydro project can provide 9GW peak power for $5billion. So the pumped hydro component of the nuclear option is down from $20 billion to $5 billion.

    I know you want more! If you want, you can have 18GW peak power for just $10 billion from the Tantangara-Blowering Pump storage scheme.

    The costs estimates for Tantangara-Blowering Pump Storage Scheme are preliminary. estimates only.

  3. TerjeP (say tay-a)

    You are correct, There are actually about four main categories of solar thermal. They are described in the NEEDS analysis, which is referenced in the “Solar Power Realities – Addendum” paper. The NEEDS analysis looks a the various options and selected the Solar Trough as the reference technology for detailed costings. They explain the reasons for the selection.

  4. From the following article:-

    http://www.solar-chimney.biz/frequently-asked-questions.php?PHPSESSID=160852743538f135a1ef6e9c58c983a4

    How well do the solar towers and other meteorological reactors compare with conventional factories for electrical energy production?

    • By their description it is evident that Power Stations with Meteorological Reactors (Solar Chimneys and Energy Towers) will be very big electrical production units, which will produce a guaranteed Electric Power profile year round. Thus they are compatible to conventional Power Plants (that use coal, oil, gas or nuclear fuels) and thus can replace them. But as they are located in deserts or semi-desert areas, far away from consumption locations (big cities or industrial plants), they need very good interconnection of electricity grids and this is already being done progressively for all the other renewable energies: wind, sun, OTEC… (Have a look for instance to the Desertec concept on http://www.desertec.org). Solar thermal power plants have been in use commercially at Kramer Junction in California since 1985. New solar thermal power plants with a total capacity of more than 2000 MW are at the planning stage, under construction, or already in operation.

    • Other Renewable Power Plants (wind, solar concentrator, solar PVs, et al) only produce when weather and meteorological conditions are optimum (enough wind but not too strong, for PVs: sunshiny days with few clouds but no production during the night) and thus are only electrical energy production units of non-guaranteed power output, and cannot replace the conventional Power Plants. Solar chimneys can!

    • Due to thermal storage Solar updraft Chimney Power Stations can operate 24 h/ per day 365days/per year, with their daily energy production following the day’s average solar irradiation. The daily power production profile is very close to the usual demand profile and an aperture (or closure) mechanism allows to produce more (or less) at on-peak (or off-peak) consumption hours.

    • Electric power cannot be stored up and saved. During the hours at night and on the weekends when demand for electric power decreases, regular fuel consuming power companies actually lose money because they cannot just slow down or stop the generators during these times. It is not feasible because powering down the turbines and then getting them back up to speed during the peak hours, even if could be done within eight hours, would be more costly than letting them run. On the contrary, heat can be stored up and saved on special water containing reservoirs or tanks under the greenhouse of the solar chimney power plants, and electrical output can be adapted to peak power demand.

    • The only other renewable Power Plant, having a similar behaviour to a Meteorological Reactor Power Plant, is the Hydro Electric Power Plant. Their similarity is far deeper as water can be stored upstream and used for on-peak demand. Water can also be stored in a second reservoir downstram, and pumped back upstream when electricity from nuclear plants is much cheaper (off-peak demand). Conversion yield is good.

    • The optimum range of Power rating for the Solar Chimney Power Stations, due to the high dimensions, is 50 MW (Ciudad Real project in Spain), 200MW (Buronga, New South Wales project in Australia), and 400 MW (GreenTower South African project in the Namib desert, Namibia). This range of Power (50 – 400 MW) seems to be also optimum for Floating Solar Chimneys and Energy Towers.

    • For the appropriate places of installation these Meteorological Reactor Power Stations can annually produce electrical energy respectively from 150GWh to 600GWh.

  5. TerjeP (say tay-a),

    The material in your post #4 appears to be copied from a promotion brochure. I’d suggest you study the NEEDS report as a first step. Then you’ll be in a better position to condider all the options. Of course, you’d also need to get a good understanding of the nuclear option, because that is the least-cost option by a long way.

  6. An option with no new transmission might be thin film PV with local storage, either a fridge sized lead acid battery at home or sodium sulphur at substations. If dollar-a-watt predictions are true an average house roof could generate in the expected daily range 10 – 50 kwh for $50k and 20 kwh local storage might cost $5k. The household would have to carefully manage their winter needs, perhaps using fuel heating. Assuming we’re headed to 10 million households that’s $550 billion, still more expensive than 25 GW nuclear at $5 a watt. The underlying factor is not the need for storage so much as to greatly overbuild for winter generation.

  7. I’ve only read the post so far, but I think this isn’t correct:

    This system may have an economic life expectancy of perhaps 30 years. So it will need to be replaced at least once during the life of a nuclear plant. So the costs should be doubled to have a fair comparison with a nuclear plant.

    It is not linear. To make sense, you have to discount future costs/revenues – in particular here, revenues – to reflect interest. So years 30-60 of a nuclear reactor’s life are worth far less than years 0-30 – it is not double the economic value.

    See for instance table 6.D in the MIT ‘update on the cost of nuclear power’ working paper, for a stark illustration of what this financial effect does:

    http://web.mit.edu/ceepr/www/publications/workingpapers.html

  8. Uvdiv,

    You would be absolutely correct if the comparison were being done on the basis of Levelised Cost of Electricity (LCOE). But the comparisons are simple; and are of just the capital costs.

    By the way, altohough the paper mentions the need to double the capital cost to take into account the shorter life of the solar power station, this extra cost is not included in the comparison. It would need to be included in an LCOE analysis, as you quite rightly point out.

  9. you’d also need to get a good understanding of the nuclear option, because that is the least-cost option by a long way.

    Not actually attempting to refute that. Just trying to understand the assumptions that sit behind the costing given for solar thermal.

  10. Peter:

    Credit Suisse published a pretty big study at the beginning of the year on the comparative costs of some of the likeliest alternatives. They mentioned the big factor for nuke was the level of regulatory compliance that would be imposed.

    We estimate the costs of nuclear power to be $61.87 per MWh. Capital costs per kW are
    difficult to come by, but recent data from the Keystone Center estimates a capital cost in
    the range of $2,950 to $4,000 per kW (2007), and FPL estimates a cost of $8,000 per kW
    for its Turkey Point project. Therefore, we assume $6,000/KW in our base case. We note,
    however, that if capital costs are on the low-end of our estimates, the LCOE of power is
    only $35/MWh, which would be the lowest cost energy available.
    Any new nuclear plant would likely be built far from the energy demand, therefore
    transmission infrastructure investment would likely be required. The significant benefit of
    nuclear power is that there are no carbon emissions and the power is highly reliable,
    suitable for base load generation. The WACC of nuclear projects tends to be lower due to
    the high debt capital structure and loan collateral – utilities would not proceed with a
    nuclear build out without federal loan guarantees. Nuclear power often appears to be the
    easy solution to growing energy demands and climate concerns, but the public opposition
    is a serious obstacle. As better options are developed for safe storage or reprocessing of
    used rods, we believe we will eventually start to see new nuclear power plants.

  11. jc, as I understand it, the FPL costs for Turkey Point are higher because they are escalated costs, rather than overnight. It is quite right, according to my reading and contacts, that regulatory uncertainty is the big issue right now for nuclear builds. As one respected contact said:

    “As for price predictions, it’s not that hard to predict what they should cost, since ABWRs have already been built [in Asia]. That completely disregards how much Americans are being told they’ll cost, due to the lack of assurance that once they’re ordered they’ll be allowed to be built without repeated construction shutdowns, etc. Until utility companies feel confident that they’ll be able to build them and get them online expeditiously, it cannot reasonably be said that the competitive model is fully operational when it comes to nuclear power, anywhere in the States. I’d be glad to let the market decide if the court system didn’t let every zealot with a sign shut down a multi-billion dollar construction project. And believe me, if you build it, they will come. How to get beyond that? I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know if it would be legal, but if there was a way to fashion legislation to allow construction to continue even through pending litigation as long as the builder has all the permits in a row, then I believe you’d see a lot of plants start going up.”

  12. Peter – thanks. I found the following in that document and it basically answers my question.

    Due to the uncertain perspectives of this technology, the absence of a reference project, and therefore the lack of cost and material data the solar updraft tower is not considered furthermore in this study.

    In short your discussion of solar thermal excludes consideration of the solar updraft tower. In which case I find any conclusion that “solar is very expensive” to be quite unsurprising. Of course the solar updraft tower if ever built on a commercial basis may not change that conclusion but I suspect it might (although I also have little doubt that coal and nuclear would still win on cost).

  13. TerjeP, I should do it more justice than this (perhaps in the future), but briefly, the solar chimney’s (updraft tower) stuff is nonsense – 200 MWe yield from tower that is taller than the Burj Dubai? You’ve got to be kidding me. It’s so utterly fantastic, it’s not even worth crunching the numbers on.

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

    According to model calculations, a simple updraft power plant with an output of 200 MW would need a collector 7 kilometres in diameter (total area of about 38 km²) and a 1000-metre-high chimney

  14. How is it fantasitic? Do you just mean that the proposed tower is impressively big? I’ve seem nothing to date to suggest that big is really a problem.

    The same article you quote has some commentary on economic feasibility with references:-

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

    It links through to the following document which is a good starting point for any financial analysis:-

    http://www.sbp.de/de/html/contact/download/The_Solar_Updraft.pdf

    I have no doubt that such a power plant has a significant commericalisation risk and so the cost of capital for the first plant will be high. However this really only applies to the first plant and beyond that the construction costs and operational performance become the main factors.

  15. TerjeP@#15:

    “I have no doubt that such a power plant has a significant commericalisation risk and so the cost of capital for the first plant will be high. However this really only applies to the first plant and beyond that the construction costs and operational performance become the main factors.”

    Yeah. Operational performance. That’s the whole point, isn’t it.

    200MW from a project that size is crap. There’s no point even discussing it.

  16. JC @ 11 writes: Any new nuclear plant would likely be built far from the energy demand, therefore transmission infrastructure investment would likely be required.

    There is no reason other than politics to site nuclear plants far from where the power is used. You can build PRISM reactors in the middle of a city. The reactors themselves are subterranean and the generation infrastructure could be likewise, or could reside in regular-looking industrial buildings. A power plant with several PRISMs and a recycling facility would appear no more conspicuous than a small to mid-size industrial park.

    Even with Gen II plants they were often cited close to the areas of demand. See Indian Point just upriver from New York City, Prairie Island just 40 miles from St. Paul/Minneapolis, and there are numerous other examples. This is a non-issue, all the more so with IFRs. It’s another tremendous advantage they have over wind and solar.

  17. The power in your basement option looks neat if you already have gas fired central heating in your basement and it needs an upgrade. However not many people in Australia have or need central heating. The overall efficiency of the system seems to rely on the fact that a major biproduct of electricity generation is heat. Within it’s niche (which could be quite big in Europe and North America) it seems like a clever bit of kit.

  18. JC @ 11 writes: Any new nuclear plant would likely be built far from the energy demand, therefore transmission infrastructure investment would likely be required.

    Tom Blees@29 said: “There is no reason other than politics to site nuclear plants far from where the power is used.”

    I agree with Tom Blees. Pickering, an 8 unit nulcear power plant, is nestled in Toronto, a metrapolis twice the size of Sydney. See these picitures:
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/ecsgallery/imageDisplay.aspx?id=10584&Page=19
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/ecsgallery/imageDisplay.aspx?id=10430&Page=19

    There are many others NPP’s located in cities around the world.

    The location debate is important. Because the cost is important. The lower we can make the cost of electricity, the faster will low-emissions generation technologies replace fossil fuels. Also, the lower the cost of electricity, the faster electricity will displace oil for land transport. Oil used in land transport represents about 1/3 of our emissions. Electricty may power land transport directly (ege batteries) or it may produce synthetic fuels (hydrogen or other possibilities). Either way, the lower the cost of electrcity the better for all reasons.

    So I do not want to see the nuclear power plants located far from the demand centres. I want them close.

  19. Combined heat and power (CHP) could be added to steam cycle, gas turbine and combined cycle as gas generation options. However since Gorgon LNG sale contracts recently have been $30bn + $50bn + $70bn Australia might be lucky to have any gas left. I guess it helps pay for imported gadgets.

    Australia needs a long term policy on gas priorities; for ammonia production, peak electrical generation, CNG as a petrol/diesel replacement and domestic use including CHP should it become popular. LNG exports would be last priority. Given the green chic of Australia’s politicians gas fired generation will probably expand several times over before nuclear is considered.

  20. http://www.sbp.de/de/html/contact/download/The_Solar_Updraft.pdf

    Based on the paper I cited above my quick back of the envelope calculation for Solar updraft towers is as follows.

    From figure 10 in the paper the output of the 200MW solar updraft tower at 6:30pm in winter is about 50MW (the output is still pretty steady at that level through the night). As such we would need a lot of towers to meet a peak of 33GW.

    Number of Towers = 33000 / 50 = 165

    The capital cost of each tower is estimated in Table 3 to be 0.606 billion Euro per tower. So total capital cost would be:-

    Total capital cost = 0.606 x 165 = 99.99 billion euro.

    Converting to Aussie Dollars we have a figure of about A$170.

    Given the size of each tower they would need to be situated in remote areas. So there would be additional costs associated with transmission. If we take Peters figure for Solar thermal transission then we need an extra A$180.

    So total capital cost of powering the NEM using only solar updraft towers is by my calculation around $350 billion. Which is about three times the price of nuclear as calculated by Peter but still a heck of a lot cheaper than the other solar options.

  21. @27 TrejeP
    My calculator thinks (33000MW)/(50MW/tower) = 660 towers not 165, so the cost goes up to A$170*660/165 = A$680 billion, or A$860 billion with transmission costs.

    in practice it wouldn’t be quite that bad as that, as pumped storage to cover the peak would be cheaper than extra towers

  22. TerjeP, reading over that document, it’s certainly a fascinating technology and worth looking at a bit harder than I’d first thought.

    The output of the Spanish prototype was tiny (50 kW peak), so it’s difficult to know how realistic their non-linear scaling estimates for taller towers are. The 50 kW tower yielded 44 MWh over the course of a year, which gives a capacity factor of 10%, which isn’t all that great — that means you’d need ~50 x 1 km tall (7km diameter at base) 200 MW peak towers to equate to a 1 GW nuclear power station. Their simulations (Fig 10) with water-based thermal storage look much better than this figure, so it’s a matter of how much credence you put in the technical data of the demonstration plant vs simulations of potential operational potential of larger plants.

    As to cost, my points above are relevant (depends on ultimate real-world performance) but also it’s difficult to cost-out anything like this when structures of this size have never been built. So I’ll reserve judgement, but will follow any developments of this alternative solar tech with interest.

  23. Luke – I blame the envelope. Thanks for fixing my maths. Still at $860 billion it is a lot cheaper than the other solar options.

    Barry – I pretty much agree with everything in your latest comment. It is a technology that is worth watching but it entails a lot of unknowns. In particular it depends on their simulations being correct. I would have thought though that the basic physics isn’t that complex and there is a lot of experience in the scaling of aircraft aerodynamics and the like. Still there is nothing quite like real world data.

  24. Peter,
    Your figures on tantangara/Blowering pumped storage of about 5billion for 9,000MW is slightly higher than what I had been estimating but I was considering mainly much shorter pipleines( for example Blowering /Talbingo incresed Tumut3 capacity to 6,000MW.
    It would seem that expanding the Snowy pumped hydro to 15GW capcity and TAS hydro to 4.4GW( by adding 2GW of return reversible turbines) for a total of 20.15GW including the other 0.75GW already in use, is a realistic storage option for nuclear and renewable energy.

    Your study of transmission costs is dissappointing. The theory behind the wind blowing somewhere idea IS NOT to have the entire wind capacity moved from one site of the continent to the other. For example, WA would have 20% of the wind capacity(SA,TAS,VIC, NSW about the same with a small amount in QLD) so on the observation that wind dispesed over the size of a state will at most generate 75% capacity WA would only ever produce 15% of capacity(9GW not 25GW) and some of this would be used locally (3GW) so at most 6GW would be exported east(even less with CAES), but not to Sydney, to Pt Augusta with perhaps another 1-2GW moved to Adelaide. Sydney and Melbourne would get most power from pumped storage( moving much shorter distances). When high winds exist in NSW and VIC energy would be returned to Snowy with 2-3GW to WA ( if no wind in WA, most unlikely considering the 2,000Km of good wind coastline).

    You statement that 10,000Km would have to carry 25GW is totally mis-understanding how grids work. Feeder lines will only have the capacity of the solar and wind farms and none of these would be anything like 25GW.

    The major transmission links would be Snowy to Sydney, Snowy to Melbourne, Melbourne to Tasmania and Pt Augusta to Perth. We already have a large grid in SE Australia, but it would have to be increased. OCGT/CCGT and nuclear will probably be sited at existing coal fired power stations using existing transmission lines.

  25. The 50 kW tower yielded 44 MWh over the course of a year, which gives a capacity factor of 10%, which isn’t all that great — that means you’d need ~50 x 1 km tall (7km diameter at base) 200 MW peak towers to equate to a 1 GW nuclear power station.

    The two things that always distract people with this technology are the size of the thing and the low solar efficiency. However neither matters that much. What matters in the final analysis is cost and the output profile.

    The only reason that solar efficiency is so important in PV is that associated casing and mounting costs are such a big proportion of the final cost. A smaller cell for the same power output has less add on costs. But of course PV has a lousy output profile. Moonlight just aint that bright.

  26. @21 David Benson
    Micro CHP systems like this sound appealing, but the CO2 savings are quite small, according to work by the UK Carbon Trust
    http://eeru.open.ac.uk/natta/renewonline/rol61/4.htm

    There’s an Australian company with a better version of this idea
    http://www.cfcl.com.au/BlueGen/

    Using fuel cells instead of an engine nearly doubles the fuel to electricity efficiency, and more than doubles the ratio of electricity output to heat. The heat output from the fuel cell system is a reasonable match to domestic hot water (not heating) needs, so it makes sense in most paces, not just Northern Europe in winter.

  27. Barry – comment #36 was more about this bit:-

    “1 km tall (7km diameter at base)”

    Which while factually correct is irrelevant to your main point and seemed to stand out as a veiled criticism. Perhaps I was still feeling a bit prickly due to some earlier comments made here. I did understand your main point and I do agree. Capacity factor is in fact the thing that makes me think the solar updraft tower would probably be superior to the alternative solar options.

  28. TerjeP, my broader point was that 50 of these structures, equating to 1 gigawatt average capacity, would have a footprint on a landscape of ~2,000 km2. In addition, 50 x 1 km high spires would also pose a potential aviation hazard. The point is not that these shouldn’t or can’t be built, but it does illustrate the size of the engineering challenge (even if it is, fundamentally, just glass and steel).

  29. The land cost issue does not seem to be overly significant. And the glass canopy would be several metres off the ground so you could grow food on the land also. Obviously it is going to be a windy place to farm but low profile plants are not going to care and the wind speed would be tolerable. Essentially it is a big warm, wet and windy glass house that you can drive around in on a tractor.

    I can’t see the towers being a problem for aviation. Their location will be well mapped. And they can be lit at night. And they would be fat things that are hard not to see. I doubt the aviation issue is a challenge.

    Whether people like the look of them is an asthetic issue that is hard to answer. However nuclear has asthetic issues also relating to how people feel about nuclear. Personally I like big man made structures. I’ve always quite liked the look of high voltage transmission lines. I suspect that people would like them as much or as little as they like wind farms. However solar updraft towers wouldn’t hog prime coastal locations in the way wind farms do.

    I’d say lets build one just to satisfy my asthetic tastes and then go nuclear for the rest of our electricity needs.

  30. I don’t really have a problem with the land or air footprint of solar updraft towers when these exist on low value land. I don’t imagine too many aircraft will be flying low over the desert, and if they are an installation that size will stick out like the proverbial [fill in your metaphor]. Build them 2k high for all I care, assuming it is cost-benefit and technically feasible to do so.

    The real problem is the cost both of construction and of connection to the grid. If current nuclear is about $3000 per installed Kw then a $300bn worth of non-nuclear needs to get you about 100Gw of output of similar quality as the nuclear to break even. OK you can throw in some allowance for higher running costs (labour, site management, uranium/thorium, public liability) but even so, if it only gets you 5% of that it’s not really in the game.

  31. Re nuclear aesthetics I like the low angle aerial shots of the peleton in the Tour de France passing by a reactor. The overall impression is of health and harmony. On the other hand coal stations have tar, heavy metals, uncontained radioactivity, smoke and smells. They are the Dark Satanic Mills of the modern era.

  32. That’s probably tur but then context is important.

    If for example you have a small group of agricultural villages not connected to a grid but which could benefit from solar panels, an anaerobic digester, perhaps a small scale 200Kw wind turbine with a you beaut DIY pumped hydro for not very much built in not very long. Maybe the whole thing could cost $200k or less

    A nuclear plant isn’t going to scale down to that setting very well and it’s not as if you could build one in three months either, leave aside connect it to a reliable grid, most of the time.

  33. An excellent analysis of why solar can’t possibly power civilization. If only we had the water and geologic formations to make pumped-storage hydro dams and wash the solar panels every 10-20 days. It’s really wind that has proven to be more efficient and cost effective, but even wind isn’t where it needs to be. If you’re looking for a compact, timely read that completely summarizes and explains the energy issues the world faces, you may be interested in my new book “the nuclear economy,” which just became available. All of the alternative energies are discussed, as well as peak oil, climate change, energy transitions, and 4th generation nuclear power.

  34. Your limit position analysis is arbitrary and unrealistic.

    Look up the “Potential for Building Integrated Photovoltaics” report. The IEA estimated that half of Australia’s electricity needs could be provided by 10% efficient building mounted PV. i.e. You could provide a significant fraction of Australia’s electricity with zero land use impact.

    If PV doesn’t come down to a competitive price the 50% penetration argument is moot let alone the limit position argument.

  35. This whole energy debate defies commonsense. Nowhere are apples compared with apples to give a fair comparison.

    Starting with coal, terje’s pic shows all that is wrong with coal, huge emissions – specifically in the pic, heat – being allowed without consequence. We all know about the toxic emissions and the ash. Why are these incredibly indolent corporations allowed to waste so much heat, and why is it easier to pass the costs on to the customer than use CHP and/or Rankine cycle energy recovery? How is it that these corporations can threaten to close down or go offshore rather than spend money on plant which will save them money and reduce emissions?

    The huge PV array announced for China is quoted at $3b/Gw. The latest figures for nuclear installed are from $4b- $8b. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/09/geh-esbwr-20090909.html#more Scroll down to “lets interject some nuclear reality and facts into this”.

    PV costs are taken usually over 15 years which is nonsense because the cells are guaranteed for 25yrs alone. The ongoing costs for solar are minimal whereas nuclear requires all sorts of ongoing costs for mining, inrichment, reprocessing, waste storage, decomissioning and insurance. Nowhere have I seen a reliable assessment. How can you plan without one?

    I am definitely in favour of solar and definitely in favour of nuclear over coal but most of the cost analysis I have seen so far on nuclear are people pushing their barrow with rubbery figures being bent to the max.

    What you need to be doing is pinning the government down to an energy plan. Obviously they haven’t got one and they need to be seriously embarrassed by this, Australia’s energy security etc. If you can force them into one, then you can make submissions, influence policy etc.

    My opinion is that both the major party’s are drunk on coal and fully intend to obfuscate it’s problems with crap like CCS and huge handouts and weak targets. They rightly reason that solar power and storage technologies will evolve enormously over the next 20yrs. If they can suck the public into going with coal for a bit longer while building a lot of renewables to deal with the extra load of electrification of transport, some other mug government can deal with nuclear power. They don’t care about nuclear. There’s more money in coal.

    Rather than a campaign for nuclear, we need a campaign against coal. Instead of always defending nuclear against ignorance, we should be attacking coal for greed, indolence, energy wastage, environmental vandalism, acid rain, mercury in our food, government handouts without accountability, fugitive methane emissions, medical problems. Expose the true cost of doing business with coal and get them to pay for it.

  36. Barry

    Thank you for a fascinating and sobering series of articles. You, Peter, and Ted, have persuaded me that renewables can’t supply the current (never mind BAU projected increases in) energy requirements of the developed world on their own without vast and unrealistic expenditure in money, time and effort. The numbers seem pretty clear.

    I’m sure that when recognition of the CO2 and energy supply problems reaches a critical mass, and the political will and money starts to flow on the required scale, economic forces will do the rest and the nuclear option will indeed be widely deployed. Our current society functions on the basis of large amounts of instantly available energy, and without a major and disruptive reshaping of the way we live- which, incidentally, is what most greens seem to want, and may go some way to explain their attitude to nuclear power- sources of power with high energy densities are going to be necessary.

    But I’m a little uncomfortable with the impression I often get from reading this site- that nuclear power is the only viable FF alternative and that it should be pursued vigorously and as soon as possible, to the exclusion of all other options (and wind/solar in particular). Many articles and discussions seem to circle around this idea. As a layman, it’s difficult to know what to make of it- that viewpoint may well be true, but for me there are too many unknown unknowns. How about a broadening of the discussion to consider other pertinent issues? Otherwise, this blog risks becoming a nuclear advocacy site with an occasional bit of climate science commentary thrown in.

    These are the sorts of questions I have in mind (apologies if they’ve been discussed previously on the site, but not much showing up with a basic search) :
    What about the other potentially non (or low) CO2-emitting high energy density option on the table, with a few hundred years left in it- coal with CCS?
    What role can gas play in reducing CO2 emissions, at least in the short term while we transition to nukes?
    What about Ted Trainer’s idea of ‘depowering society’ to the extent that renewables can meet energy demand? (I can see many problems with this, but would love to see a critique on the site. More generally, articles exploring the demand side of the problem seem to be thin on the ground)
    Accepting that renewables can’t supply the developed world’s energy needs in their entirety, do they have a role at all? (in smaller isolated communities, in the developing world etc)
    How do smart grids work- how much can be done to with transmission systems/distributed storage/demand management etc to increase the number of viable options on the table?

  37. Salient:

    Campaigning against coal is basically campaigning against ourselves every time we turn a light or use an appliance. There really isn’t much point in agitating against coal. We need to stop pointing fingers at people suggesting they’re somehow evil and and fast track a move to nuke energy. It would give us immense energy supply we’ll need going forward in a clean, cheap reliable way. Renewable could be part of the suite as that should ultimately depend on the market. However one thing is for certain going forward. We need immense supplies of energy and nuke power is able to fulfill our needs.

  38. Jc, I don’t agree with your reasoning. We are all pretty much stuck with our shonky supermarket duopoly but campaigning against their poor pricing behaviour helps to keep them less shonky and inspires people to look for alternatives. On that subject, why is it easier for them to pass on to consumers the extra costs of their refrigeration than it is to put doors on like they do with the freezers?

    The average coal power station is only 35% efficient, Combined Heat and Power is up to 90%. CHP would more than halve emissions or more than double coal’s power output but nothing’s going to make them use it. As I said, the government is comfortable with coal, and the general population is more comfortable with coal than with nuclear but they don’t know how bloody evil coal is!

    My position is that first and foremost we need to power down and depopulate. Without this aim, vast amounts of cheap power will only enable us to go further into overshoot, robbing from future generations and ensuring a catastrophic cull of species in the natural world first, then humans. That’s my kids and grandkids we’re handing a miserable existence to.

  39. Further to my previous comment #55:

    I am one of the most extreme and radical advocates of the natural environment you’re ever likely to meeet.

    I advocate the return of most of the land and sea currently devoted to agriculture and aquaculture/fishing to managed wilderness.

    I advocate a sharp sequestration of the majority of the natural ecosystem of this planet from casual human influence.

    I advocate devoting a considerable portion of economic output to the task of ensuring a flourishing biosphere under the management of humanity.

    Recognising that these noble goals can only be met by a civilisation with a vastly expanded resource base, I advocate a crash program of research into and implimentation of nuclear power technology, genetically modified foodstuffs, artificail food, complete enclosed self-sustaining artificial environments, large-scale geoengineering, and space colonisation.

    Population reduction and powerdown, even if such counter-instinctual goals could be achieved (at whatever cost of despair), would leave us helpless to prevent the drift of the climate system and biosphere into whichever state it will evolve given the damage already done. Turning our backs on the situation and committing racial suicide will not help.

  40. finrod #55, that was a pretty stupid comment. Try again in the morning when you’re sober. You got the number wrong for a start, then “sooner stick with burning coal” than what?, and “evil bastard”, besides being completely untrue, what does that sort of offensiveness achieve except to diminish yourself?

  41. SG, I’m sure it must come as an awful shock to you that after you’ve posted the carefully crafted thoughts you’ve been inspired to by pseudo-environmentalist literature, every word of it ringing with the guilt-laden mindset of our less secular ancestors, that anyone would have the temerity to challenge your conclusion that we wicked humans had better depart the stage of natural history or else… or at least draw ourselves closer to the passive environmental role of other animals. This is what your path amounts to, and it will indeed lead to racial suicide if followed. Suicide, and ecocide by neglect, as we will have cast away any ability to actively influence the course of climatic events.

  42. Matt #53: “But I’m a little uncomfortable with the impression I often get from reading this site- that nuclear power is the only viable FF alternative and that it should be pursued vigorously and as soon as possible, to the exclusion of all other options (and wind/solar in particular).”

    It is my conclusion, from all of this, that nuclear power IS the only viable FF alternative. I am vitally interested in supporting real solutions that permit a rapid transition away from fossil fuels, especially coal (oil will, at least in part, take care of itself). I the conclusion is that wind/solar cannot meaningfully facilitate this transition, why bother to promote them? Now, I should make one thing quite clear. I am not AGAINST renewable energy. If folks want to build them, go for it! If they can find investors, great! Indeed, I’m no NIMBY, and would be happy to have a conga line of huge turbines gracing the hills behind my home, just as I’d be happy to have a brand spanking new nuclear power station in my suburb. But why should I promote something I have come to consider — on a scientific and economic basis — to be a non-solution to the energy and climate crisis? That doesn’t make sense to me.

    To your questions:
    1. Coal with CCS — doomed to failure. Why? Because the only thing that is going to be embraced with sufficient vigour, on a global scale, is an energy technology that has the favourable characteristics of coal, but is cheaper than coal. CCS, by virtue of the fact that it is coal + extra costs (capture, compressions, sequestration) axiomatically fails this litmus test. It is therefore of no interest and those who promote it can only do so on the basis of simultaneously promoting such a large carbon price that (a) the developing world is highly unlikely to ever impose it, and (b) if they do, CCS won’t be competitive with nuclear. CCS is a non-solution to the climate and energy crises.

    2. Natural gas has no role in baseload generation. It is a high-carbon fossil fuel that releases 500 to 700 kg of CO2 per MWh. If it is used in peaking power only (say at 10% capacity factor), then it is only a tiny piece in the puzzle, because we must displace the coal. It it is used to displace the coal baseload, then it is a counterproductive ‘solution’ because it is still high carbon (despite what the Romms of this world will have you believe) and is in shorter supply than coal anyway. Gas is a non-solution to the climate and energy crises.

    3. The developing world lives in Trainer’s power-down society already, and they are going to do everything possible to get the hell out of it. The developed world will fight tooth an nail, and will burn the planet to a soot-laden crisp, rather than embrace Trainer’s simpler way. Power down is a non-solution to the climate and energy crises.

    4. It is nice to imagine that renewables will have a niche role in the future. But actually, will they? They don’t have any meaningful role now, when pitted in competition with fossil fuels, so why will that be different when pitted fairly against a nuclear-powered world? I don’t know the answer, and I don’t frankly care, because even if renewable energy can manage to maintain various niche energy supply roles in the future, it won’t meet most of the current or future power demand. So niche applications or not, renewables are peripheral to the big picture because they are a non-solution to the climate and energy crises.

    5. Smart grids will provide better energy supply and demand management. Fine, great, that will help irrespective of what source the energy comes from (nuclear, gas, coal, renewables, whatever). Smarter grids are inevitable and welcome. But they are not some white knight that will miraculously allow renewable energy to achieve any significant penetration into meeting world energy demand in the future. Smart grids are sensible, but they are not a solution to the climate and energy crises.

    To some, the above may sound rather dogmatic. To me, it’s the emergent property of trying my damnedest to be ruthlessly pragmatic about the energy problem. I have no barrow to push, I don’t get anything out of it — other than I want this problem fixed. I don’t earn a red cent if nuclear turns out be the primary solution. I don’t win by renewables failing. The bottom line is this — if this website is looking more and more like a nuclear advocacy site, then you ought to consider why. It might just be because I’ve come to the conclusion that nuclear power is the only realistic solution to this problem, and that’s why I’m ever more stridently advocating it. This is a ‘game’ we cannot afford to lose, and the longer we dither about with ultimately worthless solutions, the closer we come to endgame, with no pawn left to move to the back row and Queen.

  43. Jc, I don’t agree with your reasoning. We are all pretty much stuck with our shonky supermarket duopoly but campaigning against their poor pricing behaviour helps to keep them less shonky and inspires people to look for alternatives.

    Salient: Not do digress but they aren’t making super-profits, as you assert. Coles sold itself because it wasn’t profitable, while Woolies is, however not spectacularly so. The competition watchdog looked into pricing, competition etc and found nothing alarming in the last inquiry. Negative aspects, according to the inquiry are more about “nimbyism” and town planning laws stifling competition. In other words things aren’t always as they appear.

    On that subject, why is it easier for them to pass on to consumers the extra costs of their refrigeration than it is to put doors on like they do with the freezers?

    Dunno. Perhaps it’s to do with attempting to provide a good customer experience as they see it. Windows and doors etc are really quite visually obstructive I think.

    The average coal power station is only 35% efficient, Combined Heat and Power is up to 90%. CHP would more than halve emissions or more than double coal’s power output but nothing’s going to make them use it.

    I’m not sure that would be as appears. If you’re telling me that they could improve their efficiency with a straight to the bottom line positive hit of 35% and haven’t moved on it, then they are really dumb. I don’t believe Origin, AGL or other operators are dumb so there must be more to it. Don’t forget that you may get 35% more efficiency however you also need to figure out if the renovation strategy is cost effective and accreted to the bottom line. In other words you don’t want to be spending (magnified example) $1 billion for a $3.5 million gain as the return wouldn’t make it economic. You need to figure the cost of capital and the expected return. Potential “engineering efficiency” doesn’t always mean it would be profitable. In other words don’t confuse “ engineering efficiency” with “economic efficiency” as they are two different things, or rather many not arrive at the same conclusion.

    As I said, the government is comfortable with coal, and the general population is more comfortable with coal than with nuclear but they don’t know how bloody evil coal is!

    Polls don’t show that. Polls show people’s heightened concerns with AGW. You shouldn’t think of coal as “evil”. It’s given us a great of economic utility and provided us with an industrial civilization. What we realize now is that it comes with a cost and the cost is that it’s increasingly likely to be screwing up the atmosphere especially with giga countries moving towards joining the rich world. This means we need to get loads of energy from elsewhere and nuke power is increasingly likely the best alternative. Perhaps it isn’t, however it should be in the suite of alternatives so the markets can determine the optimum choice or choices.

    My position is that first and foremost we need to power down and depopulate.

    That will come, possibly mid century. China’s population for instance is a demographic time bomb or rather a good thing in your eyes. Chinese demographics show that by mid century China’s population will fall off a cliff- literally fall of a cliff and become a nation of old geezers- and by 2100 it could be half what it is now. We also find the rich world’s population will be heading in the same direction.

    Without this aim, vast amounts of cheap power will only enable us to go further into overshoot, robbing from future generations and ensuring a catastrophic cull of species in the natural world first, then humans. That’s my kids and grandkids we’re handing a miserable existence to.

    Why take such a stasist view of things though? The technology curve is actually curling itself up exponentially. The world will be an entirely different place in 50 years time. In 100 years, technology could make it unrecognizable and if the tech curve continues, which it seems to be, the world in 2100 will look like 1800 to us. There’s no reason to be so pessimistic.

    Have you seen recent films of car shows around the world? Large numbers of electric cars or hybrids are making their way in the market very soon. GM recently introduced a demo hybridization that can do 230 miles a gallon.

    Take stock of things, as there’s no reason to be so pessimistic. We’ll get there in the end. Humans tend to bumble around but we generally end up make okish decisions most times.

  44. Barry #61: Great summary. I haven’t been contributing much as this blog has become
    deeper and more of an engineering rather than a science blog (not that there is a
    real distinction between the two), but what it increasingly obvious is the HUGE gap
    between the level of detail on this blog and the level of detail in mainstream
    media. Politicians, media and green groups are still stuck trading cliches. Hopefully,
    there are channels of communication that will enable the detail of this blog to
    get through to the people who advise politicians … which hopefully includes you.
    Politicians need to actually lead and not make poll driven policy, because, particularly
    in Australia, poll driven policy on energy sources will be simply wrong.

  45. The business lobby is going in to bat for nuclear power eg
    http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,27574,26060433-2682,00.html
    and their logic seems sound. However they muddy the waters by seeing nuclear as an agent of economic growth associated with increased population and consumption. Few high profile groups seem to be saying ‘let’s have nuclear power and a steady state economy’. I think the reality in the next few years is that it will be difficult to hold the line on the economy let alone grow it. The temptation will be to make do with existing coal plant and sneak in a few more mid sized gas plants. A gaggle of wind and solar installations will be put up basically for show. Many in the public will content themselves with thinking we can adapt to AGW or that renewables, carbonsinks or conservation will get us out of trouble. Until they lose their job that is. Some kind of widely perceived crisis will be needed to instigate the first nuclear plant.

  46. terje

    That would depend very much on where the power was. If the power in question was near a grid point, and the costs of the harvesting technology were low (wind is fairly cheap) then it would make wind or similar very competititve.

  47. #61 thanks Barry, a clear summary.

    I think it’s helpful to be explicit about where you, and your blog, are coming from. Unfortunately, for those of us yet to fully work through the issues themselves, an advocacy blog is less useful than a science commentary or ‘open discussion’ blog.

    But the numbers are what’s important and I wouldn’t be surprised if I end up agreeing with most of your conclusions (though I would take issue with some of your assumptions about the developing world).

  48. Jc #62 I haven’t time now to check this but I’m pretty sure that CapEx for efficiency improvements under current corporate culture must show a payback in under 10 years. A very short-term view IMHO. This would have to change now if the govt’s committed to coal for another 30yrs or more.

    I agree with you on the historical benefits of coal and I’m sure the world could live with a few highly efficient CHP stations, but I have no trouble demonising coal as it is currently being used.

  49. Fran Barlow #66

    You said “That would depend very much on where the power was. If the power in question was near a grid point, and the costs of the harvesting technology were low (wind is fairly cheap) then it would make wind or similar very competititve.”

    This statement is totally wrong. Wind is nowhere near competitive even if transmission was free. Wind provides low value electricity at very high cost. It is low value because it is highly variable and not controllable.

    Consider this question. What price do you think a utility would be prepared to pay for wind power if he had the option to buy coal fired power for $35/MWh instead. Would he be prepared to pay $10/MWh for wind power?

    The answer to tthe question ‘what would a buyer be prepared to pay for Wind power in an open market’ depends on many factors. One important one is the cost of the system enhancements needed to manage the intermittency of wind power on the network. This is a substantial cost.

    You said “wind is fairly cheap”. Wind power is not cheap. It has to be mandated to force the distributors to buy it. If they do not buy enough they pay a fine which is more than the cost of the power they were required by regulation to buy. Wind power is subsidised by more than twice its cost.

    Given that wind power saves very little GHG emissions (refer to the “Wind emissions and costs thread”), I suspect Wind power is actually very near to zero value. It may be negative if all the externalities were properly internalised.

  50. SG @ 55: My position is that first and foremost we need to power down and depopulate. Without this aim, vast amounts of cheap power will only enable us to go further into overshoot, robbing from future generations and ensuring a catastrophic cull of species in the natural world first, then humans. That’s my kids and grandkids we’re handing a miserable existence to.

    And who, pray tell, is supposed to quit having kids to achieve the depopulation you promote? Don’t you see the blind irony in talking about your kids and grandkids in the same paragraph?

  51. Here is a CSIRO study:
    GREENHOUSE GAS SEQUESTRATION BY ALGAE – ENERGY AND GREENHOUSE GAS LIFE CYCLE STUDIES
    http://www.csiro.au/files/files/poit.pdf
    suggesting that productive of biodiesel (and by inference, biomethane) might be competative with the fossil equivalents.

    Elsewhere I’ve seen suggestions that raising energy crops to make biomethane ought to be cost competative. The problem is, as I see it, providing enough fresh water. The reverse osmosis necessary to produce fresh water from sea water, also the pumping, needs only interruptable power; wind might do. Certainly worthy of further consideration.

  52. Peter – Fran was not discussing zero cost transmission. She was responding to my comment regarding the impact of zero cost electricity storage. As such I would not dismiss her comment too quickly.

    Obviously we will never have zero cost electricity storage. However emerging technologies such as those that Eestor is rumoured to be working on are worth watching. Although probably more as a mobile energy store more so than as a stationary one.

  53. David – growing fuel diverts productive land away from growing food. A bad idea in my book. It’s true that the solar updraft tower I promoted earlier also takes a lot of land but it does not stop the land also being used for agriculture and neither does it have to sit on productive land.

  54. John – I can see arguments for zero or negative growth in our ecological footprint. However why you would set lower economic growth as an objective is beyond me. We should aim to both reduce our ecological footprint and increase economic growth.

  55. Jc #62 I haven’t time now to check this but I’m pretty sure that CapEx for efficiency improvements under current corporate culture must show a payback in under 10 years.

    Which is a 10% return. It would be interesting to see if this is a gross return before taking away expenses etc. Look, Salient I’m very sceptical of stories like this that simply sound too good to be true, as they usually are.

    Put ourselves in a rational position. If you were the CEO of AGL or Origin and someone came to you and said they had an engineering method that could save 30% to the bottom line, why wouldn’t it be introduced, as a 30% accretion to the bottom would be the equivalent of a manor from heaven.

  56. TerjeP (say tay-a) (74) — An algae farm just needs a place sit sit; it does not have to be otherwise productive land. Energy crops can be grown on lands not so suitable for more intensive agriculture.

    In any case, people need both food and various forms of energy; these need to be balanced, not viewed as head-on competition.

  57. Tom Blees #70 C’mon Tom, get with the thread, I’ve already said back at #59 that without baby bonus and immigration, we would be depopulating. No one HAS to “quit having kids”. People CHOOSE not to and we need to empower women in the developing world and bring them out of poverty so that they can CHOOSE to quit having kids also.

    As for your show of ignorance of my personal situation, it doesn’t do you any credit. I have one biological child and the other three come form my current wife’s previous marriage, something I had no say in but am happy to call them my kids. No blind irony there.

    Your post was typical Growth Lobby rhetoric.

  58. Terje I think to get ‘growth’ with reduced emissions we need a less materialistic measure of wellbeing than GDP. Essentially more stuff means more energy input. I don’t have the data handy but China’s boom circa 2002-2007 was accompanied by world record coal use. Could they have done it without coal?

    In the near term we need to quickly replace coal and petroleum dependence with low carbon alternatives. This is necessary even without climate change since oil output peaked in 2008 and coal will peak around 2030. Transport needs to be electrified such as light rail and plug-in cars. All but two State capital cities will have desalination plants with a substantial power requirement. The ageing population will need extra thermal comfort to cope with severe cold snaps and heatwaves; see my link on another thread to ETSA’s prognosis. There will be regional food crises due to water problems and input costs.

    Thus we will need more energy to provide the goods and services we already take for granted. To do this I believe that personal mobility, electricity on demand and even our exotic diets will be compromised. In short for most people things will get worse not better.

  59. Jc #76, the problem I think is in the failure to account for future price rises due to a diminishing resource, something which they have contributed to greatly in wasting a lot of energy. I am not an economist but there is probably a name for this. It’s the same wherever there is energy wasted that could be harvested. That wasted energy is contributing to an ever rising price on a finite resource. I am sure it could never be an exact science, but corporations need to start thinking further ahead, by certain government incentives, and factor in reduced resource prices as part of the payback.

    There are millions of results for ‘CHP generating efficiency’, it’s not rocket science so it’s just flawed accounting that has hindered uptake.

  60. Salient:

    I don’t want to labor the point
    Look if there was any efficiency gains of 30% with straight bottom-line gains of the same or even less any CEO would dive for it faster than the speed of light. Bottom line earnings changes would immediately work through to the stock price and if these guys have stock options it would motivate them from a personal perspective. (And everyone has an IQ of 180 when it comes to money) :-)

    Here:

    Company X has a market capitalization of $5 billion, normalized on-going earnings of $500 million, trades on a price earnings multiple (PE) of 14 (average for the ASX 200 at present) and it’s stock price is $5.00.

    A direct potential 30% bottom line improvement would have the following consequences (you could assume the PE stays the same as the 30% efficiency gains are recurring).

    Earnings rise to $650 million. A PE of 14 translates into a market cap rising to $7.8 billion and the stock price would rise to $6.50. This isn’t something even he stupidest CEO in the world would pass up.

    John:

    Terje I think to get ‘growth’ with reduced emissions we need a less materialistic measure of wellbeing than GDP.

    Why, John, as nuke power suggests we can have our yellow cake :-) and eat it.

    Essentially more stuff means more energy input. I don’t have the data handy but China’s boom circa 2002-2007 was accompanied by world record coal use. Could they have done it without coal?

    They could have but possibly not as cheaply. The price of coal has moved from about US$10-15 bucks a ton in the early part of the decade to about US$80-100 bucks now. At one stage coal presented them with a compelling choice, however it doesn’t so much any more, which is why they are beginning to build reactors.

  61. John – you can have higher GDP without having more “stuff”. And if we recycle a greater proportion of what currently goes to landfill we can even have more stuff whilst reducing our ecological footprint. Especially so if energy is cheap and plentiful. GDP may not be the right measure for well being but wanting to see GDP fall isn’t the right objective either.

  62. I’m afraid these comments aren’t particularly timely as I’ve not been keeping up to date.

    TerjeP: You started the thread by bringing up the subject of solar chimneys. If one is going to consider the principle underlying this approach to energy generation, do you not think that you may get more bangs for your buck with atmospheric vortex engines than with vast chimneys? Neither approach can be considered in any way mature but the vortex engine, if it really worked on large scale, would surely be cheaper to build. I also accept that neither technology is likely to be superior to the nuclear option.

    Finrod and Salient Green appear to be taking opposite extremes on the subject of population overshoot. Finrod is offering my grandchildren the prospect of confinement in controlled environment cities or space colonies while Salient Green would seem to prefer them to live in Third World conditions with a probably less than 50% chance of reaching puberty. Neither prospect strikes me as particularly desirable. My own position, FWIW, is that we must strive towards a policy of zero population growth and, after that, a slow decline to half or less of our current levels. However, the age profile of the world’s population is such that we cannot reach this goal quickly without a monumental increase in death rate (which it would be quite immoral to plan for but which might nevertheless happen if we don’t get our energy policy right). Without catastrophe, there is no way to stop population reaching 9 billion plus. This will require plentiful energy with high ERoEI. Given this, and more efficient use of such energy, it might even be possible for economic growth to continue and for the third world to catch up with the richer nations without the living standards of the populations of the latter having to diminish too far or at all. However, BAU is not an option.

    My huge concern is that many government spokesmen and economic commentators seem primarily focussed on economic growth while ignoring energy and climate constraints. Furthermore, some economists are encouraging higher birth rates or higher levels of immigration to counter the problems of ageing populations. It seems to me essential that rich societies find a way through the demographic transition without recourse to the production or import of more people. In the UK, we have a growing underclass of unemployable young who survive on welfare and rely on immigrants to do the work. In no way can this be deemed sustainable. I would be interested in the reactions of some of the self-professed left wing commentators on this site to my remarks. I feel that left wing goverments are just as responsible for getting us into our current mess as are the multinational corporations that they love to hate. It is true that the former may have the more selfless motives. However, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    Are we compelled to act in the way we do because we are basically ruled by our animal drives, as are all other species, namely to perpetuate our genes in a selfish manner? Alternatively, does the fact that we are unique in the animal kingdom in having consciousness allow us the possibility of an escape route from self destruction? I guess we’ll soon find out.

  63. Salient green:

    “Starting with coal, terje’s pic shows all that is wrong with coal, huge emissions – specifically in the pic, heat – being allowed without consequence. We all know about the toxic emissions and the ash. Why are these incredibly indolent corporations allowed to waste so much heat, and why is it easier to pass the costs on to the customer than use CHP and/or Rankine cycle energy recovery? How is it that these corporations can threaten to close down or go offshore rather than spend money on plant which will save them money and reduce emissions?”

    The second law of thermodynamics is not a mere suggestion, but cold harsh reality. The maximum efficiency at which a heat engine can operate is (Thot-Tcold)/Thot, where temperatures are absolute (e.g. Kelvin scale); if it was any other way you could build a perpetual motion machine that needed no fuel to produce infinite amounts of electricity once you get it started.

    Modern coal plants operate at ~40% efficiency using supercritical steam at ~820 kelvin under enormous pressure. If the rejected heat is at room temperature this particular coal plant could at most be ~63% efficient. Given that no one has invented a carnot cycle heat engine that is practical in the real world, this coal plant is pretty damn good at 40%.

    The steam you see billowing out of the cooling tower is not particularly hot. Water is sprayed into the cooling tower to evaporate and chill the cold side of the heat engine. In order extract what little usable energy is left you would need a cold reservoir at or very close to room temperature capable of accepting ~2 GW of low-grade heat. This would be an enormous expensive for very little gain.

    A CHP coal plant is problematic for all kinds of reasons. Firstly there’s the need to have a sufficient number of potential customers, which means the coal plant must be sited near a city, otherwise you end up throwing away nearly all the heat anyway. Secondly you will have to lower the efficiency of the coal plant because the cold reservoir of the CHP system is steam under significant pressure; since this is far hotter than the cooling tower you need to burn more coal to generate as much electricity. Thirdly, in most places demand is very irregular and most heat would still be rejected; quite a bit is needed in winter for space heating and only a little for water heating in summer.

    “The huge PV array announced for China is quoted at $3b/Gw.”

    That’s outrageously expensive.

    The capacity factor for solar PV is ~20% for the very best places on the planet, compared to a typical capacity factor of 70% for coal and 90% for nuclear. 1 GW of solar produces as much power on average as ~280 MW coal or ~220 MW nuclear.

    Building 2 GW of solar in inner Mongolia also implies very long transmission lines, which you have carefully omitted from the $3b/GW cost estimate. The transmission problem is compounded by the fact that you’re only using these transmission lines very infrequently due to the intermittent nature of solar.

    If the suckage stopped here, it would be bad enough; but the project will not even be finished until 2019 (what was that about nuclear plants being too slow to construct to make a difference?) and if solar power is to ever replace baseload power you need to overbuild the system to deal with winter and weather as well as provide a significant storage system.

    “The latest figures for nuclear installed are from $4b- $8b. http://www.greencarcongress.com/2009/09/geh-esbwr-20090909.html#more Scroll down to “lets interject some nuclear reality and facts into this”

    That’s lovely dear, but it has no relevance whatsoever. China is building AP-1000 reactors at an expected cost of $1400/kW (and they expect it to drop) with chinese labour and under a chinese regulatory environment (which is unlike western countries is not designed to deliberately add cost and risk to nuclear power).

    “My position is that first and foremost we need to power down and depopulate. Without this aim, vast amounts of cheap power will only enable us to go further into overshoot, robbing from future generations and ensuring a catastrophic cull of species in the natural world first, then humans.”

    This kind of casual evil is the worst kind. I bet you don’t even realize what kind of monster you are.

  64. Does anyone have reliable studies on hand to give good solid reasons why our current population is too high and much lower is optimum? I’m not referring to the commonly known ones such as we’re using up the world’s resources etc. Why is lower optimum?

  65. In lots of ways I think consumption is comparable to an instinct. One of the most effective ways to get around instincts is to cheat them.

    I’ll use an analogy to explain.

    People don’t have a baby drive per se, they have a sex drive. If you can give them an acceptable way to have lots of sex without having lots of babies, they’ll take it. If you just tell them to stop having sex, the sex drive will win out and all you’ll end up with is more babies.

    In a similar way people don’t have a CO2 emissions drive, they have a consumption drive. If you give them an acceptable way to consume lots of energy without emitting CO2 , they’ll take it. If you just tell them to stop consuming energy, the consumption drive will win out and all you’ll end up with is more CO2 emissions. ;)

    Marion

    PS. Sorry about comparing babies to CO2 emissions…

  66. ‘My position is that first and foremost we need to power down and depopulate.’

    A lot of research has been done through the last 100 years on the latter problem. Many different technologies have been employed, at many different scales, under many different regulatory regimes and governance models.

    I can report that they were all completely succesful.

    We know what depopulation looks like, and its not fun. I agree with Salient Green though, we do need to depopulate, but under a powered-up condition, not powered down, so that it can happen by choice and long range planning, rather than being forced upon us through deeply unpleasant exigency.

    Nice analogy Marion.

  67. Soylent # 84 it really is getting tiresome responding to dickheads who don’t read the thread properly. Re-read #78 for a response to your incredibly offensive, let alone brainless and totally unexplained response thus “This kind of casual evil is the worst kind. I bet you don’t even realize what kind of monster you are”

    This is typical of the hysterical, racist, growth fetishist nonsense which always spews forth from those whose fortunes or religious beliefs hang from the obscene principle of ‘growth is good’. Clearly, I have stepped on some toes on this blog which is supposed to be about climate and energy but is being used by a few Cornucopians to further their delusional and destructive plans for continual ‘Growth’.

    As for the rest of your post, and I have already posted this, Google ‘CHP Energy Efficiency’ and you will see what can be achieved. Yes, siting is important, but the Europeans have always been ahead of us, and a lot smarter, and they are embracing CHP for future energy needs.

    My post on solar and nuclear costs was purely to demonstrate the incredible disparity in pricing. You completely missed the point that I am reservedly in favour of nuclear power but the costings are simply, unbelievable. Your reporting of $1500/Gw was completely unsubstantiated and only adds to the uncertainty of the costs of nuclear power.

    You are completely correct saying solar power in Mongolia will require significant infrastructure. Who said it wouldn’t? Nuclear power will also require considerable infrastructure. More. Much more. What I was saying is, let’s compare apples with apples, over the long term. Can you put a price on Peace of Mind or Set and Forget which seems to be a big part of the enormous expansion of Solar PV around the world?

  68. Jc asks for reliable studies on optimum population size and why lower is optimum.

    I would have thought that there is no definitive answer to optimum size. It will depend, to an extent, on individual perspectives. However, there must be an upper bound. Exponential growth is, by definition, unsustainable.

    My personal view as to why lower is better is based upon the very high proportion of net primary productivity that our species has co-opted to the detriment of other species. I find it depressing, for example, that the declining global population of wild dogs is only 5000. As a vet and gundog trainer, I can empathise with wild dogs. However, others may take a more anthropocentric point of view and not worry about other species unless their survival has importance for that of mankind. Finrod, on the other hand, appears to believe that we can both increase biodiversity and biomass of other species while maintaining or increasing our own numbers. I suppose, in theory and given unlimited cheap energy, this might be possible for a time. However, it is my personal view that our lives would then become so artificial as not to be worth living. In other words, there exists a range of views, none of which is necessarily wrong per se. Surely, however, most humans will wish to reproduce and it is imperative for our species survival that we live sustainably. It seems to me that it would be easier to achieve these goals with a stable population of less than 6, and certainly less than 9 billion. It’s the transition period that will provide the real challenge. This may or may not prove surmountable.

  69. Douglas Wise #83 said “Salient Green would seem to prefer them to live in Third World conditions with a probably less than 50% chance of reaching puberty”

    Are you sure you’re not Douglas Dumb? How on earth did you arrive at that ridiculous conclusion? Our houses, transportation, businesses, industry and power generation waste huge amounts of energy. We can still have a modern society with far less energy wastage.

  70. The link below shows very clearly why economic growth is good, electricity is good, and therfore the cheaper electricity is the better for humanity.

    You can see, as an example, that the more electricity we use the lower is the infant mortality. Conclusion, if we want to reduce population growth (and 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

    Conclusion: the more nuclear power the better 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.

  71. Salient Green,

    I’m fairly thick skinned and you didn’t unduly upset me. Nevertheless, thank you for your retraction in #92. I may have misrepresented your viewpoint when suggesting that you seemed to be advocating that my grandchildren live in Third World conditions with less than 50% chance of reaching puberty.

    However, you appear to believe that power down and renewables will provide a sufficient solution. It might well be possible for rich nations to become much more efficient in their use of energy and allow their populations to sustain reasonable life styles if the balance of power remains as is. However, our energy is currently being gained at higher price (falling ERoEI) and ERoEIs will fall further with peaking oil and coal and, certainly, with the introduction of renewables. Simultaneously, we are facing a growing population and competition from developing nations striving to bring their living standards closer to our own. I am writing as a UK citizen living on an overpopulated island with few and diminishing natural resources and governed by those who seem intent on exacerbating matters.

    I am sure you intentions are not to cause my grandchildren unnecessary anguish. It is merely that I think your presription will inadvertantly bring it about. I could not argue my point of view better than John Morgan did in #88, namely depopulation in a powered-up condition. I agree with you that powering-up and making no other changes will obviously be unsustainable. We have already seen the effects of the Green Revolution – more food leading to more people leading to more starving people.

  72. SG…no one want’s your world of energy starvation. Clearly this is not the trend. People like air conditioning, some sort of television, having a refrigerator, lights, that sort of thing. People understand they live longer and suffer less this way. So…nations…*every nation*…every people, broadly speaking, need more energy because there is actually *not enough of it*, and certainly those that have it, use it inefficiently (like burning fossil fuel for AUTOmobiles) and often waste it.

    But the overall trend, as it has been throughout every single advance in human history, is for more, denser, energy, not diffuse, less, energy. So the argument then is how accomplish this with less greenhouse gas emissions, less carbon micro-particulate, better distribution and at far more abundant rates we do now? I see nuclear as simply the *only* way to go.

    Secondly, your point about $1500/kw nuclear. You don’t ‘want’ to believe it or you factually know this isn’t the case? We have discussed on this blog many times before how the Chinese are doing *just that* with the AP1000 from Westinghouse. Twice that prices is CHEAP. And no carbon.

    David

  73. D Wise @#83:
    “Finrod is offering my grandchildren the prospect of confinement in controlled environment cities or space colonies…”

    It probably wont be necessary to have completely closed and sealed habitats for humans on this planet (although if it ever does become necessary it would be really good to be confident we know how to do it). It may be prudent to do water recycling and have artificial food tecchnology.

    I don’t see my proposal as advocating ‘confinement’ any more than current policy, which restricts allowable human activities in national parks. If we can return the farmlands to managed wilderness, there’ll be scope for allotting large tracts of land to human recreational purposes (including leading a quite rustic life if one desires it) while still expanding the land set aside for biological diversity far beyond anything practical today.

    Not many people in Australia regard the rules against cutting down trees in national parks for firewood as being an insufferable imposition on their rights. I’m just advocating that this principle be somewhat extended.

    There are a lot of people in eastern Africa who do regard laws against gathering firewood from national parks as such an imposition though, for the very good reason that they have no other source of fuel. The single most effective strategy to prevent deforestation in such areas would be a program of electrification so people have an alternative. That’s what I’m talking about… providing people with as many alternatives as possible, so our survival and that of the natural world doesn’t have to be an either/or situation.

    Genocide advocates such as Salient Green might occasionally point to demographic trends and claim that they dont need to impliment mass-starvation or some more direct form of extermination to accomplish their program, but the fact is that the kind of demographic transition SG is talking about doesn’t ever happen until after a society has gone through modernisation and transition to high energy useage. SG would presumably oppose such a process.

    The idea that we can get through this through ‘energy eficciency and conservation’ is delusional in the extreme. What’s goin g to happen if we need to launch a major geoengineering effort requiring great amounts of power to reverse a tipping-point crisis? We need a robust enery source to deal with these contingencies.

  74. Well, the biggest problem of species destruction in the developing world is: renewables. Mostly in the guise of charcoal production by burning down forests where ever they exist. Human pressure on existing rain forest brought on by both economic collapse and…oddly…agricultural ‘renewable’ bio fuels like palm oils and sugar cane have lead to a huge destruction of habitat.

    A nuclear economy would be able to eliminate most wars for fossil and most if not all of these detrimental renewable industries. Food is for people, not cars!

    At any rate, while all sorts of renewable projects gets financing and play from every developed and developing country the fight for fossil fuels rages on totally uninhibited by renewables. Political alliances between renewable and fossil interests are the bottom line of the day. A night doesn’t go by now on US network and cable TV from BP, Mobil, the Gas and Oil Assn about the great virtues of “Solar, wind and natural gas; our vast resources in ‘clean coal’,” etc.

    They know their fiscal enemy and it’s fission.

    Davicd

  75. The whole idea of baseload demand is spurious. If it weren’t for off-peak pricing, demand from 9pm-6am would be an even smaller fraction of daytime and early evening demand. The current pricing scheme, and the demand it generates, reflects the rigidity of a coal-based generation system that (in the terms used here) requires a lot of redundancy at night to be able to meet peak demands during the day.

    The analysis starts from the presumption that we should try to meet the same demand pattern with the same price structure as we have at present. Not surprisingly, it comes to the conclusion that we should adopt the generation technology most similar in its output pattern to coal, namely nuclear. A shift to solar and wind will require new pricing structures which (just as the present system does for coal) makes renewable electricity cheap when it is plentiful and expensive when it is scarce. Once this is taken into account, the analysis above is entirely invalid.

    There are other problems with the assumptions, which need a reality check. If this analysis were applicable in the real world, the pattern of new generation investment in the US (big growth in wind, a fair bit of solar, almost no interest in nuclear even with substantial subsidies) would be radically different.

  76. @JQ#99:

    Can you give us an example of how the new renewables pricing structure will produce the cost mechanism ensuring that all industrial activities needed to sustain the power system are provided with what they need? Can we run the smelters with renewable power coming down the grid? Can we provide enough power (electric, or synthesised chemical fuel) to run the mines? Can we achieve replacement rate?

  77. JQ – I think your point is valid but only up to a point. You can institutionalise certain shifts in power consumption from daytime to night (or the other way) however dealing with downturns in supply such as what happens when solar PV is subject to cloud is less easy to tackle. And in any case Peter Lang based his peaking requirement on 6:30pm not 9pm – 6am.

  78. finrod#96, I think you are probably just a liar, but I am prepared to give you a chance to be genuinely mistaken if you can read the definition of Genocide, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide and and explain to me how freely choosing not to have kids, which is what I am advocating, can have you accusing me of genocide.

    Your previous hysterical accusations of ‘racial suicide’ peg you as a racist. If you were in any way sensible about the subject, you would see that the races most in peril are so because of overpopulation, such as in parts of Africa, and jungle tribes in South America and Indonesia.

  79. As an example, the pricing structure would have high prices for electricity on winter evenings and lower daytime prices, more or less the opposite of what we have now. That means that the activities that currently use off-peak power because it is cheap (both domestic hot water system and industries that operate night shifts) would have a strong incentive not to do so. Home heating would shift to systems based on stored heat rather than instant heat.

    Of course this would involve change. But consumption patterns change all the time in response to changing prices. And, it’s important to note that the discussion here is based on an all-renewable system which is decades away. In the transition, which will involve continuation of the long-standing movement from coal to gas, most of the peak-demand problems raised here are relatively trivial, since gas (low capital costs, high operating cost, easily turned on and off) is ideally suited to dealing with peaks in net demand.

  80. Conceivably with a constant output grid every home and business could have a large battery. They could use their fixed inflow in real time, save some for later, buy some more or sell. I’d do it if batteries were cheap enough. I guess aluminium smelters would also except that electricity via batteries costs an extra 10c per kwh. However aluminium smelters feel they are entitled to pay just 2c per kwh which is one reason we need cheap baseload. Energy price increases need to be gradual enough to give us time to adapt and invest.

  81. @SG#102:

    finrod#96, I think you are probably just a liar, but I am prepared to give you a chance to be genuinely mistaken if you can read the definition of Genocide, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genocide and and explain to me how freely choosing not to have kids, which is what I am advocating, can have you accusing me of genocide.”

    SG, it’s not your advocacy of birth control which inspired me to peg you as a genocide advocate, it’s your ‘powerdown’ policy. This lunacy will inevitably cause billions of deaths, direct and indirect, if implemented.

    You may, however, have a point concerning terminology. The definition of genocide given in the Wikipedia article you linked to is as follows:

    “Genocide is the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group.”

    This definition seems implicitly limited to the mass-murder and diminuition of particular subsets of the human race, rather than the human race as a whole. What you are advocating has a broader, more cosmopolitan murderous application, so we arguably need a new term to cover it. Cosmocide? I’m up fore suggestions.

    More from Salient:

    “Your previous hysterical accusations of ‘racial suicide’ peg you as a racist. If you were in any way sensible about the subject, you would see that the races most in peril are so because of overpopulation, such as in parts of Africa, and jungle tribes in South America and Indonesia.”

    The race referred to in my ‘racial suicide’ remark is the human race… but if you want to bring up racism, the homicidal impact of the policies you advocate would indeed fall most heavily upon the non-European peoples of the earth. I see you rather in the mould of a British Empire aristocratic elitist, casually disposing of the fates of brown-skinned poeples, secure in the knowledge that you can count on the carefully cultivated racism of the lower orders to shield you from too much criticism from those who figure out what you’re up to.

    I have late news for you. The world has moved on, and the divisions between first and third world people which you are counting on to dehumanise the great masses which would be the inevitable victims of your policy are dissolving.

    You are an anachronism.

  82. Finrod #105 said “SG, it’s not your advocacy of birth control which inspired me to peg you as a genocide advocate, it’s your ‘powerdown’ policy. This lunacy will inevitably cause billions of deaths, direct and indirect, if implemented.”

    That statement gives new meaning to the word ‘hysterical’. Please, show us some more of your ignorance by telling what you think ‘powerdown’ means. I suspect this will explain how you erroneously come to the conclusion that it would cause billions of deaths.

  83. SG@#105:
    “That statement gives new meaning to the word ‘hysterical’. Please, show us some more of your ignorance by telling what you think ‘powerdown’ means. I suspect this will explain how you erroneously come to the conclusion that it would cause billions of deaths.”

    You’re the on trying to sell this lemon, SG. It’s up to you to define your terms and convince us it’s a good idea.

    Unless your definition of ‘powerdown’ allows for an actual increase in power production, though, then the conclusions I have drawn certainly stand.

  84. My position is that first and foremost we need to power down and depopulate. Without this aim, vast amounts of cheap power will only enable us to go further into overshoot, robbing from future generations and ensuring a catastrophic cull of species in the natural world first, then humans. That’s my kids and grandkids we’re handing a miserable existence to.

    This is SG’s position. It means less energy, less people, is Malthusian and, while he doesn’t state it, people usually think of places like Africa when making statements like this.

    “Vast amounts of Cheap power” IS what makes population control, family planning, contraceptives and sex education possible. It’s what gives incentives to farmers and others to have smaller families. It is vast amounts of cheap abundeant power that *allows* us to use our natural resources more intelligently, more efficiently and more for human needs, not less.

    By “powering down”, actually means MORE wars, more poverty, fewer human resources from which can draw the next Hawkings, Einsteins and Weinbergs from. Genocidal or not, it’s a reactionary future of barbarism that SG is advocating, even if he thinks the opposite will result.

    We should get back to the thread in question. I say this because there is not one nation, group of people, proposal being discussed by any constituency that rhythms with SG’s dystopian future.

    David

  85. Taking the hint from David Walter’s (#108) last sentence, my latest cost estimate for Tantangara-Blowering pumped-hydro energy storage facility is $6.7 billion.

    This is for 9GW peak power, for 3 hours per day, from 6 hours pumping per day. Of course, if we pump for longer, can extract a higher pumping rate than I have assumed, or if we produce less power, then we can generate for more hours per day.

    The cost per unit power is A$790/kW. This is still a preliminary estimate. I am still firming up numbers. The estimate I am doing will never be better than +/-25%.

    For comparison, I have interpreted from the Electricity Supply Association’s chart, http://electricity.ehclients.com/images/uploads/capital.gif , to say pumped-hydro costs per unit power are in the range US$500/kW to US$1500/kW. So the costs for Tantangara-Blowering are in the middle of that range. That is to be expected because we are using existing reservoirs, so no dams or reservoirs have to be built. On the other hand, we’d have to bore three tunnels, each 12.7m diameter and 53km long. There is a lot more involved of course. This length of tunnels is unusual for pumped hydro schemes.

  86. Peter, a long forgotten question…what is the efficiency loss for power in to pump storage vs power back again?

    The largest or second largest pump storage facility in the US is Helms Pump Storage facility in California, built in conjunction with Diablo Canyon NPP to absorb off peak base load from the plant. These are two isolated reservoirs that have not river input to speak of. I believe if you run the upper reservoir dry, it’s 1800MWs for almost 2 weeks straight.

    I raise this because renewable advocates often get a bit peeved it is suggested that every single storage scheme, from batteries to pump storage to molten salt are far better applied for nuclear energy than reneweables. Just a thought. :)

    David

  87. finrod #107, just as I thought, a cascade of aggressive, insulting bluster based on zero knowledge of the subject, apart from that which you dreamed up yourself. You have zero credibility. If you really want to know what power down means, and I don’t believe you do, then educate yourself. I’ve wasted emough time on you. Ditto David Walters.

  88. David #110,

    I am using 95% efficiency for generation and 80% efficiency for pumping. Those figures are reasonable ball park figures to use. However, the pumps at Tumut 3 pump at a flow rate only slightly more than half the flow rate that is used for peak generation. Hence 6 hours pumping for 3 hours generation at full power. The power required by the pumps would be 6.4GW. Its important to note, that power needs to be constant power for several hours – wind won’t blow water up 900m.

    It would take 18 days pumping for 6 hours per day at full power, to fill Tantangara’s active capacity.

  89. That Severance chap suggests the round trip efficiency for pumped hydro at one site is 78%.

    If $5/w is the backstop capital cost for nuclear then I suggest all pumped hydro that comes in under that should be developed. An incentive would to get a renewable credit under the 45,000 Gwh target even if most of the pumping effort could be attributed to coal power. A CO2 cap like the one we were supposed to have back in July should prevent abuse of pumped hydro RECs.

  90. SG@#111:
    “If you really want to know what power down means, and I don’t believe you do, then educate yourself.”

    So you refuse to define one of the principle concepts of your policy. Can’t say I blame you. Given what ‘powerdown’ must necessarily entail in accoradance with your “cheap power is bad” dogma, you know it’s going to be shot down in flames.

    This isn’t going very well for you, is it?

  91. John (#113),

    The 78% round trip efficiency looks about right. However, the tunnel/shaft length is probably less than 5% the length of the tunnel required to join Tantangara to Blowering at their deep ends.

    You lost me in the second paragraph. Remember that nuclear provides power 24 hours per day. The pump storage is for peak power; it would provide power for 3 hours per day (at full power). So you cannot compare the two types of generation on a purely power basis.

    This project would be excellent in combination with nuclear. This new cost figure for 9GW of peak power reduces the cost of the nuclear option from $120 billion to $106 billion (refer to the article at the top of this thread).

    Regarding incentives and REC’s we should be rid of them. All they do is add cost and reduce economic efficiency.

  92. [I know you were responding to John N. but...pump storage and nuclear will be built incrementally, even if Australia adopts a "Chinese Nuclear Streoid" and goes all out.]

    Thus, there will be a need to over build for nuclear as well assuming Oz builds out to peak load. But even if doesn’t, a 2 to 4 week fuel outage, rotated throughout a fleet to 16 or so LWRs (you came up with a gross national GW load, but not one based on quantity of reactors, unless I missed it) is going to have to require at least a 2 reactor’s worth of power (for powering when one is down for fueling; and for when another has a hic-cup and trips).

    Thus, pump storage can play this role if there is enough of it, to mitigate the needed 2 unit down overbuild…assuming, of course, there IS a serious national grid, etc.

    David

  93. peter#109,
    A much more cost effective storage option would be to install one tunnel between Blowering and Tantangara(3,000MW) and a similar sized tunnel from Talbingo to Eucumbene(3,000MW) and additional turbine capacity at Tumut3(to 4500MW) and a small return pump from Blowering to Jounama. This would give 11,500MW capacity with a 5 day storage of 1,070 GWh(Tant 150, Euc/Talb 480, Talb/Blowering 240). Togehter with other dam flows of 500GWh/5 days you could have for 6.7Billion >1500 Gwh available over a 5 day period.

    Using the data you provided for the PV farm at Queanbeyan and the wind data of 11 farms from NEM, this would cover the lowest 5 day solar(24GWh instead of av 72GWh/day) and 5 day lowest wind period(160GWh instead of average 480GWh/day) IF they occurred on the same 5 days, with the use of the present 4,000MW of OCGT existing in eastern Australia. Thus OCGT would be used to generate at <0.10 capacity factor so accounting for just 1.6% of power production.

    That's assuming that solar power in northern Australia would perform as poorly as the Queanbeyan site and receive no advantage of solar power avialble in WA after sunset at Queanbeyan or more cloud free days during June and July. We should not need much imagination to see that even dispersed PV solar can do considerably better than one farm at one poor winter location.

  94. David Walters (#115) asked:

    “Peter, what then, do you think, of using such a PS scheme to help with off-peak power loading for a non-load changing LWR like the AP-1000? Can you imagine such a proposal? Would it be needed?”

    Yes. I think pumped hydro and nuclear are an ideal match. I’ll expand below.

    The scenario described at the top of this thread is based on the NEM’s demand in July 2007. July was the month that experienced the highest peak demand (33GW), highest baseload (20GW) and highest average demand (25GW).

    Nuclear, without energy storage (and no fossil fuel generation), would cost $132 billion for the 33GW capacity needed to meet the peak demand without pumped hydro. With 8GW of pumped hydro, the system (nuclear and pumped hydro) would cost $106 billion, a saving of $26 billion.

    Nuclear and pumped hydro capacity would be perfectly suited for Australia’s situation. 25GW of nuclear would meet the average demand and provide an excess of 5GW to pump and store the excess energy generated during the times when the demand is at baseload levels. The pumped hydro would generate up to 9GW of additional power during the periods of peak demand.

    What is described here is exactly how France’s system works. See: http://air-climate.eionet.europa.eu/docs/meetings/061212_ghg_emiss_proj_ws/FR_power_system_061212.pdf

    This explains why France has near the cheapest electricity in the EU, exports large amounts of electricity to maost of the remainder of the EU, and enables the European networks to absorb the intemittent energy that is being generated by their highly subsidised and mandated renewable energy programs.

  95. Neil Howes, (118),

    I simpley do not understand your figures. I am not sure if you have done the calculations aor are simpley throwing numbers around. They do not make sense to me. I’m still trying to work outr some of what you wer saying in a much earlier post on this thread. I haven’t given up on it.

    For example, in post #118 you say “and a similar sized tunnel from Talbingo to Eucumbene(3,000MW)”. But that statement is not correct. The same size tunnel would generate only 2,000GW, not 3,000GW. The reason is because the elevation difference is 600m, not 900m.

  96. David Walters (#117),

    I agree on all counts.

    Regarding incremental build, as Neil Howes, points out, there are many possible pumped hydro sites. The most economic will be built first. I started looking at Tantangara-Blowering because of the high head and large storage capacity in each reservoir. If we wanted to we could build that scheme with one tunnel at a time instead of three tunnels all at once. Or we could make smaller tunnels. However, the mobilisation costs for the 12.7 m diameter tunnel boring machine are high. The tunnels make up are half the cost of the project. So it makes sense to bore the three tunnels while the TBN is here. By the way, this scheme has sufficient storage in the smaller reservoir to handle eighteen of these 9GW pump storage schemes, although we would never do that for a variety of reasons. But you could expand it incrementally for a long time.

    Regarding the need for extra reactors for redundancy and to allow for refuelling, I agree. The papers intentionally did not go to this level of detail. I stated in one of the papers that the redundancy was excluded in the simple analysis I was conducting. The need for redundancy actually turns out to be much greater for the solar thermal option (option 2), than for nuclear.

  97. Its more realistic to pursue solar with some vigour when the nuclear power is in place. One day some outfit may agree to maintain a section of road so long as they can draw solar power from it. Heliostats may spring up into the desert powering the circular sprinklers that water circular patches of crops. Like in the deep tropical agriculture of Malaysia. Wind power might be used for ammonia production that can be carried out intermitently. These things take time and its not plausible that solar power could provide the energy for the industrial manufacturing that could put up the solar power plants. So its not anything one expects instant results from. Its just very imprudent not to start sweeping away the obstructions to nuclear.

    We don’t need another enquiry. We know how the enquiries end up. They wind up with an outcome that guarantees inaction. But inaction doesn’t get the power bills to drop. It doesn’t get us reindustrialising. Since we know what the outcome of the enquiries are it is clear that there is no need for another one.

    To have a big and growing nuclear industry is a really exciting prospect. Thousands and thousands of very meaningful jobs for intelligent people to get involved with. Thats a good thing even if it were only to draw them away from causing trouble.

  98. Peter#120,
    I have tried to do the calculations correctly. There is already a tunnel through Tumut1 and Tumut2 so that would add to the total pumped storage capacity, with a slower pumping just via the new tunnel. Also extra flow from Eucumbene to Talbingo allows extra flow through Tumut3 and some storage flexibility in the active storage at Talbingo.
    I thought you had said the Tantangara to Blowering head was 600m. I was calculating a flow rate of 0.75ML/sec to give 3,000MW at 600m.

  99. Douglas Wilder:

    I would have thought that there is no definitive answer to optimum size. It will depend, to an extent, on individual perspectives. However, there must be an upper bound. Exponential growth is, by definition, unsustainable.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    Look, the only way humans seem to limit population growth is when they join the list of the wealthy. So if you want to see long term permanent reductions in population without coercion we should strive to see everyone maintain high living standard.
    Here’s my prediction inside 30 years: within 30 years countries will be vigorously competing with each other to attract young immigrants in order to anchor their failing social security systems.

  100. Neil (#123),

    You said; “There is already a tunnel through Tumut 1 and Tumut 2 so that would add to the total pumped storage capacity”

    There are no pumps in T1 and T2. These power stations cannot be converted into pumped hydro schemes (eg no downstream reservoir, even if there were, the inlet tunnels from up-stream are at the wrong levels for pumping. Tailrace is not designed for pumping even if a downstream dam was built. Downstream dams for T1 and T2, even if built would have miniscule storage. The power stations are underground so virtually impossible to modify without taking the whole Tumut generating capacity out of production for perhaps 2 to 3 years.) It is absolutely a no go option. Let’s put this to bed now.

    You say; “… that would add to the total pumped storage capacity, with a slower pumping just via the new tunnel. Also extra flow from Eucumbene to Talbingo allows extra flow through Tumut3 and some storage flexibility in the active storage at Talbingo.”

    Neil, we’ve discussed this repeatedly. I don’t understand what you are getting at with pumping from Talbingo to Eucumbene. Have you done the calculations? Why would we want to pump water out of Talbingo before it passes through T3. Talbingo should be maintained as near to full capacity as practicable to maximise the head, and therfore the power output per m3 of water used. Talbingo is kept a bit below full supply level to catch the water released through T1 and T2 and to hold the small amount of water pumped up at night by T3. The water is released from Eucumbene and through T1, T2 and T3 in a controlled manner to maximise the power per m3 and also to meet other downstream needs for the water. There is no intention to use Talbingo for storage other than what I said above. That is what Blowering is for. I suspect Talbingo would never be allowed to fill to the point where it wastes water (ie spill it over the spillway) except by accident.

    If you want to improve the pump-storage capacity of T3, I would suspect the best way would be to build a dam downstream from Jounama. There appears to be a suitable site which from the maps looks just about as good a profile as Jounama. If a dam was built at that site, it would increase the downstream storage for T3 by about a factor of 3.

    If you want to try again to explain what you are thinking, could you please lay out the calculations and explanations line by line so I can follow it. Have you costed your ideas? Have you allowed for the fact that the pumping is slower than the flow rate of peak power generation? Have you allowed for the fact that more power is needed to pump than to generate, and the pumping is against a higher head?

    Regarding the elevations of the reservoirs, I thought I gave you all the figures in a previous post. Just fo now, I confirm, use 900m for Blowering Tantangara and 600m for Talbingo-Eucumbene.

  101. John (127),

    We can get the pump storage capacity we need. However, the problem is getting people to understand that wind and solar are simply not viable. They are draining our wealth for no good reason. That is the problem we face. That is the purpose of these papers – to explain the facts. It seems many people just don’t want to know. They are ignoring what is so balatantly obvious to anyone who is at all numerate.

  102. SG: “If you really want to know what power down means, and I don’t believe you do, then educate yourself. I’ve wasted emough time on you. Ditto David Walters.”

    I know what it means. It means higher birth rates and even higher still mortality rates. It means resource depletion(recycling is only practical with cheap energy), it means total deforestation as people fan out and do slash and burn agriculture on ever last square inch of forest. It means untold suffering from which society may never recover.

    You are a monster.

  103. Re #124 Jc I hope you are correct to assume that increasing affluence (if attainable) will automatically reduce fertility rates with no need for coercion. However, I would urge you to consider the writings of Dr Abernethy on this subject. She appears somewhat less sanguine. (Google Abernethy and demographic transition)

    Re #128 Peter Lang. You state that the nuclear option is so superior to renewable options that this should be obvious to anyone who is at all numerate. Would that this were so. As a lay reader of this and other blogs, I have gradually arrived at the conclusion that, if anything can save us, it is a rapid transition to nuclear energy. You appear to think that opposition to nuclear power comes only from those who don’t want to know the facts. You are no doubt aware that the great majority of those who correspond on the RealClimate and Climate Progress blogs are opposed to a nuclear solution and by no means all of them are innumerate. Their purported objections (unconvincing to me) relate to cost, time to deployment, sustainability and safety. I would conclude that you have done a much better job with your negative arguments on demonstrating why renewables are unsuitable for baseload power than you have in deploying pro nuclear arguments that are sufficient to change the minds of antis. It may be that we will have to await the deployment of the AP1000s in China before there is sufficient consensus but time seems to be of the essence. Meanwhile, keep up the good work. I wish you every success.

  104. Douglas:

    I took a quick look at your suggested site. It really doesn’t seem at variance to the comment I made.

    Here’s the thing…. people in poor countries tend to use children numbers as a social security net and cheap labor. Rich world people don’t. In fact kids in the rich world are a bloody expensive “hobby” and most people can’t can’t have many expensive hobbies :-).

    You are no doubt aware that the great majority of those who correspond on the RealClimate and Climate Progress blogs are opposed to a nuclear solution and by no means all of them are innumerate.

    That’s true. However I also think there is an ideological posture to this too. Some people who are obviously numerate may also desire a different world to the one we have or heading to. There are plenty of intelligent people that would prefer a less technologically complex world.

    Virginia Prostel wrote a book titled ” The future and its Enemies”. She took the view that stasism comes from both the right and left and that the right/left dictum based on a traditional demarcation no longer holds. She viewed the enemy for what she referred to as the stasists, that is people that are anti-development and anti-technology. I think to a large extent that is true.

  105. Jc

    I agree that Abernethy isn’t totally at odds with your perspective but she does point out that it isn’t quite as straightforward as is sometimes suggested. My own observations relating, for example, to the UK and, to a lesser extent, Africa suggest that increasing prosperity often increases fertility rates. Materially successful Africans that I have encountered tend to have larger than average family sizes. Equally, in the UK, many self made (not derogatory) millionnaire entrepreneurs also have large numbers of children. The UK population is rising quite fast. This was initially due to increased immigration but the increased reproductive rates of the immigrants has now become the major factor. This might suggest that breeding increases in response to rising aspirations, if only temporarily.

    I agree over the ideological posturing with respect to nuclear power.

  106. I don’t know why people cite Africa when they talk about over population. It has lower population density than Europe. It has fertile land and an abundance of resources.

    I presume it is because periodically we see images on the TV of people starving in Africa and assume (wrongly in my view) that this starvation is a product of over population. When it actually has more to do with poor governance, poor property rights and oversized state sectors.

    However perhaps it is because Africa still has some amazing wild animals that human populations are encroaching on. Wild animals the equivalent of which were driven to extinction in Europe long ago.

  107. re#131 Peter Lang

    Thanks for your response. I know you are already busy but wondered whether you could answer a few questions relating to the possible benefits of stranded renewables. Suppose that renewables are always more trouble than they are worth in the provision of grid power. I can go along with that and can also accept that it is more important to consider ways of powering the grid with emissions free fuel than to waste time looking at peripheral issues. However, it is these peripheral issues that I am now asking about.

    Under what circumstances can stranded renewables (with little or no storage facilities) provide utility and cost competitiveness? I am a biologist, not an engineer. As such, I am fairly clueless as to industrial or synthetic processes can operate with an intermittent and unreliable energy source. I can see that a plastic extrusion plant might gum up big time if the sun went behind a cloud or the wind stopped blowing but this degree of wisdom doesn’t get me far in any rational decision making process. Can stranded renewables be used to synthesise transport fuels or to desalinate water? In the Third World, where there may be very poorly distributed grids, would stranded renewables not be of use? Would you still argue that the installation of grids, powered by nuclear batteries, would work out cheaper? Do household solar thermal rooves in Northern Europe make economic sense? I suspect that you may say no because they cause unpredictability for grid operators when they unexpectedly underperform.

    In short, can you see any use for renewables at all? If so, what do you think their best uses are?

  108. re #134 TerjeP.

    You ask why people discuss Africa when they talk about overpopulation. I would have thought that the following might have something to do with it:
    1) The continent with the highest birth rate.
    2) UN prediction that only 25% of the continent’s population will be able to feed itself from its own agricultural production by 2025.
    3) Falling fresh water reserves.

  109. Douglas Wise, (#135),

    You asked: “In short, can you see any use for renewables at all? If so, what do you think their best uses are?”

    Here is my short answer of the top of my head. I’d say as follows:

    Yes. But only where they are economic without subsidies or being mandated by governments. There should be no mandatory renewable energy targets. There is a role for solar and wind power in remote sites. We should fund R&D and contribute to demonstration projects, but in an unbiased way with the awarding of funds being made on the basis of projected return on investment. There is a role for solar and wind power in remote communities and in developing countries, but it is a very small role. It has to be very highly subsidised. It is far cheaper to use diesel. Few can afford to waste their scarce resources on renewable energy. Certainly not the developing world. They should be the last to get off fossil fuels. In fact, we need to help them to get onto electrcity as fast as possible, even if they have to use fossil fuels to do so. The sooner they can get onot electricity the sooner they will be able to afford to get off fossil fuels. There will be not bypassing the fossil fulels step via renewable energy (hydro excluded, where it is available)

  110. re #134 TerjeP.

    Did you see comment #93?

    Others discussing population growth rate, fertility rate, life expectancy, litteracy, education and other UN Human Development Program statistics may also be interested in playing with the the link given post #93, if you don’t already use it.

  111. re #135 Peter Lang

    Many thanks for your prompt and concise answer. I have no reason to doubt the validity of your comments. All a bit depressing, though. It makes it all the more necessary to bet the farm on the success of nuclear, given that you have exempted all other practical options. Pity that few, if any, politicians or their advisors are prepared to come off the fence and fully commit to a nuclear strategy. Actually, pity is an understatement.

  112. They can’t Zachery. Both parties are frightened stiff of being the first to come out and openly support the policy of including nuke in the suite of choices after the ETS.

    Labor won’t move as it has to worry about losing primary votes to the Greens and the Libs won’t overtly run with a pro-nuke policy as they can’t unless there is strong bi-partisan support from Labor. I always thought the initial move has to come from the ALP anyway. The crying shame is that I couldn’t imagine any of the heavyweight minsters that quietly don’t support nuke anyway other than say those heavily tied to the union movement.

    Nuke reactors would basically mean far less employment in that sector as reactors essentially run and would employ nearly all their front line people from engineering disciplines I would guess. Nuke energy is actually very highly capital intensive which means the labor content required to produce energy greatly diminishes. That’s not the way to the union movement’s heart obviously. I’m not giving a political opinion here, it’s just as I see things as I vote LDP wherever possible anyway.

    Funnily enough the obvious direction for a first world, highly developed nation such as ours is to move, or rather allow movement towards capital intensive industries rather than favoring labor intensive sectors, as that is where higher incomes are. Renewables such as wind and solar are not highly capital intensive by the way, as that sector requires a hell of a lot of maintenance.

  113. Population. Gawwwddd…what an god awful discussion. The ‘brass tacts’ are harder to decipher.

    #Population growth in Africa from the emerging middle class usually take a generation or two to even out. This is true in the UK, also brought up, as growth among 2nd generation immgirants is more or less the same as those of English/Welsh/Scottish nationality. Newly arrived immigrants carry over reproductive traditions. In Africa it is not a so simple to state growth doesn’t slow down with wealth. What you see in Africa is continued fertility rates *among tribal organized society* not in urban areas. “Wealth” is not just “money” and “income” it is a whole host of social ladders and support that does not require large number of children. In in the teaming slums of India and Cairo, population growth *inevitably* goes down even among the poorest of the poor…with no “income” increase. Thus is is as much a function of urbanization as it one of income.

    #Secondly, the idea that we “need less people” is simply utopia (or dystopia, depending if you take the Pol-Pot approach to population control). Do we want to go down that parth? Do we really even want to discuss this?

    #Thirdly, yes, there are all sort of religious issues as well. Italy and Poland, both 99% Catholic countries, will have continued higher than European growth rates because of the influence of the Church. So, a form of secularization is needed as well, but this comes *naturally* as people’s access to things like the internet, sex education, family planning, urban society, etc, all a function of wealth creation, all a function…more available energy because ubiquitous.

    #Back to Africa. The commentator is 100% correct: starvation and environmental disaster is almost always “Africa” in the public minds. This is the result of the media. But problems ARE there, but, in fact it has almost zero to do with population density but with the legacy of colonialism, imperialism, tribalism, etc. If you look at an image of Africa at night, you’ll see exactly why the term “Dark” continent is so appropriate. All these countries are searching for better means to electrify their societies, provide fresh drinking water and redistribute water resources there. Africa has more water available on it than any continent but South America. But it’s not in the right places.

    That’s where Gen IV, high temp reactors come in. We could build them along the coasts of northern Africa to provide drinking water and power. What, pray tell, is wrong with that vision? Life can be good for MORE people. You do this by making it wealthier, not fewer in number.

    David

  114. Nuclear reactors employ more people per MW than coal does at the level of the plant. Far more people are employed, however, in the whole supply train for coal: from mine to plant.

    Nuclear actually employs a lot of union members, probably slightly over half from operators, to mechanics, to communication and control technicians to radiation technicians and health employees. But engineering is very high as jc notes.

    There are almost no transportation costs associated with fuel or waste to and from nuclear plants.

    But if you look at the building of nuclear power plants, and assuming an ongoing nuclear energy development program from components to raw materials to construction of the reactors (gen III reactors that is) then I would bet there are FAR more people employed in nuclear as a whole than coal.

    David

  115. The Liberals might lose some votes if they went nuclear. I don’t expect the Labour party would. And then the Liberals would be reduced to feebly tagging along. You cannot make decisions on the basis of how many people you think might be employed David. Thats one rabbit that you don’t want to chase. Since that makes it sound like you are perversely going for the high cost option. Its cost-effectiveness that must be the criterion.

  116. Alfred, I agree about jobs. I merely stating what I believe to be the case. Actually, the fewer workers in any system is a case FOR that system, not one against it. It speaks to efficiency as measure in labor-power sold to the employer for a given MW out put. I didn’t raise this, I believe JC did. The issues as I see it are:

    1. phasing out coal, as priority No. 1
    2. reducing particulate and GHG emissions
    3. providing a limitless cheap source of safe abundant power that can solve ALL our energy needs

    You know…right now it’s 1130 in the morning here in California. The discussion during my day is between Yankees and Euros mostly. Aussies chime in when I’m sleeping!
    David

  117. I think there will be no nuclear decision in Australia for another five years unless there is a crisis. Even the decision due next year on the Olympic Dam expansion will probably degenerate into a lengthy squabble. If a first reactor site was announced the same crowd who invaded Hazelwood power station yesterday will no doubt make trouble. (apparently lignite is to be exported – whoopee!)

    The easiest thing for politicians to do is impose the lightest of carbon penalties as a token gesture. Meanwhile mid sized gas generators will regularly come online without fanfare and a few wind farms will line the routes of Sunday afternoon drives. Pollies happy, greenies happy. Shame about astronomical electricity prices though.

  118. As you know David Walters, you and I agree on this though I’d make phasing out crude-oil-for-transport as important an objective as phasing out coal-for-energy. The environmental and social footprint of resort to crude oil is at least as bad in practice as that of coal, and arguably worse.

  119. And since you mention it above, DW, I do disagree with the general thrust of your remarks on population.

    It is clear that we will need to taper, stabilise and ultimately reduce population sharply over the next 150 years if biodiversity is to be maintained and humanity is going to acquire substantial margin for adaptation to those parts of climate change we can’t foreclose.

    I’d like to think that come 2160 population was the low side of 5 billion and continuing to edge lower each decade.

  120. Regarding population, and the benefits of electrcity, I’ll just mention this link again because it seems some contributors are not actually aware of the statistics.

    Gapminder

    This is a lovely package 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.

    Here is 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 for the planet.

    So we need to keep electricity prices as low as possible for the maximum good for all.

  121. Peter#125
    I will make a last attempt to explain the calculations of the maximum storage capacity of the Snowy using 120-140km of tunnels(>12m bore as you suggest for Tantangara/Blowering).
    A flow of 1ML/sec delivers 970MW of power( 3600ML/h)dropping 100m in height. Thus one 900 m tunnel from Tantangara to Blowering will use about 0.33ML/sec(1,200ML/h) to generate 3,000MW of power, and an active storage of 140,000ML will allow 116h production or 116×3=348GWh total storage.

    Eucumbene has up to 4,800,000ML and Blowering 1,600,000ML potential( not sure active storage but assuming Blowering can store 1,000,000ML with suitable booster pumps). If we assume we keep 140,000ML capacity for Tantangara we have an unused potential of 860,000ML in Blowering.
    In no way was I suggesting the existing Tumut1&2 be used to pump back to Eucumbene, but adding an separate >12m tunnel between Talbingo and Eucumbene capable of 0.33ML/sec generating power and a slower rate return pumping and a small 6km pumping system from Blowering to Journama ( 1ML/sec 10-30m head) would allow water to flow in both directions between Blowering and Eucumbene.
    I think the present Tumut1&2 flow rates are 0.24ML/sec(theoretically 1,500MW but lower efficiency of only 1,200MW). The new tunnel would allow 0.33X 600 =2,000MW for a total generating CAPACITY of 3,200MW, plus Tumut3(1,500MW) for a total capacity of 4,700MW.
    How much energy can be stored? At full operation, total flow into Talbingo will be 0.57ML/sec and outflow to Tumut3 will be 1.1ML/sec so the Talbingo active storage(160,000ML) will we drained at the rate of 0.63ML/sec(2300ML/h) or 70h at 4.7GW or 330GWh. After this Tumut3 would have to reduce output to 750MW , and another 700,000ML could flow from Eucumbene to Blowering at 0.57ML/sec to generate about 3,950MW for another 320h or about 1200GWh.
    Thus the total Tantangara and Eucumbene system would generate up to 7,700MW and a total storage of (348+330+1200)=1,880 GWh of storage. Adding another 2,300MW of reversible turbines at Tumut3 would give a short term output of 10,000MW, a 3day output of 7,700MW and a much longer output(weeks) at 3,950MW.

    Based on your cost of $6.7Billion for the 9GW Tantangara project this would we a similar cost, or $4million/GWh total storage or $8Million/GWh 5day storage. Together with the other 4,000MW of non-pumped hydro power and 740MW existing pumped storage, an additional 2,000MW of turbines added at existing Hydro and existing 4,000MW of OCGT(NEM only) we would be able to get though any combined low solar(assuming av 8,000MW peak) and low wind period( assuming 24,000MW average), using very small amounts of NG(1-2% of present CO2 emissions). The 10% over-capacity in wind would be mainly used to replace pumped hydro losses.
    Most transmission additions would be Sydney and Melbourne to Snowy( if solar was PV) and 3,250MW from Perth to Pt Augusta and an increased Bass-Link(400km).

  122. On the ‘ pearls of wisdom to swine’ principle, I will not respond directly to the childish goading of finrod and soylent, but some here with a bit of class may still be wondering anout ‘power down’, especially if all you know of the principle is the hysterical disinformation provided by those two orcs.

    No-one in their right mind would ever suggest that the third world power down and you know who that poignant little fact is directed at. However we can’t bring the third world up to our standard of consumption, and it’s not just energy constraints. Anyone who thinks this planet can support 8 billion people at first world consumption rates, and all it would take is lots of cheap energy, is truly incapable of rational thought.

    It is the first world that must be subjected to ‘power down’. Far from causing billions of deaths as a couple of looneys have stridently asserted, the process will ensure that billions will NOT die off. All it involves is living with less consumption, being careful about things like food miles, waste, excessive use of chemicals, localising, using passive heating and cooling. There’s much more if anyone’s interested and they can go to Ted Trainer’s site http://www.permaculturevisions.com/TedTrainerssite.html or google him for articles he has written.

  123. Fran, the ‘thrust of my argument’ about population is based on what are the real factors and effects of population growth as it relates to production (food, power, land, etc etc). Things are no always as they seem. There are whole areas of the Philipines, to cite one example, that have returned to jungle and forest after millenia of human occupation because of the distortion of the Filipino economy now has over 50% of that population living urban areas.

    Distortion, brought on by globalization in Haiti has had the opposite effect and the human pressure on remaining forests have virtually eliminated trees form that country (in this case the substitution of trees/charcoal for propane/butane gas and an increase in goat herding).

    I’ve avoided, and will continue to do so, discuss here the issue of whether population ‘control’ is a “target”, that is a good thing or bad thing. My point is that it is inevitably a function of the mode of production and always has been, regulated by poverty, urbanization, access to technology, etc etc. That is it’s a effect of these factors, not the primary cause of the problem.

    I said all that to say this: for a discussion of serious family planning (and I’m FOR that), the huge social distortions created by what is called “economics” in developing countries are going to change. As someone pointed out, no one is saying Germany or the UK is “too dense”, if they are, I’ve never, ever, heard this expressed in the media.

    Population pressures can only be discussed as part of serious family planning in a democratic society. This hardly exists as globalization and the religion of free trade and “left the market decides” being the motus operandus in the world today. Until that changes, ‘reducing’ population growth to some arbitrary number simply is like aruging whether we should grow grapes or blueberries in our controlled green house on Mars when we set up a colony there.

    I’m not sure, Fran, what it is you disagree with me on about the use of fossil fuels for transportation. I’m again ‘em, as you are, yes?

    David

  124. No-one in their right mind would ever suggest that the third world power down and you know who that poignant little fact is directed at.

    No? You failed it seems to distinguish between first world and third…thus what is one to think?

    I looked at the cute village life in the link you provided SG. Cute. How do the 20 million people in and around London supposed to get on with their lives when living like actors in Sherwood Forest? Seriously…this is a ‘catholic’ solution…that is in the literal meaning of forced universality…you have to have total social buy in to such a utopia for it too work. Cities just go…bye bye?

    Again, rhetoric and hyperbole aside, your vision of the world living in pastoral villages requires 100% buy in, rejections of every social norm I can think of [Like, I WANT to live in SoHo in London...]. Who is to enforce this wonderful new life the web site promotes?

    BTW…a 5 MW LFTR would be *ideal* to power the example villages. Just a thought.

    David
    PS…to see how remote a possibility this is, a good read of Engels “The Origin of the Family, the State and Private Property” would really be worth a read to show we’re not going in the direction you want us to.

  125. Salient:

    Western countries electorates will never power down willingly. Western governments will have to apply coercion to achieve such an objective. No political party legitimately seeking power would ever go that far as they would be swept out of office for a generation. Despite a form of ETS being in operation in Europe for nearly a decade, no Euro country has seen a secular drop on power demand or supply.

    The obvious corollary to a permanent drop in power demand is a corresponding permanent drop in GDP. Every single western government at the moment is expending billions of dollars to avoid a deep recession and get economies moving again, so a drop living standards is not even close to becoming a realistic policy anywhere in the world. Given that, the best thing to do is to meet demand for cheap and abundant energy in the way that is least damaging to the atmosphere and allow living standards to continue on rising.

  126. David@156

    I’m not sure, Fran, what it is you disagree with me on about the use of fossil fuels for transportation. I’m again ‘em, as you are, yes?

    I suppose I was inferring that when you said “phasing out coal, as priority No. 1″ you meant that this was a greater priority than phasing out liquid fossil fuels …

    On the broader question of population, I’d be for measures that would have the effect of reducing population in the longer run through attrition as populations fewer than an average of 1.0 per birth, but I wouldn’t be for setting specific targets.

  127. On the broader question of population, I’d be for measures that would have the effect of reducing population in the longer run through attrition as populations fewer than an average of 1.0 per birth, but I wouldn’t be for setting specific targets.

    You don’t have a problem with that in Western countries. So how would you implement that around the world and in places where male is the child of choice without creating all sorts of social dislocation such as in China where there’s an estimated 300 million excess males in the younger generations?

  128. Ah, thanks Fran.

    Yes, I think coal is priority No. 1. Coal is the biggest stationary source of GHG and kills hundreds of thousands of people every year directly. It’s true more people die over wars for liquid petroleum but it’s not as intrinsic to it as coal is. But I’d concede they are of equal malevolent value.

    The difference however is that coal burning is a highly centralized utility form of power, liquid fuels are not, just the opposite in fact. The social investment by *individuals* in their cars is paramount. NNadir on the Daily Kos always mentions it as the “CarCULTure”. True enough.

    All that for this: I think it will be from every angle: socially, politically, technologically a lot easier to phase out coal than liquid fuels.

    Now…if you were to WRITE SOMETHING :) here, in a completely different thread, on, say, biodiesels and syn fuel, I’m all for it.

    But I don’t consider the liquid fuel problem to be in anyway “competition” with anything in terms of power generation. It’s parallel to the electricity discussion.

    David

  129. “Yes, I think coal is priority No. 1. Coal is the biggest stationary source of GHG and kills hundreds of thousands of people every year directly.”

    No it saves tens of millions of people every year David. Now what can you possibly be talking about?

  130. Alfred, it’s all relative. There is no doubt that coal saves millions of lives each year by providing a ready and reliable source of energy and higher standards of living. Yet if you can provide that same level of service via other means that have the same (or better) features of coal (concentrated store of energy, easily transported, reliable baseload, cheap to supply, able to operate at large energy scales and yet be compact and able to be housed close to demand centres, etc.), yet don’t suffer from the damaging effects of coal pollution (both direct and indirect — however you might weigh those relative risks), then you save many additional lives. I’m quite certain that David was talking about the additionality that an energy source like nuclear power provides.

  131. David Said:

    All that for this: I think it will be from every angle: socially, politically, technologically a lot easier to phase out coal than liquid fuels.

    Doubtless, and the technological challenges are considerable. I strongly believe the key to this lies less in new technology and more in reconfiguring the design of major population centres, so as to make cheap efficient effective high quality mass transport (much or all of which could be put onto an electric grid) available to nearly everyone. If we design suburbs properly, everyone should be able to walk, use a bike or a local bus to do pretty much everything they need, and get their shopping delivered, or at worst use a small EV to do it.

    So strategy number 1 is make it possible for people to largely give up their cars and use grid powered vehicles. Then your biofuels only have to shoulder the load for vehicles for which grid-power would not be feasible. Since this would be the minority demand, producing biofuels to the scale necessary from algae would be feasible.

  132. @the deathmonger who calls him/herself Salient Green:
    “No-one in their right mind would ever suggest that the third world power down and you know who that poignant little fact is directed at. However we can’t bring the third world up to our standard of consumption, and it’s not just energy constraints. Anyone who thinks this planet can support 8 billion people at first world consumption rates, and all it would take is lots of cheap energy, is truly incapable of rational thought.”

    This planet is stocked with resources af energy and matter vast beyond your woeful intellectual grasp. There is enough extractable uranium and thorium in the earth’s crust to support a human population far larger than the current level until the death of the sun. There are no fundamental shortages of any significant material resource. All it will take to survive in great high-tech style is some engineering skill, good management, and the will to rally these resources to that cause.

    In the end, people will respond to a positive message with much greater enthusiasm than to all your talk of limits, restrictions, and ‘powerdown’ with all that it implies, which you are not willing to describe explicitly (and for very good reason), but which I and others will not let you ignore.

  133. Fran:

    So strategy number 1 is make it possible for people to largely give up their cars and use grid powered vehicles.

    It’s not so simple, Fran. Decades upon decades of poor planning decisions and rank nimby policies by various state governments has made it extremely difficult to give up cars without causing great hardship for a lot of people. Some of the burbs, in fact most of the burbs in Australia and the US force people to buy cars in order to commute to work and to do other sundry tasks. Facts are that people don’t really go joy riding in cars on Sundays any more. Cars are used help with modern standards of living such as commuting to work, taking kids to school and shopping. Most people live too far away from travel points to even contemplate public transport otherwise life would be very difficult.

    Public transport like rail is particularly useful to carry large numbers of people in straight lines such as Tokyo or taking people from Midtown Manhattan to the Downtown area. However in Australia work-commuting is extremely diffuse with people traveling in all sorts of directions to get to work these days.

    Allan Moran from the CIS (?) published a study which showed that only 15% of work commutes these days are down a straight line as the majority of people no longer commute from burb to the CBD. Most in fact travel from burb to burb in all sorts of directions. This makes the public transport option very difficult in the way our cities are planned. Various ways to counter such problems would be to remove height restrictions in the cities and attempt to create Manhattan like living which incidentally is actually very green, as cars are really more of a nuisance in Manhattan rather than a necessity. I lived there for 15 years and it was only after being there for 5 years that I actually bought a car that I rarely used and ended up hating to write a monthly cheque for garaging fees for something that was of little use to me.

    Here’s a great piece in US City Journal a free market NYC based think-tank that talks about this and why bad planning decisions in places like California make the country less green.

    It talks about how housing in Texas costs about $200,000 to 250,000 for an average home while the same home costs about $500,000 in Cal when it’s loaded up with all sorts of planning restrictions. The weather in parts of Cal is very conducive to living without much heating or a/c for most of the year while Texas has shocking weather in comparison.

    “Green Cities, Brown Suburbs- to save the planet, build more skyscrapers—especially in California.”

    http://www.city-journal.org/2009/19_1_green-cities.html

  134. David Walters #157 “You failed it seems to distinguish between first world and third…thus what is one to think?”
    One would think that the third world use little and sometimes no power, that I did mention raising the third world out of poverty and that Barry has recently refered to Ted Trainer which should have raised a fair bit of awareness. No matter, people make erroneous assumptions all the time, it’s more about their behavior based on those assumptions and that’s what I take issue with more. Anyway, I correctly pegged you as a class above the others.

    The 5Mw LFTR sounds very elegant. I am a bit of a fan of them. The trouble is, by the time they could realistically be massed produced, solar pv and lithium or other storage technology will be much more advanced.

    On your PS, I realise it is a remote possibility but firmly believe it is the right thing to do. I think there is much more likelihood of our business and political leaders taking us into resource and environmental crisis from which position the first world will be too self involved to care a whit about possibly billions dying in the third world. It will not stop me from increasing awareness of the issues.

  135. Alfred Nock #162 said on coal killing hundreds of thousands “No it saves tens of millions of people every year David. Now what can you possibly be talking about?”

    That had to be irony right? If not, lets put it realistically. The ENERGY from burning coal enables millions of lives to be saved but the EMISSIONS from burning coal cause hundreds of thousands of deaths and probably many millions of health disorders in Humans and untold damage to the natural world.

  136. Jc@167

    I very substantially agree with your perspective — increasing urban densities is a key strategy in reducing the energy cost of providing urban peop,e with the services they need. I don’t think it all has to be high rise — if by high rise we are talking more than about six stories and I think there is scope to have a mix of densities not excluding villas … But 30 people per Ha is too low — something like 100 is closer to the mark.

    I think there are things we could do in the interim. Since people have cars and there is existing road infrastructure it would make sense to build large car parks (capacity 3*5000 = 15,000 vehicles) at or just before major choke points and service these with buses to the city centre. In Sydney for example this would seriously unclutter the motorways allowing those for whom the service was not useful a free run. In the longer run this would encourage car pooling. You could put retailing and housing into these buildings for extra utility and even have wind/solar PV on the top and plug-in recharge facilities in them.

    Win-wind …

  137. A second thing I’d do is change the basis on which cars were put on the road. I’d reduce the registration charge to a nominal fee and abolish fuel taxes but charge everyone a distance based fee based on

    a) how much CO2 (assumption pro-rata $100 per tonne) and other pollutants came from the tailpipe with a credit for lifecycle offsets from properly benchmarked biofuels
    b) the traffic volumes where they were driving at the time they were driving (a GPS-device would be installed to track this)
    c) their accident/road compliance/driver competence profiles
    d) the tare of their vehicle

    As to the design of suburbs I’d have them designed like a peer-to-peer bus network diagram — so that each suburb would be like a node off a major connecting road. There would be just two ways in and out (one at each end of the suburb and only one connecting to the MCR) and to pass through the non-MCR connector you’d need a local tollway style tag. This would stop rat runs but allow local flexibility to go to adjoining suburbs by car. Streets would carry only local traffic and everyone else would be forced onto the MCRs or mass transit. Of course, on foot or by bicyle you’d be able to move freely past bollards and gates, through parks etc …

  138. Neil Howes #154,

    I have looked at your three options and added a fourth. The options are:

    1. Tantangara-Blowering, 3 tunnels, 9GW
    2. Eucumbent-Blowering, 3 Tunnels, 8.2GW
    3. Eucumbene Talbingo, 1 tunnel, 2.1GW
    4. Tumut 3 Expansion – increase capacity from the existing 1.5GW to 4.5GW plus pump from Blowering at half the rate of the new pumping rate added, plus a build a new dam 5km downstream from Jounama to increase the capacity of the lower storage for Tumut 3.

    The capital costs are summarised below, together with unit cost for power, energy storage capacity, and energy storage rate.

    Units Ttg-B E-B E-Tlb T3 Exp
    GW 9.0 8.2 2.1 3.0
    GWh 527 3,321 43 11
    GWh/h 5.1 4.7 1.2 1.8
    $bil $6.7 $8.3 $2.2 $3.6
    $/kW $744 $1,017 $1,042 $1,199
    $/kWh $13 $3 $52 $331
    $/kWh/h $1,310 $1,792 $1,909 $2,042

    Option 1, Talbingo-Blowering is clearly the best option. Option 4 Tumut 3 Expansion is the least attractive. Option 2 is preferred to Option 3. The options are in order of preference.

    I suspect the best program would be to proceed with Option 1 first. Option 2 could be built at a later date. Neither of these options interfere with or compromise the existing T1, T2 and T3 development. They can all run in parallel. T3 Expansion could be added at a later date. However, I suspect there would be other more attractive options. I do not believe Eucumbene-Talbingo would ever be viable. It would be sharing the limited storage capacity of Talbingo with T3. This would compromise the efficient and flexible operation of T3 (T3 is currently our biggest pump storage scheme and was always one of the most efficient of the Snowy generation assets).

  139. Neil Howes, #154,

    I’ve inserted my responses within your text.
    [NH] I will make a last attempt to explain the calculations of the maximum storage capacity of the Snowy using 120-140km of tunnels(>12m bore as you suggest for Tantangara/Blowering).
    [PL] 130km of tunnels (with steel lining and surge shafts in similar proportion by length as Tanatangara-Blowering) would cost $4.4 billion. This cost does not include pumping or generating stations. The cost would be higher if the average length of the tunnels is shorter, which they would be.

    [NH] A flow of 1ML/sec delivers 970MW of power( 3600ML/h) dropping 100m in height.
    [PL] A flow of 1,000m3/s dropping 100m delivers 981MW excluding efficiency losses, or 932MW at 95% efficiency, (excluding head loss due to tunnel friction – head loss depends on tunnel diameter, length and the roughness of the tunnel surface.)

    [NH] Thus one 900 m tunnel from Tantangara to Blowering will use about 0.33ML/sec(1,200ML/h) to generate 3,000MW of power, and an active storage of 140,000ML will allow 116h production or 116×3=348GWh total storage.
    [PL] The design, calculations and cost use the same flow rate as Tumut 3, that is 1133m3/s. Flow for one tunnel would be 377m3/s for 3,000MW. Tantangara would have storage for 58h of generation at peak power. It would take 111h to fill by pumping.

    [NH] Eucumbene has up to 4,800,000ML and Blowering 1,600,000ML potential( not sure active storage but assuming Blowering can store 1,000,000ML with suitable booster pumps). If we assume we keep 140,000ML capacity for Tantangara we have an unused potential of 860,000ML in Blowering.
    [PL] Active storage in m3: Eucumbene = 4,366,500,000; Blowering = 1,608,700,000; Tantangara = 238,800,000; Talbingo = 160,400,000; Jounama = 27,800,000. Unused capacity in Blowering = 1,370,000,000 (Blowering minus Tantangara).

    [NH] In no way was I suggesting the existing Tumut1&2 be used to pump back to Eucumbene, but adding an separate >12m tunnel between Talbingo and Eucumbene capable of 0.33ML/sec generating power and a slower rate return pumping and a small 6km pumping system from Blowering to Journama ( 1ML/sec 10-30m head) would allow water to flow in both directions between Blowering and Eucumbene.
    [PL] Talbingo-Eucumbene tunnel, with generating and pump station would cost $2.3 trillion (very roughly). It would generate 6GW. Flow rate (m3/s): generating = 377; pumping = 200.
    [PL] Pumping system from Blowering to Jounama would be 20km (not 6km because it needs to suck from the deep end of Blowering). Hydraulic head is 86m from Blowering MOL to Jounama MSL (not 10m to 30m). Flow rate of pumping from Blowering for the 1500GW new T3 The smaller option), at half the pumping rate of the new T3, would be 300m3/s. Flow rate of pumping from Blowering for 3000GW new T3 (the larger option), at half the pumping rate of the new T3, would be 600m3/s.
    [PL] we’d need to build a new dam downstream from Jounama dam to make this work. The new dam would approximately tripple to quadruple the active storage capacity of Jounama Reservoir. Rough cost estimate, $100 million.
    [PL] Rough cost for T3 power increase of 1500MW = $1.9 trillion. For increase of 3000MW = $3.6 trillion

    [NH]I think the present Tumut1&2 flow rates are 0.24ML/sec(theoretically 1,500MW but lower efficiency of only 1,200MW).
    [PL] Tumut 1: 320MW, 292.6m rated head, 118.9m3/s total discharge capacity. Tumut 2: 280MW, 262.1m rated head, 118.9m3/s total discharge capacity. Tumut 1 + Tumut 2 capacity = 600MW

    [NH]The new tunnel would allow 0.33X 600 =2,000MW for a total generating CAPACITY of 3,200MW, plus Tumut3(1,500MW) for a total capacity of 4,700MW.
    [PL]The Talbingo-Eucumbene tunnel would could generate 2,000MW + T1 + T2 generating CAPACITY of 2600MW, plus Tumut3(1,500MW) for a total capacity of 4,100MW.

    To be continued (tomorrow, …maybe)

  140. Neil Howes, Correction to my post #173:

    “Talbingo-Eucumbene tunnel, with generating and pump station would cost $2.3 trillion” should be $2.3 billion.

    “T1 + T2 generating CAPACITY of 600MW” not 2600MW

  141. Neil (#154),

    Your last two paragraphs remind me of the expression “you cant make a silk purse out of sow’s ear”.

    It looks to me as if you are prepared to advocate to the Australian and state governments that they should commit to a wind power system that depends on using all the stored hydro energy in the country just to get us through three days of low wind and sunshine. What happens when a second event occurs within a few days?

    It should be plain as day by now that wind and solar are simply not viable. They are not economic. They are not low cost.

    A while ago the Wind power advocates were arguing that ‘the wind is always blowing somewhere’. I get the impression from your previous blogs that you now argue that ‘the wind is always blowing everywhere’.

    Neil, your figures simply do not add up. You do not have 33GW of generating capacity to meet peak when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. I’d also add it is not acceptable to draw down on the hydro storage that your wind generators did not store. This storage must be maintained for emergency use and grid stabilisation. The power you can draw on is only what you’ve stored by pumping. Face it, wind is simply not going to work.

    However, all is not lost, because there is a far better option. All we have to do is get past the irrational hang-ups.

  142. @Alfred: I think coal played one of most important progressive technological developments in human energy history. I was and is vitally important. There is probably nothing coal does that gas can’t do better, in terms of fossil except the production of coke for the steel industry. But as Barry noted the accumulated facts surrounding coal show it to be detrimental with *other* superior energy sources available, like nuclear. As coal is the largest stationary source of GHG emissions, phasing out coal (and other fossil fuels) needs to priority No. 1 for climate and energy activsts.

    @Fran. I too see the future as a grid based auto future and, possibly, biofuels. The other issue is to give incentives for people to use public transportation (like making it free, for example). But in the US only 6% of the population used public transportation. So we have to make it more available, obviously. But the US, and, until recently there are other major hindrances to getting people out of their cars and that is Suburbia. Most of the US population lives in somewhat diffuse, largely suburban residential neighborhoods. I do for example, living outside of SF. For me to get to work, I’d have to take a BART train and then a street car. It takes 1 and 15 minutes door to door. By my truck it takes 14 minutes. Wanna guess what I do? This is true for many people and it will take generations of change to make the US population of 300 million more friendly to mass transportation.

    David

  143. Peter Lang (152) — Actually solar (don’t forget the clothes pins) is beeter for drying the washing. :-)

    But seriuosly, consider some big reservoirs nicely above a windy sea coast. Add windmills and there is your pumped storage.

  144. David B. Benson (#177),

    Perhaps we should put the reservoirs you are suggesting on top of the solar towers :)

    To assist you to understand what you are suggesting, and so you can do some of your own calculations, below I’ll give you the formulae to calculate the volume of water and the height from upper reservoir to lower reservoir to get 1kWh of energy, and the flow rate to get 1kW of power. If you haven’t already, you might like to read the “Solar Power Realities” paper. It shows the area that would need to be innundated, at 150 m height above the lower reservoir, to provide our energy demand for a day.

    There is also a problem with putting sea water in reservoirs on land. How do we prevent infiltration of salt water into the ground water.
    Love your ideas, but much of waht you are suggesting is very well understood. A great background as to how to do some simple calculations yourself is provided by David Mackay in his book “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air”. You can access the whole book from the blog roll list at the top left of any of the BNC web pages.

    Here are the formulae:
    Power = flow rate x density of water x acceleration due to gravity x hydraulic head (height).
    Power in kW = m3/s x 1000kg/m3 x 9.81m/s2 x m

    Energy = density of water x acceleration due to gravity x hydraulic head (i.e. height).
    Energy kWh = m3/s x 1000kg/m3 x 9.81m/s2 x m x 3600

  145. Neil

    In post #154 you said:

    Most transmission additions would be Sydney and Melbourne to Snowy( if solar was PV) and 3,250MW from Perth to Pt Augusta and an increased Bass-Link(400km).

    I don’t agree with this staement. More on this below.

    Also, in post #35 you said:

    Your study of transmission costs is dissappointing. The theory behind the wind blowing somewhere idea IS NOT to have the entire wind capacity moved from one site of the continent to the other. For example, WA would have 20% of the wind capacity(SA,TAS,VIC, NSW about the same with a small amount in QLD) so on the observation that wind dispesed over the size of a state will at most generate 75% capacity WA would only ever produce 15% of capacity(9GW not 25GW) and some of this would be used locally (3GW) so at most 6GW would be exported east(even less with CAES), but not to Sydney, to Pt Augusta with perhaps another 1-2GW moved to Adelaide. Sydney and Melbourne would get most power from pumped storage( moving much shorter distances). When high winds exist in NSW and VIC energy would be returned to Snowy with 2-3GW to WA ( if no wind in WA, most unlikely considering the 2,000km of good wind coastline).
    Your statement that 10,000km would have to carry 25GW is totally mis-understanding how grids work. Feeder lines will only have the capacity of the solar and wind farms and none of these would be anything like 25GW.
    The major transmission links would be Snowy to Sydney, Snowy to Melbourne, Melbourne to Tasmania and Pt Augusta to Perth. We already have a large grid in SE Australia, but it would have to be increased. OCGT/CCGT and nuclear will probably be sited at existing coal fired power stations using existing transmission lines.

    I disagree with most of this.

    The statements are correct for a grid that is supplied by reliable generators, like fossil fuel, nuclear and hydro, but is not correct for intermittent generators like wind and solar.

    To make this easier for our readers to follow, let’s consider a scenario with wind power for generation and pumped hydro storage in the Snowy Mountains for energy storage. The wind farms do not have on-site energy storage storage. The wind farms are distributed along the south coast from Perth to Melbourne. We can have several days of very low levels of generation. Occasionally there is no generation at all. At other times one or more areas may be generating at near maximum output.

    Regarding sizing the transmission lines, if the wind power advocates want to be able to include, in their average capacity factors and average power outputs, the full power output of a wind farm, then the transmission line must be sized to carry the full capacity of the wind farm, not just its average output. Similarly for a region of wind farms. The transmission lines must be able to carry the full capacity of all the wind farms if we want to be able to have access to all the power when the wind farms are generating at full power. If we ever need all the power that Western Australia’s wind farms can generate we must size the transmission system to carry all that power.

    With intermittent generators we can have the storage at the generator (e.g. chemical energy storage) or centrally located (eg pumped-hydro) or a mixture. For the case where the storage is located at the generator (such as with solar thermal) and it has sufficient storage so the power station can provide continuous power on demand throughout the year (even through several days of overcast conditions), then the transmission line will be sized to carry the peak power that would be demanded from that power station. The transmission lines must be able to carry that power to the demand centres.

    For the case where the storage is centrally located (e.g. pumped hydro) the transmission line will be sized to carry the peak power output that would be supplied by any region of wind farms. The main transmission lines would run from the generators to the central storage site. The enhancements to the grid from the pumped storage sites to the demand centres would be less significant (relatively).

    The transmissions system requirements to support intermittent renewable energy generators will be very costly. The paper attached to the too of this thread shows that the cost of the transmission system for the solar thermal option would be greater than the total cost of the nuclear option.

    Intermittent renewable energy generators are very costly and provide negligible benefits.

  146. David @176

    I certainly agree that the problem won’t be easy — price signals on both fuel and motor cvehicle usage will be needed alomng with coextensive measures to relocate people in such a way that high quality services can be supplied cost-effectively.

    In my own case, I spend an average of 55 minutes each way by car in preference to a walking + public transport journey that would take about 70 minutes. (I do carpool though) If what I outlined above were in place, my carpool journey time would probably fall to about 35 minutes and the public transport journey to not much more (maybe 40 minutes).

  147. Peter Lang (178) — I don’t know enough about Australia to work out actual estimates. Here we have considerable hydro with winter weather doing the pumping. The hydro provides backup for the wind being installed under a tax incentive plan. BPA has already stated that they cannot do backup for more than 20% of Pacfic Northwest grid; that amount of wind is projected to be reached in 2025 CE.

    I’ve seen a photgraph of some of the Nullarbor coastline and plain beyond. Other than the distance to consumption, maybe that would work as a place to locate sea water resevoirs. As for soaking into the ground, there are several methods to rather inexpensively keep that from happening.

  148. David B. Benson (#183)

    Peple have an infinite number of possible suggestions that all look great until they are costed. There is no point at all in chasing many of these suggestions. The bedrock under the Nullabour plains is limestone. It is cavernous. The cost of sealing a reservoir is tootally prohibiticve. It is clear from your suggestions you have no appreciation of the volumes of eater involved, and the area that would be requiredf to be innundated. Have a look at the Solar Power Realites paper. This will give you some perspective.

    David, intermittent renewables are totally uneconomic, and less environmentally benign than nuclear. So, why do you keep pushing them?

  149. Peter Lang (182) — Wind is apparently the choice here in the Pacific Northwest. There is a paper indicating that once all the costs, actually all of them, for the historical record in the USA, that nuclear has cost around $0.25–0.30 per kWh. So that does not look so economic to me.

    Perhaps in the future nuclear will be cost effective, but so far it does not seem so to me.

    Didn’t know that about the Nullarbor plain, thank you.

  150. Peter#175,179,
    Thank you for some of the corrections for flow rate of Tumut1 and 2 and power outputs.
    I am not sure why you cannot envision Eucumbene to Talbingo and Talbingo to Jounama/blowering acting as one system with Talbingo providing buffer for short term increased power outputs similar to what is available now.

    You seem to now agree that we could store rather large amounts of energy(several days supply) in the Snowy with the existing dams, which was my point. The issue of meeting peak demand for 1-6 hours is separate to providing 1200GWh due to wide stread cloud/low wind conditions. The former is an issue of capacity(GW), the later storage energy(GWh).

    You are still missing the issue of wind/solar farms dispersed and the need for 10,000km of 25GW transmission lines.
    Take the case of Perth having a 3GW capacity wind farm to the South and a 3GW capacity solar farm to the North and a 3GW transmission line to the East to Adelaide and on the the Snowy.Becasue Perth and Adelaide(with 3GW local wind farms) consumer about 3GW at peak, the 6GW of wind farms and 3GW solar are never going to require more than 3GW transmission capacity from Perth to Adelaide. Adelaide is linked to Melbourne and on to Tasmania hydro and Melbounre linked to the Snowy. In the case where wind farms are generating maximum at WA, SA(about 75%of 6GW) the maximum load would be <3GW for Perth to Adelaide and 65% of total power consumption(ie will use about 8GW of the 12GW storage capacity).
    Major energy flows do not have to move from one end of the grid to the other, just minimum energy flows, for wind this would be about 10% of capacity, less for solar unless all of the solar was in one location.
    A similar grid would be highly desirable for nuclear power, for example if Perth had 3x1GW reactors there would be a small chance that 1 of the 3 would have an unscheduled outage, while a second was on scheduled shutdown so 2GW from the E coast would make sense. The other alternative is to keep 2-3GW OCGT capacity on standby, the same solution that would be used to provide insurance against continental wide cloud cover and continental wide low wind occurring on the same day.

  151. David Benson

    As someone who has always been keen on pumped storage and who was especially keen on seaboard pumped storage (since you save yourself the cost of a lower reservoir) I’m sympathetic to your argument here.

    Yet the cost of the lower reswervoir is only one of the challenges. Fairly obviously you need lots of head pressure, so the ideal location will have topography at high elevation close to the shoreline. It’s also going to have to have quite a bit of scope to be modified to accommodate very substantial water, which implies that it is structurally very sound, has a large fairly flat area (or one that could be made so).

    Of course you don’t want this place to be a long way from the demand for power or a grid point otherwise tranmission costs become a factor, and ideally you’d want to be close enough to have it do desal cost-effectively, since then you can spread the cost to water users. This tends to narrow sharply your options.

    Consider also the quantity of concrete and steel you’re going to need to retain the volume of water you have in mind. There’s a huge built energy cost right there. Storing, for argument’s sake, 0.1 Petalitres of water would be roughly 100 million tonnes. Assuming you think you can contain 1 cubic metre of water securely with 0.25 cubic metres of reinforced concrete, your major cost will be the 25 million tonnes of concrete each tonne of which weighs about 2500kg. That topography is going to have to be very strong indeed. I don’t know how much this would cost to build, but I’m guessing $100 per tonne wouldn’t be high, and might well be low. And of course you haven’t bought any pumps or turbines or other equipment yet.

    Assuming head pressure of 100m, there’s 27.2GwH — a little more than one hour of Australia’s average power.

  152. Neil (#184),

    I’ll address your points one at a time. It’s to difficult doing it one large post.

    I am not sure why you cannot envision Eucumbene to Talbingo and Talbingo to Jounama/blowering acting as one system with Talbingo providing buffer for short term increased power outputs similar to what is available now.

    Likewise, I am not sure why you cannot see that it is the least uneconomic of the four options and, in addition, it imposes constraints and reduces the efficiency of the existing assets, as I have explained. I have not attempted to cost the loss, but I suspect it is substantial.

  153. Neil #184,

    You seem to now agree that we could store rather large amounts of energy (several days supply) in the Snowy with the existing dams, which was my point.

    That is a misrepresentation of my position. I agree that we can from a pure physics perspective. But, my position relates to the cost effectiveness of the proposals. I agree there is substantial untapped energy storage in existing structures; however, I am not sure how much is viable to develop. I also believe the requirements for storing energy from intermittent energy generators are very different from storing from reliable generators that will pump at constant rate throughout the hours of the night when baseload is less than average daily demand. In part this issue relates to the transmission, where we are poles apart (so to speak).

    Secondly, you say “we can store rather large amounts of energy”. The active capacity of the reservoirs is not the constraint. The constraint is how much we can pump per day. The economic viability depends largely on the length of tunnels required to connect the existing reservoirs. The tunnels are the high cost item. They comprise about 50% of the Tantangara-Blowering facility. Tantangara can store 58 hours of energy at full generation capacity. However, that assumes Tantangara is used for nothing else. It means a lot of the water that Tantangara catches and diverts to Eucumbene would be lost. It would be spilled over the Tantangara spillway and run down the Murrumbidgee. So this loss of water (i.e. energy) should be factored in. I haven’t done that.

    So your statements are misleading. They are not a correct interpretation of what I said. I do admit, that the power of the Tantangara-Blowering facility did surprise me. That does look to be a potentially viable option, although what I’ve done is a very preliminary, purely desk top, analysis. I have some overseas colleagues checking my calculations and costs. It will be interesting to see what comes back.

    By the way, do you have any costs. You mentioned that you do for the Blowering Jounama and Tumut 3 expansion project. Are you willing to post them here. I’d particularly like to see any costs you have relating to the following:

    1. Civil component of a new Tumut 3 power station
    2. Headrace excavation or tunnel and inlet structure
    3. Penstocks (same as T3)
    4. Turbines (same as T3)
    5. Generators (same as T3)
    6. 6 pumps (same as the three in T3)
    7. Tailrace excavation
    8. Pumps for Blowering to Jounama
    9. Pipes for Blowering to Jounama
    10. New dam down stream from Jounama Dam

  154. Neil Howes (#184),

    The issue of meeting peak demand for 1-6 hours is separate to providing 1200GWh due to wide stread cloud/low wind conditions. The former is an issue of capacity(GW), the later storage energy(GWh).

    I agree. The point I was making about power is that, for the scenario I have analysed (ie the NEM demand in 2007, and no fossil fuels), we need the generation capacity to meet peak demand. I also added that we cannot rob the energy stored in the Snowy, because it is required for the maintenance of grid stability and for emergencies. The Snowy is constrained by the amount of water entering its dams. Recently the Snowy’s capacity factor was 14% for a year. That is because of the lack of water inflow. So we cannot rob that water to try to make wind and solar power look viable. Wind and solar power need to stand on their own. So, I am adding a new constraint to my scenario: the intermittent generators can draw what they have stored, but no more.

    If we need to add very large amounts of storage capacity (as we would for intermittent renewables), then Eucumbene-Blowering (trippled) would be the way to go. On the other hand, Tantangara-Blowering would be more than sufficient to allow nuclear to provide the total NEM demand (2007) as laid out in the paper “Solar Power Realities – Addendum”, and summarised in the overview at the top of this thread.

    To support intermittent renewables, we need 33GW of power and 1,350GWh of energy storage (for three days).

    To support nuclear, we need 8GW of power and about 50GWh of energy storage

    Quite a difference!

    And that storage required for renewables is on top of the far higher generation costs and the far higher tranmsision costs.

    This should be very clear.

  155. Neil Howes (#184),

    You said:

    You are still missing the issue of wind/solar farms dispersed and the need for 10,000km of 25GW transmission lines.

    I think you are the one missing the issue. I may get back to you later on this or may not. I think I’ve made the points several times already.

  156. Neil Howes, (#184)

    This is my reply to the last part of your post #184. I hope this clarifies the issue, although I suspect wa are a a distance apart on this, in part due to the different scenarios were are analysing. I think you want to consider the scenarion of a potential position and generation mix in 2030. What I’ve been doing, and to keep consistency with the other papers I’d prefer to stick with it for now, is to consider the technologies that are available now that could provide the NEM’s 2007 demand without burning fossil fuels. So that, if we really want to make the changes quickly, we could and we’d have some idea of the cost of the options. Having said that, below is my response to the last part of your post #184.

    You are still missing the issue of wind/solar farms dispersed and the need for 10,000km of 25GW transmission lines. Take the case of Perth having a 3GW capacity wind farm to the South and a 3GW capacity solar farm to the North and a 3GW transmission line to the East to Adelaide and on the the Snowy.

    Because Perth and Adelaide(with 3GW local wind farms) consumer about 3GW at peak, the 6GW of wind farms and 3GW solar are never going to require more than 3GW transmission capacity from Perth to Adelaide.

    The premise is false. You are not looking at the problem correctly. Following is the way to analyse it. The situation is that there is zero or near zero wind over the wind farms in eastern Australia. The only place with wind is SW Western Australia. We are dealing with the wind farms at the moment. Leave the solar power stations out of it. They are totally ueconomic. The average demand in the eastern states is 25GW. We will store energy in pumped-hydro storage when demand is less than 25GW and release energy from pumped-hydro storage when demand is more than 25GW. So we need transmission lines with 25GW capacity. By the way, this assumes that all the wind farms have their own on-site storage, and this storage is sufficient to allow them to provide sufficient power to meet the 25GW demand at all times. If the wind farms do not have their own on-site storage, the transmission line needs even more than 25GW capacity.

    Adelaide is linked to Melbourne and on to Tasmania hydro and Melbounre linked to the Snowy.

    These links are totally inadequate. They can’t even handle the transient flows we have on a relatively stable, fossil fuel powered system, let alone on a fully wind powered system. The two interconnections from South Australia to Victoria are 200MW and 250MW. They would have to be increased to 25GW capacity (less SA demand) to transmit the power from WA.

    In the case where wind farms are generating maximum at WA, SA(about 75%of 6GW) the maximum load would be <3GW for Perth to Adelaide and 65% of total power consumption(ie will use about 8GW of the 12GW storage capacity).

    I don’t follow this bit. Anyway, the scenario we are considering is the case where the only power is coming from WA, not from SA.

    Major energy flows do not have to move from one end of the grid to the other, just minimum energy flows, for wind this would be about 10% of capacity, less for solar unless all of the solar was in one location.

    The scenario is we have a demand of 25GW in the eastern states and the only wind farms generating are in WA. So we need to transmit 25GW.

    A similar grid would be highly desirable for nuclear power, for example if Perth had 3×1GW reactors there would be a small chance that 1 of the 3 would have an unscheduled outage, while a second was on scheduled shutdown so 2GW from the E coast would make sense.

    Transmission from the eastern states is one option to provide the necessary redundancy. There are other options. For example, five 600MW units instead of three 1GW units. It depends on which is the least cost. The transmission lines needs a redundant line also.

    The other alternative is to keep 2-3GW OCGT capacity on standby, the same solution that would be used to provide insurance against continental wide cloud cover and continental wide low wind occurring on the same day.

    We’d need 25GW of OCGT back-up for wind (less the hydro generating capacity and less the transmission capacity from WA)? The wind and solar power outages are frequent. The sort of scenario you paint for the nuclear outages would be rare. We do have to have sufficient back up to cover for them, but it is not the same situation as with wind where it is a frequent occrrence. Anyway, it is quite likely that Australia would not adopt large nuclear units. To facilitate the change from coal to nuclear, smaller power reactors that are more closely matched to our coal fired units may be better. The nuclear/grid issues have been worked out long ago. The management and capital cost issues of the grid where the supply is from nuclear power are totally insignificant compared with the problem of trying to manage intermittent renewables.

  157. Neil,

    To summarise, I’ve copied post #172 and pasted it below. I reformatted the table to make it easier to interpret.

    I have looked at your three options and added a fourth. The options are:

    1. Tantangara-Blowering, 3 tunnels, 9GW
    2. Eucumbent-Blowering, 3 Tunnels, 8.2GW
    3. Eucumbene Talbingo, 1 tunnel, 2.1GW
    4. Tumut 3 Expansion, add 3GW. Increase capacity from 1.5GW to 4.5GW plus pump from Blowering at half the rate of the new pumping rate added, plus build a new dam 5km downstream from Jounama to increase the capacity of Tumut 3’s lower storage.

    The capital costs are summarised below, together with unit cost for power, energy storage capacity, and energy storage rate.

    Option, Units, GW, GWh, GWh/h, $bill, $/kW, $/kWh, $/kWh/h
    1. Tantangara Blowering, Ttg-B, 9.0, 527, 5.1, $6.7, $744, $13, $1,310
    2. Eucumbene Blowering, E-B, 8.2, 3,321, 4.7, $8.3, $1,017, $3, $1,792
    3. Eucumbene Talbingo, E-Tlb, 2.1, 43, 1.2, $2.2, $1,042, $52, $1,909
    4. Tumut 3 Expansion, T3 Exp, 3.0, 11, 1.8, $3.6, $1,199, $331, $2,042

    Option 1, Talbingo-Blowering is clearly the best option.
    Option 4 Tumut 3 Expansion is the least attractive.
    Option 2 is preferred to Option 3. The options are in order of preference.

    I suspect the best program would be to proceed with Option 1 first. Option 2 could be built at a later date. Options 1 and 2 would not interfere with or compromise (much) the existing T1, T2 and T3 development. They can all run in parallel. Option 4, T3 Expansion and pump from Blowering, could be added at a later date. However, I suspect there would be other more attractive options. I do not believe Eucumbene-Talbingo would be viable. It would be sharing the limited storage capacity of Talbingo with T3. This would compromise the efficient and flexible operation of T3 (T3 is currently our biggest pump storage scheme and was always one of the most efficient of the Snowy generation assets). The main constrain on Tumut 3 is the insufficient downstream storage. This problem would be exacerbated by the proposed extension. I suspect the new Dam would be virtually mandatory for this option to be considered.

  158. Peter#191,
    It’s a valid point to have a theoretical simulation of power demand in 2007, but it should consider the whole of Australia. The reality is that it’s going to take 20-30 years to replace all coal-fired power so saying we have to have a solution now that uses no FF is a bit restrictive. It would make more sense to compare a coal replaced by CCGT with other options such as all nuclear or all wind or mixes of 2 or more.
    To elaborate on the situation of just wind power replacing FF generated electricity would need x3 ( 25GW NEW and 2.5GW WA and considerable off-grid NG power generation, for example LNG, the goldfields mines, alumina refining).
    For simplicity lets say this is 28GW average(85GW capacity) for wind. QLD would have just a few % and TAS up to 15% with WA, SA, each VIC and NSW each about 20% of this capacity(17GW in WA).
    How much transmission capacity is needed from WA to eastern Australia? Clearly not 25GW. The wind regions of WA cover 3,000km so the maximum output would be considerably less than the 75% output of the 13 NEM farms. Lets say 70% of capacity 99% of the time with a small power shed( 5% of output 1% of time), or 11.9GW maximum. But WA uses about 2.5-4GW so maximum available for export would be 9.4GW. Since WA has limited pumped storage, they may want 3GW CAES available to insure that a HVDC link to SA would be used to move up to 6.4 GW to SA. This is about 8% capacity of entire grid.

    One region never has to move 25GW, of the 6.4GW 2-3 GW would be used in SA and the other 3-4GW would go to other cities if no other wind available or go to pumped storage in the Snowy or TAS if other regions had adequate wind.

    SA, VIC and NSW have more options if they are the only high wind regions, most would be used locally with the surplus (9-10GW) going to other regions, so SA would be exporting energy to WA and VIC and NSW and these regions would also be drawing on storage.

    For short term power(GW) the size of storage is not relevant. For storage capacity there is no reason why this cannot be replaced in weeks. Data of 13 wind farms shows that there are long periods of wind power higher than average where pumping could be used and only short periods of little or no power, for example 1st July to Sept13 has a one day(8/7) and a 3 day(15,16/7,17/6) low wind period separated by 6 days and then 13 good wind days before the next low wind day(30/7). That’s without considering any wind power from northern NSW or from WA. Pumping would take 1.5h to restore water used for every 1GWh/h generated( for example Tumut3 has 3 turbines that use 80% of output in pumping at 80% efficiency=64%)
    The other point about pumped storage is that it would always operate from the grid which is usually stable power I am not sure why you think the grid would be unstable?

  159. Neil (#194).

    You say:

    It’s a valid point to have a theoretical simulation of power demand in 2007, but it should consider the whole of Australia. The reality is that it’s going to take 20-30 years to replace all coal-fired power so saying we have to have a solution now that uses no FF is a bit restrictive. It would make more sense to compare a coal replaced by CCGT with other options such as all nuclear or all wind or mixes of 2 or more.

    There are an infinite number of alternative ways to do these analyses, and an infinite number of alternative approaches we could propose we could or “should” do.

    You seem to be missing the main point of the exercise. The main point was to show the economic viability, or lack thereof, of the intermittent renewable energy technologies to provide us with low emissions electricity generation.

    The central point of the exercise would become less clear and less obvious to most people the more complicated we make the analysis.

    Also, the main point would get lost if we attempt to look into the future and try to guess about what might be. As we look into the future the main point gets missed as we argue about: what technologies might be available; what the costs might be in the future; what the total demand and the demand profile might be; what the emissions might be; and a host of other ‘maybes’. You and I don’t even agree, within orders of magnitude, as to what transmission capacity is needed to transmit solar power from the deserts to the demand centres. And all this is using currently available technologies and their current costs. What chance would we have of making any headway if we were attempting to guess what might be in the future? To reinforce this point, consider the number of alternative options that have been proposed on this blog site as to what I should have considered instead of what I did. Here are a few: solar thermal chimney; chemical storage; CAES; pump-storage using windmills pumping water onto lined reservoirs on the Nullabhour Plain; smart-grid; bio-gas. If we look into the future, the options are endless. We’d be burried in arguing about assumptions and minutiae and get nowhere. The whole point would be burried. I sometimes wonder if that is, perhaps, the aim of some of the blogs.

    The point of the exercise was to keep the analysis sufficiently simple that most people could check the calculations themselves. There are many, many sophisticated analyses being done and published all the time, but most people’s eyes glaze over. They do not understand the assumptions nor the inputs, and so cannot check them. If people want to see the outputs of the sophisticated modelling forecasts there is seemingly no end of them.

  160. Neil (#194),

    To elaborate on the situation of just wind power replacing FF generated electricity would need x3 ( 25GW NEW and 2.5GW WA and considerable off-grid NG power generation, for example LNG, the goldfields mines, alumina refining).

    For simplicity lets say this is 28GW average(85GW capacity) for wind. QLD would have just a few % and TAS up to 15% with WA, SA, each VIC and NSW each about 20% of this capacity(17GW in WA).
    How much transmission capacity is needed from WA to eastern Australia? Clearly not 25GW. The wind regions of WA cover 3,000km so the maximum output would be considerably less than the 75% output of the 13 NEM farms. Lets say 70% of capacity 99% of the time with a small power shed( 5% of output 1% of time), or 11.9GW maximum. But WA uses about 2.5-4GW so maximum available for export would be 9.4GW. Since WA has limited pumped storage, they may want 3GW CAES available to insure that a HVDC link to SA would be used to move up to 6.4 GW to SA. This is about 8% capacity of entire grid.

    One region never has to move 25GW, of the 6.4GW 2-3 GW would be used in SA and the other 3-4GW would go to other cities if no other wind available or go to pumped storage in the Snowy or TAS if other regions had adequate wind.

    SA, VIC and NSW have more options if they are the only high wind regions, most would be used locally with the surplus (9-10GW) going to other regions, so SA would be exporting energy to WA and VIC and NSW and these regions would also be drawing on storage.

    For short term power(GW) the size of storage is not relevant. For storage capacity there is no reason why this cannot be replaced in weeks. Data of 13 wind farms shows that there are long periods of wind power higher than average where pumping could be used and only short periods of little or no power, for example 1st July to Sept13 has a one day(8/7) and a 3 day(15,16/7,17/6) low wind period separated by 6 days and then 13 good wind days before the next low wind day(30/7). That’s without considering any wind power from northern NSW or from WA. Pumping would take 1.5h to restore water used for every 1GWh/h generated( for example Tumut3 has 3 turbines that use 80% of output in pumping at 80% efficiency=64%)

    The other point about pumped storage is that it would always operate from the grid which is usually stable power I am not sure why you think the grid would be unstable?

    Sorry Neil, I do not agree with this. I think we have discussed it repeatedly. I am not keen to go around the buoy all over again. I believe the papers, and the subsequent discussions on this thread, address your points.

    In short, you are still using averages to hide the problem of the intermittency of wind. There are periods where there is no, or little, wind over SE Australia (see chart in the “Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang Responds” thread; it highlights the irregular output from wind). So we either have no generation or perhaps a contribution from WA. Since we need to supply power to exactly meet demand at all times, the balance of the power has to come from energy storage. When there is no wind power we need to draw 33GW of power from energy storage.

    You say you can recharge the energy storage quickly. To do that you need transmission capacity from every wind farm, for each wind farm’s total capacity! Without that, the maximum capacity you can have is limited by the transmission. The cost for what you propose would be much higher than for the scenario used in the analysis described in the introduction to this thread.

    Also, we have to have reliable steady power to pump. Therefore, much of the wind power that is available when the wind is blowing couldn’t be used; it would be wasted.

    I hope you will focus on the total system and the costs of a total system that can meet all the constraints and requirements.

    On a separate point, could you please say if you have some cost figures you are using for your estimates for the Tumut 3 enhancement you propose, and are you prepared to share them (see the end of my post #187)?

  161. Peter,
    In the last table within paragraph “Appendix – Cost Calculations for Solar Thermal,” under the section “Cost for 25GW baseload power, through…” it shows dramatically reduced Collector Field cost ($1487B vs. $8583B) only because of a disproportionally small increase in storage capacity. Could this be right and would scaling up the storage further reduce the overall cost?
    Thanks,
    Bunion

  162. Peter, I am finding this too detailed for me to follow, but may I venture with this remark.

    You are winning by an impressive margin. Question will arise in many minds though, how robust this margin is? If non-intermittent renewables (biogas etc) are incorporated; CCS gas and coal are allowed, in reasonable amounts; maybe even non-CCS gas and coal (why not? Under proper international deal, we’ll be paying others to save the planet — nothing wrong with that); more demand-side management, if feasible; and the whole mixture optimized — does nuclear still win, and by how much?

    I hope you will continue your work, expanding the scope.

  163. Alexi (197),

    Thank you for this post. Your suggestion of expanding the scope is noted. I’ll answer that in another post. Here are a few, quick, off-the-top-of-the-head comments:

    1. the most prospective, non-hydro resources are wind, solar PV and solar thermal. The solar optons are 20 to 40 times higher cost than nuclear. That means they are totally out of contention. Not worth any further consideration. Wind power with gas back-up saves very little GHG emissions and requires the full capital cost of the gas generation system PLUS the full capital cost of the wind generators, PLUS massive extra expenditure on the grid and distribution systems. If, instead of gas fired back-up, we use energy storage – either centralised (eg pumped hydro) or at the generators (eg chemical storage, perhaps CAES on the Nullabhour) – we will have very high energy storage costs and very high transmission costs. In summary, wind power provides low value energy at high cost and saves little GHG emissions. All it does is save some fuel. It’s a dud. So the most prospective non-hydro renewable technologies are all uneconomic by very large margins.

    2. I don’t believe CCS has any real prospects of succeeding at the scale required. I expect there will be many demonstration projects around the world because they are the political “in thing”. Just as wind and solar are. Let’s not waste time debating CCS.

    3. “more demand-side management”. Yes, of course. That is always important. It was known to be important in the early 1990’s and was an important part of ABARE’s modelling for the Ecologically Sustainable Development (ESD) policies. The idea of ‘smart grids’ was a hot topic back then (under different names). The smart meters, which are starting to roll out nearly 20 years later, were an important recommendation from those days. This gives some idea of how long it takes to actually implement these sorts of ideas. I was involved in all that ESD stuff back in the early 1990’s. I recall the strongly held views of certain groups pushing that we could achieve most of the ‘Toronto Targets’* by implementing efficiency improvements and demand side management. ABARE said “give us the numbers and we’ll include your proposals in the models”. The proponents couldn’t give figures. Despite this, ABARE did its best to model the suggestions. ABARE did a lot of good modelling (see Dr Barry Jones et al). But the forecasts that were based on long term trends and their projections of ecomomic growth, were the ones that were correct. This is what ABARE believed would be the case. As ABARE and other more pragmatic and rational groups argued at the time, it is easy to say what we could do to improve efficency in the existing systems (known at that time as “no-regrets” measures), but what we cannot forsee is the new technologies that will increase the demand for electricity.

    * Toronto Targets – “Australia will reduce its CO2 emissions to 20% below 1988 levels by 2005 …(subject to a caveat that said: as long as business is not be disadvantaged)”. Unfortunately, the government of the day had a policy that nuclear energy was banned and was not to be mentioned in reports by the bureaucracy. We seem to be in much the same position now as we were in 1990. It is amazing to me to see how so much of what was proposed in those days is being repeated again now. Many of the blogs on the BNC web site from the renewable energy, and smart grid, DSM and efficiency improvement enthusiasts are very similar to what was being said in the early 1990’s. We are going around the same loop, 20 years later.

    4. Alexi, I’ve kept your best suggestion until last. You said:

    …maybe even non-CCS gas and coal (why not? Under proper international deal, we’ll be paying others to save the planet — nothing wrong with that);

    This really is the key suggestion. And this is what I would like world policy and Australia’s policy to be. We want an international free trade agreement that includes greenhouse gas emissions. It will be managed by the WTO. This would be the least cost way to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Everyone knows that. The economic modelling for IPCC says it clearly and Stern and Garnaut say it too. The problem is the politics.

    If we did go this route, as you suggest, it would generally be a lower cost option for Australia to contribute to other countries reducing their emissions than to massively and suddenly cut our emissions – initially. This is true despite the fact Australia is near the highest GHG emmitter per capita. The reason it is true is that some other countries’ industry is less efficient than ours (although that is changing rapidly). Still, we do have to get the African and other developing nations through the hump onto electricity first and then into reducing their emissions. So it would be best, from a world emissions perspective, for Australia to buy permits (freely traded internationally) until it gets to the point where it is cheaper for us to clean up our own act. Of course there will be a lot we can and must do all the time, I’m not denying that. I’m just saying the best way for the world to cut GHG emissions is the way that is most economically efficient.

    Great suggestions, Alexi. Thanks for the opportunity to get outside of the nuclear/renewables/transmission box. But, having had a little peak at the outside world, I probably should get back in my box now.

  164. Toy example of wind power backed by CCGT.

    Wind available 50% of the time at 4 cents/kWh; lifetime 20 years.
    CCGT available 100% of the time at a variable cost (varting cost of gas) but assumed to average 9 cents/kWh, including carbon offsets purchased; lifetime 20 years at 100%.

    Combining these provides power at an average of 6.5 cents per kWh with only half of the carbon dioxide to be offset, this for 20 years.

    The CCGT is now paid off, so cost of ruuning it drops dramatically and it still can run at 50% of the time for another 20 years before it has to be refurbished/replaced.

  165. I’d like to say some more in response to this comment of Neil Howes’ (#194):

    Peter#191,
    It’s a valid point to have a theoretical simulation of power demand in 2007, but it should consider the whole of Australia. The reality is that it’s going to take 20-30 years to replace all coal-fired power so saying we have to have a solution now that uses no FF is a bit restrictive. It would make more sense to compare a coal replaced by CCGT with other options such as all nuclear or all wind or mixes of 2 or more.

    The reasons I used the scenario described in the papers (2007 NEM demand, current technologies and their current costs) for the simple analyses I’ve done so far are:

    1. to keep it simple (so non-specialists can follow the assumptions and calculations);

    2. to minimise the opportunity for distracting arguments about minutiae; that is, to head-off, to the extent possible, the virtually unlimited number of likely arguments about the assumptions regarding future demand, demand profile, technology options available, which will be the most prospective, and the capital cost of each technology at some time in the future;

    3. to allow us to make use of available, current, detailed data;

    4. I chose to use the NEM demand, rather than whole of Australia demand, because we do not have the detailed demand and supply data for whole of Australia. We can get the 5-minute generation and demand data across all the NEM and for all the individual generators – even for most of the wind generators. There is no such data freely available for Western Australia (that I am aware of).

    5. Importantly, as I commented in post #200, I believe we are in a similar position now as we were in in about 1991 regarding the technology options, the costs, the government policies and the politics. So it is informative to consider what Australia’s electricity generation mix might have been in 2009, if our political leaders (with bi-partisan support) had endorsed nuclear power in 1991 and taken a bipartisan, pro-nuclear policy to the 1993 election. This is where we could be now:

    a. Greenhouse gas emissions some 20% lower than they are;

    b. 5 GW of nuclear power operating (one reactor in each of the mainland states). 5GW coming online about now, another 5 GW under construction and coming on line over the next 5 years. So, by 2015 we would have 15GW of nuclear generation and 20GW or more if we wanted to by 2020.

    c. I do not believe it is irrelevant to look back like this at what could have been. Because, from my perspective, we are in a similar position now as we were in about 1992 and about to repeat the same mistake we made back then. We are now a year at most from the next federal election. The government seems intent on going to that election with an anti-nuclear policy. In 1992 we were in a similar position. The opposition’s policy was to allow nuclear as an option. The Government used that position as an effective divisive tactic to help it win the election. Nuclear was off the agenda for the next 14 years, and is now off the agenda again. I see a very similar situation right now. I can foresee another long delay.

    d. Instead of some 95% of electricity generation related research effort in our universities, CSIRO and others, and modelling by ABARE, ACIL-Tasman, MMA and many other modelling consultancies being dedicated to renewable energy, they would have been mostly working on nuclear energy. So we’ve had 20 years of research with low return on investment. What a waste of our resources!

    And we are about to make similar mistakes again.

  166. Alexi (#198),

    I can not do the sort of modelling analysis you are suggesting. But many others are churning out modelling exerices all the time and applying a wide variety of assumptions.

    I am intending to do a (relatively) simple projection of what we could achieve by 2030 in terms of CO2 emissions and cost. I intend to remove existing coal fired power stations as they reach 40 years age. And replace these and provide extra capacity to meet demand with these options: CCGT, Wind + OCGT + pumped-hydro storage, nuclear + pumped-hydro storage. I will work on current capital costs for the technologies. The figures will be at 5-year increments from 2010.

  167. Confession time: I had no idea until I finally looked it up what a “OCGT” was. It was annoying me tremendously. It stands for “Open Cycle”, which, in American parlance, really is a “simple cycle” GT.

    Errrrr…..

    David

  168. Thanks Peter, I am digesting that.

    “But many others are churning out modelling exerices all the time and applying a wide variety of assumptions.” — would you recommend any particular one to look at? I am looking for ammunition against the Green argument, that a mix of technologies will tackle intermittency easily.

  169. Alexi (#207),

    Off the top of my head, and without going searching, I’d look at

    Energy Supply Association of Australia

    ACIL-Tasman,

    ABARE,

    AEMO (previously NEMMCO)

    And some of the studies I cited in the wind paper.

    These should get you some threads to follow.

  170. David Walters (#209),

    I look forward to hearing more on the real world experience of working with the simple cycle GTs and CCGTs.

    What is the real world practicality of using CCGT’s to back up for fluctuating wind power?

    I received a report a few days ago of the actual rate of change of wind power output being experienced for the total of all the wind farms on the NEM in August. The maximum ratres pof change were: up = 100MW/5min, down = 115MW/5min. The ramp up rate exceeded 50MW/5min 13 times in August. The ramp down rate exceeded 50MW/5min 9 times in August.

    How would CCGT do at handling that?

  171. First, we have to ask how the ISO uses GTs now. For the most part, both OCGTs and CCGTs are integrated into a grid that is largely conventional thermal units, many with load changing capabilities and fairly good predictability of what the load will be throughout the day. This means there is a huge “elasticity” of generation and, the bigger the grid, the more elasticity.

    Now, most GTs are ‘baseloaded’. This means the opposite of what the jargon for the grid, it means they get turned on (either for peak or, because some expected load didn’t arrive for a variety of reasons) and go to their ‘loadlimit’. This is essentially what they were built for.

    The CCGT plays this role also but…has better loading changing capabilities because there are, basically two power plants in one: a GT and and Steam turbine, the later with governor valves that can respond to load. But more importantly, such as the wildly popular GE Frame 7, it uses a remarkable controller called a Mark V (now Mark IV) which can actually regulate the firing of the GT to control the steam turbine for a specific total MW target…and do so VERY fast. The big issue with these suckers is that they are limited at how *low* they can go without tripping off line. Always tricky even with a Mark VI.

    When the CCGTs were *conceived and designed* they were done so as highly efficient *peaking* generators that had a secondary role of multi-hour, even multi-day *baseload* generators.

    OCGTs were never conceived of load changers at all, even though they can. In the industry efficiency is not measured as a percentage. It’s measured in *heat rate*. The heat rate of 99% of all simply cycle GT is very, very bad. 10,000 is a number that is very common. This is he same as my 40 year old conventional, crappy, gas thermal unit. From what I remember, the HR of a brand new simple cycle GE Frame 7 is about 9,200 ( this needs to be references for sure). This also sucks. What sucks more is when it goes down on load, say, from it’s 172MWs (at sea level) down to it’s minimum at about 110MWs. The heat rate starts going up to about 12,000 or higher. In other words, the expense of running a simple cycle unit down on load is really, really bad and expensive. I believe this is true with the most advanced GT out there, the LNS-100 from GE which is designed to only run in simple cycle mode at a very efficient heat rate (8000 I think). Load changing it’s not being marketed as.

    So…if you have bunches of CCGTs running, the more elastic load changing, generally, you have. Can a *lot* of OCGTs and CCGTs handle the wild fluctuation of rapidly changing wind: yes. The operating word is “lots”. This means that despite the generally low heat rate of CCGTs (5,000s to 7,000s) and the ability to follow load, prodigious amounts of natural gas will be burned, uneconomically, to accommodate the winds eclectic and temperamental output.

    David

  172. David Walters (# ),

    Thank you for this reply. It is very interesting and informative. It’s really great to receive comments from people who have worked at the ‘coal face’. There are many others contributing on the BNC web site too. Its great.

    You have enlightened me with your post. I am surprised by what you say about the relative suitability of OCGT and CCGT for load following. I do also note your very important last paragraph.

    Do you agree that Figure 3 in “Cost and Quantity of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Avoided by Wind Farms” (http://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/peter-lang-wind-power.pdf ) portrays the roles and relative economics of the technologies correctly? The figure is copied from Exhibit 1-2 in Intelligent Energy Systems’ report for the NSW Electricity Pricing Tribunal: http://www.ipart.nsw.gov.au/documents/Pubvers_Rev_Reg_Ret_IES010304.pdf

    OCGT and CCGT are described on page 2.7 as follows:

    • The coal generator is a base load plant that runs all the time. It has a cost structure of high capital costs and low fuel costs.

    • The CCGT is an intermediate generator. Compared to the base load generator it has lower capital costs but higher fuel costs.

    • The OCGT is a peaking generator that is optimum for low capacity factor usage.

    Further down the page is this statement:

    • OCGT has the lowest average cost at operating capacity factors of less than 14%;

    • CCGT the lowest average cost for operating capacity factors between 14% and 55%;

    • Coal plant the lowest average cost at operating capacity factors greater than 55%.

    I’d be interested to know whether you think Exhibit 1.2 (and Exhibit 2.3, p2.9) give the correct impression of their respective roles and economics?

    This is all for my education. If there is a fundamental flaw in the wind paper, then the sooner I find it and fix it the better.

  173. Hi Peter,
    well, I don’t have documentation with me but it I don’t understand the numbers they present. To wit:

    • The coal generator is a base load plant that runs all the time. It has a cost structure of high capital costs and low fuel costs.

    I agree in general here.

    • The CCGT is an intermediate generator. Compared to the base load generator it has lower capital costs but higher fuel costs.

    This is what I was saying about it’s initial design and intent, it’s “Marketing” so to speak. It is however increasingly used AS a baseloader generator but it can be easily taken off line at night. So it’s highly flexible. But it’s heatrate is as good or better than *any* other thermal unit which in some case, depending on the price of gas, can be *lower* than coal. Rarely, but true.

    • The OCGT is a peaking generator that is optimum for low capacity factor usage.

    Yes, it’s a peaker and is inline with what I noted. But it’s “capacity factor” is…well, it’s not a good term to use. This is where industry jargon is much better and more appropriate: it’s *availability* by definition needs to be 100% for it function as a peaker. The real-world capacity, that this what it actually runs *as determined by the load*, maybe low, but irrelevant. It’s function is different than a base load plant.

    Further down the page is this statement:

    • OCGT has the lowest average cost at operating capacity factors of less than 14%;

    • CCGT the lowest average cost for operating capacity factors between 14% and 55%;

    • Coal plant the lowest average cost at operating capacity factors greater than 55%.

    Probably true…I’m not sure how they parse these numbers but ideally the ISO pays, via rate increases for the operator of the OCGT, for ONLY *availability* and nothing else. They are also paying for all fuel costs as well. This means the *less* it runs the better off everyone is: because it implies a better scheduling of base load facilities, outages, etc. It means all nuclear is running, hydro available, gas and coal thermal units online etc. This is why it’s important for people to stop thinking of all MWs as equal, they are not.

    I am particularly resentful of some renewable advocates who think willy-nilly to keep these plants running or available or as permanently part of the mix as if there are zero costs or the costs are incidental. They are not. As California’s own usage has shown, natural gas production for electricity generation is going up, and going up every year because of the wide scale, ISO approved use of both OCGTs and CCGTs.

    Generally, the CCGTs are used, as I noted above and and in my previous comment *as* baseloaded plants, running 24/7 if gas prices are, as the are now, low. As this huge, rapidly growing sector of the energy market (MUCH bigger than wind or solar, I might add) these assets become “obiligitory run” units because the renewable single digit percentages of the ‘capacity’ of the system goes to double-digit, then we have to pay for more and more of these ‘cheap’ GTs…but because of the unreliability of the renewables (still, to this day, NO industrial storage for renewables, including pump-storage) then MORE and MORE gas is burned. The gas companies LOVE this. For every MW of renewables they they get to build 2 to 3 MWs of NG plants. What’s not to like?

    David

  174. David,

    Fantastic information for me. Thank you very much.

    I’d love to hear your comments on three of the papers I cited in the wind paper (if you have time to look at them). They are:

    Royal Academy of Engineering: http://www.raeng.org.uk/news/publications/list/reports/Cost_Generation_Commentary.pdf

    Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research: http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/research/theme2/final_reports/t2_24.pdf

    and the report mentioned my previous post by IES for the NSW Electrcity Pricing Tribunal: http://www.ipart.nsw.gov.au/documents/Pubvers_Rev_Reg_Ret_IES010304.pdf

  175. I’ve just heard something from a solar/wind presentation that sounded unbelievable. Basically, the presenter said that if we changed all power plants to nuclear then the water used to cool them would raise the temperatures of the oceans by 1 to 2 degrees and cause similar problems to those of global warming. A person next to me remarked that coal plants are cooled by water the same way nuclear plants are so why haven’t we heard anything about this problem about the hot water that comes from them. Is there anything to these concerns?

  176. It is indeed unbelievable that this rubbish is being presented as fact. The comparison to coal plant heating is quite correct. The effect is real, but LOCAL. The river just down stream of the plant will be a little warmer than it should be if direct cooling is used. If cooling towers are used, water temperatures are not effected, but water is used (evaporated) so there is less of it in the river. The GLOBAL effect is undetectable because energy releases from power plants are so small compared to the solar energy absorbed by the earth. The solar promoters are right that there is a huge quantity of solar energy available, but neglect how difficult it is to collect this dilute resource, compared to the much smaller but very concentrated energy resources of fossil and nuclear fuels.

  177. Peter I will go over them this weekend when I have more time. They require a serious looksee. I’m not an economist…at all…but I know some general things about the issue from my experience. Some of this stuff should be looked at by our friends on Kirk Sorensen’s blog as well, at energyfromthorium.com for feed back.

    David

  178. OK, so the presenter must’ve had the local effect in mind, just didn’t make it sufficiently clear.

    Luke, can evaporation be used with ocean water? Or would they have to desalinate it first?

  179. It is possible to use dry cooling towers. These are available and have been installed in several, indeed many, locations. I suspect these are a bit more expense initially, but obviously only heat up the air.

    Regarding the rotating reserve, around here these reserve units are sent signals from the grid operator each two seconds; power up a little, power down a little. In this way the reserve units are always ready to go online in case of need.

  180. Peter,
    Thanks for all the details in #200. All of it edifying, and the historical bit is fun.
    But as the answer to my question, not fully convincing. The question was, whether nuclear still wins if renewable mix is optimized; and if yes, by how large a margin.

    I accept you aren’t doing the modelling required for a thorough optimization. Still there may be something you could do. A quick robustness analysis would be, for example, to take a case for wind-with-backup, add a little solar to it. What happens? Etc etc.

    That may seem like too much work.
    So maybe take someone else’s optimized case for renewables, compare to your case for nuclear?
    (Now that’s a crazy idea.)

    Thank you for the leads in #208. A quick hop through them was unavailing, but I’ll look more thoroughly later.

  181. Alexei post #216.

    It came up today at a brown bag lunch presentation on “green jobs” at the City of Sunnyvale campus. Silicon valley is a region with a large amount of solar pv companies. Don’t have the name of the speaker of hand.

    Can you give me more specifics on what “orders of magnitude” means so I can have an explanation with numbers to counter this false claim?

  182. Bunion #197 asked:

    In the last table within paragraph “Appendix – Cost Calculations for Solar Thermal,” under the section “Cost for 25GW baseload power, through…” it shows dramatically reduced Collector Field cost ($1487B vs. $8583B) only because of a disproportionally small increase in storage capacity. Could this be right and would scaling up the storage further reduce the overall cost?

    Good question. Someone is checking.

    I believe the calculations are correct but it is a fictious scenario because solar thermal does not yet have the capability for even 1 day of storage, let alone 3 days or 5 days.

    The collector field capacity required is calculated from the capactity factor. The capacity factor rises over longer periods (see the paper “Solar Power Realities” for more details on this – click on the link at the top of this thread). For 1 day, the capacity factor used in the calculation is 0.75%, for 3 days is 1.56% and for 5 days it is 4.33% (these are based on the actual capacity factors at the Queanbeyan Solar Farm, see the “Solar Power Realities” paper). So less collector field capacity greatly reduces the cost because the collector field capacity is by far the largest cost item.

    Yes, if we could have more storage, the costs would be reduced substantially. Again, I refer you to the “Solar Power Realities” paper for more on this. That paper shows that the minimum cost using pumped hydro is for the case with 30 days of storage (of course, no one has this amount of storage potential so again it is a theoretical calculation). However, if we used NAS batteries, the least cost would be with 5 days of storage. That is because the batteries are much more costly than the pumped-hydro.

    The real point of all this is that solar is totally uneconomic. It is not even worth considering. The comparison to meet the same demand (our 2007 demand) would be nuclear = $120 billion, solar PV with pumped hydro = $2,800 billion, solar PV with NAS batteries = $4,600 billion, solar thermal = can’t be done at any cost!

  183. Mark, my pleasure. And, turns out, I’ve stretched it. Looking at current production of electricity, I am almost right, “orders of magnitude”. Looking at potential production when the whole world is developed, and producing and consuming energy to American or Australian standard, and assuming nuclear power as source for ALL energy, it begins to look as a bit of a concern.

    I compute it at 0.014 deg. C for the current electricity production. But 0.23 deg. C for the future prosperous world.

    Here are the estimates. First, look at the heat system.

    In global warming analysis, they are worrying about things on the order of 1 Watt per square metre.
    Doubling of CO2 is thought to cause 4 Watts per square metre.
    (BEFORE any feedbacks, including water vapor. Just take the atmosphere as it is and enrich it with CO2.)
    Current imbalance is thought to be 1.5 W/m2.

    Earth is estimated to respond to 4 Watts per sq.m, from CO2 doubling, with 3 degrees C of warming – eventually, when it has been given the time to heat up. And when most (but maybe not all – this is a complex issue) feedbacks were allowed to play out.

    Now look at power production.

    There are 6 bln human beings per 500 mln sq. km. of earth surface, 12 chaps per sq. km, 12 chaps per 1000 000 m2.

    Now their consumption. For electric energy as of now, world over, that’s 4000 kWh per capita, according to http://www.nationmaster.com/graph/ene_ele_pow_con_kwh_percap-power-consumption-kwh-per-capita. The year has 8000 hours (24×365), so 4000/8000=0.5 kW of equivalent steady flow of power.
    But with efficiency of thermal power stations, one-third, the raw power has to be 3 times higher, 1.5 kW.

    However may I do a hypothetical 10 kW first.
    Were 10 kW continuously produced per person, that’s 120 000 W per 1000 000 m2, 0.12 W/m2.
    That’s 30+ times smaller than estimated 4W/m2 from a CO2 doubling. Comparing to the 3 degree warming CO2 should cause, we get 3/30=0.1 degrees C.

    Coming back to actual electric production as now, 0.5 kW that needs 1.5 raw thermal power, factor of 7 smaller than 10 kW above, 0.1/7=0.014 degrees C.

    Small. But, look what happens if we look “optimistically” into future, that is assuming the entire world reaches our standard of consumption.

    Australians produce 7622 Watts per person, just found in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_energy_consumption_per_capita. Alas, not sure what it exactly means. Presumably doesn’t count the energy that’s wasted as heat by power stations. (They waste two-thirds.)

    If this much electric energy was produced the way it is now in nuclear plants, three times more – 23 kW – of raw thermal energy would be being produced (15 kW of it wasted as heat.)

    So with whole world consuming energy as Aussies do now, that would be 23 kW of raw thermal energy production per person. 2.3 times more than the hypothetical 10 kW above. So 0.1×2.3 = 0.23 degrees C. Not to worry too much, Global Warming is far worse; but to ignore either.

    Sorry about my exaggeration.

  184. Alexei, there are other versions of this too, which come to similar conclusions.

    David Mackay of U Cambridge, estimates the result of 0.1 W/m2 (worst case) is relatively trivial in terms of climate forcing – total post-industrial GHG forcing is about 2.5 W/m2 (some of which is offset by aerosol cooling and OHC lags). http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/withouthotair/c24/page_170.shtml

    If we got lots and lots of power from nuclear fission or fusion, wouldn’t this contribute to global warming, because of all the extra energy being released into the environment?

    That’s a fun question. And because we’ve carefully expressed everything in this book in a single set of units, it’s quite easy to answer. First, let’s recap the key numbers about global energy balance from p20: the average solar power absorbed by atmosphere, land, and oceans is 238 W/m2; doubling the atmospheric CO2 concentration would effectively increase the net heating by 4 W/m2. This 1.7% increase in heating is believed to be bad news for climate. Variations in solar power during the 11-year solar cycle have a range of 0.25 W/m2. So now let’s assume that in 100 years or so, the world population is 10 billion, and everyone is living at a European standard of living, using 125 kWh per day derived from fossil sources, from nuclear power, or from mined geothermal power.

    The area of the earth per person would be 51 000 m2. Dividing the power per person by the area per person, we find that the extra power contributed by human energy use would be 0.1 W/m2. That’s one fortieth of the 4 W/m2 that we’re currently fretting about, and a little smaller than the 0.25 W/m2 effect of solar variations. So yes, under these assumptions, human power production would just show up as a contributor to global climate change.

    By email, George Stanford said this:

    “Approx. global population: 7E9.
    Average solar power hitting the earth’s surface at ground level = 1 kW / m^2 x pi x (6400 km)^2 = 1.3E14 kW.
    That’s 18.4 MW per person from the sun.
    – – – – – –
    In 2007, the U.S. used 101 quads of energy = 101 x 2.93E11 kWh = 3.0E13 kWh, for an average power usage of 3.4E9 kW.
    Pop. of US = ~3.00E8. Thus average power consumption per person = 3.4E9/2.0E8 = 11 kW.
    – – – – – –
    Thus if the whole world used energy at the per capita rate of the U.S., that would be adding 11 / 18,400 = 0.06% to the total energy input to the biosphere. (BTW, that’s about 6 times the rate at which geothermal energy reaches the surface.)”

    Now, based on our best estimate of climate sensitivity, you get 0.75C per W/m2 of forcing, so Mackay’s estimate of 0.1W/m2 would predict a warming of 0.075C, which is a bit smaller than Alexei’s estimate — but that’s only for fast feedback sensitivity so you might want to double it for equilibrium, which is 0.15C.

  185. Alexei – post 225.

    Wow and thank you very much. Let me see if I can say this a bit simpler. If by magic say we could instantaneously get rid of every single source of man made CO2 emissions from power generation and replace that with nuclear then we trade off adding degrees rise in global temperature for 1 to 3 tenths of a degree rise in global temperature. However, there is NO concern if we heat the globe up 1 to 3 tenths of a degree. So it’s a none issue.

  186. Peter,
    sorry we’re using your thread for this discussion. Hopefully you aren’t cross with us.

    Barry,
    thanks, correction taken. Long-term sensitivity could well be double, i.e. 6 degrees per CO2 doubling.
    It is prudent to double my numbers.

    Mark,
    My numbers apparently agree with Mackay’s. His case exactly matches my “hypothetical” – he takes twice the population but half the power production.
    You should double my numbers, though, to be prudent, as Barry reminded us. And, do not dismiss too readily a 0.1-0.3 degree C temperature rise. Not if combined with temperature rise from other sources. “Non-issue” it is not. But you’re right that it is dwarfed by the CO2 danger.

  187. @ Peter Lang, #24:

    Why in the world do they have that one single wind turbine sitting there next to all 8 of the Pickering reactors? What on Earth is it supposed to accomplish? Is it supposed to be some kind of marketing tool?

  188. Alexei – 229

    Besides the great cost involved in providing 24/7 electricity with solar, I understand that solar power has quite a bit larger CO2 emissions than nuclear. Would solar power related CO2 emissions be as problematic to global warming as the hot water from nuclear power plants?

  189. Mark, I have never looked into that, and do not know which factors must be reckoned with. I could look up some numbers and make some estimates, but I could easily miss important factors.

    Like this one: do we have to emit CO2 while making solar panels? Maybe not. Even if CO2 must be produced, it could be sequestered. CCS is a big expense for coal power; but for solar-panel making, my gut feeling is, it should be affordable.

    Maybe someone else here will help.

  190. Alexei (232) — All industrial processes generate some CO2, if only for current generation transportation. If the amounts are modest, figure in the costs of buying (honest) carbon offsets.

    Probably not the best route for, say, Portland cement making.

  191. Alexi (#221)

    My apologies for the delay in responding. I am working on yours (and others’) request

    I am going away for about 2 weeks and am trying to get a very simple projection of CO2 emissions and Capital Expenditure at 5 year intervals (2010 to 2050), for four scenarios:

    1. BAU (based on the ABAR projections of electricity generation to 2030)
    2. CCGT
    3. Nuclear (with CCGT built until 2020)
    4. Wind and Gas

    If this first version seems useful, I may add to more options:

    5. Wind and pumped hydro storage
    6. Wind and on-site storage (NAS batteries)

    Regarding your earlier request Post #207) for modelling results, here is one that was released by ATSE in late 2008.

    http://www.atse.org.au/uploads/EnergyClimateChange.pdf

    It uses a probabilistic approach. I am not impressed with their p10, p50 and p90 values for the future generating technologies. They look to ne to be clearly biased against nuclear and pro renewables. That would make sense given the strong representation of renewables researchers in overseeing the study. However, this may lead you to some of the other studies.

  192. Esteban Siadora (224)

    The NEEDS report (link provided above) explains that the present state of the art is about 7.5 hours of storage with trough technology, which is their selection of the most prospective soar thermal technology. They project that 16 hour storage to be achieved by 2020. However, we need 18 hours just to gat through one night in winter. We’d need at least 3 days storage to allow solar to be considered as a basload generator.

    So the position is that no matter how much money we throw at it, we just do not have the technology yet.

  193. Mark (#231) asked:

    Besides the great cost involved in providing 24/7 electricity with solar, I understand that solar power has quite a bit larger CO2 emissions than nuclear. Would solar power related CO2 emissions be as problematic to global warming as the hot water from nuclear power plants?

    For the non-fossil fuel burning technologies, the CO2 emissions come from the mining, processing, milling, manufacturing, construction, decommissioning, waste disposal and the transport between all these steps. Most of the emissions come from all the processes related to steel and concrete and the emissions are roughly proportional to the mass of these materials per MWH or energy generated over the life of the plant. There is much more material involved per MWh for renewables than for nuclear. So higher emissions from renewables. Also recall that solar and wind require a massive over build to be able to produce the energy we need during cloudy and low wind weather. Furthermore, nuclear power stations have an economic life in the order of three times that of renewable technologies. Put it all together and you find that the solar thermal power station emits about twenty times more than nuclear, about 1/3 as much as a coal fired plant and little less than CCGT plant.

    Nuclear power plants also have some emissions from the uranium enrichment process. As this is due to electricity use, it is negligible when the electricity is generated by nuclear power. However it often shows up as a significant component in many studies using electricity generated by fossil fules. In this case it is still less than the contribution from construction.

  194. Mark (#231),

    Further to my post $236 in answer to your question in post (#231), links to the pdf articles are included in the article at the top of this thread; these will give more information and should answer some of your questions.

  195. Now Peter@236

    I think you are being a tad naughty in your attribution of emissions. The only fair way to speak of emissions is as a relationship between output of power and CO2e.

    The fact that solar thermal and wind don’t have equivalent CF to nuclear is relevant to the quality of the power, but not the CO2 footprint, so you can’t include overbuild assumptions.

    I also don’t see where you get your life of plant calculations. Since no commercial solar thermal plants are in operation, AFAIK, we can’t say they will only last 20 years, and although it may well be wise to upgrade wind farms if better materials anf technology for harvest arise in the future, there’s no reason to suppose a wind farm can’t last 60 years.

    Even if you have to change some of the gears or rotor parts, that’s not the same as building an entirely new plant — more like replacing components in a nuclear plant.

  196. Fran (#238),

    Thank you for your comment. There are some good points to get my teeth into in this post.

    I think you are being a tad naughty in your attribution of emissions.

    Maybe. Let’s see

    The only fair way to speak of emissions is as a relationship between output of power and CO2e.

    I’d say the only fair way to compare emissions from different technologies is on a properly comparable basis. One such fair basis is to compare GHG emissions per unit energy (e.g. t CO2-eq/MWh) over the full life cycle (Note: not a fuel cycle analysis which is often used and is biassed towards renewables – watch out for that one). Another better way is on an equivalent energy value basis. This is because a MWh of energy from a wind farm is not the same value as a MWh of energy from a baseload plant, or a peaking plant. The energy from the wind farm is almost valueless. No one would buy it if they weren’t mandated to do so.

    The fact that solar thermal and wind don’t have equivalent CF to nuclear is relevant to the quality of the power, but not the CO2 footprint, so you can’t include overbuild assumptions.

    Not true. Consider the solar power station. The emissions per MWh calculated by Sydney Uni, ISA for the UMPNE report were for a solar plant with a given capacity. They calculated the emissions for all the material and divided that by the MWh the plant was expected to generate over its life. So if you need twice or ten times as much installed capacity to get the energy output you need, then you have all that extra GHG emissions embedded in the extra materials. The emissions increase in direct proportion to the amount of materials used in the plant. Bigger plant for the same energy output means more emissions per unit energy.

    I also don’t see where you get your life of plant calculations. Since no commercial solar thermal plants are in operation, AFAIK, we can’t say they will only last 20 years, and although it may well be wise to upgrade wind farms if better materials anf technology for harvest arise in the future, there’s no reason to suppose a wind farm can’t last 60 years.

    The life of plant calculation come from the NEEDS report. However, they are commonly quoted. Usually 20 years to 25 years for solar. However, as you say we do not have evidence for that because none have been around long enough to demonstrate it. I suspect it will turn out to be mush shorter than what the optimistic researchers are claiming. Wind farms are already beeing pulled down and there are attempts to sell the old, outdated structures and turbines to developing countries. No one is buying. The intention is to replace them with bigger and better wind generators to make better use of the site. Because the new structures are bigger, everything has to be replaced. The foundations have to be much bigger, the structure and the transmissions lines. It is a complete replacemnt job. So all the emissions embedded in the original wind farm components and site work have to be divided by a shorter economic life. We now find they were actually much higher per unit energy than estimated originally. The same is the case for solar. It will be out of date long before 20 years and will become uneconomic.

    Even if you have to change some of the gears or rotor parts, that’s not the same as building an entirely new plant — more like replacing components in a nuclear plant.

    As explained above, wind generation equipment is being totally replaced already. Nuclear plants are upgraded and up rated but that is not a whole sale replacement of the structure.

    Thanks Fran. It is good to have the opportunity to answer these questions.

    By the way, this was sent to me today:
    http://www.lasvegassun.com/news/2009/sep/18/dirty-detail-solar-panels-need-water/

  197. Mark @231

    Another way to look at it is emissions avoided during power production. I once read an article claiming (from memory) –

    Every kilowatt hour produced by wind replaces a kilowatt hour produced by CO2 emitting coal plants.

    Now, as we have seen thats just not true.

    In simplified terms: due to their intermittent nature, 1GW (nameplate capacity – because thats what the public is told they produce) of wind/solar cannot replace a 1GW coal power plant, the coal plant stays operational (or is replaced with a new one) and very little CO2 emissions are avoided.

    However; a 1GW nuclear power plant CAN replace the 1GW coal plant, therefore ALL of the emissions from the now closed coal plant are avoided. (I’ve excluded embodied emissions here -out of my league – but when you consider the renewable option could require the building of wind/solar plants AND a new coal plant, the ‘one out, one in’ nuclear option has got to be better on that count too.)

    You could say then, the failure of wind/solar power to be able to replace CO2 emitting power sources, GW (nameplate) for GW, means they have high indirect emissions associated with them that nuclear power does not.

    Those ‘high indirect emissions’ amount to continued global warming.

  198. Regarding my post #236m

    Put it all together and you find that the solar thermal power station emits about twenty times more than nuclear, about 1/3 as much as a coal fired plant and little less than CCGT plant.

    Fran is correct that this staement needs more explanation. I was referring to the 1,600GW of solar thermal capacity needed to produce 25GW baseload power throught the year. That is an overbuild of 64 times. This means 64 times as much steel concrete, transport etc for this plans as for just 25GW of peak apacity.

    The sentence quoted shoud be restaed as follows:

    “Put it all together and the solar power station with the capacity described in the ‘Solar Power Realities’ paper emits about twenty times more GHG than nuclear, about 1/3 as much as a coal fired plant and little less than CCGT plant per MWh on a life cycle analysis basis.”

  199. First off, thanks again to all.
    Second, has the heating of H2O by nuclear power plants and the problem it poses to global warming been adequately address? Are there anymore constructive thoughts about this? If this became a problem then could reactors be build that would diminish this effect. Maybe using that heat for something else before putting the water back in the water supply.

  200. “Second, has the heating of H2O by nuclear power plants and the problem it poses to global warming been adequately address?”

    The heat energy put out by nuclear power plants, or any other kind of thermal plant for that matter, is so miniscule in comparison to the other energy flows through the ocean and atmosphere that this is a non-issue.

  201. Mark (#243),

    From my perspective, the effect of the heat energy released by nuclear and by buring fossil fules (they are roughly the same per unit of electricity generated) is a way down in the weeds issue. It is about as relevant to climate change as is the ongoing release of natural geothermal energy. They are both so small that they can be ignored in all the analyses we are doing now..

    We must apply the Pareto Principle (see link) if we are going to make any headway.

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

    We didn’t apply this to policy on CO2 emissions in the early 1990’s when we last had the opportunity to do so and we’ve lost about 20 years of progress towards cutting GHG emissions as a result.

  202. Mark, 243. Not sure what exactly you mean.
    Do David B. Benson’s 220 and Luke’s 217 answer at least partially your question?
    Why specifically H2O heating, are you concerned about H2O evaporation, it being a greenhouse gas?
    You may want to re-phrase.

  203. Neil Howes and Alexei,

    You requested/suggested some modelling be done. Neil wanted to see the projected CO2-eq emissions and capital expenditure at 2020 and 2030 for the options we’ve been discussing. Alexi suggested some sensitivity analyses to consider mixing various proportions of the various technologies.

    I am going away for about two weeks, so I will not get any of this completed for at least the next three weeks.

    Alexei’s suggestion is too big a job for me to handle at this stage. Many such modelling exercises have been done. One 2008 report readers might like to look at is here: http://www.atse.org.au/uploads/EnergyClimateChange.pdf

    This report http://www.aciltasman.com.au/images/pdf/419_0035.pdf
    provides projected unit costs for energy and power, and provides much of the other information needed for detailed modelling. I do not believe some of the unit cost figures are what would actually apply if we were to get serious about implementing low-emissions, low-cost electricity generation.

    This provides a cost for a new wind farm (commissioned this month) ($2.344 million/MW) http://ecogeneration.com.au/news/waubra_wind_farm/005001/ (there are several other examples and all around the same unit cost.

    This explains the costs of wind power, many of which are not included in the capital cost figure of the wind farm (power station): http://www.mnforsustain.org/windpower_schleede_costs_of_electricity.htm

    Neil, I’ve started on your suggestion. I tried to keep it simple. But it isn’t. The further I go the more complicated it gets. For each technology projected efficiencies, unit costs, and CO2-eq emissions per MWh change over time. The capacity credit for wind power has to change as the proportion of wind power changes. The capital expenditure needs to include the cost of ongoing replacement of existing plant. For the BAU case I needed to include the cost of replacing coal fired power stations at 40 years age with new coal at that time, and with the applicable projected emissions factors and unit cost. It’s not simple. But I am progressing with it. The pumped hydro paper is being reviewed. I haven’t received feedback yet.

  204. Neil Howes,

    I’ve received a reply from one of the people who is checking my draft Pumped Hydro paper. He has checked the calculations and the cost figures (ball park) and calculated revenue. He says I have significantly under-estimated the tunnel costs. He also says the power must be estimated on the minimum head not the average head. He says as follows:

    One would have to assume that the available head is between the minimum operating level at Tangagara, MOL = 1,207 and the full supply level at Blowering, FSL = 380 because any operator would have to guarantee 95% reliability for his peaking power. Thus, the gross head for power generation is MOL – FSL = 827 m.
    … P computes to be P = 7,860 MW

    I had calculated 8994MW from the average head difference and lower friction losses in the tunnels.

    He also checked my cost estimates and says:

    “… the construction costs may be closer to $15 billion than $7 billion as you have estimated, which will bring the cost per installed kW back into the range of $2,000/kW which is about what pumped storage schemes cost these days.”

    Lastly, he sums up by saying:

    I do not mean to discourage you but the capital expenditure for a pumped storage scheme between Tantangara and Blowering seems prohibitive because of the scale of the investment, the high up-front costs and the long period for investors to recover their money. Unfortunately, politicians and banks take a much shorter view of life when it comes to political or financial gains and it seems to me that your idea, as much as I like hydro, seems to be condemned to the ‘not economical’ basket.

    The person who has done this check for me has been investigating and building hydro schemes all his life and still is.

    I believe there is an important message here for Neil Howes and the other readers who are very keen that renewables are implemented. Enthusiasm and belief will not make RE economically viable. We frequently go too far with our beliefs, and force our politicians to make dreadfful mistakes. The pumped hydro is not viable, yet renewable advocates want to argue for it in an attempt to make wind and solar appear viable. Solar thermal is not viable but its advocates want to push for subsidies for it despite the costs. Wind is twice the cost that advocates say it is. All the recent wind farms are costing around $2.2 million/MW to 2.5 million/MW.

    Renewable energy advocates, please take note of this.

  205. Peter, thanks.
    Sensitivity analysis is just one conceivable way… the goal is to proof your comparisons against this potential criticism:

    “Peter Lang compared nuclear to A+B, A+C, B+D etc… but it is ONLY with the entire A+B+C+D mix that our case shines.” (not a real quote, obviously)

    I cannot, as of now, defend against this criticism. I will check the link you provide, though.

  206. Thankyou Peter Lang for all your diligence and hard work in answering the many comments and queries elicited by your excellent posts.
    I hope you are going on a holiday for your two weeks away – you certainly deserve one!

  207. Perps, Thank you for those comments.

    Alexei, I think you are asking me for more than I can do. Applying the Pareto Principle you can see from the papers so far provided:

    1. Wind power saves little GHG emissions compared with nuclear; has very high avoidance cost (>$800/t CO2-eq) compared with nuclear ($22/t CO2-eq); is high cost and generates low value energy (see previous posts). If you look at the chart near the end of the “Cost and Quantity of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Avoided by Wind Generation” paper you can see this information. And that is for the nearest to being economic of the renewable energy technologies. The others are worse.

    2. Solar power (both PV and thermal) are totally uneconomic compared with nuclear. They are 20 to 40 times higher cost than nuclear to produce the equivalent output. The “Solar Power Realities” and the “Solar Power Realities – Addendum” papers show this. So there is little to be gained by mixing and optimising technologies that are uneconomic by a factor of 20 to 40 and have higher emissions. I believe the information for the comparison you waant is avalable in the papers already postred on the BNC web site. We know that there isv alue in having about 8GW of pumped hydro combined with nuclear. That reduces the nuclear option by about 10% compared with nuclear only.

    3. Transmission costs, alone, to support renewable energy are far higher than the total cost of the nuclear option. The cost of transmission for the renewables is presented in the article at the top of this thread. It shows that the just the trunk transmission lines for solar thermal in the deserts and for wind farms located along the south coast of Australia ($180 billion) is higher cost than the whole nuclear option ($120 billion). And that is just for the trunk lines. The whole transmission system upgrade needed to handle renewables would be probably twice the cost of the trunk lines.

    I’d argue the information you are asking for is already available. It is a matter of getting to understand it. We have to be careful not to make so many mixes and matches that we simply confuse everyone.

    There is one thing that Neil Howes asked for and I agree it would be helpful. That is, the CO2 emissions and captital expenditure at key intermediate dates in the path to total removal of fossil fuels from electricity generation. Neil asked for these values at 2020 and 2030. I am working on providing them at 5 year intervals from 2010 to 2050. But it will take me some time to comoplete that.

  208. Peter, thank you for the effort and patience… I do not at all want to distract you from that other equally, or more, worthy dimension that you’re going to explore.

    So, the following is not intended as further prodding, but merely information:

    With your encouragement that “information you’re asking for is already available”, I’ll keep looking.
    For now, the best unimpeachable comparison that I can make for nuclear-vs-renewables, is:

    Nuclear with hydro storage and storage-mandated transmission costs
    versus
    CCS gas and coal, wind, solar, in any proportion between the three; NO storage; NO storage-mandated transmission —
    comparison being by cost per kWh, assuming all capacity is always used, no intermittency problem.

  209. Well, David Mackay’s strategy may well work. The operative term is “slash energy consumption by 50%”. If you built 60 new nuclear stations, however, you wouldn’t need to slash energy consumption by 50% you could probably increase it.

    Outside of a serious Pol Pot approach to consumption, these features of energy starvation are, in a way, barbaric and, unnecessary.

    The approach to solving climate issues is figure out what we want to do, develop a serious plan, not one where everyone are automatons and ready to ‘sacrifice for the good of all’ and we all live in what is essentially a neo-Malthusian world.

    Why don’t British environmentalists come out an say here are the major carbon emitters and why: coal, transportation, etc etc and begin to address each one with nuclear or other non-carbon solutions that allow for an *expansion* of energy usage while making things cleaner, greener and more efficient. Alas…

    David

  210. OMG!

    And if all of America adopted the same energy efficiency policies that California is now putting in place, the country would never have to build another power plant.

    From the site whose link you provide. David, this is so wrong it’s hard to know where to start.

    California adopted the energy efficiency problem in the 1970s into the 1980s. What efficiency FAILED to account for was *growth*!!!!! Efficiency brought down some, and held down overall per-capita increases in energy use. But it can ONLY do that. Once you increase population and increase the *economy* NOT building plants is *exactly* why we had this huge transfer of wealth under deregulation in 2000/2001!!! If had built gas plants and/or nuclear plants, there would of been no energy crisis, period (outside of an increase in gas prices which really started the whole thing).

    The *reliance* on “efficiency” was a total and absolute disaster for California and this web site *boasts* about how well it works. My, my.

    California today is building over 10,000 MWs of CCGTs. So much for “efficiency”.

    David

  211. David@256

    I think Mackay’s modelling was based on assumptions about build times, the patterns of energy usage, and a view of sustainable as what would allow for a 1000 years of energy usage at the European level of about 125kwH/per person per day on a world scale.

  212. 125kwH/per person per day? Hmmm…. I use about 256 KWhrs a month. Average US home, no AC but a 50inch flat screen. You sure about that? At any rate, the point in Fran, is that none of what he looks at can work without this “efficiency” model.

    At the end of the day it cannot, by definition, account of growth. There is simply no getting around that.

    On a per capita basis, without parsing Mackay’s numbers, there is going to have to be a vast increase in per capita energy use. I see no way around it.

    I think his world view is flawed. Again, we need to look at our goals, sectionalize it out to achievable ends and work up from there. Mackay is in the Lovin’s school of ‘negawatts’. I live through that as Lovins was writings how glorius Governor Brown’s efficiency models were working (and they were, as it happens) and them *poof*. The state grew and that ended that.

    Efficiency needs to be placed in it’s proper context. View from a military objective, efficiency is but on tactic to use. As is conservation. The strategy, as opposed to tactics, involves the issues of energy growth, economic growth, nuclear and/or renewables, etc.

    David

  213. Peter@239

    I’d say the only fair way to compare emissions from different technologies is on a properly comparable basis. One such fair basis is to compare GHG emissions per unit energy (e.g. t CO2-eq/MWh) over the full life cycle

    Just so, assuming you can get reliable, pertinent data.

    [...] Another better way is on an equivalent energy value basis. This is because a MWh of energy from a wind farm is not the same value as a MWh of energy from a baseload plant, or a peaking plant. The energy from the wind farm is almost valueless. No one would buy it if they weren’t mandated to do so.

    I disagree, and not only because your statement is too sweeping. It is true as I noted that non- less-despatchable sources are of less value, in much the same way frequent flier miles aren’t as valuable as the redeemable value in notional cash terms. Trying to factor in overbuild to have like with like and mapping Co2 from that simply looks like special pleading.

    It’s more honest to say — sure, lifecycle analysis of wind is about 5g per KwH, but when considering feasibility this is not the only or even a decisive consideration. Wind is a poor match for many of our energy usages because it is insufficiently dispatchable, limited by site constraints which impose ancillary costs such as line connection which don’t apply to more conventional sources. Unless we can do without the utility offered by conventional sources in favour of the utility of intermittent sources, one can really only compare CO2 footprints of things that can operate in lieu of the sources of energy we wish to replace.

    With this caveat, one can point out that we humans are not merely interested in energy of any quality and quantity, any more than we are interested in water or nutrient or shelter of any quality or quantity. Even those of us who see lowering Co2 emissions as a paramount consideration in energy policy cannot be indifferent to other feasibility considerations. Self-evidently, if each tonne of CO2e avoided/permanently sequestered using wind, for example costs ten times as much as each tonne of CO2e avoided/permanently sequestered using some other source that has five times the CO2e intensity of wind, then we are, ceteris paribus, still way ahead using the second energy source in preference to wind, because for a given spend we can still double our reduction.

    And there would be places where resort to wind and PV would be the best solution — small non-grid connected rural villages, where oncost and build time and the capacity to maintain a solution locally are key considerations, and where on-demand power is not as important as it is in large conurbations and can be met adequately by resort to ADs with waste biomass as feedstock. The fact that the solution doesn’t scale up isn’t really relevant to its feasibility, unless one wanted to argue that this should be done on a world scale. I udnerstand there is some island off the coast of Denmark that has done this — and well done them.

    I believe we should stay away from overselling nuclear or overstating the constraints on resort to renewables. An candid and compelling case in comparative utility for nuclear over most renewables already exists without putting our thumbs on the scales.

  214. David@260
    Mackay’s 125 kWh/day figure is total energy use, including transport and a per capita share of commercial/industrial usage, not just domestic electricity consumption. His major efficiency gains are from replacing today’s cars and trucks with electric vehicles and electric mass transit wherever possible, and from replacing gas-fired space/hot water heating with solar thermal (works, just about, even in our climate), and heat pumps. His main aim is to make people aware of the scale of the challenge, so that it becomes obvious to everyone that objecting to windfarms AND nukes AND lifestyle changes is an untenable position. He acknowledges that the most economic solution is just to build lots of nukes, and sets out what it will cost, in money, disrupted landscapes and reduced comfort, if you don’t like that solution.

  215. For those who want the facts about the actual wind power output from ALL the wind farms on the NEM, you can now download it in csv (see link below). The following is an extract from an email just arrived this morning:

    (Peter L, as of a couple of days ago, Andrew has now captured the balance of the data from the large windfarms. You will remember that one of your blog contributors noticed that there was a discrepancy between the total installed capacity of Andrew’s set and the listed total installed capacity. The St Halletts 1 & 2, Snowtown, Clement’s Gap etc others are seperately categorised on the NEMMCO/ AEMO site. These are now extracted and listed.)

    My thanks and congratulations to Andrew Miskelly for achieving this. I wonder why can’s AEMO provide this capability. In fact, why can we mine the data in GapMibnder: http://www.gapminder.org/ then click on ‘explore the world’.

  216. “A new study by Xi Lu of Harvrd University calculates that wind power in the U.S. could potentially generate 16 times the nation’s current electricity production. The study limits potential wind farm locations to rural, nonforested sites (both of land and offshore) with high wind speeds.” from the October 2009 issue of Scientific American, page 28

  217. Fran (#259),

    Do you beleive there is any question about the sustainability of nuclear fuel over 1000 years.

    Do you believe wind, solar or other renewables are more sustainable than nuclear?

    If so, do some calculations on powering the world with hese technologies, calculate the quantities of materials required and where they will come from. Calculate the area of land that ould have to be mined and the quantitires of earth moved. Do the same for all parets of the process chain.

    The problem is that RE advocates condcern themselves only with the fuel. That is why the comparisons must be on a life cylce analysis basis.

    Nuclear is far more sustainable over the long term than solar and wind. Crunch the numbers.

  218. David Benson (#257),

    Energy efficiency is THE core climate solution, Part 1: The biggest low-carbon resource by far

    This statement is just as wrong now as it was in 1991 to 1993, the last time we had the opportunity to implement polices to build nuclear, and let it slip away.

    This belief was pushed then, accepted by the government and has proved to be wrong. ABARE’s modelling at the time, and many other pragmatic voices, said it was wrong, but the voices like yours won the day. We lost 20 years then, and if this voice wins again we may lose another 20 years again.

  219. Peter re #264,

    Did you forget to post the link to the AEMO wind farm data? I cannot find this at Gapminder. Are you referring to this site? ->

    http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au/data/aemo/

    David re #265 :

    The paper I assume this article refers to is :

    Lu, McElroy & Kiviluoma, (2009), Global potential for wind-generated electricity, PNAS, vol 106, no 27, pp10933-10938

    There are some very important issues regarding affects on local climate from wind farms mentioned in the conclusion of this paper which your quote omits :

    —-

    “The potential impact of major wind electricity development on the circulation of the atmosphere has been investigated in a number of recent studies (22, 23). Those studies suggest that high levels of wind development as contemplated here could result in significant changes in atmospheric circulation even in regions remote from locations where the turbines are deployed.”

    “In ramping up exploitation of wind resources in the future it will be important to consider the changes in wind resources that might
    result from the deployment of a large number of turbines, in addition to changes that might arise as a result of human-induced
    climate change, to more reliably predict the economic return expected from a specific deployment of turbines.”

    —-

    The effect on local climate, particularly for farmers hosting turbines and their neighbouring farms, is a significant issue that must be researched before there is any further widespread deployment of industrial scale wind energy developments. The fact is that industrial scale wind energy still requires a significant amount of research (environmental / ecological / health etc.) to understand the negative impacts of deployment.

    For some more links regarding local climate effects see my recent post #187 on Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang responds. For some comments from IPCC regarding industrial scale wind energy research requirements see post #154 on the same page. For some important research, in addition to Peter Lang’s, regarding CO2 emissions / geographic diversity effects see my posts #141 & #144 on the same page :

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/13/wind-and-carbon-emissions-peter-lang-responds

  220. Peter, you forgot to provide a link to Andrew Miskelly’s wind data in CSV format.

    Bryen, the other thing David B’s statement ignores is whether it is practical to harness this energy. I have no doubt there is huge wind and wave potential on top of solar. Indeed, the earth receives vastly more solar energy each year than humans require. That is not the problem — the problem is in economically harvesting, storing and redistributing it as useful electricity, as the recent posts in this blog has repeatedly and patiently tried to point out.

  221. Do you believe there is any question about the sustainability of nuclear fuel over 1000 years

    Mackay in his discussion distinguishes between resort to uranium used in LWRs and assuming only RARs for uranium and not including resort to ocean-based uranium. Unsurprisingly, the LWR based on RARs is not sustainable for 1000 years at current usage. Of course we will take what we need so this doesn’t settle the matter. FBRs, IFRs, Thorium and if necessary, seawater recovery will all be followed in preference to going without, so my answer is yea but no. (ack: Little Britain)

    And no, I don’t believe such renewables (even in concert with energy-usage avoidance and efficiency) as are currently available offer a ubiquitous and maintainable low environmental footprint solution or on these criteria as feasible as resort to nuclear power. In some settings though, they surely do, though this is very much an exception rather than a rule.

    OTOH, in concert with nuclear some renewables (e.g. 2nd gen biofuels) would be more sustainable than they are now.

  222. Bryen and Barry,

    Just testing. Excellent response times by both of you. Sixpence each for catching the error.

    This is the link:

    The link is: http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au/data/aemo/

    Here is a bit more from this morning’s email:

    Thanks for the reminder about the RAE study. Not to dismiss it in any way, but it is a bit old now. Nonetheless, it did set the stage. The RAE did not have access to real live operational data as we do, but is excellent backup evidence. Real, live, operational data? Have a look at what Andrew has been up to – you’ll have to query the database with your own set of dates. Warning – ask for about a month of data at any one query. The amount there is enormous. The link is: http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au/data/aemo/

    Bryen, AEMO does not provide access to its data in a way that anyone with normal IQ can access. My comment about Gapminder is in the hope that someone might work out how to mine the AEMO data so it can be accessed and displayed in Gapminder.

  223. Phew!! Only had time to skim the incredibly rich conversation you’ve all been having.Have been in the Flinders Ranges for the last 2 weeks. I’m sure other countries have had similar arguments/discussions in years gone by and they’ve obviously come down on the side of nuclear as their best chance of having a cost competitive and adequate future energy supply. That’s why 33 countries are already producing 16% of the world’s energy total and a further 20 countries are building reactors now.Can’t we in Australia curtail our debate and follow the example of all of these countries and in the not too distant future? We are far enough behind already in securing a clean green base load energy supply. The alternative for that as you all know is to keep burning filthy coal. We need to phase out coal over coming decades and phase in nuclear. Those panicked by the thought of that should not be too worried even if they have coal shares. We can still keep mining the stuff and use it for fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, liquid fuels etc. We just need to stop burning the confounded stuff for power, clean or otherwise. Had nuclear power not been so villified by the likes of Nader, Toynbee and Caldicott over the last 30 years, probably world nuclear power would be at 30%+ and we wouldn’t need the economy -crippling ETS that we currently face. And, what price any meaningful agreement at Copenhagen?? Rudd’s already written that off as indeed he should. Could I ask all of you to write to Rudd, your local member, Opposition parliamentarians etc and TELL them to get their heads out of the sand, and to start using our world’s biggest uranium reserves, world’s best waste disposal site [both in South Australia]for our own and the planet’s good? We need a bit of vision from our leaders here and for them to start worrying about the next generation and not the next election.

  224. 2010 should in theory be a big year for carbon reduction plans but I suspect they won’t materialise

    1) the Olympic Dam expansion will need more study and community consultation

    2) the postponed ETS will be made voluntary with big emitters encouraged to arrange forest offsets in Papua New Guinea.

    Rann and Rudd will be elevated to living deity status by the green utopians.

  225. Rann and Rudd will be elevated to living deity status by the green utopians.

    .

    Hardly … if by green utopians you mean the Deep Climate people, Rising Tide etc … no …

    I regard Rudd/Wong as very poor on climate change issues even putting aside the exclusion of nuclear power from the discussion. Garrett is probably as useless an Environment Minister as there has ever been.

  226. Peter Lang (266) — I don’t think energy efficiency is the sole answer by any means. But note that in
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/18/AR2009091801143.html
    Lester Brown points out some of the reasons the USA is declined 9% in CO2 emissions in the last two years. Clearly energy efficiency is part of the solution.

    I now think that wind power is likely to be a bit player, most suited for interruptable power usages, but also just to energize the grid somewhat; around here, about 20% of total supply because we have lots of hydro to back it up. Similarly for solar PV when the price comes down in a decade or so.

    I also favor using biomethane in oxy-fuel CCGT with CCS to begin removing some of the excess CO2 for sequestration. Creating the pure oxygen could be powered by wind, with storage tanks, in some locations.

  227. The idea of connecting PV, ST or Wind directly to the grid is a nonstarter. It just injects too many potential problems; brown outs, black outs, surges etc. The only possibility of reasonable utilization is buffering the low energy renewal output through storage. Use the panels, mirrors or windmills to charge up the batteries, heat salt, or pump air or water directly and then release the energy into the grid. This is the only predictable and consistent way to provide base load power, but I’m sure it will be very expensive.

  228. Bunion (#277),

    I believe you are correct. Intermittent renewables must have on-site energy storage, and sufficient energy storage so the power station (wind, solar, wave power, etc) can provide reliable power, on demand, with the same reliability as fossil fuel, nuclear and hydro-electric generators.

    As you say, the cost of such a system would be very high. For example, to meet the NEM’s demand with nuclear (plus 8GW of pumped hydro energy storage) the capital cost would be about $120 billion. To do the same with solar PV and on-site chemical storage would be about $4.6 trillion. To do the same with solar thermal is currently not physically possible and not likely to be for decades.

    I’ve just been looking at the Wivenhoe pumped hydro scheme near Brisbane. It pumps for 7 hours to provide 5 hours generation. It pumps from about midnight to about 6 am and meets peak demand during the day and evening. It is on standby for the remainder of the day, about 12 hours, spinning and ready to provide almost instant power whenever needed. The power generated must be sold at at least 4 times the cost of power used for pumping. The relevance of all this is that pumped hydro is a perfect match for coal and nuclear generation, but is not for intermittent renewables- there is no way that the pumps can bu turned on and off to make use of the intermittent power, the power provided by the wind farms is far too expensive, and fatally, there is no way that pumped hydro can store the amount of energy that would be needed to make intermittent renewables reliable.

    I’m still on holidays and will work on my undertaking for Alexei and neli Howes when I get back home. That assignment is to show the total capital expenditure, CO2 emissions, CO2 avoidance cost, and other stats, at 5 years intervals from 2005 to 2050, for six scenarios. The six scenarios are:

    1. Business as usual (energy demand as per ABARE projections);
    Scenarios 2 to 6 are for reducing coal fired generation by 2GW per year from 2012 and the supply discrepancy to be provided by:
    2. CCGT
    3. CCGT to 2020, nuclear added at 1 GW per year to 2030 then by 2GW per year discrepancy filled by CCGT
    4. Wind and gas, where gas is 50% CCGT and 50% OCGT
    5. Wind an punped hydro
    6. Wind and on-site storage (with NaS batteries)

  229. Bunion (#279)

    The NEEDS report (see link in the article at the top of the thread) reviewed the solar thermal technologies, selected the most prospective (solar trough) and analysed it further. NEEDS projected that 16 hours of energy storage may be feasible by 2020. We need 18 hours energy storage to get through one night in winter, and at least 3 days to enable intermittent generators to supply baseload power through overcast periods in winter.

    There are litterally thousands of possible options being investigated. None are even close to being commercially viable. The solar thermal option is more than 20 times the cost of nuclear to provide our power needs. It is not worth the time and effort to investigate it further at this stage. If someone can provide cost figures from competitive bids and/or from commercial, operating solar thermal power stations that can provide baseload power throughout the winter months, including through extended overcast periods, I’ll be pleased to include it in the simple analyses I am doing.

  230. Pingback: Emission cuts realities for electricity generation – costs and CO2 emissions « BraveNewClimate

  231. Hi Peter,
    the BZE team are about to release their 200 page Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) plan in May.

    While there will be other interesting facts about transport and building sectors, I guess this blog is mainly about baseload power supply. For their energy mix they’ve chosen to model today’s wind and solar thermal (but are open to other forms as they commercialise).

    From their PDF pages 9 and following they discuss a 60% solar thermal (with biogas backup) and 40% wind mix. So again, no one technology does the work alone. They count the 40% wind penetration as ‘baseload’.

    Have you modelled biogas backup for the longer 3 day periods? From the above it seems you want the solar thermal technology to do it all on its own, and that isn’t the model the renewables proponents are proposing. They readily admit there will be weather challenges, but rather than build 10 times the power plants they need, they simply switch to a gas backup.

    Mate: I’m not very technical, but even I am left wondering if some of your article above is a straw-man debunking strategies none of the renewables guys are proposing?

  232. I’m not very technical, but even I am left wondering if some of your article above is a straw-man debunking strategies none of the renewables guys are proposing?

    I rather see Peter’s articles as an exercise in reductio as absurdum whose purpose is to strip away the fog of details the ‘renewables’ scammers use to camoflage the weaknesses in their schemes.

  233. I don’t have time for that. I’d rather hear what is actually possible according to the technologies actually proposed by either side, not reductio as absurdum arguments that straw-man the other’s position.

    EG: You guys don’t propose digging expensive 5 mile deep tunnels clad in platinum to store the nuclear waste forever, as you NEED that waste as fuel to burn it! But I’m sure I’ve heard Dr Caldicott interview people proposing something as ridiculous to deal with nuclear waste, and I’m left grinding my teeth and shouting at my iPod, “But they’re going to USE the waste you silly Moo!”

    Anyway, the BZE summarised PDF is here.
    http://tinyurl.com/3xuh78v

    The conclusion on page 38 is…

    Wrap-up
    • 100% renewable stationary energy with 60% Concentrating Solar Thermal with storage, 40% Wind and biomass back-up
    • Electrification of transport, gas conversion, and comprehensive energy efficiency programme to phase out fossil fuels and reduce energy consumption
    • 11,027kms of new transmission connecting wind and solar sites and strengthening the grid
    • Total Cost of renewawable generation system = approximately $300billion

    So if Peter is right on nuclear at only $4 billion / GW capacity AND if BZE are right on a 60% solar thermal (with biogas backup) and 40% wind grid, then Nuclear still wins as far as price is concerned.

    My “Black Swan” comment for the day? What is politically feasible. $300 billion won’t destroy Australia’s economy. Over 10 years it is only $30 billion a year.

    (Political diversion: Dr Mark Drummond’s Phd calculated that we’d save about $50 billion a year in duplication if we abolished state governments and only had one Parliament for Australia, not 8. Interestingly both Bob Hawke and John Howard recently agreed that this would have been a preferable model for Australia).

  234. I don’t have time for that. I’d rather hear what is actually possible according to the technologies actually proposed by either side, not reductio as absurdum arguments that straw-man the other’s position.

    That is painfully obvious to all. You have no time for the grunt-work of dissecting the elements of each new ‘renewables’ scheme put forward by the same bunch of scammers who disappointed you the last time to see if it’s going to hold water, but all the time in the world to trawl the net for such schemes to run to others with and herald whatever it is this time as the coming of the Heavenly Kingdom.

  235. I rather see Peter’s analyses as a useful ‘limit analysis’ – a good basis from which to work backwards, as an if other technologies are also considered.

    I don’t know that our interpretations are that far apart. You’re looking at them from an engineering perspective and I from a polemical perspective.

  236. Errr, no. I just happen to be fairly busy lately and am limited in how much reading time I get, so listen to podcasts. I also just happened to be listening to the BZE podcast yesterday (while helping the in-laws get ready to move), and the podcast was all about their upcoming plan release in May.

    So I knew where the site is, and quickly found their summary PDF and the pertinent pages.

    If BNC had a podcast I’d listen to that as well.

    (One day I hope you’ll get bored of attacking my motivation and straw-manning my character).

    You have no time for the grunt-work of dissecting the elements of each new ‘renewables’ scheme put forward by the same bunch of scammers who disappointed you the last time to see if it’s going to hold water Well, I’m limited technically but after a fair bit of reading back in my earlier peaknik days I developed a checklist of questions I try to ask about alternative energy (to oil mainly). It’s not great, but I was just trying to formulate an easy checklist to help other non-technical peakniks explain why no substitutes for oil could do the job with the liquid fuels infrastructure we currently have.

    SERVICE check-list of questions to ask

    1. Sustainability
    2. Energy Return on Energy Invested
    3. Rare materials
    4. Volumes
    5. Infrastructure — time to implement?
    6. Constant supply of energy
    7. Expense
    8. (Disclaimer and list of energy sites for more information)

    http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/alternative-energy/

  237. Eclipsenow,

    You commented:

    From the above it seems you want the solar thermal technology to do it all on its own, and that isn’t the model the renewables proponents are proposing. They readily admit there will be weather challenges, but rather than build 10 times the power plants they need, they simply switch to a gas backup.

    Mate: I’m not very technical, but even I am left wondering if some of your article above is a straw-man debunking strategies none of the renewables guys are proposing?

    No it is not a strawman. It is a ‘limit analysis’ so you can see through the fog of the renewable advocates argument that when one renewable doesn’t work we turn to another. First we need to know what is the cost of each renewable on its own. Then we need to combine them to find the total cost. This paper looks at the solar renewable as a limit position. The previous papers looked at wind. You need to understand the process and follow through the series of articles.

    This article addresses your question about the costs and the emissions of the combined systems that can meet our demand for electricity: http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/09/emission-cuts-realities/

    I think you will find the answers to many of the questions you are asking in the threads listed here: http://bravenewclimate.com/renewable-limits/

  238. It is a ‘limit analysis’ so you can see through the fog of the renewable advocates argument that when one renewable doesn’t work we turn to another.

    I don’t see how debunking something no-one ever proposed helps clarify the situation. When the solar thermal shuts down, they propose that the evening wind (at a certain average cents / hour) will probably take over for a while, heat from the liquid salt backup thermal storage can be quickly despatched as necessary throughout the night, and if we have some freak week across the continent, we’ll dig into our compressed biogas tanks a bit. These are all known technologies.

    Critiquing a completely unrealistic, exaggerated strawman of the renewables plans does as much for the credibility of these arguments as Dr Caldicott does for her anti-nuclear cause. I’m amazed at the obfuscation from both sides.

  239. Eclipsenow, if you don’t understand the concept of defining the boundaries, I can’t help you.

    If you want to understand, you do need to put a bit of time into reading the actual articles, rather than just arguing about the comments posted here. You asked for some references a day or so ago. I provided some. You said you’d book marked them to read in the future. Apparrantly you haven’t yet and now you’re onto raising another issue. I get the impression you are more interested in chucking fire crackers than in trying to understand.

  240. Sorry mate but you’re the one avoiding the issues. Maybe you need to actually review an actual renewables plan, and not debunk nonsense that no-one is proposing.

    I have bookmarked the links you referred to, but in amongst a career-change, running our design studio, and helping my in-laws sort through all their ‘stuff’ I don’t have much time for reading… but can fit in listening to podcasts while I attend to some of this stuff.

    If you have a podcast or 2 for me to listen to, I could check that out. As I already said in another thread, Stanford University have some interesting talks on nuclear that I’ll be catching up on while packing ‘stuff’. (If ever anyone needed a reminder that Western civilisation consumes too much unnecessary junk, try helping your in- laws prune back for a small retirement village apartment. It’s a real education).

  241. PS: “Defining the boundaries” is unnecessary as the BZE team are well aware of them. Their team involves dozens of engineers and energy experts who have drawn up their 200 page plan for release in May. They are aware of the boundaries, and have worked around them… and costed them, and say they have a plan for $300 billion.

    You say you have a nuclear plan much cheaper, but I’d love to see the plans for storing the really long term waste and what the economics of that is. I’d love to hear the Amory Lovin’s characters have a debate over the actual nuclear costings, and what areas I might have forgotten to check.

    (I’m still getting over the fact that there still is long-term waste with Gen4 reactors. I was so sold on the idea, from multiple online articles about Gen4, that there was no long term waste and the misunderstanding that it would all be pretty much safe within 500 years).

    If BNC and BZE were to duke it out via a series of podcast debates, then that might be educational for all involved. “The truth will out”.

  242. I’m still getting over the fact that there still is long-term waste with Gen4 reactors. I was so sold on the idea, from multiple online articles about Gen4, that there was no long term waste and the misunderstanding that it would all be pretty much safe within 500 years

    For goodness sake, I wonder why one tries to explain anything to you. You are the most frustrating commenter on this blog, bar none. You’re apparently not listening and not willing to critically evaluate even basic scientific explanations. Some advice — try to think on these matters and to evaluate data in a rational manner. Try the Socratic method and start asking yourself some questions. How ‘hot’ is IFR fuel after 500 years? What does a long half-life mean? If I hold a lump of uranium in my hand, what will happen? And so on. If you can’t do this, then Finrod is most certainly right – you’re playing us for suckers and never had any intention of taking a considered and rational view on nuclear power issues.

  243. Barry, I do listen (when it’s explained in English) and have changed my blog accordingly.

    Now over on the Life time of energy in your hand thread where the waste issue came up, there was quite a few interesting posts, some of which I kind of understood, and some of which were fairly technical and required a general science degree, and maybe even something more specific to nuclear interests, to truly understand.

    As a layperson with an arts and welfare background I am very interested in the bottom line for society, and have dumped many of my earlier objections to nuclear power which I now see as rather cliché.

    So the fact that I don’t get some of the more technical explanations as to why certain types of waste might be dangerous and others are not is not really my fault, but the responsibility to communicate this clearly lies with the communicator.

    Some commenter at BNC occasionally act as high level priests initiated into the arcane arts and snubbing their noses at those who aren’t. But if you wish to communicate to non-technical activists like myself and have the nuclear power debate move forward, then maybe answering those questions in an intelligible manner for the uninitiated might help.

    SCIAM recently podcasted on a scientist’s need to communicate with the public properly. (Back half of the ‘staying in love’ episode here). I can see why it’s necessary.
    http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=the-science-of-staying-in-love-and-10-04-07

  244. I’m still getting over the fact that there still is long-term waste with Gen4 reactors. I was so sold on the idea, from multiple online articles about Gen4, that there was no long term waste and the misunderstanding that it would all be pretty much safe within 500 years.

    We’ll find uses for that small portion of uber long-lived FPs. I wonder if it couldn’t be mixed in with paint or structural material to provide a radiation hormesis effect as a public health measure, much as flouride is added to drinking water.

  245. Woah, I thought it was a joke, but there’s even a wiki.
    “Consensus reports by the United States National Research Council and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) have upheld that insufficient human data on radiation hormesis exists to supplant the Linear no-threshold model (LNT). Therefore, the LNT continues to be the model generally used by regulatory agencies for human radiation exposure.”

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

  246. Finrod:

    My son recently produced a sales catalogue of which he was very proud. On reading it, I became incandescent by his description of fluorescent lights as flourescent. I suppose that I’m going the way of incandescent lights – my age and concern over correct spelling are making me obsolete. My son was indignant at having his mistake pointed out to him and blamed his computerfor having a defective spell checker.

  247. Then you might want to run your spellchecker Finrod. And check a chemical dictionary for silicone. If Barry’s got an axe to grind about flourides, I’ve got one for silicone.

    OK. Sorry about that. I didn’t even pick up the mistake when Barry demonstrated it .

    I shall try to do better.

    I don’t know where that extra ‘e’ came from. I managed to spell silicon correctly everywhere else.

  248. I work with a bunch of people who work in silicon, and a bunch of people who work in silicone, and neither group is aware of the correct usage, and it drives me nuts. I’m a bit OC about these things.

  249. My son was indignant at having his mistake pointed out to him and blamed his computerfor having a defective spell checker.

    I lose patience with my spellchecker when it keeps insisting that there’s no such word as ‘GWe.y’.

  250. eclipsenow, the LNT model is what’s commonly called a null hypothesis. It does’t need any evidence, whereas the hormesis hypothesis must accumulate sufficient evidence to overturn this null. It has a fair amount already, whereas the LNT still has none. But needs to keep building that body of work. Not fair, but the way some folks like to frame statistics (I prefer multi-model inference with no pre-conceived null).

  251. I received HD’s for my sociology essays, could see how sociological surveys were weighted one way or the other from the values implicit in the ‘leading questions’ put to the public, but when it came to statistical analysis of the results… left that to the maths gurus. So, as this is not really on the topic, I might just pass on the ‘multi-model inference’ statistical modelling if that’s ok.

    (I know it will come as a huge shock to you, but I’m just being honest as to how completely I’m not wired in that direction.)
    ;-)

  252. eclipsenow, – When life began on Earth almost 4 billion years ago, background radiation levels were five times higher than those we experience today. Life adjusted well, as it did to all other forms of energy to which it was exposed – heat, light, electromagnetic. This adjustment took two forms. The first suggests that exposure to low doses of radiation actually stimulates repair mechanisms that protect organisms from disease and may actually be essential for life. The second involves the development of the biochemical systems that protect organisms against the noxious effects of ionizing radiation.

    One thing life did not apparently do was to evolve an organ that can detect radiation. This lack of a radiation sense points to the fact that living organisms have no need to detect such a low risk phenomenon. Indeed, ionizing radiation only seems exotic and mysterious to some people because it was not discovered until relatively recently, unlike light and heat say.

    It is nevertheless nothing more than another form of energy. The perceived distinction has serious negative consequences but has no scientific basis. However, for statistical reasons the LNT cannot be falsified and so the precautionary principle has been adopted at an unacceptable societal cost .

  253. Barry, I’d argue that the LNT is not the null hypothesis. The null hypothesis is that low-level radiation is harmless. All studies that I am aware of are reasonably consistent with this. The exceptions favour hormesis which asserts that low-level radiation provides some health benefits. This has been demonstrated in some projects like the nuclear shipyard study. LNT for low-level radiation has never been demonstrated as far as I know.

  254. Joffan – The definitive proof of the LNT model is to disprove that a risk-free threshold exists and to disprove a quadratic risk/exposure function. This is the LNT null hypothesis.

    Threshold is a concept borrowed from toxicology, in which a human being can accept a certain amount of a potentially toxic substance up to a certain dose without harm, and then after a “threshold” dose, harm occurs. “Linear” simply means that for a given increment of additional dose, a fixed amount of additional increased risk occurs.

    A broad look at the available data demonstrates that there appears to be certain levels of radiation exposure that confer no harm to human beings, but then at some point the risk of cancer rises precipitously. In other words, there appears to be a finite threshold, and beyond that threshold there appears to be an increased risk for cancer according to a nonlinear quadratic function. Therefore, the Null hypothesis to the LNT model remains yet to be disproved.

    Note that this is essentially a Catch-22 situation, because the hypothesis is poorly formed, since there is no stated lower bounds at all.

    It is, however not necessary to prove or disprove the LNT null hypothesis if the hormesis null hypothesis can be disproved, and that IS possible.

  255. Hmm. Let me phrase it like this:

    I have three hypotheses for exposure to radiation levels that are consistent in magnitude with natural background levels:

    1: Increasing benefit
    2: No effect
    3: Increasing harm

    Which of these should I select as my null hypothesis? It seems obvious to me that hypothesis #2 is the correct choice. The data is consistent with this, so this should be the basis for any further action.

    If I use the same three hypotheses for radiation in the range of 100-1000 times natural background, I would still select #2 as my null hypothesis, but now the data would disprove it and support hypothesis #3, so that becomes the basis for future action.

  256. Joffan – There is logic, and then there is politics – science is not exempt.

    The ‘official’ null hypothesis for LNT is the one I stated in the first paragraph of my previous comment. It’s official, because it is the only one that can be set looking at the LNT in isolation. This is where the politics comes in.

    Any rational examination of the problem would reject the whole damned hypothesis as ill-formed, and strike another one similar to the one you stated. However the radiation health sector, for any number of reasons, (none of them logical or scientific) cannot do this.

  257. Econowise,

    @27 April 2010 at 8.09 Said
    Mate: I’m not very technical, but even I am left wondering if some of your article above is a straw-man debunking strategies none of the renewables guys are proposing?

    28 April 2010 at 8.54 Said
    I don’t see how debunking something no-one ever proposed helps clarify the situation.

    Critiquing a completely unrealistic, exaggerated strawman of the renewables plans does as much for the credibility of these arguments as Dr Caldicott does for her anti-nuclear cause. I’m amazed at the obfuscation from both sides.

    @ 28 April 2010 at 9.47 Said:

    Sorry mate but you’re the one avoiding the issues. Maybe you need to actually review an actual renewables plan, and not debunk nonsense that no-one is proposing.

    @ 28 April 2010 at 12.57 Said:
    Some commenter at BNC occasionally act as high level priests initiated into the arcane arts and snubbing their noses at those who aren’t. But if you wish to communicate to non-technical activists like myself and have the nuclear power debate move forward, then maybe answering those questions in an intelligible manner for the uninitiated might help.

    The issues you are raising have been discussed at length in the comments on these threads. I note you’ve bookmarked the paper but haven’t yet read it. I’ve responded to your comments and question, but understand that my explanation may not have made sense to you. I’ll make another attempt to answer your question below. If this is not sufficient, can I persuade you to read the article, and the preceding articles that it build on, and also perhaps follow through the discussion on the threads as these discuss the points you are raising.

    The reason for the limit analysis – that is, looking at just solar power rather than a mix of renewable energy generators – in the first instance is so we can get an understanding of the mistakes and misinformation that is being propagated by the solar power advocates.

    One of the most important mistakes is doing calculations on the basis of the average capacity factor over a year. Using an average capacity factor instead of the minimum capacity factor, under-estimates the cost by a huge amount.

    Here is the explanation, in layman’s language

    The average capacity factors from an actual solar farm are: annual = 13%, 3 months of winter = 9.6%, the worst days in winter = 0.75%, at night = 0%.

    We need electricity to be generated at the instant we demand it. To achieve this when the solar thermal plants are not generating we need either energy storage, back up generators, or a mix of other renewables (such as you proposed http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/10/solar-realities-and-transmission-costs-addendum/#comment-60061 ).

    The “Solar Power Realities” paper considered the option of all power being generated by solar power and using energy storage to supply the electricity when the sun is not shining. No one is suggesting this is a scheme that would be built (other than advocates like David Mills), but this is a way to look at the real costs of solar. You can downscale from providing all electricity to providing just 1 GW or 1MW or whatever you like. The principles apply generally. The principle is that you cannot use average capacity factors. You must look at how you will provide the power when the solar plant is generating at its minimum capacity factor.

    As I mentioned, the ‘Solar Power Realities” paper looked at the situation with solar generators and energy storage. It considered two storage options: pumped hydro and NaS batteries. NaS batteries are the least cost battery option at the moment.

    The “Emission Cuts Realities” paper considers a simple mix of renewable energy technologies together with gas back-up for wind power.

    Lastly, let’s consider, in a really simple way for clarity, the situation with a mix of renewables to provide our power needs. We must remember that the power must be provided at the instant we need it. Let’s say we need to deliver 1GW of power on demand (just to keep this simple).

    Let’s start with 1GW of solar PV. The capital cost is around $10 billion. We find we have no power at night and almost no power at some times on some days (heavily overcast). So we need to add something else to provide the 1GW power when it is demanded.

    So we add 1 GW of wind power. The capital cost is about $2.6 billion. But we find the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing.

    So we add 1GW of wave power. I don’t remember the capital cost but let’s say $10 billion. But then we have times when the sun isn’t shining, the wind isn’t blowing and the sea swell is small.

    We are now up to $22.6 billion

    To link all these dispersed generation systems, we need a massively expensive electricity grid and we still don’t have dispatchable power (power that can be supplied when the user demands it).

    So we have to add either: energy storage, or fossil fuel back up, or a dispatchable generators like biomass, geothermal or nuclear.

    Biomass is expensive, requires enormous land area and has its own environmental problems.

    The type of geothermal energy that Australia is attempting to develop has not been developed anywhere in the world yet. It may or may not eventuate as a commercial proposition. The world has been working on it for nearly 40 years and we have not advanced much in that time. There are still no commercial power stations anywhere in the world.

    So why not simply skip all this nonsense and go straight to nuclear. The capital cost of the 1 GW would be around $4 billion, with all the impediments to nuclear remaining in place, or perhaps around $2 to $2.5 billion if the imposts were removed and we had a genuine level playing field for electricity supply.

    Given that nuclear is about 10 to 100 times safer than our current electricity generating system, and is far more environmentally benign than any (including wind and solar), why don’t we just cut through all the irrational arguments and go straight to nuclear – preferably by removing all the impediments to it?

  258. I have to laugh at the pathetic attempt by the Old Greens to find some way, any way to avoid nuclear power, They are no longer even bothering to mount their usual pathetic attacks against nuclear energy, so thoroughly have those tried arguments been debunked. But they will not give up, and desperately hope their renewable dreams can still be shown to be superior, even as they begin to see the truth.

    Do you know what I think? They are afraid of nuclear energy because its acceptance will show everyone the magnitude of their error. They know that their followers will realize that they have been backing the wrong side, and as always in these cases will turn on their leaders like a pack of dogs.

    And when that happens, I’m going buy beer and popcorn.

  259. EclipseNow, let me offer a loose analogy for Peter’s limit analysis approach.

    Suppose you are building a house. You have a variety of construction materials to choose from – timber, brick, steel beams, glass, tile, etc. You obviously expect to use a mix of these materials. But you can’t begin to design that mix unless you understand the characteristics of the individual materials. How strong are they? How much do you need? How much do they cost?

    Peter is trying to build an energy system. On his design palette, he has fossil fuels, wind, solar, hydro, nuclear. But he can’t design with these design elements unless he understands their individual characteristics. How much power can they provide? How reliable are they? How much do you need? How much will it cost? And, in this case, how much CO2 will they produce?

    To understand his design elements, Peter has done the equivalent of designing a glass house to understand the limits of using glass as a building material. He’s done the same with wood, and steel. These design exercises have probed the qualities and limits of the design elements.

    He has then followed up with a further design exercise where he builds from various combinations of materials, and compared the different structures in terms of strength, cost, build time, and waste.

    By analysing each renewable technology individually, he’s also thrown light on the characteristics of an integrated system. Unfortunately the wind and solar components turn out to be the equivalent of wet cardboard and cured ham, and he’s found that if you build a house out of these materials, you’re still going to need just about as much brick and steel as a normal house, if you want it to stay standing, even if you use a combination of ham and cardboard.

  260. If it all pans out the way you say DV8, I might join you in that. If the objections to nuclear proliferation and waste are dealt with as easily as some on this list imagine, I’m all for it. (IF).

    @ Peter Lang,
    thanks for that. Let’s just say at this stage I’m very sympathetic to nuclear power.

    One last exercise. I’m not saying the following is costed and competitive with today’s nuclear, but I’d question the synergies you suggest. Why 100% wind + gas backup? The papers coming out at the moment suggest that they build enough wind to be around 40% of the grid as baseload, and then the solar thermal operates with biogas backup.

    The thermal turbines on the solar plant are already there. Just turn on the bio-gas taps and cook up the steam and the plant keeps operating. It prevents needing to build a whole new biogas plant & turbine, which would otherwise be necessary in the 100% wind + biogas system you have suggested above. (If the biogas actually comes from biochar it’s a carbon Negative system as well). Sure after the growing season’s you’d probably have to brew up one heck of a lot of biogas for storage, but that storage would probably not have to make 100% of the storage we use.

    Don’t forget the V2G cars are coming that can charge whenever the wind is blowing, and then sell back when the grid demands it. If we use Better Place battery swap systems, the price is gratis of Better Place… they have included the batteries in the price / km of their public charging points and battery swap charges (which are already almost half the price of oil).

    As my car sticker says, “My next car will run on the wind”. (Free Better Place propaganda sticker… if you want them to go nuclear, have a chat with Shai Agassi and I’ll put one of those on my car instead. My focus is Better Place and Australian independence on oil. I like the wind idea, but not if it really is distracting from the debate we NEED to have on nuclear).

    Lastly, some are saying wind is cheaper than coal, IF we don’t have to cost a backup system.

    Say we have a baseload nuclear capacity with wind power mainly charging our cars. Could that be economically competitive?

  261. Econowise,

    This is going on and on and on and you simply are not getting any of it. Can I beg you to have a go at answering your own questions. Just do a bit of thinking, and perhaps a bit of research for yourself.

  262. Pingback: Nuclear vs. Solar, Permanent Temperature Increases | Idiotprogrammer

  263. If each house becomes a generator of solar and wind power there are minimal transmission costs!
    Just a completely unrealistic use of resources.
    Where’s the warp drive? OR FUSION REACTORS – NOT Fission?

  264. Pingback: Trying to understand system wide costs of energy « PassiiviIdentiteetti

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