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Renewables

Critique of ‘A path to sustainable energy by 2030’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

202 replies on “Critique of ‘A path to sustainable energy by 2030’”

thanks barry and gene.

this is great.

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

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

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

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

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

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All I can say is “Wow!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thanks Barry. Good article.

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

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

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

1. much shorter aveage transmission line length,

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

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Gene Preston,

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

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The lies are astounding.

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

On this quote:

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

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

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

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

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

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You have a Typo :

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

Should have

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, well done.
Mark.

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

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

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

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

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uvdiv,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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uvdiv,

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

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

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

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Replying to Peter Lang’s questions:

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

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

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

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

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

1. much shorter aveage transmission line length,

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

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

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

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

Just curious.

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

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

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A critique of your critique.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to access powerphase%20150%20spec%20sheet%20update%209-21-09.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jim,

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

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

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

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

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Barton Paul Leveson said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can read the rest of the story here.

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

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

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

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Sorry Gene

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

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

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really good ,informative, well researched article, Barry. By the way, you are aware of http://www.jpands.org/vol9no1/chen.pdf ? The French have now announced that the LNT theory of radiation no longer has any scientific credibility, and the Italians have just announced something similar, but of course us aussies are way behind,as usual.

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Jade,

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

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

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

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

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

Wind and pumped hydro are not a good match.

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

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Ian: The Aussies need not be bashful. Note the excellent article on LNT by Don Higson, posted on the INEA website at under Members’ Views.

Dan

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re # 33976 Peter Lang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jade – Wind power can be backed up successfully by hydro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Douglas Wise,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Regarding reprocessing costs for Gen IV.

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

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

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

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re #34092 Peter Lang

Peter,

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

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

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re #34121 Barry Brook

Barry,

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

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

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

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

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Douglas, #34139:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Douglas Wise,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Douglas Wise,

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

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

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

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

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

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Peter Lang

Thank you for your two replies.

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

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

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

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Barry #34157

Many thanks for your reply. I have to say that it answered all my points brilliantly and filled various knowledge voids that had set me thinking.

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Douglas,

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

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Douglas Wise,

The formula to calculate power is:

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

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Douglas Wise,

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

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Peter #34176

Technical section, p 59. Power density of tidal pools

pp 66-69 of same section to include pumping and pool division.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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#34218 Peter Lang

Peter,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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I doubt South Korea faces any difficulty with storing spent nuclear fuel on the surface. The large square kilometrage for deeply buried storage might be due to heat transfer limitations of rock, but dry casks on the surface, being cooled by air, are very much less limited in this regard. Unlike rock, air moves around and mixes.

OK, unlike rock, it moves around and mixes quickly.

(How fire can be domesticated)

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Furrycatherder,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Response to Barry Brook on our article

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response 2. The paper at

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Response 5. I would suggest looking at the paper

Click to access aj07_jamc.pdf

before speculating.

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

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

Click to access HosteFinalDraft.pdf

for more details.

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

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

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

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

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Thanks Mark, even if I don’t agree with you, I certainly appreciate the time you’ve taken to respond to my critique.

I will answer your objections above in due course — you’ve raised a lot of interesting points for further discussion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mark:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now that is very well said.

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

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

Click to access EnergyEnvRev1008.pdf

The relevant section concerning nuclear power is as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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Peter Lang

Peter,

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

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

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

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

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

Click to access HosteFinalDraft.pdf

for more details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

=======

For the nuclear proliferation.

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

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

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

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

United Kingdom first nuclear weapon 1952, first reactor 1956

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

China first nuclear weapon in 1964, reactor 1991

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

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

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

North Korea 2005 bomb, no commercial reactor

Israel late 1960s, bombs no commercial reactor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

======

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click to access 57-202-x2007000-eng.pdf

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peace

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

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

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