Solar power in Florida

Guest Post by Peter Morcombe. Peter has over 24 years experience in high tech telecommunications and computers, specialising in fiber optics. Before retirement he worked for 12 years at the Duke University Free Electron Laser Laboratory. His professional qualifications include IEE, IEEE and LEOS. He is known to BNC readers by his commenting moniker ‘gallopingcamel’.

Florida Power & Light is a special kind of power company.  It is one of over 50 utility companies in Florida that sell electricity to the general public.  Florida has an electricity market comparable with Australia or 60% of the UK.  FP&L supplies about 40% of the total power consumed in the state; as one of its customers I appreciate the fact that it is the only company that currently charges less than $0.10 per kWh.

According to the Institute of Energy Research most of Florida’s electric power comes from natural gas (54%), coal (25%), nuclear (13%) and petroleum (4%).  Florida has no hydro, as its highest point is only 345 feet above sea level and minuscule wind power capacity because the state lacks good sites for wind turbines.

FP&L is the dominant electric utility in Florida:

President Obama at the opening of Florida's 25 MW peak, $150 million DeSoto PV plant

One of the things that makes FP&L special is its broad range of generating technologies.  It has four nuclear power plants each with a nameplate capacity of around 850 MW.  It has conventional steam turbine plants and combined cycle plants.  Recently, the company has been building power plants based on renewable energy sources such as photo-voltaic and solar thermal power.  Academics write about such projects but FP&L builds and operates them.  I decided to take a look at one of these technologies with the idea of assessing its potential for replacing conventional power-generating plants.

My first problem was gaining access.  I tried the “front door” by writing to FP&L’s “Public Relations” department, asking for permission to visit all of their power plants including the nuclear ones given my background in physics and radiation safety.  This approach was rebuffed unceremoniously so I tried various “back door” routes and eventually gained access to the Martin plant in April 2011.  The visit made a profound impression which has increased my enthusiasm to visit other generating plants.

Access is via minor roads with almost no traffic.  I was expecting large trucks delivering fuel and equipment but there was none of that.  The plant with its 500 foot chimneys was hard to see until I was within two miles even though the vapor plume was visible over ten miles away thanks to the early morning mist.  This plant has a peak capacity of 3,800 MW or roughly 7% of Florida’s power, so I was expecting it to stand out.  On arrival at the front gate there was nobody to provide access so I had to cool my heels for 20 minutes before being escorted in.  When visiting plants in the USA one is provided with safety equipment and this was no exception; hard hat, goggles and ear plugs.  The latter turned out to be useful.

The first question I asked is how can a large power plant operate without a major road or railway running into the site?  The answer was that the fuel comes in via a gas pipeline from Texas (over 1,000 miles away).  While there are huge tanks of kerosene (Jet A) on site that can run the plant for 45 days, they are seldom used.  All heat engines need a “sink” in order to operate so I asked why there were no cooling towers.  The “sink” for the Martin plant is an 18,000 acre lake (it used to be a swamp) that was rearranged so that warm water from the heat exchangers has to travel 26 miles before returning to the plant.  You can see parts of this lake in the photo below.  This works pretty well and the wild life appreciates it.  It reminded me of the eel farm at the Hinkley Point nuclear reactor in the UK.

Florida's Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center. The solar thermal component provides a maximum of 75 MW of the plant's 3,705 MW total power output

This picture is from a New York Times article published in 2010 when the solar plant was nearing completion.  In the foreground there are two 500 foot tall chimneys that belong to high pressure steam plants of 1970s vintage (two by 860 MW).  While impressively compact, the efficiency at ~ 38% is relatively low.  To the right of the steam plant there are four even more compact combined cycle plants that use gas turbines to drive primary generators and the high temperature is exhaust is then used to drive steam turbines coupled to secondary generators.  The result is a very high temperature differential between the “source” and “sink” which improves the thermodynamic efficiency of the plant.  Efficiencies above 60% are achieved at optimum load.

The 500 acres of mirrors can be seen in the background.  The official plant opening occurred on March 5, 2011 and in this video you can catch a glimpse of Rick Scott, Florida’s governor sitting next to Bill Gates.  Here is another video that explains the basic principles of system operation.

And now the numbers

The new solar plant is visually impressive with row upon row of huge mirrors. So is this the start of a revolution in electric power generation?   Can we expect power companies around the world to start replacing fossil fuel and nuclear plants with solar?  To answer such questions one must look at what this new plant does in relation to the resources that it requires.

The nameplate capacity of the Martin solar plant is 75 MWe but the average power delivered is 18 MW, for a “capacity factor” of 0.24 — unusually high for a solar plant.  This reflects the fact that the plant is conservatively rated; its peak capacity is about one third higher than its ‘nameplate’ capacity.

Germany has a total solar generating nameplate capacity of ~17 GW, but capacity factors are in the 0.10 to 0.13 range.  Spain, on the other hand, has ~4 GW with higher capacity factors (0.16 to 0.24).  The difference in performance between Spain and Germany appear to be more related to climate and latitude than differences in technology.

A solar powered future

Imagine a future in which so-called “environmentalist” politicians are given the mandate to prohibit the construction of nuclear and fossil fuel power plants in Florida. As wind and hydro are not suited to Florida, the only remaining option would be solar power. Here is a glimpse of what this future might look like and what it would take to get there:

Florida is planning to increase its peak electrical generating capacity from 52 GW in 2009 to 62 GW in 2018.  This works out at an increase of 1.9% (1,100 MW) per year.  The growth projections may be conservative given the following factors:

  1. Electrical consumption grew at an average rate of 3.6% p.a. from 1980-2005.
  2. Florida’s population is expected to grow from 18.8 million in 2010 to 23.8 million in 2030, a growth rate of 1.2%/year.
  3. With environmentalists in positions of influence (as we now see in Germany), there would be pressure to phase out fossil fueled automobiles in favor of electric automobiles.
  4. Comfort in Florida depends on an ample supply of cheap electricity to keep our air conditioners going from May through October.

Even at the conservative growth rate of 1.9%, Florida would need a peak generating capacity of 289 GW by the year 2100.  Thus over the next 90 years we might expect 289 – 52 = 237 GW of new generating capacity to be created.  What would this mean if the generators were all solar powered? The Martin solar plant shows that 18 MW of solar power requires ~500 acres of mirrors so the needed capacity would correspond to 6.6 million acres for mirrors alone, without allowing anything for energy storage.   Would that have a significant effect on land usage?

Even assuming an affordable solution to the problem of storing energy to cover the times when there is insufficient solar power to match demand, it is not credible to suggest that 19% of Florida be covered in mirrors; clearly solar fails the “scalability” test.  The situation is even worse in the UK, with its larger market and lower capacity factors for solar plants.  Australia, on the other hand, is large enough to accommodate mirrors sufficient for the needs of its relatively small population, assuming that the problems of power transmission, storage and high cost can be solved.

If we Floridians were so misguided as to start constructing solar plants at the scale dictated by 1.9% annual growth, over 27,000 acres of mirrors would have to be installed each year rising to a staggering 152,000 acres per year in 2100.  While there is plenty of swamp land here I can imagine the howls of protest from those same “environmentalists” when the bulldozers start their work.  I suspect that they will suddenly appreciate the compactness of gas, coal and nuclear power (if they still want low carbon) generators, once they have seen solar power scaled up.

When it comes to solar power, it probably makes more sense to compare Florida to Spain rather than Germany or the UK (see Editor’s Note at the foot of this post).  Spain created a rapid growth in solar capacity by means of government incentives designed to encourage private investment.  This new industry has reached such a large scale that the Spanish government can no longer afford the subsidies so solar projects are being abandoned.  For a more scholarly review of the Spanish situation take a look at this paper from Gabriel Calzada Alvarez who points out the economic consequences of such subsidies.

Here in Florida, as in many other states, there is a problem balancing the budget.  Consequently, dubious projects such as high speed rail and alternative energy are receiving more scrutiny than in prior years.  Florida Power & Light wants to raise electricity prices by 2% per year to pay for renewable energy, but this idea is getting little traction in Tallahassee.

Conclusion

NextEra Energy, FP&L’s parent, has done a great service by building the Martin county solar plant and even larger ones in California, which so clearly demonstrate the potential impacts of solar projects on electricity costs, state budgets and the environment.  Only weeks after the hoopla of the opening ceremony in Indiantown on March 5th it was evident, even to our legislators, that the costs outweigh the benefits.  If solar power is scaled up to provide the bulk of Florida’s growth in energy capacity each year, electricity rates are certain to increase and there is a real risk that huge facilities will be created only to be become uneconomic when the subsidies cease.  Could Florida and California be known as “Corrosion Belts” when the huge mirror farms are abandoned?

"Wreck of the Carrizo". The remote Carrizo Plain's status as one of the sunniest places in the state was exploited by the solar power industry from 1983 to 1994. This was by far the largest photovoltaic array in the world, with 100,000 1'x 4' photovoltaic arrays producing 5.2 megawatts at its peak. The plant was originally constructed by the Atlantic Richfield oil company (ARCO) in 1983. During the energy crisis of the late 1970s, ARCO became a solar energy pioneer, manufacturing the photovoltaic arrays themselves. ARCO first built a 1 megawatt pilot operation, the Lugo plant in Hesperia, California, which is also now closed. The Carrizo Solar Corporation, based in Albuquerque, NM, bought the two facilities from ARCO in 1990. But the price of oil never rose as was predicted, so the solar plant never became competitive with fossil fuel-based energy production (Carrizo sold its electricity to the local utility for between three and four cents a kilowatt-hour, while a minimum price of eight to ten cents a kilowatt-hour would be necessary in order for Carrizo to make a profit). Another photovoltaic facility was planned for the site by the Chatsworth Utility Power Group, and with an output of 100 megawatts it would have been many times larger than the existing facility. But the facility never got off the drawing board. The Carrizo Solar Company dismantled its 177-acre facility in the late 1990s, and the used panels are still being resold throughout the world.

“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

P. Byshe Shelley, 1818

———————————

Editor’s Note: Two similar articles on BNC by Tom Blees, looking at solar power in Germany and wind energy in Denmark, can be read here:


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153 Comments

  1. I have a very soft spot in my heart for FP&L – that company used to give me Christmas presents every year, in addition to paying my dad’s salary for 35 years.

    The four nuclear plants in its fleet were a major part of my decision to become a nuclear professional; when dad described how his company’s new (then) plants would produce electricity without even needing pipelines or smokestacks, I was hooked. That happened when I was about 8-9 years old in the mid to late 1960s.

    Late last week, FP&L confirmed to the Florida Public Utility Commission that its analysis showed that Turkey Point units 6 & 7 were still the most cost effective future generating option. Those units will be 2 AP1000’s producing about 1245 MWe each.

    In six out of seven different scenarios with various economic assumptions and competitive fuel prices, the new nuclear plants were the hands down winners. In the 7th scenario, with sustained low natural gas prices, the plants were still pretty close on a straight cost basis, even after including high capital costs and high interest rates.

    Solar and wind are unreliable. They require far more in the way of material per unit of energy output. They can never be economic because there is too much idle investment that cannot even be focused on high margin supply opportunities when the power is really needed.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights
    PS – if you have not visited Atomic Insights recently, please stop by to see our fresh new look. Jason did an amazing job.

  2. Could the lesson here be that solar is not suited for large centralised plants, but should rather be installed on individual houses (or both)? When talking about solar we should also take solar hot water into consideration.
    It would be great to see the numbers done for a more elaborate, integrated plan to scale up solar.

    D.

  3. In the past its been very difficult getting information from Florida utilities. However FPL has been very active in building wind generators across the US. A renewables spinoff company from FPL is Nextera. I have a friend in Gainesville who says there is a very large solar incentive in his hometown, but I do not know the specifics.

  4. That large solar array in the picture will be subject to hurricanes. I predict they will become severely damaged in a hurricane. Here is the catch 22 for solar power in FL. If you build the panels to withstand hurricane force winds, you have used too much steel and that drives up the cost of solar. The cost of steel is going to prevent further cost reductions in solar power even as PV solar cells become lower cost.

  5. +1 diessoli, I was about to make the exact same comment.

    Install solar panels on every roofs in florida, plug them directly in the building below and have the excess go back to the grid
    (and I am not saying we should stop all the nuclear power plants by next week nor should these panels be installed by tomorrow but over time it should be doable)

    Local power generation should be more efficient than centralized plants since it avoids all the transport inefficiencies

  6. Errrrrr – hate to rain on the renewable bashing however behind President Obama are clearly PV panels not mirrors as stated here:

    “The 500 acres of mirrors can be seen in the background. ”

    Maybe you got the wrong plant for a picture. Also the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center is a hybrid. The CF of the solar may be 18 however as this article says it will reduce the emissions of the plant 2.75 million tons according to this article:

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

    So the CF of the total plant is whatever the plant wants to run at. If it is a load following plant it may only run at a CF of 45 anyway meaning that the solar plant will supply nearly half of the energy.

  7. Thanks GC. Real world examples are always nice … just a pity they are so expensive! A critic would say that extrapolating growth between 1980 and 2005 out to 2100 isn’t fair … there are limits to how big a plasma TV people can put in a home … and how big a home can be. The UK has triple the population but doesn’t use triple the power.

    And please a suggestion … the Carrizo picture could do with a caption for those of us on the other side of the planet. My first thought was an abandoned wind farm.

  8. @diessoll – been there done that in Florida. The southern part of the state used to have a high portion of the homes fitted with solar hot water heaters. They were not very cost effective – a relatively small portion of the power consumed in a modern home is used for heating water.

    Gene’s comments about the vulnerability of solar plants in high winds applies at least as well to roof mounted units as to the large central arrays – probably more so.

    Finally, I want to mention the experience of a friend from the construction business. He used to pay close to 50% of the wages of his roofers to the Workman’s Compensation Fund. That was the occupation with one of the highest insurance rates in the state due to the risk of falling.

    Sadly, that same friend later converted his construction business to specialize in meeting the needs of handicapped people based on what he learned by refitting his own home. He has been in a wheelchair ever since he fell from a roof at a construction site – several decades ago.

    Rod Adams

  9. Ender, I chose the Obama picture as an example of another solar plant in Florida. Peter Morcombe quite clearly describes his picture of the Martin plant further down in the post. But I suspect you didnt notice that, in your mad rush to post that snarky retort. Also, improve your commenting ‘tone’ please, or leave.

  10. I also think they are trackable PV panels instead of CSP. Either PV or CSP trackable means they are off the ground and exposed to high winds. The very nature of large surface areas makes them nearly impossible to design so that they will not become aerial objects in the right kinds of winds. I’m just waiting for this to happen somewhere in tornado or hurricane country.

  11. The Martin Solar Plant has a pricetag of $ 476 million. For 18 average megawatts of electricity flow, that is over $ 26 per average Watt electrical.

    http://www.glgroup.com/News/The-Cost-of-Solar-Electricity-at-the-Martin-Next-Generation-Solar-Energy-Center-47025.html?cb=1

    Now that’s very expensive.

    And don’t give me the bleeding edge tech excuse, a half a billion dollar facility is a large commercial facility and gets serious economies of scale that give representative large scale costs.

    Clearly this is too expensive, and we still have to add two dismal facts:

    1. Energy storage. Since the plant is a hybrid this is not included. Energy storage isn’t cheap, even thermal energy storage, one of the cheapest storage methods, costs quite a bit of money.
    2. Balance of plant. Turbines, generators, personell all shared with the fossil station. So add extra costs for these things in a standalone facility. Then add in the fact that the turbine for the standalone facility won’t be as efficient due to lower steam temperatures and – pressures.

    We could be talking 30-40 USD/Watt average delivered for a standalone plant. And you still have to burn fossil during long cloudy periods.

    Which brings up my last point of critique: Florida has much less direct sunshine than e.g. arid US southwest locations. So concentrators are much less effective there. A 0.24 capacity factor is indeed very optimistic. I wouldn’t be surprised to see 0.2 or less for this location.

    A positive point though is that the seasonal variation in southern Florida is acceptably small. This takes away one of the biggest drawbacks, compared to solar in places farther from the equator: year-round power. But again, cloudy events happen all the time in Florida, and there are extra concerns due to hurricanes force winds tearing apart the solar collectors. Very expensive to shear up everything to be hurricane proof. That’s easy for a nuclear plant though, since it is compact and in robust very heavy reinforced containment.

  12. Gene Preston, they are, according to the sources above, hybrid thermal systems that add to the steam supply of the boiler (or economisers depending on what feed temperature they are running at).

    You can see why CSP is not a bright idea for Florida in this map of direct irradiance (what CSP uses). You only get 2/3 of what you’d get in a good location in the US southwest. More like 0.18 capacity factor than 0.24, and that’s assuming two axis tracking, which apperently the Florida installation isn’t. 0.15-0.17 would a reasonable estimate for Florida single axis CSP steam systems.

  13. @Jean and @Diessoll: High levels of Solar PV on housing is an admirable idea, hampered by a present lack of control infrastructure and very high prices.

    If you have periods of high light flux the combined changing power going to a local subtstation could very well overload it. Today’s power grids are based around centralised, dispatchable generators.
    Significant smart grid investments would be needed to overcome this, as well as the acquisition of peaking power and storage capacity to maintain a stable grid frequency.
    To paraphrase former US Senator Ted Stevens, ‘the electricity grid isn’t something you just dump something on’. It’s in a fine state of balance at all times. Keeping that balance is expensive, and if natural gas is used for peaking power, CO2 intensive.

    Then there’s the cost. Rooftop Solar PV is the one of the highest cost energy sources available – only pipped at the post by offshore wind and solar thermal here:

    http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/aeo/electricity_generation.html

    I would suspect that rooftop PV would be more expensive in terms of initial infrastructure investments than those estimates too, due to the need to purchase many more inverters than centralised projects and so on. Small isn’t always beautiful.

  14. Now, according to this source:

    http://priuschat.com/forums/environmental-discussion/91233-500-acre-hybrid-solar-energy-plant-comes-online-in-florida.html

    The plant will save 178 million in fuel costs. So you pay 476 million now, and get 178 million back in saved fuel costs over 30 years. Good investment, you think? Uhm, no.

    But what about greenhouse gasses? Well if everything works as advertised, it will save 2.75 million tonnes of CO2. So you invest 173 dollars per ton of abated CO2 emissions, triple that to account for some interest over 30 years, over 500 dollars per ton of CO2 levelised abatement cost.

    Oops that’s not cheap.

    http://www.fpl.com/environment/solar/martin.shtml

    This is the problem with marginal technologies such as solar: they compete only with saved fuel costs, which is a shitty business case.

    Of course with a public that can’t do basic energy analysis, projects such as these are excellent greenwashing for Florida to continue using 80% fossil in their electricity mix.

  15. The article here is another in a long line of “lets power the world with solar troughs” and then proceed to demonstrate that this is immpossible therefore renewable energy is bad.

    I have no problem with Florida being 40% nuclear if they want to and that may be the best for them. However that leaves a lot of room for renewables and the absolutely essential peaking power.

    I am not anti-nuclear as you seem to think. I am, and I have stated this over and over again, that I am anti “nuclear can save the world” just as I am anti “renewables can save the world”.

    First of all even assuming that I am completely wrong about growth Florida and the rest of the world need to reduce energy use and get off oil. Somehow if nuclear or renewables will be the ultimate answer they will still both need large energy reductions to be able to combat climate change in any reasonable time. Anyone who thinks that we can just power BAU at present rates of growth with zero-carbon energy sources IMHO is delusional.

    So statements like:

    “Consequently, dubious projects such as high speed rail and alternative energy are receiving more scrutiny than in prior years. Florida Power & Light wants to raise electricity prices by 2% per year to pay for renewable energy, but this idea is getting little traction in Tallahassee.”

    High speed rail is the one hope we have of reducing our oil use and reducing air travel. It is not dubious as China is investing billions and will have the most advanced HS rail in the world. So while we neglect this area, when oil does run short, people in Florida and here will be wondering just how do we get from city to city when oil is $200 per barrel. They might be disappointed with conservatives, like the author of this article clearly is, in not providing a first world county like America with a first class rail system like China and Europe.

    His calculations only make sense if every solar plant was as efficient as a trough, which they aren’t, all had only 15% CF, which they don’t, all require the same cooling, which they don’t, or were the only type of renewable power, which they aren’t, or were all required to be actually in the state of Florida, which they don’t have to be.

    [Sniping statements deleted from top and bottom of comment]

  16. Plugging the numbers in NREL’s levelised cost calculator:

    http://www.nrel.gov/analysis/tech_lcoe.html

    30 year life
    10% interest
    $ 6350/kW peak electrical
    0.24 capacity factor
    $ 20/kW-year operations/maintenance cost

    Gives 33 cents per kWh.

    Using a more realistic 0.18 capacity factor for this location gives 44 cents per kWh.

    So FPL is charging 10 cents per kWh, that means they’d better not built anymore of these absurdly expensive projects.

    Now here’s a nice exercise: put in nuclear in the levelised cost calculator. 4000 to 8000 per kW, 60 year life, 0.90 capacity factor 50-100 $/kW-year operations and maintenance, fuel cost $ 1-2 MMBTU. This gives 7.5 to 13.5 cents per kWh levelised cost. And you don’t need no disgusting coal or natural gas plant to piggyback on, indeed you can close down that disgusting dangerous pollutant spewing greenhouse gas spewing fossil station.

  17. From what I can tell reading Wikipedia etc, Florida Power & Light is a private company and always has been. Why are we so wedded to government ownership in Australia?

  18. The 6350 $/kw is now a little below $4000/kW. Possilby the higher cost is for extra steel for the high winds expected. The 10% iterest rate should be lowered to about 6%. The life should be 25 years or maybe even 20 years. The 24% CF is probably a bit too high for FL.

  19. Rod
    If you are using mandatory safety equipment you can`t fall off a roof ;)
    In my part of the world roofers just need normal, public insurance.
    You would not climb a rock without a safety line and helmet, would you?

    If you include the solar installation in the roof you won`t have to do it twice anyways.

    We also know that building quality is not great in the USA. Where we work with +-5mm tolerance builders in NY think 1inch is fine…
    Maybe Florida is better… ^^

    Predicting the future is a hard task but since you are doing it lets do some other predicting.

    Thin-film solar roofing and facades.
    Mandatory +energy buildings. (This has to be done some time. In European citys you can`t built a house without providing parking. You should not be allowed to built a house without providing power.)
    High altitude wind. (Kitegen, Makani Power)
    Biomass/algae farms.
    You might want to buy power from other states.
    You will pay more for your power anyways.
    Europeans are paying up to 30€c/kwh.
    Power is going to be wasted when it is too cheap.
    Lets fix the price for up to 4000kwh/a for each 4 person home and other family sizes and make them pay a premium for over-usage.
    It`s the same with GB or minutes in mobiles…though we have much cheaper rates in Europe.
    You do not want industries where you can`t provide it with renewable and safe power.
    Switch off the coal burners and let them pay for their power or move on.
    For the remaining population there is plenty of opportunity to convert to a renewable and sustainable lifestyle.
    It`s a question of policies, regulation, politics and morals.

  20. A little point on fairness:

    one of the things I’ve learned from this site concerns the double standards employed regarding nuclear power.

    For this insight not to turn into its own hypocrisy, we have to avoid double standards here. So if we’re going to complain about Ender’s tone, we have to complain about, for example, DV’s tone.

    Now, speaking personally, I’ve benefitted tremendously from DV’s comments and he has always been thorough and serious in answering questions. And since I often (not always–like with David Benson) agree with his pugnacity, his insults do not bother me (though I’m sure they bother others like Neil, who is important to this discussion IMO). Still, fair is fair.

    So it’s either put up with a bit of nastiness on both sides; or moderate all nastiness (snarkiness or direct insult). But be consistent!!

    If not, we’ll have the usual toxicity of each side accusing the other of double standards.

    And Peter: why do you object to high speed rail? Is it HSR in and of itself, or how it is packaged with dubious energy sources to power it?
    MODERATOR
    I agree – but that is happening anyway. DV8 and other regulars on BNC have been “moderated” in several posts. If you see any violation of the comments policy we may have missed please point it out for rectification.

  21. Marcus, how are you going to protect thin films from hurricanes? You may have thin semiconductor layers, but the amount of material needed will be huge. Support against wind has always been the big materials factor for solar. Solar uses 10x the materials of nuclear per average Watt delivered.

    You anti-nukes are all the same; you never do a fair comparison and when challenged about this dishonesty all you guys do is pull up half truths and smokescreens.

    You guys should learn how to do basic energy analysis before you embarass yourselves further. Here are a few good starters:

    http://www.coal2nuclear.com/energy_facts.htm

    http://www.withouthotair.com/

  22. Ok, here is a nice LCA for solar PV.

    http://www.nrel.gov/pv/thin_film/docs/f … nov_05.pdf

    Table 2: 69 tonnes metal (40 tonnes carbon steel, 19 tonnes aluminium, 7.5 tonnes copper and 2.9 tonnes stainless steel).

    That’s 350 tonnes metal per MW average electric in a sunny desert location. 700 tonnes per MW average electric for a cloudy location.

    This does not sound very environmentally friendly to me, and we haven’t talked about the glass, naphta, plastics, petroleum coke, NaOH, HCl, and some other nasty stuff that are also required to make it.

    Compare to 40 tonnes metal per average megawatt for nuclear light water reactors.

    PV in my area (quite cloudy) uses 800 tonnes of metal per average megawatt, 20x more than old nuclear plants, 25x more than the latest passive designs, and 40 to 50 times more than future advanced gen IV reactors. PV doesn’t have such a big improvement potential, in fact in Florida the hurricane protection alone means your materials usage go up. Future hurricanes will be just as powerful or more powerful with climate change so expect PV in Florida to use a similar amount of structural materials in the future.

    http://energyfromthorium.com/forum/download/file.php?id=966&mode=view

  23. Gregory, insults don’t bother me as long as people are correct. What bothers me is that many of the anti-nukes are time and again proven to be wrong factually and each time they just pull out the same old lies. Its as if they don’t listen. Like a little kid on a merry go round, they just start over again and again.
    MODERATOR
    I have warned that ‘endless repetitous posts” will be deleted in future as per BNC Comments Policy – but it isn’t always easy to distinguish the guilty comments and Barry has the final say.

  24. @Marcus – I vote for a world with abundant, low cost power. I vote for a world with freedom of choice, the right to produce items or services of value to others and to sell those items at a fair price. I vote for a world where people who currently have no access to reliable power, indoor lighting, clean water, or refrigeration have all of those in abundance.

    I do not vote for allowing people like you to impose your will upon others.

    Since I would be willing to bet a large sum of money that most of the world agrees with me and not you, I believe that anyone who fights safe nuclear energy is actually a closet fossil fuel fanatic. That is what powers the vast majority of the world today and it is what will power the vast majority of the world for the next several decades unless we work hard to enable the only strong competitor to flourish.

    It is my considered opinion – after about 20 years worth of internet discussions, deep research, and professional experience – that most anti-nuclear activity is well supported by establishment types that hate the idea of abundant, low-priced, emission free energy because it makes their own products look really bad in comparison.

    Rod Adams
    Publisher, Atomic Insights

  25. Is this the same “gallopingcamel” who has made quite a number of comments in other places actively denying the reality of AGW?

    Just one example: Galloping Camel. Wed, 2009-08-26 Climate alarmists are going nuts because “Heaven & Earth” makes more sense than the IPCC does. Here are just a few of Plimer’s points that Monbiot’s flock are careful to ignore:
    1. Most plants and animals do better during warm climate periods than they do in cold ones. If humans can affect the climate shouldn’t we be working to raise temperatures?
    2. In the past, CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere many times the current level failed to prevent ice ages and failed to cause a runaway greenhouse effect. Has the effect of CO2 on climate been overstated?
    3. Virtually all the predictions based on climate models issued only 10 years ago show global temperatures rising steadily. Actual global temperatures have been falling over the same period. Why won’t Mother Nature cooperate?

    http://www.desmogblog.com/ian-plimer-climate-change-denier-and-annoying-git

  26. Yes, seamus, it is the same fellow. We’ve had similar debates here on BNC. But that is beside the point. How does this affect the content of the above post on solar power in Florida? Is there some core error, or other misrepresentation I overlooked when I accepted and edited it?

  27. @Michael Ka – are you implying that there is something wrong with working for a nuclear company? Or are you implying that anyone who works for a nuclear company should not be allowed to comment about energy matters?

    For the record, I now work for one of the most nuclear focused companies remaining in the US, but the vast majority of our revenue comes from selling fossil fuel related components or from our government services work. We are hoping that our mPower reactor might shift the balance a little bit.

    In an industry that has players like ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, Gazprom, Aramaco, and Chevron – to name a few of the companies in the energy business capturing in excess of hundred billion dollars per year of revenue – the “nuclear” industry is virtually invisible. (Notice, by the way, what kind of company invested in the solar distraction embodied by the Carrizo debacle.)

    During my job search last year, I looked for a nuclear focused company in the US. The only ones I found were tiny start-ups like NuScale and Hyperion and the US branch of Areva. Areva had already stopped hiring, partly as a result of antinuclear actions taken against their EPR projects and I no longer have the stomach for start-up company work.

    So I went with a company that has been making steam boilers and associated equipment using all kinds of fuels for 150 years.

    Again, please help me to understand why you asked Cyril about his employment. If you do not mind, can you share your own source of income? Does it have anything to do with coal, oil, natural gas, solar, wind, geothermal, or waste to energy?

    MODERATOR
    Ka’s comment has been deleted for violation of the commenting rules.

  28. One of the many questions I asked the people who run the Martin plant was “What happens when the hurricane hits?”

    The answer is that wind tunnel models have been tested to find the optimum configuration for resisting high winds. Before the hurricane hits the mirrors will be aimed at the ground so as to present convex surfaces to the wind.

    Will this work? In my opinion it will but the idea is going to be field tested within the next 20 years.

  29. Cyril R,
    You are (as usual) correct but I did point out that the Martin solar plant is over engineered. During my visit it was providing slightly over 100 MW, so using that as the nameplate capacity, the capacity factor falls to 0.18 which is what you would expect.

  30. yes, cyril: the main issue is getting the facts right along with not repeating crap after it’s thoroughly critiqued, as if it had never been critiqued.

    Actually, as Barry has pointed out, the rhetorical behavior of many anti nuclear greens bears very close resemblance to the rhetorical behavior of many climate denialists. (repeating the same criticisms after they’ve been thoroughly critiqued or, worse, repeating the same points you know to be false, Ian Plimer etc.).

    That said, tone is tone. If Barry and moderator go after Ender’s tone, then they have to be even handed. That’s all.

    On another point, while I disagree with GC about climate change (and political philosophy), GC is a serious and principled guy. It’s really important in these discussions to avoid guilt by association. He’s a Marxist and so can’t be right about climate/energy etc. He’s a libertarian and so can’t be right…. He’s a climate denialist and so can’t know anything about energy etc. etc.
    MODERATOR
    See the answer to your last comment on equity in moderation.

  31. Michael Ka, I work ‘for’ the oil industry. They pay me a lot of money to develop and install flame arrestors and do HAZOP analysis (&PRAs) for their facilities. Having experienced oil terminals, oil refineries and nuclear plants up close, I’ve decided that nuclear power should be the future. I’d love to work ‘for’ the nuclear industry. Its so unbelievably clean, safe and energy dense. I’ve been to three nuclear facilities, one of them a waste storage facility. Its was a concrete floor and some casks. That’s it! Can you believe people actually worry about this waste while they are oblivious of the huge fossil waste streams (not just CO2, believe me!)

  32. What is missing from the Wikipedia article is that the carrizo plains are about to be reused for new solar plants, The land around nuclear plants can never be reused, but Solar arrays not only could anyone reclaim the land for any use, and it will always fetch a high value for reuse in new PV.

    That said PV in 1983 was beyond dumb.

  33. Very nice Florida tech here:

    http://www.fsec.ucf.edu/en/publications/pdf/FSEC-CR-1771-08.pdf

    “cool white roof” at night gets rid of attic heat to the nighttime sky — and dehumidifies living space.
    MODERATOR
    Hank – please read the citation policy below:

    Citing literature and other sources: appropriate and interesting citations and links within comments are welcomed, but please DO NOT cite material that you have not yourself read, digested and understood. As a general rule, please introduce any and every link or reference with a short description of the material, your judgement on its quality, and the specific reason you are including it (i.e. how it is relevant to the discussion).
    Remember, we are moderating, but are not in the business of censoring criticism — we welcome well-presented critiques. The principal concern is working out how to conduct this debate in a civil and evidence-based manner, and do it well.
    You are tending toward a one-linercomment of you own with copious quotes from a link and violates the ruling. Further instances may be deleted.

  34. That Martin,Florida,plant looks like it is just another fossil fuel generator with an elephantine appendage of a solar facility.Decorative,possibly,in the eyes of the renewable faithful but really not worth the space it occupies let alone the cost of construction and maintenance.

    Re ender et al – High speed rail seems to be the flavour of the month for some greens.In Australia the Greens Party are pushing for a high speed rail link between Sydney and Melbourne.Meanwhile the conventional rail network is crying out for extension,electrification and even basic maintenance.

    High speed rail requires dedicated track and extremely expensive rolling stock.Tell me,all you greens who advocate powering down,reducing energy consumption etc,why you are advocating a transport system whose only advantage is speed.

    In days of yore,before air transport became available for the great unwashed(not that long ago)it was deemed quite acceptable for comfortable passenger trains to run on rail lines shared with freight.An efficient use of resources,don’t you think?

    It was also acceptable for large numbers of people to travel overseas on passenger liners.Please note that there was no mindless pursuit of speed,mostly for speeds sake.

    If you take your green views seriously then I suggest you be a little more consistent about it(deleted ad hom)

  35. “Environmentalist, why do you say that the land around nuclear plants can never be reused?”

    Because it costs a LOT of money? Sure they can dig every particle out and replace it, but it is a joke it is economically viable.

    Regulations state that the land around, the plant has to be safe for unregulated use, meaning housing, farming etc. It hardly ever is because of this:

    • Ideally the site will be restored for unrestricted alternative use.
    • However, our overriding consideration is whether it is the Best Practicable
    Environmental Option (BPEO). The BPEO assessment takes account of the
    needs of the environment, safety of workers and the local community, and the
    practicability of the clean-up operations. Consulting our stakeholders is an
    integral part of the BPEO assessment process.
    • Where the assessment decides that release of land for unrestricted use is the
    BPEO, UKAEA seeks regulatory approval to “delicense” or remove it from nuclear
    site restrictions. This involves remediating the land and carrying out extensive
    environmental surveys to demonstrate to the regulators that there is no danger
    from ionising radiation.
    • Restored nuclear sites can often be regenerated for the benefit of local
    communities. UKAEA has successfully established business centres at its
    Harwell and Winfrith sites, and sold former research sites at Risley and Culcheth
    for commercial development.

    http://www.dounreay.com/UserFiles/File/archive/General/Guide%20to%20Nuclear%20Decommissioning.pdf

    Solar does not need to worry about the above, the Carrizo plains will ALWAYS be the best place to put PV.

  36. @Rod.
    I vote for worldpeace…

    I don`t think that 10cent/kWh is a fair price when other people do not have any power or will never enjoy the american luxery lifestyle.

    (deleted unsubstantiated personal philosophical opinion)

  37. Cyril.
    Thin-film will withstand any wind speed the building element it is integrated is rated to withstand.
    It will come down with the roof, the glas and the whole building.

    Gen4? Ok…lets compare that with future wind….
    5 tons/MW on a Kitegen…and you do not have to wait ages to recycle the material when the plant is decommissioned….you do not even need to check for radwaste that you can`t recycle.

    Antinukes are not supporting fossil fuel economies.
    (deleted unsubstantiated personal philosophical opinion and ad hom.)
    MODERATOR
    Please use the Philosophical Open thread for comments like those I have just deleted. Please read BNC Comments Policy on the About page for clarification.

  38. i disagree with most of what the article says, but i don t have time for a long post.

    but talking about hurricanes damaging solar panels, i would expect insurance to cover this. (i know that panels in Germany are insured)

  39. Did the Martin plant get built without public funds? Was it internally financed or was there a loan or grant? I ask because I don’t know what financial step fails to allow such projects. It is usually clear from the outset for all who care to calculate that such things are white elephants and yet still they happen.

  40. TergeP,yes,the Victorian generators were only recently privatized.They are the filthiest coal fired generators in Australia because they use poor quality brown coal.They are the first candidates for replacement by nonpolluting generation,preferably by nuclear.

    However,the owners have come out strongly for compensation for,or exemption from a carbon tax.They have also stated that they intend to operate these facilities till the 2040s.So,if they are shut down, the owners (who are probably not even Australian)will be lining up with their hands out for compensation.Not a bad lurk if you can swing it.

    In Queensland we have had the present Labor government privatize the retail electricity sector and the result is a litany of incompetence and self serving behaviour which is in the criminal class.

    In New South Wales the recently departed but unlamented Labor government,noted for years of corruption,sold off the generators for a song in unseemly haste shortly before the election.The new government is looking into how they they can reverse this without leaving themselves open to paying compensation.

    (deleted unsubstantiated personal philosophical opinion)

  41. Jean, on 15 May 2011 at 7:24 PM said:

    You wrote:

    “Install solar panels on every roofs in florida, plug them directly in the building below and have the excess go back to the grid”

    (Roundabout comment on this proposition)

    Before a meeting for state legislators who sit on environmental committees across the U.S., and who met in Chicago about a year and a half ago, I was debating an anti-nuclear campaigner, aligned with Arjun Makhijani (ergo, Helen Caldicott, I guess). He posited something similar to your comment – – to the effect of: “look at all the roofs that you saw when you were flying in!! Why can’t we cover every one of those in solar panels?”

    Short answer: “we” don’t own the rooftops.

    “Every roof” in Florida, just like every roof in Chicago, is owned by either an individual or an institution. Many are not economically suitable for solar energy. Likely none are economically suitable for solar energy unless the panels are highly subsidized. Likely there are many people in Florida who prefer to have their roofs shaded, if they can. Likely there are many building managers who own the commercial rooftops you see as you fly into Chicago who would be reluctant to have solar facilities installed on those roofs.

    Rooftops are generally engineered and designed primarily to protect buildings from water damage. If they can’t do this, they fail at a key function and open the potential for enormous and costly harm to the structure. Every time a rooftop is pierced for any reason, you create a risk of water damage. A lot of people and institutions do not want to take any more such risks than they absolutely have to.

    For these reasons, I think you will find that most actual owners are unlikely to install solar unless forced. No-one can force them currently. Any effort to establish the power to force people to install solar on their rooftops would likely be met by enormous resistance.

    This goes to a larger point. People and institutions act for their own reasons and in their own interests. Precious few, relatively, treat environmental and climate issues as so important that they will risk roof damage or water damage in the interest of installing uneconomic energy options such as solar. It it were so compelling, it would have happened.

    Also, “the grid” is not an infinite sink for “excess” electrical energy. You might want to think, with numbers, about how much energy storage might be needed under your preferred scenario, and issues such as what it would cost, who would pay, and why they might object.

    A difficult problem that confronts the many serious analysts who visit this site is that climate, environmental and energy problems have to be solved in a context in which people act for their own reasons. Potential solutions must take into account the apparent desires and tendencies that actually motivate people. These create problems for anyone’s visionary hope.

    By all means, commit your roof to solar panels if you like. I would just counsel that you ponder the hazards of extrapolating this preference to others, and the real-world implications.

  42. @Environmentalist – I see that as usual in this debate, those that claim that remediation of nuclear power plant sites is far too expensive , like to lump in ex-nuclear weapons sites, and older facilities built in the 1950s with newer NPP that where designed with decommissioning in mind.

    Even older non-weapon experimental reactor sites like AECL’s Whiteshell Laboratories was cleaned up for reuse without breaking the bank.

    And anyway decommissioning in most countries will be paid for by the fund that nuclear power stations must maintain for that purpose, thus the cost is full funded during the life of the plant.

    It is also a fact that the waste stream from decommissioning a large solar PV installation is far from trivial as you suggest.

  43. “And anyway decommissioning in most countries will be paid for by the fund that nuclear power stations must maintain for that purpose, thus the cost is full funded during the life of the plant.”

    Is this money in escrow? Its fine and dandy that its on contract but with nuclear plants lasting for what seems to be 60 years the utility may not even exist then. The biggest problem with nuclear is that its the taxpayer that takes care of waste, decommissioning, and disaster cleanup, if the money for decommissioning is in escrow I will cross that off.

    “It is also a fact that the waste stream from decommissioning a large solar PV installation is far from trivial as you suggest.”

    Its as trivial as it looks on the picture, not to mention solar sites are by nature, still valuable for new solar.

  44. Frank Jablonski, on 16 May 2011 at 8:55 AM said:

    ” [A] difficult problem that confronts the many serious analysts who visit this site is that climate, environmental and energy problems have to be solved in a context in which people act for their own reasons. Potential solutions must take into account the apparent desires and tendencies that actually motivate people. These create problems for anyone’s visionary hope.”

    While this is very true, the lager issue is that regardless of people’s desires, reality always bats last. This is a large part of the debate between the nuclear faction and the renewable faction on this site and elsewhere – interpreting the physics, and the statistics, is not easy for those without the background. As a consequence I see many supporting positions that they think are sound, and are not capable of seeing that they are not despite being shown.

    There should be little question in most people’s mind that the true competitor of fossil-fuels, especially in electric generation, is nuclear energy. However deniers aside, the threat of climate change is in the minds of a large number of people, many of which recall the fights against air pollution and the energy crunches of the near past. This is why the fossil-fuel industry is such a supporter of wind and solar. The facility that is the subject of the lead article is such a blatant attempt at greenwashing that it is embarrassing, yet because of deep seated beliefs, (deleted ad hom) it seems to have drawn many that ready to defend it.

    While it is true that any solution to the climate-energy issue will have to take into account the public’s desires, it must also meet the harsher standards of science and engineering. Educating the public on what is and is not possible is the most important step in seeing that the right choices are made. Fantasies of powering homes and factories as well as transportation on wind and solar , no mater how hard they are sold, and no matter how ideal they sound are just not going to work. Here is where the initial battles must be fought.

  45. Florida’s Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center. The solar thermal component provides a maximum of 75 MW of the plant’s 3,705 MW total power output

    Wow, what an image. That massive solar array provides a maximum of (75/3,705)*100 = 2 % of the total output? Imagine expanding that by 50 times just to match the name plate capacity of the current plant! I think visualisations like this are great for demonstrating the material/area requirements for renewables. Does anyone know where to find the Martin plant on google maps?

    Good article by the way.

  46. Re: Victoria and privatised power:
    Operationally the Victorian experiment seems to have gone well – in the short term competition has delivered lower power prices. The real challenge will be generation infrastructure replacement – the Latrobe Valley plants were purchased from the SECV up for very cheap prices (thanks to Premier Kennet’s mates rates) and is now going to be run into the ground.

    Back in the day, the SECV had plenty of capital and long term plans (up to 25 years at least IIRC). Not much short of a monopoly has that sort of ability.
    The next 20 years will be that big test for International Power, TRUenergy, AGL et al. to sort out what they’re going to replace ‘The Valley’ with.

    Not surprisingly, most investments in new generation capacity since privatisation have been in wind farms and gas turbines. Solar is incredibly uneconomical down here in Victoria – only when you get into the north-east of the state (the Mallee) do you get reliable sunshine. Wind is where all the renewables growth is going to be.

    (Note that AGL has also built some hydro at the Kiewa Hydroelectric Scheme – following the plans that the SECV had devised in the 1950s!)

  47. @Environmentalist – Laws vary between countries on decommissioning funds, but mostly these monies are in escrow, and paid for by special levy. Details can be found here:

    http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf19.html

    Its as trivial as it looks on the picture, not to mention solar sites are by nature, still valuable for new solar.

    That is an equivocation at best. And what makes an ex-nuclear site unsuitable for a new reactor?

  48. It would be interesting to keep track of the number of falsehoods (accidental and deliberate) in the comments of advocates of various positions here, and doing a bit of statistical analysis on them. We could see which position finds it needful to be butttressed by fantasy in the ongoing debate, and which has the occasional falsehood therein due to inevitable human error. I imagine some telling trends would emerge over time.

  49. Tom Keen,
    Thanks for that Google map. Actually things are much worse than you surmise.

    In Google maps back off a little until you can see all of the 18,000 acre lake that is the heat sink for this power plant.

    The land area of the Martin plant is roughly 1,000 acres and half of this is taken up by the mirror farm that produces an average power of 18 MW. The fossil fuel plants that can average over 3,600 MW occupy the other 500 acres including enough fuel storage for 45 days at full output.

    Imagine replacing the fossil fuel plants with solar; you will need 100,000 acres of mirrors which would take up more than five times the area occupied by the lake. Then you need to add a “Windfuels” plant for energy storage as pumped hydro does not work in Florida.

    Even though Indiantown is in a sparsely populated area you can see that it would be difficult to find room for such a huge installation.

  50. The advantages of prepayment escrow is that there are funds available in case the powerplant never opens like in Long Island, however I would tolerate levy’s whose only real problem would be accidents, cutting the reactor’s life short, but by then it would only be the tip of the iceberg.

    “That is an equivocation at best. And what makes an ex-nuclear site unsuitable for a new reactor?”

    How often does this happen? Solar sites are desirable because they are most productive sites, its simple economics, the land appraises in value on the merit of short supply and future solar advantages. Nuclear could in theory be placed in the same spot but there are hardly any incentives in doing so.

    That is a hidden advantage in Solar, almost everything is recyclable or reusable, for a solar plant to close in the first place must have meant considerable economic disruption, and even in the early 80’s with only 5 MW, the panels had value and were sold off to recoup losses.

  51. @ Environmentalist:

    Nuclear could in theory be placed in the same spot but there are hardly any incentives in doing so.

    What in the world is your basis for that statement? Surely the existence of transformers, grid hookup, heat sink, and the fact that the site has already been used for the same purpose is enormous incentive to sontinue to use a developed site for nuclear power generation. Seriously, what are you basing your comment on? I really want to know why you made it.

    for a solar plant to close in the first place must have meant considerable economic disruption

    Such as cutting off feed-in tariffs and other subsidies?

  52. @Environmentalist, – Are you making an argument of some sort, or are you trying to blow smoke up everyone’s behind (incivility, sniping deleted)

    You have lost on the point that decommissioning is too expensive, thus rendering nuclear uneconomic.
    (incivility, sniping deleted)

  53. TerjeP,
    The funding for the Martin solar plant is complex and there are people who understand it much better than I do. This is what I have been able to glean from newspaper reports but how reliable are newspapers these days?

    Source of funds total = $623 Millions
    Consumer levy @ $0.25/month for 25 years = $503 Million.
    Federal grant = $ 120 Million

    Use of funds:
    Martin CSP @ 75 MW nameplate capacity
    DeSoto and Brevard (where I live) PV @ 45 MW

    As far as I can tell the state of Florida has not kicked in any funds but it has permitted FP&L to raise rates. As one of FP&L’s customers I probably won’t notice the extra $0.25 on my monthly bill of $200 (~0.13%).

    Looking at the big picture, an investment of $623 Million for 110 MW of nameplate capacity works out at a little short of $5/W which is spot on for installations of in this size range according to the IPCC’s “Groundbreaking” report on “Renewable Energy” (page 12 of 25).

    When you look at average power the cost is over $25/W assuming a capacity factor of 0.18. Then one needs to add something for storage if solar is replacing fossil fuels.

  54. “Wow, what an image. That massive solar array provides a maximum of (75/3,705)*100 = 2 % of the total output?”

    this 2% number doesn t really have the value that you think it has!

    look at the wiki article about the plant:

    “The Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center is a hybrid 75-megawatt (MW) parabolic trough solar energy plant, built by Florida Power & Light Company (FPL). The solar plant is a component of the 3,705 MW Martin County Power Plant, which is currently the single largest fossil fuel burning power plant in the United States.[1] It is located in western Martin County, Florida, just north of Indiantown.”

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

    so this small hybrid plant does provide 2% of the biggest fossil fuels plant in the USA?

    i would say that is rather good!

    and i am also confused by the demand that it needs storage. this plant can provide baseload, together with the gas. (which could change to bio fuels in the future) you want it all at once?

  55. Reality bats last.

    Here in the United States, we have approximately 9 fully decommissioned nuclear energy plant sites. Nearly all of the land associated with those sites has been returned to general use; the only remaining reason that the sites have not been 100% released is that they host a small dry cask storage facility holding used fuel. The President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on the future of nuclear energy has put those sites at the head of the line for removal of the dry casks to new interim storage sites that will be built by the federal government using a portion of the Nuclear Waste Fund that has been growing from fees collected from nuclear energy customers since 1982.

    The fee is an easily acceptable 0.1 cent per kilowatt hour, but since nuclear energy plants are reliably productive, it provides about $800 million per year into the fund. The fund’s total, with interest and less all of the silly amounts wasted on a dead end project has a balance of roughly $20 billion. (If that turns out to be not enough, there is plenty of room to raise the fee.)

    The site decommissionings were all funded by money collected and put into escrow – monitored by periodic reviews by our Nuclear Regulatory Commission – during the period when the plants were operating.

    Many current nuclear plant sites host both shut down reactors and operating reactors. The owners have put the shut down reactors into SAFSTOR to allow the isotopes to decay and lower the eventual cost of decommissioning.

    There are currently about 12-16 new reactors planned to be built on the same site as currently operating nuclear energy plants. Plant Vogtle in Georgia has two new units under construction; so does the VC Summer Plant in South Carolina.

    So, some sites get decommissioned, some get reused. The funds come from the income generated during operation.

    There is great value in having a reliable power generator that can generate revenue for an average of about 8,000 hours per year over a 40-80 lifetime. That is especially true when the “all in” cost of an emission free fuel source is roughly 0.6 cents per kilowatt hour.

    The average total production cost for the 104 plants currently running in the United States is approximately 2 cents per kilowatt hour; about 65% of that number is in the form of good salaries for workforces ranging in size from about 400-1000 people per plant, plus traveling work forces that perform outage work that come close to doubling the average per plant employment.

    When you fight against nuclear energy, you not only enable fossil fuel energy suppliers to prosper, but you also fight against low cost power for everyone plus you fight against good jobs for some well trained and productive people.

    Disclosure – I do not work at a nuclear plant, but I am working on a project to design and build somewhat smaller nuclear energy facilities in factories so they can be reliably constructed in less time, with less uncertainty and at a competitive price.

  56. @ Environmentalist

    Your concern about decomissioning funds being in escrow have been answered. You said:

    “The biggest problem with nuclear is that its the taxpayer that takes care of waste, decommissioning, and disaster cleanup, if the money for decommissioning is in escrow I will cross that off.”

    Since the taxpayer does not take care of waste, there has been no taxpayer involvement in disaster cleanup from western nuc designs until Fukushima (and it’s unclear how much/if Fukushima will cost the taxpayer), and decomissioning funds are safely in escrow, it would seem that the “biggest problem with nuclear” (your words) has been adequately addressed.

    Can we look forward to a more friendly attitude toward nuclear from you now on, I wonder? Given that your “biggest” fear has been laid to rest, that would seem to be warranted would it not?

    On the other hand, we can at least expect you to live up to your promise and “cross off” your “inadequate decomissioning funding” complaint, and look forward to your help in correcting the next mistaken poster who lodges a similar mistaken concern… right? (uncivil/snide remark deleted)

    As a representative voice of the anti-nuclear contingent, I look forward with great interest to a wonderful demonstration of intellectual honesty and consistency on your part… as does all the members of the general public who choose to visit here.

  57. @ sod

    this 2% number doesn t really have the value that you think it has!

    No. On average it produces only 0.5 % of the total plant output. At US$623 million…

    so this small hybrid plant does provide 2% of the biggest fossil fuels plant in the USA?

    i would say that is rather good!

    I’d say it is 100 % pathetic. Firstly, it is NOT small – just look at it next to the > 7,000 hectare lake. How much mining do you think is required for all that material, sod? Do you think expanding this by, say, 100 times, is a trivial land-use matter?

  58. Thank you, Peter Morcombe, and my respects to Florida Power and Light.

    So approximately 7 GW of heat leave the plant in a pipeline that runs 40 km to an evaporation lake. If the pipeline itself can tolerate so much hot water without corroding, I wonder whether a smaller plant could dispense with the evaporative stage? In areas of the world where water is in short supply and area is aplenty, perhaps a network of hot pipes, above ground, would provide the thermal sink through passive convection and radiation.

  59. Decommissioning costs around 0.02 cents per kWh for each kWh that the nuclear plant produces.

    http://www.europeanenergyforum.eu/archives/european-energy-forum/compind/competitiveness-of-energy-sources-for-electricity-production

    The USA has a 0.1 cent per kWh tax on nuclear power which goes into a fund with many billions of dollars in it already. The purpose is waste storage but this is too much money for the purpose, it is even way too much for decommissioning and dry storage combined forever, and yes it really is in bank accounts and such, it is ‘really there’ and paid for. 0.1 cent is too much for paying dry storage forever (the interest alone is enough to pay dry storage for eternity).

    Why people worry about a bunch of concrete blocks sitting somewhere is beyond me. I mean I used to worry about it too, but then I visited a facility that stores the spent fuel. Its a bunch of concrete casks. The end. No one is hurt by this. It is cheap and effective. Takes up little land. Just storing it for 100 years makes it almost 1000x less radioactive than the moment the reactor shut down. After that period the toxicity is so low, and there are so many industrial wastes that are much more toxic (check out link above) and remain so forever, it would be crazy to talk about a waste ‘problem’ for nuclear and not discuss the phosgene problem for solar or the rare earth mining pollution for wind.

    If anything the spent fuel is a treasure chest full of useful medical radioisotopes, plus many noble and 90% are already stable after just a few decades. The ones that are not are either not a big threat to health or extremely valuable fissile isotopes for starting up advanced reactors.

    What many people don’t appreciate is that factor of a million improvement in energy density compared to fossil fuels. The consequence that many don’t seem to get, but is quite logical, is that the fission products and transuranium waste are also a million times smaller. In fact 97-98 percent of the so called waste problem is just slightly radioactive natural uranium and zirconium.

    By the way, back on topic, does anyone realise that the Martin solar plant is a good example of a terrible fossil fuel lock in? Notice that this plant provides marginal energy (not even one percent of fossil output) while forcing the use of an older, inefficient fossil station that would otherwise have been demolished to build a newer more efficient one. In stead it has an expensive low grade steam intermittent unproductive solar energy system parasiting on it, forcing us to continue using this crappy old station for another 30 years.

    A fine greenwash this is.

  60. Roger Clifton: air-cooled power stations are quite feasible, we have several here in Queensland. They cost more (radiators huge fans) and chew up a couple of MWe, but save phenomenal amounts of water. Re the lake: the logical thing to do would be to build a dike 90% of the length, so the water dumped into the left has to flow to the other end before coming back to the inlet. No long pipes required.
    GallopingCamel: thanks for the interesting & informative post. Your comments, though, hilight how much there is to be gained from energy efficiency. You pay $200/month @ 10c/kWh. We pay $100/month @ 20c/kWh for family of 3 in Brisbane, which has a similar climate to Miami (yes we have AC). Hot water used to be a third of our electricity usage, until we went solar for that. IMHO a combination of nuclear & energy efficiency measures will get rid of coal at lowest cost.

  61. @ All solar groupies. Even if we were able and willing to cover millions of acres/hectares of desert with solar power plants, our native population would not allow us to do it. At the very best you would get entangled in an unholy and lenghty legal/political dogfight. Of course , no investor in his right mind would touch it , it is called sovereign risk, to be avoided at all costs , apart from it being financial poison. That is also the reason why Desertec is a giant white elephant that won’t get offf the ground, anyone for investing in the Middle East ? It ain’t gonna happen. BTW I have owned for 20 years, and still operate a solar HW system , just a simple thermosyphon system, and it works very well here in sunny Australia. So I am not anti solar at all , just realistic.

  62. Peter Morcombe,
    I found your presentation interesting, but some of your assumptions seem to be flawed.
    As wind and hydro are not suited to Florida, the only remaining option would be solar power.

    Since Florida is presently importing considerable energy via a 1000mile NG pipeline another option would be to import wind and solar power as electricity from regions that are much more suitable for their generation.

    I think what you are trying to show from this article is:
    clearly solar fails the “scalability” test.

    What you have demonstrated is this type of CST built in Florida with assumptions projected to 2100 and no improvements in technology would have serious issues of scale.
    For solar energy to provide all of the worlds power there are many issues, but NOT the ability to scale because of a shortage land area suitable for solar energy production. Probably only 10% of the earths land area would be suitable for large scale solar, but this is ten times the area actually needed.That doesnt rule out solar (especially rooftop PV) having some role in Florida.

    If FL&P had put up a few 3MW wind turbines out the back of the solar mirror field, you could have also demonstrated that “wind power clearly fails the scalability test”.

  63. Neil, you have to stop being vague about this. Importing solar from where? The US southwest is thousands of miles away from Florida. Other areas around Florida do not have good wind and solar resources. Importing isn’t an option.

    Solar having “some role to play” is being unreasonable. A small fraction of expensive solar in a predominantly fossil grid won’t solve out fossil related problems. It will enforce fossil’s role in our energy system, while we need a plan to get rid of it close to 100% as possible.

    Every dollar we spend on solar is a dollar not spent in nuclear power, and thus a dollar into marginal solutions rather than a dollar in a real solution.

  64. @unclepete,
    The best region for CST in Australia is in NW of WA, Australia’s “empty quarter”. The only region of Australia with no native title claims(about 10% of Australia’s land area).

  65. @Cyril R,
    The US southwest is thousands of miles away from Florida.
    Distance hasn’t stopped Florida importing NG, or the NE of US importing hydro electricity from the Canadian arctic(James Bay, Quebec) or Chicago importing electricity from Hudson’s Bay(Manitoba).
    I think Florida is connected to the eastern grid, so its already sharing some power generated thousands of miles away, even if this has larger losses than HVDC.

  66. Bern,
    Guilty as charged! My electrical consumption is twice the Florida average and that bothers me, especially as my water heater uses natural gas.

    In my defense I could cite my electric car but that does not ring true as it gets little use. Probably I need an energy audit!

  67. My thanks to all those that rose to the challenge of debunking Environmentalist’s claim that the land around nuclear plants could never be reused. Within a few minutes of asking him/her for the reasons for making that claim, I was able to confirm that at least one former nuclear site in the US had been fully released for unrestricted use.

  68. Neil Howes, yes and solar won’t stop Florida from using natural gas – indeed we have this post as proof that it will enforce this fossil fuel dependence.

    A nasty natural gas lock-in is what Florida is headed towards, as is any other country or region innumerate enough to support massive subsidies for solar but not build nuclear. The Germans and Californians are particularly innumerate. Massive education failure.

  69. Neil Howes,
    Don’t get the idea that I am against RE (Renewable Energy). There are plenty of situations where it makes sense, especially when one is collecting heat for local use.

    What I oppose is governments manipulating the marketplace to expand RE electrical generation in situations that make no economic sense. Echoing Cyril R, a dollar spent on solar is a dollar not spent on nuclear, a true solution.

  70. Neil Howes, on 16 May 2011 at 9:27 PM said:

    Distance hasn’t stopped Florida importing NG, or the NE of US importing hydro electricity from the Canadian arctic(James Bay, Quebec) or Chicago importing electricity from Hudson’s Bay(Manitoba).

    The regional grids aren’t ‘unrestricted’ resources.

    Here’s a list of interties the Bonneville Power Administration manages(most of the Western US)

    http://transmission.bpa.gov/Business/operations/intertie/default.aspx

    The Pacific DC intertie is capable of 3.1 GW/hr and the Pacific AC interties can carry 4.8 GW/hr

    Here is a rather long study analyzing the costs of enhancing the Pacific High Voltage grid between 1500 and 3200 MW at a cost of between $900 million and $6.4 billion including transmission losses between 14% and 29%.

    http://thetyee.ca/News/2011/02/08/CNC%20Report%202006.pdf

    The bargain 1500 MW option has 578 miles of overhead line with a 14% peak transmission loss for ‘just’ $900 million.

  71. Frank Jablonski, thank you for your comments. You are absolutely correct with your May 15 posting.

    Tom Keen, good observation about expanding 50 times, however to provide the same energy, expand by another factor of four to 200 times the land area – assuming the gas plant is base loaded – It might not be base loaded – but just the same, the gas plant has an ability to be base loaded.

    Galloping Camel, I once heard an oil company executive state that if you calculated the amount of gasoline used in New Jersey, the equivalent energy in solar panels would require covering most of the state. Solar real estate is a big problem. I guess that is why solar advocates keep pushing for rooftops since its already available.

    However here in Austin there are so many trees shading homes, it would be foolish to cut the trees just to add solar panels. We have large amounts of land in West Texas we are eyeing for centralized future solar. Unfortunately we do not know how to pay for that solar, is the main reason it is not developing.

    Ms Perps, solar panels are designed to survive hailstorms. The test is a one inch steel ball dropped from

  72. I think this is a good discussion. Just in terms of “creds”, I don’t work in the nuclear industry. I did work at a natural gas fired thermal unit for PG&E for 24 years. I was a union shop steward for 23 of those years. We also had 3 gas turbines running on jet fuel as peaker power. I’ve also worked at NG fired CCGTs as part of a start up crew.

    I might also add that I had many chances to work at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant by a simple tansfer to that plant’s operating dept after passing various qualification and psych tests. I chose not to because this plant’s safety culture was too vigorous for me; it’s regulatory safety regime too intense that I simply didn’t want to deal with it.

    Now that got that out of the way…yes, ALL of the gas used o generate that coal and natural gas imported from far away…the southern Appalachians and Wyoming for the coal, the state of Texas for the gas. It’s reason why we Florida needs to go nuclear.

    Solar *guarantees* the continued use of both coal and gas since there simply is no plan to produce and *store* expensive solar in that state. This is why the gas companies *love* solar… they see it not only as “not a threat” but something that assures continued revenue flow for their dangerous product.

    [personal aside...I live exactly 1.1 miles from that San Bruno gas explosion...I could see the light from the flames from my living room window, which faces south. That ONE explosion killed more people than all the commercial nuclear power in the US has done for 50 years! And yes, I'd rather live near a nuke that, say, in San Bruno. Personal aside end]

    So pro-solar/renewable advocates suggest suggest wheeling it in from, say, Arizona. I would argue that the same issues of infrastructure and regional energy security apply: building transmission lines, even in HVDC or the Chinese version of UHVDC, no only makes Florida as vulnerable to problems of energy security but actually increases it as we are talking about *one* line to import all this solar generated electricity. S C A R Y. I wouldn’t want my state giving away locally produced energy this way.

    With the low CF of solar, having to multiply the costs of a KWhr by that CF, it’s clear as this post shows that it will remain a boutique power source for decades.

    David

  73. “Since the taxpayer does not take care of waste, there has been no taxpayer involvement in disaster cleanup from western nuc designs until Fukushima (and it’s unclear how much/if Fukushima will cost the taxpayer), and decomissioning funds are safely in escrow, it would seem that the “biggest problem with nuclear” (your words) has been adequately addressed. ”

    Its still one of the three, and it has been adequately addressed yes, even though I prefer prepayment I am not a purist. The other two still remain, pretty big too.

    “My thanks to all those that rose to the challenge of debunking Environmentalist’s claim that the land around nuclear plants could never be reused. Within a few minutes of asking him/her for the reasons for making that claim, I was able to confirm that at least one former nuclear site in the US had been fully released for unrestricted use.”

    Hold on there cowboy, just because there is future-proofing of sorts does not answer for past damage.

    @Galloping camel governments spending on solar or nuclear still means that neither is currently the cheapest way to generate energy, the government sees negative externalities in greenhouse gases, and seeks to correct the market, nuclear does have its own negative externalities.

  74. “Us you point out, regional grids have their limitations as is being demonstrated in the Pacific NW this very day: Grid limitations are forcing the shut down of wind turbines there:”

    There are two pumped hydro projects in the region to fix this, average cost $50 kWh of storage which is not bad considering it could last for over a hundred years.

    http://www.sustainablebusinessoregon.com/articles/2011/04/gridflex-plans-grid-scale-power.html

    Here is a First solar fact sheet regarding manufacturing costs,

    2006 $1.40/watt
    2007 $1.23/watt
    2008 $1.08/watt
    2009 $0.87/watt
    2010 $0.77/watt
    Q1 2011 $0.75/watt

    http://www.firstsolar.com/Downloads/pdf/FastFacts_PHX_NA.pdf

    They are building the Topaz Farm in Carrizo 550 MW peak with a .22 capacity factor, contracted on 2008, they made the final regulatory approvals just a few days ago.

  75. Here’s what Penn state says Florida faces if sea level rises 5 meters (dark blue), or 10 meters (light blue)

    If the image doesn’t show, visit Penn State’s site here https://www.e-education.psu.edu/earth540/content/c5_p2.html

    They’ll have to site all that solar on a decreasing amount of state land….
    MODERATOR
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  76. Ms Perps there are different tests for tolerance of solar panels to hail damage. Some have a one inch diameter steel ball dropped from some height. One test uses one meter and another uses about 5 meters. So there does not seem to be a universal stantard test for hail. See these references

    http://www.google.com/#sclient=psy&hl=en&site=&source=hp&q=solar+panels+hail+rating+1+inch+steel+ball&aq=f&aqi=&aql=f&oq=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.&fp=9de76c24b15c82b4&biw=1307&bih=834

  77. > gallopingcamel … grid limitations

    The grid limitation — too much electricity during the melt of a very large winter snowpack — calls for constraining fossil fuel and nuclear power plants first, then wind farms.

    “… as a huge mountain snowpack melts… Before shutting down wind farms, BPA would reduce coal, natural gas and nuclear power plant production as low as possible ….”

    http://tdn.com/news/local/article_d244c8ac-663f-11e0-bac6-001cc4c03286.html

    Not enough storage — that’s the problem here. They knew the big snowpack melt would come months ago when that was written, but there aren’t any industries that can plan to soak up all that extra power, even if it were offered “on sale.”

    We need phase change material; better battery chemistry; stronger flywheels; technology that can make use of this excess electricity.

  78. > the > 7,000 hectare lake. How much mining
    > do you think is required for all that material,

    Wait, are you saying they _dug_ that lake and hauled away that much dirt, to build it, rather than build cooling towers for this plant?

  79. Regarding the resistance of solar panels to hail – I recall a severe hailstorm in Sydney some years ago (10+?), where large hailstones were shattering concrete roof tiles, but bouncing off the solar panels.

  80. Bern and others
    Thank you for answering my query re hailstones and solar panels. I recall that during a particularly nasty hailstorm in Melbourne a year or so ago it was reported that some solar panels had been destroyed. Admittedly it was claimed that some of the hailstones were bigger than golf balls, but is that what we might expect to see in the future with storms increasing in severity due to climate change?
    Maybe the manufacturers need to start testing with golf balls;-)

  81. For those advocating using roof top solar instead of large plant solar, there are some physical limitations to building surface area.

    In a 2002 IEA report titled “Potential for Building Integrated Photovoltaics”, the potential energy that could be generated using all the surfaces of all the buildings (both roofs and facades) in several countries was calculated and compared with total electricity consumption.

    The best result was the US with 57.8% of total electricity consumption. The lowest was Japan with 14.5%. Australia was 46.1%, and the UK was 30.7%

    The assumption was a very good solar yield of 80% of the maximum local annual solar input. In other words no significant tree or building shadow so the actual deliverable result would probably be somewhat less than shown.

    This is an old report and solar PV efficiencies have improved somewhat over the last decade but it seems extremely unlikely that roof top solar will come close to satisfying demand irrespective of the network issues raised already.

  82. Street light solar panels seem to be all the rage. I wonder if the municipal authority gets rebates or RECs. The new 40 kph school crossing signs have a solar panel though I presume the grid cuts in if any battery runs flat.

    It helps the punters feel good driving past in their 100 kw hydrocarbon powered cars to see all those LEDs using maybe 0.2 kw at night max judging by the size of the panels. If they were on bicycles they might not top 40 kph anyway.

  83. John: street lighting is a large expense for most councils, so the solar-powered streetlights using more efficient (possibly LED) luminaires aren’t necessarily a bad idea. In theory, the reliability & lifetime are much higher for the LED versions, too, more than offsetting the increased cost. I’m wondering how that’s panning out with the traffic lights? I certainly see enough that are partially blown (but they *are* much more visible than the old-style incandescant glob ones, particularly with strong sunlight shining on them)

    Your scenario of the punters driving past in their 100kW vehicles is quite apt, though – especially as many feel they need to be doing 60 within metres of the end of the 40 zone, and burn a couple of litres of fuel getting there in as short a time as possible! An electric vehicle with regenerative braking would make such speed zone changes much more efficient, of course!

    Horses for courses, as they say. Plenty of opportunities for new tech to play a part in the overall effort to wean civilisation off fossil fuels.

  84. Covering 16% of Florida’s land area in PV panels to cover its electric demand is not that interesting. Covering 86% of its land area to supply the electric demand of New England, now you’re talking interesting.

  85. @Verity Jones,
    Ed Caryl looks at the similarly unfeasible solar concentrator technology and it’s lack of scalability in New Mexico..
    The calculations show that 3 states in US using 10% of land area could supply all US energy consumption using CST..
    Now imagine if 3 farming states using just 10% of land area for agriculture could supply all US food consumption. Would we say that this type of agriculture was “scalable”.
    @Martin Nicholson
    By my calculation using average population density of 40 persons/km sq, buildings occupy <0.5% of land area; so <0.5% of land area could provide 15-57% of world energy needs!. So roof top PV cannot supply 100%, we still have the other 99.5% of land area to supply the rest.
    Solar has lots of issues(cost, locations, variability) but its silly to claim one is lack of scalability. Its as silly as saying wind cannot scale because it needs 100 tonnes steel per MW capacity.

  86. 10% is a lot of energy sprawl, with non-trivial ecosystem(habitat) impact and serious litigation issues. 1% might be acceptable with broad public support but if its really 10% then that’s pretty serious deal-breaker.

  87. Also don’t forget that scalability and intermittency are intrinsically connected; energy sources that are not there 80-90% of the time and are non-dispatchable can’t scale to majority of supply.

  88. @Gallopingcamel
    Echoing Cyril R, a dollar spent on solar is a dollar not spent on nuclear, a true solution.
    In a free market economy this is as true as saying ” a dollar spend on ice cream is a dollar not spent on nuclear”.
    In command economies such as China then this could very well be true, so I wonder why China doesn’t stop spending on hydro, wind and solar and spend X3 as much as present on building additional nuclear( hint: capacity constrains are higher for nuclear).

  89. Cyril R: I see you and a number of other commenters here asserting that solar energy sources are non-dispatchable. I thought that CST, in particular, had some viable storage options (e.g. molten salt thermal storage) that lead to the capability of being *more* dispatchable than most other thermal energy sources. Is there an analysis anywhere on the economics / performance characteristics of CST with molten salt storage? I understand Andasol was the first CST that used it (with ~7hrs storage), but I haven’t seen any data on performance or output of such a system.

  90. @Bern, if you to to the tap on this site that is titled “Renewable Limits” you will find the set of “TCASE” reports, a lot of them, that reviews every combination of renewables, including, I believe, the expensive (and dangerous) molten salt storage systems.

  91. The TCASE are excellent, all recommended reading.

    Molten salt storage however is not dangerous. The nitrates are oxidising, but do not burn themselves. They also completely don’t react with steam which is great for a high temp steam generator.

    Molten nitrate salt, in particular NaNO3-KNO3 equimolar eutectic, is a great heat transfer fluid. I’ve been analysing it as a third loop to add to a molten salt reactor, possibly in a silica thermocline for even better cheap-ness. Much better integration with steam turbines (if Brayton cycles don’t pan out/take too long to develop). The stuff only costs 50 cents per kg so you can use a lot of it and add an extra turbine to use the stored heat for peak electricity delivery. Needless to say this would be a much more productive and reliable application than a solar plant that has to deal with the vagaries of the weather.

  92. @Cyril R. I have worked with these molten salts in heat treating applications, particularly for aluminum alloys. I wouldn’t typify them as not dangerous. Mind you these where open pot setups, not closed loops, nevertheless at 700C it deserves respect.

  93. I couldn’t think of anything that is safe at 700 C. Hot fluids are all dangerous, though the nitrate eutectics can’t be used at 700 C – they decompose at such high temperatures, at standard pressure. This could be scary in overheating scenarios.

    Closed loops can be much safer with these salts though, as its easier to get a nitrogen gas blanket on them constantly, so that decomposing is suppressed.

    Its important to note that heat transfer nitrate salts aren’t a chemical application such as metal surface treatments.

    I find the mineral oil thermal heat transfer fluids to be much more scary – they’re combustible and often operate at much higher pressure. Similarly steam pipes at very high pressure are kind of scary. If one breaks, your skin explodes off your body. Not a nice way to go.

  94. The real challenge will be generation infrastructure replacement – the Latrobe Valley plants were purchased from the SECV up for very cheap prices (thanks to Premier Kennet’s mates rates) and is now going to be run into the ground.

    I think a lot depends on stability in the political environment. If the on again off again debate about a carbon tax persists then I doubt we will see much new investment. Hopefully the carbon tax will either be an accepted reality within two years or it will be a failed political experiment unlikely to be repeated. I’m batting for the latter but I doubt there will be much investment either way until the politics takes on some degree of finality.

  95. p.s. If the proposed carbon tax exempted plants that existed or which started construction before the imposition of the tax then we would not have this uncertainty. And whilst it would guide subsequent investment it would place a big immediate impost on households.

  96. Is this money in escrow? Its fine and dandy that its on contract but with nuclear plants lasting for what seems to be 60 years the utility may not even exist then. The biggest problem with nuclear is that its the taxpayer that takes care of waste, decommissioning, and disaster cleanup, if the money for decommissioning is in escrow I will cross that off.

    I think an escrow of some form makes sense. However given the US governments management of finances I don’t think you would want them managing the escrow account.

    As an alternative to escrow you could mandate that the operator owns a larger buffer zone around the plant. In the event that they become insolvent the real estate value can be used to pay for the clean up. And in the interum the land can be leased out for other purposes. Obviously you need to insulate the land from being used as financial collateral for other purposes and you need the clean up liability to be recognised for the purposes of insolvency law.

  97. Thanks for the link to TCASE7 – an interesting read. I note, though, that it’s based on projections, not actual operational data – would be interesting to see if the actual op data varied significantly from the projections.

    Regarding the capacity factor issue – it seems to me we’re dealing with the usual marketing problems. A ’50MW’ plant that normally runs at a capacity factor is, in reality, a 20MW plant. A 1GW nuclear plant, with a 90% capacity factor, is in effect a 900MW plant (when you look at the effective generation over a long period – but, of course, that doesn’t look as good on the press release).

    So it seems that concentrating solar thermal, with molten salt storage, is definitely *technically* feasible. The real question is whether it’s *economically* feasible. Certainly, the LCOE would have to fall by at least a factor of 3 for it to be at all competitive. That’s a big learning curve.

    Does anyone know how the heliostat/central collector type CST plants compare, in terms of economics?

  98. @DV and Cyril . I was given a tour of a factory in Italy a few years back, and part of the process was heat treatment of metals (off peak off course) . I remember staring into an open pot of molten salts and I still get the shivers thinking back to the experience.!!! (Moderator , I realize this is OT , however molten salts storing enormous amounts of heat is sort of connected to solar) Gimme nuclear anytime !!!!

  99. Unclepete, again the heat transfer salts aren’t operated hot enough for decomposition, and obviously with a chemical surface metal treatment, you have chemical reactions.

    I think molten nitrates are very useful – for various industrial heat transfer applications, and possibly also nuclear heat transport (it grabs tritium and is compatible with steam, two distinct advantages for e.g. molten fluoride salt reactors, as fluoride salts don’t grab tritium and are incompatible with steam).

    Nuclear and molten salts aren’t opposed – some of the most innovative and possibly most efficient nuclear reactors use molten salts.

  100. gallopingcamel, on 16 May 2011 at 9:32 PM said:

    “John Newlands,
    “Windfuels” is an interesting concept; the technology is believable as it is an update of the Fischer-Tropsch process that helped Germany prolong WWII.”

    Fischer-Tropsch is not going to be used. It`s efficiency maxes out at around 60%.
    We do have a patented bio-reactor at TU-Vienna which uses biological processes to store electric energy in form of gas. It can convert CO2+hydrogen to methane. The tech is called “methanogenesi “.

    http://ecosummit.net/articles/alexander-krajete-greenthitan-bio-power-storage-cleantech-startup

    Like I wrote before, the storage potential of the german grid is 514Twh (compared to 0.6Twh of pumped storage).
    This process is brand new and was developed by Alexander Krajete.

    Austria also produces a litte over 1% of its electric-energy from bigas (in 300 cogeneration plants).
    There are 3 new demo plants clarifying biogas with new membrane technology to feed into the gas grid.
    The midterm goal s to produce 3% of NG usage from biogas.

  101. Advantages of the methane economy include multiple sources such as natgas, biogas and synthetic. These can be blended into the existing grid, stored with minor losses at low pressure and can fuel millions of existing ICE vehicles and stationary generators without throwing away much of the original heating value. Fischer Tropsch gas-to-liquid for example discards ~40% of the starting energy according to a Robert Rapier article.

    The big disadvantage is fugitive emissions at high warming potential. One day natgas will be expensive while biogas I think will always be limited. Biogas will have low net energy if it has to be heavily scrubbed and is needed to power biomass harvesting machinery. Synthetic methane (eg Sabatier process) may have to step up to the plate one day using a combination of bio-CO2 and a cheap source of hydrogen. It is not clear whether the Audi e-gas approach has an adequate energy return.

    The ability of methane to extend the life of sunk costs (grid, vehicles, ICE generators) may overcome the relatively poor efficiency. Of course we could always burn less natgas in power stations to save the resource for later.

  102. Bern,
    You asked whether solar is “Economically Feasible”. That is a very good question and the answer depends on who you ask.

    You could ask academics or environmentalists and they will provide some interesting opinions.

    The people best qualified to answer your question own and operate power plants using a wide variety of electricity generating technologies. Florida Power & Light is a company that is better qualified than most in this respect.

    It is my intention to visit as many FP&L plants as I can in order to make comparisons based on their views as opposed (for example) to the views of scientists beholden to the EPA for their funding.

    This “Guest Post” is merely the beginning of a project that should include coal, nuclear and any other relevant technologies. Eventually, I hope to have access to actual operating cost data that will address your question in detail.

  103. Marcus,
    From an energy standpoint the FTC efficiency is quite low but does that matter if the energy would otherwise be wasted?

    Just to take a current example, would it not be better to create Windfuels in Oregon rather than to turn the wind turbines off as the BPA is mandating?

  104. Peter
    That’s exactly the point. Pitching biological fuel reactors as renewable storage makes sense. It is positioned against the (chemical) Sabatier process. With the Sabatier process you lose about 36-40% of the energy. The efficiency of the Viennese bioreactor is around 80%. That should make a difference.

    I am guessing Greenpeace is using Sabatier in its windgas approaches.

    It does not involve plasma, it is a very fast biological, low temp. process (excess heat) with high throughput/m³ (from the linked pages “The highest theoretical conversion includes 69 tons CO2 and 12.5 tons H2
    per hour in only 100 m3.”) qualifying it as 4th generation biofuel.
    Some hints can be found on that pages (p9,20,21)

    http://www.ostina.org/downloads/pdfs/Presentation_StartyourRDBusinessInAustria.pdf

    It`s not only the huge storage potential of the gasgrid that is interesting, also the transport capacity.

    Any ideas on the economical side? You are at least using your own energy and substituting for import, Russian NG.

    unclepete….what are you trying with your microwave ovens?

  105. Yes Marcus you have demonstrated the natural gas lock-in several times already. You might want to stop mentioning it, as it degrades your case for no nuclear, renewable powered Germany and other fantasies of the innumerate.

    Storing electricity as methane, clearly you need to take some thermo courses. (snide remark deleted)

  106. Cyril…

    Whats your problem with biomethane fuels anyways…they are at least co2 neutral unlike nuclear.
    I wonder if you can produce a LCA of the nuclear fuel cycle to counter strom/smith or if you are just reading WNA press releases without the answers to their unsubstantial critique.
    (Unsubstantiated personal opiniom deleted. Please supply evidence to support your contention.)
    Methane is easy to distribute, can be used in transport and cogeneration.
    You where asking to for economic storage answers…
    As you know the innumerate Germans even suggest that it is possible to have a 60%/40% Wind/PV Solution with 7 days of storage…
    There is your storage option that could power Germany for at least 6 month…
    Be thankfull that other people are developing renewables for you.
    If it was so great then Russia and China would not use any other generation than nuclear. Maybe Chinese are innumerate too when they built more fossile capacity than nuclear and invest more money in wind than in nuclear plants…
    Why did they built UHVDC in the first place when it would have been so easy to pop 20 nukes in every corner of the country…

    You may notice that there is a reason why 4th generation biofuels and other renewable innovations like monocrystalline thinfilm, are coming from Austria…
    We have have votet against nuclear in the 70ties.

    We two could maybe just stop communicating.
    MODERATOR
    The remark you objected to was removed, as it would have been anyway when I returned from sleeping. Please note the moderator is a part-time volunteer and the blog is not moderated 24/7. Comments are not held in a queue to await the moderator but are always reviewed at some stage.

  107. Marcus, the EU undertook the investigation of external costs of power, which used lifecycle analysis LCA of a variety of options. The report here has the key comparative results in Table 6 on page 17. The top row of results is the greenhouse gas expressed as kg CO2 equivalent per kWh; here’s my transcription to 3dp:

    Coal, lignite: 1.230
    Coal, hard: 0.798-1.070
    Oil: 0.882
    Oil CC: 0.526
    Natgas: 0.640
    Natgas CC: 0.423
    Cogen: 0.590-0.731
    Solar PV (south Eur): 0.034-0.054
    Wind: 0.011-0.14
    Nuclear: 0.005-0.008
    Hydro: 0.004

    General methods start on p5, nuclear specifics on p10.

    Start from that, rather than Storm-Smith, and you will be on more realistic ground.

    I’d be interested to see a LCA for your supposedly “co2 neutral” biomethane. Incidentally, where was the hydrogen for that bioreactor gas project coming from? In a full system design, I mean of course, not in the research project.

  108. @Joffan, thanks for answering Marcus and for the data – once again.

    @Marcus – you seem excited about an option that could power Germany for 6 months. I don’t think I’d accept that; I like to be reasonably sure that power and heat will be available for 20 years or so. Six months worth of assured reserve doesn’t seem like much to me. It’s a little too much like living hand to mouth. Or do other energy sources provide the primary energy in your scenario?

    And BW’s rant The Case for more resources transformational technology rather than spending money to master hiding waste at Next Big Future is on the money, IMO.

  109. Auto maker Audi seem very confident their synthetic methane system will scale up

    http://www.autoevolution.com/news/gas-powered-audi-a3-tcng-unveiled-gallery-35436.html

    Per Green Car Congress a pilot plant is to be built in Werlte, Germany with construction starting this July. They somehow infer the hydrogen input can be attributed to offshore wind. Hopefully it has EROEI > 4 or so like Brazilian ethanol.

    The big question mark is price. It may only be affordable for VIP chauffeur driven limos or military jets on GTL fuel. The fact remains hydrocarbon fuels pack large energy density. Petrol and diesel have a heating value of about 35 MJ per litre or 40 MJ or 11 kwh per kg. A lead-acid battery stores about 0.2 kwh per kg. If synfuels don’t work out we will see fewer aircraft and long haul trucks in future.

  110. I am with Barry on the renewables versus nuclear, ie. whatever makes (economic and technical) sense. Thus it is simply not a case of either/ or, but , nuclear ,.and biofuels, and conversion and algae , and whatever . As long as it does not add to the CO2 load. Allow market forces to figure out the winner(s). I just wish our politicians would level the playing field and give nuclear at least a chance to compete fairly. I cannot recall who wrote the post, but it would make sense for the electricity consumers to demand cheap and abundant electric power with no Co2 emissions. And then the only answer is nuclear.

  111. Audi’s plan makes renewable electricity 5x more expensive just based on energy losses in their system:

    http://www.energyfromthorium.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=3065

    That’s ignoring all capital investment mind you!

    Using electricity to make natural gas. Uhh, wake up Greenies, reality does this the other way around!

    This exemplifies why no nukes renewables only people are innumerate. They suggest 20% efficient energy storage systems. Even Audi is clearly behaving innumerate when it comes to matters of energy transition; however in their case they actually know its bunk, but use it as excuse to keep making low mileage gasoline combustion vehicles.

  112. Here’s why the German solar plans are crazy fossil fuel lock-in plans:

    http://www.energyfromthorium.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=39&t=2689

    Bottom line, energy that is not there 89% of the time has to be supplemented by loads of fossil fuel.

    German wind is only slightly less terrible, not being there 83% of the time.

    Even solar in florida gets poor capacity factor, even with expensive overbuilt arrays you only get 20-25% capacity factor, ie the energy is not there 75-80% of the time. 99.5 percent natural gas burning in inefficient gas generators, 0.5 percent solar for greenwashing the former.

  113. Marcus asked for a lifecycle assessment for nuclear power that rebutted Storm and Smith. Here’s one excellent summary that does just that:

    http://nuclearinfo.net/Nuclearpower/TheScienceOfNuclearPower

    With an EROEI of 93 for the Forsmark plant and excellent low grade resources available at high EROEI, we can see that the Storm and Smith are good at making up all sorts of assumptions rather than checking them. This results in bizarre claims from Storm and Smith, for example they claim one mine in Namibia uses more energy than all of Namibia combined (!!!).

  114. Marcus, on 20 May 2011 at 7:53 AM said:

    Maybe Chinese are innumerate too when they built more fossile capacity than nuclear and invest more money in wind than in nuclear plants

    The Chinese are quite numerate. They also have timelines to work to. In 2008, Japan Steel Works which makes 80% of the worlds nuclear reactor pressure vessels was capable of 4 per year.

    Japan Steel has since endeavored to triple capacity.

    Source World Nuclear News

    http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/C-Japan_Steel_Works_to_triple_capacity-0312085.html

    In 2008 Global Nuclear Pressure Vessel Manufacturing Capacity was maybe 5. The Chinese have 25 nuclear reactors under construction with an estimated build time of between 4 and 5 years.

    So it would appear they are building as many nuclear reactors as they can get parts for at the current time.

  115. Pingback: Large scale solar energy | Lenz Blog

  116. The Chinese are numerate in the sense that at least they don’t fool themselves about not being able to reduce carbon emissions to low levels for decades. Their economy is growing so fast it just means more fast fossil deployment and concomittant CO2 emissions.

    The Germans are innumerate in the sense that they fool themselves that they can run the entire country on renewable energy. They can’t and they won’t. The German electric grid is very dirty, it is NOT green and they – and we – should stop tapping themselves on the shoulder for the horrible non-transitional (fossil lock in) path they’re on.

    It is only when we take an honest look at the numbers that people will see that solar isn’t going to cut it, not now not in 50 years. Its nuclear or its fossil. Take your pick.

  117. The really unfortunate part of the debate between wind/solar and nuclear is that fossil-fuel is watching, laughing up its sleeve.

    Cyril, the renewable crowd will never take an honest look at the numbers and you know it as well as I do. It’s not about the truth anymore for most of these people, it is about belief.

    Paraphrasing Isaac Asimov: There is a cult of ignorance in the Anglosphere, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through its political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’

  118. DV82XL: that’s a highly apt quote from Asimov there…

    harrywr2: that’s a very good point about manufacturing capacity for nuclear power plants. One thing many people seem to forget about the Chinese, however, is that it’s still a command economy. If they decide that cutting CO2 emissions is what they need to do, they will simply order coal-fired power stations to shut down.
    I rather suspect that they’ll continue to ramp up their nuclear & other non-fossil energy generation capacity, and when the construction of that outstrips the increase in electricity demand, they’ll start retiring coal-fired plants, no matter that they might still have decades of useful life remaining. In other words: they’ll follow the path that results in CO2 emissions decreasing fastest while providing no constraint at all on their economy.

    Contrast that with the hand-wringing going on in Australia over the future of the already 40-year-old brown-coal plants in the Latrobe valley. I rather suspect the private owners wont be happy with any less compensation than 100% of the new-build replacement cost, despite the age of the asset.

    On the other hand, politically nuclear is in the too-hard basket here, so any replacement for a brown-coal plant is almost inevitably going to be fossil-fuel-powered. And, of course, it will have a 40+ year life, with immense political pressure to not adversely affect that economic life, as it’ll almost certainly be privately-owned (or sold off in yet another privatisation push).

  119. Just saw some numbers for the Gemasolar plant in Spain.

    Solar thermal (tower + heliostats)
    19.9MW nameplate capacity
    Molten salt heat transfer & storage fluid
    15 hours storage capacity

    The article stated that the plant has an expected production of 110GHw per year. I make that about 12.5 MW average output, over the year, so a capacity factor of 0.63, which doesn’t seem so bad.

    Of course, the crunch comes in the cost & area covered: 185 hectares of land (that’s an area 1.36km on a side, which seems awfully big for a 20MW nominal plant!)
    A google search reveals an estimated project cost of 171m euros, or about AUD$230m. So that’s an effective $18,400 per kWe of capacity. Yikes!
    I know it’s a FOAK price, but that seems an awfully high starting price. Would those who know more about these things care to comment?

  120. Cyril R., on 15 May 2011 at 8:55 PM — Your O & M for running an NPP is way too low sine the spent fuel & decommissionng have to be included there in the NREL simplified LCOE. I suggest that about US$250/kW-yr (and maybe a bit more) is approprate for the USA.

  121. Pingback: Germany plans to abandon nuclear energy by 2022? | Japan Nuclear Update

  122. things change , I just put 10 kw of solar 150 mph rated wind speed hurricane rated solar panels in the Bahamas on my house roof with 24kwh of battery backup for $ 2.40 per watt total cost . I did the installing and design as a electical eng.
    will pay back in 3 years with the local 40 cent /kwh electrical cost.

  123. Pingback: Week in review 1/7/11 | Climate Etc.

  124. Pingback: Electric Power in Florida | Digging in the Clay

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