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Nuclear Renewables

Solar realities and transmission costs – addendum

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

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Comparison of capital cost of nuclear and solar power

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

Introduction

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

20 GW base load power;

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

25 GW average power.

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

The three technologies compared are:

1. Nuclear power;

2. Solar photo-voltaic with energy storage; and

3. Solar thermal with energy storage

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

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

Nuclear Power

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

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

Total capital cost = $120 billion

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

Solar Photo-Voltaic (PV)

From ‘Solar Power Realities’ :

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

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

Solar Thermal

The system must be able to supply the power to meet demand at all times, even during long periods of overcast conditions. We must design for the worst conditions.

We’ll consider two worst case scenarios:

1. All power stations are under cloud at the same time for 3 days.

2. At all times between 9 am and 3 pm at least one power station, somewhere, has direct sunlight, but all other power stations are under cloud.

Assumptions:

The average capacity factor for all the power stations when under cloud for 3 days is 1.56 % (to be consistent with the PV analysis in “Solar Power Realities”; refer to Figure 7 and the table on page 10).

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

Scenario 1 – all power stations under cloud

Energy storage required: 3 days x 450,000 MWh/d = 1,350,000 MWh

Hours of the day when energy is stored (9 am to 3 pm) = 6 hours

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

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

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

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

Total peak generating capacity required = 1,600 GW

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

Scenario 2 – at least one power station has direct sun at all times between 9 am and 3 pm

One power station provides virtually all the power. The other power stations are under cloud and have a capacity factor of just 1.56%.

Energy storage required for 1 day = 450,000 MWh

Hours of the day when energy is stored (9 am to 3 pm) = 6 hours

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

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

Total power required = 100 GW.

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

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

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

To maximise the probability that at least one power station is in the sun we need many power stations spread over a large geographic area. If we have say 20 power stations spread across south east South Australia, Victoria, NSW and southern Queensland, we would need 3,300 GW – assuming only the power station in the sun is generating.

If we want redundancy for the power station in the sun, we’d need to double the 3,300 GW to 6,600 GW.

Of course the power stations under cloud will also contribute. Let’s say they are generating at 1.56% capacity factor. Without going through the calculations we can see the capacity required will be between the 1,600 GW calculated for Scenario 1 and the 3,300 GW calculated here. However, it is a relatively small reduction (CF 3% / 60% = 5% reduction), so I have ignored it in this simple analysis .

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

Costs of Solar Thermal with storage

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

langsat1

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

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

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

langsat2

Summary of cost estimates for the options considered

langsat4

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

Some notes on cloud cover

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

This link provides satelite views. A loop through the midday images for each day of June, July and August 2009, shows that much of south east South Australia, Victoria, NSW and southern Queensland were cloud covered on June 1, 2, 21 and 25 to 28. July 3 to 6, 10, 11, 14. 16, 22 to 31 also had widespread cloud cover (26th was the worst), as did August 4, 9, 10, 21, 22.. This was not a a rigorous study.

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

Some comments on Future Costs?

How much cheaper can solar power be? NEEDS figure 3.7, p31 suggests that the cost of solar thermal may be halved by 2040.

How much cheaper can nuclear be? Hanford B, the first large reactor ever made, was built in 15 months, ran for 24 years, and its power was expanded by a factor of 9 during its life. If we could do that 65 years ago, for a first of a kind technology, what could we do now by building on experience to date if we wanted to put our mind to it. Is it unreasonable to believe that, 65 years later, we could build nuclear power plants, twenty times the power of the first reactor, in 12 months, for 25% of the cost of current generation nuclear power stations?

Appendix – Cost Calculations for Solar Thermal

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

langsat3

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

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Eraring to Kemps Creek 500kV transmission line. Each of the double circuit 500kV lines from Eraring to Kemps Creek can carry 3250MW.  The 500kV lines are double circuit, 3 phase, quad Orange, i.e.2 circuits times 3 phases times 4 conductors per bundle, i.e. 24 wires per tower.  Orange is ACSR, Aluminium Conductor Steel Reinforced, with 54 strands of 3.25mm dia aluminium surrounding 7 strands of 3.25mm dia steel.  Roughly 1/3 of the cost of a line is in the wires, 1/3 in the steel towers and 1/3 in the easements required to run the line.
Eraring to Kemps Creek 500kV transmission line. Each of the double circuit 500kV lines from Eraring to Kemps Creek can carry 3250MW. The 500kV lines are double circuit, 3 phase, quad Orange, i.e.2 circuits times 3 phases times 4 conductors per bundle, i.e. 24 wires per tower. Orange is ACSR, Aluminium Conductor Steel Reinforced, with 54 strands of 3.25mm dia aluminium surrounding 7 strands of 3.25mm dia steel. Roughly 1/3 of the cost of a line is in the wires, 1/3 in the steel towers and 1/3 in the easements required to run the line.

Capital Cost of Transmission for Renewable Energy

Following is a ‘ball park’ calculation of the cost of a trunk transmission system to support wind and solar farms spread across the continent and generating all our electricity.

The idea of distributed renewable energy generators is that at least one region will be able to meet the total average demand (25 GW) at any time. Applying the principle that ‘the wind is always blowing somewhere’ and ‘the sun will always be shining somewhere in the day time’, there will be times when all the power would be supplied by just one region – let’s call it the ‘Somewhere Region’.

The scenario to be costed is as follows:

Wind power stations are located predominantly along the southern strip of Australia from Perth to Melbourne.

Solar thermal power stations, each with their own on-site energy storage, are distributed throughout our deserts, mostly in the east-west band across the middle of the continent.

All power (25GW) must be able to be provided by any region.

We’ll base the costs on building a trunk transmission system from Perth to Sydney, with five north-south transmission lines linking from the solar thermal regions at around latitude 23 degrees. The Perth to Sydney trunk line is 4,000 km and the five north-south lines average 1000 km each. Add 1,000 km to distribute to Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane. Total line length is 10,000km. All lines must carry 25GW.

Each of the double circuit 500kV lines from Eraring Power Station to Kemps Creek can transmit 3,250MW so let’s say we would need 8 parallel lines for 25GW plus one extra as emergency spare.

The cost of the double circuit 500kV lines is about $2M/km.

For nine lines the cost would be $18M/km.

So the total cost of a transmission system to transmit from the ‘Somewhere Region’ to the demand centres is 10,000km x $18M/km = $180 billion

The trunk transmission lines might represent half the cost of the complete transmission system enhancements needed to support the renewable generators.

Just the cost of the trunk transmission lines alone ($180 billion) is more than the cost of the whole nuclear option ($120 billion).

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

322 replies on “Solar realities and transmission costs – addendum”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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

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David #110,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John (#113),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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

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

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

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David Walters (#115) asked:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil Howes, (118),

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

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

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David Walters (#117),

I agree on all counts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Douglas Wilder:

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

Thanks for your thoughtful response.

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

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Neil (#123),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John (127),

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

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

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

You are a monster.

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

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

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Douglas:

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

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

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

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

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

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Jc

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

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

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

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

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

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re#131 Peter Lang

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

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

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

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re #134 TerjeP.

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

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Douglas Wise, (#135),

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

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

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

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re #134 TerjeP.

Did you see comment #93?

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

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Kurzweil’s work
suggests price performance for solar cells is halving every two years. His estimate is that we are 8 doublings away from it meeting planet’s needs.

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re #135 Peter Lang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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

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

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

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

David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gapminder

This is a lovely package that pulls UN data and charts it. You can run ‘Play’ and it runs through the data as a video and you can see how the statistics change over time. You can select what data you want to display on two axes and what countries you want included. You can pick log or linear for the axes.

Here is an example that shows the more electricity we use the lower is the infant mortality. Conclusion: if we want to save the planet the more electricity we use the better, so the cheaper electricity is the better.

Go to: http://www.gapminder.org/

Click on the “Explore the World” chart

Select ‘Electricity generation per person” on the X axis and ‘Infant Mortality Rate’ on the Y axis. Select log scale for both axes.

Run ‘Play’ and watch the chart change through 1965 to 2006.

Next: change the X axis to ‘Nuclear consumption per person’. Select log scale

This is even better.

Conclusion: the more nuclear power the better for the planet.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Salient:

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

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

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David@156

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

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

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

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

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

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Ah, thanks Fran.

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

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

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

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

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

David

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

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

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

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David Said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fran:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jc@167

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

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

Win-wind …

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

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

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

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Neil Howes #154,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil Howes, #154,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued (tomorrow, …maybe)

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Neil Howes, Correction to my post #173:

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

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

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Neil (#154),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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

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

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David B. Benson (#177),

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil

In post #154 you said:

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

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

Also, in post #35 you said:

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

I disagree with most of this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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David @176

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

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

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

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

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David B. Benson (#183)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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David Benson

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil (#184),

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

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

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

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Neil #184,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil Howes (#184),

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

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

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

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

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

Quite a difference!

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

This should be very clear.

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Neil Howes (#184),

You said:

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

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

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Neil Howes (#184)

Peter#175,179,

It has just occurrd to me you may have missed posts #172, #173, #174. If you did, they may clear up some of the differences.

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Neil Howes, (#184)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil,

Error in my Post #187

“Tantangara can store 58 days of energy.” should read 58h of energy at full generation capacity, not 58 days

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Neil,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil (#194).

You say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil (#194),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alexi (197),

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Toy example of wind power backed by CCGT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And we are about to make similar mistakes again.

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Alexi (#198),

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

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

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

Errrrr…..

David

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