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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”

Thanks Peter, I am digesting that.

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

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Alexi (#207),

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

Energy Supply Association of Australia

ACIL-Tasman,

ABARE,

AEMO (previously NEMMCO)

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

These should get you some threads to follow.

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David Walters (#209),

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

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

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

How would CCGT do at handling that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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David Walters (# ),

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

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

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

OCGT and CCGT are described on page 2.7 as follows:

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

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

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

Further down the page is this statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree in general here.

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

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

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

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

Further down the page is this statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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David,

Fantastic information for me. Thank you very much.

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark, I’m rather curious – and probably others here are too – who said it, in what kind of venue.
As to your question, answer is no, by a margin of a few orders of magnitude.

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

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

David

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alexei post #216.

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

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

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Bunion #197 asked:

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

Good question. Someone is checking.

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

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

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

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

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“solar thermal = can’t be done at any cost!”

Peter, could you clarify what you mean by this? Surely anything can be done if you throw enough money at it?

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

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

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

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

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

Now look at power production.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry about my exaggeration.

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

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

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

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

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

By email, George Stanford said this:

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

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

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Alexei – post 225.

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

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

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

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

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@ Peter Lang, #24:

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

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Alexei – 229

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

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

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

Maybe someone else here will help.

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

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

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Alexi (#221)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to access EnergyClimateChange.pdf

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

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Esteban Siadora (224)

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

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

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Mark (#231) asked:

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

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

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

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Mark (#231),

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

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Now Peter@236

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

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

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

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

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Fran (#238),

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

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

Maybe. Let’s see

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark @231

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

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

Now, as we have seen thats just not true.

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

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

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

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

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Regarding my post #236m

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

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

The sentence quoted shoud be restaed as follows:

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

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

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

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

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Mark (#243),

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil Howes and Alexei,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Neil Howes,

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

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

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

He also checked my cost estimates and says:

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

Lastly, he sums up by saying:

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

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

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

Renewable energy advocates, please take note of this.

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

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

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

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

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Perps, Thank you for those comments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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OMG!

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

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

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

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

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

David

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David@256

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

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

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

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

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

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

David

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Peter@239

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Alexei (254),

Over night I have had the beginnings of an idea as to handle your suggestion. I’ll give it a lot of thought over the next 2 weeks or however long we go away for.

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

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

(Peter L, as of a couple of days ago, Andrew has now captured the balance of the data from the large windfarms. You will remember that one of your blog contributors noticed that there was a discrepancy between the total installed capacity of Andrew’s set and the listed total installed capacity. The St Halletts 1 & 2, Snowtown, Clement’s Gap etc others are seperately categorised on the NEMMCO/ AEMO site. These are now extracted and listed.)

My thanks and congratulations to Andrew Miskelly for achieving this. I wonder why can’s AEMO provide this capability. In fact, why can we mine the data in GapMibnder: http://www.gapminder.org/ then click on ‘explore the world’.

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Peter, you forgot to provide a link to Andrew Miskelly’s wind data in CSV format.

Bryen, the other thing David B’s statement ignores is whether it is practical to harness this energy. I have no doubt there is huge wind and wave potential on top of solar. Indeed, the earth receives vastly more solar energy each year than humans require. That is not the problem — the problem is in economically harvesting, storing and redistributing it as useful electricity, as the recent posts in this blog has repeatedly and patiently tried to point out.

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“A new study by Xi Lu of Harvrd University calculates that wind power in the U.S. could potentially generate 16 times the nation’s current electricity production. The study limits potential wind farm locations to rural, nonforested sites (both of land and offshore) with high wind speeds.” from the October 2009 issue of Scientific American, page 28

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Fran (#259),

Do you beleive there is any question about the sustainability of nuclear fuel over 1000 years.

Do you believe wind, solar or other renewables are more sustainable than nuclear?

If so, do some calculations on powering the world with hese technologies, calculate the quantities of materials required and where they will come from. Calculate the area of land that ould have to be mined and the quantitires of earth moved. Do the same for all parets of the process chain.

The problem is that RE advocates condcern themselves only with the fuel. That is why the comparisons must be on a life cylce analysis basis.

Nuclear is far more sustainable over the long term than solar and wind. Crunch the numbers.

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David Benson (#257),

Energy efficiency is THE core climate solution, Part 1: The biggest low-carbon resource by far

This statement is just as wrong now as it was in 1991 to 1993, the last time we had the opportunity to implement polices to build nuclear, and let it slip away.

This belief was pushed then, accepted by the government and has proved to be wrong. ABARE’s modelling at the time, and many other pragmatic voices, said it was wrong, but the voices like yours won the day. We lost 20 years then, and if this voice wins again we may lose another 20 years again.

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Peter re #264,

Did you forget to post the link to the AEMO wind farm data? I cannot find this at Gapminder. Are you referring to this site? ->

http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au/data/aemo/

David re #265 :

The paper I assume this article refers to is :

Lu, McElroy & Kiviluoma, (2009), Global potential for wind-generated electricity, PNAS, vol 106, no 27, pp10933-10938

There are some very important issues regarding affects on local climate from wind farms mentioned in the conclusion of this paper which your quote omits :

—-

“The potential impact of major wind electricity development on the circulation of the atmosphere has been investigated in a number of recent studies (22, 23). Those studies suggest that high levels of wind development as contemplated here could result in significant changes in atmospheric circulation even in regions remote from locations where the turbines are deployed.”

“In ramping up exploitation of wind resources in the future it will be important to consider the changes in wind resources that might
result from the deployment of a large number of turbines, in addition to changes that might arise as a result of human-induced
climate change, to more reliably predict the economic return expected from a specific deployment of turbines.”

—-

The effect on local climate, particularly for farmers hosting turbines and their neighbouring farms, is a significant issue that must be researched before there is any further widespread deployment of industrial scale wind energy developments. The fact is that industrial scale wind energy still requires a significant amount of research (environmental / ecological / health etc.) to understand the negative impacts of deployment.

For some more links regarding local climate effects see my recent post #187 on Wind and carbon emissions – Peter Lang responds. For some comments from IPCC regarding industrial scale wind energy research requirements see post #154 on the same page. For some important research, in addition to Peter Lang’s, regarding CO2 emissions / geographic diversity effects see my posts #141 & #144 on the same page :

https://bravenewclimate.com/2009/08/13/wind-and-carbon-emissions-peter-lang-responds

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Do you believe there is any question about the sustainability of nuclear fuel over 1000 years

Mackay in his discussion distinguishes between resort to uranium used in LWRs and assuming only RARs for uranium and not including resort to ocean-based uranium. Unsurprisingly, the LWR based on RARs is not sustainable for 1000 years at current usage. Of course we will take what we need so this doesn’t settle the matter. FBRs, IFRs, Thorium and if necessary, seawater recovery will all be followed in preference to going without, so my answer is yea but no. (ack: Little Britain)

And no, I don’t believe such renewables (even in concert with energy-usage avoidance and efficiency) as are currently available offer a ubiquitous and maintainable low environmental footprint solution or on these criteria as feasible as resort to nuclear power. In some settings though, they surely do, though this is very much an exception rather than a rule.

OTOH, in concert with nuclear some renewables (e.g. 2nd gen biofuels) would be more sustainable than they are now.

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Bryen and Barry,

Just testing. Excellent response times by both of you. Sixpence each for catching the error.

This is the link:

The link is: http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au/data/aemo/

Here is a bit more from this morning’s email:

Thanks for the reminder about the RAE study. Not to dismiss it in any way, but it is a bit old now. Nonetheless, it did set the stage. The RAE did not have access to real live operational data as we do, but is excellent backup evidence. Real, live, operational data? Have a look at what Andrew has been up to – you’ll have to query the database with your own set of dates. Warning – ask for about a month of data at any one query. The amount there is enormous. The link is: http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au/data/aemo/

Bryen, AEMO does not provide access to its data in a way that anyone with normal IQ can access. My comment about Gapminder is in the hope that someone might work out how to mine the AEMO data so it can be accessed and displayed in Gapminder.

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Phew!! Only had time to skim the incredibly rich conversation you’ve all been having.Have been in the Flinders Ranges for the last 2 weeks. I’m sure other countries have had similar arguments/discussions in years gone by and they’ve obviously come down on the side of nuclear as their best chance of having a cost competitive and adequate future energy supply. That’s why 33 countries are already producing 16% of the world’s energy total and a further 20 countries are building reactors now.Can’t we in Australia curtail our debate and follow the example of all of these countries and in the not too distant future? We are far enough behind already in securing a clean green base load energy supply. The alternative for that as you all know is to keep burning filthy coal. We need to phase out coal over coming decades and phase in nuclear. Those panicked by the thought of that should not be too worried even if they have coal shares. We can still keep mining the stuff and use it for fertilizers, pharmaceuticals, liquid fuels etc. We just need to stop burning the confounded stuff for power, clean or otherwise. Had nuclear power not been so villified by the likes of Nader, Toynbee and Caldicott over the last 30 years, probably world nuclear power would be at 30%+ and we wouldn’t need the economy -crippling ETS that we currently face. And, what price any meaningful agreement at Copenhagen?? Rudd’s already written that off as indeed he should. Could I ask all of you to write to Rudd, your local member, Opposition parliamentarians etc and TELL them to get their heads out of the sand, and to start using our world’s biggest uranium reserves, world’s best waste disposal site [both in South Australia]for our own and the planet’s good? We need a bit of vision from our leaders here and for them to start worrying about the next generation and not the next election.

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2010 should in theory be a big year for carbon reduction plans but I suspect they won’t materialise

1) the Olympic Dam expansion will need more study and community consultation

2) the postponed ETS will be made voluntary with big emitters encouraged to arrange forest offsets in Papua New Guinea.

Rann and Rudd will be elevated to living deity status by the green utopians.

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Rann and Rudd will be elevated to living deity status by the green utopians.

.

Hardly … if by green utopians you mean the Deep Climate people, Rising Tide etc … no …

I regard Rudd/Wong as very poor on climate change issues even putting aside the exclusion of nuclear power from the discussion. Garrett is probably as useless an Environment Minister as there has ever been.

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Peter Lang (266) — I don’t think energy efficiency is the sole answer by any means. But note that in
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/09/18/AR2009091801143.html
Lester Brown points out some of the reasons the USA is declined 9% in CO2 emissions in the last two years. Clearly energy efficiency is part of the solution.

I now think that wind power is likely to be a bit player, most suited for interruptable power usages, but also just to energize the grid somewhat; around here, about 20% of total supply because we have lots of hydro to back it up. Similarly for solar PV when the price comes down in a decade or so.

I also favor using biomethane in oxy-fuel CCGT with CCS to begin removing some of the excess CO2 for sequestration. Creating the pure oxygen could be powered by wind, with storage tanks, in some locations.

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The idea of connecting PV, ST or Wind directly to the grid is a nonstarter. It just injects too many potential problems; brown outs, black outs, surges etc. The only possibility of reasonable utilization is buffering the low energy renewal output through storage. Use the panels, mirrors or windmills to charge up the batteries, heat salt, or pump air or water directly and then release the energy into the grid. This is the only predictable and consistent way to provide base load power, but I’m sure it will be very expensive.

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Bunion (#277),

I believe you are correct. Intermittent renewables must have on-site energy storage, and sufficient energy storage so the power station (wind, solar, wave power, etc) can provide reliable power, on demand, with the same reliability as fossil fuel, nuclear and hydro-electric generators.

As you say, the cost of such a system would be very high. For example, to meet the NEM’s demand with nuclear (plus 8GW of pumped hydro energy storage) the capital cost would be about $120 billion. To do the same with solar PV and on-site chemical storage would be about $4.6 trillion. To do the same with solar thermal is currently not physically possible and not likely to be for decades.

I’ve just been looking at the Wivenhoe pumped hydro scheme near Brisbane. It pumps for 7 hours to provide 5 hours generation. It pumps from about midnight to about 6 am and meets peak demand during the day and evening. It is on standby for the remainder of the day, about 12 hours, spinning and ready to provide almost instant power whenever needed. The power generated must be sold at at least 4 times the cost of power used for pumping. The relevance of all this is that pumped hydro is a perfect match for coal and nuclear generation, but is not for intermittent renewables- there is no way that the pumps can bu turned on and off to make use of the intermittent power, the power provided by the wind farms is far too expensive, and fatally, there is no way that pumped hydro can store the amount of energy that would be needed to make intermittent renewables reliable.

I’m still on holidays and will work on my undertaking for Alexei and neli Howes when I get back home. That assignment is to show the total capital expenditure, CO2 emissions, CO2 avoidance cost, and other stats, at 5 years intervals from 2005 to 2050, for six scenarios. The six scenarios are:

1. Business as usual (energy demand as per ABARE projections);
Scenarios 2 to 6 are for reducing coal fired generation by 2GW per year from 2012 and the supply discrepancy to be provided by:
2. CCGT
3. CCGT to 2020, nuclear added at 1 GW per year to 2030 then by 2GW per year discrepancy filled by CCGT
4. Wind and gas, where gas is 50% CCGT and 50% OCGT
5. Wind an punped hydro
6. Wind and on-site storage (with NaS batteries)

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Bunion (#279)

The NEEDS report (see link in the article at the top of the thread) reviewed the solar thermal technologies, selected the most prospective (solar trough) and analysed it further. NEEDS projected that 16 hours of energy storage may be feasible by 2020. We need 18 hours energy storage to get through one night in winter, and at least 3 days to enable intermittent generators to supply baseload power through overcast periods in winter.

There are litterally thousands of possible options being investigated. None are even close to being commercially viable. The solar thermal option is more than 20 times the cost of nuclear to provide our power needs. It is not worth the time and effort to investigate it further at this stage. If someone can provide cost figures from competitive bids and/or from commercial, operating solar thermal power stations that can provide baseload power throughout the winter months, including through extended overcast periods, I’ll be pleased to include it in the simple analyses I am doing.

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Hi Peter,
the BZE team are about to release their 200 page Zero Carbon Australia (ZCA) plan in May.

While there will be other interesting facts about transport and building sectors, I guess this blog is mainly about baseload power supply. For their energy mix they’ve chosen to model today’s wind and solar thermal (but are open to other forms as they commercialise).

From their PDF pages 9 and following they discuss a 60% solar thermal (with biogas backup) and 40% wind mix. So again, no one technology does the work alone. They count the 40% wind penetration as ‘baseload’.

Have you modelled biogas backup for the longer 3 day periods? From the above it seems you want the solar thermal technology to do it all on its own, and that isn’t the model the renewables proponents are proposing. They readily admit there will be weather challenges, but rather than build 10 times the power plants they need, they simply switch to a gas backup.

Mate: I’m not very technical, but even I am left wondering if some of your article above is a straw-man debunking strategies none of the renewables guys are proposing?

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I’m not very technical, but even I am left wondering if some of your article above is a straw-man debunking strategies none of the renewables guys are proposing?

I rather see Peter’s articles as an exercise in reductio as absurdum whose purpose is to strip away the fog of details the ‘renewables’ scammers use to camoflage the weaknesses in their schemes.

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I don’t have time for that. I’d rather hear what is actually possible according to the technologies actually proposed by either side, not reductio as absurdum arguments that straw-man the other’s position.

EG: You guys don’t propose digging expensive 5 mile deep tunnels clad in platinum to store the nuclear waste forever, as you NEED that waste as fuel to burn it! But I’m sure I’ve heard Dr Caldicott interview people proposing something as ridiculous to deal with nuclear waste, and I’m left grinding my teeth and shouting at my iPod, “But they’re going to USE the waste you silly Moo!”

Anyway, the BZE summarised PDF is here.
http://tinyurl.com/3xuh78v

The conclusion on page 38 is…

Wrap-up
• 100% renewable stationary energy with 60% Concentrating Solar Thermal with storage, 40% Wind and biomass back-up
• Electrification of transport, gas conversion, and comprehensive energy efficiency programme to phase out fossil fuels and reduce energy consumption
• 11,027kms of new transmission connecting wind and solar sites and strengthening the grid
• Total Cost of renewawable generation system = approximately $300billion

So if Peter is right on nuclear at only $4 billion / GW capacity AND if BZE are right on a 60% solar thermal (with biogas backup) and 40% wind grid, then Nuclear still wins as far as price is concerned.

My “Black Swan” comment for the day? What is politically feasible. $300 billion won’t destroy Australia’s economy. Over 10 years it is only $30 billion a year.

(Political diversion: Dr Mark Drummond’s Phd calculated that we’d save about $50 billion a year in duplication if we abolished state governments and only had one Parliament for Australia, not 8. Interestingly both Bob Hawke and John Howard recently agreed that this would have been a preferable model for Australia).

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I don’t have time for that. I’d rather hear what is actually possible according to the technologies actually proposed by either side, not reductio as absurdum arguments that straw-man the other’s position.

That is painfully obvious to all. You have no time for the grunt-work of dissecting the elements of each new ‘renewables’ scheme put forward by the same bunch of scammers who disappointed you the last time to see if it’s going to hold water, but all the time in the world to trawl the net for such schemes to run to others with and herald whatever it is this time as the coming of the Heavenly Kingdom.

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I rather see Peter’s analyses as a useful ‘limit analysis’ – a good basis from which to work backwards, as an if other technologies are also considered.

I don’t know that our interpretations are that far apart. You’re looking at them from an engineering perspective and I from a polemical perspective.

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Errr, no. I just happen to be fairly busy lately and am limited in how much reading time I get, so listen to podcasts. I also just happened to be listening to the BZE podcast yesterday (while helping the in-laws get ready to move), and the podcast was all about their upcoming plan release in May.

So I knew where the site is, and quickly found their summary PDF and the pertinent pages.

If BNC had a podcast I’d listen to that as well.

(One day I hope you’ll get bored of attacking my motivation and straw-manning my character).

You have no time for the grunt-work of dissecting the elements of each new ‘renewables’ scheme put forward by the same bunch of scammers who disappointed you the last time to see if it’s going to hold water Well, I’m limited technically but after a fair bit of reading back in my earlier peaknik days I developed a checklist of questions I try to ask about alternative energy (to oil mainly). It’s not great, but I was just trying to formulate an easy checklist to help other non-technical peakniks explain why no substitutes for oil could do the job with the liquid fuels infrastructure we currently have.

SERVICE check-list of questions to ask

1. Sustainability
2. Energy Return on Energy Invested
3. Rare materials
4. Volumes
5. Infrastructure — time to implement?
6. Constant supply of energy
7. Expense
8. (Disclaimer and list of energy sites for more information)

http://eclipsenow.wordpress.com/alternative-energy/

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Eclipsenow,

You commented:

From the above it seems you want the solar thermal technology to do it all on its own, and that isn’t the model the renewables proponents are proposing. They readily admit there will be weather challenges, but rather than build 10 times the power plants they need, they simply switch to a gas backup.

Mate: I’m not very technical, but even I am left wondering if some of your article above is a straw-man debunking strategies none of the renewables guys are proposing?

No it is not a strawman. It is a ‘limit analysis’ so you can see through the fog of the renewable advocates argument that when one renewable doesn’t work we turn to another. First we need to know what is the cost of each renewable on its own. Then we need to combine them to find the total cost. This paper looks at the solar renewable as a limit position. The previous papers looked at wind. You need to understand the process and follow through the series of articles.

This article addresses your question about the costs and the emissions of the combined systems that can meet our demand for electricity: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/01/09/emission-cuts-realities/

I think you will find the answers to many of the questions you are asking in the threads listed here: https://bravenewclimate.com/renewable-limits/

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It is a ‘limit analysis’ so you can see through the fog of the renewable advocates argument that when one renewable doesn’t work we turn to another.

I don’t see how debunking something no-one ever proposed helps clarify the situation. When the solar thermal shuts down, they propose that the evening wind (at a certain average cents / hour) will probably take over for a while, heat from the liquid salt backup thermal storage can be quickly despatched as necessary throughout the night, and if we have some freak week across the continent, we’ll dig into our compressed biogas tanks a bit. These are all known technologies.

Critiquing a completely unrealistic, exaggerated strawman of the renewables plans does as much for the credibility of these arguments as Dr Caldicott does for her anti-nuclear cause. I’m amazed at the obfuscation from both sides.

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Eclipsenow, if you don’t understand the concept of defining the boundaries, I can’t help you.

If you want to understand, you do need to put a bit of time into reading the actual articles, rather than just arguing about the comments posted here. You asked for some references a day or so ago. I provided some. You said you’d book marked them to read in the future. Apparrantly you haven’t yet and now you’re onto raising another issue. I get the impression you are more interested in chucking fire crackers than in trying to understand.

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Sorry mate but you’re the one avoiding the issues. Maybe you need to actually review an actual renewables plan, and not debunk nonsense that no-one is proposing.

I have bookmarked the links you referred to, but in amongst a career-change, running our design studio, and helping my in-laws sort through all their ‘stuff’ I don’t have much time for reading… but can fit in listening to podcasts while I attend to some of this stuff.

If you have a podcast or 2 for me to listen to, I could check that out. As I already said in another thread, Stanford University have some interesting talks on nuclear that I’ll be catching up on while packing ‘stuff’. (If ever anyone needed a reminder that Western civilisation consumes too much unnecessary junk, try helping your in- laws prune back for a small retirement village apartment. It’s a real education).

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PS: “Defining the boundaries” is unnecessary as the BZE team are well aware of them. Their team involves dozens of engineers and energy experts who have drawn up their 200 page plan for release in May. They are aware of the boundaries, and have worked around them… and costed them, and say they have a plan for $300 billion.

You say you have a nuclear plan much cheaper, but I’d love to see the plans for storing the really long term waste and what the economics of that is. I’d love to hear the Amory Lovin’s characters have a debate over the actual nuclear costings, and what areas I might have forgotten to check.

(I’m still getting over the fact that there still is long-term waste with Gen4 reactors. I was so sold on the idea, from multiple online articles about Gen4, that there was no long term waste and the misunderstanding that it would all be pretty much safe within 500 years).

If BNC and BZE were to duke it out via a series of podcast debates, then that might be educational for all involved. “The truth will out”.

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I’m still getting over the fact that there still is long-term waste with Gen4 reactors. I was so sold on the idea, from multiple online articles about Gen4, that there was no long term waste and the misunderstanding that it would all be pretty much safe within 500 years

For goodness sake, I wonder why one tries to explain anything to you. You are the most frustrating commenter on this blog, bar none. You’re apparently not listening and not willing to critically evaluate even basic scientific explanations. Some advice — try to think on these matters and to evaluate data in a rational manner. Try the Socratic method and start asking yourself some questions. How ‘hot’ is IFR fuel after 500 years? What does a long half-life mean? If I hold a lump of uranium in my hand, what will happen? And so on. If you can’t do this, then Finrod is most certainly right – you’re playing us for suckers and never had any intention of taking a considered and rational view on nuclear power issues.

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Barry, I do listen (when it’s explained in English) and have changed my blog accordingly.

Now over on the Life time of energy in your hand thread where the waste issue came up, there was quite a few interesting posts, some of which I kind of understood, and some of which were fairly technical and required a general science degree, and maybe even something more specific to nuclear interests, to truly understand.

As a layperson with an arts and welfare background I am very interested in the bottom line for society, and have dumped many of my earlier objections to nuclear power which I now see as rather cliché.

So the fact that I don’t get some of the more technical explanations as to why certain types of waste might be dangerous and others are not is not really my fault, but the responsibility to communicate this clearly lies with the communicator.

Some commenter at BNC occasionally act as high level priests initiated into the arcane arts and snubbing their noses at those who aren’t. But if you wish to communicate to non-technical activists like myself and have the nuclear power debate move forward, then maybe answering those questions in an intelligible manner for the uninitiated might help.

SCIAM recently podcasted on a scientist’s need to communicate with the public properly. (Back half of the ‘staying in love’ episode here). I can see why it’s necessary.
http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode.cfm?id=the-science-of-staying-in-love-and-10-04-07

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I’m still getting over the fact that there still is long-term waste with Gen4 reactors. I was so sold on the idea, from multiple online articles about Gen4, that there was no long term waste and the misunderstanding that it would all be pretty much safe within 500 years.

We’ll find uses for that small portion of uber long-lived FPs. I wonder if it couldn’t be mixed in with paint or structural material to provide a radiation hormesis effect as a public health measure, much as flouride is added to drinking water.

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Woah, I thought it was a joke, but there’s even a wiki.
“Consensus reports by the United States National Research Council and the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) have upheld that insufficient human data on radiation hormesis exists to supplant the Linear no-threshold model (LNT). Therefore, the LNT continues to be the model generally used by regulatory agencies for human radiation exposure.”

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

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eclipsenow, the LNT model is what’s commonly called a null hypothesis. It does’t need any evidence, whereas the hormesis hypothesis must accumulate sufficient evidence to overturn this null. It has a fair amount already, whereas the LNT still has none. But needs to keep building that body of work. Not fair, but the way some folks like to frame statistics (I prefer multi-model inference with no pre-conceived null).

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Then you might want to run your spellchecker Finrod. And check a chemical dictionary for silicone. If Barry’s got an axe to grind about flourides, I’ve got one for silicone.

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Finrod:

My son recently produced a sales catalogue of which he was very proud. On reading it, I became incandescent by his description of fluorescent lights as flourescent. I suppose that I’m going the way of incandescent lights – my age and concern over correct spelling are making me obsolete. My son was indignant at having his mistake pointed out to him and blamed his computerfor having a defective spell checker.

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Then you might want to run your spellchecker Finrod. And check a chemical dictionary for silicone. If Barry’s got an axe to grind about flourides, I’ve got one for silicone.

OK. Sorry about that. I didn’t even pick up the mistake when Barry demonstrated it .

I shall try to do better.

I don’t know where that extra ‘e’ came from. I managed to spell silicon correctly everywhere else.

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I work with a bunch of people who work in silicon, and a bunch of people who work in silicone, and neither group is aware of the correct usage, and it drives me nuts. I’m a bit OC about these things.

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My son was indignant at having his mistake pointed out to him and blamed his computerfor having a defective spell checker.

I lose patience with my spellchecker when it keeps insisting that there’s no such word as ‘GWe.y’.

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I received HD’s for my sociology essays, could see how sociological surveys were weighted one way or the other from the values implicit in the ‘leading questions’ put to the public, but when it came to statistical analysis of the results… left that to the maths gurus. So, as this is not really on the topic, I might just pass on the ‘multi-model inference’ statistical modelling if that’s ok.

(I know it will come as a huge shock to you, but I’m just being honest as to how completely I’m not wired in that direction.)
;-)

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eclipsenow, – When life began on Earth almost 4 billion years ago, background radiation levels were five times higher than those we experience today. Life adjusted well, as it did to all other forms of energy to which it was exposed – heat, light, electromagnetic. This adjustment took two forms. The first suggests that exposure to low doses of radiation actually stimulates repair mechanisms that protect organisms from disease and may actually be essential for life. The second involves the development of the biochemical systems that protect organisms against the noxious effects of ionizing radiation.

One thing life did not apparently do was to evolve an organ that can detect radiation. This lack of a radiation sense points to the fact that living organisms have no need to detect such a low risk phenomenon. Indeed, ionizing radiation only seems exotic and mysterious to some people because it was not discovered until relatively recently, unlike light and heat say.

It is nevertheless nothing more than another form of energy. The perceived distinction has serious negative consequences but has no scientific basis. However, for statistical reasons the LNT cannot be falsified and so the precautionary principle has been adopted at an unacceptable societal cost .

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Barry, I’d argue that the LNT is not the null hypothesis. The null hypothesis is that low-level radiation is harmless. All studies that I am aware of are reasonably consistent with this. The exceptions favour hormesis which asserts that low-level radiation provides some health benefits. This has been demonstrated in some projects like the nuclear shipyard study. LNT for low-level radiation has never been demonstrated as far as I know.

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Joffan – The definitive proof of the LNT model is to disprove that a risk-free threshold exists and to disprove a quadratic risk/exposure function. This is the LNT null hypothesis.

Threshold is a concept borrowed from toxicology, in which a human being can accept a certain amount of a potentially toxic substance up to a certain dose without harm, and then after a “threshold” dose, harm occurs. “Linear” simply means that for a given increment of additional dose, a fixed amount of additional increased risk occurs.

A broad look at the available data demonstrates that there appears to be certain levels of radiation exposure that confer no harm to human beings, but then at some point the risk of cancer rises precipitously. In other words, there appears to be a finite threshold, and beyond that threshold there appears to be an increased risk for cancer according to a nonlinear quadratic function. Therefore, the Null hypothesis to the LNT model remains yet to be disproved.

Note that this is essentially a Catch-22 situation, because the hypothesis is poorly formed, since there is no stated lower bounds at all.

It is, however not necessary to prove or disprove the LNT null hypothesis if the hormesis null hypothesis can be disproved, and that IS possible.

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Hmm. Let me phrase it like this:

I have three hypotheses for exposure to radiation levels that are consistent in magnitude with natural background levels:

1: Increasing benefit
2: No effect
3: Increasing harm

Which of these should I select as my null hypothesis? It seems obvious to me that hypothesis #2 is the correct choice. The data is consistent with this, so this should be the basis for any further action.

If I use the same three hypotheses for radiation in the range of 100-1000 times natural background, I would still select #2 as my null hypothesis, but now the data would disprove it and support hypothesis #3, so that becomes the basis for future action.

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Joffan – There is logic, and then there is politics – science is not exempt.

The ‘official’ null hypothesis for LNT is the one I stated in the first paragraph of my previous comment. It’s official, because it is the only one that can be set looking at the LNT in isolation. This is where the politics comes in.

Any rational examination of the problem would reject the whole damned hypothesis as ill-formed, and strike another one similar to the one you stated. However the radiation health sector, for any number of reasons, (none of them logical or scientific) cannot do this.

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