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The Catch-22 of Energy Storage

Pick up a research paper on battery technology, fuel cells, energy storage technologies or any of the advanced materials science used in these fields, and you will likely find somewhere in the introductory paragraphs a throwaway line about its application to the storage of renewable energy.  Energy storage makes sense for enabling a transition away from fossil fuels to more intermittent sources like wind and solar, and the storage problem presents a meaningful challenge for chemists and materials scientists… Or does it?


Guest Post by John Morgan. John is Chief Scientist at a Sydney startup developing smart grid and grid scale energy storage technologies.  He is Adjunct Professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering at RMIT, holds a PhD in Physical Chemistry, and is an experienced industrial R&D leader.  You can follow John on twitter at @JohnDPMorganFirst published in Chemistry in Australia.


Several recent analyses of the inputs to our energy systems indicate that, against expectations, energy storage cannot solve the problem of intermittency of wind or solar power.  Not for reasons of technical performance, cost, or storage capacity, but for something more intractable: there is not enough surplus energy left over after construction of the generators and the storage system to power our present civilization.

The problem is analysed in an important paper by Weißbach et al.1 in terms of energy returned on energy invested, or EROEI – the ratio of the energy produced over the life of a power plant to the energy that was required to build it.  It takes energy to make a power plant – to manufacture its components, mine the fuel, and so on.  The power plant needs to make at least this much energy to break even.  A break-even powerplant has an EROEI of 1.  But such a plant would pointless, as there is no energy surplus to do the useful things we use energy for.

There is a minimum EROEI, greater than 1, that is required for an energy source to be able to run society.  An energy system must produce a surplus large enough to sustain things like food production, hospitals, and universities to train the engineers to build the plant, transport, construction, and all the elements of the civilization in which it is embedded.

For countries like the US and Germany, Weißbach et al. estimate this minimum viable EROEI to be about 7.  An energy source with lower EROEI cannot sustain a society at those levels of complexity, structured along similar lines.  If we are to transform our energy system, in particular to one without climate impacts, we need to pay close attention to the EROEI of the end result.

The EROEI values for various electrical power plants are summarized in the figure.  The fossil fuel power sources we’re most accustomed to have a high EROEI of about 30, well above the minimum requirement.  Wind power at 16, and concentrating solar power (CSP, or solar thermal power) at 19, are lower, but the energy surplus is still sufficient, in principle, to sustain a developed industrial society.  Biomass, and solar photovoltaic (at least in Germany), however, cannot.  With an EROEI of only 3.9 and 3.5 respectively, these power sources cannot support with their energy alone both their own fabrication and the societal services we use energy for in a first world country.

Energy Returned on Invested, from Weißbach et al.,1 with and without energy storage (buffering).  CCGT is closed-cycle gas turbine.  PWR is a Pressurized Water (conventional nuclear) Reactor.  Energy sources must exceed the “economic threshold”, of about 7, to yield the surplus energy required to support an OECD level society.
Energy Returned on Invested, from Weißbach et al.,1 with and without energy storage (buffering).  CCGT is closed-cycle gas turbine.  PWR is a Pressurized Water (conventional nuclear) Reactor.  Energy sources must exceed the “economic threshold”, of about 7, to yield the surplus energy required to support an OECD level society.

These EROEI values are for energy directly delivered (the “unbuffered” values in the figure).  But things change if we need to store energy.  If we were to store energy in, say, batteries, we must invest energy in mining the materials and manufacturing those batteries.  So a larger energy investment is required, and the EROEI consequently drops.

Weißbach et al. calculated the EROEIs assuming pumped hydroelectric energy storage.  This is the least energy intensive storage technology.  The energy input is mostly earthmoving and construction.  It’s a conservative basis for the calculation; chemical storage systems requiring large quantities of refined specialty materials would be much more energy intensive.  Carbajales-Dale et al.2 cite data asserting batteries are about ten times more energy intensive than pumped hydro storage.

Adding storage greatly reduces the EROEI (the “buffered” values in the figure).  Wind “firmed” with storage, with an EROEI of 3.9, joins solar PV and biomass as an unviable energy source.  CSP becomes marginal (EROEI ~9) with pumped storage, so is probably not viable with molten salt thermal storage.  The EROEI of solar PV with pumped hydro storage drops to 1.6, barely above breakeven, and with battery storage is likely in energy deficit.

This is a rather unsettling conclusion if we are looking to renewable energy for a transition to a low carbon energy system: we cannot use energy storage to overcome the variability of solar and wind power.

In particular, we can’t use batteries or chemical energy storage systems, as they would lead to much worse figures than those presented by Weißbach et al.  Hydroelectricity is the only renewable power source that is unambiguously viable.  However, hydroelectric capacity is not readily scaled up as it is restricted by suitable geography, a constraint that also applies to pumped hydro storage.

This particular study does not stand alone.  Closer to home, Springer have just published a monograph, Energy in Australia,3 which contains an extended discussion of energy systems with a particular focus on EROEI analysis, and draws similar conclusions to Weißbach.  Another study by a group at Stanford2 is more optimistic, ruling out storage for most forms of solar, but suggesting it is viable for wind.  However, this viability is judged only on achieving an energy surplus (EROEI>1), not sustaining society (EROEI~7), and excludes the round trip energy losses in storage, finite cycle life, and the energetic cost of replacement of storage.  Were these included, wind would certainly fall below the sustainability threshold.

It’s important to understand the nature of this EROEI limit.  This is not a question of inadequate storage capacity – we can’t just buy or make more storage to make it work.  It’s not a question of energy losses during charge and discharge, or the number of cycles a battery can deliver.  We can’t look to new materials or technological advances, because the limits at the leading edge are those of earthmoving and civil engineering.  The problem can’t be addressed through market support mechanisms, carbon pricing, or cost reductions.  This is a fundamental energetic limit that will likely only shift if we find less materially intensive methods for dam construction.

This is not to say wind and solar have no role to play.  They can expand within a fossil fuel system, reducing overall emissions.  But without storage the amount we can integrate in the grid is greatly limited by the stochastically variable output.  We could, perhaps, build out a generation of solar and wind and storage at high penetration.  But we would be doing so on an endowment of fossil fuel net energy, which is not sustainable.  Without storage, we could smooth out variability by building redundant generator capacity over large distances.  But the additional infrastructure also forces the EROEI down to unviable levels.  The best way to think about wind and solar is that they can reduce the emissions of fossil fuels, but they cannot eliminate them.  They offer mitigation, but not replacement.

Nor is this to say there is no value in energy storage.  Battery systems in electric vehicles clearly offer potential to reduce dependency on, and emissions from, oil (provided the energy is sourced from clean power).  Rooftop solar power combined with four hours of battery storage can usefully timeshift peak electricity demand,3 reducing the need for peaking power plants and grid expansion.  And battery technology advances make possible many of our recently indispensable consumer electronics.  But what storage can’t do is enable significant replacement of fossil fuels by renewable energy.

If we want to cut emissions and replace fossil fuels, it can be done, and the solution is to be found in the upper right of the figure.  France and Ontario, two modern, advanced societies, have all but eliminated fossil fuels from their electricity grids, which they have built from the high EROEI sources of hydroelectricity and nuclear power.  Ontario in particular recently burnt its last tonne of coal, and each jurisdiction uses just a few percent of gas fired power.  This is a proven path to a decarbonized electricity grid.

But the idea that advances in energy storage will enable renewable energy is a chimera – the Catch-22 is that in overcoming intermittency by adding storage, the net energy is reduced below the level required to sustain our present civilization.

BNC Postscript

When this article was published in CiA some readers had difficulty with the idea of a minimum societal EROI.  Why can’t we make do with any positive energy surplus, if we just build more plant?  Hall4 breaks it down with the example of oil:

Think of a society dependent upon one resource: its domestic oil. If the EROI for this oil was 1.1:1 then one could pump the oil out of the ground and look at it. If it were 1.2:1 you could also refine it and look at it, 1.3:1 also distribute it to where you want to use it but all you could do is look at it. Hall et al. 2008 examined the EROI required to actually run a truck and found that if the energy included was enough to build and maintain the truck and the roads and bridges required to use it, one would need at least a 3:1 EROI at the wellhead.

Now if you wanted to put something in the truck, say some grain, and deliver it, that would require an EROI of, say, 5:1 to grow the grain. If you wanted to include depreciation on the oil field worker, the refinery worker, the truck driver and the farmer you would need an EROI of say 7 or 8:1 to support their families. If the children were to be educated you would need perhaps 9 or 10:1, have health care 12:1, have arts in their life maybe 14:1, and so on. Obviously to have a modern civilization one needs not simply surplus energy but lots of it, and that requires either a high EROI or a massive source of moderate EROI fuels.

The point is illustrated in the EROI pyramid.4 (The blue values are published values: the yellow values are increasingly speculative.)

Finally, if you are interested in pumped hydro storage, a previous Brave New Climate article by Peter Lang covers the topic in detail, and the comment stream is an amazing resource on the operational characteristics and limits of this means of energy storage.

References

  1. Weißbach et al., Energy 52 (2013) 210. Preprint available here.
  2. Carbajales-Dale et al., Energy Environ. Sci. DOI: 10.1039/c3ee42125b
  3. Graham Palmer, Energy in Australia: Peak Oil, Solar Power, and Asia’s Economic Growth; Springer 2014.
  4. Pedro Prieto and Charles Hall, Spain’s Photovoltaic Revolution, Springer 2013.

By Barry Brook

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

642 replies on “The Catch-22 of Energy Storage”

If you are South facing, Tony Carden, you are screwed, but if you are north or west facing then as awnings over your windows, as is done in many new units, or on your terrace.

Petrossa,

“The battle between the two fuels dates back to the prohibition era when gasoline took over from ethanol as the main fuel used to run cars. The first car Henry Ford ever built was designed to run on pure ethanol and in 1906, when the liquor tax was repealed, Ford declared that ethanol was the fuel of the future.

But his idea was effectively killed off by 1920 when Standard Oil founder John D Rockefeller got the temperance movement to ban the manufacture of alcohol for any purpose.”

http://www.environmentalhistory.org/billkovarik/about-bk/research/henry-ford-charles-kettering-and-the-fuel-of-the-future/

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Thanks for that advice BilB but my Balcony faces west and if I put Solar panels there I would lose me view as well as any breeze that comes from that direction. But you did not answer the second part of my question, what do i do at night?

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You use the grid, batteries, wait for the combination solar panel battery, or just do nothing at all (it isn’t for absolutely every one after all)

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you mean that grid with the black/brown outs and it’s not even truly loaded yet? So that grid that’ll just absorb all that variable energy and cope with millions of charging vehicles?That grid you mean? I guess it can be seen from outerspace as a red glowing line before it just melts.

Or better still let’s make it a ‘smart’ grid. Nice electronic components that will fry in the first big solar flare or just fail because it’s way to complex.

Boy i am really glad i invested in a fuel driven backup generator, had to use it several times already during the summer when the grid conked out or that time when the outside junctionbox shorted and exploded with a nice explosion ripping the powercords to shreds.

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The whole european grid is in very unstable state due to the gigantic swings caused by Germany dumping their excess wind/solar on the grid. It really doesn’t work. Imagine this is just 1 nation whose 16% ‘alternative’ energy that already can topple the entire European grid. Imagine all 28 nations going variable! Just can never ever work. So charging cars for 500 million inhabitants is a pipedream. The only way you can reliably have electric cars is either diesel-electric or a totally new far away in a distant future micro fusion/fission powerplant.

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I think I missed something here. Batteries DO have an eroei. It’s called energy stored on investment, The paper says only 2 for lead acid and up to 10 for (the best) li-ion. Now, does that mean for an amount of time comparable to RE system’s life cycle, or is that merely for the few years they work?

To construct an equation which models energy inputs for future energy systems, we need to account for all the variables.
The energy equation consists of exactly 6 variables: Energy Returned On Energy Invested, Energy Stored On Investment, Capacity Factor, Inefficiency of storage, variation from flat energy requirements, and overlap (from other energy sources). Plus the multiple of battery recycles necessary to back up renewables for there expected lifetime.

My equation (from about two months ago, posted here) only considers CF, Eroei and ESOI. I “reworded” it. In reality, the required inputs will be less because of variation from flat (always 100% energy demand) because of overlap (at times, the wind would compliment solar, for example).
However, the inefficiency of storage alone might counter!

(1/CF) + ((1/CF)-1 (1/Esoi)) / Eroei

The middle parts “(1/CF)-1 (1/Esoi)” seek to account for just the embodied energy for the storage component. The “-1” is the part that does not have to be stored assuming flat energy demand. In the real world of lessor consumption, it’ll be a variable that’s more than 1. And overlap will really confuse the issue. Still, it gets the point across (albeit slightly too much).

Let’s consider solar at Eroei 10, CF of .2 and battery storage with Esoi of 5. (and hope this set does NOT encompass the future of the world).
The inverse of .2 is 5
5-1 is 4
The inverse of Esoi (5) is .2
4 x .2 is .8
Add the 5, for 5.8 and divide by 10 (the Eroei of panels).
This requires that 58% of the output be used just to build itself. Not good!!!

Plug the numbers from nuclear and you get like only 1%. That’s because far less energy required to build storage (because far higher CF) and even more energy from the start (Eroei of 20 to 10,000 depending on reactor type).

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Fire – Has your equation been “vetted?” How do you deal with issues of technology evolution? How do you deal with “multiple use” storage options (car batteries)?

I think the renewables advocates have an ardently-held belief (I rate it as magical) in technological progress solving all problems – – driving down costs and materials requirements of intermittent technologies and storage while increasing the capabilities of both, integrating those technologies precisely through advanced information technology and a “super grid-smart grid” and combining this kind of system with reduced demand/improved efficiency and demand response, which is itself driven forward quickly enough to solve the problems.

I think this theory is deeply untenable because the problem is so large, the assumptions of progress are so grand, the induced costs are usually ignored or unreasonably minimized, and the real world makes the kind of progress that they must presume very, very, very difficult to actualize (probably impossible).

All the same I am wondering how an equation/model like yours deals with/might deal with the dynamic factors for renewables (or nuclear), if it can.

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I wanted to prove to the wind and solar only crowd that technology isn’t the only challenge. I like solar, however its energy inputs and its storage energy inputs are going to have to be far less – in order to power a very low fossil fueled future at high standards. And PV needs to become much more efficient to be the major source, to require less land.
So I tried to approximate the total EROEI of RE system.
To my surprise, the storage component did not add too much, other than to make up for inefficiency, which isn’t accounted for (yet) in my equation. 95% efficient batteries with an ESOI of about 10 may not be impossible to mass produce (but nuclear should make all those parts, and back solar, anyways). The batteries are good for EVs.

I’ve put the equation on hold as I can’t really figure all the variables (and not too good at math!). It is vetted by logic and rebuttled by variables.

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BilB – you are fairly dismissive of the article’s criticism of the potential for storage, and particularly optimistic regarding substantial (imminent?) breakthroughs in battery chemistries. Are you a chemist?

You also gloss over the requirements of industry. Have you worked in manufacturing?

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The most comprehensive site on batteries:

“What is the ultimate miracle battery?

The ultimate miracle battery is nowhere in sight and the battery remains the ‘weak link’ for the foreseeable future. As long as the battery is based on an electro-chemical process, limitations of power density and short life expectancy must be taken into account. We must adapt to this constraint and design the equipment around it.

People want an inexhaustible pool of energy in a small package that is cheap, safe and clean. A radical turn will be needed to satisfy the unquenchable thirst for portable and mobile power. It is anyone’s guess whether a superior electro-chemical battery, an improved fuel cell, a futuristic atomic fusion battery or some other groundbreaking energy storage device will fulfill this dream. For many, this break will not come in ones lifetime.”

http://batteryuniversity.com/learn/article/the_future_battery

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The postscript seems rather illogical:
“Hall et al. 2008 examined the EROI required to actually run a truck and found that if the energy included was enough to build and maintain the truck and the roads and bridges required to use it, one would need at least a 3:1 EROI at the wellhead.”
Why not 2:1 and pump twice as much?

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“why not pump twice the amount out”>/i?
Because, in the end, the Eroei from FF is zero – unless they are actually used to build a more energy dense infrastructure to permanently replace FF with, to power a much larger civilization with much higher standards of living.
If you are using RE, the combination of Eroei of the source, the ESOI of the storage and the efficiency of that storage nears hitting the law of diminishing returns. The closer to an overall EROEI down to 1 the
total system gets, the more exponentially increasing amounts of land required.

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A valid answer for the specific case of oil.
But that analogy does not extend to renewables because we won’t run out of either solar or wind energy. That’s what “renewable” means!

So do you now accept that, in locations where expansion is not prevented by a shortage of suitable land, renewables need not reach the threshold of about 7 before they’re suitable for powering an advanced economy, because if they’re at a lower figure we can just use more of them?

If not, why not?

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Aidan, the post isn’t about oil expended for energy returned, but energy expended for energy returned. Think about it some more. Solar panels aren’t free and aren’t forever, they also consume considerable land, have a toxic manufacturing chain and use far more concrete and steel. Also when mounted on roofs they involve one of the consistently most dangerous occupations in the economy … anything involving ladders and roofs. But apart from all that, solar is glacially slow to roll out and we don’t have much time.

Currently around the world there are 66 GW of nuclear being built … which will generate as much energy as 520 Ivanpahs (theoretically), but in practice it could be more like 1000. Each Ivanpah is a 4 year build … that’s 2080 build-years compared with about 330 build-years at 5 years per nuke … which is generous because most are being built in China and taking less than 5 years.

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aidan, ‘renewable’ used in your context equals to perpetuum mobile. It just can’t be something for nothing. So one way or the other you need to account for the energy generation losses. Be it in the cost of windfarms which last 10 yrs of yr lucky and never have rated capacity when you need it, or solar panels that only work rated capacity in optimal conditions when/if there’s enough light.

Renewable is a falsehood. A pipedream. The most efficient way to generate energy is direct matter->energy since it’s the shortest cut. Be it fusion or fission.

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Aidan Stanger, the analogy would be that twice as much oil would need twice as much trucks to distribute. EROI stays the same.

Solar and wind have to improve EROI, or batteries have to reduce input energy and increase number of cycles, or robots have to do the installation and manufacturing, or some combination of all of these things.

In my opinion the most realistic in the short term is solar and wind increasing EROI and batteries increasing number of cycles.

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Geoff, try thinking about it some more:
The post isn’t about the cost of solar. Nor the land use, though I did mention that to exclude it from the comparison. Nor is it about the safety of those who install it. These are often valid concerns, but they have nothing to do with EROEI.

And when EROEI is the issue, you don’t need to double count panel manufacture and frame manufacture.

Solar can be rolled out much more quickly. It’s being held back by a reluctance to convince resources. As indeed is nuclear, so it’s nothing to do with EROEI.

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Petrossa, you’re displaying your ignorance, and you appear to be trying to change the subject as well. It’s not something for nothing; it’s something we want for something the sun has supplied.

The average lifespan of wind turbines is still to be determined, but most of those that were there ten years ago still are. And solar panels are also more effective than they used to be.

And EROEI figures do take the losses into account.

Far from being a falsehood or pipedream, renewable is here.

If it’s generation efficiency you want, hydroelectric is the best option. Of course most places don’t have suitable conditions for hydroelectric, but that’s sort of my point. We should pick the option best suited to the conditions rather than blindly choosing nuclear. In many locations nuclear is the best option, but it does have major costs that are nothing to do with EROEI.

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seems you miss the point of my comment, let me simplify it for you: You can not generate/collect energy without doing work first. So renewable is not a correct term. At one point whatever does the work to generate/collect the energy runs out/becomes too expensive/too inefficient or just has such a bad cost/benefit ratio it’s not renewable.

Even simpler: in order to collect energy in your scenario you need to use finite materials, so your ‘renewable’ is no m ore ‘renewable’ than any other form of power generation.

Hope that clears that up, i know it’s complicated for some.

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ppp251, if the oil is distributed by truck (and there’s no reason why it has to be) then distributing it may well require twice as many trucks, but it’s unlikely to require twice as many roads etc.

And the more advanced an economy gets, the lower the energy costs are likely to be in comparison to total cost.

I notice from your mention of robots that you do acknowledge that it’s cost, not some arbitrary EROEI value, that’s the limiting factor.

I agree it’s likely that solar and wind will improve EROEI and that batteries will increase the number of cycles they’re good for. But it’s not the only option. Scientists are working on making iron oxide based solar cells. These will be less efficient than the conventional kind, but because iron oxide is so cheap it won’t matter. Scientists are also working on iron based batteries, as the much lower cost of producing them would outweigh the disadvantages.

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Petrossa, now you’re just being silly. Renewable is the universally used term, and has been for decades. It’s in most dictionaries now, so it’s a bit late to start whinging about it being incorrect.

BTW you seem to have forgotten that finite materials can be recycled.

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i’m silly because i pose a valid question about ‘renewable’ which isn’t? Now you claim again that you can get something for nothing since ‘materials can be recycled’. In this view there are no losses…. Obviously such a situation doesn’t exist in nature as we know it. There are losses, in any form of energy transformation, but just as obviously the shortest route is the most lossless. In other words, direct matter/energy transformation. Biggest return on investment possible. This doesn’t sit well with ‘green’ advocates so they heap on silly ‘safety’ regulations which try to make this process more expensive, such demanding flood/earthquake resistance for places were such an event is beyond negligible and if they were to happen there it’s totally moot since the world is by that time lost anyway.

If one calculates cost/benefit on even Chernobyl style powerplants still the benefits outweigh the cost. For decades ‘primitive’ reactors churn out electricity in France without noteworthy incidents. Still i pay including all taxes, levies, ecotax subsidies to pay for ‘renewable’ energy only 10 eurocents a kw/h.

No way on earth any ‘renewable’ source comes even near to double that counting ALL costs. So the question is simple, do you truly want to help developing nations to reach a minimum level of civilized standards or not.

One thing is for sure, ‘renewable’ is not going to cut it.

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No, Petrossa, the silly claims you posted about renewables were neither valid nor a question.

You’re the one rabbitting on about getting something for nothing, as if that was what renewability depended on. But in non-nuclear processes, which do occur a lot in nature, matter is conserved.

Your statement that “the shortest route is the most lossless” is dubious, and your subsequent claim that this would be “direct matter/energy transformation” isn’t just silly, it’s absolutely ridiculous! The most efficient route would be direct energy/energy transformation, probably in the form of converting gravitational potential energy to electrical energy.

Nuclear energy is nowhere near the shortest route, as it converts matter to heat energy, then heat energy to electrical energy via a rather inefficient process. So although nuclear’s a clear winner on energy density, it’s quite poor on conversion efficiency.

Far from being silly, safety regulations for nuclear power are crucial and completely worthwhile. Anything that can be done with dangerous nuclear power can be done better with safe nuclear power!

Your denial of the capabilities of renewables could accurately be described as cognitive dissonance. They’re cost competitive with nuclear already (especially if there’s access to cheap finance), and can be deployed much quicker on a small scale.

I do want to help developing nations, but I think they’d gain more from low cost solutions that address the actual problems than they would from trying to impose a single solution everywhere, especially when that solution has high running costs.

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from all the forms of energy generation nuclear has the lowest harm per capita rate at the same time generating the cheapest energy over 60 years since it’s commercial inception now.

during the time ‘renewables which aren’t’ are implemented it only managed to generate energy at high cost at the wrong times seldom at rated capacity.
For your edification look at british numbers http://www.bmreports.com/bsp/bsp_home.htm

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“Far from being silly, safety regulations for nuclear power are crucial and completely worthwhile. Anything that can be done with dangerous nuclear power can be done better with safe nuclear power!”

So you believe that there is no such thing as a bad regulation, a counter-productive regulation, or over-regulation?

Your statements are foolish (in the most literal sense of the word) on their face.

Nuclear already has the safest record of any electricity generation method, including wind and solar.

All regulation comes with a cost. Additional regulatory costs would best be spent/paid where they would do some good. Applying them to nuclear might make it marginally safer, but it is already so safe that there’s no real room for improvement.

Instead, let’s apply the costs of new regulation to wind and solar. Why don’t we start by requiring that they fully fund their decommissioning costs, the way nuclear already does. That way, when those wind mills and solar panels wear out in 15 or 30 years, there will be funds to clean them up instead of letting them turn into a diffuse environmental disaster.

Because as things currently stand, and given the rare-earth contents of those wind and solar generators, right now wind and solar are likely to cause the widespread poisoning of the land, that the anti-nuclear liars attribute to nuclear. As soon as they wear out and are left to lay on the country-side, because folks took their wind and solar subsidies and ran, that poisoning will begin.

Where is your demand for regulation for this very real threat which is coming down the pike? Instead you’d rather crow about imaginary benefits from regulations that actually make things more dangerous.

Yes, too much regulation makes the real world dangerous as it creates confusion about what best practice is, when the are so many directives, some of them contradictory, that one needs a team of lawyers to figure out what’s expected.

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Nuclear power has such a good safety record mainly because it is tightly regulated. I make no apologies for wanting that to continue.

Petrossa, your last claim about renewables was incorrect. There’s one renewable power source that’s been producing power at low cost at the right times throughout the nuclear era. (Clue: it’s the one that converts gravitational potential energy to electrical energy).

Which British numbers were you referring to?

Jeff, solar power doesn’t usually use rare earths. Wind power often does, but where it does they’re far too expensive to just leave lying on the ground.

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funny guy, hydro is not a valid global powergeneration method… it needs specific circumstances not generally available. You might just as well claim that Icelandic vulcanic steam powergeneration is a valid global alternative.

But it’s good to see you realize there’s a lot faulty in your reasoning. There is hope for you yet.

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Sorry for that mess up with italics. Anyways, If solar has an Eroei of 10 and batteries an ESOI of 10, then we need to account for how much the batteries need to be used. Since the CF of solar is only about 20%, then we would have to build 5x (now that’s 5 parts of the initial Eroei of the solar. Now account for the battery. Let’s say that it gets an ESOI of 10. 4 parts of that solar will need to get stored (once everybody charges their EV at night). An additional 4/10ths unit of energy needed. Now, consider the inefficiency of storage, say a total of 80%. Ok, build 25% more solar.
As you can see, we’re starting to run up against the laws of diminishing returns and nature might not like us building 6.5 multiples of a 25 TW (or so) solar capacity. We don’t like fenced solar farms build on completely graded land either.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with a billion solar roofs – as long as we don’t try to delete nuclear from the mix! We’ll need that energy to deal with the building of civilization – and the removal of excess CO2.

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Petrossa, I think the difference between our approaches is that I look at what’s best in context, whereas you ignore local conditions and restrict yourself to what you consider to be valid global powergeneration methods! The fault is in your reasoning, not mine. And there are very many locations that are totally unsuitable for nuclear.

Hydro, and to some extent geothermal, have a huge potential for energy balancing, so where they’re available there is more scope to increase use of other renewables.

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my reasoning is perfectly sane and logical don’t worry. You’re talking about doing the opposite of simplicity and efficiency. Ockham’s razor is also valid for projects. The more elements you add the less likely it’ll work as expected. So diversifying and downsizing energyproduction to housing level is about as inefficient, expensive and accident prone as you can get. With each powergeneration unit you increase the risk of accidents. A very silly idea from almost every angle. and Hydro storage has huge efficiency losses, very expensive and is very impractical in most of the world.

Al of your ‘solutions’ are just a bit of noise in the margins of the total Terawatts needed to run our civilization. For example i rather live (as i do) in the vicinity of an ancient reactor than a gW battery storage unit as those things tend to explode more easily than a reactor does. I prefer my view not be polluted by butugly health hazards such a windmill or a birdfrying solarfarm when to net result is less reliability, for huge cost and immense variability whilst at the same time never ever being able to even generate 10% of global needs for any reasonable length of time as has been proven by the total failures of Denmark, Germany and Britain to get it going despite having invested hundreds of billions of euros.

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My original point is that the closer you get down to 1, the larger amounts of land will be needed. If too much energy is going for the making of energy, then it will intrinsically become too expensive. I could be wrong, because it might be possible that economic principles are such to create more of an economy by requiring so much extra work – afterall, lots of things would be getting built. However, it seems that the lower the overall EROEI, the less money will be available to go elsewhere. Anyways, it also seems like the Eroei of the RE sources themselves will become higher as the development advances.

Perhaps, subsidy should be given equally per expected TWh delivered to all new sources including MSR type reactors.

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fireofenergy, the true EROEI of fossil fuels is not zero, but it is a lot less than one. But that’s irrelevant to my original point, which was that an arbitrary minimum EROEI (excluding fuel energy content) of about seven is NOT a requirement for supporting a modern society.

A 20% capacity factor sounds rather low for solar. And if you’re relying exclusively on solar (something that’s rarely appropriate, especially when the CF’s that low) then it makes sense to charge EVs in the daytime rather than at night.

I’m not trying to delete nuclear from the mix. IMO nuclear’s often a good option. But its case relies on economic advantage not technical necessity, and the economic case for it where I am is weak.

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Petrossa, you claim your reasoning is logical but then disprove that again by misusing Ockham’s razor. It’s redundancy, not simplicity, that network reliability depends on! Depending on a single source results in a less reliable system.

Here in South Australia, where we get about a third of our power from wind and solar (currently 44% from wind and none from solar because it’s night) it’s obvious that most of the claims made against it are wrong.

The main impediment to the increased use of renewables is the lack of access to cheap credit, not any technical factor.

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seems you confuse redundancy (more than 1 reactor) with multiplicity (many small powerplants somehow somewhen if everything works perfect) …. In south australia the sun shines forever… and then some. And winds… wow. But the rest of the world… Europe we get if we’re lucky 10% of rated capacity on any form of power generation you mention. As i have abundantly made clear by showing Britain which runs at about 3% and Germany eking out 16% at the cost of 160 billion euro investment and projected trillion euros to set up the powergrid to handle even that much.

You do realize southern australia isn’t the world?

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Adrian, wind+a suitable grid (call it a supergrid or whatever) is the cheapest option. No further storage needed than what we already have.
Gregor Czisch proved that 10 years ago. Prices have fallen even further since then.
Including finanzing (and the grid naturally) his final price was 4.65€c/kWh.
That’s also the view of the European Union.

He looked at all options including nuclear which was just too expensive…not even accounting for all the other problems you get with inflexible generation that is constantly out priced by winds marginal generation cost.

The law of diminishing return works the other way round! It’s common to economic processes or workprocesse that you get less return the more you invest. That is true for every source of energy with an EROEI over 12-13.

Apart from not needing storage (you just need a grid to tap into underutilized storage already in place) it is also true that renewable is much more efficient in combating climate change…it is cheaper after all.

While Czisch did not make use of PV in his winning scenario we would have installed a lot of it already today. It is not yet cost competitive with wind but this is just a matter of time.

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Petrossa, of course I realise the local and global situations are different. My opposition to nuclear power on economic grounds certainly doesn’t extend globally, and I think Germany would be far better off continuing with nuclear. But the high cost of the German scheme is largely to do with the inefficient policy of using gross feedin tariffs to encourage solar power. Here we use net feedin tariffs, but concessional loans would be a better option.

Where does your trillion euro pricetag for upgrading Germany’s power grid infrastructure come from?

And why do you assume the system to be so badly designed that a failure anywhere would shut it down?

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From the news about their failures Aidan. I collected some of the more noteworthy links to newspaper articles in a text file, otherwise this post goes direct into the spambox: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/1828618/windsolargermany.txt

Read at your leisure how solar and wind totally failed and just due to infeed tarifs. There are also articles (some in german but a translator site is yr friend) how for example poland has installed a cut-off so their grid gets taken off the european back bone in case of Germany dumpings their excesses.

Also proof the ‘renewable’ energy leads to negative energy prices which may sound like fun, but no sane enterprise is going to invest in something he has to pay customers to use.

One big failure. Some goes for Britain and Denmark. The latter selling ‘renewable’ energy at dump prices because they have an excess but having to buy at top dollar (finnish nuclear btw) because market spot prices.

It just doesn’t work from any angle.

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@heavyweather

Wind only seems cheaper than nuclear when you don’t account for all the costs properly, or make unreasonable assumptions about the costs and effectiveness of things that haven’t been tried yet (e.g. supper grid).

Solar seems like it has much more potential to me. At least in some parts of the world. Still the EROEI is important because it tells you something about the cost in resources such as land and labor that would be needed for large scale deployments of the technology (i.e. for it to produce a substantial amount of a country’s energy).

I would like to know if the EROEI of solar pv is better in places near the equator. Even if it’s not much better sola pv could potentially be used along with a reasonable amount of energy storage to cut peak demand in some parts of the world. At least I think this might be possible.

The solar technology which I think has the most potential is solar power towers with molten salt energy storage. This seems like it might be good in some deserts near the equator. Hopefully some more development will happen so I can get a better idea of the technologies strengths and weaknesses.

You may knock it, but nuclear power is pretty awesome compared to all these technologies. Hopefully people will come around in regards to it’s use

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The idea of Europe surviving off wind and solar is a joke. Europe should abandon those technologies and instead focus completely on nuclear power. Solar power might be usable in some parts of the world that are closer the the equator. I’m not really convinced one way or the other yet, but even if it can be used some places I’m willing to bet nuclear power is still much better in regards to land and other resource use.

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Only for intermittent use, like in area’s where electricity is impossible to get and than for personal use solar/wind is an option. But on the scale needed to help the developing world develop and the developed world further develop we’re talking totally marginal use for ‘renewables’. Ridiculous term. How on earth would you circumvent laws of nature about conservation of energy. If anything it signals those believing in this ‘renewable’ principle haven’t got a clue about how reality works.

They believe they can just scoop up energy without consequences. No need for work to be done, just sit back and let shine. And the basics are so simple, the further away you go from direct matter/energy conversion the more work you have to do to get X amount of energy. How is this not clear? What kind of mobiusstrip like mindtrick do you need to have to believe you get something for nothing?

My heart bleeds for ‘modern’ education, it produces evidently lots of dreamers far separated from reality.

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heavy weather, Reliance on wind and solar is a very expensive option for Europe, because in addition to not being very sunny, its high population density means there aren’t enough of the best sites available to satisfy demand, so they have to rely on sites with a lower rate of return.

And soda cup, the idea of Europe abandoning wind and solar technology completely is even dumber than the idea of Europe abandoning nuclear power in favour of wind and solar!

Solar PV does perform better nearer the equator, and better still near the tropics where it’s less cloudy.

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Reliance on wind and solar is a very expensive option for Europe

I’m from EU so let me serve you some numbers: onshore wind is the cheapest source of low carbon electricity besides hydro, and solar is medium cost in most of the Europe (similar to nuclear).

Offshore wind is more expensive, but not as much as foreigners think and it will be on par with nuclear in about 5 years or so, when 10MW turbines start to be deployed.

its high population density means there aren’t enough of the best sites available to satisfy demand, so they have to rely on sites with a lower rate of return

Actually, this is not really a problem. We’re not Singapur. We have enough space to accomodate plenty of wind turbines, and solar is a non-issue anyway, because it can be deployed on rooftops and brownfields.

The real problem is land used for agriculture. It’s multiple orders of magnitude bigger than any other land use.

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Petrossa, it is 100% due to your poor comprehension skills that you infer that renewable implies circumventing the law of conservation of energy.

It is entirely down to a fault in your reasoning that you think renewable energy advocates haven’t got a clue about how reality works.

What renewable actually implies is that rather than consuming fuel, the energy supply is naturally renewed. This is done by the sun shining on the Earth (either directly to the energy collector or via weather) or in the case of geothermal, by the decay of radionucleides and to a lesser extent by friction.

And the laws of physics certainly don’t say further away you go from direct matter/energy conversion the more work you have to do to get X amount of energy. That’s just a false axiom that you’ve dreamed up, and hydroelectric power refutes it completely.

As for Germany’s failures, I doubt there’s any point in my wasting time reading more about them. I’ve already told you I’m opposed to feedin tariffs; IMO solar and wind power should be encouraged with concessional loans, but power should be sold at the wholesale spot price. Or (when that’s negative) zero because the renewable energy producers shouldn’t have to pay for grid inadequacy.

And where the wholesale price does reach zero or below, I take that as a pretty strong indicator that more storage capacity is needed.
BNC MODERATOR
As a new commenter you may not have read the Comments Policy for this blog. They include playing the ball and not the man (no ad hom attacks) and giving quality scientific links to support your opinions. Please read the rules and ensure you follow these rules in future. Thankyou.

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so in conclusion an ad hominem and a refusal to really read the facts. Ok. Well glad to know resistance is futile

BNC MODERATOR
See my remarks to Aidan on the previous comment.Please note that you have also been guilty of the same tactics. Kindly read the Comments Policy before posting again

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@Aidan Stanger

Give me one good reason Europe shouldn’t abandoned solar and wind. They can’t count on them at all. They are much better of with reliable power from nuclear.

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sodacup, I can give you three very good reasons why Europe shouldn’t abandon solar and wind. The first is that doing so would greatly increase the requirement for more nuclear power capacity. The second is that solar and wind have a lower running cost than nuclear. And the third is that in many parts of Europe, the people don’t want nuclear, and prefer solar and wind even if that means paying more.

Europe does have plenty of capability to spread and balance the load.

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“The first is that doing so would greatly increase the requirement for more nuclear power capacity. ”

Europe needs a lot more nuclear capacity if they want to get off fossil fuels. What they don’t need is unreliable wind and solar.

“The second is that solar and wind have a lower running cost than nuclear. ”

So what? The problem is that Europe doesn’t get enough sun and it’s winters are too harsh making solar completely unreliable there. Wind power is completely unreliable everywhere. These sources aren’t going to get them of fossil fuels.

“And the third is that in many parts of Europe, the people don’t want nuclear, and prefer solar and wind even if that means paying more”

No amount of money is going to make German winters less harsh or make the fickle wind blow. The problem with wind and solar in Europe aren’t something that can be solved with money.

“Europe does have plenty of capability to spread and balance the load.”

Plenty of capability to balance the load means to continuing burning fossil fuels. Europe has two choices, continuing with fossil fuels or nuclear power. Everything else is just an illusion. They can’t survive of wind and solar with any kind of decent life style. Hopefully they will wake up soon because even if you ignore climate change fossil fuels aren’t going to last forever.

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ppp251, agriculture does use a lot of land, but since when has that been a problem in Europe? Isn’t Europe faming less land than it did fifty years ago?

The cost of renewable energy is a range, not a single figure. In some places the same infrastructure is better at generating power than elsewhere. One of Europe’s problems is that its population density is quite high, so many of the technically best locations are not suitable, and most of the best suitable locations are already used. To supply the whole of Europe exclusively with renewables would require building a lot of wind turbine infrastructure in inferior locations, and a lot more storage capacity. Additionally the high latitude of much of Europe makes it unsuitable for solar thermal.

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sodacup, although the output from individual wind and solar sites is unreliable, the same can not be said for a large number of them spread over a wide area. And although solar panels don’t produce electricity at night, peak demand is usually in the daytime anyway – see http://www.ise.fraunhofer.de/en/downloads-englisch/pdf-files-englisch/solar-power-plants-deliver-peak-load.pdf

Regarding balancing capacity, I was referring not to fossil fuels but to hydroelectric storage capacity. More use of renewables is likely to result in a change in demand for hydroelectric power, with more intensive output sometimes required.

Having a lower running cost helps ensure the savings will be passed on to the end users. So even with continued large scale use of nuclear, there is a strong case against abandoning solar and wind.

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BNC MODERATOR
I did not intend to play the man and I apologise for my post turning out that way.

However I would be grateful if you gave me some tips for how I should respond in future to someone who appears to be making an ad hominem against all renewable energy advocates? Particularly when that person alleges a flaw in my reasoning but claims there’s nothing wrong with his, then posts a claim that can’t be supported by reason?

And what should I do when someone responds to my questions by posting a list of links to media reports that don’t answer them and only address an issue I hadn’t contested?
BNC MODERATOR
I can only suggest that you follow the Comments Policy yourself. I have advised Petrossa of the same. I will put out a general reminder.

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Would new commenters please read the Comments Policy and abide by same. I have let some instances through to the keeper while new participants get used to the blog but now is the time for a reminder. In particular please back up your opinions with quality scientific refs and avoid the use of ad hominem attacks. Thankyou.

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@Aidan Stanger:
I have read and re-read the past half dozen comments. There are many assertions, such as:

“Europe does have plenty of capability to spread and balance the [stochastic renewables] load” and

“Reliance on wind and solar is a very expensive option for Europe, because in addition to not being very sunny, its high population density means there aren’t enough of the best sites available to satisfy demand, so they have to rely on sites with a lower rate of return.”

Nowhere do I see citations to justify these opinions, which seem at first glance to be heading in two different directions – the first pro-renewables and the second pointing to the limitations of them.

Elsewhere, there are calls for greater hydroelectric storage capacity with no mention of cost.

Further, the claim “solar and wind have a lower running cost than nuclear” cannot be left without challenge, especially because it appears that Mr Stanger has excluded transmission and storage costs from his considerations, whereas there are severe cost implications for both in any practical system with high penetrations of renewables.

Mr Stanger’s single external link is to a corporate press release from a solar power publicist. It purports to demonstrate that solar power did, for several days and weeks in early 2011, closely match some of the daytime peak European electricity demand… however, this should be considered alongside the statements that indicate preference for uncosted large additions to hydro storage and alongside refusal to consider the costs applicable to massively interconnect unreliable solar and wind generation with loads. Unless a system-wide approach which considers costs, performance, frequency control and system reliability factors is adopted, then no conclusion can be drawn regarding the merit of additional generation capacity of any type. The bigger the system and the greater the variability of generation, the bigger the transmission upgrades necessary.

All these points and more are similar to those critiqued on this site in relation to the Zero Carbon Australia 2020 plan. See: https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/08/12/zca2020-critique/

Since 2010, little has changed. The discussion about decarbonisation options for this world’s energy supplies, which term includes transport and industry, appears to have stalled.

This is, of course, now far away from addressing the issues addressed by John Morgan in the article at the head of this thread and which were closely focussed on storage, cost and EROI.

John linked to Peter Lang’s discussion regarding pumped storage. This demonstrates that the physical limitations and costs associated with hydro storage are not able to be ignored. Mr Stanger claims that hydro storage costs are irrelevant. I do not agree. Mr Lang’s article and comments, which also date from 2010, are at https://bravenewclimate.com/2010/04/05/pumped-hydro-system-cost/.

This discussion will not progress if it remains based on affirmations which were refuted comprehensively on this site during 2010.

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@Aidan Stanger:

Some energy sources have built in energy storage. Energy sources with this quality are often called dispatchable to distinguish them from other sources. Dispatchability is very useful for balancing the grid. Wind and solar are seriously lacking in the dispatchability department making cheap bountiful energy storage the holy grail for wind and solar advocates. Unfortunately pump storage won’t cut it. There are a number of problems with this technology. Here is one link that can give you a good idea of what some of them are.

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11/pump-up-the-storage/

There is also the link singletonengineer provided above. There is also the fact that it pushes EROEI dangerously low. Something that at least should concern you. Hydro electric also has limited dispatchability for the same reasons pump storage has problems.

Lets be honest with ourselves. Fossil fuel is the king of dispatchability. When people want or need dispatchability they usually turn to fossil fuels. Just like Germany is doing with coal.

Recently Engineer Poet brought up a very intriguing possibility of using thermal energy storage with nuclear power.

http://atomicinsights.com/slowly-accelerate-fast-reactor-development/

This would make nuclear power dispatchable enough to meet peak demand. In other words Europe and other countries could go 100% nuclear for electric generation (although it would probably make sense to continue with hydroelectric). This seems ideal to me. How would adding wind and solar to this provide any benefit?

In regards to Europe and wind/solar here is something you should look at.

Click to access electricity-production-from-solar-and-wind-in-germany-in-2013.pdf

Page 69 is especially interesting. There are times during January when Germany gets almost no power from wind and solar. This means that wind and solar don’t allow them to reduce their total electric generating capacity from other sources. This is also why wind/solar and nuclear don’t mix in Europe. You see both solar/wind and nuclear have high capital costs. Paying those high costs for redundant generation capacity from both sources doesn’t make sense which is why people don’t do it. Fossil fuel sources have much lower capital costs for capacity which is why wind/solar and fossil fuels mix much better, and also why in Europe wind and solar are only the sprinkles on the fossil fuel cake.

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This would make nuclear power dispatchable enough to meet peak demand.

No it wouldn’t. You don’t know the profile of EU energy demand. The peaks occur in winter when demand is much higher. That’s why you’d still need to overbuild nuclear just for a couple of peaks in winter (and shut it down for the rest of the year). It doesn’t make sense.

Look at France. They have a lot of nuclear which runs all year round. But they also have a lot of electric heating which makes peak demand for electricity 2x higher in winter than in summer. If nuclear is running all year round, where does electricity for electric heating come from? You guessed it: fossil fuels. They turn on gas turbines and import German electricity from coal to meet their peak demand for electric heating. Can’t do it with nuclear because of capital costs.

There are times during January when Germany gets almost no power from wind and solar. This means that wind and solar don’t allow them to reduce their total electric generating capacity from other sources.

That’s true, but it’s not a problem if this generating capacity runs on low carbon fuels (such as biofuels, power-to-gas and similar). Demand for energy (electricity and heat) in winter is higher and you can just use efficient cogeneration to deal with this. Denmark is a world leader in this.

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sorry but Denmark wordleader? Yes in exporting money. Their excess gets sold for peanuts and their shortage gets bought for topdollar. You do realize electricity prices in Denmark are the highest of all of Europe? If their system was so perfect why do the consumers pay 8 to 10 times more for each kw/h than I? The proof is in the eating of the pudding, and Denmarks pudding is pretty awful.

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singletonengineer, the reason my opinions seem to be heading in two different directions is that I’m responding to people who have the views that renewables are never and always better value than nuclear. I consider both to be wrong and have stated the reasons why.

Which part of my opinion do you think requires citations to justify:
That Europe isn’t very sunny?
That Europe has a high population density?
That some sites for wind turbines are better than others?
That in order to replace fossil fuels and nuclear, Europe would have to install wind turbines in suboptimal locations?

The other assertion you quoted I now realise was a bit misleading. When I said Europe has plenty of capacity to spread and balance the load I didn’t mean the existing transmission infrastructure was up to the task. Apologies if you (or anyone else) got the wrong impression.

I also say that it switching Europe entirely to renewables would be technically possible but a high cost option. Most engineering problems can be solved if you throw sufficient money at them, and I’ve yet to see a good reason why this one couldn’t. It was in this context that I said more hydroelectric storage capacity would be needed. I didn’t say anything about the cost of that because, as I said, it’s a high cost option, not something I’m recommending. For my favoured option, which in Europe involves fossil fuels being replaced by a combination of renewables and nuclear, more hydroelectric generation capacity would be needed, but not necessarily more storage capacity.

Like the renewables they’re associated with, transmission and storage typically have low running costs, so even if you include those it will still be true that solar and wind have a lower running cost than nuclear. Whether they’re cheaper overall depends on the cost of capital.

The main point of my supplying the link I did was to show that the demand peak occurs when the sun is shining, thus solar power would reduce the amount of nuclear power needed.

Whether hydro storage costs are relevant depends on what’s being discussed. If it’s EROEI they’re irrelevant. If it’s technical feasibility they’re of little relevance. If it’s what should be built, they’re crucial!

I will have a look at that ZCA2020 link tomorrow.

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“Whether hydro storage costs are relevant depends on what’s being discussed. If it’s EROEI they’re irrelevant. ”

I disagree. Some costs indicate higher energy use and lower EROEI. Here is a list I came up with.

Costs that have a strong relationship to EROEI.

Material Costs
Production/construction costs

Costs that don’t have a strong relationship to EROEI.

Labour
Taxis and other government fees
Profits of the businesses involved.
Land use related costs.

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“That’s true, but it’s not a problem if this generating capacity runs on low carbon fuels (such as biofuels, power-to-gas and similar).”

It’s not a problem to have tons of redundant electric generating capacity? Even the cheapest capacity still has real costs both in terms of money and EROEI. Power-to-gas is terribly inefficient round trip wise. I wouldn’t count on it too much. Just how much power are you planing to get form biofuels anyway?

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Just how much power are you planing to get form biofuels anyway?

In northern countries about 5-10% of total demand. And in tropical and subtropical band much less than that, since ‘winter’ is not a problem.

This thread has become tiresomely boring.

I think that the entire pro-nuclear anti-renewable agenda is tiresome. Nuclear proponents keep on attacking renewables for no good reason, blame environmental movement for the failure of nuclear and keep on making climate change harder to deal with. I don’t see any way out, they’ll just keep on rambling while wind and solar are going to do the heavy lifting.

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@ppp251

Lets examine the 5% to 10% biofuel figure you brought up…

Germany has 357,168,000 m² [1]. It’s electric consumption in 2013 was 560 Twh so 5% to 10% percent of that would be between 2.8 and 5.6 Twh from biofuels[2]. In the UK the power density for forests is between 1 and 2.5 w/m²[3]. Germany has similar solar power density so I think we can use those figures for it as well. I’ll be generous and use upper figure.

So…

357,168,000 m² * 2.5 w/ m² * 8765.81 h (in a year) = 7,827,167,065,200 wh or roughly equal to 8 Twh

So if they used all their land for biofuel they might hope to get roughly 8 Twh. According to you they need 2.8 to 5.6 Twh. Or between 35% and 70% of their land. That is rather extreme. Also, harvesting and processing that biomass would not be easy. I imagine it would take quite a bit of energy much of it in the form of fossil fuels.

If as you say biomass is needed for European winters, then it would make for more sense to use it with nuclear power. Then only a fraction as much would be needed to meet the additional winter demand.

It’s things like this that make me less than supportive of wind and solar. If you want me to be supportive of them try putting out plans for their use that make sense to me.

If wind and solar supporter were also pushing for the building of load following nuclear power plants then I would be OK with it, but they don’t which is why I feel the need point out the flaws in the plans they do support.

Here is a link that does a better job than me of pointing out the difficulties in a 100% renewable system.
https://socialsciences.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/RE.html

[1]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Germany

[2]

Click to access electricity-production-from-solar-and-wind-in-germany-in-2013.pdf

[3]sustainable energy without the hot air.
http://www.withouthotair.com/download.html

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sodacup, some errors in your math:
– Germany has 357000km2, which is 357109m2, not 357106m2
– 5-10% of 560TWh is 28-56TWh, not 2.8-5.6 TWh
– if you take 2.5W/m2 for biofuels, then you get 7800TWh if they used all of their land

Obviously, 56TWh is less than 1% of 7800TWh, so they need less than 1% of their land for biofuels to cover winter gap.

Similarly for UK.

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Sign. I don’t know what’s up with me today. All of my decimal points were in the wrong place. This is how the post should have read.

Lets examine the 5% to 10% biofuel figure you brought up…

Germany has 357,168,000,000 m² [1]. It’s electric consumption in 2013 was 560 Twh so 5% to 10% percent of that would be between 28 and 56 Twh from biofuels[2]. In the UK the power density for forests is between .1 and .25 w/m²[3]. Germany has similar solar power density so I think we can use those figures for it as well. I’ll be generous and use upper figure.

So…

357,168,000,000 m² * .25 w/ m² * 8765.81 h (in a year) = 782,716,706,520,000 wh or roughly equal to 800 Twh

So if they used all their land for biofuel they might hope to get roughly 8 Twh. According to you they need 28 to 56 Twh. Or between 3.5% and 7.0% of their land.

I think maybe my dyslexia is acting up. Sorry about that. Good think I’m not an engineer. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow.

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Nuclear proponents keep on attacking RE for no good reason. And vice versa. Meanwhile excess CO2 is closing in on the biosphere.
In a FF free world, a billion solar roofs would mean just a little less fission products.
The inventor of the MSR (also co-inventor of the LWR) said to <a href="http://www.osti.gov/scitech/biblio/5248737"keep ALL options open. I believe he said this because his MSR was already shelved and thus, he was referring to the then being developed fast reactor. He said fast reactors would create a net increase of plutonium, thus having to compromise due to the plutonium threat. He was talking about total future power requirements for 15 billion at Western standards. He said that the potential is great depending on overall efficiency of the solar/storage setup.
If we mass produced his original idea, load following MSRs, we wouldn’t have to worry about the excess plutonium concern.
Therefore, the higher capacity factor (and energy density) of the MSR would provide for many multiples than that of the lower capacity, less dense sources. This should be obvious (since MSR fuels are plentiful). Energy to power all the cities of the world, all the agricultural needs, all the factories, all the civil projects and all the world’s maintenance. The energy to grow a severely impoverished planet of haves and have nots into a 15 billion person, highly developed member of the federation of planets (well, maybe the Star Trek thing is still a bit far off but you get the drift).
The world will demand ever increasing amounts of electricity, at a comparatively predictable level. Build just enough MSRs to provide whatever baseload necessary to store the excess during low demand, to provide for the daily cycles of higher demand, but not much more, since its storage is only required as a boost, not as a bulk. Build a little bit more to make up for inefficiency of storage.
At its max, solar would actually lessen the amount of reactors needed, however, much more storage would be needed since nuclear would not even be needed in the day (if solar ever can reach max penetration). At night, 10 billion or so electric cars will be charged, hence more storage needed (and thus the arguments will RAGE on and on)!

Instead of all this (somewhat understandable) polarization – or tribalism, we need to simply develop a better load following MSR!

Once regulatory costs come down (due to passive safety) and once intrinsic costs come down (by assembly manufacture like everything else), there shall be no reason not to develop and embrace the gift of nature’s most powerful RE source – heavy metal to load follow a billion solar roofs!

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For the nth time: Plutonium from reactors is not [repeat not] a threat. It is the wrong isotope to make bombs out of, as if making a plutonium bomb were easy enough for most nations. It isn’t.

Renewables are purely a waste of time because the battery is not buildable. The battery cannot be built. Cuth up.

Fireofenergy is working for the coal industry by delaying the conversion to nuclear.

Moderator: Close this thread.

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I agree. Those who do not understand the impact of the EROEI analysis and who want to argue the semantics of the calculations will just never get it. In a world that is short of energy and relies on energy conversion for its existence Nuclear provides the best EROEI by such a long way that it simply says this is where we should be investing our research to develop this power source to overcome the existing problems with the technology.

Moderator: Close this thread.

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This thread has drifted a long way from EROEI, and in the flood of renewable v nuclear power arguments, I think Tony and the others who continue to obsess about EROEI have missed my original point:
The idea that an advanced country needs a minimum EROEI of around 7 is completely wrong. It is money, not EROEI, that is the limiting factor.

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Aidan, My point is that nuclear R&D especially MSR reactor technology has not received until recently, namely China, an appropriate level of funding. In fact since Chernobyl it has been on the nose across the world. To provide the world not just the developed world, but the undeveloped world as well, with enough energy to provide at the very minimum potable drinking water, sewerage, heating etc, significant sources of new energy are needed. These new sources can not be carbon based due to the climate change effects of burning carbon.
What the EROEI chart tells me is that the world is going to get a much better return on its money by investing in Nuclear. The EROEI of nuclear is 20 times that of Solar PV roof panels. This tells me that it is probably going to cheaper as well in the long term.

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Fireofenergy is working for the coal industry. No, I am not. (and I hate slander)! Read what ALL I had to say and you would see where I’m coming from. Perhaps, close the thread because I’m furious, now …!
I tried to express how the piss poor CF of RE and its required storage in an equation. Yes, and you simply disregard it as pro RE statements only.
This means you don’t care to understand much of what I have to say, but I don’t really expect you to, as you probably know more than I about the subject anyway. However, NO f’n excuse to throw slander my way !@#$!

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http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/11/pump-up-the-storage/

http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2011/08/nation-sized-battery/

Tom Murphy is an associate professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego. – See more at: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/

Fireofenergy: The truth is never a libel. See the trial of John Peter Zenger in the year 1735. Just because you don’t know that you are benefitting the coal industry doesn’t mean that you are not benefitting the coal industry.

IF you actually did the math that you should have done, as Dr. Tom Murphy did, you would know that what you want to do is not going to happen. Pushing for renewable energy accomplishes one thing: it prevents the conversion from fossil fuels to nuclear.

Fact: Nuclear power is our only hope of getting off of fossil fuels before we have a human population crash and a collapse of civilization.

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Those who do not understand the impact of the EROEI analysis and who want to argue the semantics of the calculations will just never get it.

EROI is just the latest anti-renewable buzzword. Reality is that solar and wind have decent energy return and in addition to that they’re still improving it. If less jobs in energy sector is desired then further automation of producing and installing can achieve that goal. It’s a non-problem.

It’s made up by anti-renewable campaigners in the same way that other anti-renewable arguments were made, such as “solar and wind will always be a niche product”, and “it’s too expensive”, and “storage is not possible”, etc.

a world that is short of energy

Poor countries lack money, expertise and grid to go nuclear. Meanwhile solar doesn’t need grid, it’s cheap and can be deployed by low skilled labour. It’s obvious which choice is better.

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Tony, I agree with your point that nuclear R&D especially MSR reactor technology has not received until recently, an appropriate level of funding.

However you seem to have failed to grasp the fact that nuclear has costs totally unrelated to EROEI. Whether (or rather, under what circumstances) nuclear works out cheaper than solar remains to be seen, but the EROEI chart does not and can not tell you the answer.

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Tony Carden,

If “the world” invests in nuclear energy facilities, supplies and distributes the energy for free, then nuclear will have the edge on rooftop solar. In every other scenario nuclear power is a commercial accident waiting to happen.

As I have pointed out, nuclear designers have failed to achieve a reactor/power combination fo compete with oil in powering shipping. What are the failure points? Cost, safety, complexity, security. What are the positives that nuclear proponents claim for their industry? Cost, safety, simplicity, emissions. There is a credibility gap here which this industry is failing to bridge.

If the Nuclear Industry produce a cost dffective energy package for thd immense market of commercial shipping, then gheir claims vof land based power cannot be believed.

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Technological innovation mostly got shelved in the beginning by political means. Stupidity such as ALARA is what’s costing the biosphere. Seriously!

The MSRE was just a very early beginning which politics, not technical problems shelved. The entire anti’s agenda is based on the false premise that the technology itself is faulty. No, the technology never really got built due to the slashing of R&D (imagine using 1960’s devices in 2015). And it really is unfair to say, given the public’s perception, that we can do it without government R&D. In the USA, politics terminated every advanced nuclear energy program. Nixon cut MSR and Clinton cut the fast reactor.

Now, the public thinks that nuclear has to be “the very dangerous” light water reactor. They think “very dangerous” because they listen to the news which is NOT scientific. Then they make laws against “very dangerous”. Then they say RE can counter “very dangerous” – which it can not, because the coal companies force their workers to vote no on nuclear and yes on “clean” coal.

Other FF interests actually promote renewables. They are NOT going to promote something that will actually get us out of the FF box.

Now, we need to enact a very liberal 21st century MSR program, necessary to learn how to exact the standardization of manufacture, installation, wastes reprocessing and fission products storage with low startup fuel.
And to make sure they can load follow a vast increase in solar PV to such a degree to make clean fuels from air and water during their highly extreme output.

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Edward,
I say that last sentence (to BilB) not because I’m a FF supporter in disgust, but because it is obvious that is what people are doing, they are putting solar panels on their roofs.
In order to survive (for us to survive, quite literally), the nuclear industry has to fight large scale RE wasteful spending, but also has to deal with the fact that there will be a lot of solar roofs.
Yes, DEAL WITH IT! Why? Because you can’t tell people not to put solar on their roofs. Eventually, there might be a billion solar roofs, right? That, obviously is not enough to save the biosphere (especially if all made from FF sources) but that is simply what is happening – anyways – like it or not.
Hence, we MUST HAVE LOAD FOLLOWING REACTORS (or some way to integrate non load following reactors via process heat to fuels, etc)!

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fireofenergy, oil companies invest in renewables if they think they can make money from it, regardless of what effect it will have on the demand for oil.

Edward Greisch, you have no evidence whatsoever that pushing for renewable energy prevents the conversion from fossil fuels to nuclear any more than it accelerates the conversion from fossil fuels to renewables. It is fossil fuels, not nuclear, that renewables are displacing.

Tom Murphy has shown that battery or pumped storage of an entire week’s worth of energy consumption is hopelessly impractical. That is all. He hasn’t shown anything about the viability of renewables. Once we rely primarily on renewables (or indeed a combination of renewables and nuclear, we can start to deal with that problem. And there are ways to deal with it, including using energy intensive activities (such as Al smelting) for load balancing. Or liquid fuel synthesis is a possibility. We should cross that bridge when we come to it.

And your “Fact” is just speculation and underestimates human ingenuity.

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Aidan Stanger: Renewable mandates do in fact force nuclear out because to meet the mandate, all other power sources must be shut down whenever the wind blows. Nuclear is most economical when nuclear is operated continuously at 100% power. This is because fuel rods are replaced on a set schedule, 1/3 of the fuel is replaced every 18 months to 2 years. That makes fuel used practically free because you don’t continually feed in uranium like you feed in coal or gasoline.

In actual fact, Germany sells nuclear energy at a negative price [they pay people in other countries to take it] so that they can use up the renewable energy.

Tom Murphy has shown that a week’s worth of energy MUST be stored if we are to rely on renewable energy only. This is even more true in Europe. Both here and there, winter can be cold, cloudy and calm enough over 4 months to run your battery down by a week’s worth of electricity. Because battery or pumped storage of an entire week’s worth of energy consumption is hopelessly impractical, renewable energy is hopelessly impractical. The electric utilities know this and that is why they have never willingly switched to wind and solar.

There is no possible way that we will rely on renewables. Renewables are nothing more than decorations on gas fired power plants. Previous articles in BraveNewClimate are a good source of the information you need. Another thing you should do is get a degree in physics or engineering so that you will be able to do the math for yourself. Wind works 20% of the time at nameplate power. Solar works at nameplate power 15% of the time. Since we do not have ambient temperature superconductors, we cannot connect a worldwide grid. Renewables would work, but be very expensive, if we had an ambient temperature superconductor.

We have already crossed the bridge. We are at 400 ppm CO2 and at 478 ppm CO2 equivalent.
http://oceans.mit.edu/featured-stories/5-questions-mits-ron-prinn-400-ppm-threshold
If you aren’t panicked, you don’t understand it. We don’t have time to do research to fix renewables.

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Edward, I do have an engineering degree. And I have successfully challenged the assumption that this thread was originally based on. So I suggest you stop panicking and start thinking more. We will have to remove carbon from the atmosphere, but there are ways to do this. The obvious one is biosequestration, but there is also a lot of potential for digging up and crushing ultramafic rocks and letting them weather, as another poster here advocates.

I am well aware of that problem with the economics of nuclear power. But that’s not an argument against renewables, it’s an argument against nuclear (except where it’s designed to overcome this problem). And it’s been a significant problem before wind and solar were in widespread use.

It’s stupid, when we’re so reliant on fossil fuels, to dismiss its capabilities just because you foresee there will be problems increasing its market share from 90% to 100%. Reducing fossil fuels to 10% of the total energy source would be a terrific achievement, and you seem to have lost sight of that.

The last little bit is likely to be the hardest, but it’s not impossible. Storage would obviously be a big part of the solution, but there’s no need to rely on it exclusively, and certainly not for a week or more at a time. Grid upgrades will be needed (and they don’t require superconductors). Having a worldwide grid doesn’t mean your power will ever go (or come from) halfway round the world!

But the main part of the solution will be demand responsive industrial processes. Load balancing (by scheduling energy intensive processes to coincide with times when the electricity is forecast to be the cheapest) has tremendous potential.

We need a combination of partial solutions, not a single full solution. And that goes for nuclear too – it’s the best solution in many situations, but not in every situation.

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Aidan, you said “We should cross that bridge when we come to it” concerning the belief that we can just magically deal with bulk storage, later. Should we continue to back the little bit that the renewables supply with FF?
We need to master fission.
Do you really believe that solar or wind will power up that energy intensive aluminum smelter and be able to use it for load following? Thermal storage of electricity to electricity has a really low efficiency.

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Not magically, fireofenergy, but technology is advancing. When I said “We should cross that bridge when we come to it” I didn’t mean we should stop investigating solutions; I meant we shouldn’t use far off limitations of existing technology as an excuse for inaction.

And yes, we should continue to use fossil fuels as a backup. The infrastructure’s already there, and security of supply is important.

Mastering fission is certainly an option, but it’s not the only option.

I did not suggest using aluminium smelters as some sort of thermal electricity to electricity storage scheme; that really would be crazy! What I’m suggesting is that some industrial processes that use a lot of electricity (of which aluminium smelting is one currently common example) could be used for long timescale load balancing by only operating when electricity is plentiful and cheap, and shutting down when electricity is more expensive and so scarce that they may otherwise have to resort to FF.

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Aidan Stanger: We are already at 478 ppm equivalent. That is enough greenhouse gas to put us over 2 degrees C temp rise and well into the dangerous area where we will encounter tipping points that will push us over the extinction for humans line. 6 degrees C of warming is the final extinction solution for the human problem. It is discussed in so many places that you should have found it more than once by yourself if you are reading about GW.

Therefore, we must not use fossil fuels as a backup. It is suicide to use fossil fuels for anything.

We have mastered fission, not counting Aidan Stanger among “we.” Fission is in fact the only option. Petrossa has proven once again that wind is too intermittent to be at all useful. So take the nuclear power course on Coursera, Aidan Stanger.

Smelting, casting, alloying, etcetera, metals: Wind power is OUT. If the power goes down during a melt, you just destroyed the smelter, foundry or factory because lumps of metal and slag are welded to all kinds of places where you can’t get them off. You don’t invest millions of dollars in a factory just to destroy it by using intermittent power.

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@Aidan Stanger,

You have claimed that electricity intensive industrial processes will be a major, or at least significant source of flexible demand. But you have provided no example of where this is actually happening or any sort of authoritative reference to back up your claims.

The UK government’s committee on climate change, in the Renewable Energy Review examined the issue of flexible demand and did not find industry to be a significant source. They found that a maximum of 15% of demand to be feasible intraday by 2030 and that (optimistically) would be almost solely in transport and heating.

Click to access The%20renewable%20energy%20review_Printout.pdf

The study also concluded that a maximum of 65% of electricity supply from renewables was technically feasible by 2030. I would suggest that it is not by coincidence that the amount of proposed new nuclear capacity in the UK is about 16 GWe and that could meet about 35% of demand. At least one country is potentially on a sane pathway to decarbonization.

Aside from the obvious instances of continuous industrial processes that cannot be shut down when the wind is not blowing, there are many problems with powering industry with unreliable power. For a start, what about the workforce? Will it be a case of “Don’t come in today chaps, the wind isn’t blowing”. Most workers will very quickly get fed up with what are pretty much random working working hours. There is no good reason they should have to put up with such poor working conditions. Make no mistake, random working hours take a toll on personal life.

Much of modern manufacturing is just in time. Unreliable electricity supply is just asking for broken supply chains. Time is indeed money.

Frankly the whole notion of industry and especially heavy industry putting up with unreliable power strikes me as unrealistic and I will continue to regard it as such in the absence of any evidence that it is plausible at this time.

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i don’t know about the people here, but sure as hell no sane person is going to pay per rated capacity installation knowing it won’t even reach 20% of it. The sheer idiocy of this concept is staggering. So my government proudly announces it’s installing XX gW windfarm, knowing it only will ever deliver x gW for the price of a XX gW installation?

Sorry mate, no most people in the decision making process aren’t aware or are so enormously unfit for their job it’s criminal negligence

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@quokka1, my claims are based on what is technically possible and could be made economically viable. I don’t intend to hunt for precedents; if you want to find one, go look yourself. If you can’t or won’t, it’s not my problem unless there’s a reason why that can’t be overcome.

The UK has very little heavy industry at the moment, and much of what it does have doesn’t rely on electricity at all. To attract new heavy industry requires cheap energy. But the way the electricity market is developing at the moment, the question is becoming when, not whether, electricity will be cheap.

All other things being equal, changing working hours are undesirable. But all other things are not equal. Many people work shifts anyway, and would accept variable hours if the money was good. And we’re good enough at forecasting to anticipate staffing requirements much more than a day in advance.

We must avoid unreliable electricity supply, but we will have electricity prices varying by multiple orders of magnitude, and that provides opportunities for industry to take advantage of it. And one of the ways this will happen is that the most energy intensive production processes will cease to be JIT, and instead be done at times when electricity is cheap.

I specifically suggested processes such as aluminium smelting be used for long timescale load balancing. I did not at any time suggest cutting off their power mid operation! For short timescale load balancing, air conditioning is an obvious target.

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David B. Benson, that surprises me. Do you have any proof?

Assuming you really are without wind for six weeks, then unless you have geothermal, switching to renewable energy would require a lot of solar panels and more long distance transmission capacity.

I’d favour nuclear in such a situation.

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Edward, you sound pretty certain about us already having enough greenhouse gas for a 2ºC rise, but such certainty is not widely shared and we don’t know what the tipping points are.

Humans will survive however hot it gets, but the cost of that survival will be high.

Being a backup (there when we need it but increasingly not consumed in normal operation) is a completely appropriate role for fossil fuel. We need to reduce greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, but that doesn’t mean completely stop adding CO2 from fossil fuels; it means we should take it out of the atmosphere at a faster rate than we put it in.

We most certainly have not mastered fission yet! We’re proficient at it, but we don’t yet have molten salt reactors in commercial operation. When we do, then we will have achieved mastery.

And I’m not proposing using intermittent power – see my response to quokka1.

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HAHAHAHAHAHAHA LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL

Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet Paperback – 4 Feb 2008
by Mark Lynas

“Under a Green Sky” by Professor Peter D Ward

We are headed for a human population crash from 7 Billion to 70 thousand or zero people within 40 years. Some say within 15 years. We don’t have time for research or fooling around with renewables. Causes of a population crash:

Global Warming [GW] will cause civilization to collapse within 40 years because GW will cause the rain to move and the rain move will force agriculture to collapse.
Population biologist William Catton says that we in the US are overcrowded; immigration must reverse. Collapse from overpopulation could happen any time now. The Earth has 4 Billion too many people. An overshoot in population requires an equal undershoot. We overshot by 4 billion, and the consequence is an undershoot by 4 billion. The carrying capacity is 3 billion. 3 billion minus 4 billion is zero because there can’t be minus 1 billion people.
Aquifers running dry No irrigation, no wheat. No wheat, no bread.
Resource depletion
4A oil
4B minerals
etcetera.

War will kill a lot of people. Famine will kill 8 billion out of 7 billion. 7-8=-1, but with population, the crash ends at zero.

NATURE has lots of other ways to kill humans. Don’t provoke her.

AT 6 degrees of GW, humans go extinct.

We are headed for a human population crash from 7 Billion to 70 thousand or zero people within 40 years. Some say within 15 years. We don’t have time for research or fooling around with renewables. Causes of a population crash:

Global Warming [GW] will cause civilization to collapse within 40 years because GW will cause the rain to move and the rain move will force agriculture to collapse.
Population biologist William Catton says that we in the US are overcrowded; immigration must reverse. Collapse from overpopulation could happen any time now. The Earth has 4 Billion too many people. An overshoot in population requires an equal undershoot. We overshot by 4 billion, and the consequence is an undershoot by 4 billion. The carrying capacity is 3 billion. 3 billion minus 4 billion is zero because there can’t be minus 1 billion people.
Aquifers running dry No irrigation, no wheat. No wheat, no bread.
Resource depletion
4A oil
4B minerals
etcetera.

War will kill a lot of people. Famine will kill 8 billion out of 7 billion. 7-8=-1, but with population, the crash ends at zero.

NATURE has lots of other ways to kill humans. Don’t provoke her.

There is a nuclear power plant 10 miles from my house and it works just fine.

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@Aidan Stanger
“my claims are based on what is technically possible and could be made economically viable.”

Your claims are backed by nothing. No references. No evidence.

“I don’t intend to hunt for precedents; if you want to find one, go look yourself. If you can’t or won’t, it’s not my problem unless there’s a reason why that can’t be overcome.”

In other words, you don’t have anything at all. YOU are the one making claims about flexibility of electricity demand for industrial use and you have provided nothing. No credible study, no examples. Nothing at all.

Time for the moderator to step in. On BNC such claims are supposed to be backed by evidence.

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Petrossa, most sane people would as long as the price is right.

Someone making those decisions would be “so enormously unfit for their job it’s criminal negligence” If they reject an installation that they know will deliver x GW just because its capacity is XX GW.

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much more where that came from: “.What the BBC didn’t mention was that this £8 billion project, producing on average 840 megawatts of electricity (sic RATED CAPACITY!!!!), will earn for its mainly Norwegian and German owners some £900 million a year in subsidies, paid by all of us through our electricity bills. Neither did the BBC mention that, in Manchester, another foreign-owned consortium is currently building, for only an eighth of the capital cost, a gas-fired power station. It will produce a similar amount of electricity, up to 880 megawatts, whenever it is needed and without a penny of subsidy.” https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2015/02/22/booker-and-the-dogger-bank-wind-farm/

The factual proof that variable energy power generation is cost-prohibitive is there for everyone to see. It’s not a valid option. Facts beat rose colored ‘models’ every time. You cannot compete in a global economy with energy prices 10 times higher than your competition.

Whilst China does install some small percentage of ‘renewable’ energy plants itself, it’s very clear from their market positions they count on a completely different method of energy production for themselves but are very happy to sell the mess to anyone silly enough to buy it.

As for Germany…. Given that their industry is almost dominant in turbine production i can well imagine they love them to death.

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Edward, the part of “intermittent” that I don’t understand is the reason why you think that just because the output from a single wind farm is intermittent, use of wind power would make electricity supply intermittent!

Most places that get a significant proportion of their electricity from wind would have multiple wind farms far enough apart that they wouldn’t all suddenly fail at once. And more importantly, anywhere that substantially relies on wind and solar would have some sort of backup – possibly batteries, possibly pumped storage. But the idea that a whole week’s consumption worth would be needed is fanciful because it fails to recognise that there is plenty of scope for demand variation, and because renewable energy sources won’t all fail at once.

As for the effects of global warming, not only do you underestimate the timescale, you misunderstand the effects of shifting rainfall. Though it will cause disastrous droughts, these will be local problems. Overall rainfall will increase, so there will be plenty of opportunity for irrigation and aquifer recharge. And the main limits to how much we can grow are economic not technical; if the price of wheat rises, farmers will grow much more of it.

At 6º of GW, humans will not go extinct but will be very reliant on air conditioners. It’s the other species we have to worry about.

I don’t know where the authors you referenced got the figure of planetary capacity being 3 billion people, but if you post their reasoning I’ll show you where the flaw is. The same goes for the claim that an overshoot in population requires an equal undershoot”.

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Aidan Stanger has gone over the line into libel. Moderator delete Aidan Stanger’s comments please. Otherwise, I have to say what I really think of Aidan Stanger.

In order to get good wind continuously, wind farms have to be spread over a distance of half the circumference of the Earth. Wind is too correlated over regions. Storms like Hurricane Sandy now cover an area 1000 miles in diameter, and hurricanes destroy wind farms. One hurricane force straight-line wind in Germany caused the turbine + machinery to fly 1/3 mile. The machine weighs 60 tons.

Wind is intermittent on regional scales, over 5 states at a time. Therefore wind power is intermittent, as Aidan Stanger has been told many times. Aidan Stanger has already been told where the mathematics is that proves that batteries and pumped storage together are a joke.
DO THE MATH.

“Drought Under Global Warming: a Review” by Aiguo Dai
http://www.atmos.albany.edu/facstaff/adai/

“Preliminary Analysis of a Global Drought Time Series”  by Barton Paul Levenson, not yet published. Under BAU [Business As Usual], agriculture and civilization will collapse within 40 years.

READ THE BOOKS AND THE WEB PAGES. I know Aidan Stanger has not done so because sufficient time has not gone by. Aidan Stanger: Go back and find the web pages and books I told you to read before. Download the web pages and read them. Go to your library and get the books by interlibrary loan. Read the books. Come back in a month or 2 when you have done the homework. Don’t bother us with more nonsense in the mean time.

See:
“Ecological Footprints and Bio-Capacity: Essential Elements in Sustainability Assessment”  by William E. Rees, PhD, University of British Columbia and “Living Planet Report 2008” also by Rees.

We went past the Earth’s permanent carrying capacity for humans some time in the 1980s. We are 20%+ over our limit already.   And the US no longer has excess biocapacity. We are feeding on imports. 4 Billion people will die because we are 2 Billion over the carrying capacity. An overshoot must be followed by an undershoot.

Reference: “The Long Summer” by Brian Fagan and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond. When agriculture collapses, civilization collapses.   Fagan and Diamond told the stories of something like 2 dozen previous very small civilizations. Most of the collapses were caused by fraction of a degree climate changes. In some cases, all of that group died. On the average, 1 out of 10,000 survived.  We humans could go EXTINCT in the 2050s. The 1 out of 10,000 survived because he wandered in the direction of food. If the collapse is global, there is no right direction.

William Catton spent his entire lifetime doing research in a subject called “Population Biology.” William Catton was neither the first nor the last person in that field. Go to the Library of Congress and look up “Population Biology.” You will find 950 scholarly books on the subject. Aidan Stanger’s ignorance has no effect on the research that has been done.

“DATABASE: Library of Congress Online Catalog
YOU SEARCHED: Keyword (match all words) = Population Biology
SEARCH RESULTS: Displaying 101 through 200 of 950.”

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quokka1, my claims are backed up by logic, and that’s far more important than links to other people’s opinions. Most people on this thread would still be under the impression that an advanced civilisation requires an EROEI of about 7 to sustain it if I hadn’t explained why this was not so.

If I’m claiming something is being done then it is reasonable to demand a reference. But if I’m merely saying it can and should be done, I see no need for one (unless someone supplies a good reason why it can’t be done, but even there a detailed explanation of the flaw in that reason is just as good).

Installing a lot of renewable electricity generating infrastructure tends to make electricity prices lower but more volatile. I think it is reasonable to assume that mechanisms to allow industry to take advantage of this will be developed. If you do not think that’s a reasonable assumption, a reason would be appreciated.

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You have not provided any proof that civilization could prosper with overall EROEI of less than 7. I have already provided the reasoning behind what it takes for RE – overbuild and more land. You seem to agree with the notion of overbuild also, to make up for the low capacity factors.
What is sooooooo wrong with the reliability of history’s safest source?

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Petrossa, the point is renewables have a lower running cost than FF or even nuclear, so in the right economic conditions they’re cheapest overall.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying wind turbines of such high quality that they’re rated for seven times their average output.

If the problem is subsidies then I refer you to my previously stated position: I oppose the current subsidies, and think that concessional loans should be used instead.

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“Installing a lot of renewable electricity generating infrastructure tends to make electricity prices lower but more volatile.”

This statement is interesting. Our current experience shows that it is a true statement. Subsidies really makes me doubt that current experience will project into a future with really low CO2 intensity.

Please consider whether this statement might be closer to a more useful statement. “Installing a lot of over capacity electricity generating infrastructure tends to make electricity prices lower.”

For example, if we incentivized utilities to build lots more coal or nuclear or dams, then the biding process would result in lower prices. The bidding process decides who sits idle. For a reliable system we need over capacity and we pay for the extra dependable capacity. But what do we to with lots of over capacity?

Currently, in my view, we do not have the necessary technology to run a low CO2 reliable electric system.

My guess is the needed ingredient will involve thinking bigger than just the electric system. Perhaps we could make hydrogen with our excess electricity to use as feed stock to making ammonia among other things. Think fertilizer or ammonia burning cars. My real point is that storage must be the answer and that storage does not have to be batteries.

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Most of the collapses were caused by fraction of a degree climate changes.

Strange that we’re still here, given 0.8°C rise in 20th century.

Anyway.. you are massively exaggarating in your claims about collapse and extinction.

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Aidan’s aggressive style and unsupported arguments are not serving his cause and are not in conformity with the need for rational discourse on this site – essentially he has degenerated into 100% troll mode.

Despite having been asked many times to name sources, his responses amount to assertions that the only necessity is that he believes, without objective data or proof, that something is true, therefore it is true.

I suggest that other readers treat this troll in the appropriate manner, which is to cease feeding him.

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Edward, the claim that I have “gone over the line into libel” it itself technically libellous! However I may have breached the comments policy by likening you to an idiot, and for that I apologise.

If you’re after a steady even output then you will need many turbines widely spaced, but nowhere did I claim that was what was needed. Merely avoiding intermittence is far easier.

Hurricanes generally don’t destroy wind farms, though of course it depends on the specifications a wind farm is designed and built to.

“Aidan Stanger has already been told where the mathematics is that proves that batteries and pumped storage together are a joke“.
That they’re a joke is merely your opinion. What the mathematics prove is that they’re insufficient to hold a week’s supply. What I’m saying is that they don’t need to. And while I think that nuclear power is often a good option, particularly at high latitudes, it is far from the only option.

People react to events, so BAU won’t be sufficient to cause a crash because people will react to the problems in real time.

I see you’ve now added another two billion to your carrying capacity estimate. Does this mean you’re starting to understand that carrying capacity is not fixed?

We have the information and the resources needed for adapting to changing climate. Though the cost of doing so would be much greater than the cost of avoiding climate change, it’s not impossible. Human population biology is very different from that of other species; we have developed more control over our environment and ourselves.

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Aidan, just because (rich) humans can adapt to climate change, doesn’t mean that everything else will. Eventually, even the rich humans will have to wipe their butts with old book pages and will have to don astronaut suits once the oceanic anaerobic sulfate-reducers thrive in the warm stratified layers…

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While some folks are just ignorant and impervious to external input, one should also keep in mind that there are many real, paid, wind and solar shills on the internet. Their job is not to win the argument rationally, but to simply so poison the discussion with obfuscation, contradictory claims and FUD, that any neutral party reading the article will be utterly confused by the time he or she is done.

The behaviour of both types of person are nearly indistinguishable. However, I’ve seen a disturbing trend which suggests that wind and solar shill organizations are using the comments section of sites like this and Atomic Insights to train their new shill operatives.

The sites see one new “personality” at a time. They stick around for a while, get trained in their technique which rivals pathological lying for it’s intricate yet plausible sounding nonsense content, and then leave. The very moment they leave a new single member appears exhibiting the exact same behaviour.

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@Aidan Stanger

People have been using wind and biomass for thousands of years, but it is only when we started harnessing the energy from fossil fuels that we really advanced. Early steam boats weren’t as fast as their wind power competition, but they were more reliable so they took over. Reliability matters a great deal in industry and in life in general. Biomass has other issues. Fossil fuels thrived because they were the superior energy source. Wind and solar enthusiasts seem to feel that things are different now because humanity has greater knowledge, and accesses to better machines and materials, but those machines and materials are made mostly with fossil fuels and won’t last forever. Weather or not our increased knowledge, and limited fossil fuel based resources, can be used make a modern society power only by wind and solar is unknown, but there are some signs that it isn’t. Wind and solar enthusiasts remind me a lot of a young person in love completely blind to all the faults of their chosen target of affection. Germany is a prime example of this.

Today we exist in a world previously unknown. Never before have there been so many people. Never before have people lived like they do today. This is all made possible with fossil fuel use. The idea that fossil fuels can be replace while still having a lifestyle comparable to what we have today and also maintaining billions of people is a positive statement about the nature of the universe and requires evidence to back it up. In regard to electric production nuclear has already met most of it’s burden with France and with the fact that nuclear power generates electricity in a way very similar to fossil fuels.

The burden of proof for the feasibility of a wind and solar powered modern society is far from met. The intermittent (i.e. variable, unreliable, whatever you want to call it) nature, and low power density, of wind and solar pv is a serious issue which shouldn’t be dismissed so lightly. Since you don’t seem to understand what people are talking about when they refer to intermittency let me explain it. They are not talking about unpredictability, they are talking about the uncontrollability and unreliability (i.e. not always being there when you need it). People do not control the wind or the sun and they aren’t always there when we need them. We have far more control over things like uranium and fossil fuels.

You dismiss the study talked about in the OT far too lightly. If EROEI is too low then the amount of other resources (labor, land use etc) needed increases a lot. This is a serious problem. There is not evidence that modern society can survive with a low average EROEI. We try it at our own risk.

In conclusion you have not proven anything, you have not provided evidence to support your claims and your logic is based of the flawed assumption that the burden of proof is only on some of us.

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Aidan Stanger — The Pacific Northwest has considerable hydropower. My utility company is 50% hydro generation; the balance in natgas and coal but for minor amounts from other sources.

Especially in the spring, the Pacific Northwest transmits a sizable amount of electric power to California; much of the regional wind turbine power goes there.

Watch BPA Balancing Authority Load and Total Wind, Hydro, and Thermal Generation, Near-Real-Time
http://transmission.bpa.gov/business/operations/wind/baltwg.aspx
for a year to see what happens to wind turbine generation in the fall.

Different regions have different resources. An advantage of nuclear power generation is that it does not depend upon regional resources alone.

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I enjoyed re-reading the post and how it readily explains the concepts of unbuffered and buffered EROEI.
Paralleling, physical limits has been recognized for millennia in a different way for farming such that it requires a certain amount of the efficient use of work, seeds and livestock to achieve a net gain, necessary to survive.
Thanks!

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It is simply mind boggling that anyone would claim that EROI does not matter. At its heart, it is a formalization of oldest rule from the days when we first invented agriculture.

If you plant more seeds than you harvest, you will starve.

Then you add refinements. If you the seeds you plant, and the seeds you eat to get the energy to tend the field are more than you harvest, you will starve.

If the seeds you plant, and the seeds you feed to your plow oxen and the seeds you eat during the year and the seeds you feed your family and the seeds that were taken by the Lord’s men are more than you harvest, you will starve.

At its heart, that is EROI.

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Jeff Walther, nobody is saying that EROEI is so unimportant that it doesn’t matter under any circumstances. Of course anything with an EROEI below 1 is at best only fit for specialist uses (probably off grid, though grid stabilisation could be a possibility).

But when EROEI’s higher, it ceases to become the deciding factor.

In your agricultural example, the ratio of grain harvested to grain planted is less important than the net gain of grain per area of land (or quantity of water used if that’s the limiting factor). And ultimately what tends to count most is the return on money invested. There’s no use getting a slightly higher yield if the extra income is eaten up by the need to spend more on agricultural chemicals.

Similarly, if all other things are equal, higher EROEI will always translate to a higher return. But other things are not equal, and EROEI is one factor of many. Often the value of something has very little to do with the energy invested. And nuclear energy in particular has high ongoing costs which are absolutely nothing to do with energy invested. So the enormous EROEI of nuclear energy really does not matter – it tells us absolutely nothing about whether it’s the best option in any particular situation.

Similarly, the claim that an EROEI of about 7 is the minimum needed to sustain an advanced society is based on false assumptions.

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You need to prove “false assumptions” with mathematics. The notion that excess CO2 is not a concern is a fallacy. The notion that pollution from hydrocarbons is not a concern is a fallacy. The notion that we do not need an OVERALL (or what’s here called “buffered” EROEI) of 7 might have some truth to it (but I don’t believe that!). Therefore, we have to mathematically write it out prove who’s correct. Are you ready? I will ask you to do some numbers, too (and maybe, I’ll learn something from asking my own questions – or from your postulates?).
How do we do that? first, we list ALL the net energy required for world. I guess we could exclude that part of energy that is wasted as heat during FF burning – but ONLY if that part is not also a requirement for end use, such as cars. We’ll need the 3 or 4x extra energy, as we do now (just to waste as heat) in order to get to the store.
In the silly absence of nuclear, we’d need (you tell me) incredible amount of RE power for 10 billion plus people living at HIGH standards. We need to build overcapacity and store (you tell me) amounts of energy, perhaps 3 to 10x more than what’s required for max non stored RE? Please explain what storage medium is best (and especially its ESOI).
We might exempt refinery (since this is an exercise without FF input). Remember to add in the extra not yet needed now (such as to account for inefficiency of storage (since we are talking non FFs) and especially the inefficiency of making liquid fuels such as DME or ammonia from air and water needed to power much machinery.
We can’t just cut our ened use energy requirements, at least, not by much. For example, how much energy to make toothbrushes, machine parts for electric cars, power the EV to build speaker cabinets at the factory, feed employees, make these devices we use to endlessly, and in circles debate with, and so on.
I figure, we need an overall EROEI from ALL sources to average out to at least comparable to the time component to what the Eroei is on hydrocarbons. Remember, they started out with an Eroei of about 100. Now, I believe they are down to less than 20.
Now, we need to account for TIME. If it takes just a few seconds to return a “2”, then that magical source would be wonderful! Less energy needed by rest of economic activity in the meantime. But if it takes a couple years (as is with PV), then economic activity needs to find energy from elsewhere, in the meantime until such huge amount of solar PV (in this example) is built up to make up for such long Eroei payback. This amount is in the millions of square miles, regardless of the time component (unless you can, with math, prove me wrong).
This is why the closed nuclear cycle is favorable, it’ll energy pay for itself a thousand times over (using already spent fuel, etc), thus providing more energy to rest of economy.

Actual monetary costs will not afford an inefficient non fossil energy infrastructure. To wishfully delete nature’s best source to humanity – fission – is akin to building an 8,000 sq ft house, and living in just a fraction of it.

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Please explain what storage medium is best

If batteries improve cycle life (which they will), then they’re equivalent to pumped hydro. Better actually, because of higher energy density and distributed nature.

This amount is in the millions of square miles, regardless of the time component (unless you can, with math, prove me wrong).

It’s easy to disprove this anti-renewable nonsense. World energy consumption is 15TW, assume 20W/m2 for PV, this gives you 750000km2, which is less than one tenth of Sahara desert. “Millions of square miles” is off by an order of magnitude.
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Please supply your references as per Commenting Rules, or future comments will not be posted.

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How much land…

Just look up how to “size” a solar system – They’ll teach you how to oversize the system for variability and it does match my “inverse of CF” rule of thumb. They also use wood for backup (if not FFs). Some people still have to oversize more than that. You simply can’t argue these time tested facts.

You can make RE and its storage so that it’ll cost less money and energy – to some degree (think global grid, too) but we can’t cheat the laws of physics. So, it will require more land than you (and I) originally thought.
I stress that not to excuse a dismissal of RE (as it might seem, coming from someone posting on a nuclear blog – because I like that, too), but to insure that we don’t bow down to limitation. Freedom requires LOTS of energy. History teaches that energy impoverished peoples are NOT free.
We must PLAN for whatever amounts of land necessary to end poverty and do all those other things a well to do planetary civilization consuming 25 TW or more – must do (like prevent asteroid strikes).

My passion is to make aware the actual physics challenge of it all. Go make it work!

~Sign off~

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Where did PPP251 get his global energy consumption figure of 15 TWh from? He provided no source, despite the guide to users of this site.

A quick search indicates that the figure in 2008 was about 144,000 TWh, with probably 20% increase since taking it to above 170,000 TWh. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption.

PPP251 is the one whose numbers are out by several orders of magnitude – I make it 11,333.

The total land surface of the globe is 149,000 sq.km.

1TWh = 1 million million watt hours.

Assume ppp251’s figure of a 24/7 average 20 W/sq.m for PV, which I couldn’t be bothered to check.

170,000TWh/yr = >1.12E+13W continuous.

@ 20 W/sq.m=> 5.59E+11 sq.m
=> 5.59E+5 sq.km

ie, 559,000 square km of solar panel surface.

Assume 50% PV coverage, to allow for the spaces between rows of panels, maintenance access, roads, switchyards, panel edges, control rooms, switchyards, transmission corridors, clearance at fences, etc:
=>1.18 million sq.m. Hence, “millions of square kilometres” is realistic.

This represents 8 times the earth’s land surface, or more than twice the surface of the entire globe.

Now returning to PPP’s figure of 20W/sq.m:
German average say 1000 kWh/m2 insolation per annum.

Again, assume a very high overall 20% system efficiency and zero losses as electricity is converted to chemical energy in batteries, cement, steel, transmission, liquid transport fuels, transforming voltages up and down and from DC to AC. This is entirely optimistic and unreal, but assume this anyway.

Assume no spillage at times of low load, due to overbuild of batteries and other storage. This is also extremely unrealis

That suggests 200 kWh sent out per annum per square metre, ie 23W average, continuous. Near enough to 20W, but still assumes that transmission lines circle the globe with capacity to transmit a major fraction of the world’s total energy demand from anywhere to anywhere else. Because ppp251 did not identify where he got his numbers from, this is just a guess on my part.

However, the fact remains that I am convinced that PV alone can never power the globe.

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