TCASE 7: Scaling up Andasol 1 to baseload

Andasol 1 is Europe’s first parabolic trough solar thermal power station, which went online in Nov 2008. It is located on a high desert site in Granada, Spain, which enjoys a high level of direct insolation – an average of 2,136 kWh / m2 / year. The mirror field — turbine infrastructure can yield a peak electricity generation capacity of 49.9 MWe (20 MWe average, see below). It also has a thermal storage system using molten salt.

The purpose of this post is to consider how one might scale up an Andasol 1 type plant in order to meet a rated power demand for 8,000 hours per year — thereby giving it a capacity factor of ~90%, similar to a baseload coal or nuclear power stations. This is a first attempt to improve the comparisons first given in TCASE 4.

But first, let’s look at the technology and current numbers. Here’s a good summary of its main features:

The Andasol 1 storage system absorbs part of the heat produced in the solar field during the day. A turbine produces electricity using this heat during the night, or when the sky is overcast. This process almost doubles the number of operational hours at the solar thermal power plant per year, the company said.

The heat generated in the solar field will be stored in a molten mixture of 60% sodium nitrate and 40% potassium nitrate. Both substances are used in food production as preservatives and are also used as fertilizer. The storage tank consists of two, 14-meter high tanks with a diameter of 36 meters and a capacity of 28,500 tons of molten salt. During the pumping process from the cold to the hot tank, the molten salt absorbs additional heat at an outlet temperature of approximately 280°C, reaching a temperature of 380°C.

A fully loaded storage system can keep the turbine in operation for 7.5 hours, which means almost 24-hour operation of the power plant in during high sunshine periods.

More technical details, including some useful illustrations of the storage system, can be found here and here. In summary, the solar collectors for the existing plant add up to a total of 510,120 square metres (0.51 km2), consisting of 209,664 mirrors along 312 rows with a total length of 24 km, with 90 kilometres of absorption pipes. The total physical area occupied by the plant (after appropriate collector spacing, and allowing for the storage and turbine housing, etc.) is 1.95 km2.  The estimated energy yield is 178 GWh / year (I haven’t seen reports of actual performance data), at a capacity factor of 40.7%, and an average power yield of 10.4 W/m2. It will use 560 million litres/year of fresh water, mostly for cooling the steam circuit, drawn from local ground water (a plant using air cooling would have a lower efficiency and would have to be larger to compensate).  The lifespan of the plant is estimated to be 30 — 40 years.

Precise construction costs are hard to come by, but it seems to have been about €300 million ($AUD 500 million). This works out to be $25 billion per GWe of average power, but this is clearly a first-of-a-kind cost that can be expected to fall with replicated builds. The levelised cost of energy (including the energy storage) is estimated to be 45 c/kWh (in Australian cents) — which is about the size of the Spanish feed-in tariff which is set to run for 25 years. Including its charge for electricity to customers, the maximum cost has been capped at 58 c/kWh.

Some of the above data were already summarised in TCASE 4, and cooling water requirements were covered in TCASE 6.

The crucial data for construction material requirements for Andasol 1 is found in the NEEDS report 2008, “Final report on technical data, costs, and life cycle inventories of solar thermal power plants” – specifically, Table 7.3, page 88. Early in the report (page 28), they calculate costs for a solar thermal power station, located in the Sahara (with better insolation than Spain, but let’s skip this detail for simplicity), generating for 8000 hours per annum — close enough to 90%. They base this on 16 hours storage per day, which they project can be achieved by 2020. The value of 16 seems to be an average number of hours per year, rather than the crucial minimum delivery. Given that the time in winter that is suitable for generating with solar thermal technology is about 5 or 6 hours per day (on clear sunny days), the power station would need to have 18 to 19 hours storage to allow it to have a capacity factor of 90% (excluding bad weather).

The base figures for material inputs for the current plant works out to be 1,303 tonnes of concrete, 406 tonnes of steel, and 133 tonnes of glass, per average MWe. To increase the capacity factor from 40% to 90%, one would have to roughly increase the size of the mirror field by a factor of 2.25 (90/40) and the thermal storage facilities by 2.5 (18.5/7.5). The larger mirror field can be rationalised on two fronts: (1) more collecting area is required to recharge the larger volume of storage salts, and (2) the solar multiple for winter will be about twice that of summer.

Let’s use a half-way figure from above — 2.4 — as a scaling constant. This gives 3,127 tonnes of concrete, 974 tonnes of steel, and 300 tonnes of glass per MWe delivered at a 90% capacity factor. Scaled up to the size of an AP-1000 reactor (1,154 MWe at 90 % CF), this is 3.61 million tonnes of concrete, 1.12 million tonnes of steel, and 0.34 million tonnes of glass, with the total plant covering ~101 km2 of desert. By comparison, the reactor would require 0.24 million tonnes of concrete and 0.015 tonnes of steel, and occupy 0.04 km2 of land. So, the comparative solar : nuclear ratios comes out as follows:

————————————————

Ratio of materials/land requirements, for equivalent solar thermal : nuclear (both calculated at 90 % capacity factor):

Concrete = 15 : 1; Steel = 75 : 1; Land = 2,530 : 1

————————————————

The conclusion? When energy storage is properly accounted for, the material and land requirements for solar thermal vs nuclear power area appallingly lop-sided. Further, if the solar plant doesn’t end up lasting 40 years, and the AP-1000 lasts 60 years (nearly half of the US reactor fleet is now licensed to run for this long), then the numbers get even more skewed.

Needless to say, for concrete and steel — two of the most carbon-intensive products embedded in any power generation facility — this amounts to a large difference in the embodied energy and associated greenhouse gas emissions of the capital infrastructure. As such, the additional mining, required to deliver the limestone and iron ore needed to produce the construction materials for solar thermal versus nuclear, must be set against uranium mining (until Generation IV reactors are standard, that is). Anti-nukes who raise the mining objection against nuclear power, but ignore the mining associated with solar (or wind) construction, are presenting a false comparison. They can’t have it both ways.

Although I have been careful in my calculations, the above figures are nevertheless a first attempt. As such I’m happy to entertain challenges from commenters, and if these criticisms prove to be right, then I’ll happy adjust my comparative figures accordingly.

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120 Comments

  1. All this effort for 20MWe – I can piss more power than that. Doesn’t anyone understand scale anymore? NPP are in the Gigawatt class now.

    This is becoming tired real fast, and a big part of the problem is that the public by in large is innumerate and can’t get their heads around the numbers we are dealing with here. I am sick of the media breathlessly reporting that some project like this can power 20,000 homes, as if that was significant (or even questioning if the unit of measurement is a valid one.)

  2. Geoff – just who is going to make bombs here? This is as stupid as looking at a hundred car drag full of ammonium nitrate fertilizer going down the track, and asking what anyone would want with 10,000 tons of explosives.

  3. It might be difficult to find that much cooling water in a prime solar location in Australia ie a flat plain with snow capped mountains nearby. Even some outback coal fired stations like Kogan Ck are air cooled. I wonder if 15-20 Mw is the seen-to-be-doing something size as we’ll get that in Australia for planned wood fired, geothermal and solar ammonia plants.

    If I’ve read this right the capital cost for 90% reliability is 2.4 X $2.50 = $6 per watt. At $2.50 just for summer load following we could possibility retrofit buildings for passive cooling at similar cost.

  4. 0.04 km2 for an AP1000 is utterly meaningless. That’s includes the containment and associated nuclear and turbine island buildings.

    Go through the individual Wikipedia articles on NPPs in the US
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Nuclear_power_stations_in_the_United_States

    And you’ll find numbers that range from 1,000 to 4,000 acres for the site that such plants are on. How on Earth is it fair to compare the tiny 0.04 km2 (about 10 acres) to the land for the solar thermal plant? The total site includes a buffer zone for safety, but that should still be included in the comparison because a solar thermal plant does not require it.

    A fair land ratio should be closer to 20:1.

  5. Professor Brook said… “The estimated energy yield is 178 GWh / year (I haven’t seen reports of actual performance data)”… chances are, you’re just going to have to get used to it.

    Evidently, there seems to be a “data collection” problem inherent to solar generation technology… obtaining “actual performance data” (ditto costs) has been difficult to impossible for decades. It is the perennial complaint of those who have tried to present factually indisputable analysis of solar facilities in the past. Obviously, this isn’t a technical problem…

    For those facilities that have (and do) publish their performance data, it always serves as a stark reminder of the limitations and feeble output of solar power (hence the chronic reluctance of the majority to “air their dirty laundry” in public). Perhaps Andasol 1 will be more forthcoming… I hope so. I am eager to see what the folks on this site will do with the information.

    BTW – what was the construction time for this facility?

  6. Curies fact err curious fact indeed!

    Of course 4 curies is nothing; the smoke detectors in my house each have about 1 curie and there’s 8 of them total. So my house has twice the radioactivity embedded in my smoke detectors than all the potassium 40 in all those tons of salt!

    Needless to say it is not a good idea to eat smoke detectors, nor large amounts of nitrate salts for that matter…

    Now, as for looking at baseload solar, that is only useful in comparison with a nuclear power plant operating in typical baseload mode. That’s a bit misleading of course, as we want to know the load carrying capacity. That is to say we need a SYSTEM PERSPECTIVE. So, if you have a hypothetical system with 100% nuclear power, that requires you to dump large amounts of nuclear heat or power, or install a reasonable amount of storage. Any of these options will increase the power generation cost beyond that of a baseload power plant.

    It turns out that, when taking this much superiour systems engineering approach, solar thermal power is actually run best in load following mode; 40-60 percent capacity factor will probably be ideal, depdending on the grid (very industrial grids may have 70 percent or more as a sweet spot, but generally for typical grids the average capacity factor is much less). Running it at 80-90 percent in a typical grid with evening peaking will cause you to dump a lot of the energy, which is suboptimal.

    Another suggestion raised elsewhere is that the storage component of a thermal storage system can be oversized to accomodate wind power, PV and nuclear. This seems like a great idea with a lot of solar thermal electric in the grid mix because it allows ‘artificial’ storage for wind, PV and nuclear that is quite cheap (thermal storage).

  7. Relocating solar thermal to the Sahara may not improve the economics if you factor in security costs and new transmission. Remember that the Dakar car rally was moved to South America in 2008 over security concerns. Underwater HVDC cables to Europe might see the Saharans toasting their marshmallows with German lignite power if the economics aren’t right; something akin to that happened with Australia’s Basslink. Solar thermal is one of those energy sources that aims to create a glow, as in warm inner glow of its supporters.

  8. DV..: Sorry, the knee jerk Na/K nitrate=bombs just kind of went off like nuke=bombs does :) Its these knee jerks that will make nuclear such
    a tough sell. It isn’t really facts which are missing, its good nuclear branding!
    Why is nuclear dogged by 3-mile island but chemical companies aren’t
    dogged by Bhopal?

  9. @Cyril R: I’m not a convinced nuclear advocate, but I do want to point out that the LFTR design has a degree of inherent load-following capability. Higher demand means greater cooling of the inner fuel fluid, leading to higher density, leading to increased fission; and vise versa.

    @Barry: Have you heard/evaluated the idea that the necessity of “baseload power” is partly mythical, because flattish baseload demand curves have been artificially promoted via discount pricing etc in order to match the demand to the inflexible fixed output of coal and traditional nuclear generators? Hypothetically, could we similarly reshape our demand curves to better suit an electrical grid with a greater proportion of solar generation?

  10. The large area component of a solar thermal plant is due to the energy resource collection, to compare the solar thermal case including the collectors to the footprint of the reactor only is misleading as the energy resource collection in that case is the mine, plant and mineral processing equipment.

    I imagine the plant and processing equipment would also contain a sizable amount of steel and concrete. so a complete comparison should also present these components.

  11. arrr, I acknowledge that the uranium mine also occupies an area that would need accounting — but this would be more than offset by the additional mining required for the concrete and steel in the solar plant. Of course, IFRs will require no uranium mining for many centuries. My concrete and steel figures cited above are not just for the AP1000 reactor, they are for all the associated site structures (as is the calculated footprint area). See here for a diagram: http://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/ap1000-footprint.jpg

    Alan, the 0.04 km2 for an AP1000 is NOT utterly meaningless. You are correct about requiring a buffer zone around the size, although this need not be as large as in many Gen II US reactor sites. But one can also pack many AP1000 units into a single site. Here is an example from Zhejiang, China, where 6 units are grouped at a site:

    http://www.china.org.cn/china/national/2008-09/09/content_16415475.htm

    Haiyang will also have 6 units, sitting side-by-side: http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Start_of_Haiyang_construction_imminent-2809095.html

    The Canadians have been doing this too, with Pickering being the prime example (8 CANDU units at a site, 6 still operational):
    http://www.opg.com/news/photos/Pickering—Img0001.jpg

    Cyril, I agree about needing to look at this in a systems context. The point here is to try to make the apples and oranges comparison a little further, as so many CST advocates claim it can deliver baseload paper and replace coal or nuclear. Fine, then let’s look at the number for this, before we consider what a more appropriate role may be.

  12. Nobody (that I’m aware of) has provided a convincing case against baseload – it’s all a bit hypothetical and future looking.

    An important counter to those who think it shouldn’t exist is the promise of electric cars, which will all want overnight charging.

  13. Here is an interesting bit of news.

    http://anz.theoildrum.com/node/6021#more

    Desertec Asia – A Pan-Asian Energy Infrastructure Proposal

    http://www.desertec-asia.com/content/ts-introduction.html


    The plan involves connecting Asia through a 6,000-8,000 kilometer electricity and natural gas transmission system stretching from southern Australia to Japan and South Korea.

    Australian surplus concentrating solar power, geothermal, wind and wave energy, along with natural gas, would flow northward to Indonesia. There, it would be joined by Indonesia’s surplus natural gas, geothermal and hydro power.

  14. This is a ridiculously expensive, Utopian and unnecessary plan. It’s all designed to use the simpler, nuclear alternative energy.

    the real irony here is that the countries mentioned *except* Australia are all considering or actively building lots and lots of nuclear energy.

    DW

  15. As I understand it, the 50 MW nameplate capacity of a lot of Spanish solar units (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_solar_thermal_power_stations ) is due to financial rather than technical reasons. A larger unit would be treated less favorably in terms of taxes or subsidies. So stations comprise several small, nominally-separate units. Andasol, for instance, could grow to 350 MW of total capacity.

    Once you take seasonal variation into consideration, I don’t think a solar plant in Spain could sensibly reach a capacity factor of 90%. In the Mojave Desert at about the same latitude, daily insolation varies from ~9 kW·h/m² in June to ~6 in December (see http://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar.html ). So if the unit’s collector array and storage are sized to produce rated power 24 hr/day in mid-summer, it’ll produce a lot less than that in mid-winter. If the array were larger, the capacity factor would be higher, but the unit’d have to throw away a lot of the energy it could collect, driving the price per kW·h generated even higher.
    North Africa and Australia are at lower latitudes, so the situation isn’t quite as bad.

  16. Whoops – microCuries that is indeed! Multiply those smoke detectors by a million! So it’s quite significant actually, isn’t that… curious!

    Barry, about the system perspective. One thing that you could do is look at the performance in terms of economics, materials, land use, water use, emissions etc. of a hypothetical 100% solar thermal grid, and compare it to a 100% nuclear grid. More useful still would be combinations, like 50% nuclear, 40% solar, 10% biomass (backup/seasonal). This is useful because it allows full comparison of infrastructure, storage, etc in different scenarios, rather than making arbitrary assumptions about such things.

    It’s best to use real grids (like the Australian one) as a case and use real load data to determine load carrying capacities, if you can find them.

  17. Bill Woods, those are good points, you’re right that 90% capacity factor is not economical for Spain, and silly to attempt in the first place, we need high load carrying capacity and high turnover without energy dumping in the summer.

    The interesting stuff comes along when you look at areas further into the Sahara, where the seasonal variation is very low. Very high capacity factors, yes even baseload, might be useful there, especially when there is 24/7 demand. For example some people have suggested taking heavy industries to the Sahara and build railroads and harbors to get iron ore and other energy intensive stuff to the solar power plants where they will be smelted/produced. The system/scenario perspective allows us to take that into account…

  18. Hi Barry,

    Great blog, just discovered it. Nuclear power is an interesting subject, people either love it or hate it. The zealots rarely concede a point & the antis don’t want to consider it for a moment. There’s usually not much left in the middle.

    I’m coming from a not convinced yet position. I don’t believe there are any silver bullets like “all nuclear” for achieving deep emissions cuts in the short term.

    Have you seen this report World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2009 (08/2009) available from the the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (& other sites) – below:

    http://thebulletin.metapress.com/content/k35045v67v037573/?p=3e066ae975cf41419a094c318b039a9e&pi=0

    To me it comes off as a pretty balanced review of the state of play. No doubt there will be more NPPs built but it doesn’t look too rosy – significant capacity constraints both material & labour. For me, what gives this report credibility is that it quotes nuclear industry sources & was sponsored by the German government which already has a number of nuclear facilities. I’m sure their references could be validated.

    Finally, Gen 4 is a bit like fusion – it’ll be great when it gets here. We need to be looking at a raft of solutions with short, medium & long term delivery time-frames. Instead all we’re getting is misinformation & dithering by our leaders.

    I’m sorry, despite the GHG benefits, the big picture opinion in Australia for nuclear is still very hostile. The states have all got legislation in place to block nuclear facilities. There’ll be plenty of fear, uncertainty & doubt spread around – flogging U off – no worries, build a reactor NIMBY – for a long time yet.

    It’s a great forum for this conversation, keep up the good work.

    Dow

  19. Cyril, this current post is not about a 100% solar grid. It’s about a single solar plant supplying ‘baseload’ power. The situation becomes quite different if you try to have many of these connected in order to provide the whole grid, because of the correlation among power delivered (or not) at a given time. This creates major problems that I have not yet raised in TCASE — 1 step at a time.

    The sort of mixed nuclear/solar/biomass study you propose involves a huge amount of work to do it credibly (optimised) — well beyond the scope of TCASE. I’m not saying it won’t or can’t be done, but it is not immediately high on the top of my list. My gut feeling is that the optimal suite of scenarios would all involve little contribution from solar or biomass, but that would need to be properly demonstrated.

  20. Barry, I realize that you’re trying to get an apples to apples comparison, but you simply won’t achieve that this way. For most cases it is not ultimately useful to consider ‘ability to meet baseload supply’, for example it is quite expensive to build single cycle gas turbines for baseload but they are usually very profitable in peaking. So why consider peakers in terms of being able to meet baseload? This is not where such technology excels in and so should not be compared on such requirements.

    Indeed the very notion of baseload suggests that you have intermediate and peaking loads as well; you’re thinking in terms of typical fossil powered grid terminology.

    I would like to point out that the average system capacity factor of all USA power generating plants is under 50%. Evidently 100% baseload would be impossible, you need a mix if you’re using a lot of baseload plants.

    Interestingly it turns out that when properly sited (Mojave for the US) the highest correlation with grid load is around 50-60% capacity factor solar powerplants. So why go higher?

    This fact is reflected in the pool pricing of electricity; the sales price is higher for load following than for a flat block of power (ie baseload). From an investor’s perspective, the internal rate of return becomes lower by going for baseload over load following (40-60% capacity factor or so).

    Nuclear is best run constantly whereas renewables have varying degrees of variability. So we have different requirements here, especially if you don’t want to use a lot of carbon fuels, since then you’d want to limit fossil backup. Are we really going to run nuclear powerplants in the 5-30% capacity factor range (ie peaking)? They are highly unlikely to be competitive in such markets. One option is to have a baseload plant that dumps a lot of energy but this is wasteful and expensive (because of lost revenues). Another option is to install storage with a baseload plant. This is also expensive and adds material requirements. Such things need to be considered in a post carbon world, there are just too many gaps in a baseload comparison method for it too be justified IMHO.

  21. Cyril R – Your argument is specious as any fix, like better distribution and better storage, works as well for a NPP if not better than it does for wind/solar. While I agree that gas baseload is expensive, this is what we are going to be left with due to carbon mitigation schemes, so any comparison is valid.

  22. Just barely on topic: unlike ammonium nitrate, sodium and potassium nitrates, as pure substances, are absolutely stable. The oxygen that is bound to the nitrogen has no lower-energy place to go. Mixing them with reducing agents can provide such a place.

    Also, nitrate ion is naturally the form in which biologically fixed nitrogen spends part of its time, so the amount one eats, in vegetables, is surprisingly large.

    (How fire can be domesticated)

  23. Barry,

    This post is excellent. You make it so clear. This sort of information must be cutting through.

    The last paragraph of the part in yellow (the quote) is interesting. It says

    “A fully loaded storage system can keep the turbine in operation for 7.5 hours, which means almost 24-hour operation of the power plant in during high sunshine periods”

    That’s great for mid summer at latitudes where you would have 16.5 hours per when the sun is hot enough to generate power. I expect that requires at least 18.5 hours of sunlight per day, but more likely 20 hours of sunlight per day. What happens for the rest of the year. What happens in winter? Even the most optimistic projections for solar thermal do not forcast that solar thermal can provide baseload power – ie power on demand, 24/365, irrespective of how long the winter and how long are the longest periods of overcast weather over large areas.

  24. uvdiv #38283,

    “Curious fact: Andasol’s salt tanks contain 4 Curies of potassium-40.

    (28,000,000 kg of salt [1], which is 60:40 KNO3/NaO3 [2], and 0.011% of potassium is K-40 [3], whose specific activity is 7.1 uCi/g [4]. [1] [2] [3] [4])”

    Just out of interest, can you say how would the radiation released from 1 GW of these solar thermal plants compare with the releases from a 1 GW nuclear plant?

  25. Cyril R

    Re #38351 I wonder if you can give me some figures or authoritative source in answer to these questions:

    1. what are the capital cost ($/W) and energy cost for the solar plant with 40% to 60% capacity factor?

    2. What is the availability of this plant to meet demand?

    3. What is its availability to provide full-load generation on demand in mid-winter and throughought say 5 days of overcast weather?

  26. Cyril R,

    You say

    “So, if you have a hypothetical system with 100% nuclear power, that requires you to dump large amounts of nuclear heat or power, or install a reasonable amount of storage. Any of these options will increase the power generation cost beyond that of a baseload power plant.”

    Of course, nuclear plants can follow load if designed to do so. The 1600 MW EPR claims it can ramp at the rate of 80 MW per minute and do this through a large range of power output. From memory it can operate at down to 25% of its capacity (so they claim).

    Regarding energy storage, 25 GW of nuclear power (average) would provide the energy used on the NEM. Another 8 GW would meet the power peak demand. A Pumped hydro energy storage facility linking the existing dams Tantangara and Blowering in the Snowy Mountains schem could provide 8 GW or peak power for 58 hours. The cost would be about $15 billion. That is a lot less than the cost of 8 GW of nuclear power plants.

    Some may say this storage can work for intermittent renewables too. But no it can’t, for tweo reasons. Firstly, to be viable it needs low cost power in the night when demand on the NEM is low and to be able to sell energy at four times the buy price when energy prices are high; ie at peak times.

    Secondly, the pumps need reliable power continuously for around six hours. Intermitrent renewables cannot supply that.

  27. Cyrl R,

    You say:

    “Barry, about the system perspective. One thing that you could do is look at the performance in terms of economics, materials, land use, water use, emissions etc. of a hypothetical 100% solar thermal grid, and compare it to a 100% nuclear grid.”

    Something like you suggest has already been done on two other BNC threads:
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/10/solar-realities-and-transmission-costs-addendum/

  28. Wow…this IS an interesting discussion. As a general rule, *any* storage system that is applicable to CSP can be used for nuclear just as easily, and probably more effectively. One could set out a number of reactors for hot salt storage and run them at 80% capacity using the storage for peaker power when required. Gen IV reactors, all of which I believe run at even hotter temps can do this. I designed bleed off valves for the secondary loop of a LFTR that can be used AS the load controller that takes the high salt and uses it for desalination (while the heat sink for the low end of the Brayton cycle turbine does the same thing more or less continually. The amount of fresh water is inversely proportional to the load at any given time. Lots and lots of ways to combine load following with use of process heat. So it basically bogus that nuclear generation *has to be dumped*. So not true.

    The limiting factor (other than neutron poisons) for a reactor’s minimum load is wholly a function of the turbine/generator set, not the reactor itself. If you go to turbine vendors, like GE’s excellent home page or Westinghouse, under their turbine products you will see, for example a “200 to 600MW” turbine so minimum load is 200MWs or about 33% of the rated load. Nuclear turbines usually as listed as “upto xMWs”, meaning they can in theory maintain a very low steam flow and power out put.

    David

  29. Cyril R,

    I need to clarify this statement I made in post #

    “Another 8 GW would meet the power peak demand. A Pumped hydro energy storage facility linking the existing dams Tantangara and Blowering in the Snowy Mountains schem could provide 8 GW or peak power for 58 hours. The cost would be about $15 billion.”

    The 58 hours applies when the top dam is full and the bottom dam is not full. This is not normally the case. In practice, the way these two dams would be used for pump hydro is that the pumps would pump each night for say 6 hours, and the full 8 GW could be generated for 3 to 5 hours each day – the difference between 3 and 5 hours depends on trhe size and efficiency of the pumps. Of course, power can be generated for longer if producing less than 8 GW. In case of emergency (eg a powe station shuts down) the facility can generate for as long as there is water in the top dam and storage space available in the lower dam. The maximum storage, when the top dam is full and the lower dam not full, is 58 hours at 8 GW. For $15 billion capital cost.

  30. DV82XL, as usual you’ve misinterpreted by position. The argument is simply one of methods, you have to compare real grid loads with load carrying capacity. If you are worried about natural gas use then you don’t want to build a baseload solar plant but a load following one since that reduces peaker natural gas use. There is no specious argument, I agree that storage and load control is easier and probably cheaper in a nuclear grid than in a solar grid. That does not excuse any of us from using fallacious methods like baseload normalization. I’ve made this point on various other blogs but most people react in a deliberately obtuse manner, some are agressively offended and miss the point altogether, others resort to their nuclear absolutism. This is not a discussion I wish to engage in because it is fruitless. I just like to see more studies that use realistic methods, that reflect real everyday concerns of grid operators and investors.

  31. Peter Lang, thanks for the information, I’ll look into it later.

    For general methods, I think David Mills has a good example of comparing solar output with grid loads and then try too see the match, how much is dumped and how much needs to be substituted as backup.

    http://213.133.109.5/video/energy1tv/Jan%20NEU/Konferenz/Wirtschaft/10,000_SGW/24_MS/24_04_MS_05_Hannover_Mills.pdf

    Basically the advantage over correctly sited solar thermal electric plants is a higher effective load carrying capacity than nuclear, so less backup/peaking needed in regular operation. The disadvantage in terms of the grid is the need (and cost) for a lot of long distance transmission. The need for emergency backup for the occasional week or two of bad weather is not as bad as you’d think because this is being done for seasonal natural gas storage underground for example. The cost is quite low, in the future we might prefer biogas or other biomass sources to get rid of that last bit of natural gas. Hydro can help too in some cases.

    I think the CAISO/ERCOT grid data is available online, if you google it you can probably find the link, don’t have it handy right now.

    For costs, in the US the best study is probably the Sargent and Lundy report, which is very detailed.

  32. David Walters, Yes, nuclear can run in load following, though this is not ideal from a reactor operation and maintenance perspective (neutronics, poison buildup, and thermal cycling become worse) and it reduces the kWhs sold. I’m not saying it can’t be done, just that it has to be compared to other stuff like you say.

    With a solar thermal plant, you start low in kWhs and actually increase that by adding storage. As long as the storage is cheaper than the turbine you can actually reduce the levelised cost of electricity, whereas with nuclear you’d be increasing it by going for a lower capacity factor, even if you can keep maintenance costs low (I have some concerns over this because of thermal cycling and varying radiation flux levels a couple of times per day).

    Thermal storage is definately one that I’ve considered for a nuclear plant as well, though there are some complexities when doing this in a high temp reactor, it might be more practical to go for electric storage offsite such as pumped hydro or demand side storage in ice, hot water etc. But we’ll see about that, a combined baseload/peaker nuclear plant thermal storage system is definately a development that I encourage, the benefit is that the reactor can run full load all the time which is ideal. Using nuclear heat for a CAES system is also an interesting option, because it eliminates natural gas use.

  33. As for dumping the energy, this is mentioned because it is the easiest to do (with some resistance heater for example) and they don’t have to be very close to the reactor. Using combined heat and power is better of course but there is the $$$ and complexity to consider. Even with suitable use for off peak heat, it may still be prudent to install resistance heaters in case of an emergency such as unexpected oversupply.

    I think that people are underestimating the potential for demand side storage in hot water and cold water/ice for space heating, hot water, and air conditioning, as well as plugin hybrids and electric vehicles.

    There may be little need for large storage facilities with large amounts of demand side storage (simple, almost 100% efficient because it is simply delaying the demand, and often cheaper than pumped hydro)

  34. Here’s the Sargent and Lundy cost trajectory estimates from NREL for CSP in the USA (Spain is more expensive since they have worse solar radiation and do not have as much experience with solar thermal as the US has)

    http://www.nrel.gov/csp/pdfs/35060.pdf

    If the deployment is met then this is plausible.

    One major problem for CSP and nuclear in the US is that so little has been built in recent years, there is serious knowledge erosion and this has retarded the industry to quickly and effectively build powerplants. Combined with a more and more bureaucratic regulatory environment, the recent spike in materials and labor prices, and a weak US dollar, the power plant cost has inflated greatly…

  35. I must say I like Cyril’s thinking. But I’d put it another way. Solar and solar thermal are really ideal for small remote communities where running a transmission line hundreds of kilometres to service a few hundred people doesn’t make sense.

    Further to this a mixed system could also include mixed solar thermal and coal (as was demonstrated by David Mills before he left for the US), with the use of biochar to sequester the carbon emissions of the coal plant. This would be ideal for developing nations. Obviously a lot more research needs to be done on the efficacy of biochar but as far as I can see an XOR approach to energy production is not going to satisfy everyone.

  36. Cyril R. – “DV82XL, as usual you’ve misinterpreted by position.”

    I think not. You are a closet antinuclear agitator reduced to trying to flip firecrackers into everyone’s lap and I’m not impressed.

    “That does not excuse any of us from using fallacious methods like baseload normalization. I’ve made this point on various other blogs but most people react in a deliberately obtuse manner, some are aggressively offended and miss the point altogether, others resort to their nuclear absolutism.”

    That you would even consider using solar to supply peaking given its variability and unreliability demonstrates a laughable ignorance of how the electric power system works and to date I have seen nether reference or proof of your contentions about baseload and until such time I won’t give them any serious consideration. That is probably why no one else will ether.

    “This is not a discussion I wish to engage in…”

    What breathtaking arrogance and conceit. What makes you think that you can make whatever statements you want in a public forum like this and then demand that no one question them?

    Frankly, to date I have found none of the things you have written here or in the other places our paths cross demonstrate any depth of understanding of the subjects you seem to think you are qualified to pass comment on. Has it occurred to you that this is the reason the stuff that you write is not given any more than passing consideration by others?

  37. Cyril R,

    The Sargent and Lundy report is a renewable energy advocacy report. I would not take that as a source of reliable and unbiased information.

    You quote David Mills. David Mills has been saying for the past 20 years that “solar thermal is economic for providing baseload now, all that is required is for the government to give us a bit more money”. He also says it is more economic than nuclear for producing baseload power. What rubbish!! He has been spouting these same mantra for 20 years and CST is little closer to being economic now than it was 20 years ago.

    Solar thermal sits before “Bleeding edge” on the technology life cycle. It is totally uneconomic, and far more environmentally damaging than nuclear. I don’t understand why anyone who has crunched the numbers would advocate it? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_lifecycle

  38. DV82XL, thanks for confirming my thoughts about you.

    Peter Lang, the Sargent and Lundy firm has done analysis for fossil and nuclear power systems as well, they were chosen because of their independence to NREL. They’re a highly regarded engineering and consulting firm in power plants and power systems.

    If yo look at studies for full external cost accounting for properly sited solar thermal electric, you’ll see its generally very low, much lower than coal. It’s uneconomic, but important to understand that there isn’t even one GWe of it today, so it’s a very immature industry.

    There’s no need to bash David Mills ad hominem, it’s his methods for looking at correlation with annual loads that’s interesting here. See the paper on usgridsupply.

    I’ve crunched the numbers on LCA and LCI, and concluded that when done right this is a much lower impact technology than coal will ever be. It’s almost as good as nuclear in fact.

    If you want to see lifecycle studies, just google it! Indeed this thread has the NEEDS report referenced above, it has plenty of information for you.

  39. Cyril R,

    EPRI, (2009) “Program on Technology Innovations: Integrated Generation Technology Options – November 2009,” gives the projected cost of electricity in 2025 from nuclear as US$75/MWh, from solar thermal as $225 – $290/MWh.

  40. Peter

    You might be interested in another EPRI report (page 2-2). It discussed two alternative scenarios for US emissions reductions over the period 2009 – 2025, with some interesting trends:

    * Renewable 4% to 15% (starting NOW, mostly wind, ex. hydro)
    * Nuclear 21% to 28% (starting ~2020)

    I think that most observers not ideoligically wed to a particular solution (nuclear XOR renewables) would agree that a raft of solutions are required & that picking a single technology ‘silver bullet’ isn’t an option. The mix will vary country to country.

    Nuclear has obvious CO2 benefits but also obvious problems, same for renewables. Thinking that these issues are all going to be resolved or massively scaled-up in the near term is willful ignorance.

    I think advocating Nuclear for Australia is silly and demonstates no understanding of what is required to make this happen. If USA can’t bring online meaningful increases of Nuclear power in the short term, what chance does a Nuclear virgin like Australia have? I think you’re wasting your time argueing about it. Maybe down the track when those new reactors have been operating as fantastically as some suggest we’ll adopt it too. I say this because Japan & France had a go at fast breeders in the 90′s = expensive failure – of course new Gen 3/4 will be much improved. I think a wait & see approcah is appropriate for Australia before we leap in.

    Nuclear is definitely a good fit for some countries in the short term. Just don’t underestimate NIMBY in Australia. We’re a conservative lot & for once we might be a the money.

    Maybe I’ve got the wrong blog. This isn’t about climate change (SFA posts on COP15).

  41. Dow A, First the Indians are having a go at liquid metal fast breeders and they seem to have cut their price dramatically. I say this even though I am not a fan of fast breeders and believe there are better options. In addition the Indians plan to operate their FBRs with a new fleet of thermal breeders. The whole Indian system is designed to cost far less than less advanced western nuclear technology, and Indian reactors are suitable for operation in less developed countries at a price that is competitive with coal. Of course Australia would not have the human capacity to operate such machines.

  42. Hi Charles,

    I wasn’t aware that India is a technologically leader here – must be my Western superiority catching me out again. Without looking further, the phrase ‘having a go’ suggests that we’re not talking about having a cookie cutter type design that could be duplicated readily. This another big gottcha I see for nuclear – capacity constraints esp for critical parts such as casting. These things don’t come on line very fast. I also think Australia needs to let some of this design proving work get done first before jumping in.

  43. Dow A<

    Thank you for the link to the EPRI report:

    "The Power to Reduce CO2 Emissions: The Full Portfolio – 2009"

    http://my.epri.com/portal/server.pt?Product_id=000000000001020389

    This is not actuall the same report as I quoted. The report I quoted was:

    EPRI, (2009) “Program on Technology Innovations: Integrated Generation Technology Options – November 2009,” gives the projected cost of electricity in 2025 from nuclear as US$75/MWh, from solar thermal as $225 – $290/MWh
    http://my.epri.com/portal/server.pt?Product_id=000000000001019539

    It is interesting to note that the cost of electrcity from solar thermal has increased by 30% in one year.

    The price in the second link is $225/MWh. The price in the first link is $175/MWh. This price comes from the 2008 version of the first report above.

  44. Mistake. The last sentence should have said:

    The price in the second link is $225/MWh. The price in the first link is $175/MWh. This price comes from the 2008 version of the second report above. So the price has increased from $175 to $225/MWh in one year.

  45. Dow cites a report on nuclear power building and states: For me, what gives this report credibility is that it quotes nuclear industry sources & was sponsored by the German government which already has a number of nuclear facilities.

    The fact that a report on nuclear power comes from the German government should give you a red flag immediately that it’s probably bogus. Just beginning to read that that report you linked to, it’s clear from the get-go that it’s slanted against nuclear power, e.g. “At best, over the next two decades, Finland and France each will build one or two new reactors; China will
    build an additional 20 plants…”
    Someone ought to tell the Chinese, who plan to build over 30 GW of new nuclear before 2020 acccording to this report. The rest of what I saw (admittedly I didn’t read the whole thing, seeing it’s obvious bias) was similarly slanted.

    The German government publishes outright anti-nuke solar fantasy propaganda on their official government sites. Germany is a case of a country that has gone eco-correct to the point of denying reality as a matter of public policy. You may want to read this for a sample of how their economics and politics have been skewed to their great detriment. They do provide a wonderful model, though, for what NOT to do.

  46. Here’s a link to that propaganda I was talking about.

    Another bit from that report Dow cited: “The average age of the world’s operating nuclear power plants is 24 years. Many nuclear utilities foresee them running for another 15 years or so, until they are at least 40 years old. But that seems un-likely and highly optimistic considering that the average age of the 123 units that have been permanently shut down is about 22 years.”

    40 years is the standard life expectancy for nuclear plants, and virtually every plant that’s applied for a 20-year extension to 60 years has been approved. I know not where they got their figure of the 123 units and 22 years, nor do they cite it. If there’s any truth to it at all, I presume it would be referring to very early and experimental designs. Plenty of perfectly functional nuclear power plants have been shut down due to politics, some never even opening after being built. Germany is still planning on shutting down some of the best nuclear power plants in the world that are less than 18 years old. I suppose that’ll bring that average down a bit more. It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. It’s politics.

  47. Hi Peter,

    The projected cost rates for CSP are hardly set in stone. This technology is just starting to be deployed at large scales and no economies of scale or supply chain exist. Have a look at how wind has advanced since the 80′s to now where it is competitive. Over that time there was significant investment in technologies with multiple competing vendors bringing the costs down. It would be naive to suggest the same process will not make CSP more competitive. Lets not nail up the coffin of this technology just yet.

    I would be more interested in your thoughts w.r.t the slow scale up of Nuclear even in the worlds greatest nuclear power (USA). For a technology that’s got ‘all the answers’ & been around collecting massive subsidies for so long, it seems a little sluggish to me.

    Is there an explanation for this? I guess they don’t need to work around dissenting views in China – just stick one up wherever you want – maybe not a good role model for Australia though – NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY OI OI OI !.

    I’ve said it before, Nuclear has a role to play, no doubt Australia will flog as much Yellow cake as possible to all suitable buyers. The world will see more Nuclear energy – it’s a reasonable choice for a country with those competencies, a willing public & limited other choices. Australia has no competencies, an unwilling public & other options to choose from.

  48. Hi Dow A,

    Regarding what I think of nuclear versus solar thermal I’d refer you first to these articles:

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/16/solar-power-realities-supply-demand-storage-and-costs/

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2009/09/10/solar-realities-and-transmission-costs-addendum/

    Regarding your point about “For a technology that’s got ‘all the answers’ & been around collecting massive subsidies for so long”, can you tell me the figures for subsidies for nuclear versus solar thermal and wind per MWh supplied?

    Regarding the slow take up of nuclear, I agree that the anti-nuclear lobby has been very effective in creating an irrational fear of all things nuclear in the west. And look where it has got us. How much more CO2 are we emitting now than if we had not effectively shut down all nuclear development.

  49. Hi Tom,

    You seem a little one eyed. The Merkel centre-right Democrats were re-elected in September this year with a clear majority. Most likely they will be extending the life of existing Nuclear power stations. Not typical for an evil propaganda organisation. Here’s link to a reputable information source:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/leading_article/article6851531.ece

    I tried to view the propaganda page that you linked (@ deplatedcranium.blog – fun name). The link to the German government page that offended your blogger didn’t exist, so it’s hard to comment further. The depletecranium blogger seems to talk lots about various crackpots & conspiracies around the globe – I can only assume he/she wasn’t the victim of misinformation. Do you have any other references that would backup your claim that;

    “The German government publishes outright anti-nuke solar fantasy propaganda on their official government sites.”

    I’m not dismissing your claim, it’s just that I’d like to see some reputable sources before taking on such information.

    As for your query about the numbers in the report, I’ll see what I can find. In my experience, it is not common to add appendices of all source data to such reports. I do agree that this data should be able to be publicly verified. I’ll do my best to find out for you. The absence of this data should not be taken as proof of bias until proven – do you any competing data that invalidates this report?

    While we’re talking about references, that Mineweb site you quoted didn’t provide any sources either – I’m sure they weren’t just talking up Uranium resources were they? I’d like to see the same information from an international nuclear industry organisation – could you oblige?

    He’s the World Nuclear Industry Report 2009 link again, if anyone’s interested in validating/discrediting the actual data it contains. It’s full of references that I plan to check.

    http://www.bmu.de/files/english/pdf/application/pdf/welt_statusbericht_atomindustrie_0908_en_bf.pdf

    Thx for reading this far.

  50. The World Nuclear Industry Report 2009 makes the same tired assumptions that all critic of nuclear energy have been making since the the technology began to be reconsidered as a part of the so-called ‘Nuclear Renaissance’. It assumes that in all things it will be business as usual in the sector. What this report does is show why nuclear hasn’t advanced in the past – it does not show why it will not in the future.

    One of the big items it does not take into account is the rise of India as a potential exporter of reactors and NPP. India will be marketing a ~250MWe system that indeed will be attractive to smaller markets with smaller grids and is most likely to sell these as ‘wet leases,’ that is to say with operators included, at least at the outset and with a return clause for spent fuel, which India is planing to reprocess. While it is true that these plans are currently in the nascent stage, India has made its intentions very clear, and cannot be discounted as a player on the international atomic energy stage.

    As for problems with Finland’s reactor build, it is true that there have been delays, however the report simply ignores the many successful offshore builds accomplished by AECL in the last twenty years; It would seem that experience in this matter is more important than the size of the organization that is doing it. In doing so it also fails to mention that CANDU reactors do not need massive pressure vessels, that they highlight as a bottleneck for new builds.

    That is at least two areas that this report falls short by omission. It simply ignores the successes of both India and Canada. As far as I am concerned this shows a fatal bias that renders the rest of the document of questionable value.

  51. Hi Peter,

    I’ve had a quick look at your write-ups. You lost me as soon as you started stacking up ALL (insert renewable) versus ALL NUCLEAR. It’s a classic FUD argument against renewable energy sources. Of course it will be very expensive to be 100% any SINGLE renewable source – their intermittence means you need lots of expensive redundancy. Try modelling multiple sources; PV, wind, CSP etc. This is that approach that electrical power engineers are using to determine an achievable penetration of renewable into the grid.

    Nobody in the renewable industry would suggest such a singular approach – why do you? Are your write-ups open minded musings on the subject or point scoring for Nuclear?

    Regarding subsidies, $/MWh your suggested ratio would hide the real numbers; $ and MWh discussed separately would show the full picture.

    The $$$: Nuclear has received phenomenal amounts of money – it probably can’t be known for sure since for many countries their nuclear industry was an extension of their military programs & they don’t publish those numbers. (Insert renewable) every government grant to the renewable industries is published – because they have to be accountable (unlike nuclear state secrets).

    The MWh: Nuclear has generated far more power than (insert renewable).

    If you did the math it would probably look favourable toward poor little unsupported Nuclear. Looking at the raw numbers is a different story. They’re still putting their hands out in the US.

    Don’t blame anti-nuclear agitators, the Nuclear industry screwed up, they used to be the darlings once upon a time:

    1. Chernyoble – ‘nuf said.
    2. Massive cost blowouts – what some recent links? Try EDF in France (the nuclear darlings), they can’t delivery on time or budget. Think Nuclear virgins like Australia will fare better?
    2. Massive delays (as above).

    Peter – you’re a geologist I understand, do you mind if I ask if you have any shares in uranium mining? Being an ardent nuclear supporter & a geologist I would think it a natural conclusion, but I didn’t want to make assumptions.

    I’m happy to disclose that I’m an electrical engineer, with no share or interests in any energy or resource company.

  52. 1. Chernyoble – ‘nuf said.

    The Chernobyl accident has been analysed to death. It is not any kind of show-stopper for nuclear power. China, India, Russia, Japan, Italy, Jordan, France, Bulgaria, Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia, Britain, Sweden, UAE, South Korea and many others have looked at this technology and come toi the conclusion that it can work for their people. They are not ignorant of the history of the technology.

    2. Massive cost blowouts – what some recent links? Try EDF in France (the nuclear darlings), they can’t delivery on time or budget. Think Nuclear virgins like Australia will fare better?

    Why is it that France has the cheapest power in Europe while Denmark has the most expensive?

    2. Massive delays (as above)

    The appropriate level of political will shall sort that out. We will defeat you.

  53. DV82XL

    I just used the search function in Acrobat reader. There’s plenty of ‘India’ references. Here’s a favourable one mentioning Indian successes with short delivery times – is it true or not?

    “In contrast, it took five years on average to complete the ten units that were connected to the grid in China, India, Japan and South Korea.”

    Here’s another, the Indian nuclear guru lamenting that lack of human resources – if he’s been misquoted, he should sue.

    “The Indian nuclear executive Shreyans K. Jain, then newly elected President of the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), stated in his acceptance speech in September 2007:
    The key issues that demand world attention today, in my opinion, are those related to the ageing work force, ageing reactors, global increase in the fleet of nuclear power plants and probably, the hesitation of the younger generation to embrace this technology as a profession. It is also a fact that with the increased turnover of work force, the invaluable tacit knowledge, built up through years of experience, is steadily being lost. It is therefore absolutely essential for all of us to put on our thinking caps and evolve methods to tackle these serious issues.”

    Look on page 90 among others for Canadian references. He’s a quote from the Canadian guru, saying the same thing as the Indian guru:

    “The President of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) has stated that CNSC is “facing many of same issues as the rest of the nuclear industry”, including a 10% annual turnover and 23% of the workforce eligible to retire in the next five years”.

    Don’t take my word for it, use the search function. If you disagree with the content, provide verifiable alternative sources. This way we’ll get to the truth without having to dismiss too many things off hand.

    There may well be bias I just haven’t been able to verify it yet.

  54. Dow A said:

    “I’m happy to disclose that I’m an electrical engineer, with no share or interests in any energy or resource company.”

    I Googled Dow A and electrical engineer and came up with this:
    http://au.linkedin.com/pub/dow-airen/14/580/346

    I assume that’s you. I see you’re doing an MSc in “Renewable Energy” and are a member of the Cleantech Australia and Renewable Energy Australia groups.

    This is fine — nothing wrong with this — but it does seem a bit rich for you to then be suggesting that Peter’s support for nuclear power might stem from a vested interest via uranium resource company shares, don’t you think?

  55. You are trying the tired tactic of attempting to change what I said. I did not write that the report contained no mention of Canada and India. I accused it of discounting their contributions by not using them as examples of how the problems the authors outlined can be solved.

    As for the quotes about lack of skills, that is refrain that is playing in every technical sector at the moment, it is not something unique to nuclear energy, and will have just as large an impact in those areas as the Baby Boomer generation ages out of the work force.

  56. Hi Finrod,

    I was making the point that the nuclear industry is their own worst enemy – if they performed better, there wouldn’t be any ammunition for the anti-nuclear position.

    Check the link below for some facts about French nuclear story. It address the cost question you raised. Basically they’re nationalised >85% government owned – they can set whatever price they like.

    I am interested in investigating some of YVES MARIGNAC’s points, he does seem to have worked for the French gov, so he knows his stuff I would have thought. Check his credentials before you write him off.

    http://action.psr.org/site/DocServer/091509_Marignac_news_release_FINAL1.pdf

    Finally what’s this “We will beat you” stuff? This isn’t personal.

  57. Nice one, you’ve done a bit more research than normal.

    Blue Ajah & DVXL – Do you have real names too? You’re brave posting links to me while hiding behind those names. If you are so sure about your viewpoints, why not stand by them?

    I notice that you guys don’t usually answer question directly, but prefer your buddies to chip in. I was asking Peter a relevant question & was clear about my position – I don’t have any fiscal interest to declare, apart for a large HECs debt.

    I have enjoyed studying these subjects. I’m not working in the industry, but I’m sure it will prosper & so will I. Anything untoward in there?

    Thx for the free publicity, but I’d prefer if you didn’t publicise any other elements of my identity.

  58. Dow A, I post no links pointing to you, however if you do not choose to remain anonymous, do no be surprised if others do.

    I have been DV82XL for many years on the net and I have built a reputation under that screen name that is as valuable now to me as my meatspace identity. I share my real, very common names with too many others that have a presence in cyberspace, two of whom are, at least obliquely, professionally associated with energy topics. Thus I do it as much to protect their identities, as I do my own.

  59. Dow A,

    You’ve missed the point of the papers which use the ‘limit approach’ to allow you to see the wood in the trees.

    Regarding subsidies, wind power is subsidised by at least 100% on the energy produced plus far more in funding for R&D and all the other perks it gets. Conversely, nuclear is not subsidised for production costs and gets far less per MWh or per MW than wind power. Just pulling numbers out of the air with out any basis on the amount of energy each produces is silly – or biased. Solar receives far more subsidies than even wind. Nuclear subsidises everything else, including coal in Germany!

    You say “The $$$: Nuclear has received phenomenal amounts of money”. Yes, and it generates phenominal amounts of electricity, unlike renewables!! Adjectives are useless. Have you read David Mackay’s “Sustainable Energy 0 Without the hot air”?

    Regarding nuclear stuffed up. Sorry, that is your opinion. I think the anti-nuclear ignoramuses (your predecessors) stuffed us all up.

    Chernobyl was an industrial accident. On the scale of industrial accidents, the consequences are very small. Very small compared with the other energy chains. I accept that it was not handled well politically and publicity wise. But intelligent people should be able to get through the hype and understand the actual numbers. You can read the WHO report for yourself.

    “Massive cost blow outs”. More adjectives. Compared with what? Compared with wind and solar? Take a look for yourself.

    Your question about being a retired geologist and my share holdings is childish. What motivates you? But anyway, the answer to your question is no.

  60. Pingback: New Blogs Update 1 « Log My Blog BLOG!

  61. Hi Finrod, Blue Ajah, DV82XL (protector of the innocent), Peter, anybody else I’ve tussled with here,

    It’s been fun but ultimately unrewarding… me spending time trying to track down credible expert sources to have them dismissed “as usual… (insert off hand dismissal about evil bias)”. I wish you luck on your quest & trust you are it because of a desire to abate climate change through any means possible. Please indulge a parting summary of my perspective. It’s only about Australia, the only country we have some small influence over:

    1. Energy efficiency will save GHG in the short term – see McKinsey Report; An Australian Cost Curve for Greenhouse Gas Reduction for ideas.
    2. In parallel we move on as many fronts possible to de-carbonise our economy – CCS, renewable energy etc.
    3. Longer term electricity/H2 economy is the way to go.

    You may see Nuclear in there, in Australia I doubt it. They just can’t get their shit together in a credible way – there’s enough evidence, a critical eye would tell you that – single exceptions don’t count, we need net industry competency, there’s not enough examples yet. Nuclear, if ever, will be decades away.

    We didn’t talk about the fact that electricity is a small fraction of our energy needs. We’ll need biofuels & CNG/LPG fleets for transition, before you replace every vehicle with an electric one.

    Well that’s what I think now. I like to keep abreast and revise my opinion when there is a sufficient body of evidence to justify it. Unfortunately, on this site, I found many pro-Nuclear pundits here have a profound inability to acknowledge ANY potential issues with Nuclear. You will find that anybody that has studied renewable energy will acknowledge the shortcomings. It’s in the textbooks & it gets discussed openly. We also discuss Nuclear – the pros & cons, unfortunately a number of you have only got one eye for the subject.

    I can tell you it’s a turn-off, if you are trying to win people over. That’s obvious by the lack of diversity of voices here – just the cocksure & me – annoying you all, by questioning your conclusions.

    Good luck gentlemen (apologies ladies, it’s hard to know).

    Collectively I hope we achieve our goal.

    Dow

  62. Well don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out there Dow.

    Like most renewable preachers, you have dismissed nuclear based on beliefs we have attempted to show are artificial constructs or misinterpretations, or have been solved outright. You have not demonstrated that any of the objections to nuclear energy that you have raised have any validity, and refuse to entertain reasoned explanations of why they are not so.

    Like every other apologist for renewable energy you flatly refuse to acknowledge that this entire sector has become nothing more than a Trojan Horse for natural gas generation. As such it will never realize the GHG cuts that are required to mitigate AGW – this whole sector has sold its soul en mass to the Devil, and while you may choose to blinker yourself against the obvious, the rest of us cannot.

    Finally you have not taken the time to examine your own biases in regards to nuclear energy I suspect you don’t want it to be a solution, you want the world to subsist on less energy because that is fundamentally where you stand ideologically, and pretending that this isn’t the case limits your credibility.

  63. Hi DowA,

    I think you’ll find Barry, and probably many of us here, agree with your three point perspective, though with nuclear replacing your hydrogen economy component. In fact, thats pretty much Barry’s sketch plan for transition to a zero carbon economy (time for an update, Barry, there’s been a lot of water under the bridge here since January).

    Following your comment, I reread the recent comments here. It didn’t strike me that the responses to you were particularly unreasonable or dismissive (Finrod’s outburst aside). If people deliver their viewpoints with some confidence, thats probably because these discussion points have been well ventilated in the many thousands of comments on this site (and elsewhere), and these positions pretty thoroughly tested.

    However, it does take some time to assimilate this information and its implications, especially if it involves a significant change to one’s thinking, and I think we’d do well to realize not everyone has been through that process. I have wondered how to shortcut that process for new readers, and I think thats partly what Barry is trying to do with his TCASE and IFAD series of posts.

    I think Peter’s articles deserve more consideration than you’ve given them. Their point was not to prove you can’t power a whole grid with a single renewable source, and their conclusions – namely the high cost and even the ultimate feasibility of significantly reducing emissions with renewables – apply in broad sweep to combinations of these types of power source. There were over one thousand comments on these articles, most of it technical argument, and my view was that Peter’s argument held up to that storm. I think its a critically important part of the renewables story that is not widely appreciated, hence DV82XL’s comment on renewables being a Trojan horse for gas. It would be a disaster if we do a once in a generation build out of power infrastructure only to discover that it doesn’t abate GHG emissions, and doesn’t free us from a finite fossil fuel resource.

    I agree that Australia will find a transition to a nuclear economy challenging, as we would be building an industry from scratch. The workforce issues are real. But its not impossible. Its a problem to be solved, not a show stopper.

    While you obviously advocate renewable power sources, I note that you’re not close minded on nuclear. As such, I’m sure your comments here would be valuable. If you don’t comment further here, I likewise hope we achieve our goal of a zero carbon economy, and I hope you approach it with ruthless objectivity, as we’ve tried to do here,

    regards,
    john

  64. Here is another collection of lifecycle generation costs.

    http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Comparative_electrical_generation_costs
    “Comparative Electrical Generation Costs.” SourceWatch, accessed 11/05/2009

    Lazard analysis (including the cost for creating the generating capacity) are:

    * Gas peaking: 22.1 – 33.4 cents/kWh
    * IGCC: 10.4 – 13.4
    * Nuclear: 9.8 – 12.6
    * Advanced supercritical coal: 7.4 – 13.5 (high end includes 90% carbon capture and storage)
    * Gas combined cycle: 7.3 – 10.0

    * Solar PV (crystalline): 10.9 – 15.4
    * Fuel cell: 11.5 – 12.5
    * Solar PV (thin film): 9.6 – 12.4
    * Solar thermal: 9.0 – 14.5 (low end is solar tower; high end is solar trough)
    * Biomass direct: 5.0 – 9.4
    * Landfill gas: 5.0 – 8.1
    * Wind: 4.4 – 9.1
    * Geothermal: 4.2 – 6.9
    * Biomass cofiring: 0.3 – 3.7
    * Energy efficiency: 0.0 – 5.0

  65. David B Benson,

    Do you think this is an authoritative, reliable, impartial source of data?

    You only need ask your self, if these figures were even clost to correct, why has anyone been using fossil fuels.

    Consider, why are governments handing out $8,000 per kW plus $0.50 to $0.60 per kWh, guaramteed for 20 years, for people who take up sola PV if your figures are correct.

    Anyone who believes these sorts of figures is very gullible.

  66. Peter Lang, those are good starts for a systems analysis. Unfortunately you’re still clinging on to fairly arbitrary data for grid load, and assuming 100% storage for the solar case which is suboptimal. You’ve also neglected seasonal variations, nuclear is very expensive for seasonal peakers.

    Consider a solar thermal case with about 90% solar thermal electric with 10-20 hours of full load equivalent storage hours, and 10% biogas/biomass for seasonal/longer term backup when the storage is unsufficient. The interesting part about solar thermal electric is that for good locations, high reliability can be achieved and the load can be tailored to the highest correlation with demand by chosing sites carefully (they all have different seasonal patterns). This is only true for places with a good resource of course (USA has good resources, Canada not so much!)

    I’m not trying to say nuclear or solar thermal is better, just that comparisons have to be as realistic as possible, and you’ve made a good start in the links you’ve provided. My position is that anything that can be reasonably affordable and can displace fossil fueled generation has to be considered. People like DV82XL make hypocritical remarks that can kill a good debate, hopefully you won’t misinterpret my point…

    All the best, Cyril

  67. Peter Lang, on December 15th, 2009 at 13.30 & Barry Brook, on December 15th, 2009 at 14.09 — Well, I could go back to the ethree figures, which puts nuclear way up at the high end:

    Biogas: 8.552
    Wind: 8.910
    Gas Combined Cycle: 9.382
    Solar thermal: 12.653
    Nuclear: 15.316
    Biomass: 16.485

    Do note that the Lazard analysis puts solar PV as very high; might be credible after all…

  68. David, why is gas combined cycle put there with low carbon technologies?

    Those numbers are meaningless, as they do not account for energy storage and backup. In addition, the nuclear figures are 2-3 times what other reliable authorities cite. But in the end, it doesn’t matter what particular study anyone chooses to cherry pick. What matters is what financial analysis governments, vendors and purchasers put credence in.

  69. Barry Brook, on December 17th, 2009 at 10.57 — The ethree study, commissioned by and for the State of California, listed the technologies in the order of busbar costs. You can find the link to the paper on the same SourceWatch page as well as elsewhere.

    Similarly for the Lazard Ltd. study, which is linked on the SourceWatch page. I only choose SourceWatch because somebody else had; I know nothing more about the site.

    Now I strongly suspect that Lazard Ltd. as did a commisioned study, just as ethree did. So it is probably the case that various powers-that-be are indeed paying attention to these.

    As I understand the figures, no storage nor backup is included. Consider CCGT: storage is provided by the natgas pipelines and tanks, those costs are reflected only in the estimates of the price of the natgas; backup is not included at all, but is required since modern CCGTs have but 92% availablity.

    And I didn’t “cherry-pick” either the ethree or the Lazard studies. I simply present the two as electrical energy cost studies to be taken with some seriousness. That even these two offer rather different prices for various technologies suggests to me that various local factors are being taken into account, as well as different estimation methods for the future of the prices for the different technologies.

    Definitely makes it rather messy, but at least both of these studies agree that biogas is the lowest cost. So maybe we should be considering expanding that technology?

  70. Hi Cyril R,

    I am glad you are back. I thought you might have gone for good.

    You said

    Peter Lang, those are good starts for a systems analysis.

    I am not sure which particluar figures you are redferring to. The last post I addressed to you #38879 (9 December) said:

    EPRI, (2009) “Program on Technology Innovations: Integrated Generation Technology Options – November 2009,” gives the projected cost of electricity in 2025 from nuclear as US$75/MWh, from solar thermal as $225 – $290/MWh.

    BTW here is the URL:

    http://my.epri.com/portal/server.pt?Product_id=000000000001019539

    A full systems analysis is way beyond my capability. It is the realm of the specialist consultant organisations who have masses of relevant perfomrance and cost data and economic analysis capability. ACIL-Tasman, ABARE, EPRI, MIT, Frontier are examples of who have the capability to do such analyses. I suspect others who contribute here do them to, such as Gene Preston.

    Next you say:

    Unfortunately you’re still clinging on to fairly arbitrary data for grid load, and assuming 100% storage for the solar case which is suboptimal. You’ve also neglected seasonal variations, nuclear is very expensive for seasonal peakers.

    Could I ask you to refer to the two papers at:

    What you call ‘arbitrary grid load’ is in fact the NWM grid load for 2007 at 30 minute intervals for the whole year. How can you get any less arbitrary than that?

    The 100% storage for solar thermal is a simplification, admittedly. Sometimes it is necessary to ‘book end’ such analyses so that people who are not specialists can follw the assumptions and analyses. That is what was done in this analysis. NEEDS (2008) claims that the solar with storage will be lower cost than solar thermal hybrid by 2020. EPRI states that Solar Thermal will be so expensive indevinitely that it will make no significant contribution to electricity generation.

    Here are some points to consider:

    Solar thermal requires some 8 times more concrete and 15 times more steel than a nuclear plant per MW. That roughly equates to som 8 to 15 times the man-hours per MW for construction.

    Solar thermal needs to be built in high insolation areas, as you pointed out. The power stations also need to be widely dispersed to minimise the effects of widespread cloud cover that can last for days atr a time. In effect, this means for optimum performance our solar thermal power stations should be widely distributed throughout an area of desert approximately 3000 km x 1000 km, centred west of Alice Springs.

    To construct these power stations we’d need a good supply of water and pewer to each; towns at each to house the construction workforce for the duration of construction; fly-in-fly-out airports for each town. Assume the power stations are 250 MW. Then the size of the towns and airports must be sufficient to house a workforce 2 to 4 times the size of the workforce needed to build a nuclear power plant.

    Deserts are hot. Assume construction is limited to 9 months per year. That raises the construction cost by some 33%. What about the water. We need 8 times as mus concrete as a nulcear power plant per MW. We’ll need dams in northern Australia and desalination plants along the west coast plus pipes to each power station. We could go on, but you get the picture …

  71. Cyril R,

    I omitted to reply to this comment you made:

    “You’ve also neglected seasonal variations, nuclear is very expensive for seasonal peakers”.

    I agree nuclear is a very expensive way to provide peak power.

    To avoid using “arbitrary data for gird load” let’s stick with the NEM load for 2007. Peak demand across the NEM occurs in July (winter) at about 6:30 pm. Peak load was 33 GW in 2007 and average load was 25 GW. So we need sufficient nuclear to supply 25 GW throughout the year and 8 GW of peak power. If the 8 GW of capacity to meet peak requirements was provided by nuclear it would cost about $32 billion (assume $4,000/kW). Theoretically, if we made a pumped hydro storage facility by joining two existing hydro storage reservoirs in the Snowy Mountains Scheme we could get 8 GW for about $15 billion – i.e. about half the cost of nuclear for the peaking capacity. Gas generation could provide the peak power at lower capital cost, but higher operating costs.

    I agree with you, nuclear is not an economical way to provide peak power. But it is the lowest cost way to provide low emissions base load power. Base load comprises around 75% of our energy consumption, so that is where our main focus needs to be if we want to reduce GHG emissions.

  72. It must also be repeated that ANY storage solution that will make renewables viable for short peaking can also be charged with surplus nuclear generated power.

    For seasonal peaking some reactors like the CANDU 6 can operate continuously in the range from 100% to 60% of rated. These reactors can operate at steady-state at 60% power, and can return to full power in less than 4 hours.

    Canada has seasonal loads as well.

  73. The problem is not that the public is stupid. Rather, the problem is that the information is not generally available to the public, unless the public is committed to digging out the information.

    The purpose of the mass media is to maximize advertising revenue. To maximize advertising revenue, news and information programs are more to provide entertainment than to provide news and information. For example, note how much TV time has been devoted to the Tiger Woods scandal. We see it over and over and over, and that’s only one example. The newscasters spend considerable time telling jokes and entertaining when they should be providing news and information.

    If the mass media periodically provided objective information to compare different energy sources, then the public would understand the advantages of nuclear energy. If the media also carefully explained the safety precautions, etc., pertaining to nuclear energy, then the public would be more comfortable with it.

    Journalists and newscasters themselves are generally technically incompetent and do not understand the issues involved.

    Unfortunately, I do not know how to educate journalists, newscasters, and the public. But, that is what must be done.

  74. Pingback: Hypocrisies of the antis « BraveNewClimate

  75. Pingback: The war on hypocrisy. « Enviralment

  76. If a week goes by in the winter when it’s cloudy, you’re doomed. Also, it uses way, way too much water, something very scarce in the desert. How would the workers get to work every day when 50,000 square miles of this stuff is in the desert? What is the EROEI?

  77. #1 The current grid runs at ~50% capacity factor in Australia and most black coal plants run around 50-65% Capacity Factor — have a look at Liddell(http://www.macgen.com.au/GenerationPortfolio/LiddellPowerStation.aspx), Eraring(http://www.eraring-energy.com.au/Uploads/Documents/2009%20ERARING%20ENERGY%20ANNUAL%20REPORT_20091201050109.PDF) etc — Do not confuse availability factor with capacity factor.

    #2 No one in their right mind would scale up Andasol to 90% capacity factor unless they were in the tropics in an area with no cloud cover. Trough plants suffer projection losses due to lack of elevation tracking and therefore require more mirror field. Tower plants with heliostats do not have this problem.

    #3 What they would do is install a 24×7 Molten Salt Power Tower 50, 75, 100 or 220 and run it as a 75% capacity factor plant. As per the gold standard report on the subject from Sargent & Lundy LLC reviewing US DOE Sandia Laboratories and NREL Solar Programs and technologies.

    #4 They would then add Air Cooling which would derate the Solar 220 by just 3MWe, so it’s NET output will be 217MWe

    #5 Air Cooling drops water requirements for a molten salt tower by 88% and adds a minimum parasite (3MWe)

    #6 Also I am reporting these figures as NET electricity to the grid – the actual plant is a Gross 245MWe plant. So the AP1000 also needs to be derated for its onsite parasitic electrical loads

    #7 Finally no one would run their 100% renewable grid with gas backup. For solar thermal plants geographical diversity will take care of most coincidence of cloud cover affecting output at mulitple sites over a few days. However a small contingency ~5 days of crop residual biomass would easily cover any uncertainty that the Solar Thermal power plant geographical diversity wouldn’t cover 365days 24×7.

    #8 Sargent and Lundy’s and US DOE cost projection for these plants is 5.0 cents per kilowatt hour (Adjusted for AU and 2010 dollars) after just 8700MW installed globally at just 2600MW installed 10cents per kilowatt hour, cheaper than todays nuclear power plants.

    #9 2PJ/400GWh Thermal primary biomass energy from 0.25% of the Australian wheat crop residual. will provide the 5 days backup for 1000MW worth of 24×7 Molten Salt Power Towers. To cover any unlikely 5 days a year of coincidence output from multiple geographically diverse solar sites.

    #10 Currently these proejcts are under construction
    **Solar Reserve (Rocketdyne Subsidary — guys who put the Apollo rockets into space.)
    100MWe@ 55% capacity factor Tonopah NV 150MWe@50% Rice Solar CA
    50MWe@70% Alcazar de San Juan Spain

    **SENER – the guys who built the working Nuclear plants in Spain (As opposed to the 6Billion Euro’s of Nukes that FAILED in Spains failure 70s and 80s nuclear program.) who have now moved onto Solar Thermal
    17MWe@75% Torresol Gemasolar -
    UAE – 50,75 and 100MWe plants to go ahead once Gemasolar is finished (JV partner with SENER in Torresol is Masdar Corporation)

  78. Patrick,

    Thank you for your contribution on solar thermal. The NREL (2003) report you have provided has a lot of information, but is a bit dated now. NEEDS (2008) supersedes this:
    http://www.needs-project.org/docs/results/RS1a/RS1a%20D12.2%20Final%20report%20concentrating%20solar%20thermal%20power%20plants.pdf

    NEEDS (2008) considered four types of solar thermal power station and provided cost estimates for Solar Thermal Trough and Solar Tower. They concluded that Solar Tower was the more prospective option and provided more detailed cost projections for it. Even if Solar Tower does turn out to be cheaper than solar thermal trough eventually, there is no indication at this time that the difference will be substantial.

    The NREL report was highly optimistic when written, and has proved to be so. This is demonstrated by the projection that 100 MW of solar tower capacity would be in operation by 2008, with 73.2% capacity factor and 13 hours of energy storage (Table 5-20). The estimated electricity costs appear to be too low by about a factor of four when compared with EPRI (2009).

    This report is typical of the highly optimistic analyses and projections that have been presented by the solar power researchers for 20 years.

    We still do not have any competitive bids for solar thermal power stations so we have no actual cost figures to use. If the researcher’s cost figures quoted here were even close to reality, commercially astute organisations would be building large solar thermal power stations all over the world. They are not.

    The learning curves applied in analyses like this and NEEDS (2008) are not appropriate. A learning curve applies to the cost reductions that accrue when building many identical plants. This is not the case with solar thermal. Solar thermal is in the early stages of RD&D. Technology development would continue for decades, so every plant will be an advance on the previous one. Learning curve does not apply. The rate to apply is a technology development curve, not a learning curve. NEEDS projected a cost reduction of around 10% per year starting in 2007. However, the estimated the cost of electricity from solar thermal trough increased by 30% ($175/MWh to $225/MWh) between 2008 and 2009 (EPRI, 2008 and EPRI, 2009). This demonstrates that the learning curves applied are unrealistically optimistic. I give little credence to estimates for the cost of electricity in these reports.

    Following are some brief responses to your comments (off the top of my head)

    #1 The current grid runs at ~50% capacity factor in Australia and most black coal plants run around 50-65% Capacity Factor — have a look at Liddell(http://www.macgen.com.au/GenerationPortfolio/LiddellPowerStation.aspx), Eraring(http://www.eraring-energy.com.au/Uploads/Documents/2009%20ERARING%20ENERGY%20ANNUAL%20REPORT_20091201050109.PDF) etc — Do not confuse availability factor with capacity factor.

    This point is irrelevant. It is not a fair comparison. The coal power stations have excess capacity to allow us to meet peek load, unscheduled and scheduled outages. The average capacity factor of around 50-65% you quote reflects this. The coal power stations run when ‘dispatched’ to do so by the grid operator. So of course their average capacity factor over a year is substantially less than their availability. As an aside, the entire fleet of nuclear power plants in the USA averages about 90% capacity factor.

    The situation with solar thermal is that its capacity factor is constrained by the hours when the sun is hot enough to generate power (perhaps 5 to 6 hours in winter) and the hours of storage at the power station. It is important to cut through the solar advocates spin and ensure that we talk about the hours of hot sunlight in winter, not the average over the year. This is important if we are comparing the capacity factor of solar thermal with that of coal, as Patrick has done here. If we assume 6 generating hours per day in winter without storage, then the maximum capacity factor would be 25%. Add say 12 full load hors storage for maximum total generating time of 18 hours – or 75%. But it is nowhere near this high. The sun is not equally hot for the 6 hours of sunshine. So we have to decide what capacity is our generator. Is it based on the minimum heat output from the solar array for 6 hours per day, or a higher heat but for a shorter time? Also, we have to consider how many hours per year the plant will be under cloud cover and dust storms. Without going to far into this, whatever way we look at it, we cannot get 75% capacity factor from a plant with 112 hours of storage. The comparison of capacity factor for a base load coal fired power station and a solar thermal plant is not a valid comparison, until the solar thermal power station has sufficient energy storage for 24 h/d full load generation even under overcast conditions.

    #2 No one in their right mind would scale up Andasol to 90% capacity factor unless they were in the tropics in an area with no cloud cover. Trough plants suffer projection losses due to lack of elevation tracking and therefore require more mirror field. Tower plants with heliostats do not have this problem.

    Sorry Patrick. This is exactly want the NEEDS analysis does assume. It assumes 8000 hours of full load generation per year by 2020 for solar power stations located in the Sahara Desert – equivalent to our desert areas.

    #3 What they would do is install a 24×7 Molten Salt Power Tower 50, 75, 100 or 220 and run it as a 75% capacity factor plant. As per the gold standard report on the subject from Sargent & Lundy LLC reviewing US DOE Sandia Laboratories and NREL Solar Programs and technologies.

    This report is now 7 years out of date and superseded by the more recent NEEDS (2008) report.

    #4 They would then add Air Cooling which would derate the Solar 220 by just 3MWe, so it’s NET output will be 217MWe

    Yes to air cooling, but I expect the efficiency loss in practice would be more than you state. We would still need perhaps ten times more water for concrete during construction of the solar power station than a GEN III nuclear power station of equivalent output.

    #5 Air Cooling drops water requirements for a molten salt tower by 88% and adds a minimum parasite (3MWe)

    I can’t comment except to say I expect all the figures here are likely to be highly optimistic, given the statement from solar power advocates over the past 20+ years.

    #6 Also I am reporting these figures as NET electricity to the grid – the actual plant is a Gross 245MWe plant. So the AP1000 also needs to be derated for its onsite parasitic electrical loads

    All the figures in this paper are ‘sent out’ figures.
    http://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2010/01/lang_2010_emissions_cuts_realities_v1a1.pdf

    #7 Finally no one would run their 100% renewable grid with gas backup. For solar thermal plants geographical diversity will take care of most coincidence of cloud cover affecting output at mulitple sites over a few days. However a small contingency ~5 days of crop residual biomass would easily cover any uncertainty that the Solar Thermal power plant geographical diversity wouldn’t cover 365days 24×7.

    OK, so not only do we need massive redundancy in the capacity of solar thermal power stations to cover for the worst periods of overcast conditions in winter which can extend over a large part of the continent for days at a time, we also need to duplicate the capacity with crop residual biomass generators. So we have the full cost of solar thermal plus the full cost of the biomass, with the latter having a low capacity factor and having to store crop for long periods to be ready for use when needed. Rough guess we are looking at electricity ten times the cost of coal or nuclear !!!

    #8 Sargent and Lundy’s and US DOE cost projection for these plants is 5.0 cents per kilowatt hour (Adjusted for AU and 2010 dollars) after just 8700MW installed globally at just 2600MW installed 10cents per kilowatt hour, cheaper than todays nuclear power plants.

    EPRI (2009) estimates the cost of electricity from solar thermal at 22.5 cents per kilowatt hour, or 4.5 times the cost you quoted. NREL is a renewable energy research organisation. EPRI has a reputation in the industry for reliable projections. I’d trust their figures as being far more reliable than NREL’s

    Also note that the figure you quote here is for power when the power station wants to supply it, not for power on demand. For power on demand you need reliable back up.

    #9 2PJ/400GWh Thermal primary biomass energy from 0.25% of the Australian wheat crop residual. will provide the 5 days backup for 1000MW worth of 24×7 Molten Salt Power Towers. To cover any unlikely 5 days a year of coincidence output from multiple geographically diverse solar sites.

    Please give me the cost of electricity for this scheme. What are your assumptions for cost of fuel, fuel storage, capital costs, and capacity factor, etc.?

    #10 Currently these proejcts are under construction
    **Solar Reserve (Rocketdyne Subsidary — guys who put the Apollo rockets into space.)
    100MWe@ 55% capacity factor Tonopah NV 150MWe@50% Rice Solar CA
    50MWe@70% Alcazar de San Juan Spain
    **SENER – the guys who built the working Nuclear plants in Spain (As opposed to the 6Billion Euro’s of Nukes that FAILED in Spains failure 70s and 80s nuclear program.) who have now moved onto Solar Thermal
    17MWe@75% Torresol Gemasolar -
    UAE – 50,75 and 100MWe plants to go ahead once Gemasolar is finished (JV partner with SENER in Torresol is Masdar Corporation)

    These are all “Being built” and we have no figures. So it is all conjecture. The capacity is tiny.

    Solar Thermal is at the RD&D stage of the technology life cycle. That is before the “Bleeding Edge” stage – see here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Technology_lifecycle

    Technology Life Cycle:
    From a layman’s perspective, the technological maturity can be broken down into five distinct stages.
    1. Bleeding edge – any technology that shows high potential but hasn’t demonstrated its value or settled down into any kind of consensus. Early adopters may win big, or may be stuck with a white elephant.
    2. Leading edge – a technology that has proven itself in the marketplace but is still new enough that it may be difficult to find knowledgeable personnel to implement or support it.
    3. State of the art – when everyone agrees that a particular technology is the right solution.
    4. Dated – still useful, still sometimes implemented, but a replacement leading edge technology is readily available.
    5. Obsolete – has been superseded by state-of-the-art technology, maintained but no longer implemented.

  79. Sorry Peter Lang you are mistaken about the author of the Report on Molten Salt Power Towers. The Author is Sargent and Lundy LLC.

    Sargent and Lundy LLC, globally are the leading power projects engineering firm not only in the power industry in general but in the Nuclear industry.
    http://www.sargentlundy.com/nuclear-power/

    From their website

    http://www.sargentlundy.com/about-us/

    “Sargent & Lundy is the company that specializes in professional services for electric power and energy intensive clients. We have been dedicated exclusively to serving the electric power industry and related businesses for 119 years, and our current work is in the forefront of helping companies with their power business needs for today and tomorrow. ”

    “Sargent & Lundy provides complete consulting, engineering, and project development services for all types of fossil-fuel, nuclear, and renewable power generation and power delivery projects. Our record of accomplishment includes the design of 884 power plants totaling 122,149 MW for clients in the public and private sectors worldwide. We have also designed more than 5,000 circuit miles of high-voltage and extra-high-voltage transmission line and more than 100 substations”

    The Sargent and Lundy report is the GOLD STANDARD for Molten Salt Power Towers and Parabolic Troughs. This is known throughout industry and is the opinion of the researchers at Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia is a national security lab that does Nuclear Power, Weapons, Cluster bombs and Molten Salt Power Tower technologies to name a few things.

    Their Molten Salt Power Tower technology has been developed with Rocketdyne, Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, Boeing, Pratt and Whitney etc.

    A new version of the Sargent and Lundy Report confirming the general cost reduction trajectories has been redone and updated and will be released in 2010.

  80. One professor states that storage should be provided by the end user, not by the utility. So, if the user wants uninterrupted power, it would be his responsibility to go to the local Montgomery Ward’s store and buy a back-up or uninterruptible power unit. He could select the amount of backup power he needs.

    That would provide a useful application for the depleted uranium that the government is trying to get rid of. Use it to make a 44,235 pound weight. The weight would be suspended at a height of 60 by a cable wound around a drum. When the power fails, the weight would turn the drum as it falls, thereby driving a generator. That would provide 1 KW of power for 1 hour. And, when the power returns, a motor would drive the drum to lift the weight back up to the height of 60 feet.

  81. That would provide a useful application for the depleted uranium that the government is trying to get rid of. Use it to make a 44,235 pound weight. The weight would be suspended at a height of 60 by a cable wound around a drum. When the power fails, the weight would turn the drum as it falls, thereby driving a generator. That would provide 1 KW of power for 1 hour. And, when the power returns, a motor would drive the drum to lift the weight back up to the height of 60 feet.

    LOL! (I’m guessing this is parody…)

    Cool. One whole hour of backup. That’s so much better a use for 20 tonnes of DU than the 20GW.Ye you could get from it using a fast breeder.

  82. Peter Lang

    The point of my post was that Sargent and Lundy LLC have been building power plants since year dot of Hydro, Coal, Gas and Nuclear plants . They are technology neutral and they have the highest reputation in the industry.

    Sargent and Lundy is independent. and their cost reduction trajectory based on cummulative MW installed globally stands and will be repeated in the update with some adjustments to update some commodity costs having a minor effect on overall LCOE projections for each of the cummulative global installed capacity levels achieved.

    Sargent and Lundy LLC was contracted by the US Department of Energy to conduct an independent due dilligence assesment of the US Government Solar Programs.

    This was at a time when the Bush Administration wanted to cut back on the programs due to the influence of Exxon Mobil and co who were writing Administration energy policy.

    This report is the GOLD STANDARD. Unlike the NEEDS report which does not have direct access to the Sandia Labs and NREL technology programs or the work of Bechtel, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Pratt and Whitney, Rocketdyne this report is the most comprehensive and has the most reliable cost projections as it focuses on 75% capacity factor 24×7 Molten Salt Power Towers.

    Warm Regards,

    Matt

  83. Matthew, one of the points Peter is trying to make is that if the low ball estimates of LCOE are correct, they it should be a very easy job to convince prospective buyers of the economic viability of these CSP plants — for construction on a massive scale. No government that is hungry for more power facilities is going to turn down such an opportunity, and no utility is going to avoid low risk energy sources that can undercut coal.

    So, why isn’t this happening? Why didn’t the UAE choose to build more than 5 GWe of CSP? If the UAE government made the wrong choice, why did they? What are the CSP manufacturers doing wrong? I’d honestly like to hear your speculation on this, as the same thing appears to be happening here in Australia — without massive subsidies along the lines of the solar flagships programme, nothing is happening.

    See here for more comments on that point (scroll to bottom section of the post):

    http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/28/tom-blees-in-australia/

  84. Barry Brook, yes you are right it is very easy to convince governments that Solar Thermal with Storage is the go.

    Spain is case in point — out with Nuclear and in with Wind and Solar.

    Spain abandoned its nuclear program
    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf85.html
    at a cost of $6 Billion Euros in failed nuclear plants that never ever sent a kilowatt hour out to the grid. After years of construction, resources, shipping, labour spent NO POWER.

    And with 7448MWe net of nuclear plants they know the cost burden of hosting a nuclear industry.

    In recent times they’e managed to get their Nuclear plants operating at 80% Capacity factor (54TWh out of 65TWh theoretical) But it’s taken a long time since they started in 1964 with their first plant.

    On Solar and Wind

    Spain has 16,000MWe of Wind and will raise this to 20,000 by end 2010. Wind contributed 11.5% of the grids power last year including 54% on December 30 with no stability issues, they were able to kick in 600MW of curtailment automatically as you do with any modern computer controlled grid.

    For the month wind outpaced nuclear contribution.

    Under the current feed-in tariff

    Spain has approved 6000MWe of wind for the feed in tariff for 2011,2012 and 2013 (2000MWe per year)

    Spain has approved 1500MWe of Solar photovoltaic for 2011, 2012 and 2013 (500MWe) per year

    Spain has approved 2440MWe of Solar Thermal plants, most with storage for 2011,2012 and 2013

    The current feed in tariff of 27euro cents will be replaced by a new feed in tariff to be announced this year. In particular the Solar Thermal feed in tariff will drop to 18-21 euro cents about 30% reduction. The industry approves of this move and it is proof of the industryc can move significantly along the cost curve with support. This is why the Spanish government has chosen to back the cheapest energy sources of the future both Solar and Wind.

    Contrast that with Finland and Areva the world’s biggest nuclear power companies adventure at olkiluoto Where a 2005 construction start time has blown out to 2012. It is likely that this plant will not be finished until 2015..

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/jan/14/areva-nuclear-finland-olkiluoto

    As you can see the Spanish government wants the security and safety that if they back a power technology they actually get kilowatt hours delivered to their grid.

    Andasol 1 was built in 18months and Andasol 2 was built in 9 months.

    In a similair way Torresol 17MWe will be finished after 18months of construction, the 50MWe Alcazar will take just 12months after breaking down.

    On the United Arab Emirates…

    The UAEs plans are just hot air at the moment. They have not broken ground on anything. Where as Spain has 34 Solar Thermal plants, most with 50% (Troughts) – 75%(Towers) capacity factors. All these projects have broken ground, meaning mirrors, turbines, balance of plant, site works, earth moving you name it.

    Unlike the “Announcement” for the UAE

    2440MW of Solar Thermal under construction
    http://office.beyondzeroemissions.org/fileshare/Spain_2440MW_in_construction.jpg

    Over 16,000MW with planning approval (Jan 2009)
    http://office.beyondzeroemissions.org/fileshare/Spain_15500MW_approved.jpg

  85. Thanks for the reply Matt, I appreciate your effort to engage on this topic again. A couple of questions spin off from this (following down your post):

    1. Why has Britain chose to pursue nuclear power technology again? Why has Italy? Why has Sweden? What makes Spain different?

    2. Why do you think Spain had no problem with handling 54% contribution from wind? Was it because there was 100% backup power for when the wind started to drop back?

    3. If wind and CSP are economically competitive, why do they need these feed-in tariffs? If it is because they’re not yet economically competitive with coal or gas, then why shouldn’t Gen III+ nuclear power also have access to the same level of support?

    4. Is Andasol-2 delivering power yet? (this is out of curiosity – when I wrote the above, it was not). Do you think it’s valid to compare the build time of a 20 MWe average facility (Andasol-1) with a 1500 MWe (the EPR, assuming 90% CF)? Or should we instead compare the cumulative build time of 75 Andasol-1 plants (and of course assume a reasonable amount of parallel construction)?

    5. Why are the UAE plans “just hot air” and when you are happy to cite “Over 16,000 MW with planning approval” for CSP? Do you expect the UAE to cancel their agreement with Korea and switch to CSP? If not, why not, if CSP is more economic?

    6. If Spain has seen the light with CSP, why hasn’t Australia, or the US? What do you think is holding them back?

  86. Mathew Wright,

    You might be interested in this report on the lessons from the Spanish renewable energy bubble:
    http://www.juandemariana.org/pdf/090327-employment-public-aid-renewable.pdf

    From memory, 2.2 real jobs lost for every ‘green job’ created.

    18% unemployed in Spain

    Real industries have left Spain for places where government policy is more stable and thus suitable for real industry.

    The subsidies for solar have had to be stopped. The country is almost broke and cannot afford them

    Wind power output has to be cut back and no more built.

    You can check the details, I may have some of this wrong.

    Here is another (this one from Germany):
    http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/germany/Germany_Study_-_FINAL.pdf

    If you have an open mind, these should be sufficient to make you change your mind about renewables and nuclear.

  87. Why are Andasol 1 and Andasol 2 trough type solar plants? From what I have read, it looks as though the power tower system is better. Because it can produce higher temperatures, it is more efficient and therefore requires less cooling water and less land space. The reduced shading effect is also an advantage. In addition, it doesn’t require the land to be as level as a billiard table. Probably it is easier to wash the dust of off flat mirrors than to wash troughs.

    It would be interesting to have firm numbers to compare the trough system with the power tower system.

  88. Hi Frank Eggers,

    Needs (2008) compares solar trough and and solar tower.
    http://www.needs-project.org/

    Solar trough is more developed at the moment. Solar tower may take over in the future. However, there appears to be little difference between them in the projected cost of electricity. Both are totally uncompetitive. See herte for more, and take notice of what would be involved in building sufficent to make a significant contribution to our electrcity supply.
    http://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/09/emission-cuts-realities/

  89. From what I have seen in various places, your are right; solar power cannot adequately provide for the electrical needs of a large industrialized country, although there are certain situations where it is useful, such as in remote areas where grid connections would be impractical or where little power is required. Solar water heaters are commonly used by the few people in third-world countries who can afford them because it is less expensive than using other means to heat water.

    Recently, Senator Feinstein objected to a solar PV installation in the (California) Mojave desert because the installation would cover 60 square miles of desert. The Sierra Club and other environmental organizations object to having trails in the desert for off-road vehicles because of the fragile nature of the desert environment. Thus, even if covering large desert areas with solar installations would provide sufficient power, it is likely that environmental groups would object. It is unclear just what means they would accept to provide sufficient power.

    India has a population density 11 times greater than the U.S.; China has a population density 4.3 times greater than the U.S. In fact, our population density is lower than average. Considering that, even if we could collect sufficient solar power for our needs, it would be totally impossible for more densely populated countries to do so, a fact which is generally ignored. I wonder how the pro-solar crowd would expect Alaska to receive sufficient solar power.

    The pro-solar crowd wants solar installations in the African Sahara Desert to provide power for the whole continent of Africa. The area available and the climate might make it possible, but I wonder whether they are aware of the huge sand dunes which continually move around, or where they expect to get the water to keep the mirrors clean, or who would keep the roads clear to provide access for maintenance, etc.

    One would suppose that before embarking on a mission to install large solar plants and wind farms, careful calculations would be done to determine whether it is practical. It is difficult to understand why that has not been done.

  90. Interesting to read this debate.

    Noticed a lot of references to Gen III+ AP1000 reactors, however as far as i’m aware these have failed to obtain NRC approval in the US due to “safety issues” with “sheild building”.

    See here: http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/news/2009/09-173.html

    If solar thermal with baseload is commerically operating and AP1000 plants are yet to even be approved for construction in the US, wouldn’t it make sense to go for the first option?

    Also good article about Obama’s plans for nuclear power in US here: http://www.southernstudies.org/2010/02/obamas-nuclear-generation-gap.html

    Reality is that most talk of Gen III+ and Gen IV reactors is just cover for politicians to pursue a nuclear agenda on the basis of outdated technology.

  91. If AP1000 plants have not yet been approved, wouldn’t it make sense to get them approved as quickly as possible?

    How many solar thermal plants with adequate storage would have to be built to provide as much power as a single AP1000 plant?

    Could the solar thermal plants be built where they could tie into the existing grid, or would it be necessary to spend huge amounts of $$ to accommodate the solar thermal plants?

    Environmental organizations are concerned about the fragile desert environment, which is why senator Feinstein (D, CA) objected to a solar plant which would have covered 60 square miles of Mojave desert. Can we be sure that they wouldn’t mind covering tens of thousands of desert with solar thermal plants?

    In my opinion, pressurized water reactors of the AP1000 type are obsolete; they require enriched uranium of which they waste about 99% and also require a large reactor vessel which is pressurized to more than 2000 psi. We should be designing and building LFTR reactors which use thorium as fuel instead of uranium. If that cannot be done quickly, we should be building CANDU reactors. They can use existing nuclear waste and natural uranium as fuel, thereby solving the existing waste problem.

  92. “If AP1000 plants have not yet been approved, wouldn’t it make sense to get them approved as quickly as possible?”

    Not if they haven’t been approved due to safety concerns and its a nuclear power station.

  93. And how long would it take to get approval from the NRC compared to how long it would take to make major grid changes to support solar?

    What is the largest solar plant which has ever been built?

    How many solar plants would it take to deliver as much continuous and reliable power as one AP1000 plant? How long would it take to build them?

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  96. Hi
    Why store power as heat and not use water storage in 2 dams 1 at the top of the hill and another at the bottom. A Hydro Power station in the middle. Use Water pumps to pump water from the bottom dam to the top dam when the sun shines. This energy can be stored for hours or months depanding on the DAM size. Also provides water for usage for consmption. The storage doens’t need to reside near the Solar power station as the solar energy can be transferred by power lines to the pumps.

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