Critique of ‘A path to sustainable energy by 2030′

The November 2009 issue of Scientific American has a cover story by Mark Z. Jacobson (Professor, Stanford) and Mark A. Delucchi (researcher, UC Davis). It’s entitled “A path to sustainable energy by 2030” (p 58 – 65; they call it WWS: wind, water or sunlight). This popular article is supported by a technical analysis, which the authors will apparently submit to the peer-reviewed journal Energy Policy at some point (or may have already done so). Anyway, they have made both papers available for free public download here.

So what do they say? In a nutshell, their argument is that, by the year 2030:

Wind, water and solar technologies can provide 100 percent of the world’s energy, eliminating all fossil fuels.

Big claim. Does it stack up? Short answer, no. Here I critique the 100% WWS plan (both articles).

The articles are structured around 7 parts: (1) A discussion of ‘clean energy’ technologies and some description of different plans for large-scale carbon mitigation. (2)  The amount and geographic distribution of available resources [wind, solar, wave, geothermal, hydro etc.] are evaluated, globally. (3) The number of power plants or capture devices required to harness this energy is calculated. (4) A limit analysis is undertaken, to determine whether any technologies are likely to face material resource bottlenecks that risk stymieing their large-scale deployment. (5) The question of ‘reliability’ of energy generation is discussed. (6) The projected economics of this vision are forecast. (7) The policy approaches required to turn vision into reality are reviewed.

In this post I want to concentrate on (5) and (6) — what I consider to be “The Bad”. But first, let’s look quickly at “The Good” (actually, more like the “Okay”) and then the really “Ugly” parts.

The majority content of the twin papers is focused on making the banal point that there is a huge amount of energy embodied in ‘wind, water and sunlight’ (“Plenty of Supply”), and that a wide diversity of technologies have been developed to try and harness this into useable electrical power.  No critic of large-scale renewable energy would argue any differently, and the size of these resources has been covered in detail by David Mackay. In that context, I wonder what they hope to add to the literature? There’s nothing wrong in this section, and well explained, but it’s just standard, rehashed fare.

Next comes a simple extrapolation of the total number of wind turbines, solar thermal facilities, etc. required to deliver 11.5 TWe of average power (close to my figure of 10 TWe in TCASE 3). This part is similar to that which I provided in TCASE 4 except they use a mix of contributing technologies rather than considering a hypothetical limit analysis for each technology individually. Curiously though, they never really explain (in either paper) how they came up with their scenario’s relative mix of hydro capacity, millions of wind turbines, billions of solar PV units, and thousands of large CSP plants, wave converters, and so on — except in pointing out that some resources are more abundant in deployable locations than others (see Table 2 of the tech paper). They do provide a useful discussion of possible material component bottlenecks for different techs (e.g. Nd for permanent magnets in wind turbines, Pt for hydrogen fuel cells, In/Ga etc. for solar PV), and argue how they can be plausibly overcome via recycling and substitution with cheaper/more abundant alternatives. This bit is quite good.

So what’s “The Ugly”? Well, it’s something utterly egregious and deceptive. In the Sci Amer article, the following objection is raised in order to dismiss the fission of uranium or thorium as clean energy:

Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered.

Hold on. How could this be? I’ve shown here that the “reactor construction” argument is utterly fallacious – wind has a building material footprint over 10 times larger than that of nuclear, on energy parity basis. Further, Peter Lang has shown that wind, once operating, offsets 20 times LESS carbon per unit energy than nuclear power, when a standard natural gas backup for wind is properly considered. I’ve also explained in this post that the emissions stemming from mining, milling, transport and refining of nuclear fuel is vastly overblown, and is of course irrelevant for fast spectrum and molten salt thorium reactors. So…?

Well, you have to look to the technical version of the paper to trace the source of the claim. It comes from Jacobson 2009, where he posited that  nuclear power means nuclear proliferation, nuclear proliferation leads to nuclear weapons, and this chain of events lead to nuclear war, so they calculate (?!) the carbon footprint of a nuclear war! (integrating a probability of 0 — 1 over a 30 year period). I quote:

4d. Effects of nuclear energy on nuclear war and terrorism damage

Because the production of nuclear weapons material is occurring only in countries that have developed civilian nuclear energy programs, the risk of a limited nuclear exchange between countries or the detonation of a nuclear device by terrorists has increased due to the dissemination of nuclear energy facilities worldwide. As such, it is a valid exercise to estimate the potential number of immediate deaths and carbon emissions due to the burning of buildings and infrastructure associated with the proliferation of nuclear energy facilities and the resulting proliferation of nuclear weapons. The number of deaths and carbon emissions, though, must be multiplied by a probability range of an exchange or explosion occurring to estimate the overall risk of nuclear energy proliferation. Although concern at the time of an explosion will be the deaths and not carbon emissions, policy makers today must weigh all the potential future risks of mortality and carbon emissions when comparing energy sources.

Really, need I say more? Can it really be that such wildly conjectural nonsense is acceptable as a valid scientific argument in the sustainable energy peer-reviewed literature? It seems so, which suggests to me that this academic discipline needs a swift logical kick up its intellectual rear end.

So, on to the grand renewables plan. The fulcrum upon which the whole WWS analysis pivots is the section entitled “Reliability”.  Here’s where the steam and mirrors of their WWS dream (sorry, solar thermal pun) really starts to blow off into the atmosphere and shatter on the ground.

First, the authors cite ‘downtime’ figures for each technology (i.e., the period of unscheduled maintenance, as opposed to scheduled outages). From this, they leave the uninitiated reader with the distinct impression (especially in the Sci Amer pap piece) that wind and solar PV is actually more ‘reliable’ than coal! (Who knew? We’d better tell the utilities). They also say that unscheduled downtimes for distributed WWS technologies will have less impact on grid stability than when a large centralised power plant suddenly drops out. Sorry, but I just don’t get this. If the downtime of solar PV is 2%, for instance, and you have 1.7 billion 3 kW units installed worldwide (their calculated figure), then 340,000 of them are out at any one time. That seems rather significant to me…

Next, to overcome intermittency, they claim that for an array of 13-19 wind farms, spread out over an 850 x 850 km region and hypothetically interconnected:

… about 33% of yearly-averaged wind power was calculated to be useable at the same reliability as a coal-fired power plant.

Let’s parse this. By reliability of the coal plant, I assume in this context that they mean its capacity factor (rather than unscheduled outages), which would be around 85% of peak output. Now, wind in excellent sites has a capacity factor of ~35%, so the yearly-averaged power of a hypothetical 10 GW peak wind array of 13-19 farms would be 3.5 GW. Now, following their statement, 33% of 3.5 GW — that is, 1.15 GW or ~12% of peak capacity — would be available 85% of the time. Or, to put it another way, we’d need to install 10 GW of peak wind to replace the output of 1.4 GW of coal? Is that what they are saying? Did they cost this? (hint: no, see below). Perhaps someone else can confirm or reject my interpretation of the statements on p19 of the tech paper.

Also, consider this. Say we instead installed 20 GW peak over this 850 x 850 km area. We’d still only be able to deliver 20 x 0.35 x 0.33 = 2.3 GW of baseload-equivalent power. That is, adding more and more wind doesn’t help with system reliability, as it would for coal.  I suppose the overall system reliability might get a little better as you spread your wind farm array over increasingly large geographical areas, but I suspect that this would be a case of rapidly diminishing returns. How can such a scheme be considered economic?

(Note: I’m not arguing for coal here, just using the power technologies given in their example. For me, insert nuclear instead).

wwwsfigpg63Then they introduce ‘load-matching’ renewables. For instance, they present a “Clean Electricity 24/7” figure for California (see above), in which geothermal, wind, solar and hydro together provide a perfect match to an average power demand curve for CA for a given month (July in this figure). Strangely though, they neglect to mention what happens during the many imperfect, less-than-average days, when it’s cloudy and/or calm for some or most of the day and night (or strings of days/nights), or how much extra capacity is needed in winter months. How is the gap filled if either or both of wind/solar is mostly unavailable? Do the residents of CA go without electricity on those days? Err, no. Apparently, in these instances, grid operators must ‘plan ahead for a backup energy supply’. Riiiight. Where does this come from again, and how will this be costed into the WWS economic equation?

I could go on here, but won’t. This post is already getting way too long, and besides, many of these points will be topics, in and of themselves, in future TCASE posts.

As you’d have already gathered from the above, the economics of WWS is pretty strange. Here’s another example:

Power from wind turbines, for example, already costs about the same or less than it does from a new coal or natural gas plant, and in the future is expected to be the least costly of all options.

How can they justifiably say this, and yet neglect to mention that the power these these technologies produce is variable in quanity, low quality (in terms of frequency control), not dispatchable, diffuse (thereby requiring substantial interconnection), and that their projected energy prices don’t include costs of backup? In other words, in the real world, what exactly does the above quoted statement mean? Nothing meaningful that I can see.

They make a token attempt to price in storage (e.g., compressed air for solar PV, hot salts for CSP). But tellingly, they never say HOW MUCH storage they are costing in this analysis (see table 6 of tech paper), nor how much extra peak generating capacity these energy stores will require in order to be recharged, especially on low yield days (cloudy, calm, etc). Yet, this is an absolutely critical consideration for large-scale intermittent technologies, as Peter Lang has clearly demonstrated here. Without factoring in these sort of fundamental ‘details’ — and in the absence of crunching any actual numbers in regards to the total amount of storage/backup/overbuild  required to make WWS 24/365 — the whole economic and logistical foundation of the grand WWS scheme crumbles to dust. It sum, the WWS 100% renewables by 2030 vision is nothing more than an illusory fantasy. It is not a feasible, real-world energy plan.

I also see that they are happy to speculate about dramatic future price drops for solar PV and concentrating solar thermal with up to 24 hours future storage (Although even they admit it would not provide sufficient power in winter – what do we do then, I wonder? – have huge capacities of coal and gas on idle and as spinning reserve?). Well, I guess that if analysts like Jacobson and Delucchi are willing to forecast such optimistically low costs for future solar, then we can be quite comfortable doing the same for IFR and LFTR, the Gen IV nuclear. What’s good for the goose…

Finally, a quick note on the section “Policy Approaches”. I found one thing particularly amusing. They start by emphasising the critical need for feed-in tariffs (FITs), to subsidise the initial deployment of WWS technologies, because these deliver a necessary kick start towards lower future costs. It’s ironic then, that they end with a quote from Benjamin Sovacool (2009) which says:

Consumers practically ignore renewable power systems because they are not given accurate price signals about electricity consumption. Intentional market distortions (such as subsidies), and unintentional mark distortions (such as split incentives) prevent consumers from becoming fully invested in their electricity choices.

Well, excuse me, but if FITs, and WWS technologies that are priced without adequate storage/backup, are not market distortions and subsidies, then what the hell is?

—————————————-

Charles Barton at Nuclear Green has two further useful critiques of the WWS papers here and here; these follow on from his earlier dissections of Jacobson, Archer’s and Sovacool’s work.

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Appendix: Further comments on WWS from Dr. Gene Preston of SCGI:

By profession I do transmission studies for wind and solar clients. My company name is TAC meaning Transmission Adequacy Consulting. I currently am doing studies all across the US.  “A path to sustainable energy by 2030″ omits the transmission system needed by 2030.  Because the wind and solar and water and geothermal projects are not in the locations of the existing power plants, new lines will be needed.

Looking at the graph on page 63, and carefully measuring scales on the graph, I estimate that there is 40,000 MW of wind and 40,000 MW of centralized solar on that graph. The reason I omitted rooftop solar is because Jacobson has its contribution to be rather small.  For example, multiplying out the numbers on page 61 you will get 5.1 TW of rooftop solar and 26.7 TW of large scale solar of 300 MW size in farms, much like wind farms.  This seems reasonable since centralized solar is twice as cost effective as rooftop solar.  Since the rooftop solar is small I will omit it from these comments.

That leaves us needing 80,000 MW of new wind solar and geothermal generation just to serve California. I think an estimate of 500 miles from wind and solar resources to major load centers is reasonable.  A 500 kV transmission line is rated at about 2000 MW max power. But you don’t want to operate it at that power level because the losses are too high and there is no reserve capacity in the line to handle the first contingency problem. Therefore I will estimate we will load the new 500 kV lines to about 1500 MW on average.

So we have 80,000 MW of renewable sources widely scattered around the Western System (WECC) with each carrying 1500 MW so that we need roughly 50 new 500 kV lines of 500 miles each, for a total length of 25,000 miles.

The article assumes there is little solar power energy storage and it also assumes the wind be blowing at night.  We know for sure that the solar power is not available at night so we are nearly totally dependent on wind for night time energy.  You are going to ask about the geothermal energy.  One geothermal project I recently worked on for determining the transmission access for looked like a good project until the geothermal energy extraction failed to work.  Recently other geothermal projects have created human induced earthquakes.  Geothermal energy seem less likely today than just a few years ago.

So we are nearly totally dependent on wind energy for the night-time CA energy as envisioned in the 100% renewables by 2030.  If we plan for those few occurrences when there is no wind in the WECC system, we must interconnect WECC with the rest of the US so CA can draw power from other wind generators that do have wind (hopefully) outside the WECC area, such as the Texas coast and east of the rocky mountains where massive wind farms can be constructed. However we will need at least 40,000 MW of lines that I estimate will average 2000 miles in length. If we used 500 kV lines, we would need about 25 of these lines bridging from WECC to the US eastern grid and ERCOT and the total length would be about 50,000 miles. By 2030 we would need 75,000 miles of new 500 kV lines just to serve California with 100% renewables. Considering that we have the period from 2010 to 2030, that means we would have to construct about 4000 miles of new 500 kV lines every year from now until 2030 for the renewables plan as outlined in this article to work.

How much do these lines cost? Probably about 2 million dollars per mile.  Also, the 500 miles is just an estimate.  If you have specific projects in mind that eliminates some of the uncertainty in estimating costs.  For example the distances might be less to wind generators.  However I suspect that opposition to the wind generators unsightliness and opposition to power lines will result in longer pats for lines zig zagging around the countryside and the wind generators being not allowed anywhere on the coast, so I understand that Mexico is the desirable place for wind.  But if you were to string out 40,000 MW of wind, I bet you would find the 500 miles was not that bad a guesstimate after all.  The first few sites might be closer to load centers, but opposition is likely to drive them farther away.  The construction time for lines is mostly how long it takes to get all the ROW and get approval to build the lines.  How many years will a line be held up in hearings?  Add one year to that number of years and you have roughly the time it takes to build a new line.  Now try to build new lines across the Rockies and see how long that will take – decades I predict, if ever.

In sum, I do not believe this is achievable at all.  Therefore the concept envisioned in the SA article is not a workable plan because the transmission problems have not been addressed.  The lines aren’t going to get built.  The wind is not going to interconnect.  The SA article plan is not even a desirable plan. The environmental impact and cost would be horrendous.  Lets get realistic.

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196 Comments

  1. thanks barry and gene.

    this is great.

    is it worth pointing out that geothermal can’t provide nearly enough power to serve as base power? (over and above the earthquake issue!)

    and is it worth pointing out that the geothermal option is about all someone can even offer if they avoid the obvious base power for w/s–natural gas?

  2. Great critique of a truly shameful article in a publication that has sadly become a caricature of its former self.

    Propaganda like this, (and we cannot kid ourselves here, this is propaganda) simply must be bought and paid for by those that stand to gain by the failure of WWS generators to meet our energy needs. This entire scheme is nothing less than a Trojan horse for natural gas, and should be fought as such.

  3. Just wonderful! Jacobson and Delucchi have given us another superficial, incomplete, dishonest, (and as yet unpublished) study proving that we have nothing to worry about. I am flabbergasted by what passes for scholarship in field of energy planning. Given the magnitude of the problem one would hope that a credible group of expect would do a comprehensive study of future energy economies, but so far I have seen nothing close.

  4. All I can say is “Wow!”

    This is a well-researched piece that literally torches the WWS study!

    I did a podcast several months ago ( http://thisweekinnuclear.com/?p=135 ) with an illustration comparing the lifetime energy derived from a $350 billion investment in solar, wind, and nuclear. I reached a similar conclusion: we simply do not have the financial resources to achieve our energy and climate goals using wind or solar energy. Only nuclear energy can provide the abundant, reliable low carbon energy we need at a price we can afford.

    John Wheeler
    Producer, “This Week in Nuclear”
    http://thisweekinnuclear.com

  5. The major problem I have with this piece is its impact on the general public. I’m not a scientist (even though I play one on TV) and the majority of us aren’t. We don’t have the time and resources to compare all the conflicting reports/books on our future energy mix. The fear is that by reading something like this, most people will say “Oh super. They solved it. All we have to do is spend $5 trillion a year for the next 20 years.”

    The general public is inundated with conflicting reports and material on renewable energy (especially the overblown potential of Wind) that they can’t verify these things for themselves. So each section picks the data that best serves its ends, and then someone blasts it on TV, followed by a politician simplifying it even more and then using it to push an unknown agenda.

    With reporting and pie in the sky dreams plans like this being published it’s no wonder so many people are confused and misguided when it comes to pragmatic energy sources for our future mix.

    By the way, great analysis of this article Barry. Being a pro nuclear man myself I was interested to see your rebuttal on their points about nuclear.

  6. Even Australia’s 20% by 2020 appears utterly impossible. The 2006 IEA data suggests a five fold increase in non-hydro renewables will be needed within the next decade to meet the target number of Gwh’s. It’s simply not happening. Various ruses are being employed to fudge the numbers such as declaring nonsolar water heaters are honorary solar. RET aside new grid powered desal plants claim to be building wind farms to offset their FF use but it looks like they will conveniently announce existing wind farms already fill that role.

    Meanwhile gas fired generators in the 250-500 Mwe range are springing up like mushrooms. Several gas baseload gas plants are being talked about, 4 Gw in NSW and 3 Gw in Vic if I recall. No doubt the smaller plants will be worked harder than the usual 60% (?) capacity. Gas is fast leaving our shores in the form of huge LNG exports while domestic CNG is widely regarded as the likely major substitute for diesel . Therefore not only will gas and general energy costs get expensive quickly but we will never achieve 80% CO2 reductions.

    Reminder that Danish wind woes will be on ABC TV tonight 8 pm.

  7. Thanks Barry. Good article.

    Gene Preston, do I understand correctly that the total capital cost for transmission (based on your figures) is:
    75,000 miles at $2 million/mile = $150 billion?

    And the annual capital cost is:
    4,000 miles at $2 million/mile = $8 billion?

    It might help many to provide an equivalent back of the envelope cost estimate for the alternative – nuclear power to meet the same demand instead of renewables. Using comparable assumptions. I expect the main differences woulfd be:

    1. much shorter aveage transmission line length,

    2. transmission lines sized for peak demand rather than sized to transmit the peak output of each renewable energy generator. This difference may be one to two orders of magnitude in the capacity and cost of the transmission lines.

  8. Gene Preston,

    My post is a bit blunt. I should have said, “thanks, great post”. It is costs that we have to compare in the end, so thsnk you. It would be great to have an estimate of the costs for the nuclear alternative, where the estimate is done on a comparable basis.

  9. The lies are astounding.

    “Unplanned downtime”? What a stupid strawman: point to the the 2% downtime due to equipment failure (or something), while sweeping away the orders-of-magnitude higher downtime from natural outages – which is hardly “planned” either.

    On this quote:

    For example, in one study, when 13-19 geographically disperse wind sites in the Midwest, over a region 850 km x 850 km, were hypothetically interconnected, about 33% of yearly-averaged wind power was calculated to be usable at the same reliability as a coal-fired power plant.

    This parses as follows (as Barry Brook surmises): they take the average wind generation, and of that, 1/3rd is available “much of the time” – that is, with similar downtime as an individual coal plant. (Note the prevarication: it is a single coal plant’s statistical variation compared to an entire continent’s averaging worth of wind turbines. Obviously if you compare with 1,000 coal plants worth of averaging and redundancy, this wouldn’t hold.) The unstated conclusion is this: if you wish to use wind baseload, you must

    * install an overcapacity of a factor of three (triple the cost);

    * throw away 2/3rd of the electricity generation; and

    * you will STILL have major outages, because the combined system is only as reliable as an individual coal plant.

  10. You have a Typo :

    Next comes a simple extrapolation of the total number of wind turbines, solar thermal facilities, etc. required to deliver 11.5 TWe of average power (close to my figure of 10 GWe in TCASE 3).

    Should have

    (close to my figure of 10 TWe in TCASE 3)

  11. Okay, regarding the wind array: I think this figure summarizes it

    http://i33.tinypic.com/wtfucw.jpg

    (fig. 3, p. 1706 (pdf. page 6))

    They have 19 sites, each with 1.5 MWe turbines. The estimated capacity factor is 0.45 (surprisingly high), or an average per-turbine of 670 kW. They say – as I suspected – their distributed system can achieve 1/3rd of this, 222 kW, 87.5% of the time – the same reliability as their reference coal figure. So you have shortages 12.5% of the time (see the figure for the histogram.)

  12. Thanks uvdiv, so I had it about right re: the 850 x 850 km work.

    Next Big Future makes an interesting further point here: http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/11/critique-of-path-to-sustainable-energy.html

    Jacobson and Delucchi do not apply their inclusion of war effects on a consistent basis.

    i.e., they ignore oil’s role in war, wind’s role in wildfires, terrorist risk to hydro projects. I can think of more — cyclone damage from wind, carbon footprint of paint that requires regularly replacement due to sun/wind wear-and-tear, gas’ (methane’s) role in clathrate emissions, etc. The possibilities are endless, if one really wants to take this intellectually vacuous argument to its nth degree.

  13. You’re all a bunch of knockers with a complete lack of vision. There are no problems in WWS type schemes that can’t be solved by political will and massive government handouts funded by taxing us all to the eyeballs. And at the current rate of tax growth Australians will all be taxed to the eyeballs by 2030 anyway. If we were to completely abolish personal income tax today our government would still collect more tax revenue per capita (in real inflation adjusted terms) than it used to back in the 1990’s. All we need is for this stong government growth to continue so we can all afford solar power and the other associated components of utopia. Hopefully we’ll all get fibre to the home and a personal hover craft around the same time.

  14. Excellent work as usual. From being an Energx SCADA engineer not so long ago, I can confirm that the transmission line costs are around $2-3 million (AUD) per km. Also as a SCADA engineer, I am unsure as what a ‘smart netowrk’ involves. I read the government proposal, and it just states “Build us a SMART one, yanno, GOOD” with no specification. I probably just lost a job posting this, still, I’d rather not work on a project that has no KPIs.

    Again, well done.
    Mark.

  15. The authors also show a basic lack of understanding of rankine cycle heat rejection. Under the heading “Reliability” at the bottom of pg 18, WIndWaterSun1009.pdf incomplete draft for submission to Energy Policy, 2009, they state, “extreme heat waves can cause cooling water to warm sufficiently to shut down nuclear plants”. This can be a problem with any system (coal, oil, NG, nuclear, CSP) that has to reject excess heat in order to condense the operating fluid. I think the authors cited nuclear power plants as an example due tonews stories about French reactors having to reduce power during heat waves or end up overheating river water and adversely affecting the river ecosystem.

  16. Fine work again. Are these folks gone nuts, why is their maths not from this world?

    The main reason for this show is, of course, not to take the nuclear option. If you don´t take nuclear, you must use fossils to get along.

    Energy generation from mountain potential energy is tenfold more realistic than wind and solar. Why don´t they take it as an option? 30 TWh energy is made when you let one cubic kilometre mountain ground down 4000 meters and generators roll electricity of the drop. Rather simple and sure.

  17. uvdiv,

    Further to your point, if I have interpreted this chart and your comment correctly, the comparative cost of the transmission lines for the wind farms and the coal fired power station could be calculated (roughly) as follows:

    A 1,000 MW coal fired power station would have an 87.5% ‘reliability’. The transmission line would be sized to carry 1000 MW.

    To get the same energy and same reliability from the 19 wind farms, would require wind turbines with total capacity 6667 MW (i.e., 1000 MW / (0.45 / 3)). The transmission lines would need to be sized to carry 6667 MW. The total length would be longer for the wind farms than for the coal power station because the wind farms are distributed. Roughly, the cost of the transmission lines for the wind farms may be 10 times the cost for the coal (or nuclear) power station.

    The cost for the wind farms will be a little less if we use 1200 MW lines instead of 1500 MW lines.

    If the average capacity factor is less than the 45% figure used to derive the chart, the cost of the transmission lines for wind power would be higher. For example, if the average capacity factor was 30%, the cost of the transmission lines could be some 50% greater. (Of course, the capital cost of the wind farms would also be 50% higher).

    uvdiv, Could you please provide the link to the article that explains the chart. Is the chart derived from modelling studies using theoretical data or from actual wind farm data? If the latter, over what period and what areal extent?

  18. I really don’t know what they’re thinking. They say 1/3rd capacity can be used as “baseload”, “allowing” for 12% downtime. But they don’t actually suggest throwing out the other 2/3rd, and their transmission requirements (on that graph) plan on including most or all of the peak capacity. So they must think the grid will manage the variation completely – in which case, what were they saying in the first place?

    To be honest, I’m not sure they are being serious at all.

    I linked to the paper in my earlier comment. It’s the third one here:

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/

  19. Sorry for splitting over so many comments, I keep forgetting things.

    Is the chart derived from modelling studies using theoretical data or from actual wind farm data? If the latter, over what period and what areal extent?

    It is based on wind data. 19 sites, several hundred km separation, one year, in hourly increments, at standard meteorological 10m height above ground, extrapolated to 80m by a semi-empirical formula.

  20. uvdiv,

    Thanks. Now that I’ve seen that paper I’d put it in a basket with the Mark Diesendorf papers. It is not based on actual wind farm data and is probably at least as wrong as Diesendorf”s work. I’d consider it totally useless.

  21. Thank you, thank you Barry and Gene. You have done the world community a great service by giving a reasoned rebuttal of this scurrilous Scientific American article.

    Frankly, I was surprised by the substance and tone of that article and worried about its potential effects on readers.

  22. Replying to Peter Lang’s questions:

    Q – do I understand correctly that the total capital cost for transmission (based on your figures) is:
    75,000 miles at $2 million/mile = $150 billion?

    A – Yes, thats a rough estimate of the capital cost of transmission to implement the SA Jacobson plan, just to provide 100% renewables only to CA.

    Q – And the annual capital cost is:
    4,000 miles at $2 million/mile = $8 billion?

    A – That would be one way to calculate the annual cost – yes.

    Q – nuclear power to meet the same demand instead of renewables, using comparable assumptions. I expect the main differences would be:

    1. much shorter aveage transmission line length,

    2. transmission lines sized for peak demand rather than sized to transmit the peak output of each renewable energy generator. This difference may be one to two orders of magnitude in the capacity and cost of the transmission lines.

    A – yes to the above, and the 50,000 miles of tie lines tieing CA to the rest of the US would not be necessary because the base loaded nuclear power is reliable enough to depend on it 24/7. Thus there is no need to bring in power from other parts of the US.

  23. Does anyone have any numbers or information on minimum generation required to maintain a transmission line? If you have a 400MW feeder line (DC or AC, it doesn’t matter) from a 400MW wind farm, you can’t just run say, 5MWs through the line and expect it to get there. Most transformers because the real power dissipates into the higher voltage at low loads via impedance, resistance, etc etc.

    I’ve actually seen transmission lines ‘collapse’, meaning trip off line due to either low load with high generation or low generation with high load.

    Just curious.

  24. “Can renewable energy save the world from climate change, and do so at a reasonable cost? This column says we can replace some fossil fuel power with renewable power without a major cost increase, but we cannot hope to replace a major fraction of our fossil power with intermittent power sources such as wind and solar energy unless we can develop energy storage technologies.”
    http://www.voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/4138
    “The bottom line is that neither costs nor capital requirement will prevent us from decarbonising the electricity supply. The real obstacle to doing this largely with renewables is our current inability to store power, and as long as we cannot store power we will need to use non-renewable sources like nuclear and coal with carbon capture and storage”
    This column summarizes pretty well my position on the debate between renewables and nuclear. I think that if the storage problem is solved, renewables can (and will) be the main source of low-carbon energy.

  25. Great work. Its particularly sad that Scientific American should have
    published this, but particularly wonderful that a refutation is now globally
    and freely available. But my understanding has always been that SA is pretty
    much summaries of science that is settled, and many will read it that way
    and not find this blog.

  26. A critique of your critique.

    1. You say that the wind resource needs natural gas backup. This is not a given. In many regions, the wind backup is pumped storage.

    2. 35% capacity. This number doesn’t include the power that is dumped when it’s excess. In the province in Navarra in Spain they get greater than 70% of their power from wind by using pumped storage.

    Even if we don’t have pumped storage for every single MW of wind available, is it not conceivable that by 2030 we will have SOLVED the “battery issue”?
    Even now in Japan there are large scale battery arrays which are (expensively) used to backup wind supply. In 20 years I think it’s not a stretch of the imagination to say that prices are likely to come down.

    As for: the sun doesn’t shine enough.
    As a matter of fact, the vast majority of the world’s population lives in regions where the sun DOES shine enough. Even in heavily populated northern regions like Europe, there is plenty of sun in the mediterranean. All it would take are transmission lines to bring the power.
    And in the US there is plenty of sun in the south even in winter.

    Sorry, your critique is full of false assumptions and I reject it out of hand.

  27. I suspect Jacobson & Delucci made a deliberate, complete reversal of the problem of new Wind Turbines & Peak Neodymium. Most Wind Turbines have about a 20 ton gearbox and a 5 ton synchronous AC generator. The gearboxes are prone to premature failure.

    The newer, better Wind Turbines are using enormous Permanent Magnet Synchronous Generators, which are much lighter, more efficient & reliable and don’t require a Gearbox, but eat up loads of Neodymium.

    Problem is, we BADLY need those high strength Neodymium magnets for Electric Vehicles, E-Bikes, E scooters & HEV’s. The Prius uses two PMSM/G’s. An 18 kw & a 33 kw. They are especially needed for the flat pancake Wheel Hub Motors, which I believe is the best way to make E-vehicles. The vastly improved efficiency of Electric Vehicles over ICE Vehicles is a much more important use of Neodymium magnets than way-too-costly Wind Turbines. Examples, the Crusher UGV and UQM high efficiency 150 kw wheel motors:

    http://www.uqm.com/pdfs/powerphase%20150%20spec%20sheet%20update%209-21-09.pdf

    I can’t believe the authors are that stupid as to equate the Neodymium magnets with the Gearboxes, and the problem will be solved by switching to Permanent Magnet Synchronous Generator, Gearboxless Wind Turbines!

  28. In my little fantasy about an East Nullarbor energy hub I would have a rare earth refinery. At present the discarded tailings from Olympic Dam contain both thorium and rare earths from processing brannerite ore, with lanthanum by far the dominant RE I believe. New zircon mines west of there will produce monazite again containing both Th and REs.

    With all the discussion on pumped hydro I believe an alternative model is to use stop/start unregulated power completely separate to the grid. Wind farms near to hydro dams would run black start capable electric motors running positive displacement pumps (eg helical rotor) with backflow preventer valves. The transmission lines would be short (<40km) and the pumps would be bolted on to the outfall of the dam. All electrical machinery would be permanent magnet. Why do I think this might work? I do it with a solar charged 12v drip irrigation system.

  29. Reading the Scientific American article I got a feeling of deja vu remembered the Stockholm Environment Institute’s 1993 report, “Towards a fossil-free energy future: the next energy transition: a technical analysis for Greenpeace International “.
    The report was released in Lucerne on the eve of a “summit” meeting of environment ministers.

    The analysis found that there could be a 53% reduction in global fossil fuel consumption by the year 2030 – without in any way creating economic ruin. Another main finding was that by 2030 renewables could be supplying 60% of total energy supply, making it possible to abandon nuclear power by 2010.

    In 1990 the percentage of electricity generated by coal and gas was 63.0 ; 19.0 from hydro; 16.9 from nuclear and 1.1% from all renewables. In 2006 it was, 66.5 for coal and gas; 16.7 from hydro; 14.5 from nuclear; and 2.3 % from all renewables.

    The Greenpeace scenario was generated by modelling an was hopelessly wrong. I can see the same kind of thinking in the Sci-Am piece.

    db on 4 Nov.
    Wind or solar needs storage to smoothe out its intermittency. You advocate pumped storage.
    Pumped storage exists in Australia in the Snowy Scheme but it simply does not have the capacity to cope with what you have in mind, nor is there the transmission capacity needed to transfer WWS to the storage.
    The energy is indeed “…….. as free as the wind” , but the engineering needed to “farm” it and get it to market is expensive. You say that all it would take are the transmission lines!!
    Have you any idea of the cost?

  30. President Obama should read this post so he wakes up from his slumber and start kicking rear ends of his advisors. He is poorly advised due to lack of knowledge of his advisors or intentionally poorly advised by special interests. Listening to his speech in Florida 25MW (rated capacity) PV power plant site made me feel like that all of us old power engineers who built world’s existing electric power system were nothing but a failure. In contrary, we were on the right track when we started building nuclear power plants 50 years ago to replace fossil fuels. It was very clear to most of us that in order to build efficient and environmentally friendly low cost system, the power generation had to be localized without wheeling electricity over long distances. Unfortunately, we were outvoted by those who would fail even the simplest science test because of their limited brain capacity, fear and religious beliefs. As a result, we have a total mess of the whole energy system all over the world with deteriorating environment. Today, nuclear power is still much like forbidden religion to some, hence that is why you see all these proposed stupid schemes and false hopes with hara-kiri dances for something better than nuclear power. There is nothing better. After studying and working in energy field for nearly 50 years I am convinced more than ever that nuclear power, especially from thorium is the way to build our energy future on. If someone knows of something better I would sure like to know about it. I hope I live long enough to see a departure from present day idiocy before it is too late. A large portion of the world is paralyzed by poverty where many cannot afford the electricity at present high rates. Our “Green experts” talk about hyper expensive schemes while trying to convince you that electricity from these solar/wind giga project will somehow become cheaper. Because solar/wind scheme will consume far more financial and material resources, the power generated from solar or wind will never be cheaper.
    In overall, such schemes will fail to deliver affordable electricity to masses, thus lead to more poverty, hunger, rape of the environment and eventually war when there will be no other way out.

  31. Jim,

    “Wind or solar needs storage to smoothe out its intermittency. You advocate pumped storage.
    Pumped storage exists in Australia in the Snowy Scheme but it simply does not have the capacity to cope with what you have in mind, nor is there the transmission capacity needed to transfer WWS to the storage.”

    Australia is a better candidate for solar power than wind. In that case you can use molten salt for storage after the sun goes down. In addition, there are large capacity batteries being used by the Japanese utilities at the minute that would work.

    “The energy is indeed “…….. as free as the wind” , but the engineering needed to “farm” it and get it to market is expensive. You say that all it would take are the transmission lines!!
    Have you any idea of the cost?”
    The engineering required to maintain business as usual based on depleting oil supplies is incredible too. Pulling oil up from 10,000 meters under the ocean and a further 10,000 meters under the seabed is not cheap or an easy engineering feat.

    Anyway, the point is moot because the true solution should not be 100% renewables. It should be all of it including nuclear.

  32. Barton Paul Leveson said:

    What they mean by saying wind power costs less than coal or nuclear is that in California, according to PG&E figures, wind is priced at 9 centers per kilowatt hour, coal at 10, nukes at 15. How hard is that to understand?

    Wind energy does not have the same value as energy from nuclear or coal. Wind power is not available on demand. For a fair comparison you must add the cost of the back up or energy storage to the cost of wind energy. When the full costs of back up, grid enhancements, energy storage and power quality are included wind energy is at least twice the cost of nuclear energy. Earlier posts on this thread, showed that the cost of transmission for wind is in the order of 10 times the transmission for nuclear and coal.

  33. Further to Peter Lang’s point — BPL said nuclear is cited as 15c/kWh in California. Given that we know the O&M+Fuel costs for nuclear is about 1.7c/KWh, it’s trivial to work out the overnight cost this would represent. With a loan at 5% pa, repaid over a 30 year period, that’s equivalent to $16,000/kW for the new nuclear build (and $10,500/kW for coal). If you believe those figures, you’re right off with the fairies.

  34. The article may be flawed but not trash. The report failed to mention the use of the LiFePo4 battery on an utility scale. The raw ingredients of it are available on the terrawatt scale. So there should be no problem of using solar energy as a direct alternative to the overheated world bent on fossil fueled depletion we otherwise face.

    That was just the start of my reaction on the sci am site.
    I furthered with the vision of robotics and the fact that solar energy (with the life battery) could power the majority of the planet once EXPONENTIAL production kicks in (with much lower costs).

    However, I kinda failed to support nuclear,especially nuclear batteries since I still fear the worst. I believe if our leaders can be bought off, why can’t security…

  35. To all who wonder about the PG& E prices for electricity as quoted by Barton Paul Levenson. Ask him for the evidence and a verifiable reference/s to the cost of electricity.
    He is a writer of science fiction and acknowledged as such.

  36. fireofenergy, the breakthrough with the LiFePO4 material for the batteries is a huge advance in power density, not energy density. That is, you can charge or discharge the battery much faster, for higher power, but the amount of energy you can store in the battery is in the same ballpark as similar materials. Its a great technology to stick in an EV. But it doesn’t advance the game for storage for solar/wind power generation.

    What makes you think battery production is going to ramp exponentially?

  37. Dear David Walters, your query about minimum generation required to maintain a transmission line?
    There is no minimum generation needed for a line. However a long 345 kV line had quite a lot of capacitance that causes a reactive power flow (not real power) and that reactive flow causes the voltage of the line to rise, possibly to unacceptable levels. To keep the down to an acceptable level when the line is lightly loaded you can add shunt reactors (inductors) to cancel the shunt capacitance of the line. However the wind generators do not want to pay for these reactors. Who is responsible for this no wind reactive and voltage control is currently a big issue in ERCOT, as to who pays for the reactors.

    The ideal loading of a 345 kV line is a power level that causes the inductive and capacitive reactances to cancel out. This is called the surge impedance loading of the line and is about 400 MW for a 345 kV line. A parallel idea in electronics is to match the ends of a 50 or 75 ohm coax line with its proper impedance to prevent standing waves. Well when a power line is operated at its surge impedance loading, its standing waves are minimized and the reactive power flow which looks like the standing waves in RF coax lines, is nearly zero. The 345 kV lines can be operated well above the surge impedance loading because the wires can carry more current than is needed at the surge impedance loading level. The new 345 kV lines being built in ERCOT can handle up to about 1600 MVA. However when the power is greater than the surge impedance loading, the voltage sags and shunt capacitance must be added to cancel the inductive reactance of the current flowing in the wires (the inductance). We have what is called load flow programs which set up the equations to handle all these effects and calculate the power flows on all lines and the voltage sags and rises. Gee, I guess I went off the deep end in details. However its really much more detailed than what I have described here.

  38. db, you said, all it takes is transmission lines,. You are correct. Many thousands of MW of solar and wind will need many new EHV lines to bring all that power to the load centers, cities. Because of the fickle nature of wind and solar does provide nighttime power, even more lines will be needed to interconnect large regions to other large regions. The lines can be avoided if power sources that supply power 24/7 guaranteed, for years on end, can be built. I have constructed several scenarios on my web page that are as optimistic for renewables as I can get them to be. See http://egpreston.com for the “Designing a small system to be reliable, low cost, and have zero CO2 emissions:” section. I approached this proglem as though I was going to build a stand alone renewables power system for my own neighborhood. However I do not live in Midland TX thank goodness. The wind blows out there nearly all the time.

  39. Concerning the comments about pumped hydro. Today pumped hydro is used to store off peak base load generation so that it can supply power during the peak of the day. The pumped hydro contains too small an amount of energy to supply night time power for several cloudy calm days. Interestingly pumped hydro is charged up at night but if you wanted to charge it up in the daytime with solar which role does the pumped hydro play, charging or discharging? I think the role of pumped hydro has not been carefully considered when renewables are the source of power that charges up the pumped hydro. Another problem is that new sites for pumped hydro are nearly impossible to find, because the creation of a new reservoir for pumped hydro does a lot of environmental damage. Environmentalists, please speak up.

  40. Gene, in a similar vein to David’s minimum power requirement question, how well do HVDC lines cope with power fluctuations?

    There’s been a lot of talk of using HVDC to connect large areas to increase the catchment for solar and wind collection, but if they don’t manage fluctuations well, maybe its not feasible. Is this an issue for HVDCs?

  41. HVDC is a very good way to transmit power long distances because there is no reactive power problem. Both ends of the DC line have to have electronic equipment to make the conversion from AC to DC and DC to AC. This terminal equipment is rather expensiive, but is becoming more common each year. There are large DC lines from the Pacific NW down to southern CA to deliver hydro power to southern CA. There are a lot of DC ties between large regions. With a DC line you dial in the power flow. I don’t have the costs for DC lines readily handy. You may find some info doing google searches.

  42. John Newlands, it doesn’t make sense locating wind near hydro dams. That wouldn’t be the best wind location. Black start generation must be completely dispatchable and 100% reliable when you hit the start button. Wind isn’t dispatchable. What if you had an emergency and the dispatcher said we will be right there as soon as the sun come up or the wind blows. Solar and wind power are equivalent to run of the river hydro. With those sources you take it when it happens or lose it.

  43. http://www.theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/51097

    Silicon Valley solar company Ausra has sold its sole remaining solar power plant project in the United States, all but completing its exit from solar farming. As I write Thursday in The New York Times:

    Ausra is continuing its exit from the business of building solar power plants, announcing on Wednesday that it has sold a planned California solar farm to First Solar.

    The Carrizo Energy Solar Farm was one of the three large solar power plants planned within a few miles of each other in San Luis Obispo County on California’s central coast.

    Together they would supply nearly 1,000 megawatts of electricity to the utility Pacific Gas and Electric.

    First Solar will not build the Carrizo project, and the deal has resulted in the cancellation of Ausra’s contract to provide 177 megawatts to P.G.&E. — a setback in the utility’s efforts to meet state-mandated renewable energy targets.

    But it could speed up approval of the two other solar projects, which have been bogged down in disputes over their impact on wildlife, and face resistance from residents concerned about the concentration of so many big solar farms in a rural region.

    First Solar is only buying an option on the farmland where the Ausra project was to be built, according to Alan Bernheimer, a First Solar spokesman. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

    The deal will let First Solar revamp its own solar farm, a nearby 550-megawatt project called Topaz that will feature thousands of photovoltaic panels arrayed on miles of ranchland.

    “This will allow us to reconfigure Topaz in a way that lessens its impact and creates wildlife corridors,” said Mr. Bernheimer.

    You can read the rest of the story here.

  44. The folks over at Scientific American aren’t stupid, they are just a small cog in a the big machine. Maybe this interview between Alan Jones and Lord Monckton will help you see the what’s going on.

    http://2gb.com.au/index2.php?option=com_newsmanager&task=view&id=4998

    It’s time we refocuse our efforts to ensure that we get this right. I’m sure none of you want’s a system that does zip for reducing CO2 but levies another layer of bureaucracy on you.

  45. Sorry Gene

    Perhaps I’m a tad thick, but I don’t get why locating wind near hydro dams wouldn’t be good. Surely you use the wind to fill the dam and discharge the dam to load balance. Both could be happening at the same time in differing amounts meaning that the upper reservoir was either net filling or net emptying.

    Maybe pumped hydro is too expensive in too many places to play much of a role in load balancing, but that’s a separate argument isn’t it?

  46. Jade,

    I’ll jump in and give you a partial answer to your question.

    Wind power can be backed up successfully by hydro, but not pumped hydro. It can be backed up by hydro where there is plenty of water inflows, such as Canada, Brazil, Norway, Sweden. In that situation, when the wind blows, the hydro stations do not release water. They hold it and release it when the wind power output drops.

    However, the pumped storage case is different. For pumped storage to be viable we need two conditions.

    1. The sale price of the power from pumed storage must be around 4 times the buy price for the energy being stored. This works well with coal and nuclear baseload plants because they can pump the water up when electrcity demand is low and the price is low. That is between about 11 pm and 6 am. They release the water and generate electrcity at the times of peak demand when electrcity prices can be very high. This is profitable.

    2. The pumps need a steady power for several hours at a time. They cannot start and stop as the wind power fluctuates. You can visualise that we are pumping water in several pipes of say 6 m diameter, 1 to 10 km long and up hundreds of metres in height. It takes a lot of energy to accelerate the water in the pipes at the atart of pumping and the velocity must be maintained at a steady flow rate for the duration of pumping.

    Wind and pumped hydro are not a good match.

    You are correct that pumped hydro is not cheap. It starts at about $2000/kW for the best sites. Add to thast we need about 3000 kW @$2500/kW of wind capacity to have the same average capacity as 1000 kW of nuclear at say $5,000 kW. So the wind power cost is $9500/kW (3 x $2500 + $2000). Then we need to add about 10 times the transmission cost for wind compared with nuclear.

  47. re # 33976 Peter Lang

    Peter, I previously asked you what stranded wind was good for. Your reply was “not a lot” but I recall that you added that it could pump water usefully. I assume that this is against a low head. Therefore, for serious pumped storage applications, where continuous reliable power is needed, its intermittency counts against it. I was wondering whether whether offshore wind might complement power generation from tidal lagoons where lift height would be much smaller.

    I am not suggesting that this possible combined approach is going to be a rational partial alternative to nuclear power. Rather, I was thinking that, as the UK government seems determined to encourage the building of offshore wind farms, might it be sensible to combine them with tidal lagoons in an attempt to get more stable and useful output ? In other words, would a combination give more bangs for one’s buck (possibly pops for one’s pound)?

    As an aside, Al Gore was interviewed on the BBC this week. He said that there would be little expansion of nuclear power generation because of its proliferation risks and very high costs. I note that Barry answered similar points from (?) Nick Touran on the IFR thread but I think a little more reassurance on the costs of pyroprocessing could help the nuclear case should such reassurance be possible without a commercial demonstration unit. When we are told that electricity will be cheaper via nuclear than new coal, have reprocessing costs been factored in?

    In any event, the optimism that many felt consequent on the election of Obama seems to be waning fast. Surely, his science advisors should by now have appreciated that renewables aren’t an affordable answer and that we need a huge hike in nuclear. Why are we not seeing clear political leadership to this effect unless the advisors themselves are unconvinced by the types of argument appearing on this blog, arguments that have convinced me, a layman?

  48. Dear Jade, its because there is little wind near hydro dams, just like here in my hometown, Austin, TX. The wind only occassionally blows here. Your wind generator’s capital investment would be underutilized, i.e. a waste of money compared to putting them at the top of a windy hill.

  49. The DC tie capacity is counted toward meeting the installed reserve. That means that operators could increase the power flowing into a deficient area when needed. This could be done within minutes by operators dialing in a new power flow. I doubt there is much automatic control of DC power flow, so that the DC tie could be counted toward spinning reserve. However I may be wrong. There might be something like that out there somewhere, such as serving NYC, might have an automatic power flow control that could be counted on to provide instant power.

  50. Dear Jade again, after reading further down, you said:
    I’ll jump in and give you a partial answer to your question.

    Jade – Wind power can be backed up successfully by hydro

    Gene – Texas and most areas have too little hydro. The small amount of hydro here is held for black start, not smoothing out power swings from wind generators.

    Jade – pumped storage case is different. For pumped storage to be viable we need two conditions, sale price, a steady power for several hours at a time.

    Gene – here in Texas we really don’t have good sites for pumped hydro. Once an engineering company was in my office and said they could build pumped hydro on Lake Travis near Austin. We paid them $30,000 and they came back with a study that showed a small reservoir in some hills near hippie hollow. The pumped hydro would cause Lake Travis to fluctuate a ft up and down each day. The upper lake would flood a wildlife area creating an environmental nightmare. I showed the study to our CEO and he said it sounds great, lets do it, and I said, are you crazy, the environmentalists would kill us ha ha. We quietly filed the study away.

    Jade – pumpe4d hydro cannot start and stop as the wind power fluctuates. Wind and pumped hydro are not a good match.

    Gene – well there you are. Pumped hydro is of little benefit for wind generation although i’m sure power companies would try to use it to lower costs. More likely the pumped hydro would be held in reserve, which is a poor application also of pumped hydro.

    Gene – you mentioned base loaded generation in your discussion. I thought we were going to try to do away with both coal and nuclear. Do you live in CA? If you do, you must raise your right hand and swear against coal or nuclear since those are base loaded – oh yes I forgot you guys do have a little bit of hydro base load.- except when its a dry period – therefore the hydro must have some way to back it up with other generation. If you insist on doing away with coal then you must endorse nuclear since its the only other valid base load 24/7 reliable source of power.

  51. Pingback: Really Scientific-America? Are you trying to lose all credibility? « Enviralment

  52. Douglas Wise,

    You said ” I previously asked you what stranded wind was good for. Your reply was “not a lot” but I recall that you added that it could pump water usefully.”

    I vaguelly remember the comment. I think my response was sarcastic. From memory I meant that wind mills on properties can pumpt water for stock.

    If the lift height is smaller then you cannot generate much power when you release it. Power = hydraulic head x flow rate x density of water x acceleration due to gravity. So if you want to get much power from a low head application you’d need a massive flow of water – like a tidal barrage where there is a large tidal range.

    David, Have you looked at David Mackay’s book “Sustainable Energy – with the hot air”. You can access it from the ‘Blogroll” near the top left of each page on this web site.

    You asked: “When we are told that electricity will be cheaper via nuclear than new coal, have reprocessing costs been factored in?”

    Are you referring to Gen III or Gen IV? I don’t believe we know the costs of Gen IV yet and it will be a long time until we do. Eventually it will be cheaper than Gen III, but no one knows when. If your question refers to Gen III the answer is YES. All costs are included in the price of electricity, including decomissioning and waste disposal. Current cost estimates for nuclear in Australia are not cheaper than new coal. However, they are cheaper than coal with CCS. What I keep preaching is we should divert our research effort away from renewables and CCS and put it into working out how we can build nuclear in Australia cheaper than in USA and Europe. The costs are largely for bureaucratic reasons. We need to avoid the problems that are faced with building nuclear power plants in USA and Europe. My comments refer to the settled down cost of nuclear; the first five to ten we build will be higher cost because we have no capacity expertise in nuclear engineering.

  53. Regarding reprocessing costs for Gen IV.

    Currently, it’s about economics and financial risk. If we are going to make it through the current and looming energy crunch then fuel recycling in Gen IV reactors and breeding MUST become economic at some point, just as offshore oil has become economic now that the most easily accessible onshore oil has been tapped, and deep coal mines or large open cut pits have been opened after the shallow, easily accessible mines played out.

    Recycling and breeding are at the heart of what I now like to call ’sustainable nuclear’ — the multi-millennial-scale energy supply. What’s stopping it now? Uranium is cheap and folks are happy to defer decisions on spent fuel disposal by keeping it on site at the reactors; this is all part of the current “worry about it later” economic thinking. If pyroprocessing (electrorefining) is expensive now, it doesn’t mean pyro won’t happen. It simply means the decision on when to go for breeders will be deferred until it’s cheaper than once-through.

    The alternative, renewable energy — wind, water and sunlight — are not and cannot ever be economically competitive or logistically feasible as a means of supplying 100% of our power (perhaps 15-20% is closer), even if pyro was as expensive as PUREX (the current method for chemical recycling of plutonium). However, if pyro can be demonstrated to be cheap(ish), then we have a great chance to hasten the commercial deployment of fast reactors. I suspect this IS the case, but it needs to be properly demonstrated with a full-scale (100t/yr) pyro plant.

  54. re #34092 Peter Lang

    Peter,

    Thank you for your reply on the subject of wind and tidal lagoons. You asked whether I had read MacKay on the subject. The answer is affirmative. That was why I asked the question. In his technical chapter, he discusses the benefits of twin lagoons with additional pumping. He touches on the different approaches to providing power for such additional pumping including “bursty” sources (eg wind). I had been hoping you might have been able to give me your views, from an economic and engineering perspective, on MacKay’s suggestion.

    I am sure that you would argue that offshore wind is inherently unsuitable for grid power due to intermittency and cost. I suspect you might say the same for tidal lagoon power. I will therefore repeat my question, hopefully having explained it better: Might a scheme involving paired tidal lagoons with additonal pumping using stranded wind provide a more sensible and economic proposition than attempting to use tidal lagoons (without additional pumping) and grid connected offshore wind separately? I fear that you might duck the question by stating that it is a waste of your time because it is already obvious to you that a nuclear solution will trump anything else. It was for this reason that I prefaced my original enquiry with a statement to the effect that the UK appears hell bent upon erecting turbines in the sea anyway. You might also say that I, myself, should work out the answer to the question. However, I think that would be beyond my capabilities. I asked you because I have been very impressed with everything you have thus far written on BNC.

  55. re #34121 Barry Brook

    Barry,

    Thank you for your comments on Gen IV reprocessing costs. You, Peter Lang and others have fully convinced me that your statement to the effect that renewable energy can never be economically competitive or logistically feasible as a means of providing all our power is correct. The nuclear option is thus the only hope we have of avoiding “power down”. Some appear to welcome the idea of powering down and hence oppose any practical solution that may prevent it (eg Lovins?). I suspect that the overwhelming majority do not, given that , IMO, it would, in its early stages, result in massive and unprecedented levels of premature mortality, probably exceeding, in percentage terms, that occurring during the Black Death.

    So, we’re left with nuclear. However, it has to be sustainable. This means closing the fuel cycle which, up to now, has not been economically worthwhile. You say that reprocessing MUST become economic at some point in the future. If , by this, you are saying that, if we don’t reprocess, we’re bug….d and, taking into account your views on renewables and the fact that fissile stocks (without reprocessing )are finite, you are, by definition, correct.

    One of your very potent arguments for nuclear power is that it is the only realistic substitute for coal at an equivalent or lower cost. You have argued that, without economic advantage, there will not be sufficiently rapid roll out of non fossil fuel energy to prevent dangerous climate change. Your accounts of why the construction of new nuclear reactors should be much cheaper than in the past are compelling. Equally convincing are the claims that Gen IV deployment will make nuclear power truly sustainable. It thus seems that reprocessing costs MAY prove to be the n….r in the woodpile. It won’t necessarily be sensible to to go for rapid roll out of Gen III just because it’s affordable unless we are pretty sure that nuclear will remain sustainable for the planned lifetimes of the Gen III plants. If pyroprocessing should prove to be as expensive in the future as reprocessing by PUREX, what would this do to the electricity price vis a vis that of electricity from coal? If , for example, it were to double it, we could still be looking at economic collapse and an enforced “power down”

    I remain hopeful that your assessment that it will be cheap(ish) is correct. Can you say how long it would be before you can test this through commercial deployment of a pyro plant starting from now? I can appreciate that it won’t matter too much if Gen IVs are not deployed for 10 to 15 years if we get on with Gen IIIs in the meantime. However, in your judgement, what will be the consequences of a nuclear future if the reprocessing proves to be “expensive(ish)?

  56. Douglas Wise,

    OK. I understand your question, so I’ll lead you through the calculations here. First, we need to decide how much power and energy we want. To keep this consistent with the other analyses I’ve done, we’ll say we want to be able to supply the power demanded by the NEM for 1 day in winter.

    Demand = 25 GW average = 600 GWh per day
    Hydraulic head = 1 m
    Generating Efficiency = 90%

    Volume to be released per day for generation
    = 25,000,000kW / (1m x 9.81m/s2 x 90%)
    = 2,831,578 m3/s
    = 2.45 x 10^11 m3/d
    Area at 1 m above sea level (with vertical walls) = 245,000 km2

    This is approximately the area of Victoria, or a continuous 10 km wide ‘tidal lagoon’ around the entire coast line of Australia.

    But that is not all. The bottom of the lagoon must be 1 m above high tide level. The top would be 2 m above if the sides were vertical. They will not be. The sides will be at a very flat slope. So the area when full might be twice this area. There is much more of course. I could go on, but you get the picture.

    If you want to play with the lagoon being higher, then the area required is proportional to the hydraulic head. For example, if the bottom of your tidal lagoons is 10 m above high tide, then you’d need 1/10 of the area.

    But, whatever way we look at it, it is totally ridiculous.

    For all those who think pumped storage can make wind and solar viable, this simple calculation, should provide an insight into the area that would been to be inundated, the costs involved, and the environmental consequences. This simple analysis may raise many more questions, but most can be answered by some simple thinking and back of the envelope calculations as David Mackay preaches in his book “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air”. The purpose of his book is to “reduce the emissions of twaddle”. So have a go.

    I am sure someone will let me know if I’ve made a mistake

  57. Douglas Wise,

    You asked Barry some questions regarding the sustainability of Gen III.

    I do not believe there is any problem with the sustainability of Gen III. I believe it is far more sustainable than solar and wind and the other renewables. My reasons are as follows:

    1. the quantities of materials required to be mined and processed are far less for nuclear than for RE
    2. The land area required for nuclear is far less than for RE
    3. There is no shortage of uranium even for Gen III reactors. Those claiming there is a shortage of known uranium reserves omit to mention that we’ve hardly even explored the land surface yet. High grade Uranium deposits will found at the rate exploration proceeds, which in turn depends on the price for uranium. While it is cheap, exploration is limited. Note that raising the price of uranium has only a very small effect on the cost of generating electricity.
    4. Apart from the type of uranium deposits we mine now, there is far more uranium in phosphate deposits and in sea water. Also, the uranium levels in some fly ash (from coal fired power stations) is sufficiently high concentration to be mined now. As the price of uranium rises, more deposits will be found. If the price rises sufficently it will be come more economic to run Gen iV poewer stations. When the cost of running Gen IV becomes less than Gen III (on a full life cycle basis), GeniV will be built instead of Gen III on a commercial basis.
    5. The volume of used fuel from Gen II and Gen III nuclear reactors is miniscule compared with the releases of toxic materials from existing power stations. So, from my perspective, used fuel management is a trivial matter (except that it is a public perception and political concern). The toxic releases from other electricity generation, are totally uncontrolled. We accept them. They are far more toxic, far greater quantities, and kill orders of magnitude more peope on a comparable basis (ie per MWh of electrcity supplied).

    All the used fuel, from 32 years of electricity generation by the Maine Yankee power station (now decommissioned), is stored in the canisters shown in the photo (see link). Used fuel management is a minor problem when compared with all the other chemical releases we simply accept and do not even attempt to control.

    http://www.nukeworker.com/pictures/displayimage-5205-fullsize.html
    http://www.yankeerowe.com/info.html

  58. Douglas, #34139:

    You raise a very important point, and I intend to write a couple of posts on this point to provide more detail. But in brief:

    1. Currently, it is already economic for France and Japan, who lack viable uranium deposits, to set up the infrastructure and associated facilities to reprocess their fuel rods using PUREX — in order to extract 2% of the energy out of uranium instead of 1%. France has the lowest cost electricity in the EU. On this basis, PUREX is already competitive, even if you are willing to undertake aqueous chemical reprocessings. The US bailed from reprocessing for flawed political reasons, not economic ones. So it’s already a pretty close run thing.

    2. PUREX, of course, does almost nothing to solve the waste storage issue, which is where pyroprocessing makes a huge leap. That’s a real cost saving over PUREX, once you account for repository $$.

    3. Pyroprocessing is reliant on a fairly simple industrial process of electrorefining, which we know is economic and scaleable for industries such as aluminum smelting.

    4. Yoon Chang has done some estimates of the cost of a fuel cycle facility for a 1400 MWe fast reactor. Via aqueous reprocessing, the building size is ~5.3 million cubic feet, the hot cells are 424K cft, incl. 3K cubic yards of high density concrete and 35K cy of normal concrete. For a pyroprocessing facility, the numbers are 852K cft, 41K cft, 133 cy and 8K cy. The relative capital cost, based on materials, is $420 million for the aqueous and 82 million for the pyro.

    5. So, everything points to pyro being much more economically competitive than PUREX (which is itself already competitive in places like France and Japan, which have long histories of power supply but lack significant domestic uranium supplies). The next stage is to build a pilot scale (100 T/yr) pyroprocessing demonstration project. Behind the scenes, this is one of the priorities we’re currently working towards in earnest.

  59. Peter Lang

    Thank you for your two replies.

    I found your comments on sustainability of Gen III reassuring although, I suppose, political concerns over “waste” will remain until Gen IV technology is accepted by the general public as a means of dealing with (actually benefitting from) it in the future.

    Your first reply on tidal lagoons, with and without pumping, baffled me. You say the whole concept is, to all intents and purposes, totally ridiculous. You re-refer me to David Mackay. I wonder whether you, yourself, have read what he has to say on the subject. It seems to me that he doesn’t dismiss the idea out of hand. I fully appreciate that he is primarily concerned with amounts of energy and doesn’t spend much time discussing the costs of producing those amounts. I doubt, however, that he would have sounded quite so enthusiastic on the subject if his real intention was to allow lay readers to work out for themselves how useless the technology was. Clearly, he is not claiming that tidal power in total will ever practically be able to supply more than 10% of UK energy needs and nor is he claiming that tidal lagoons will ever be able to contibute more than a fraction of that. However, I had been led to believe that he felt that limited tidal lagoon power might be practical and affordable and that that there were some advantages in additional pumping, possibly with wind energy. He proposed a maximum upper figure of 800 sq km and fel it would generate at 3w/sqm (no pumping) and 4.5 (with pumping). He assumed a tidal range of 4m. He stated that this would provide 1.5kWh/person/day.

    I’m afraid you lost me early in your calculations with your statement that the bottom of a tidal lagoon had to be 1 metre above the high tide (presumably a spring tide). Was this a typo? Could I prevail upon you to read Mackay on the subject and then explain whether or not he is writing rubbish and making ridiculous claims?

  60. Douglas,

    I really cant get interested in doing the calculatiosn on somethig that is so far away from being feasible. I’d encourage you to have a go your self. If you want to work with a different power output and different energy then insert the figures you want to use. I assumed 1 m hydraulic head (minimum) and 1 m depth. So, when it is high tide and the tidal pond is near empty, we need to be able to generate 25GW of power. But make your own assumptions and have a go.

  61. Douglas Wise,

    Which page are you referring to in David Mackay’s book. Wind, tidal, energy storage, intermittency, etc are covered in several parts of the book and I am not sure which section you are referring to.

  62. Phew, I had an error in the formula I posted in post #34168. I’ve been wondering waht sort of comments I’d get. Thank’s for all being so respectful. The formula should read:

    power = hydraulic head x flow rate x density of water x acceleration due to gravity
    Power = 1 m x 1 m3/s x 1000 kg/m3 x 9.81 m/s2 = 9.81 kW

  63. Barry, thank you for the clarification on Doug’s question.

    Doug, if you want to continue could you please re-ask the question. I am confused. I was attempting to answer, in a brief way without having to spend much time on it, the question you raised in the initial post, which was:

    “Therefore, for serious pumped storage applications, where continuous reliable power is needed, its intermittency counts against it. I was wondering whether offshore wind might complement power generation from tidal lagoons where lift height would be much smaller”.

    I do not want to spend much time on this as I believe there is not a chance of it being viable, except perhaps in very small scale for specific applications, for example in some remote locations.

    Another way to consider the viability is to ask the question, if it is viable, why aren’t there many such schemes already in operation. We’ve been pumping water with wind and generating electricity with hydro for over a century. Both technologies are mature. If it was viable, such schemes would be all over the globe now.

  64. #34218 Peter Lang

    Peter,

    I think I understand why my initial query might have confused you. The first part of the sentence you quoted was preamble, designed to indicate to you that I had already accepted your previously stated views that pumped storage would be too costly to be a practical way of overcoming wind’s intermittency. In other words, it wasn’t meant to be part of the question. It was a lead in to a question about another potential use of wind, namely to add value to the provision of tidal lagoon power, as described in David Mackay’s book to which you now have the relevant cite above.

    I was probably wrong to use the term, stranded, in this context. Clearly, if one is going to try to derive power from a tidal lagoon system, the electricity generated would need to be grid connected. Therefore, if one decides to enhance its efficiency with wind power, one might as well send the power not needed for pumping down the lagoon’s grid line.

    “Stranded ” got a mention in the light of an earlier question to you. As a one time wind proponent, I was forced to change my stance on its widespread applicability and relevance, certainly as a source of grid connected power. I was left wondering whether there were any significant applications left which wouldn’t be unduly compromised by intermittency and, hence, might not require grid connection.. In passing, I note that Mackay’s approach to intermittency is different. He thinks that, as electrical demand increases to include other applications, there will be an expansion of new uses which will reduce the intermittency disadvantages, given sophisticated grids. He cites, as examples, charging of electric cars and heat pumps plus thermal storage.

  65. I never cease to be amazed at all the people who say what is actually being done today cannot be done.

    There are already utilities which make use of pumped hydro, compressed air and molten salt energy storage. There are growing companies that are doing things with load shifting and Distributed Renewable Generation management. I spent the last two years working on smart grid technologies with some of the best and brightest engineers in the industry.

    There is no “intermittency disadvantage”. Cheap and abundant renewable energy is also cheaply stored. And those of us who are already taking the RE / DRG bull by its proverbial horns are able to force utilities to play nice or else.

    I realize that everyone who posts on blogs are “experts”. I also realize that putting quotation marks around “experts” doesn’t mean they know a damned thing.

  66. Furrycatherder,

    Would you like to provide some links that give us the costs of the technologies you propose.

    Are the Electricty Storage Association’s costs wrong?
    http://www.electricitystorage.org/site/technologies/

    Are the costs hwe have for wind power, storage and back up wrong?

    What is the cost for handling the sort of variablitiy we are seeing here:
    http://www.transmission.bpa.gov/Business/Operations/Wind/baltwg.aspx

    Note that at peak power, the wind is generating nothing. Also notice that the wind power picks up just as the load falls off. This means the back up generators must ramp down at about twice the ratew they would need to ramp down if there was no wind generation in the system. Do you think it costs nothing to manage this on the grid?

    Your comment seemed to be about what could be done if money is no object. Is that what you mean?

  67. Furrycatherder. Just consider your statement “I never cease to be amazed at all the people who say what is actually being done today cannot be done.” and think for a moment about the widespread safe use of nuclear energy today, and all the people who say it cannot be done.

  68. Response to Barry Brook on our article

    Comment 1. “No critic of large-scale renewable energy would argue any differently, and the size of these resources has been covered in detail by David Mackay. In that context, I wonder what they hope to add to the literature? There’s nothing wrong in this section, and well explained, but it’s just standard, rehashed fare.”

    Response 1. MacKay assumes average wind power per unit area of 2 W/m2. Our proposal calls for wind turbines (e.g., 5 MW, 126 m diameter, 100-m hub) to be up in locations of wind speed 7 m/s or faster. The wind power per unit area of such turbines (based on their power curves, assumed 10% losses, and a standard spacing area of 4Dx7D) in such wind speed regimes is 3.3 W/m2 at 7 m/s to 4.8 W/m2 at 8.5 m/s, double those used by MacKay, which others have recognized to be low as well. We provide the first modeled map of the world’s winds at 100 m covering both ocean and land in the “More detailed analysis” at

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/susenergy2030.html

    This map generally shows where the fast wind speed locations are. This map, combined with the only map of the world’s winds based on data alone,

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/global_winds.html

    were used to determine the total world wind resource and the world wind resource in fast-wind locations. These were not MacKay’s findings.

    Comment 2. “So what’s “The Ugly”? Well, it’s something utterly egregious and deceptive. In the Sci Amer article, the following objection is raised in order to dismiss the fission of uranium or thorium as clean energy: Nuclear power results in up to 25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, when reactor construction and uranium refining and transport are considered. Hold on. How could this be? I’ve shown here that the “reactor construction” argument is utterly fallacious – wind has a building material footprint over 10 times larger than that of nuclear, on energy parity basis. Further, Peter Lang has shown that wind, once operating, offsets 20 times LESS carbon per unit energy than nuclear power, when a standard natural gas backup for wind is properly considered. I’ve also explained in this post that the emissions stemming from mining, milling, transport and refining of nuclear fuel is vastly overblown, and is of course irrelevant for fast spectrum and molten salt thorium reactors. So…?”

    Response 2. The paper at

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/revsolglobwarmairpol.htm

    clearly lays out that the proper accounting of the CO2 emissions due all energy sources must include not only the lifecycle emissions but also the opportunity cost emissions due to planning to operation delays. In the case of nuclear, there is also the unequivocal risk of carbon emissions and death due to the expansion of nuclear weapons and the resulting risk of nuclear war or terrorism, which Barry Brooks pretends not to exist although governments and militaries do. However, as shown in Table 3 of the paper, the CO2 emissions from one limited nuclear exchange over 30 years resulting from nuclear energy/weapons proliferation represents only 0 to 2.3% of the total CO2 emissions due to nuclear. It is the death rate that is significant.

    With respect to the lifecycle emissions, the range included in Table 3 of the above paper includes the nuclear energy industry estimate of 9 g-CO2e/kWh as well as a number just above the AVERAGE of 103 published lifecycle emission studies (70 g-CO2e/kWh). Barry Brooks would have us believe that all these scientists are wrong and a nuclear advocate and an industry that has a financial stake in the numbers it produces are correct. Brooks also ignores the obvious opportunity cost CO2 emissions from nuclear due to planning-to-operation delays. These account for a greater portion of nuclear’s emissions than the lifecyle, yet he pretends they don’t exist.

    With regard to land and materials footprints on his TCASE web site that he refers to, Brooks confuses the definition of footprint with spacing area. He pretends that the space between wind turbines is an apple-to-apple comparison of the actual land taken up on the ground by nuclear power plants, when in fact the real footprint of wind covering the ground to power, for example, the U.S. vehicle fleet, is 770-1100 times less than that of nuclear. The water consumption of nuclear is also over 600 times higher than that of wind for powering the vehicle fleet. The spacing area required for nuclear is 10 times lower than for wind, but this is of less relevance than the footprint, since the wind spacing can be used for multiple purposes, including ranching, grazing, farming, wildlife habitat, etc. These numbers are derived at

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/revsolglobwarmairpol.htm

    The footprint area is more relevant than the spacing area, as it affects carbon storage in the soil due to replacing vegetated land with structures and open mines. The study of Jacobson (2009) did not include this. Accounting for this CO2 source increases the emissions of nuclear relative to wind, tidal and wave in particular.

    With regard to materials footprint, Brooks uses the old estimate of 2 W/m2 from MacKay, assumes a CF of 23% whereas data for the U.S. show numbers of 33-35% between 2004-2007 for new installations (http://eetd.lbl.gov/ea/ems/reports/
    lbnl-275e.pdf), fails to account for additional reinforcement required for nuclear resulting from requirements of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the U.S. to require all new plants to “incorporate design features that, in the event of a crash by a large commercial aircraft, the reactor core would remain cooled or the reactor containment would remain intact, and the radioactive releases would not occur from spent fuel storage pools” (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/RL34331.pdf). In fact, there is no peer review of Brooks’ numbers.

    Comment 3. “Well, you have to look to the technical version of the paper to trace the source of the claim. It comes from Jacobson 2009, where he posited that nuclear power means nuclear proliferation, nuclear proliferation leads to nuclear weapons, and this chain of events lead to nuclear war, so they calculate (?!) the carbon footprint of a nuclear war! (integrating a probability of 0 — 1 over a 30 year period). Really, need I say more? Can it really be that such wildly conjectural nonsense is acceptable as a valid scientific argument in the sustainable energy peer-reviewed literature? It seems so, which suggests to me that this academic discipline needs a swift logical kick up its intellectual rear end.”

    Response 3. This is a really dishonest comment by Barry Brooks as Table 3 of that paper clearly shows that the nuclear/war terrorism link contributes only between 0% and 2.3% of the total CO2 emissions due to nuclear. It is also dishonest because Brooks pretends the risk doesn’t exist. He’ll have us believe that building one 750-MW nuclear power plant per day for 57 years (the number needed to meet 2030 world power demand on its own), won’t increase the risk that several countries building the plants will produce weapons-grade material. Already, North Korea, India, Pakistan, and Iran have proved that it is possible to secretly foster a nuclear weapons program under the guise of a nuclear energy program (and Venezuela is trying to join the club). Anyone concerned with nuclear weapons proliferation should be concerned about nuclear energy expansion.

    Comment 4. “Sorry, but I just don’t get this. If the downtime of solar PV is 2%, for instance, and you have 1.7 billion 3 kW units installed worldwide (their calculated figure), then 340,000 of them are out at any one time. That seems rather significant to me…”

    Response 4. I’m not sure how having 12.5% of the coal plants in the world down at a given time is better than have 2% of the solar PV systems down. We know the 12.5% is the real number as this is the average downtime of coal in the U.S, about half unplanned and half planned.

    Comment 5. Next, to overcome intermittency, they claim that for an array of 13-19 wind farms, spread out over an 850 x 850 km region and hypothetically interconnected: Let’s parse this….

    Response 5. I would suggest looking at the paper

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/aj07_jamc.pdf

    before speculating.

    Comment 6. Then they introduce ‘load-matching’ renewables. For instance, they present a “Clean Electricity 24/7” figure for California (see above), in which geothermal, wind, solar and hydro together provide a perfect match to an average power demand curve for CA for a given month (July in this figure). Strangely though, they neglect to mention what happens during the many imperfect, less-than-average days, when it’s cloudy and/or calm for some or most of the day and night (or strings of days/nights), or how much extra capacity is needed in winter months. How is the gap filled if either or both of wind/solar is mostly unavailable? Do the residents of CA go without electricity on those days? Err, no. Apparently, in these instances, grid operators must ‘plan ahead for a backup energy supply’. Riiiight. Where does this come from again, and how will this be costed into the WWS economic equation?

    Response 6. The figure gives the monthly-averaged hourly power demand and output of each renewable, based on real data, extrapolated to the future. If wind and solar are both zero at a given hour (day or night), hydro fills in the void. The solution is constrained so that the total hydro used over the month is no greater than the current hydro used in California. As such, the figure accounts for the actual variability as well as worst-case scenarios. No backup energy beyond hydro is needed in this system. Winter demand is lower than summer demand, and scenarios have been done for winter as well. Please see

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/HosteFinalDraft.pdf

    for more details.

    Comment 7. Quoting from the paper, ‘Power from wind turbines, for example, already costs about the same or less than it does from a new coal or natural gas plant, and in the future is expected to be the least costly of all options.’ “How can they justifiably say this, and yet neglect to mention that the power these these technologies produce is variable in quantity, low quality (in terms of frequency control), not dispatchable, diffuse (thereby requiring substantial interconnection), and that their projected energy prices don’t include costs of backup? In other words, in the real world, what exactly does the above quoted statement mean? Nothing meaningful that I can see.

    Response 7. In the U.S., wind has been the second largest new source of electric power after natural gas and ahead of coal for four years straight despite the much larger total subsidies to natural gas and coal. This speaks to its price competitiveness. According to multiple studies, summarized in an LBNL report by Dr. Ryan Wiser, the integration cost of wind energy up to 30% penetration, even without the interconnections and combining different renewables, is estimated as less than 1.5 cent/kWh. The EIA NEMS estimates the transmission cost due to wind in the current system of 0.9 cents/kWh.

    Comment 8. They make a token attempt to price in storage (e.g., compressed air for solar PV, hot salts for CSP). But tellingly, they never say HOW MUCH storage they are costing in this analysis (see table 6 of tech paper), nor how much extra peak generating capacity these energy stores will require in order to be recharged, especially on low yield days (cloudy, calm, etc).

    Response 8. Storage is not needed if renewables are properly combined, the grid is properly integrated, and smart grids are used. Storage makes the solution easier, but should not be a limitation with careful planning. Please see response to Comment 6 for a discussion of worst-case days.

  69. Leaving aside Jacobson’s cost of nuclear war I think another egregious error is hydro as backup for a major wind-solar failure episode. Many countries including Australia simply don’t have that much hydro and work on tight reserves. Hereabouts (SW Tas) we’ve had the wettest winter since 1927 yet most dams are less than 50% full. Let’s say Australia needs 20 GW continuous minimum to get by without major supply interrupts. If wind-solar was was down to 10 GW for a week hydro couldn’t make up the other 10 GW for that long even with extra water turbines and beefed up transmission. Some other form of controllable output would have to make up the shortfall.

  70. This nuclear war / deaths “opportunity cost” is something uniquely absurd and amusing, demonstrating the depth of abuse of facts the antinuclear fundamentalists need to dwell into to make their “logic” work.

    First, nuclear weapons were developed before and independently of any peaceful nuclear energy applications in virtually all examples of proliferation. The starving isolated impoverished North Korea (also without any power reactors) proved that there is no technological obstacle to repeating 60 years of technology achievement.

    Second, nuclear weapons are not built because there is a reactor running, but because there is a political decision to build them. Even if there is a power reactor running, it is clearly an advantage to run a separate weapon program just for security reasons. History shows that this is the case.

    Therefore to reduce the probability of nuclear war we need to reduce motivation for such a desire. An access to scalable, affordable, and clean energy is a condition sine qua non, and clearly only nuclear energy can provide.

    Arguing that nuclear power expansion increases possibility of nuclear war is a childish nonsense already falsified by experience in reality, useful perhaps in political strong-arming. However using such argument to quantify expected damages from energy choices is dishonest at the core, not even wrong sophistry.

    One could argue the same about how lack of nuclear energy will lead to nuclear war: “What will we do with all the unused fissile materials around in a resource impoverished world due to lack of nuclear energy? Well we will hit the others with it!”, or how the focus on chaotic piddle power generators will lead to nuclear war or whatever. The fact that Mark defends this nonsense is very amusing, please continue with these gold nuggets.

  71. A friend alerted me by e-mail that one of the authors of the SciAm article had come here to defend it, however I must admit to being very disappointed at quality of Jacobson’s response. There is no attempt here to justify the premises and assumptions of the article that we have been discussing here, only a rather poor attempt at pettifogging and avoidance.

    One can see the sort of intellectual bankruptcy typical of these arguments in the comment and response number 7 above. The comment questions the quality and dispatchablity of wind power, and it is answered by statements of price competitiveness. No mention of feed-in tariffs and natural gas backup, Nor any mention of the fact that power swings from wind will need to be compensated for by power swings from gas-powered plants, which in turn will induce comparable power swings on the gas network as plant ramps up and down. This will have a cost implication for the gas network, an implication that does not seem to have been included in cost of wind calculations

    Wind energy is hopelessly flawed in a way that will probably never be overcome. It is completely fickle, rising and falling in cycles that have nothing to do with demand. Balancing supply and demand on an electric grid is an extremely delicate task. Unexpected power drops can cause brownouts while unexpected power surges can wipe out data and ruin equipment. Under these constraints, utilities view wind as more a liability than an asset. Ireland recently refused to take any more wind energy on its grid. In August Japanese utilities announced they too had had enough. Electrical engineers everywhere generally regard wind as little more than an expensive nuisance.

    The most glaring cost of big wind is the industrial development of rural and wild areas, which arguably degrades rather than improves our common environment. That is impossible to justify if the benefits claimed by the industry sales material are in fact an illusion, propped up by subsidies and artificial markets for “indulgence credits” that actually facilitate the flouting of emissions caps and renewable energy targets.

    Most important, wind is doing nothing to reduce carbon emissions. Even when the wind is blowing full blast, utility companies must keep their coal and gas plants running in case it suddenly dies down. At best, windmills only produce one-third their rated capacity of electricity. Denmark has found that on the average less than ten percent of its wind energy was available when most needed. Despite the claim of generating a significant percent of its electricity from wind energy, Denmark’s carbon emissions continue to rise and not a single fossil fuel plant has been shut down.

  72. Mark:

    As I understand your comment, one of the largest contributing factors to your guesstimate of nuclear energy CO2 emissions is something you call “obvious opportunity cost CO2 emissions from nuclear due to planning-to-operation delays”.

    It seems to me that you are adding some emissions level to the actual total due to the emissions from the fossil fuel plants that have to run a bit longer because it takes so long to get a nuclear plant planned, approved and constructed.

    That is a solvable problem – work to streamline the process and reduce the time required. There are many ways to do that that have no negative costs in terms of safety or reliability.

    Also – using the “AVERAGE” emissions levels from a selected set of studies is a bit disingenuous. A study or two that postulates outlier emissions levels could have a huge impact on the AVERAGE if most of the other studies provide low numbers based on actual measurements. A better estimate of the true value would be a MEDIAN, the estimate where there are half above and half below.

    As a former submarine engineer officer, I simply cannot stomach the notion that nuclear energy plants have much at all in the way of emissions that have not already been generated. Remember – we seal submarines and operate them underwater with human, breathing crews. My own little reactor operated for 14 years without any new fuel and current submarines operate for 30 years without new fuel despite the fact that the US stopped producing HEU for naval vessels about 15 years ago and will be living off of the inventory for a few more decades.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights
    Host and producer, The Atomic Show Podcast

  73. One could argue the same about how lack of nuclear energy will lead to nuclear war: “What will we do with all the unused fissile materials around in a resource impoverished world due to lack of nuclear energy? Well we will hit the others with it!”, or how the focus on chaotic piddle power generators will lead to nuclear war or whatever. The fact that Mark defends this nonsense is very amusing, please continue with these gold nuggets.

    Now that is very well said.

    Here’s what I had to say concerning Jacobson’s work some time ago:

    One of the more common arguments being put forward to derail the re-emergence of nuclear power is the concern about weapons proliferation. It is argued by anti-nuclear propagandists that an increase in the use of civilian nuclear power will directly increase the threat of nuclear war by flooding the world with easily accessible fissionable material. One critic of nuclear power, Prof. Mark Z. Jacobson, has taken it on faith that the causal pathway between civilian nuclear power reactors and all out nuclear war is so strong that he includes the CO2 contribution to the atmosphere from burning cities which have been subject to nuclear attack as a serious carbon cost of civilian nuclear power. Jacobson’s paper can be found here:

    http://www.cleanairalliance.org/files/active/0/EnergyEnvRev1008.pdf

    The relevant section concerning nuclear power is as follows:

    4d. Effects of Nuclear Energy on Nuclear War and Terrorism Damage. Because the production of nuclear weapons material is occurring only in countries that have developed civilian nuclear energy programs, the risk of a limited nuclear exchange between countries or the detonation of a nuclear device by terrorists has increased due to the dissemination of nuclear energy facilities worldwide. As such, it is a valid exercise to estimate the potential number of immediate deaths and carbon emissions due to the burning of buildings and infrastructure associated with the proliferation of nuclear energy facilities and the resulting proliferation of nuclear weapons. The number of deaths and carbon emissions, though, must be multiplied by a probability range of an exchange or explosion occurring to estimate the overall risk of nuclear energy proliferation. Although concern at the time of an explosion will be the deaths and not carbon emissions, policy makers today must weigh all the potential future risks of mortality and carbon emissions when comparing energy sources.

    Here, we detail the link between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons and estimate the emissions of nuclear explosions attributable to nuclear energy. The primary limitation to building a nuclear weapon is the availability of purified fissionable fuel (highly-enriched uranium or plutonium). Worldwide, nine countries have known nuclear weapons stockpiles (U.S., Russia, U.K., France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea). In addition, Iran is pursuing uranium enrichment, and 32 other countries have sufficient fissionable material to produce weapons. Among the 42 countries with fissionable material, 22 have facilities as part of their civilian nuclear energy program, either to produce highly-enriched uranium or to separate plutonium, and facilities in 13 countries are active . Thus, the ability of states to produce nuclear weapons today follows directly from their ability to produce nuclear power. In fact, producing material for a weapon requires merely operating a civilian nuclear power plant together with a sophisticated plutonium separation facility. The Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons has been signed by 190 countries. However, international treaties safeguard only about 1% of the world’s highly-enriched uranium and 35% of the world’s plutonium. Currently, about 30,000 nuclear warheads exist worldwide, with 95% in the U.S. and Russia, but enough refined and unrefined material to produce another 100,000 weapons.

    The explosion of fifty 15-kt nuclear devices (a total of 1.5 MT, or 0.1% of the yields
    proposed for a full-scale nuclear war) during a limited nuclear exchange in megacities could burn 63-313 Tg of fuel, adding 1-5 Tg of soot to the atmosphere, much of it to the stratosphere, and killing 2.6-16.7 million people . The soot emissions would cause significant short- and medium-term regional cooling . Despite short-term cooling, the CO2 emissions would cause long-term warming, as they do with biomass burning. The CO2 27 emissions from such a conflict are estimated here from the fuel burn rate and the carbon content of fuels. Materials have the following carbon contents: plastics, 38-92%; tires and other rubbers, 59-91%; synthetic fibers, 63-86%; woody biomass, 41-45%; charcoal, 71%; asphalt, 80%; steel, 0.05-2%. We approximate roughly the carbon content of all combustible material in a city as 40-60%. Applying these percentages to the fuel burn gives CO2 emissions during an exchange as 92-690 Tg-CO2 . The annual electricity production due to nuclear energy in 2005 was 2768 TWh/yr. If one nuclear exchange as described above occurs over the next
    30 years, the net carbon emissions due to nuclear weapons proliferation caused by the expansion of nuclear energy worldwide would be 1.1-4.1 g-CO2/kWh, where the energy generation assumed is the annual 2005 generation for nuclear power multiplied by the number of years being considered. This emission rate depends on the probability of a nuclear exchange over a given period and the strengths of nuclear devices used. Here, we bound the probability of the event occurring over 30 years as between 0 and 1 to give the range of possible emissions for one such event as 0 to 4.1 g-CO2/kWh. This emission rate is placed in context in Table 3.

    Perhaps Jacobson thought it would sound scarier or more impressive to use Teragrams as the unit expressing the mass of fuel and CO2. One Tg is, of course, one million metric tons, so accepting Jacobson’s figures, we see that his worst-case scenario results in the death of about 17 million people and releases about 700 million metric tons of CO2 from the burning of 313 million metric tons of fuel. Interestingly, this is a very similar figure to the production of saleable coal in Australia for 2005-06. Of the three hundred million tons of saleable coal produced that year in Australia, about 233 million tons were exported, the remainder being used in local coal power
    plants. Since coal plants produce about 80% of Australia’s electrical power, the number of people served by that remainder (about one quarter of the total production) is very close to the scale of the worst-case scenario fatalities cited by Jacobson.

    All of this rule-of-thumb, back-of-the-envelope figuring indicates that if the nuclear strike resulting in these casualties were launched against a population which used coal power to achieve a per capita power output on par with Australia’s, then the results of the strike would be carbon-neutral in four years, and carbon-negative thereafter. I must now emphasise that I absolutely do not support nuclear attacks on the civilian populations of coal-dependent First World nations as a greenhouse gas emmission abatement measure! The assumption that a sustainable future can only be secured at the cost of immense death and suffering is the language and currency of the opposition, and I shall not tarry in that territory. I merely explore the consequences of Jacobson’s thinking to point out its absurdity.

  74. Peter Lang

    Peter,

    If you should have the time to respond to me on the subject of tidal lagoons, I thought the following website might be of interest to you: http://www.tidalelectric.com
    There are good reasons to think that tidal lagoon power might ,on its own, prove cheaper than that derived from tidal stream turbines, barrages or offshore wind. Furthermore, the power generated would be more valuable – dependable and potentially load following. The possible use of complementary wind power to augment it was what my original question was about.
    I accept that it represents a small resource, not widely applicable and, in no way, should it deflect from a nuclear solution. However, it is perhaps unwise to dismiss it out of hand.

  75. With respect to the lifecycle emissions, the range included in Table 3 of the above paper includes the nuclear energy industry estimate of 9 g-CO2e/kWh as well as a number just above the AVERAGE of 103 published lifecycle emission studies (70 g-CO2e/kWh).

    Is false. The paper cited gets the figure from citation #50, which points to this paper by the kook Sovacool. It “reviews” 103 papers, but it discards most of them, using a subset of 19 studies for the published average. (c.f. table #6). And as a measure of how likely those numbers actually are, simply note that e.g. three of them are by Storm van Leeuwen.

  76. With respect to Jacobson’s paper http://www.cleanairalliance.org/files/active/0/EnergyEnvRev1008.pdf on page 33 Jacobson correctly says that wind from the Midwestern US will need to be connected by transmission lines to the WECC western US system in order to smooth out the fluctuations and uncertainities of renewables. These transmission lines are likely to be of the order of 40,000 MW, or as many as twenty 500 kV lines crossing the rocky mountains, possibly as long as 2000 miles each connecting CA to the strong AEP grid in the Ohio area. These lines are not going to be cheap or easy to build. Jacobson’s optimistic transmission timing estimates are good for relatively short lines of medium voltage in open areas near wind farms, however in environmentally sensitive areas and especially most of California, these new EHV lines are going to receive strong opposition. This opposition will cripple Jacobson’s renewables plans. Jacobson conveniently fails to talk about transmission needs in the Scientific American article which misleads the public and causes unrealistic expectations from our political leaders.

  77. Response 6. The figure gives the monthly-averaged hourly power demand and output of each renewable, based on real data, extrapolated to the future. If wind and solar are both zero at a given hour (day or night), hydro fills in the void. The solution is constrained so that the total hydro used over the month is no greater than the current hydro used in California. As such, the figure accounts for the actual variability as well as worst-case scenarios. No backup energy beyond hydro is needed in this system. Winter demand is lower than summer demand, and scenarios have been done for winter as well. Please see

    http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/jacobson/HosteFinalDraft.pdf

    for more details.

    Looking at the linked paper, I really can’t see how hydro could make up for the “worst-case scenario” in which “If wind and solar are both zero at a given hour (day or night), hydro fills in the void.” The 100% renewable scenario, it is assumed that there is 13500MW of hydro capacity and 4700MW of geothermal capacity. However, in the graphs on page 16 the total demand is always ABOVE 25000MW. This means that is solar and wind capacity ever fall below a certain level (8GW or so worth at the lowest projected demand) there will NOT be enough capacity on the grid to make up for the shortfall, resulting in brownouts or blackouts. Given that the solar capacity is by definition only available during the day, it’s easy to imagine how unfavorable weather conditions could easily create this scenario. Unless 2+2=5, the system described in the article just can’t make up the difference.

    Speaking of assumptions, I noticed that the discussion section of the paper stated that:
    Assumption 3: Our analysis is performed only for the average day in each month. By averaging demands, wind speeds, and insolations over the month, we are removing much of the fine variability in output that worries grid operators the most.
    Doesn’t this mean that the analysis did not actually show that the proposed generation portfolio could actually keep the grid balanced on a minute-to-minute basis, which is what actually matters in the real world?

  78. I agree with Sovietologist, that there is insufficient hydro to supply that much power and energy at night time in CA. There is also insufficient transmission even if there were enough hydro power (which is outside CA by the way). I also agree with the statement that the power has to be balanced moment to moment. The detailed hourly power balancing analysis using montecarlo or other probabilistic types of analysis that need to include both generation, load, transmission, renewables, and storage, has not been been performed for the 100% renewables scenarios. To talk about hydro as a solition to the shortcomings of wind and solar reliabliity is a travesty, and amounts to telling the public a lie.

  79. From Dan Yurman ‘Idaho Samizdat’
    djysrv.blogspot.com

    Every so often the issue of climate impacts of various fuel cycles comes up. In this note I will discuss some aspects of this issue with regard to nuclear energy.

    Any credible claim about GHG emissions by energy source needs to do a stocks and flows analysis and mass balance analysis based on BTUs consumed, and GHG emissions produced, at each stage of the fuel cycle and related to the type/source of energy inputs.

    My challenge to people who say wind or solar is less energy intensive than nuclear must also balance the output issue. A nuclear power plant is producing electricity 90-95% of the time. Wind and solar have 30% uptime. The energy inputs, and carbon emissions, for wind and solar have to be multiplied by a factor of three to compare them to the energy outputs of a nuclear power plant.

    The following is a useful outline for someone who wants to tackle the numbers for the nuclear fuel cycle.

    In the nuclear fuel cycle, uranium is mined either through underground methods or via in-situ-recovery (ISR). The primary energy source is electricity so it just depends on where it was generated and how. Once the raw ore from a mine is trucked to a mill, usually within 50-100 Km, it is processed and converted into yellowcake.

    As a rule of thumb for this discussion, you get about 4 pounds of uranium from ton of ore. A ton of uranium (2,000 lbs) requires processing 80 tons of ore which is basically four truck loads at 40,000 lbs each. In the case of ISR mines, the yellowcale is usually produced right at the mine cutting out the transport stage for raw ore.

    The energy use, and carbon footprint, to produce one ton of yellowcake is the combination of electricity used at the mine, plus transport of ore (diesel fuel), and electricity used at a mill.

    Once the yellowcake is produced it is sent to a conversion factory where the uranium, composed of 99.3% U238 and 0.07% U235 is “converted into UF6 or Uranium Hexafluoride.

    The primary energy inputs for conversion are the energy to create the fluorine, a feedstock, and the electricity to power the equipment to make the UF6.

    The UF6 is sent to a uranium enrichment plant. In the plant, centrifuges spin the gaseous UF6 separating the U238 (heavier) from the U235 (lighter) so that the fissionable isotope can be “enriched” in resulting nuclear fuel from 0.07% to 3-5%.

    A uranium enrichment plant like the new one in Eunice, NM, that will spool up its centrifuges in December will use electricity to power the centrifuges.

    During the Manhattan project in World War II an older technology called “gaseous diffusion” was used which is very intensive in terms of use of electricity. The gas centrifuge process which is used by France and the U.S. is 90% more energy efficient than gaseous diffusion.

    Once the “enriched uranium” is ready, it is shipped to a fuel fabrication site where it is made into nuclear fuel pellets and fuel rods/bundles.

    The “depeleted uranium” is sent to a deconversion plant where the fluorine is separated out from the UF6, purified, and sold to industrial customers including computer chip manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and other high tech users.

    Electricity, often from nucler power plants, a carbon emission free source, often powers deconversion plans and fuel fabrication plants.

    The remaining U238 is then sent by truck or rail to a licensed disposal site. The “depleted uranium” can never be more radioactive that it was in the original ore because it has been stripped of its U235 isotope during the enrichment process.

    It would be useful to produce comparative stocks and flows studies (energy inputs; GHG emissiions) for oil, coal, and natural gas as well as solar.

  80. Dear Dan Yurman, I would change the solar to 15% of the time for fixed panels and 25% of the time for tracking systems. Maybe in death valley you might get a little more solar, but 30% is too high for most places in the US. The 30% wind is about right.

  81. Others have decimated the opportunity cost of CO2 for energy source.

    Let me add some points to that and to the imagined deaths from imagined war scenarios.

    The whole opportunity costs for CO2 are ramped up and are bogus. Even playing within the ridiculous assumptions the bias can be seen.

    But in particular the nuclear numbers are particularly bad because the assumption is that nuclear needs about ten years to add new plants and new power.

    Existing nuclear can and are being uprated. There is also the dual cooled nuclear fuel technology invented at MIT (annular fuel) and being developed for deployment in South Korea. This technology will enable existing nuclear plants to have up to 50% more power. Current uprates can achieve 20% increases in power. Uprates take 18-24 months to implement and can be performed during the time planned for a regular fuel change.

    There are still operational efficiency gains for existing plants in Ukraine, Japan and other countries.

    Construction times are going down with modular construction. South Korea’s construction times are down to 48 months and are heading down to 36 months.

    The 200MWe chinese pebble bed reactor is starting construction in 2009 and should be completed in 2013. This should be followed by dozens of factory mass produced reactors with construction times heading to 2 years.

    The high temperature reactors (like the pebble bed) can be compatible with conversion of existing coal facilities over to nuclear power. Thus reusing the grid and steam generators and the power plant sites.

    So building nuclear and accelerating nuclear development can have substantial impact faster. He compares worst case business as usual for nuclear and does not look at what is already being done to accelerate nuclear development. Then assumes a crash program for solar and wind and hydro which does not exist.

    For nuclear fuel, russia is completing its 880 MWe baloyarsk 4 nuclear breeder reactor. China is buying two of those reactors. India is completing a breeder and will have four others done by 2020.

    =======

    For the nuclear proliferation.

    Proliferation is more a matter of key knowledge. The key knowledge was proliferated by Pakistan’s AQ Khan back in the seventies through the nineties. Knowledge of bombs and centrifuges.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdul_Qadeer_Khan#Nuclear_Proliferation_and_Rise_to_Fame

    The belief that there is nuclear power leads to nuclear weapons is wrong. Countries get nuclear weapons firstly and directly.

    USA bombs first. (Hiroshima, Nagasaki – pre nuclear power). 1957 first reactor

    USSR bombs first. 1949 first bomb. first nuclear reactor June 27, 1954

    United Kingdom first nuclear weapon 1952, first reactor 1956

    France tested its first nuclear weapon in 1960, first reactor 1963

    China first nuclear weapon in 1964, reactor 1991

    India 1974, first reactor 1969 (exception to the bomb first)

    Pakistan 1998, karachi 1972 (exception to the bomb first)

    http://www.fas.org/nuke/guide/pakistan/nuke/ Achieved with secret enrichment, centrifuges

    North Korea 2005 bomb, no commercial reactor

    Israel late 1960s, bombs no commercial reactor

    =======
    Where is the incremental risk from more commercial reactors ? There were tens of Thousands of nuclaer bombs before there were significant commericial nuclear power.

    https://jspivey.wikispaces.com/file/view/330px-US_and_USSR_nuclear_stockpiles.svg.png/34413207

    30,000 bombs by about 1960. Only a handful of commercial nuclear reactors.

    France added about 50 commercial nuclear reactors in the 1980s. But only USSR/Russia were making a lot more bombs.

    By 1990, there were 70,000 nuclear bombs with about 98-99% in USSR and USA.

    The nuclear weapons buildup was independent of the civilian nuclear energy build.

    Where is the correlation between those 70,000 bombs and actual nuclear war and nuclear deaths ? It was the military posture of hair triggers that had some accident risk, but that policy is no longer in place. A strong case is made that nuclear weapons deterred wide conventional war. Thus there needs to be the calculation for lives saved from prevented wars.

    Going forward China, India, Russia, South Korea, Japan are going to be building most of the new commercial nuclear reactors and the USA depending on politics will also build several. How does this correlate to increased proliferation and incrased risk?

    Highly enriched uranium (HEU) is being downblended for reactor fuel. Thus commercial nuclear reactors reduced any risks from higher stockpiles of HEU.

    ======

    Waste for coal, billions of tons of particulates, smog, CO2 spewed and tens of thousands of tons of uranium and thorium mixed in with the particulates. Mercury, arsenic and toxic metals. Nuclear power displaced would have been more coal and gas power =====
    Nuclear waste – unburned fuel a basketball court of material per year. Each nuclear power plant is on one or more square miles of space.

    =====
    10% is reprocessed in France, Russia, Japan, UK

    ===
    there are deep burn reactors in development to handle the waste.

    =====
    For the hydro power – an all out war scenario needs to look at the majority of hydro dams being blown up and the number of deaths calculated from the flooding.

    Banqiao Reservoir Dam killed 90,000-230,000 in 1975.

    Over 2000 dams in the USA near population centers need repair.

    http://nextbigfuture.com/2009/08/usa-over-two-thousand-dams-near.html

    Dam buster bombs and raids in world war 2.
    http://www.valourandhorror.com/BC/Raids/Dam_2.php

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M%C3%B6hne_Reservoir

    Mohne Dam on the night of May 16/17 1943. The attack successfully breached the dam and caused widespread loss of life and destruction. almost 1,300 people died in the floods following the dam bombing, many of them Ukrainian women and children, trapped in a German prisoner of war camp below the Mohne dam.

    The resulting huge floodwave killed at least 1579 people, 1026 of them foreign forced labourers held in camps downriver. The small city of Neheim-Hüsten was particularly hard-hit with over 800 victims, among them at least 526 victims in a camp for Russian women held for forced labour

  82. I thought the article was fallacious, just on the strength of its recommendation for powering airliners with hydrogen. Glad to see the rest of it doesn’t bear close inspection, either; that was my initial impression. I really wish it was a viable plan, believe it or not. Because it seems we are going nowhere fast in our attempts to provide for our energy future at the present time. Old political moonshine has tripped up people many times in the past. Seems likely to do so again in this arena.

  83. It would appear that, when necessary, governments can and will speed up the process. This seems to negate Mark Z Jacobsen’s assertion that costs and building timeframes for nuclear will be increased due to convoluted regulatory regimes. The UK is already moving further down the nuclear path with a proposed 10 new nuclear power station and has already shaken up planning laws to strip the right of veto from local authorities. Decisions will be taken by the Infrastructure Planning Commision. The approval time for nuclear will be cut from 7 years to 1. For full details see link below:
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6910307.ece

  84. Jacobson claims: “…MacKay, assumes a CF of 23% whereas data for the U.S. show numbers of 33-35% between 2004-2007 for new installations…”, and provides a citation that comes up “ Access Forbidden “.

    Wikipedia states Wind Capacity Factor for USA was: 2008-23.5%, 2007- 23.4%, 2006-26.1%. And you can reduce those CF’s by 10% to include the high line loss of long distance Wind Transmission. That shows his 33-35% number is completely bogus, or else those avg. CF’s would be increasing, not decreasing. 2007 Wind Capacity Factor for Canada was 20.9%. World Wind C.F. was 24.5% in 2008.

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

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/57-202-x/57-202-x2007000-eng.pdf

    And he can use the latest data to compile the most accurate resource map for prime Wind Energy locations, but it is virtually certain that the optimum areas will change over a period of years To make matters worse Global Warming will reduce the overall Wind Energy available, and will seriously change the best areas of Wind Energy.

    http://www.physorg.com/news163835515.html

    Particularly ridiculous, is his assumption that he can still get 31% Capacity Factor with 50% of total energy supply coming from Wind. Once Wind gets over 30% of avg supply, in any medium sized region, wind peaks will exceed total system load, and thus Wind, Solar, Hydro and/or Geothermal supply will have to be discarded. This will seriously reduce the effective Capacity Factor of the Wind.

    In California’s case, 33% of total power consumption from “Green Sources” or “Renewables”. A large portion will be imported Hydro. Some of which will be exported at a loss to British Columbia taxpayers, from Pirate River Power plants. This Rape-And-Pillage of B.C.’s forests & rivers will result in Hydro only good for export and only in Springtime. So California will have all of this so-called green Energy in the Spring, when most Hydro will be max and Solar will also be max or near max. So what happens when Wind Energy is high in the springtime? That means Hydro, Wind, Solar and/or Nuclear will be shed. Truthfully, whether it is counted as such, the fact is that the effective C.F. of the Wind Energy will be reduced by the amount of Wind or other low Carbon sources that are displaced. The following articles explain the criminal assault on British Columbia’s Rivers, Wildlife and Forests, that will serve to help California meet its “Green Energy” RPS of 33% by 2020:

    http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2009/08/10/PrivatePower/

    http://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2009/11/08/RafeMairEnergy/

  85. The numbers tossed about by both pro and anti- nukes camps are way off, the inevitable result of arrogant engineers’ linear analysis of a non-linear problem. That said, I thank the SCI AM authors for their effort and hope they prevail.

    All the above vested pro-nuke cheer-leading aside, nukes over-promised and under-delivered last century and would do so again. So will solar, wind, wave etc.. but they’re still the superior solution hands down.

    The nuke kooks may well get their way, tho; human stupidity hasn’t shown any apparent bounds, as of yet.

    Peace

  86. Jacobson writes: With respect to the lifecycle emissions, the range included in Table 3 of the above paper includes the nuclear energy industry estimate of 9 g-CO2e/kWh as well as a number just above the AVERAGE of 103 published lifecycle emission studies (70 g-CO2e/kWh). Barry Brooks would have us believe that all these scientists are wrong and a nuclear advocate and an industry that has a financial stake in the numbers it produces are correct.

    The IAEA used 15 studies of lifecycle carbon costs to come up with an mean of less than 10 g as opposed to Jacobson’s 70 g. Would he have us believe that these scientists are wrong? I suppose the IAEA can’t be trusted in his world, though the IPCC also reported nuclear lifecycle costs to be about on a par with wind or solar. Are they not to be trusted either? Since I’m having great difficulty avoiding sarcasm here and so many commenters have already pointed out the gaping holes in both Jacobson’s “study” and in his lengthy response to Barry and Gene’s critique, I will refrain from further comment except to say that the whole nuclear war thing is so outrageous as to be an insult to nearly anyone’s intelligence, and really demonstrates the disingenuousness of the authors.

  87. Oh, and in terms of these lifecycle carbon emissions, the vast majority come from the worst-case mining and enrichment scenarios, but of course with IFRs we would have NO mining and NO enrichment for hundreds of years. So the 9-10 grams reported by the IAEA, IPCC and others that correspond to lifecycle carbon costs of Gen II reactors would nearly disappear, especially if you built the power plants using low-CO2 concrete and steel smelted at an electric smelter, which is entirely feasible. Jacobson’s numbers, when considering those very reasonable scenarios, transform themselves from merely outrageous to absolutely ludicrous. IFRs produced in this manner would have as close to zero for a carbon lifecycle cost as one could possibly achieve from any type of electrical generation, and certainly would be far lower than wind or solar.

  88. Gene Preston,

    Returning to your Appendix in the header article for this thread, and also my question (#33470) and your reply (#33622), I would like to check these figures again before I use them.

    Based on your figures I calculate the cost of transmission for solar as $625/kW (no interstate interconnections) and for wind is $3125/kW ( including interstate intgerconnections).

    The transmission cost for wind is about 50% higher than the cost of the wind farm. These figures seem too high to me. Can you please point out if I have understood this correctly, and if not where I have gone wrong?

    My calculations are as follows:

    solar capacity = 40,000 MW
    Av line length = 500 miles
    Av power = 1500 MW
    No. of lines = 25
    Total length = 12,500 miles
    Cost per mile = $2 million
    Total cost = $25 billion
    Cost per kW = $625

    Wind capacity and cost is the same as for solar, PLUS the cost of interstate interconnections:

    Interconnection capacity = 40,000 MW
    Av line length = 2000 miles
    Av power = 1500 MW
    No. of lines = 25
    Total length = 50,000 miles
    Cost per mile = $2 million
    Total cost = $100 billion
    Cost per kW = $2500

    Total for wind = $625 + $2500 = $3125

    Gene, Do I have a mistake or do you think these figures are roughly correct?

  89. Barry #34182, nice find with the TBAS article on pyroprocessing in South Korea.

    This article indicates the Koreans are currently operating lab scale pyroprocessing, and intend to build an engineering scale mockup by 2011 (which I take to facilities, hot cells, control systems, transport systems, services etc. but not actually separating transuranics). I assume from there it might take ~1-2 years to scale up the lab process, meaning process development on the separation step itself, development of lots of process monitors, and a metric assload of documentation.

    Nuclear and IFR skeptics seize on the fact that there is no operational pyroprocessing facility, as if no-one ever scaled up a process before. This is very conventional process engineering, and a quick look at the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute shows obvious capability to carry this through.

  90. Peter, I normally say that wind is $2/w and estimate a 500 mile 345 kV line good for 1000 MW costing $2 million per mile. That equates to $1/w for transmission. That is a good estimate for the $5 billion dollar CREZ lines in west Texas which I estimate will allow about another 5000 MW of new wind, and that is from my own load flow transmission analysis. So that also equates to $1/w transmisson. However that transmission is just to bring power from the wind generators to the load centers in Texas. The reason my wind cost was so high is that I was adding in massive amounts of new transmission lines so that the entire Texas region could interconnect to other regions like WECC and the eastern grid. If Texas wanted to make renewables more reliable and retire base load coal and nuclear plants, it would have to rely on imported power from other areas. Now the transmission costs skyrocket because of the length of these lines connecting between large regions within the US. You could leave out these interconnecting lines and the cost of transmission would probably be about $1/w, but it would not be as reliable as interconnecting. You probably should show separate transmission costs for just connecting up wind and solar and that might be the $1/w and then how much you want to spend on interconnecting and gridding up the US is up for grabs and depends on how much power you want or need to move around in large blocks from one geographic region to another. Hourly simulations are needed to study this in detail. I think that after careful study you will find that renewables are never reliable enough regardless of how much transmission you add connecting the regions together.

  91. With regard to the wind capacity factors, CF, in west Texas the wind CF was 33% in 2006 and dropped to 25% in 2007. I asked one of my wind clients why the CF was so much lower in 2007 and he said the wind just didn’t blow as much in 2007. So there you have it. Wind is rather fickle.

  92. So the 9-10 grams reported by the IAEA, IPCC and others

    Minor correction – IPCC does not give any CO2 figures, rather it simply defers to WEC 2004. This is in the WG3 report (IIRC they reprint the entire summary chart.)

    Oh and no, they are not to be trusted. Sovacool throws out both IAEA and WEC. Jacobson’s figures are Sovacool’s.

  93. Udiv, it is true that the Wikipedia Capacity Factors, calculated from Net Summer Capacity (which should be approx. avg over the year), will be slightly out – maybe 10%. But the results are all calculated similarly and do not show any evidence of Jacobson’s greatly increased Capacity Factors. Also the CF of new Wind Turbines does not tell the CF of Wind Turbines over their entire life. As they age maintenance breakdowns become more common. Debris & Ice collecting on the blades reduces efficiency, as well as cracks and distortion that may develop in the blades. Because of the difficulty & cost of Wind Turbine maintenance, and the low value of their power, they will likely be at the bottom of the list for maintenance priority.

    The following document shows European avg Capacity Factors over 2003-07 were less than 21%.

    Capacity factor of wind power realized values vs. estimates:

    http://attachments.wetpaintserv.us/gUGc3S8SBFRjamsH931m8g%3D%3D569344

    Tom Adams – Review of Wind Power Results in Ontario shows 22.3% CF:

    http://www.windaction.org/?module=uploads&func=download&fileId=1017

    As for the EERE/NREL chart, their data is highly suspect, and does not necessarily imply much higher avg CF’s for newer Wind Turbines, on average.

    The following critiques of NREL documents show good examples of the extreme bias and shoddy analysis of the NREL:

    U.S. DOE Report “20% Wind Energy by 2030” Presents Implausible Scenario:

    http://www.windaction.org/releases/16239

    Errors and Excesses in the NREL’s JEDI-WIM Model that Provides Estimates of the State or Local Economic Impact of “Wind Farms”:

    http://www.wind-watch.org/documents/wp-content/uploads/errors-in-nrel-model.pdf

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  96. Yeah, so the number used for capacity is summer which is halfway through the year so therefore that is approx average capacity of the year.

    And the same criteria is used for each year, so once again no sign of the major increase in CF for new wind turbines.

  97. Yeah, so the number used for capacity is summer which is halfway through the year

    No, the figures are at the end of the year. This is very clear if you go back to the primary source:

    http://www.awea.org/publications/reports/

    Capacities are reporter in quarter-years; the annual figures are what exists at the end of the year. The 2008 figure is 25,369 MWe cumulative; as of July 2008 (2Q) it is only 19,549 MWe.

    Also note that the CFs in the Boccard analysis, which use more accurate methods, match well with the Wikipedia numbers, averaged over the 2003-07 period.

    This is pointless – they all share the same systemic error. Their average has the same error.

    Here’s my rough attempt to fix the calculation. From the AWEA’s 2008 1Q-3Q and annual reports, here are the wind capacities:

    end of 2007 – 16,823 MWe
    1Q 2008 – 18,303 MWe
    2Q 2008 – 19,549
    3Q 2008 – 21,017
    4Q 2008 – 25,369

    With simple linear interpolation, I get an average capacity of 19,990 MWe over the year 2008. Note how huge the error is! It’s even further exacerbated that 2008 growth was nonlinear – much higher in the second half of the year than the first.

    Combining this with the generation statistics from the EIA, and taking note that 2008 is a leap year, I estimate a capacity factor of 52,026 GWh / 366 days / 19,990 MW = 29.6%, with a range of 28.1%-31.3% (the error introduced by the linear interpolation).

  98. Hi Gene Preston,

    Thank you for the clarification for the $/W figure for transmission for wind power. It confirms (slightly increases) the $/W figure I calculated for the ‘without interstate interconnection’ case, which I calculated from your figures to be $625/kW (or $0.625/W).

    I now have a better understanding of the ‘ball park’ figure for the cost of transmission for wind power.

    By the way, just for interest, the wind farms built recently in Australia are running at about A$2.4/W, so about US$2.2/W. Here is a list from ABARE: http://www.abareconomics.com/publications_html/energy/energy_09/EG09_AprListing.xls

    Not on this list is the Waubra wind farm, commissioned in September 2009. $2.344/W.

    So far the transmission costs are not showing up anywhere that I have seen. They are being abosrbed (ie carried by other generators and the public) because as yet, wind is only about 1% of generating capacity.

  99. Peter, thanks for the wind information. Since these cost numbers keep fluctuating, we won’t be able to nail down the costs precisely.

    Warren, the time of the peak has nothing to do with the capacity factor. You can define the capacity factor as an average MW divided by the peak MW over a time period. Or you could define CF as the actual energy delivered divided by the maximum energy that could have been delivered if the generator had run at 100% of its capacity for the same period of time. In either case wind is about 30% capacity factor. Unfortunately west Texas wind has its highest powers when the Texas load is at minimum levels and then during the summer peak load period the wind is at low output. However wind along the Gulf coast of Texas tracks the daily peak load better because there is a daily afternoon breeze that blows inland that coincides with the daily electrical peak so the economics for those wind generators may be better than the ones in west Texas. However there is much more opposition to the coastal wind than there is in west Texas, where the farmers have open arms for wind in those regions and the populations are sparse.

  100. Peter Lang # 34807

    I appreciate that tidal power is always going to be a bit part player and that you are currently concerning yourself with the pros and cons of the more “popular” renewable technologies.

    I raised the subject of tidal lagoon power because it seemed, from what I read in MacKay (and later in http://www.tidalelectric.com), to offer potential advantages over other renewables in its ability to provide peaking power on demand which could fit in well with nuclear baseload, an attribute that additional pumping from wind might enhance. As a layman, I might be being naive and therefore wondered whether you could venture a quick but more informed judgement on the matter. I am much less persuaded of the virtues of tidal stream and barrage approaches.

    I appreciate that you are primarily concerned with Australia and I know little of your tidal ranges. As an inhabitant of a small island nation (UK) with good tidal ranges, perhaps I should seek my answers nearer home.

  101. …No, the figures are at the end of the year. This is very clear if you go back to the primary source…

    That explains the discrepancy. I assumed Net Summer Capacity actually meant Summer Peak Capacity, whereas it seems that it doesn’t. Although looking at the StatCan Canadian Data for Wind Capacity & Energy Output, it does look like an average of the two end of year nameplate capacity or the actual capacity installed in summertime. So recalculating, using the average of the two end of year capacity numbers, I get USA 2007: 27.6% CF, 2006: 29.1%, 2005: 25.5%, 2004: 24.5%, 2003: 23.0% – which averages out to 25.9% 2003 to 2007 – which is very close to Boccard’s number of 25.7%, using more accurate methods. The USA numbers are very good compared to most European countries. Note the drop of CF to 27.6% from 29.1% 2007 to 2006, in spite of a ~37% increase in Wind Capacity. That does not show any indication of the large rise in CF for new Wind Turbines, that Jacobson claims. I suspect USA CF’s, averaged over several years, will decrease over the next 20 yrs

    …This is pointless – they all share the same systemic error. Their average has the same error…

    Not True. Boccard does not use that type of analysis, but uses actual Wind Farm output data. His data for Europe should be as accurate as you will get anywhere, and does indeed indicate an actual CF for Europe of 21%, 2003 to 2007.

    What would be really informative, would be if Gene Preston, would give us some information on line loss on long distance Wind Power Transmission lines. My understanding is that transmission line conductor sizes are determined (besides being able to carry peak load) by the marginal cost of increasing conductor size equals the marginal value of the line loss power saved. Since Wind Farms average about 30-40% of peak output, larger line loss would be expected, than for a baseload supply. It is proper to reduce actual Wind Farm energy production by the amount of that line loss, in calculating Capacity Factor.

    Also regarding Capacity Factor calculation. Most new Wind Turbines come with only a 2 year warranty. And I believe blade changes are expected before end of the 20 yr projected lifespan. Any major repair on a Wind Turbine, such as a blade change, gearbox or generator replacement, requires a giant Crane to be brought to site. I’ve been told that you have a minimum $100k charge on that. And a serious logistical challenge. I suspect that when serious maintenance, such as that occurs, the Turbines will be left shutdown for long stretches of time, possibly waiting to bring a crane in for multiple turbine repairs, rather than just one. These factors will not become apparent until a large portion of the fleet of Wind Turbines reaches mid-life.

  102. Note the drop of CF to 27.6% from 29.1% 2007 to 2006

    This is a statistical artifact: your uncertainty is much larger than the difference between your two numbers (try calculating it). And your approximation doesn’t hold: the rate of growth over 2008 is not constant, but was much faster in the second half of the year (see earlier comment). I calculated 29.6% for 2008.

    Not True. Boccard does not use that type of analysis, but uses actual Wind Farm output data.

    A quick glance shows Boccard’s method is the same as ours, and uses national generation statistics (not individual wind farms) for his 2003-2007 figure.

    http://www.windaction.org/?module=uploads&func=download&fileId=1735

    And if you want statistics of individual wind farm generation statistics, I already linked to the EERE numbers of exactly that, which support the 33-35% figure:

    http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2009/11/amory-lovins-vs-stewart-brand-part-two.html

    His data for Europe should be as accurate as you will get anywhere, and does indeed indicate an actual CF for Europe of 21%, 2003 to 2007.

    I too have calculated capacity factors in the low 20’s for Europe (see my blog). But here we are talking about the US, not Europe. They have different numbers.

  103. Hi Warren, rather than giving you just one line’s losses, I ran some load flow simulations for ERCOT on the planned 10,000 MW of wind in west Texas for 2013. First, ERCOT has a rather strong transmission system, and the 80,000 MW of generation for the summer peak of 2013 has only a 2.2% transmission system loss for the whole system at peak load. The light load case for the spring of 2013 has 31656 MW of generation and the total system transmission loss is 1.9% of that generation. In the summer peak case the wind is very light around 10% which is based on experience, so incremental losses from wind at summer peak are not important because the wind will never run a high output during the summer peak. However the light load case is the one most likely to have high wind output. ERCOT has set the west Texas wind at 4120 MW for the light load spring case, which is the expected value of wind, which is highly variable of course, but 4120 MW is typical out of 10,000 MW and the light load level is very frequent. I get e-mails every day on the load for ERCOT and I can say that we spend many many hours in a rather light load condition. So the question is, what is the incremental loss from wind in the light load case when wind is varied in output? We can look at the losses in two ways and we get two different answers. If we simply vary the west Texas wind and vary the total system load, we find that dropping off the 4120 MW of wind and adjusting the load downward shows that there was an incremental transmission loss of 144.4 MW or an incremental loss of 3.5%. If we however decrease the wind to 0 MW and increase other genreators in ERCOT to hold the load constant, then the incremental loss due to wind is only 27 MW or 0.7%. If I had run a case with west Texas wind at 10,000 MW I’m sure the incremental loss would have been a higher percentage. But that condition has such a short period, its calculation really has no meaning. Also, we would have to decide how to do the dispatch, against load or against other generators and the results would be dramatically different. I must also say that these losses are quite low because this load flow case has the new CREZ lines in the case, i.e. the $5 billion investment in new 345 kV lines, which have substatially reduced losses. So, the losses are likely to be high only in systems that try to use too low voltages, such as 69 kV lines, and for systems that are loading lines too high, i.e. at thermal limits for extended periods. If the system is made reliable from an N-1 outage standpoint, the transmission losses are likely to be low, as stated above.

  104. Douglas Wise,

    I happenned to come across a paper by Martin Thomas (AM, FTSE, HonFIEAust) “Energy Security – The Options for Australia”. I thought you might be interested in what he has to say about tidal power:

    QUOTE
    Tidal technologies convert tidal flow energy into electricity using large scale water turbines. Tidal barrages with differing water heads (high tide to low tide) generate from the head difference, large in temperate climes but negligible in the equatorial oceans. Tidal power sites are often remote from load centres, for example the Secure Bay – Walcott Inlet site in Western Australia which, although a site of very high potential, cannot find local economic application.

    In Australia Tidal Energy Pty Ltd has successfully trialled a high efficiency shrouded turbine (efficiency > 60%) and plan a 3.5MW facility in north west Australia. Small (<1MW) propeller turbines are being demonstrated in the UK and Norway. A 1.2MW unit has been connected to the Northern Ireland grid since 2008. Other MW scale farms are foreshadowed internationally.

    A 240MW barrage tidal power plant has been in operation in France since 2006, producing 600GWh at 28% capacity factor. Other such facilities operate at Canada’s Bay of Fundy (18MW) and Kislaya Guba in Russia (0.5MW). Tidal power scheme costs are site specific but are believed to range from $1,500-2,000/kWp.

    Like wind power, wave and tidal power schemes raise environmental concerns including visual pollution of coastal seascapes and possible harm to marine creatures. Tidal power changes to estuarine ecosystems, turbidity, salinity and sediment movement may also limit their applicability.
    END QUOTE

  105. In response to transmission costs, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) gave a presentation to a conference in Brisbane this week. Among other things they have costed a 5000 MW transmission system from the Cooper Basin to carry power from the potential geothermal hot rock plants (that may get built there one day) to three cities Sydney (4000MW), Melbourne (500 MW) and Adelaide (500 MW). The cost for DC ranged from $0.5 – $0.74/W and for AC $0.78-$1.2/W.

    Of course we have no real idea what the cost per W will be for the power plant as one is yet to be built at commercial scale. But the transmission cost will be significant proportion of the whole deal.

    This is a significant “hidden” cost for renewable energy sources that needs to be build a long way from the load.

  106. … This is a statistical artifact And your approximation doesn’t hold: the rate of growth over 2008 is not constant, but was much faster in the second half of the year …

    I checked that out against AWEA quarterly data, and you are correct, the Wind Capacity growth is concentrated at the end of year for 2007 & 2008. Recalculating using Quarterly data I get:

    Q1: 2007/8/9 = 31.9% / 33.1% / 29.3%.
    Q2: 2007/8/9 = 33.1% / 36.8% / 28.1%.
    Q3: 2007/8/9 = 26.8% / 22.1% / 22.2%
    Q4: 2007/8/9 = 30.0% / 29.3%

    I don’t see any indication of Jacobson’s big improvement in Wind Capacity Factors, in the USA. 2009 has dropped considerably from 2008 & 2007 in spite of 77% of Q1 capacity being after 2003.

    … A quick glance shows Boccard’s method is the same as ours, and uses national generation statistics (not individual wind farms) for his 2003-2007 figure.…

    That is only for USA data, using averages of end-of-years (not Wikipedia’s method). The European data, which is what the study is about, does use Wind Farm & Utility data if you read the report:

    http://attachments.wetpaintserv.us/gUGc3S8SBFRjamsH931m8g%3D%3D569344

    “…Our main reference is the wind energy barometer of think-tank EurObserv’ER with corrections from more reliable sources, whenever available. While there are only minor revisions regarding installed capacity from year to year in all sources, generation data show important discrepancies, both between yearly report so if the same source and between different sources. We have favored the most recent reports and those of TSOs over research institutes….”

    The conclusion that European Wind Output averages 20.8% CF over 2003 to 2007 is valid.

    … I already linked to the EERE numbers of exactly that, which support the 33-35% figure:…

    Those numbers are clearly high, they do not match actual EIA data for those years. And you can select high output Wind Farms, which are the Offshore & Coastal areas, which are very expensive or very limited. And even their study shows no improvement in those numbers after 2004. You can always increase CF by going offshore, but the cost per avg kw is much higher than onshore, which makes Jacobson’s overpriced plan all the more infeasible. Coastal regions are where the rich commonly live, and they can & do block Wind Farms – very effectively. The Wind Farms are going in impoverished areas, where landowners can be bought for a meager royalty. No correlation to best Wind Sites. Even Pickens has stated: “…I’m not going to have the windmills on my [68,000 acre] ranch. They’re ugly..”

    … But here we are talking about the US, not Europe:…

    No, we are talking about Worldwide. Jacobson is trying to justify his 30% Worldwide in his report, using USA data. He disputes Brooks calculation, using 23%. From what I see Brooks 23% for Worldwide Wind, especially for a major build, is a pretty good estimate, if anything it is high. Especially when we begin to see the effects of Wind Turbine Age, Nimbyism, Climate change and Grid Inability to absorb Wind Peaks.

  107. Martin Nicholson,

    Thank you for the figures for transmisson costs from the geothermal sites to the capital cities. Tjos figures align well with the figures Gene Preston provided. I suspect the average distance to the best solar sites (Tanami desert) is about double so a bit less than double the cost per watt you mentioned. Perhaps $1.20/W as an average cost for transmission from the optimum solar thermal sites. Any thoughts?

  108. Gene Preston, thanks for the info on the Texas Transmission system & their low line losses. But, what I would be more interested in, and is more relevant to this discussion, is the expected overall line loss on the long distance transmission lines, needed for Jacobson’s plan. For instance the ones you proposed for sending 40 GW of Texas Wind Energy to California. 25 lines, 500 kv, 2000 miles each.

  109. Peter

    I did some distance estimates for the AEMO lines for Gene and came up with about 1,100 km to the connection point in Sydney, 1,100 km to Melbourne and 800 km to Adelaide all in different directions. The actual cost range for 5000 MW DC was A$2.5 – 3.7 billion. AC was $3.9 – 6.0 billion.

    It could be 1.200 km from the Cooper Basin to the Tanami Desert in the opposite direction so your “about double” is about right..

  110. Mark Z. Jacobson says in post #34345, Response No 2:

    “With regard to land and materials footprints on his TCASE web site that he refers to, Brooks confuses the definition of footprint with spacing area. He pretends that the space between wind turbines is an apple-to-apple comparison of the actual land taken up on the ground by nuclear power plants, when in fact the real footprint of wind covering the ground to power, for example, the U.S. vehicle fleet, is 770-1100 times less than that of nuclear.”

    This calculation appears to be wrong by several orders of magnitude.

    As Barry pointed out, the land use due to mining, material handling, manufacturing and transport is much greater for wind than it is for nuclear.

    Purely on the basis of the land area used for the actual power station we can compare a single modern wind power station and a 1980’s nuclear power station. The reason I picked these is because the data is readily available. Using an old Gen II power station for the comparison biases the result towards wind because newer power stations require less area.

    We can compare on the basis of the total site area or on the area that is excluded from all other uses. The total site area for wind power is the total land area occupied by the wind farm. For the nuclear power plant it is the power station site area. The area excluded from other uses for the wind farm comprises the area of the foundations, site erection areas and the access roads. For the nuclear power station it comprises the buildings, roads and parking areas and set down areas.

    Here is a comparison for Torness NPP, UK and Capital Wind Farm, NSW Australia.

    Capacity; MW; 1250; 132.3
    Economic life; years; 40; 20
    Life time energy; TWh; 332; 8.11
    Total Site Area; ha; 143.7; 1200
    Area excluded from other uses; ha; 30; 22
    Total site area per life time energy; m2/GWh; 4.33; 1480
    Area excluded from other uses per life time energy; m2/GWh; 0.9; 27.1

    Comparing these two power stations, wind requires 340 times the total site area of nuclear and 30 times the area excluded from other uses. If the area required for mining, milling, materials handling, processing, fabricating, manufacturing, and transport was included, the comparison would be even more favourable to nuclear.

    Jacobson claims “real footprint of wind covering the ground … is 770-1100 times less than that of nuclear.” Whereas, the comparison of Torness NPP and Capital Wind farm suggests wind requires 30 to 340 times more areas than nuclear. It seems Jacobson has mis-calculated the case for wind power by a substantial amount.

    Sources:
    http://www.british-energy.com/documents/EPD_Doc_-_Final.pdf
    http://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/asp/pdf/05_0179_d-gsassessmentreport_version3.pdf

  111. Warren, I looked inside a WECC case and located the most heavily loaded 500 kV line I could find. It was 52.3 miles long and is rated at 3767 MVA and had 1719.8 MW flowing into one of the line and 1709.1 MW flowing out the other end. The line loss would be 10.7 MW. If it was 523 miles long I would assume the line loss would be about 107 MW for about 1700 MW flowing on the line, or about 6% line loss. Does this help? …Gene

  112. You asked about the loss if it were 2000 miles long. I guess it would be about 24% line loss. Also, if the loading is increased the loss would be a higher percentage due to I2R. Thats a lot of line loss and shows the problem of trying to transmit too much power over too great of distances. I am surprised the loss is that high. Possibly the idea of getting wind to CA from east of the rockies is not such a good idea just based on high losses of the lines.

  113. So you put in 1900 MW of wind that is east of the rockies and transmit it 2000 mi to CA and take out about 1500 MW of power. I haven’t checked the distance. Is it really 2000 miles? Let me check…Following interstates 15 and 70, the distance is more like 1400 miles. So the losses would be less than 24%, only about 17%. Without an actual routing plan or transmission plan, we do not know the lengths of the lines.

  114. Thanks for the information, Gene.

    So this is what I estimate as a basic summary of supplying California with 40 GW peak of Wind Energy from Texas:

    – 27 of 500 kv AC transmission lines
    – 1400 miles long or 38,000 miles total
    – @ $2M per mile, that’s $76B total
    – each taking 1733 MW peak Texas Wind Energy, total 46.8 GW pk input
    – 17% line loss at peak -> 1439 MW peak output each or 40 GW total output

    – approx. 80% of Wind Installed Capacity req’d at Peak or 59 GW Texas Wind Installed Capacity
    – at 30% CF, that’s 17.6 GW avg total input
    – say avg line loss of 13%
    – that’s 15.3 GW avg total output
    – cost of $76B/15.3GW = $4.9K per avg delivered kw
    – 59 GW @ $2.5k/kw = $148B for the Texas Wind Farms
    – total cost $14.5k per avg delivered kw

    And that is only supplying 38% of the 40 GW needed. And you would have a hard time finding 25 GW’s of complementary load, with Renewables, be it Hydro, Solar or Geothermal, without shedding substantial energy when that wind from Texas is near max.

    Mighty expensive way to get unreliable energy. And I would call that a worst case scenario of a HIGHLY CENTRALIZED ENERGY SUPPLY.

  115. I was having a discussion with Dan Coffey on

    http://www.grist.org/article/2009-10-13-stewart-brands-nuclear-enthusiasm-falls-short-on-facts-and-logic/

    who is pro wind and not so enthusiastic about nuclear power. I did some new cost estimates and losses for transmission using 765 kV lines and trying to bring in 20000 MW of “base load” wind 1400 miles away from Los Angeles. Here is what was posted:

    Let’s suppose California wanted to get 20,000 MW of wind power “base load” from farms east of the Rockies. Using Jacobson’s diversity of wind we could assume that the wind is reliable for 33% of that capacity. That means that we need to install 60,000 MW of wind generators to get 20,000 MW of base load generation out of wind. But let’s suppose that frequently the wind blows at 50% of the total installed 60,000 MW. That means that CA would have to install 30,000 MW of transmission to insure that they get 20,000 MW of base load wind and then didn’t throw away too much energy when wind is more than 50% of the installed capacity. By the way, by using DC connections to the same wind farms east of the Rockies, you could sell the excess wind to loads east of the Rockies when the wind was over 30,000 MW. Even if the lines have a thermal capacity of 30,000 MW, you would not want to normally load them to that level anyway because the losses would be too high. So by expecting them to be loaded to 20,000 MW from wind continuously, the losses would be lower and you would still have some reserve capacity. Let’s assume that the 30,000 MW is going to be on 765 kV AC lines based on the AEP 765 kV concept:

    http://www.aep.com/about/i765project/docs/AEPInterstateProject-Why765kVAC.pdf

    Although AEP rates the lines as 2770 MW max, the thermal loading could easily go to 5000 MVA. I think with some voltage support substations intermediately positioned between east of the Rockies and LA, you could count on the 30,000 MW wind to load the 765 kV lines to 5000 MW and then the 20,000 base load wind condition would load each 765 kV line to 3330 MW. Getting all the lines to take 5000 MW at the same time would be an engineering challenge and require SPS or special protection schemes to drop 5000 MW of wind if a 765 kV line tripped out of service.

    I looked in the eastern grid data and found a 765 kV line rated a little over 5000 MW. I set up a 700 mile long 765 kV line with 3333 MW on the sending end. The line loss was observed to be 2.83%. The phase angle shift was 38 degrees. If we scaled this up to 1400 mi from Kansas to LA, the loss would be about 5.6% at 3333 MW injected in Kansas and about 3140 MW out in LA. You can estimate the costs of this line from the reference given above. It’s about 5 million dollars per mile or 7 billion dollars for a single 5000 MW line from Kansas to LA. We will need six of them to get up to 30,000 MW line capacity. The lines are 42 billion and adding in substations would probably increase the cost to $50 billion. It could require three substations per 1400 mile line, or a total of 18 substations. Then the amount of wind would be 60,000 MW nameplate and would cost about 120 billion dollars. So, the total cost of that base load wind generation would be about 170 billion dollars. This is $8.5/watt. Nuclear plants would cost in the 5 to 10 $/w range and not need the 1400 mile long transmission lines. I think the time required to build this wind and transmission system is about the same time it takes to build a nuclear plant, or about 10 years. If you are anti transmission you should go for the nuclear plants.

  116. Gene Preston,

    Earlier in this thread you gave me a ‘ball park’ figure of $1/W for the capital cost of transmission for wind power.

    Could you give me a rough $/MWh figure based on the same assumptions as you used previously. You would have a much better idea than I of any other FOM costs that should be included.

  117. Hello Peter,

    EHV transmission lines can serve two purposes: 1) serve as a lightly loaded intertie between two larger systems for the purpose of delivering standby power if one of the areas becomes emergency deficient in its generation, and 2) delivering power from a large generator to a load center. Its not appropriate calculate a kWh energy cost for 1) because little energy is delivered, so I will discuss 2) the delivery of energy from a large power plant or source of power such as hydro or wind or coal or nuclear. The $1/watt number I proposed assumed a 1000 MW line costing $2 million per mile and being a length of 500 miles. I have seen the AEP cost estimate of a 765 kV line being $5 million per mile and thermal rating of 5000 MW, although AEP recommends loading it at a much lower level. The energy cost depends on how the line is loaded, its length, and its voltage. For example, the 1000 MW 345 kV line should be loaded to about 500 MW if connected to a remote nuclear plant. This greatly reduces losses and also is near the surge impedance loading, which is 400 to 500 MW for a 345 kV line. The surge impedance loading insures a flat voltage profile along the line. So lets assume we have the 345 kV line loaded to 500 MW and its 500 miles away and the line costs $2 million per mile. That cost would be $2/watt. Amortize this capital cost over 30 years at 5% APR would be an annual capital cost of (2$/w)(.05)(1.05^30)/(1.05^30-1) = $0.13/w annually. Assume the nuclear plant runs 90% of the year. Then the cents per kWh would be (13000 cents)/(8760*.9) = 1.65 cents per kWh. With this design of loading the line to 500 MW, we still have another 500 MW reserve for emergency loading, such as when other power plants trip off line and/or other large 345 kV lines trip out of service, so that system becomes reliable by having that reserve transmisson capacity. Now let’s consider wind remotely. Because of the variable nature of wind, which has an average 30% capacity factor, meaning if you had a large enough area, you might expect to see less diversity so that the peak wind power is reduced and the minimum wind is increased. For wind I would design the transmission system to fully load the transmission at about 2/3 of wind total capacity which would correspond to our 345 kV transmission line being loaded to 1000 MW and then the 1/3 rd average wind would correspond to 500 MW “base loading” just as for the nuclear plant. The total wind generation installed capacity would be three times the base load MW level. Therefore it would take 1500 MW of wind connected to our 1000 MW transmission line and the energy delivered would roughly be the 500 MW continuously, so the cents per kWh would be 13000/8760 = 1.49 cents per kWh for 500 miles of 345 kV 1000 MW transmission connected to a 1500 MW wind farm. Scale the cost roughly linearly with distance. Does this help?

  118. Gene,

    Thank you for that excellent explanation. I will use $0.015/kWh (or $15/MWh).

    I think this would be a conservative figure (ie on the low side) because I expect the lines must be designed to carry the full peak power from each wind power station and each region. Would you agree with that?

    I am preparing a paper (very approximate) to compare the CO2 emissions and costs of supplying all Australia’s electricity with one of six options. The six options comprise different technology mixes rerplacing coal fired generation as it is decommissioned at the rate of 1GW/yr for black coal and 0.4 GW/yr for Brown coal. The six option are:

    Business as usual
    CCGT
    CCGT & nuclear
    Wind & OCGT &CCGT
    CCGT & Solar Thermal
    Wind, Solar Thermal, CCGT & OCGT

    For first three options the transission cost is similar so I have not factored in any extra costs. However, for Wind and Solar thermal transmission is a significant extra cost. So I need to add it in.

    My assumptions are that wind greneration is mainly along the southern and sourth-east coastal fringe of Australia. Solar thermal power stations are distributed throughout the insolation regions of Australia – basically the desert areas over an area of 3000 km by 1000 km. Average distance from the main population centres to the centre of this region is 2000 km. Each solar thermal power station will be 250 MW with energy storage sufficient to give 24 h operation and 8000 generating hours per year (as per NEEDS, 2008) (don’t laugh at me :) ).

    So I will use $15/MWh for wind. Do you have any comment on a vlaue I should use for my solar thermal ‘baseloadf power stations located in the desert.

  119. Hi Peter, you may want to install enough transmission to fully handle all the wind capacity, however the independent wind developers here in the US will continue building new wind generation past the point where they can operate all the time up to maximum output power. They have to encounter many curtailments before their wind projects become uneconomic. In Texas the 2006 wind data shows that the coincident wind maximum power was only 85% of the installed wind capacity. As the geographic area is increased, the probability of having all wind generation at Pmax or even at a real high percentage of Pmax level goes down. Would you want to build transmission that is never used? I think the economic optimum (lowest cost energy) occurs for transmission capacity being a little less than the total sum of all wind Pmax in an area.

  120. Gene,

    I understand what you say.

    But … Wind enthusiasts argue that the wind is always blowing somewhere. They argue that the reason we are seeing large intermittency for all wind farms on the Eastern Australian grid is because the area covered by the grid is not large enough and we need to consider a grid connecting all of Australia. They argue we need to link in Western Australia and have wind farms along the southern coast line.

    That is fine in theory. But when the wind is blowing in Western Australia and not blowing in Eastern Australia, we need to be able to transmit all the power being generated in Western Australia to Eastern Australia. So we need transmission capacity to for the maximum power output. I recognise I am exaggerating to make my point clear.

    Gene, I just want to check that you are not saying the $15/MWh figure is wrong, you are just suggesting it is not as conservative as I suggested. Is this correct?

    Also, could you comment on whether $15/MWh is a reasonable rough figre to use for my solar thermal ‘baseload’ power stations at average 2000 km distance from the load centres?

  121. Peter, I think Gene is right. Remember when you are building an EHV transmission line they run from point A to point B. So you are only servicing the wind farms that are connected to that line. The wind may “always be blowing somewhere” but it is unlikely to be blowing at >15 m/s everywhere in the area of connection and some turbines will be down for maintenance. The probability of getting 100% from all the connected wind farms at the same time is very small so it makes no sense to “over-build” the line when it is rarely going to be used. On the rare occasions it does happen then the wind power can be curtailed to avoid the line tripping. This is what I think AEMO will do.

  122. Martin,

    I do understand the part of Gene’s reply that you have reitterated, and I did state that in my reply.

    Wind farm advocates argue that the wind is usually blowing somewhere. However, there are times when it is not blowing anywhere where there are wind farms are connected to the grid. We see that all over the world. So if it is blowing full speed at Esperence and nowhere in the eastern states, we can only get as much power as the tranmissions line can carry. I do understand the point Gene and you made about what is a rational and cost effective capacity of transmission to build. But what this means is that wind power can never generate more than say 85% of its installed capacity. So, if I want to replace 1 GW of coal with 1 GW of wind and gas, I need to build about 1.2 GW of wind capacity AND 1 GW of gas. So it is even more costly and uses even more land. Leave aside the capacity credit argument for the moment.

  123. Peter I think that is right. For a group of wind farms in a single region connected to the same transmission line you probably won’t get more than 85% of the nameplate capacity at any one time – even in Esperence. Plus the electricity from the wind farms in Esperence will go to meet demand in Esperence first before any surplus comes across to the eastern states so the amount you get on the interconnector will depend on the total generating capacity and load in the region.

    In any event the interconnector would be sized based on the anticipated power flows between the regions not specifically for the wind power.

    I know we disagree about the capacity credit for wind, but when assessing power needs from various generators the system operator looks at the whole network generating capacity, including the size of the interconnectors, and the anticipated loads so really the concept of 1 GW of wind replacing 1 GW of coal probably doesn’t make sense. It is just a metaphor not an installed reality.

  124. Martin,

    We are talking at cross purposes. You are talking abot optimising the grid and the investment in it. I am looking at a very simple analysis of replacing coal fired power stations with substitute options. I am seeking the cost per kWh for transmission for wind and solar. We need to make simple assumptions. We are not at the stage of optimising.

    By the way, I disagree with this point: “For a group of wind farms in a single region connected to the same transmission line you probably won’t get more than 85% of the nameplate capacity at any one time – even in Esperence”. We commonly get the all the wind power generating at full capacity in a region. We also commonly get a whole region generating zero or near zero. If you watch this site for example http://www.transmission.bpa.gov/Business/Operations/Wind/baltwg.aspx you will see times when the wind power is running at full capacity. You will also see times when the wind ids doing everything wrong – like out put rapidly decreasing as the demand rapidly increases thus exaserbating the problem of trying to bring on back up generators to take up the slack.

    Regarding the region in question using most of the power first. I disagree with that too. The demand in a region such as Esperence or anywhere else for that matter is completely negligible compared with the amount of wind power that is being proposed to make a major contribution to our grid. If you say that wind power will not be able to make a significant contribution, then we would be in agreement on all points.

    So, back to the main question: $/MWh for transmission for huge amounts of wind power and solar power to replace coal as coal is decommissioned. Just a simple figure. Martin do you disagree with the $15/MWh Gene suggested as a ball park figure based on the assumptions Gene used? Do you disagree with the assumptions. If so, what figure would you suggest and how is is it calculated? What about for solar thermal with average distance 2000 km – ie 4 times the assumed transmission line length for wind but with 3 times the capacity factor?

  125. I have another question that someone might be able to help me with. It concerns CO2 intensity factors for sent out electricity, averaged across Australia for four types of generation: black coal, brown coal, oil and natural gas. Below is a summary of my posisiton at the moment:

    I have not been able to obtain Australian average CO2 emissions factors for the generation technologies cited in the ABARE (2007) projections of electricity supply. So I have attempted to calculate them for the purpose of this simple comparison.

    [b]ABARE + DCC[/b]
    http://www.abareconomics.com/interactive/energy_dec07/excel/I1.xls
    http://www.climatechange.gov.au/~/media/publications/greenhouse-gas/national-greenhouse-factors-june-2009-pdf.ashx

    Below is an example calculation of sent-out emissions intensity for electricity generated from Black Coal

    From ABARE (2007), Table I:

    Electricity sent out = 518.3 PJ
    Black Coal consumed = 1,374.6 PJ

    From DCC NGA Factors (2009), Table 1 and Example 1:

    Emissions factor for burning black coal = 88.4 kg CO2-e/GJ = 88,400 t CO2-e/PJ

    Emissions intensity for electricity (from black coal) = 1374.6 x 88,400 / 518.3 = 234,448.5 t CO2-e/PJ

    Convert to t CO2-e/MWh:

    234,448.5 x 3600 / 1,000,000,000 = 0.844 t CO2-e/MWh

    The calculations for the four fossil fuel technologies yield the following emissions factors (in t CO2-e/MWh sent out):

    Technology Emissions intensity
    (t CO2-e/MWh sent out)
    Black coal 0.84
    Brown coal 1.20
    Oil 0.78
    Natural gas 0.49

    These figures, especially natural gas, seem to be too low compared with other apparently authoritative figures (see below).

    [b]NSW GGAS Fact Sheet, Nov 09[/b]
    http://www.greenhousegas.nsw.gov.au/Documents/FS-Comp-PoolCoeff-Nov09.pdf

    The CO2 emissions intensity for NSW electricity (sent out) in 2008 was 0.983 t CO2-e/MWh. This include electricity generated by black coal, hydro and natural gas. Because the emissions from hydro are zero and the emissions from natural gas generation are about 0.7, it follows that the emissions from coal must be greater than 0.983. Since about 6% is generated by hydro and 10% by natural gas, a rough estimate would put the emissions from black coal generation at about 1.05 t CO2-e/MWh.

    [b]ACIL-TASMAN[/b]
    ACIL-Tasman, 2009, “Fuel resource, new entry and generation costs in the NEM”
    Table 18 to 22 Emission factors and intensity for existing and committed
    http://www.aciltasman.com.au/images/pdf/419_0035.pdf

    The average emission factors for the existing power stations in NSW, Qld, SA, Tas and Vic are as follows (in t CO2-e/MWh sent out):

    Brown Coal 1.32
    Black Coal 1.00
    Natural Gas 0.73

    The ACIL-Tasman figures appear to be the most rigorous analysis of the CO2 emissions intensities and the best documented. So I shall use these emissions intensities until I find a better source.

  126. Well, Peter, the whole idea with wind is to spread it over such a large area that the average wind creates a reliable base load source of power. Thats the only way wind can succeed on a large scale to replace coal. The scenario I was envisioning is that the midwest US has wind all the way from Canada to Mexico. There would be a north south set of transmission lines connecting those wind farms together. However the transmission lines from the central US to California would not need to have the capacity of the wind CA had commited to in the midwest. Lets say that CA built half the transmission capacity of the wind they owned in the midwest. They would load those lines from the midwest to CA as they would from the power of a remote coal plant. However the average power level will only be about 1/3rd the wind capacity owned. So they build their line to be half loaded at the 1/3rd wind level and then when wind runs at 2/3rd output (this is the entire midwest) which would be rare for wind to be higher than this over such a large region, so that they could take most of the power from most of the wind most of the time. The excess would be sold to the eastern US. By having an interconnection to the eatern US, when the wind CA owned in the mid US was near 0, they could hopefully purchase power from the eastern US and from the Texas coastal area. This is how the wind is supposed to be made reliable according to Jacobson, by covering a large enough geographic area so that there is always wind blowing somewhere. I agree with you that it will sometimes not be blowing anywhere and this is the problem with wind.
    Concerning the economics, the more transmission you build, the more costly it will be. If you wanted twice the transmission I was recommending, then the cents per kWh would be 3 cents per kWh rather than 1.5 cents per kWh. The only reason I was suggestion we optimize the cost is because that is always the way the utilities have done it in the past, so that cost to the customer is always as low as possible. However its true that some utilities do invest in transmission more than others, such as TVA, AEP, and CPS tend to build stronger transmission systems than other companies. I think in the end if you build a transmission system in Australia, and some wind developer senses there is an opportunity to make some money, they will install wind even though there is not enough transmission to fully accommodate them. Possibly Australia has rules that prevent them from connecting to the grid. Absense of these rules, the wind guys will tend to overbuild and you will wind up with a system with more wind generation than there is transmission to support it if the economics work out. Its also posisble that you will nave no wind that is economiic, i.e. not competetive with coal and there will be little wind development.

  127. The idea of an equal amount of wind replacing an equal amount of coal is false. If wind has a 33% capacity factor, you would need to install at least three times as much wind as coal capacity. A loss of load probability study would also show that to achieve the same reliability for the total coal fired system you would need to add some gas peaking or quick start generation to the wind powered system. It could be made to work. To get all the costs would require a careful design analysis of the totat system with many simulations. The wind locations and amount of transmission are variables. There is no single best answer. Develop several scenarios and look at the cost and performance of all of them to decide which one looks best is the right way to do it.

  128. Hi Gene,

    Thank you for this further explanation. For the very simple comparison I am doing, I am going to use $15/MWh for transmission cost for wind.

    Would it be reasonable (ball park) to use the same figure for solar thermal assuming average transmission line length of 2000 km and 90% capacity factor for the solar generators (with sufficient storage as per NEEDS report, this storage capability forecast to be achievable by 2020)?

  129. Gene
    Ref: #37986

    Yes, I recognise what you say. What I am trying to do in a simple analsysis should be handled in a complicated modelling study. However, in the discussions with Neil Howes and Alexei back in July, in a moment of weakness, I did agree to attempt a very simple comparison. That is what I am trying to do now.

    I agree that wind capacity does not replace coal capacity. My simple analysis assumes decommissioning black coal at the rate of 1GW per year and brown coal at the rate of 0.4GW per year. This is very fast and probably not achievable without an enormous government buy back like “cash for clunkers”. However, that is my underlying assumption. I have to replace the lost energy. I conisider the BAU option (ie no decommissioning of coal) and five other options. The options are a simple mix of generating technologies that can provide the power, on demand, that the coal fired plants would have provided if not decommissioned. One of the options is Wind + OCGT + CCGT. 1GW of coal is replaced by 1GW of wind + 0.5GW CCGT + 0.5GW OCGT. Wind provides 30% of the energy deficit and the OCGT and CCGT make up the difference in equal proportions.

    I stress, this is an extremely simple analysis. I recognise what is involved in doing the analysis properly, although I do not have the capability to do it properly.

    Once I’ve got the draft paper to a suitable level I will ask for a volunteer to have a look at it before it is posted on the web site. I am still feeling pretty concerned about putting up such a simple analysis as this and may yet not go ahead. You are not the only person warning me not to post it.

    The benefit of it might be that if those on this web site can help me knock it into shape it might help the Government and Opposition find a better way forward than the CPRS (Cap and Trade legislation) that has just been rejected b the Australian Senate. To me the message is starkly clear from the analysis. However, if the analyses gets sunk it could do as much damage to credibility as what Jacobson put up in New Scientist.

    I am listening to yours and Martin Nicholsons’ advice.

  130. Concerning transmission for solar, its probably not the same energy cost as for wind. I would expect the solar to be more easily located closer to the load centers making it a lower energy cost for transmission. In California the roof toppers would say that no transmission is needed for their solar power. Centralized solar is probably what you have in mind. What if the solar and wind share the same transmission? Then the cost analysis gets more complicated. I guess for your needs I would size the transmission to match the solar power that is delivered. A solar farm that has storage will deliver a lower power level for a longer time. Since you have used $15 per MWh, I would adjust that number based on the distance and based on the capacity factor. Scale the 15 to the new length for solar compared to your assumption for wind distance. Then I would ratio the capacity factors of wind and solar to get the energy cost of solar. I.e. the solar transmission cost might be (15$/MWh for wind)(length of line to solar/length of line to wind)(capacity factor of wind .33/capacity factor of solar .25?). As the capacity factor of solar goes up due to storage, the energy cost of transmission goes down. So choose your solar model to get the transmission cost.

  131. In that last posting I forgot that I had installed a lower transmission cost for wind. We need to go back to the original calculations. Lets assume $2/w for 1000 miles for a 1000 MW 345 kV line that costs $2 million per mile. Lets size the solar MW peak power to the same transmission line capacity. The installed cost of transmission is $2/w or $2million/MW. Financed at 5% interest for 30 years is an annnual cost of (2e6)(.05)(1.05^30)(1.05^30-1) = $130,000. Lets say that the solar has a 100% capacity factor with storage. Then the energy cost would be 130000/8760 = 14.8 $/MWh. However if the solar had a capacity factor of 50%, then the transmission cost would be $29.7/MWh, and if it had a 25% capacity factor the transmission cost would be $59.4/MWh. Scale the cost linearly with distance. We assumed 1000 miles in this example.

  132. Hi Gene,

    Thank you for this. Thats great. I’ll go with $15/MW for my solar power station also. That is about half what the calculation would come out to be. My assumptions are:

    1. 2000km average transmission line length

    2. 90% capacity factor for my solar thermal plants with storage (as per NEEDS forecast for 2020)

    3. No sharing of transmission with wind farms (solar are NE of the main load centres while wind farmes are south and west of the main load centres.

    4.. The solar power stations are 250 MW each and there are 100 of them dispersed over an area 1000km by 3000km. The reason is to put them in the high insolation areas and they are dispersed to minimise the loss of generating capacity when there is widespread cloud cover.

    So, if I upped your foigure for 1000km to 2000km I’d increas the figure for solar from 14.8 $/MWh to $29.6/MWh. But 15 will be good enough for what I am doing, and I rather underestimate than over estimate. I suspect the costs of the solar power stations are hugely underestimated.

  133. Yes, Good point That’s a woops. But not as bad as when NASA missed Mars with one of its lander missions because they’d mixed km and miles in one of their calculations :)

    Now that I understand the basis of the estimate, I’m am still leaning to assuming $15/MWh for transmission for both wind and solar thermal. It is close enough for the very rough comparison I am making, and it is simpler.

    Thank you Gene. I’ve learnt a lot and I very much appreciate your help and guidance.

    Barry, you have a fantastic team contributing on the BNC web site.

  134. I don’t buy Scientific American any more because it has changed from being objectively scientific, moving instead to the warm and fuzzy politically correct end of the spectrum. Consequently many of it’s articles are written by science writers rather than the experts. In particular I don’t agree with the magazine’s anti-nuclear stance as typified by the article written by Jacobson who is neither a nuclear physicist or nuclear engineer.

  135. “For fossil fuels, should we count the carbon footprint of Operation Iraqi Liberation?”

    Well given that some antinuclear studies have attempted to charge nuclear energy with the carbon burden from a potential nuclear war, why not?

  136. Well given that some antinuclear studies have attempted to charge nuclear energy with the carbon burden from a potential nuclear war, why not?

    On that primciple, we should also include all the carbon emissions from the whole Pacific theatre and the Eastern Front in WWII.

  137. @Moitoza: you wrote

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/11/03/wws-2030-critique/#comment-46748

    without distancing quotes the words: Operation Iraqi Liberation, ie the invasion of a sovereign country as part of a war of aggression conducted by two prima facie elected war criminals in the USA and UK. I assume you approve of this, inasmuch as you seem to imply (?) that counting the carbon footprint of that aggression would be ridiculous, given the benefits of the aggression. For example, several hundred thousand deaths, and so on.

    This is quite humorous, I agree, given the centrality of Iraqi petroleum reserves and hence increased C02 emissions to the venture. But it will not be the humour you intended.

  138. @Lalor:

    I assume you approve of this, inasmuch as you seem to imply (?) that counting the carbon footprint of that aggression would be ridiculous, given the benefits of the aggression. For example, several hundred thousand deaths, and so on.

    TROLL.

  139. The Price-Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act partially indemnifies the nuclear industry against liability claims arising from nuclear incidents. The Act establishes a no fault insurance system in which any claims above the $10 billion would be covered by the federal government. Investors are unwilling to accept risks of nuclear energy without some limitation on their liability. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_Anderson_Act. If it is safe, withdraw the the Price Anderson Act. Then see who is willing to invest. It no one will why would we use federal money? Nor is it carbon free. There are multiple issues, Consider Iran. Nuclear profiliferation. Waste. And there are non carbon ways to get all of our energy. Conservation comes first. Locally produced sustainable energy would be next. Energy Secretary Chu is a well educated and intellegent person. However, as he is emotionally invested in the nuclear area, aas many posting here appear to be, he would best recuse himself on this matter.

  140. Anand Keathley – American antinuclear activists love holding out the Price-Anderson act as some sort of proof that nuclear energy is unsafe. I always ask if it covers Canada, France the UK, and Japan. It does not of course and nuclear energy has developed in those countries without its benefits.

    The other thing is of course, to date no accident that has even come close to 10 billion USD has occurred, nor is one ever going to, given the types of reactors and the way they are operated. But sure if I was an American, I would be happy to see the end of that stupid act, it has served its purpose, and it’s time is over. If only to pull the rug under stupid arguments like yours.

    Nuclear energy is as carbon free as any source of energy can be, this red herring has been so thoroughly disproved and ridiculed, I’m surprised that someone would still try to bring it up. There are no sources of energy that are carbon-free using the same criteria applied to nuclear in this matter.

    There is no ‘waste issue’ – there are several solutions, that meet every criteria the antinuclear movement can throw at them. They are now reduced to blocking the very things they were demanding, in an attempt to keep the issue alive. The farce over Yucca mountain, has done an immense amount of damage to the antinuclear movement in the US, in the eyes of the common citizen there, more than we could have ever dreamed of doing on our own.

    Nuclear proliferation is not a consequence of nuclear energy. This is rubbish that depends on public ignorance and a shared name. They are not linked in any real way, and I challenge you to show otherwise.

    Conservation and locally produced sustainable energy will never meet the needs of our civilization, and the fact that you call for them shows only that you do not understand energy at all.

    It would be wise if you obtained some grounding in the subject before parroting the lies of others – it would make you look like less of a fool

  141. Anand said:

    If it is safe, withdraw the the Price Anderson Act. Then see who is willing to invest.

    Shorter: if something does go wrong, and the company running the plant wants to default or needs to, that’s OK with you. The industry as a whole needn’t step in. That would make it more attractive because nobody would have to worry about what others in the risk pool were doing and could always default.

    What you miss is that Price Anderson makes all operators effectively liable if anyone causes any damage that they personally can’t cover. That means that the industry as a whole gets an incentive to ensure they all do the right thing and that anyone thinking about cutting corners is pulled back into line.

    That is one reason (though not the only one) why in the US there has never been an accident like Chernobyl and the 1957 providions have never been tested.

    At the risk of pointing out the obvious, if, for the sake of argument, there were a catastrophe occasoining damage of say, $US1trillion, how relevant do you think the state coverage of that extra $990 billion would be?

    Do you think that the operators would pay, or declare bankruptcy first? I’m guessing they would declare bankruptcy, and then nobody would get very much of anything, including their power.

    Making them pay a premium for an event that is not going to happen would simply be a way of pricing nuclear power out of the market and throwing the right to supply to coal, who, despite the hysteria over nuclear power, kill more people every day than nuclear power has yet killed in all its history and generates more uncontrolled nuclear waste.

    How that helps anyone who needs help is hard to see.

  142. Pingback: Nuclear century outlook – crystal ball gazing by the WNA « BraveNewClimate

  143. No power plant, (or much of anything else,) can be built without insurance. No insurance company will insure a privately owned nuclear power plant without the Price Anderson Act to cover their ass. In Europe the Nuclear power plants are state owned so there is no comparison.

  144. In my country, all large and risky activities approved by the national government (war, hydraulic dams, industrial plants, nuclear plants, etcetera) are backed up by instruments similar to the Price Anderson Act.

    This is as it should be – the government approved the activity in the first place and so is responsible for providing insurance against losses arising from the conduct of that activity.

    In the case of nuclear energy, plant owners relieve the government of most of the insurance burden by taking on responsibility for all of the more probable consequences. End of story.

  145. Gene: But surely it CAN work if we recognize that private and public institutions must work together. to save the nation.

    We’re all, just now, in the same leaky boat. Problem is that some passengers are bailing water INTO the boat while most of us are trying to bail it out.

    Dan

  146. Pingback: TCASE 9: Ocean power II – CETO « BraveNewClimate

  147. “Let’s parse this. By reliability of the coal plant, I assume in this context that they mean its capacity factor (rather than unscheduled outages), which would be around 85% of peak output. Now, wind in excellent sites has a capacity factor of ~35%, so the yearly-averaged power of a hypothetical 10 GW peak wind array of 13-19 farms would be 3.5 GW. Now, following their statement, 33% of 3.5 GW — that is, 1.15 GW or ~12% of peak capacity — would be available 85% of the time. Or, to put it another way, we’d need to install 10 GW of peak wind to replace the output of 1.4 GW of coal? Is that what they are saying? Did they cost this? (hint: no, see below). Perhaps someone else can confirm or reject my interpretation of the statements on p19 of the tech paper.”

    Barry: I have a question about capacity factor or a possible ambiguity in its use. In what you say above, capacity factor seems to mean two things: the ratio of yearly averaged power to nameplate or optimum AND “reliability” in the sense that 85 % capacity factor means “available 85% of the time.”

    I have seen others define capacity factor not as the ratio of average power to nameplate but as a metric measuring how often the plant is operating at 100%: Robert Bryce in his book Power Hungry (a book you should review, btw) defines it this way. They are not the same, are they? (self doubt)

    Bryce by the way also seems to confuse capacity factor with what we might call base load factor: as in your above number of 1.15 GW, that amount of power available nearly always.

    Bryce cites Peter Lang favorably.

    off point: Bryce is a libertarian (for the most part) whose view is that capitalism (the only practical way to run the world for him) is trending toward nuclear and natural gas but that the trend is slow and we will be reliant on fossil fuels for many, many years. He’s agnostic about AGW, which is convenient for him. Because if AGW turns out like Hansen says, this guy is basically saying “we’re going to have to adjust.”

    it’s a disturbing book for many reasons, filled with insights, but with a potential for monumental apologetics.

  148. greg, a key thing to remember is that, in simple terms, capacity factor = availability factory x demand. For coal, nuclear and gas, their availability factor is determined predominantly by scheduled outages, for standard equipment maintenance, refuelling etc. For plants operated in baseload, demand is nearly constant (i.e. that coefficient is close to 1). A capacity factor for nuclear power might be 90% over a year, assuming 1 month out of each year for refuelling and scheduled maintenance. For the other 11 months, its availability factor is closer to 99% — SCRAMs are what takes this below 100%.

    Wind is quite different. It’s availability factor is determined by when the wind is blowing, in addition to scheduled maintenance and, for a wind farm of many turbines in total, the occasional failure of an individual turbine. The engineering availability factor might be in the order of 99% for wind too, but the wind ‘fuel’ is quite a different matter. Sometimes it will be blowing strong enough to deliver near 100% of nameplate capacity, other times it will be 50%, or 20% or whatever. Sometimes, when it is becalmed or too windy (such that the turbines are shut off to avoid damage), it will be 0%. On average, over a year, it will be about 35% in good sites. But this power is not ‘dispatchable’ — it cannot be guaranteed (without energy storage), since the wind is fickle.

    What the WWS study is saying is that for a widely geographically dispersed set of wind farms, you can guarantee, to the equivalent of an 85% availability, a ‘capacity credit’ of about 12%. So, in rough terms, the 12% capacity credit for wind is the equivalent of the 85% capacity factor of a coal-fired power station. Make sense?

  149. The above discussion about coal reliability is overly simplified. We need to make a distinction about annual peak, weekends, and low load periods of the year. The coal plant reliability is determined mostly by the FOR, forced outage rate, which could be as good as 95% (5% FOR) when the coal plant is needed most, during the peak load periods. Many maintenance problems can be deferred to the weekend when the load is less. This type of problem usually does not greatly affect the reliability. Then scheduled maintenance is scheduled for light load periods of the year when the plant is not needed. When you do a loss of load probability study, you will find that the greatest loss of load is during the peak load periods, not the lighter load periods. A plant failure during the lighter load periods usually has little consequence, provided the network is electrically stable for the loss of the largest generation within a geographic region. The annual capacity factor is mostly determined by demand for a coal plant. Coal can go into load following frequently and is dispatched after natural gas and before nuclear, which is even more base loaded than coal. Wind generation can cause gas and coal plants to be backed off because wind had a lower incremental energy cost than either gas or coal. Therefore adding more wind to a region will cause the capacity factor of coal to drop a little, especially when the wind runs during light load periods, which is does frequently. However because coal plants are difficult to dispatch they cannot be run back very far to accomodate wind. Because of the unpredictable nature of wind there must be kept on line a certain amount of gas and coal in the event wind is not sufficient. But there is only a certain amount you can swing gas and coal generators. Therefore as more and more wind is added it becomes more difficult to dispatch the total set of generators. Its possible to have some stablity problems with the network as wind is swinging from low to high levels. As you keep adding more and more wind you will reach a point where wind has to be dumped even if there are no transmission limitations. This is because the gas and coal generators cannot be swung enough to accomodate all the wind. Therefore wind is going to have an upper limit, probably no more than about 30% of the total energy. The only way to simulate the network to see how it work is in an hourly simulation model. That model can also be a montecarlo model considering random failures of both generators and line and even wind variability. Every once in a while the hourly model will run into difficulties that require dumping load. This is the only correct way to model the system.

  150. I have this to say about Nuclear Power. Imagine BP running one of those. Not scared? Then you are not paying attention. All for profit corporations require ever increasing profits. That leads to cost cutting on all things including safety. It does not matter if it is possible to run one safely. Sooner or latter some corporation will do what they all do, skimp on something they should not have, bride an inspector or any one of a number of things to save a buck. And when they do…..
    So, if we want a place for or Grandchildren to live we need to find a way to do it with sustainable energy. You may find many ways to say it can not be done. But I ask you, do you really think it is optional?

  151. Anand Keathley – Yes, by all means, we can all go along with not poisoning our children. But the question that needs to follow is: will wind and solar energy help us do that? Will sustainable energy schemes reduce our dependence on coal or gas fired electricity?

    The answer is no. All one has to do is look to Europe, which has installed thousands of wind turbines and solar panels over the past two decades. Not one coal fired electricity generating plant has closed due to the introduction of these new generating sources. In fact, European nations are building 50 brand new coal-fired generating plants over the next decade. They are also scaling back wind energy development and the rich incentives required to erect it. Why does anyone expect a different outcome anywhere else?

    The number one lie: XYZ wind farm will supply electricity for 5,000 homes. The truth is that all the wind turbines in all the world can’t run a toaster, let alone a home, on their own. It is a lie that is repeated in virtually every news story on wind or solar development. Intermittent energy sources like wind and solar must be paired with a fossil fuel generating plant to produce the steady and reliable stream of electricity your toaster needs to run properly.

    Many will suggest it is a worthwhile gamble—that doing something is better than doing nothing. But this is a trap. Doing the wrong thing is worse. Much, much worse. For we are robbing ourselves of the dollars that should be invested in real energy – nuclear energy – not frittered away by making the investors in renewables schemes wealthy.

  152. DV82XL,

    This is well explained for Amanda.

    Renewable energy proponents will respond in one of two ways:

    1. reasonable people with an open and enquiring mind will think perhaps they have been misled. They will then start to dig further, using properly enquiring processes to see what is the truth about the claims for renewable energy.

    2. The others have closed minds. They are proponents of renewable energy for other reasons, not rational reasons.

  153. Amanda said:

    have this to say about Nuclear Power. Imagine BP running one of those. Not scared? Then you are not paying attention.

    This is simply a spray. You can’t compare the risk in a deep sea drilling operation with megatonnes of dense liquid and a seriously engineered plant which can be gone over with the proverbial fine-toothed comb.

    You advance no substantive claim and simply invitye under-informed people to envisage the worst possible thing as if it were technically possible and likely.

    The fact is that right now, BP and other companies are in charge of far more prospectively risky technologies with far thinner margins for error that really do kill people on a large scale all the time. You want people to look elsewhere. Whatever you say in theory, in practice, no nuclear = more coal and gas, both of which are far more dangerous day in and day out than nuclear. Do a body count of the miners killed in mining incidents alone in China alone since 1970. Then add in the progressive asphyxiation of people along the transport chain to the coal plant. Then add in those asphyxiated and poisoned, including by radioactive waste and then add global warming and acidication of the oceans and then tell me why nuclear is a comparative worry.

    So, if we want a place for or Grandchildren to live we need to find a way to do it with sustainable energy. You may find many ways to say it can not be done. But I ask you, do you really think it is optional?

    The answer is that nuclear power is sustainable whereas renewables are not — at least, if we are talking about renewables at a scale needed to foreclose coal and gas on a world scale.

    Until someone can show that some offically renewable energy source capable of supplanting coal and gas is commercially feasible, the demand for renewables is the demand for business as usual with an utterly unimpressive figleaf. It’s coal and gas in drag with green activists pretending this says nothing about their underlying cultural preference.

    Well that doesn’t wash. As Gene Preston notes, your demands can only be realised by using fossil fuels less efficiently and probably in greater volume in some settings. Your proposals subvert not only the interests of the grandchildren but the grandparents too. I’m outing you and your fellow travellers as closet fossil fuel advocates, as unwitting purveyors of greenwash.

    It’s not too late. Work it through. How does your advocacy contribute to the options available to societies wishing to deploy the reliable industrial scale energy that is fundamental to contemporary life? If it prejudices the choice in favour of fossil fuels, then surely you must modify your advocacy so that it does the opposite? Simply saying “well we will have to find a way without nuclear” is not tenable unless there is a way without nuclear and at the moment, there simply is no such option available.

  154. You’re welcome Greg …

    I’m thinking of making it into a bumper sticker, to place alongside my other sticker on clean energy.

    I am thinking of how to make a smoking coal plant look like a hippy-style female impersonator … ;-)

    I’ll have to get my creative juices flowing!

  155. Pingback: TCASE 10: Not all capacity factors are made equal (Part 1) « BraveNewClimate

  156. Pingback: The 21st century nuclear renaissance is starting – good news for the climate « BraveNewClimate

  157. I just came across this http://theenergycollective.com/Home/63618 and thought some might be interested:

    Bill Hannahan said:

    Stephen, when people are freezing to death in their homes during a severe cold snap due to an extended power failure you can console them with the knowledge that the stationary windmills all around then are technically available.

    Jacobson’s paper makes this claim;

    “It was found that an average of 33% and a maximum of 47% of yearly averaged wind power from interconnected farms can be used as reliable, baseload electric power….”

    This is what the review comment is about, not windmill availability.

    Jacobson wrote; “Nevertheless, because coal plants were shut down for scheduled maintenance 6.5% of the year and unscheduled maintenance or forced outage for another 6% of the year on average in the United States from 2000 to 2004, coal energy from a given plant is guaranteed only 87.5% of the year, with a typical range of 79%–92% (North American Electric Reliability Council 2005; Giebel 2000).”

    Note that I used the same database he uses to show that his conclusion is not valid. The reliability of fossil fuel supply is high, so the reliability of fossil based electricity is nearly equal to plant reliability.

    Jacobson wrote; “”Firm capacity” is the fraction of installed wind capacity that is online at the same probability as that of a coal-fired power plant.”

    This is where the authors have redefined reliability. First they use the term, “Firm capacity,” and then when they write their conclusion it is “reliable.”

    Imagine that someone invents a cold fusion generator that is very cheap to mass produce, but can only be operated at rated power for 1 hour in every 10 hours. The “Firm Capacity” of these units is only 10%, less than one fourth the 45% Jacobson claims as the “Firm Capacity” of the windfarms.

    A utility would buy enough units to cover its highest demand day, and have a totally reliable grid year round with no backup plants, no storage and no additional transmission lines required. That is because each unit can be scheduled well in advance and dispatched as needed. These are the qualities that give an energy source reliability, and they are not present with wind farms, even if they are interconnected. “Firm capacity” is not an indication of, or correlated with, or equivalent to reliability, except at the end points of 0% and 100%.

    Stephen, do you think “Firm Capacity” is a better measure of reliability than IEEE 762?
    Jacobson’s entire paper hangs on the assumption that “firm capacity” and “reliability” are equivalent and interchangeable, in direct contradiction of this example, the examples in the comment, common sense and industry standards.

    Maintaining grid reliability is a matter of life and death.

    People who try to reduce grid reliability to a word game reveal more about themselves than they reveal about our energy options.

    So, your unanswered questions are;

    1… Jockeying fossil plants to load level wind means many more thermal stress cycles, higher maintenance cost for those plants and higher emissions. It also reduces thermodynamic efficiency. Where are these costs included in your academic wind analysis?

    2… How much hydro power would we have built if it only generated power while it rained?

    3… Would it be reliable baseload power if we interconnected those rain only hydro plants? It’s always raining somewhere, right?

    4… What would the transmission system for that cost?

    5… How much money do you think we should be spending on R&D to make reliable, clean, safe, dispatchable energy that is cheaper than burning coal?

    6… What is your definition of dispatchable?

    7… What is the power industry definition of dispatchable?

    8… What is your definition of baseload power?

    9… What is the industry definition of baseload power?

    10… What does the subsidy for commercial nuclear power (not military or fusion) add up to in cents per kWh? Reference please.

    11… What do the taxes paid on nuclear kWh’s add up to in cents per kWh?

    You mentioned the insurance issue again. You still have 14 questions to answer on that issue.

    http://theenergycollective.com/TheEnergyCollective/60423#4421

    12… What are your thoughts on the fact that emissions increased when fossil plants were forced to load level for windfarms?

    13… Do you think “Firm Capacity” is a better measure of reliability than IEEE 762?

  158. Pingback: Advanced nuclear power systems to mitigate climate change (Part III) « BraveNewClimate

  159. Pingback: Mark Lynas » Why Fukushima will (probably) always remain a non-fatal accident

  160. Pingback: Unbelievable Mendacity - The Energy From Thorium Foundation

  161. Pingback: Andrew Simms, energy and green herrings | Carbon Counter

  162. As an engineer concerned about climate change, it often frustrates me how many “allies” in this area discredit the movement by spouting off inaccurate, overly-optimistic statements with no basis in economic reality.

    Thanks for this post – it touches on a number of important points.

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