Challicum Hills wind farm and the wettest September on record

I’m back on my BNC blog tonight, albeit briefly. You see, I’ve been on annual leave since Wednesday, and have spent the last few days on a motoring tour (with my parents and my two boys, Billy and Eddy, aged 11 and 8) around western Victoria — Castlemaine, Ararat, Lake Fyans, the spectacular Grampians National Park. Today I was touring around Hamilton and surrounds (Merino, Tahara, Branxholme), where I lived 25 years ago, for a few years. Not much has changed! It’s still the beautiful, rolling green country of Australia Felix that I remember from my boyhood.

We were in Ararat on Friday 1 Oct and took the opportunity to visit the 53 MWe (peak) Challicum Hills wind farm. Here is a picture of me out the front of it.

 

BNC Blog author Barry Brook at the edge of the 53 MWe (peak) Challicum Hills wind farm in western Victoria, 1 October 2010

 

The turbines were spinning gently (well, most of them), but the breeze was very light and that was reflected in the low capacity factor on that day, as reported on Andrew Miskelly’s “Wind Farm Performance” website (which graphically depicts performance of wind farms connected to the electricity grid in south-eastern Australia over a 24-hour period, showing output as a percentage of installed capacity and actual output in megawatts):

 

I was there at about 10:30 am, during one of those little humps in output. The wind farm, snaking along a ridge line, consists of 35 NEG NM 64 wind turbines, each with a 64 m rotor diameter, 68 m hub height, and a peak output of 1.5 MWe. The CHWF was completed in 2003 at a cost of $76 million. It fun to see WF sites up close that have only previously been names on an analysis data frame! [hint: The Broome to Cooktown Challenge is still looking for input over on Oz-Energy-Analysis.org]

On a climate note, the Australian Bureau of Meteorology has released a new Special Climate Statement. From BoM’s Dr. Karl Braganza (Manager Climate Monitoring, National Climate Centre), it…

details recent high rainfall across Australia in 2010, including record rainfall in northern Australia, and reviews the prolonged dry conditions experienced in south-east Australia and in the south-west of Western Australia.

The end of September 2010 marks 14 years since the start of a very long meteorological drought1 in south-east Australia. In the south-west of Western Australia, similarly dry conditions have been in place over the past 14 years, while a longer term drying trend has been observed since the 1970s.

The prolonged dry spell has been characterised by a combination of recurrent meteorological drought (short-term dry “spells”), less autumn and winter rainfall in most years, and an absence of very wet periods.

Recent, widespread, above-average rainfall across much of Australia has alleviated short-term (month to seasonal) dry conditions. This rainfall has been associated with the breakdown of the 2009 El Niño and the development of a moderate to strong La Niña event in 2010.

The recent rainfall has not ended the long-term rainfall deficiencies still affecting large parts of southern Australia. While some parts received well above-average rainfall, most notably in the Murray-Darling Basin, drought-affected regions in the far south-east of the continent have experienced near-normal conditions. The south-west has continued its run of very much below-average rainfall, adding further to the long-term drying trend in this region.

You can download the PDF of the full statement here.

 

Billy, Barry and Eddy, bush walking in the Grampians National Park

 

This is an interesting addition for me, coming on the back of the recent blog post I wrote, “Do the recent floods prove man-made climate change is real?“.

Whilst offline, I’ve been tinkering further with the SNE2060 modelling and background work (on the assumptions and outcomes), and will put a couple more posts up on this topic during this week.

But for now, I’m back to my holidays. Tomorrow we visit the recently extinct crater lake of Mt Eccles (Australia’s most recent mainland volcano — last eruption was approximately 8,000 years ago), then it’s down to the Great Ocean Road, on the winding way back to Melbourne.

After all, I have to get back to Adelaide in time for Wednesday, when I’m speaking at the RiAus event “Thinking Critically About Sustainable Energy #4: A Nuclear Future“:

With an urgent need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and the global demand for energy rising exponentially, might nuclear energy be the only non-carbon-emitting technology capable of meeting the world’s requirements?

The nuclear industry’s image has been compromised by the threat of nuclear proliferation, reactor malfunctions and the storage of radioactive waste. However, today’s proponents argue that improvements in reactor design have made them safer as well as more fuel-efficient and cost-competitive to build, compared with coal plants.

With renewable energy sources still unable to provide enough baseload power, is nuclear energy our best option for reducing carbon emissions? Will the next generation of reactors make nuclear the clean, green option?

Join us as our expert panel discusses this hot topic and make up your own mind.

This event is the fourth of six public forums aimed at providing a comprehensive examination of sustainable energy technologies and a critical evaluation of their potential for reducing carbon emissions.

Presented in association with the Centre for Energy Technology, the University of Adelaide’s Environment Institute and the Institute for Mineral and Energy Resources.

Book your seats and I’ll see you then.

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140 Comments

  1. Barry, I recently drew brief attention to a rain/flood event in the Atlanta, Georgia area in September 2009. This event was assessed by the National Weather Service to be a 10,000 year event. I then drew attention to the 1000 year rain/flood event in the Nashville, Tennessee area in May 2010. Nashville and Atlanta are less than 300 miles apart, and so I wondered, What are the odds of a 1000 year rain event and a 10,000 year rain event occurring in less than 300 miles distance less than a year apart.

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  2. I’m not convinced it is possible to know what a “thousand-year flood” or “ten-thousand-year flood” is without reliable metereological data stretching back thousands or tens of thousands of years respectively.

    It may merely look normally distributed in the frequent cases, but it may have a fat tail, making infrequent events much more common than the normal distribution would predict. It is that way in finance; the normal distribution works for years and years; but then all of a sudden a 1 in 1000 000 000 day event happens for several days consecutively.

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  3. Charles,

    Product Rule of Probabiltiy:

    P(AB)=P(A|B)P(B)

    Need to assess the conditional probability. If there is a 10,000 year flood in Atlanta in 2009, what is the probability of a 1000 year flood in Nashville in 2010. Perhaps that is a number much closer to 1 than to 0.001, which would make the joint probability closer to 0.0001 (or a 10,000 year event).

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  4. Volcanic plumes are supposed to be somewhat stationary and the earth’s crust moves over them like an eyelid over an eyeball. Perhaps the next eruption will be in SA if it’s heading that way. Note that uranium bearing granite has so far disappointed for dry geothermal so attention has move to Penola area which has hot wet sandstone. Perhaps that’s trapped heat from the recent volcanic past.

    See the risk map here
    http://home.iprimus.com.au/foo7/volcmap.html

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  5. John Newlands,

    The type of volcano you’re referring to is a volcanic hotspot. There are other types of volcanoes, though from memory you are correct, in that Mt Gambier was caused by a hot spot.

    Barry,

    Enjoy the holiday, I will see you Wednesday night at RiAus @ The Science Exchange. Will try to say g’day after the event if I get a chance.

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  6. Mark, yes, I think you’re right, I think I’d read that it was the youngest in Victoria. But in fact that title might even go to nearby Mt Napier, which we also drove past today. It seems to be about 6.5 ka.

    David B., that’s 76 million for 53 MWe peak (each turbine is 1.5 MWe peak), so with a CF of 30% that’s an average cost of power of ~$4,700/kW.

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  7. It would appear that the 2009 Atalanta rain event, and the 2010 Nashville rain event were the highest in recorded history. The crest the Cumberland River during the 2010 flood Nashville flood was the highest in recorded history despite the fact that 3 corp of engineers’ dams were operating in a flood control mode, and withholding upstream water from the Nashville crest.

    If these two rain events were related – that is the close geographic and temporal coincidence did not occur by chance – then we need to look at the extent to which AGW mart be part of any explanation of the coincidence.

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  8. Barry and David Benson,

    further to your points about the cost of this wind farm, this might be of interest:
    http://ramblingsdc.net/Australia/WindVic.html#Challicum Hills Wind Farm

    Points to note:
    Capacity = 52.5MW
    Capactiy factor = 28% (actual as opposed to the owners forecast of 32%)
    Capital cost in 2002 $ was A$76 million. That’s roughly $100 million in 2010 $. That is still cheap compared with the wind farms being installed now, the average cost of which is $2900/MW according to ABARE (http://www.abare.gov.au/publications_html/energy/energy_10/EG10_AprListing.xls)
    Annual energy produced = 140,000 MWh
    Estimated GHG saving = 180,000 tonnes CO2 pa.

    So they are claiming that wind farms avoid 1.29t CO2/MWh.

    That means that they are claiming that wind power directly substitutes for coal generated power every instant of every day. This is utter BS. it makes no allowance for the back up generators. As most who read BNC understand that the wind power in Victoria is probably avoiding little if any CO2 and may be causing more. For those who are not up to speed on this, you may want to read this short summary article:
    http://www.masterresource.org/2010/06/subsidizing-co2-emissions/#more-10349

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  9. Just how accurate is this site of Andrew Miskelly’s (“Wind Farm Performance”)?

    I just had a look at Challicum Hills for Oct 1 on that site (using the same settings shown in your screen image above) and got a completely different result – albeit one that looks more realistic given your description of the conditions.

    (I was suspicious of the monotonically rising line btw)

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  10. JM, it is AEMO data. It is accurate.

    I just looked at Challicum Hills for Oct 1 again and got exactly the same result as I showed above. So I’m not sure what you mean.

    The monotonically rising line is just a line connecting the start and end points of that date. It is not the output. The output at about 10:30am is <5% of peak (around 1 MW), and was zero for much of the day, rising to 40% (about 22 MW at 10pm).

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  11. Thank you Barry, but I still don’t understand the line

    a.) what are the start and end points?
    b.) why does it jump around at the end?
    c.) what does the shaded area represent?

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  12. JM, I don’t understand the straight line either, nor why it is shaded. It didn’t used to be there. You’ll have to ask Andrew M. The ‘wiggly’ line is what matters — it is the time series of output.

    [Ed: Just saw your reply. I guess it was removed because it detracted from the look of the plots]

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  13. I have looked at charts many times on the Landscape Gardens wind farm performance web site an have never seen the line or the shaded area shown on the chart at the top of this thread. Perhaps it was produced somehow in pasting the chart here.

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  14. Guys, its just a polygon fill glitch. It can happen in a number of ways in lots of different graphing packages. Basically, the computer is interpreting the list of (x,y) data points for the wind power time series as the coordinates of the vertices of a closed polygon that it then tries to colour in. Its ‘closed’ the curve by drawing a line back to the origin, and there’s this crazy fill pattern because its not a simple closed curve. This, or something similar, appears to have happened.

    Anyway, the line and shading have no meaning – its just a glitch in the matrix. Just ignore it and look at the obvious data points.

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  15. John

    Thanks, I was hypothesizing that the straight line was an attempt to show a theoretical cumulative energy curve for the day, with the shading showing the delta to actuals – in which case I’d be arguing that it was misconceived.

    But if it’s not, and hasn’t been a regular feature, then there’s nothing to worry about.

    (Apart from the fact that I think “instantaneous capacity factor” is misconceived as is using instantaneous power output as a percentage of maximum rated power as a proxy is also be misconceived.)

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  16. Hi All,
    I downloaded the Next_Day_Actual_Gen data that is available this morning, 11 October,
    from http://www.nemweb.com.au/Reports/CURRENT/Next_Day_Actual_Gen/
    for October from this AEMO website, completed the data extractions with my own code,
    and charted the Challicum Hills data for Oct 1 – 10.
    I have also downloaded the extracted Challicum Hills data for October 1 from the ALG website as Andrew provides it at http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au and charted it.
    I can confirm that the two quite different pathways produce identical charts, with no
    indication of the artifact(s) shown in Prof Brook’s posted chart.
    BTW, what a pathetic performance from the Challicum Hills wf on October 1.
    Regards,
    Paul

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  17. Does anyone know of any metadata for these files? What is the specific definition of each field.

    The reason I ask is that the PUBLIC_NEXT_DAY_ACTUAL_GEN files have one field that says “METER_DATA” and another that says “MWH_READING”, which would seem to indicate MW-hr’s but then the actual data in that field doesn’t seem to match that interpretation.

    (I’d also think that publishing meta data would be part of AEMO’s remit, otherwise the information is not very public)

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  18. Thank you Peter.

    For my specific question, it is most illuminating:

    The output values in these files are sampled from SCADA at 5-minute intervals and reported under the column headed ‘MWH_READING’. Note that these figures should be read as instantaneous power in MW rather than MWh. They may be used to estimate energy production, but are not the same as the half-hourly energy metering results used to determine market settlements

    And that answer is very helpful.

    However, more generally, there are many fields in these files that are not explained – where would I find descriptions of those?

    Secondly, do AEMO publish the actual half-hour metering results they actually use for settlements?

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  19. In fact Peter, I don’t know if you can help me with this, but that statement strikes me as nonsense.

    You can’t report MW as an instantaneous value, it has to be over some time period, so the SCADA has to be performing some form of integration (with an assumption of continuous and constant energy output). Otherwise the things could not be programmed.

    1. Is there some standard integration period that all SCADA’s implement?

    2. Is there other data that shows actual metered energy?

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  20. Barry, you contradicted your own answer.

    P = dE/dT (T being time)

    Change scale from seconds to something else and see what I mean. It’s per unit time, not per second. But time has to be non-zero.

    SCADA won’t handle division by zero

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  21. No, it’s not a contradiction. Go back and re-read what I said.

    I’m talking about a rate of energy conversion. Of course time has to be non-zero, but in theory, it can be infinitesimally small. However, when power is defined as a Watt, the second is the SI time unit against which this rate is calculated, and the joule is the unit of energy. Power is the rate at which energy is generated and consumed.

    Therefore, when you said:

    You can’t report MW as an instantaneous value, it has to be over some time period

    You were not correct. MW, by definition, implicitly specifies the time period as 1 second and the energy delivered as 1 million joules. If a time period is also defined (e.g. MWh), then one is talking about energy, not power. That was my point, and it is why Peter’s statement is NOT nonsense, as you had claimed.

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  22. If a time period is also defined (e.g. MWh), then one is talking about energy, not power.

    Exactly, I agree. And the numbers in the AEMO file appear to be quoted as MWh ie. energy, but then we are told (not by Peter btw but rather AEMO), to treat them as instantaneous MW (ie. power) which IMHO is an moronic statement.

    That’s why I’m interested in a precise definition of what these fields – all of them – actually mean. As far as I can tell AEMO doesn’t provide that.

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  23. Oh and BTW, no computer – including and especially SCADA – does analytic calculus (unless you’re running Mathematica or something similar).

    It’s all numeric, so the objection I raised about division by zero is real – once you get in the field.

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  24. for Peter Lang (and others):

    Am I right in assuming that the fluctuating power issue is a largely separate problem from the “low power” issue in that the former problem requires “smoothing” thru wind farm dispersal plus gas backup but the latter requires massive overbuild (or overreliance on gas to the point where it might make more sense to go with just gas–thus defeating the claimed purpose of renewable energy)?

    I’m teaching an energy/environment writing class where we are using Cravens and Caldicott for the main texts. Caldicott in her horrible chapter on renewable energy claims that the price of wind and solar continues to drop (straight Lovins here), and she implies that this trend will continue as wind and solar achieve hi penetration.

    but in fact, subsidies aside, wind and solar can only be “cheap” if they are low penetration (parasitic on ffs or nukes), correct? at high penetration, they require massive overbuild and so the price at low penetration says literally nothing about the price at hi penetration; more precisely, price at hi penetration will likely triple (or worse) when the overbuild kicks in.

    it’s fascinating because in parentheses, she refers to the difference between actual and potential output of an energy source: aka capacity factor. but she then drops the concept–never named–as if it has no relevance for analyzing the limits of renewable energy

    anyway, I made this point about falsely inferring that trends at low penetration would operate at hi penetration with my students today and they really seemed to get it. so I hope I am getting it!!

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  25. What do you mean by the ‘low’ power issue greg? If power output is less than demand, you need more generation. I don’t know whether thats ‘overbuild’ but I’m not sure I really understand the question.

    Your class sounds fascinating! I hope you’ll write here about your experiences with the students working with these materials.

    I’ve been upbraided a couple of times recently on how cheap solar cells are becoming. In particular I’ve been told that solar panels at 95c/W are now cheaper than nuclear. My response is to ask if thats the daytime or nighttime cost, or to ask how much to buy that watt at 9 pm? Wind and solar can only be cheap at low penetration AND solar can only be cheap in the daytime.

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  26. I was not being precise enough, John. by “low power,” I meant that wind and solar provide neither base power nor much total demand for electricity .

    so again, at low penetration (providing neither base power nor significant demand), it can appear relatively cheap due to subsidies on the one hand and fossil back up on the other hand.

    as soon as it must replace fossil fuels, the overbuild problem kicks in. aka, putting aside backup/storage issues, if solar has a cf of 14 %, to get 1000 megawatts of average power, you need 1000 megawatts times 100\14 nameplate or installed capacity.

    of course, wind and solar will never be taken seriously as a replacement for current basepower. any country that did this would in effect be choosing to pay for 7000 megawatts installed to get 1000.

    it won’t happen but the odd thing about this is as long as no country is stupid enough to do this, the pro renewables people can continue to hold out for a fantasy future uncontradicted by reality.

    but getting back to my lack of appropriate vocabulary, you made the point I was trying to make in saying that solar can only appear cheap at low penetration.

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  27. btw, barry, I am using some of the resources here at BNC for the course, including one of your recent power points. I pencilled in the brook/lowe book initially, but decided against it cause my students are pretty poor.

    let’s hope that the book sells well enough so that my future students can get the book used. given the brevity of the book, 10 bucks is about the price we’d need.

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  28. anyway, I made this point about falsely inferring that trends at low penetration would operate at hi penetration with my students today and they really seemed to get it

    The inverse case, of course, with direct relevance to Caldicott’s book, is the LNT hypothesis of radiation risk, where extrapolations from very high levels are made through to zero, with no quantifiable justification. An excellent documentary on this point, shown by BBC’s Horizon, is “Nuclear Nightmares”, which you can watch here on YouTube. I’m sure it must be Machievelli’s all-time favourite programme.

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  29. Greg Meyerson,

    Am I right in assuming that the fluctuating power issue is a largely separate problem from the “low power” issue in that the former problem requires “smoothing” thru wind farm dispersal plus gas backup but the latter requires massive overbuild (or overreliance on gas to the point where it might make more sense to go with just gas–thus defeating the claimed purpose of renewable energy)?

    I am having a discusion with some US engineers by email. I’ve clarified my question for one of them and post it here. I hope this may ansdwer your question too.

    I should have been clearer with my statement about “wind fluctuating wildly”. I was not talking just about gustiness. I am talking about the large swings in power output that can occur over hours as experienced by all 1900MW of wind power connected to the Australian National Energy Market grid. The wind farms span a region 1200 km east-west by 800km north-south, although most of the capacity is in South Australia. You can see the charts of the wind farm output here:

    http://windfarmperformance.info/

    Choose the month you want to see from the bottom left.

    This is the total Wind farm output for September for example
    http://windfarmperformance.info/documents/analysis/monthly/aemo_wind_201009_hhour.pdf

    You can make your own charts from here:
    http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au/data/aemo/

    In August (our high wind period), total NEM wind power output fluctuates between 0% and 85% CF in seven major cycles, The fluctuations are between 20% and 70% of full power (1900MW) in a few hours.

    However, in May, there was a period of about a week with minimal wind output.

    If we had enough CCGT’s I expect we’d use them during that period of no wind. But we need OCGT’s to ramp fast. So it seems to me we need nearly 100% CCGT to give us the least emissions in the low wind period but we need near ly100% OCGT to be able to follow the rapidly changing load when the wind power is dropping fast. That means we need nearly twice as much gas capacity as wind capacity if we want to minimise emissions from backing up for wind. I am exaggerating to make it easier to explain my question. I recognise that in reality there are many other generators in the mix and dispatching is complicated. However, it makes it easier to understand the questions and the explanation if we can simplify it to considering a simple system with just wind and gas generators.

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  30. Peter: This will explain the difference betweeen power and energy.

    Please excuse me – I’m going to be rude. Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs, I know the difference between power and energy.

    Regarding the definitions of the columns, you need to read the AEMO web site. The link is provided on the Landscape Gardens page with the charts.

    The definitions of the columns is what I don’t know. If you can provide a link to exact definitions, I’d appreciate it. It would be very helpful.

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  31. Oh, and Peter if you’re going to make dumb statements like this:

    Power is at an instant in time.

    I don’t think you’re in any position to be lecturing me.

    Quoting from the reference you gave me:

    Let’s say you have a jug of water. It has some volume, which is the amount of water the jug holds. Now, let’s say you gradually tip out the water — the flow of water (the amount of water being poured per unit time) is a rate. Well, in caricature, the volume of water is like energy, and the flow of water is like power.

    Power is energy over time. Energy can be instantaneous, power cannot (well maybe, but only as an approximation).

    Energy is fundamental, power is an abstraction.

    Unless of course you know what time is, and then we’d all be pleased to be enlightened.

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  32. I hesitate to step into a dogfight, but I feel compelled to note that both energy and power can be strictly continuous and variable functions of time, and both may have well defined, real, instantaneous values.

    (Ignoring quantization of energy of course, but thats a level of pedantry not called for here. Yet.)

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  33. Please excuse me – I’m going to be rude. Don’t teach your grandmother to suck eggs, I know the difference between power and energy.

    Considering the absolute dog’s breakfast you made of attempting to understand my essay and interpret it for others on LP, if I were you, I’d humbly accept any instruction provided on the topic of energy production by someone like Peter or Barry.

    You’re carrying on like a high school or first year uni science student attempting to impress everyone with your recently acquired profound understanding of concepts like ‘energy’ and ‘power’.

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  34. Peter:

    I forgot in discussing overbuild with my students the need to multiply the transmission lines as you multiply the wind farms.

    out of curiousity, is there no way to avoid this redundancy? I don’t see it.

    again, I like the simple example because it does home in on the problem.

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  35. Fin’

    Seriously, you’re the guy who wants to get ppb of uranium out of seawater by chucking vast areas of exotic polymers into huge farms of wire cages for 6 months or more at a time, then extract the oxides and process them further into usable material.

    And you’re proposing that as a realistic solution and insisting that it’s not just some futuristic fantasy.

    And here I am, being quite pedantic yes, but asking a simple practical question:- where is the meta data for these AEMO files?

    Yet none of you can tell me.

    Who’s the realist here?

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  36. Greg:

    I forgot in discussing overbuild with my students the need to multiply the transmission lines as you multiply the wind farms.

    Are you sure this isn’t just a fantasy of your own making? Transmission lines are surely related to demand. If demand doesn’t increase, then wind farm production will simply displace existing production and the existing lines should suffice.

    What you’re fearing here is over-production and the building of transmission lines to nowhere. Somehow I don’t think an over-supply of energy is the problem we’re facing.

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  37. John: both may have well defined, real, instantaneous values.

    Yeah, theoretically I’d agree (with quibbles), but I’m trying to interpret SCADA data here, and that’s a different kettle of fish.

    And I particularly object to being told by AEMO that MW == MWhr

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  38. Peter can reply to you JM.

    it’s a “fantasy” of his making. to replace basepower nuke or ff, renewables require overbuild, and that would include transmission lines I would think.

    can’t use “normal” transmission lines for handling the fluctuating power. and you’d need new ones for every new wind farm, occupying hundreds of sq miles each.

    But peter can answer better than I.

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  39. > renewables require overbuild, and that would include transmission lines I would think.

    Only if actual energy transmitted increases. “Overbuild” is not an argument here. Overbuild is only an argument for the rated-capacity-has-to-be-greater-than-actual-capacity-due-to-lower-capacity-factor argument. Otherwise you’re really grasping at straws.

    > can’t use “normal” transmission lines for handling the fluctuating power.

    You’re talking about grid management, which has nothing to do with “normal” or “abnormal” transmission lines – wires is wires.

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  40. Seriously, you’re the guy who wants to get ppb of uranium out of seawater by chucking vast areas of exotic polymers into huge farms of wire cages for 6 months or more at a time, then extract the oxides and process them further into usable material.

    I doubt it will ever come to that. Breeders will be in widespread use before it becomes necessary. But in point of fact, the Japanese have already demonstrated the technology in prototype, so going into denial about it is hardly doing your credibility any good.

    wires is wires.

    Except when they’re HVDC lines. Ask your lecturer.

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  41. Finrod

    One day you’ll learn that bullying isn’t a substitute for rational argument.

    People have been saying that breeders will be here Real Soon Now for decades. They aren’t.

    Secondly, if you go and read the actual papers regarding experiments to extract uranium from seawater you’ll see there are various problems and those people aren’t too optimistic. It’s a long way from an experiment to an economically viable process.

    But if you disagree, do what the people who started up renewables 30-40 years ago:- monetize your view.

    That means, in case you don’t know, put your money where your mouth is and do a start up, attract investors and put some effort in. Until you do that, I’m not going to take you seriously.

    The fact is that nuclear is a shockingly bad investment and none of your ranting is going to change that – but if you’re prepared to take the risk on your own hook then I’ll pay more attention to you.

    > Except when they’re HVDC lines.

    Then make your case, and make it with rational argument and not just loud assertions.

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  42. Finrod

    Greg has asked a question, I’ve responded with my opinion and my reasoning.

    You have challenged that and have provided nothing in the way of reasoned argument.

    Since you refuse to do so, I can only conclude that you have none and that your challenge is only hot air.

    Am I wrong?

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  43. Greg has asked a question, I’ve responded with my opinion and my reasoning.

    You have challenged that and have provided nothing in the way of reasoned argument.

    So you want me to confirm what Barry Brook, Peter Lang and John Morgan told you before you’ll accept it? I’m flattered, really, but they know this stuff better than I do.

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  44. What did they tell me that contradicts what I said to Greg?

    I think you’re the only person to respond to my comment to Greg?

    Hiding behind other’s intellectual skirts now?

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  45. Well since none of you guys have responded, I’m going to approach AEMO directly.

    In the meantime, I’ll also assume that none of you understand this data at all, and none of the conclusions you draw from it are to be trusted.

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  46. What data files are you talking about, JM? I looked back through all your comments here and couldn’t work it out. Do you mean this one? (for example)

    This shows the power output of each wind farm to the grid at each 5 min interval (I presume at the start of each interval). But it may alternatively be estimated as the total energy produced over the 5 min interval divided by 300. I think it is the former.

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  47. Well all of them actually Barry.

    The one you refer to is derived (or I think it is anyway) by windfarmperformance.info

    But the main problem is the AEMO data, much of which is completely indecipherable and none of which has any definitions.

    Now you could argue that you can take a pretty good guess at parts of it – and you can, and you’ll be right 99% of the time.

    But that’s not certainty and it’s an axiom of IT that if you don’t understand the data, you’ll make mistakes when processing it.

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  48. In fact, just to continue for a sec – your own comment demonstrates the problem:

    (I presume at the start of each interval). But it may alternatively be estimated as the total energy produced over the 5 min interval divided by 300. I think it is the former.

    In other words, your interpretation is simply your best guess. Someone else may interpret things differently. For example where you presume the reading is at the start of each interval, I would never have thought that. I would have presumed the end of the interval.

    Then you get to the point where although the field says MWhr (and is presumably measured in those units), AEMO suddenly turn around and tell us to interpret it as MW.

    You see – we just don’t know for sure. That’s the issue.

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  49. All of them. Not one of them contains a description of the data.

    Secondly, the windfarmperformance.info file doesn’t contain a description of either its fields, or how they are derived from the AEMO inputs, or even which AEMO files are its inputs.

    I think it’s pretty simple to understand this, and the reason for concern.

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  50. JM,

    The Landscape-Gardens page http://www.landscapeguardians.org.au/data/aemo/ gives you a link to the AEMO source data. The wind farm performance charts page http://windfarmperformance.info/ also provides a link to the AEMO site and says:

    Please consult the AEMO site for any further interpretation guidance.

    If AEMO is not giving you enough information then I suggest you take it up with AEMO.

    I do not know where you are referring to when you say AEMO is confusing MW and MWh. The figures I think you are looking at are power (i.e. in MW). They are not MWh. If you want MWh you need to multiply power (MW) by time (in hours).

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  51. JM

    Are you sure this isn’t just a fantasy of your own making? Transmission lines are surely related to demand. If demand doesn’t increase, then wind farm production will simply displace existing production and the existing lines should suffice.

    No. Transmission to a new, greenfields power station, such as a wind farm or solar farm, is not related to the demand. It is related to the maximum power output of the wind farm or solar power station.

    A rough rule of thumb for preliminary estimating purposes is that transmission and girid enhancements to support wind power cost about $1000/kW and about $15/MWh.

    If we build a new wind farm we need to build transmision lines and we also need to upgrade the grid to handle the variable wind power output. If we double the installed capacity we double the amount of transmission capacity required. The trannsmission line needs to be sized to carry the maximum output of the wind farm. (Not quite in practice because there is a cost benefit trade off).

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  52. JM

    @ 13 October 2010 at 23.37 Said:

    What you’re fearing here is over-production and the building of transmission lines to nowhere. Somehow I don’t think an over-supply of energy is the problem we’re facing.

    Again you seem to be confusing power and energy. The transmissions line has to be sized to carry the peak power output of the power station.

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  53. Peter

    I’m not confusing energy and power. It was your own reference to a comment on AEMO’s site and the comment itself – which specifically says that a measurement taken in MWhr should be treated as instantaneous MW – that I’m referring to. I quote (again):

    Note that these figures should be read as instantaneous power in MW rather than MWh.

    But the problem is more general. There is a lot of data in these files and none of us know what a lot of it means.

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  54. JM,

    I don’t understand what statement you are talking about on the AEMO site. Why don’t you link to the specific comment and point out exactly where it is. Otherwise the discussion is jjust blabber.

    I don’t understand why, if you want to know the answer to your questions about the AEMO data, you don’t follow the links and do the research yourself. Why are you posting incomplete questions (usually with an attack on people who have tried to help you) without links and expect people to answer them just because you are too lazzy to do your own research.

    I don’t understand what you don’t understand.

    At this point I have the impression you don’t have much understanding of the subject at all, you dont understand the difference between power and energy, and you are just trying to prove some sort of obscure point. I am inclined to leave you to work it out for yourself because despite being pointed to AEMO web site a dozen times you clearly haven’t gone into the site and done any research. Everyone that uses the AEMO site and the data understands that AEMO is doing the least it can get away with to fulfill its obligations. However, it is the best data available.

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  55. Peter

    I have followed the link you helpfully provided me with. I quoted the statement I’m talking about here under the pointer to http://www.nemweb.com.au/REPORTS/CURRENT/Next_Day_Actual_Gen

    ie. exactly where you suggested I might find it.

    The point I’m making however is not obscure:-

    1. AEMO do not document what the data in these files means, we’re all apparently supposed to guess*

    2. It is a simple fact, that if you don’t know what the data is you cannot understand it

    I have done my own research on this, and I couldn’t find this stuff. I asked for help here and since no-one has been able to help I can only conclude you’re all in the same position I am.

    AEMO offer one apparently nonsensical interpretation of this particular field, Barry has offered two alternatives of his own which both conflict with my default interpretation.

    It’s not a good situation.

    > I don’t understand what you don’t understand.

    People who really do know and understand things are able to explain them simply. People who don’t just abuse or patronize the listener.

    Since you are unable to explain this, I can only conclude you don’t understand it.

    * and windfarmperformance don’t do it either, so we’ve got two levels of guessing.

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  56. JM,

    People who really do know and understand things are able to explain them simply. People who don’t just abuse or patronize the listener.

    True, but in this case, you never asked your question clearly. You appeared rude and abusive from the start and still do. When Barry asked you to be specific about which data you were querying, you replied “all of it”. What a dumb response. So I dismissed you as clueless about electricity system, energy and power, a trouble maker and not genuinely interested (I still do think this).

    If you want the descriptions of what the data is in the csv files you need to go to the AEMO web site to the level where the data is defined. I don’t recall where that is on the AEMO site and I can’t be bothered doing the research for you.

    The csv data downloaded for the ‘Wind farm performance’ charts is power, not energy (as are all the csv files that I can think of off the top of my head). The power readings are at the time in the time stamp (because power is at a point in time whereas energy is, simplistically, average power over a period of time. Have you accepted that yet?).

    Please don’t waste yours or my time arguing with me and abusing people here just because you don’t understand something.

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  57. > to the level where the data is defined. I don’t recall where that is on the AEMO site

    Fine. But I’ve searched high and low and I can’t find it. If you have found it in the past, I’d assume you still either know where it is or have a local copy. Either will do for me.

    However, since neither you, nor others have indicated they know I’ll have to conclude that you’ve never known.

    As a concrete example, Barry has explicitly said that he’s not sure of the exact definition and is simply making suppositions – probably quite reasonable ones, but suppositions nonetheless.

    Now this is actually important to my argument. I thought I could use the AEMO data to make a challenge to some of the arguments and viewpoints that are common on this site. But I found I couldn’t because there appears to be no solid foundation on which to build.

    There’s a whole bunch of numbers at AEMO, but the understanding of their semantics (meaning) is very casual, and without a solid a shared understanding rational argument is impossible.

    As to the difference between power and energy, let me question you understanding of fundamental concepts.

    Of the two – power and energy – which is conserved? In other words, which forms a solid basis for understanding and which is a mere convenience?

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  58. As to the difference between power and energy, let me question you understanding of fundamental concepts.

    Of the two – power and energy – which is conserved? In other words, which forms a solid basis for understanding and which is a mere convenience?

    Energy, or more strictly, mass-energy if you want to get all relativistic about it.

    I’m not sure answering you is the right thing to do. Any defence you might have had against the charge of trolling is greatly diminished by asking this question of a group of experienced scientists and engineers.

    Just to clarify, I’m not claiming membership of that group.

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  59. Of the two – power and energy – which is conserved? In other words, which forms a solid basis for understanding and which is a mere convenience?

    Seriously? You’re kidding me, right?

    Of 3 and 4, which is the more important number? In other words, which which one as a prime number forms a solid basis for understanding number theory, and which as a composite construction is a mere convenience?

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  60. Oh boy, Fin’ ol’ chum we obviously have to go the audience on this one.

    If you are so confident in the veracity of your reasoning and your position over mine, why must you evade the details? Why can you not simply find an example to support your position?

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  61. > Why can you not simply find an example to support your position?

    Because key elements of the data are missing and I can’t develop my position without them.

    And we also have to define exactly what position we’re arguing about. You and I have had a contretemps over uranium from seawater and I think it’s clear you lost that one. It’s physically possible but uneconomic and unlikely to be economic until a nuclear economy is in serious crisis, so such processes cannot be available during the establishment phase and are decades – if not centuries – away from fruition.

    Trust me on this one Fin’, investors aren’t prepared to wait that long. Particularly when there are huge lead times well beyond the duration* of normal investments. It is not going to happen.

    * This is a technical term from the finance world, simplistically it means how long you have to wait to get your money back. Generally if it goes beyond about 7-8 years you’re better off leaving your money in a normal savings account. 10-12 year lead times for nuclear infrastructure before you get a cent are completely ridiculous.

    Give it up Fin’. Nuclear is a lost cause other than as a niche technology.

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  62. You and I have had a contretemps over uranium from seawater and I think it’s clear you lost that one. It’s physically possible but uneconomic and unlikely to be economic until a nuclear economy is in serious crisis, so such processes cannot be available during the establishment phase and are decades – if not centuries – away from fruition.

    JM, for some comments on uranium extraction from sea water, please take the time to read my most recent BNC post.

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  63. As to NP being a lost cause, putting aside the attempted emotive jibe, I’ll quote from a slide given in my recent RiAus presentation:

    My purpose is not to sell nuclear power, because there is no longer a reason to sell it. Nuclear power, waiting quietly in its coma, has now become inevitable. That is, the ultimate need for nuclear power has finally caught up with its mad dash to develop. Whether you like it or not, the industrial world no longer has a choice.

    The age of burning coal and gasoline is over, as atmospheric chemistry and general environmental pollution has approached states of crisis, and hydrocarbons are becoming too expensive to burn.

    We need wind power, solar power, geothermal, hydro, and anything else we can think of, but the base power source must be constant-running, high-output nuclear stations. The real expansion of nuclear power is now just awakening…

    James Mahaffey, 2009, Atomic Awakening: A New Look at the History and Future of Nuclear Power

    You have a long path of education ahead of you, JM. Welcome to BraveNewClimate.

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  64. Because key elements of the data are missing and I can’t develop my position without them.

    Why do you have a ‘position’ on an issue where you claim not to have enough data to form one?

    And we also have to define exactly what position we’re arguing about. You and I have had a contretemps over uranium from seawater and I think it’s clear you lost that one. It’s physically possible but uneconomic and unlikely to be economic until a nuclear economy is in serious crisis, so such processes cannot be available during the establishment phase and are decades – if not centuries – away from fruition.

    You are hopelessly and likely irremediably confused over these matters, and apparently also over what the debate was about to begin with.

    You attacted my essay on the sustainability of nuclear power by misrepresenting what I had said generally and attempting to ridicule seawater uranium extraction in particular. You did not bother to check the link I provided in my article to David Mackay’s e-book. You proffered some intuitive contention that seawater uranium was too expensive simply because you could not instantly figure out a way to achieve it yourself, and made some spurious comparison with terrrestrial gold mines to back your point.

    Later on you did a perfunctory search for information on seawater U extraction and found nothing more recent than a 1994 publication, even though the link to MacKay’s material was wating for you all that time. When I provided links describing the more recent Japanese research you offered an unsupported opinion about the expense being greater than claimed, then said of Professor MacKay “As for David MacKay, I’ve encountered him before and think he’s a nutcase> don’t consider him credible.”

    When I asked you why you held this opinion, you retreated into silence.

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  65. > Why do you have a ‘position’ on an issue where you claim not to have enough data to form one?

    Well I have a lot more than just AEMO data, but I like to use my opponents arguments, or at least data and information they are familiar with. Makes things a lot easier.

    However, since it’s clear that nobody here actually does understand the data they casually throw around with such abandon – even creating websites off it – I guess I’ll just have to conclude you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    > attempting to ridicule seawater uranium extraction in particular.

    Yes because it is ridiculous.

    > and found nothing more recent than a 1994 publication,

    Not quite. You proffered nothing in references and links, so I went on a fairly search to figure out what you might possibly be talking about and found a reference to an article in Nature in 1994 by Japanese scientists. I thought that was what you were talking about.

    However, it appears I was wrong and you were actually talking about something slightly different (but essentially the same – exotic polymers left in seawater for months at a time)

    Sorry, Fin’ but please understand if you don’t tell people what you’re talking about they’ll liable to misunderstand you.

    And I do think MacKay’s not credible.

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  66. Sorry, Fin’ but please understand if you don’t tell people what you’re talking about they’ll liable to misunderstand you.

    The link to MacKay’s work is in in my essay.

    And I do think MacKay’s not credible.

    Yet you are unable to articulate your reasoning for this.

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  67. JM,

    However, since neither you, nor others have indicated they know I’ll have to conclude that you’ve never known.

    Conclude what you like. You’ve convinced me you are a complete …. and not worth trying to discuss anything with.

    If I see any change later I may change my mind, but that is my belief right now – a waste of space and doesn’t have a clue about the subject, keeps making silly general remarks about the AEMO web site but neve links to a specific example. Doesn’t seem to realis that it is the authoritative source of all the Australian electricity generation and demand data that all the other organisatiosn around the country dreaw off. And yet this …. JM thinks everyone else is stupid except himself.

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  68. > spurious comparison with terrrestrial gold mines

    It’s not spurious. The energy (or in the case of gold, money) you get back has to outweigh what you put in.

    Gold is worth approx. 500-1000 times that of uranium (enough to allow 700m deep gold mines to be marginally viable, although dangerous, for example), so uranium is really behind the 8 ball right there if there is any lifting or mechanical work involved – a survey I mentioned earlier calculated that a lift of greater than 3 meters (or similar expenditure of work) made the exercise stupid.

    Other than lift and pumping there is however in many of these schemes (I found a few) a degree of work involved – motors etc to move buckets of membrane around.

    Trouble is your energy budget for this sort of stuff is very low. And uranium is relative to gold, a low value ore.

    Let me ask you:- since gold is present in seawater in vaguely similar concentrations to uranium, but is worth around 1000x more, do you see any extraction of gold from seawater?

    No. It’s not viable. (It’s even been tried several times)

    By the time uranium gets to values similar to gold use of uranium would have vastly reshaped our existing economy, possibly to the point of crushing it seeing as how it’s so fundamentally based on cheap energy.

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  69. Thanks Barry for the pointer, I’ll have a look

    BTW – how is it that the “Royal Institution of Australia” got its name? I believe its a fairly recent organization but also that royal mandates haven’t been made in Australia for a couple of decades now.

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  70. Trouble is your energy budget for this sort of stuff is very low. And uranium is relative to gold, a low value ore.

    You’re conflating energy return with financial return. The Japanese claim that they are able to extract a certain quantity of uranium from seawater for a certain price, and that they expect the process to be even cheaper once it’s scaled up.

    The energy produced from the uranium would far exceed that needed for the production process.

    You have provided no counter-argument.

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  71. Fin’ you really do say some dumb things at times.

    > The energy produced from the uranium would far exceed that needed for the production process.

    Can you provide some reference for that statement? I’ve seen some research from Oak Ridge that states it’s a very marginal proposition.

    > You’re conflating energy return with financial return.

    Roughly speaking, possibly. But if the energy return is not strongly positive there won’t be sufficient financial return to make it viable.

    And you still haven’t explained how to persuade investors to wait for 20 years for a return when they only need 7-8 for lazy money in the bank. I don’t know if you’ve had much to do with investors but they tend to want fairly large gross margins to compensate for risk and also to encourage them to get the money out of the bank in the first place.

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  72. Fin’ you really do say some dumb things at times.

    > The energy produced from the uranium would far exceed that needed for the production process.

    Can you provide some reference for that statement? I’ve seen some research from Oak Ridge that states it’s a very marginal proposition.

    Let’s see now.

    The Japanese claim that ~$300/kg U is within reach, but we’ll ignore that as bragging and stick with their ~$1000/kg U experimental figure. This figure will incorporate the price of the energy used in production of that U. Let’s suppose that all of that $1000 is energy cost.

    1kg of natural U will, when enriched and burned in a PWR, have 0.6% of its mass, IE, 6g, fissioned.

    As a general rule of thumb, 1 tonne of fissile fuel is good for 1GW.y, so 6g is good for 6kW.y, or 52,560kW.h.

    Apparently in 2004, electricity in Japan went for about $0.22/kW.h. If all the cost of the U production is from that, then less than 4,500 kW.h are used to provide the fuel for 52,500 kW.h.

    But of course, the energy component of the cost will be less than 100%.

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  73. I’ve often wondered Finrod, whether the cost of extracting uranium from brine would be a lot less than seawater, given the volumes involved.

    After all, if we start doing desal to supply water we still need to deal with the brine.

    Wouldn’t the concentration of uranium (and gold for that matter) be a lot higher in the brine? Could we not also get boron from the brine competitively?

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  74. I’ve often wondered Finrod, whether the cost of extracting uranium from brine would be a lot less than seawater, given the volumes involved.

    Good question, Fran. I seem to recall a couple of years ago in another internet pro/anti nuclear debate one of the pro commenters getting into the seawater U extraction thing and doing some figuring to see if a coastal nuclear plant could fuel itself from the U in its coolant flow. He came to the conclusion that it could not.

    I suspect that the same issues would render U extraction from brines produced by desal plants marginal as well. Not necessarily useless, possibly worth looking at, but probably a marginal source of U rather than a game changer.

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  75. JM on 12 October said:

    In fact Peter, I don’t know if you can help me with this, but that statement strikes me as nonsense.

    You can’t report MW as an instantaneous value, it has to be over some time period, so the SCADA has to be performing some form of integration (with an assumption of continuous and constant energy output). Otherwise the things could not be programmed.

    1. Is there some standard integration period that all SCADA’s implement?

    2. Is there other data that shows actual metered energy?

    This demonstrates that JM has almost no understanding of what he is talking about. What he says about energy and power is reversed from what he should have said. He clearly has his mind locked-in a misunderstanding of the fundamentals and, therfore, is unable to accept what he is being told.

    He say:

    You can’t report MW as an instantaneous value.

    This is totally false. In fact, you can only report power as an instantaneous value or a time period of instantaneous values. AEMO is reporting power (demand or supply) at the times on the time stamp.

    so the SCADA has to be performing some form of integration (with an assumption of continuous and constant energy output).”

    What sort of nonsense is this? It is meaningless.

    2. Is there other data that shows actual metered energy?

    The AEMO data is reporting power at a point in time (the time of the time stamp). This is how it is done all over the world.

    No wonder no one could answer your question. No one realised you had such a fundamental misunderstanding of the subject. We gave JM more credit given his self professed expert understanding of the subject.

    JM, so now please proceed to tell us how we haven’t got a clue about what we are talking about.

    Or, if you have the integrity, appologise for your misunderstandings and insults.

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  76. Peter

    Power = dE/dt

    Integrate over time to get power. Now set your integration limits so they are equal. You get zero power (actually undefined)

    You can see this when you have constant power because then you can say

    Power = E/t

    ie. Joules per sec

    Now set t = 0

    Is it possible to divide by zero? No.

    The comment about SCADA refers exactly to this problem because SCADA are basically computers and to register power they have to do this calculation. To do that they need a finite time step. And it has to be relatively course – no infinitesimals – because they use numerical techniques to do it, not analytical ones.

    As for recording power at a point in time:- go and have a look at the meter in your house. What’s it registering? kW-hr ie. energy, NOT power.

    Your bill shows the same thing.

    OK now?

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  77. JM, so now please proceed to tell us how we haven’t got a clue about what we are talking about.

    Given that JM is such a hot shot physics geek, I’m sure he/she’ll be back real soon to correct us all.

    After all, I’m just a currently unemployed former filing clerk, so JM’s understanding of these matters is bound to be far more profound than mine.

    One would hope.

    I mean, it would be really embarrasing for JM to be bested by me, wouldn’t it? I’m sure JM won’t let that happen.

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  78. Barry

    I watched your presentation, and while it’s very interesting and very effectively presented (congrats), I’m struck by two things:

    1. You could have presented that talk unchanged 40 years ago (apart from a few minor details). Nothing has changed in the meantime to alter the logic or the weaknesses in the argument.

    2. I kept waiting for the punchline, but it never came. The early exposition of the current state was very good, but when you get to the future state of how the nuclear economy can be run indefinitely you just resort to the same old handwaving we’ve been hearing for decades.

    As to your description of the past – such as why nuclear and things like breeders have failed to get off the ground because of financial considerations, ie. mined uranium is cheap – I agree absolutely.

    But here’s the catch. I think that situation is going to continue for the future as well, at least in the medium term. Unfortunately, however we have an immediate problem and we can’t wait for the finances of the medium and long term to come good for us.

    That’s why I think that nuclear can be a niche, or part of the solution in some parts of the world, but is never going to be the complete solution you suggest in your talk.

    On another note, I didn’t like the way you waved away the capital costs and tail-end storage of waste by focussing on operational costs. I think it would be more clear if you included those in your bar charts rather than relegating them to abstractions like “footprint”.

    One easy way of doing that would be to include the financing cost of both and piling it on top of the operational cost. If you do it for all technologies you’d end up with a reasonable comparison. It would also make your points about waste in respect of coal and once-through nuclear more obvious.

    High capital cost, long construction times, long and expensive decommissioning and very long waste storage times. Long payback times. All those add up to very serious money, very serious liabilities stretching out for decades and very poor investments.

    That’s what killed nuclear in the past, and it will kill it in the future.

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  79. JM,

    As I told you before, the AEMO figures in the csv files used for the wind performance charts are in power (MW) not energy (MWh).

    All the demad figures and power station output figures are measured and reported as power.

    We buy and sell energy. Hence the meter on your house and the bids submitted by the power stations and payment to the power stations is for energy delivered kWh or MWh), not power (MW).

    OK now?

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  80. Fin, could you answer something for me.

    Where do you get your 0.6% figure from? I can understand that it might be related to the concentration of U235 but it seems rather arbitrary.

    And where do you get the 1 tonne == 1GW equivalence from? Is that an industry rule of thumb?

    Lastly, I’m not sure you should be using current electricity prices in your analysis, but rather the future prices obtainable from $1000/kg fuel. If you do that your cost-benefit analysis will be squeezed as the energy input costs are higher.

    Further, can I say I’m beginning to have serious doubts about that cost price. $1000 is only about 1-2 days labour and it seems unlikely this particular process – make polymer, stick it in water, retrieve it, extract the oxide, recondition it – could be done with such low inputs.

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  81. Where do you get your 0.6% figure from? I can understand that it might be related to the concentration of U235 but it seems rather arbitrary.

    From the World Nuclear Association website.

    The incompleteness of the U enrichment process leaves some U-235 behind, but the breeding of U-238 into Pu-239 in the reactor core of PWRs and the subsequent fission of a portion of that Pu-239 brings the figure up to 0.6%.

    And where do you get the 1 tonne == 1GW equivalence from? Is that an industry rule of thumb?

    Yes. I’m sure you’ll have no difficulty doing a few basic calculations to confirm this for yourself.

    Lastly, I’m not sure you should be using current electricity prices in your analysis, but rather the future prices obtainable from $1000/kg fuel. If you do that your cost-benefit analysis will be squeezed as the energy input costs are higher.

    Japanese electricity prices are quite high by OECD standards. I expect this is at least partially due to their need to import vast quantities of coal and natural gas. The fuel cost for nuclear reactors is very small by comparison, and their reactors are likely near to being amortised, if they are not so already. In other words, power produced by this nuclear fuel is likely to be cheaper than current prices. Please note that even at $1000/kg, the U thus producedadds less than 2 cents to the price of a kW.h.

    Further, can I say I’m beginning to have serious doubts about that cost price. $1000 is only about 1-2 days labour and it seems unlikely this particular process – make polymer, stick it in water, retrieve it, extract the oxide, recondition it – could be done with such low inputs.

    This is the Argument From Personal Incredulity (a varient of the Argument From Authority) beloved of creationists and other theologians. If you have reasons for thinking the Japanese estimates to be wrong, articulate them. There’s a good breakup of the costs in this document:

    http://npc.sarov.ru/english/digest/132004/appendix8.html

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  82. Fran

    It would all depend on whether the process extracting salt acted similarly on the uranium salts and oxides. It it did it would tend to concentrate uranium in the brine and it would be worth exploring.

    If not, then there’d be no advantage.

    However, there is another issue and that is that desal plants apparently also discharge carbonates and carbonates apparently limit the uranium extraction process.

    And I don’t think Finrod’s comment re. coolant is very applicable. The volume of coolant in a reactor is trivial. On the other hand seawater recovery requires massive amounts of water.

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  83. And I don’t think Finrod’s comment re. coolant is very applicable. The volume of coolant in a reactor is trivial.

    I was referring to the tertiary coolant flow. If you think the amount of water therein is trivial, I expect you’ll be rushing to reassure all the anti-nuke activists who try to tell us that nuclear plants use too much water that they’ve got it all wrong.

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  84. JM, thanks for your comments. However when you say:

    On another note, I didn’t like the way you waved away the capital costs and tail-end storage of waste by focussing on operational costs. I think it would be more clear if you included those in your bar charts rather than relegating them to abstractions like “footprint”.

    One easy way of doing that would be to include the financing cost of both and piling it on top of the operational cost. If you do it for all technologies you’d end up with a reasonable comparison. It would also make your points about waste in respect of coal and once-through nuclear more obvious

    … you have misunderstood what “Levelised Cost of Electricity” (LCOE) means. I didn’t wave anything away. The LCOE includes the capital cost, financing/discount rate, decomm, waste management, O&M, fuel etc. The whole shebang. So nuclear looks pretty cheap, when all costs are included.

    I don’t understand the “how” question.

    Also, you would have been better to post that comment in the appropriate comments thread — it will be lost here.

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  85. I think JM is arguing that Power, as it is commonly expressed, is the same as Energy, if the time scale considered is 1 second.

    I can’t understand why he is obsessing about this, however. Yes, if you report MW, as AEMO is doing, this is the same as reporting 1 MJ, delivered within a 1 second period. But so…?

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  86. Fin’ I think you need to read what that paper actually says.

    It’s only concerned with evaluating 3 different mooring strategies. The $1000 you’ve been so enthusiastically quoting only refers to the contribution of mooring the membrane in the water.

    It completely ignores other costs associated with the process

    And it is NOT an experimental value. It is an estimated value based on very large scale deployment.

    Which is why it isn’t being done right now. Because it isn’t economic Fin’.

    And BTW, nuclear accounts for about 1/3 of Japanese electricity so it’s coal and gas – which have lower fuel costs and lower capital costs – that are subsidizing nuclear and lowering the price, not the other way round and can I also add that Japan subsidizes electricity generally.

    In anycase, you’re missing the point – if you’re going to make this case, you must, positively must use the cost of electricity from $1000/kg uranium and not arbitrage against coal and gas or $100/kg uranium (from mined ore).

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  87. I think JM is arguing that Power, as it is commonly expressed, is the same as Energy, if the time scale considered is 1 second.

    Barry, I think you need to review what I’ve been saying.

    Whilst what you say is ok in the mks system of units, I’m actually arguing completely the opposite:

    Power is not the same as energy but a lot of people here don’t seem to understand that – Peter in particular is all over the shop.

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  88. > you have misunderstood what “Levelised Cost of Electricity” (LCOE) means.

    Sorry I missed that comment in your presentation, I thought you were addressing only operational costs.

    However I notice that LCOE is very sensitive to input parameters and also that it does not include either costs beyond the lifetime of the system, which would normally expected to be zero or negligible unlike the decommissioning costs associated with nuclear and excludes totally the notion of post-lifetime liabilities such as those necessary for waste storage.

    It seems therefore that the numbers in your presentation would need close review and even then would be highly sensitive to parameter changes, possibly leading to different conclusions. You mentioned you have a paper under review. Do you have a pre-pub draft somewhere?

    The “how” question is about the transition – in two forms:-

    1. How do you get from an open-cycle to a closed cycle in nuclear. You describe fast breeders as “new” but this is handwaving. They aren’t new, but they remain experimental after about 30 years of development. Isn’t there a danger that they will not become operational until the point where open-cycle becomes too expensive and there is little fuel left?

    2. How do you get investment out of relatively simple technologies with short lead times to nuclear which is more complex and with longer lead times.

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  89. @ JM:

    It took me a minute after reading the last comment you addressed to me to realise what you are up to. It’s the same crap you tried to pull on LP where you lied about the content of my linked essay in the hope that people would take your word for it rather than check it for themselves (by the way, if the stats I’m getting on my blog for visitors from LP are any indication, you’ve failed miserably).

    You failed there, and you’ll fail here. It is late. Bed beckons. I’ll dismember your falsehoods in the morrow.

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  90. > definition of the derived unit “power” is the watt (W), which is a joule per second (J/s).

    Thank you. You just made my point. It is derived, not fundamental. Energy is fundamental and systems of units have nothing to do with it.

    When you guys use Power to calculate your “instantaneous capacity factor” – which is not the same as the commonly understood quantity – you are getting confused.

    And you’re creating a tendentious measure that is of not much value.

    When you further extend the application of this measure to discontinuous (read intermittent) energy sources you are really, really, doing something that is not acceptable.

    Redo the analysis using energy. Finrod’s had the wit to notice this point.

    Peter. Can I say this: The AEMO files we’re talking about have a value called “MWH_READING”. I presume this is MWh and not MW as you assert. Also please note that AEMO ask us to read it as MW but I they don’t explain why.

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  91. The paper has now been accepted in the journal Energy, as of yesterday. I will publish a report of it on BNC once it’s available online. We acknowledge in the paper that LCOE is sensitive to assumptions. That’s why we used assessments from 15 studies, including NREL, MIT, RAE, IEA, EIA, NEEDS and IPCC.

    I don’t describe fast breeders as new. I never said that. There have been commercial units running since the 1970s (e.g. BN-350, BN-600, Phenix). They synergy between thermal and fast reactor deployment will be described in later SNE2060 posts, but in the interim, I suggest you read the IFR FaD series on BNC.

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  92. > I don’t describe fast breeders as new. I never said that.

    You did actually.

    Immediately after* your slide showing the crossover points of various technologies at differing carbon price points – where you say “carbon capture and storage [needs] $50-60…” you introduce a photo of an experimental fast breeder and say:

    …. this is a new type of technology that has the potential to make nuclear sustainable …

    You then go on to discuss today’s technology as a “once-through” cycle as contrasted with a closed, breeder based cycle that isn’t limited – at least for a couple of centuries – by fuel supply.

    As I said, you could have given this same talk 40 years ago.

    “Real Soon Now” gets a bit old as a justification after 40 years. Fast breeders are still experimental and still not productionized.

    And as I said above, I kept waiting for the punchline. Where is the “new” in what you had to say?

    * Sorry my viewer doesn’t show me a timestamp so I can’t give you the exact point

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  93. Barry,

    I think JM is arguing that Power, as it is commonly expressed, is the same as Energy, if the time scale considered is 1 second.

    I can’t understand why he is obsessing about this, however. Yes, if you report MW, as AEMO is doing, this is the same as reporting 1 MJ, delivered within a 1 second period. But so…?

    However, vy convention which is accepted worlwide, the electricity industry does not report energy as Joules. It reports energy as kWh, MWh etc.

    So your point above could be more appropriately written, for electricity, as:

    “Power, as it is commonly expressed, is the same as Energy, if the time scale considered is 1 hour.

    This highlights the issue with JM’s lack of understanding of the electricity industry.

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  94. JM,

    Thank you. You just made my point. It [power] is derived, not fundamental. Energy is fundamental and systems of units have nothing to do with it.

    Wrong!. Energy is a derived unit in the SI system. Look it up. The only SI base units are: length, mass, time, electric current, thermodynamic temperature, amount of substance, luminous intensity. It is essential to understand the system of units being used in engineering, or you wont understand anything, as you seem to be demonstrating in your posts on this thread to date.

    Whilst what you say is ok in the mks system of units,

    The SI and MKS systems are not the same. Did you not know that? Are you really a physcist, or are you trying to become one?

    When you further extend the application of this measure to discontinuous (read intermittent) energy sources you are really, really, doing something that is not acceptable.

    JM. You haven’t a cluue. Why don’t you take up your point with the electricity industry. Try to convince the electricity industry throughout the world thay they are wrong and you know better.

    Peter. Can I say this: The AEMO files we’re talking about have a value called “MWH_READING”. I presume this is MWh and not MW as you assert. Also please note that AEMO ask us to read it as MW but I they don’t explain why.

    Why don’t you include a link to what you are referring to. I’ve asked you before to do so. I don’t know where you are referring to. However, this statement causes no confusion for me. MW is numerically the same as MWh over a 1 hour period, so what AEMO is saying is understood in the electricity industry – world wide! You need to understand if you intend to work with the data. You can average a column of MW readings, if they are at equal time spacing, and get average power which you can convert to energy by multiplying by the time span (in hours) of the column of readings. Or you can add the MW readings and multiply by the time difference between readings in hours to calculate the energy in MWh. Everyone in the industry understands this. If you don’t understand this, or you want to argue about it, I sauggest you take it up with AEMO. Or you could just be a bit more humble and be prepared to try to learn instead of thinking everyone else is stupid, but not you.

    you have misunderstood what “Levelised Cost of Electricity” (LCOE) means.

    Sorry I missed that comment in your presentation, I thought you were addressing only operational costs.

    Which demonstrates you haven’t the slightest understanding of LCOE. Clearly you do not understand that costs that are internalised for electricity are externalities for the other electricity generating technologies. You have also demonstrated that you have not the slightest understanding of cost estimating, real costs, constant versus current costs, etc. Not a clue but you think you do. You criticise the estimates of the future cost of Gen IV, but don’t seem to criticise the estimates of the future cost of renewables. Why not?

    Can I suggest you Google “ExternE” to find out about the externalities costs of electricity generation systems, “ExternE NEEDS” to find out how cost estimating is done for the future (compare the Solar Thermal and Nuclear estimates for example) and “ExternE NewExt” to learn about comparitive health effects and risks of the various electricity generation technologies.

    Or you could read the articles here and start on your course of learning:
    https://bravenewclimate.com/renewable-limits/

    Please do some homework and then, if you want to, post questions on the appropriate thread. There is great deal you could learn from BNC if you want to, and you can go back to the cited sources to dig deeper and check. Of course there will be errors, and we welcome them being pointed out. But at the moment I wouldn’t give any credibility to anything you say.

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  95. Barry,

    The paper has now been accepted in the journal Energy, as of yesterday.

    That is excellent news. Congratulations to you and Martin Nicholson. It is a great paper and I strongly recommend it as essential reading.

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  96. JM, power is a derived quantity. It has dimensions kg.m2.s-3 (using SI units).

    Energy is a derived quantity. It has dimensions kg.m2.s-2.

    Power and energy are both quantities with derived units, in the sense of the term that has physical meaning. The fundamental quantities are things like mass and time.

    Energy is not somehow more fundamental than power. They are both objective, real and different physical quantities. They have different qualities. Energy, for instance follows certain conservation laws that have interesting consequences. But so does momentum.

    You appear to think a quantity that is defined as a derivative is somehow less fundamental. For instance, I imagine you think electric charge a more fundamental quantity than electric current.

    But in the SI system, the fundamental electrical quantity is current. If you want to talk about charge, you need to integrate a current over time. Electrons carry a charge of 1.6×10^-19 ampere.seconds

    I think this is exactly analagous to your confusion over energy and power.

    I think you are coming unstuck on some fairly fundamental concepts in physics and calculus, which were first raised by the likes of Zeno and Democritus in ancient Greece, substantially dealt with by Newton, Liebniz and others, and pretty well tidied up by the later development of mathematics into the 20th century.

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  97. This sentence in my last post to JM:

    Clearly you do not understand that costs that are internalised for electricity are externalities for the other electricity generating technologies.

    was supposed to read:

    “Clearly you do not understand that costs that are internalised for nuclear are externalities for the other electricity generating technologies.”

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  98. @ JM:

    Fin’ I think you need to read what that paper actually says.

    Pure insolence, given your ridiculous claims concerning the paper’s contents.

    It’s only concerned with evaluating 3 different mooring strategies. The $1000 you’ve been so enthusiastically quoting only refers to the contribution of mooring the membrane in the water.

    It completely ignores other costs associated with the process

    This is a bald-faced lie. The paper gives three seperate tables detailing 1) the cost of production of the adsorbant cloth, 2) The cost of adsorbant mooring at the ocean site for three different methods, and 3) desorption and purification costs. There is also a table summarising the relative costs of various mooring options which include the adsorbant production costs and the desorption and putification costs.

    Now to examine each seperately:

    1) Assuming a production rate of 10,000 tonnes/year, this is figured to be 4.93 million yen/tonne, resulting in a cost of 4,100 yen/kg U from that input.

    2) The cost input to 1 kg of U from ocean site mooring is estimated as:

    a) 47,300 yen for the bouy method, or

    b) 43,800 yen for the floating body method, or

    c) 22,100 yen for the chain-binding method.

    3) The desorption and purification cost is estimated at 2,900 yen/kg U.

    This gives us a cost range for 1 kg of U from 29,100 yen to 54,300 yen.

    These estimates were made in 2001, when the $US-yen exchange rate was ~120yen/$US. Thus the high-end estimate is ~ US$450/kg U, and the low end estimate is ~US$240/kg U.

    The $1000 figure I offered for my previous calculations was indeed the cost (slightly overestimated) from the experimental tuns made a few years ago. JM has either not bothered to check any of this, or was hoping nobody else would.

    And BTW, nuclear accounts for about 1/3 of Japanese electricity so it’s coal and gas – which have lower fuel costs and lower capital costs – that are subsidizing nuclear and lowering the price, not the other way round and can I also add that Japan subsidizes electricity generally.

    The only element of truth in the above statement is that nuclear power entails high capital costs. The fuel costs for coal and gas are far greater than for nuclear power when assessed on a fuel cost/energy delivered basis (and the trasdportation cost for all that gas and coal must be an absolute killer for them… it’s all imported). This is why amortised nuclear plants in the US can produce electricity at a wholesale rate of less than US$0.02/kW.h, why France enjoys extremely cheap electricity by Western European standards, and why the Lithuanians were furious about having to shut down Ignalina to comply with EU membership requirements. If Japan goes fully nuclear (and it will, sooner or later) the price of electricity there will plummet.

    In anycase, you’re missing the point – if you’re going to make this case, you must, positively must use the cost of electricity from $1000/kg uranium and not arbitrage against coal and gas or $100/kg uranium (from mined ore).

    Referring to my response above, it will be less than the surrent price of electricity in Japan.
    JM, it is clear that you have either not read the paper referred to, or at least not read it for comprehension. If you have, that is ethically far worse. In that case you have deliberately lied about it in order to mislead people and obstruct the dissemination of truth concerning energy options. You have a clear history of doing this, and have thus abrogated any claim to be treated as an honest participant in this debate. Given your history of dishonesty, it seems highly unlikely that your claim to have studied and worked in physics is true. I shall make it my business to ensure that whenever I encounter you in a discussion in the future, all participants will be made aware of your history and your form.

    To everyone else, if you should ever knowingly cross paths with JM again, you would do well to check everything he/she says about referenced material for yourself. JM is a serial liar concerning such.

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  99. Oh boy.

    . MW is numerically the same as MWh over a 1 hour period, so what AEMO is saying is understood in the electricity industry

    AEMO sample in 5 second periods, Barry asserts identity between Power and Energy if you use the trick of setting the time period to 1 sec.

    Now you want the time period to be set to 1 hour to accomplish the same trick.

    Look, this is bloody simple to understand:- Power is not Energy.

    Energy is a fundamental. Power is not.

    And the derivation of Power is actually Work over time not Energy. Work just happens to be expressed in the same units as Energy.

    “Clearly you do not understand that costs that are internalised for nuclear are externalities for the other electricity generating technologies.”

    And what is that supposed to mean? Exactly what is internalized for nuclear but external to coal say?

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  100. JM,

    You continually repeat the same wrong statements despite having been told by several people including me. You don’t understand. You don’t listen, you continually confuse power and energy and then say I and others don’t understand the difference, you think every one is wrong except you, you dont understand the system of units we’ve been using since the 1970’s, and you don’t know anything about cost estimating, you haven’t bothered to look at the references I gave you which would have answered your last question.

    But you are unable to admit you are totally out of your depth.

    You’re a fool.

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  101. you haven’t bothered to look at the references I gave you which would have answered your last question.

    Even if JM had done so, he just would have lied about what the reference said in the hope that no-one would check up on him.

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  102. > you continually confuse power and energy

    I confuse power and energy???? WTF?

    How, when?

    You’ve done it many times. Other people have also.

    The entire basis of this thread is my initial observations that that was what you guys were doing.

    Don’t project Peter. It’s not a good look.

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  103. Oh and while you’re there Peter, could you explain this statement:

    “Clearly you do not understand that costs that are internalised for nuclear are externalities for the other electricity generating technologies.”

    I’m still very curious about it.

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  104. John

    Systems of units have nothing to do with it. Energy is fundamental, power is not.

    On reflection I find it somewhat ironic that a blog with a large contingent of nuclear fans doesn’t understand what E=mc^2 actually means.

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  105. John: Energy, for instance follows certain conservation laws that have interesting consequences. But so does momentum.

    Yes. But energy and momentum are very, very closely related. In many formulations they are essentially identical. You need to look into some relativity a bit.

    The analogy is not apposite.

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  106. Oh. My. God.

    JM, “Energy is fundamental. Power is not.” does not have any physical meaning.

    “Energy and momentum are very, very closely related” does not have physical meaning.

    Energy and momentum are never “essentially identical”. There is no formulation in which they unify, including relativistic formulations.

    Power is the instantaneous time rate of change of energy in a defined physical system. Its a more general concept than just the time rate of change of work. For instance, you could put a hot iron rod into a glass of water and observe the water temperature rise. The rate at which heat energy is being transferred to the water is the power. No work involved.

    The relationships between these quantities is the subject of dimensional analysis, a very powerful analytical technique in physics and engineering. There is no quantity that is more ‘fundamental’ than any other. The thing that is fundamental is the more abstract calculus of their interactions, the mathematical structure in which they exist.

    You really do have some basic misconceptions about the nature of physical quantities.

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  107. JM said,

    Oh and while you’re there Peter, could you explain this statement:

    “Clearly you do not understand that costs that are internalised for nuclear are externalities for the other electricity generating technologies.”

    I’m still very curious about it.

    As I said last time you asked the same question, go to the link I gave you and you might understand (perhaps, but then again you might not. I expect you will say they are all wrong and you know better)

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  108. John

    I’m sorry I snapped at you there, and I’m also sorry for not getting back to you earlier but I’ve had some very serious things to deal with over the last two days.

    Yes “essentially identical” is probably an overstatement, and I meant it only as a philosophical viewpoint that is not rigorous but isn’t far from the truth either.

    Can I refer you to Special Relativity – From Einstein to Strings by Patricia and John Schwarz*, particularly Section 4.2 from which I will quote:


    In Newtonian physics, energy and momentum are different quantities. One is a scalar and one is a vector. Under a Galilean transformation, energy remains energy and momentum remains momentum. In relativity, a Lorentz boost mixes energy and momentum, just as it mixes time and space, so that energy are as relative as time and space.

    As I said, not completely wrong. And you can see this if you look at photons which the Schwatz’s then go on to do in this and following sections.

    Now, to your example of the beer glass and the poker.

    Touche. Yeah, you’re right on that one. But you just shot your argument about dimensional analysis and the equal standing of all physical variables (if I can put it that way) in the foot.

    Heat transfer of this kind is specifically excluded from the definition of Work. It’s an exception. So not all quantities are created equal. Some are abstractions with applicable only in limited contexts.

    Power – IMHO – is one of them. You need time in there to make it work. Energy, however is fundamental. Energy and mass are identical after all, and there is nothing else in the universe than those two.

    * I’m sure you know who they are, if not, Google them. And yes, books like this are my lunch time and commute time reading.

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  109. JM,’

    Could you be more specific as to what you are asking about? I’ll take a guess that you are referring to this:

    Can I suggest you Google “ExternE” to find out about the externalities costs of electricity generation systems, “ExternE NEEDS” to find out how cost estimating is done for the future (compare the Solar Thermal and Nuclear estimates for example) and “ExternE NewExt” to learn about comparitive health effects and risks of the various electricity generation technologies.

    which was included in this post:
    https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/10/03/challicum-hills/#comment-104710

    Start with ‘ExternE’. I’d urge you to look at the others as well.

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  110. Thanks Peter

    Now that I understand that you are talking about externalities in the normal sense can I ask you for your response to the WInd and Hydro columns in the results table (bottom of the page)?

    In general, nuclear has greater external cost than both.

    (Although I’d also express some curiosity about the sensitivity and robustness of the model since external costs seem to vary quite markedly across countries for any given technology.)

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  111. JM,

    Can I suggest you take your time to get up to speed on the subject matter first before asking me for more explanation. We do not have a common platform and it is impossible to explain, on short posts, the bacground you need for this discussion. The three references I suggested you review will assist, but you will need to spend some time on them.

    I’d also suggest you have a look at the SI system of units because you are thinking in pure physics terms rather than in engineering terms.

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  112. JM, thanks for your response above, and apology accepted. I wrote above,

    (Ignoring quantization of energy of course, but thats a level of pedantry not called for here. Yet.)

    and it looks like we got there after all, though via relativity rather than QM.

    I would still not privilege any particular quantity as being more fundamental than another, but I can see your position is more nuanced than I thought, so until we define clearly what we each mean by “fundamental”, I’ll say I’m not completely right.

    On the hot poker, power in thermodynamics is taken to be a more general concept than purely ‘mechanical’ power. ie P=dU/dt where dU=dW+dq. So while heat and work are distinct modes of energy, thermal energy flux is included in the definition of power. (Otherwise, what word do you use to describe the energy flow used to heat the water? I recommend you add some statistical mechanics to your commute reading list.)

    Interesting as this is, its rather strayed from the point. What are you trying to do with the wind data you’re after? And have you thought of contributing to the analysis effort at Oz Energy Analysis?

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