Is Renewable Energy looking like a ‘new religion’?

Guest Post by Martin Nicholson. Martin studied mathematics, engineering and electrical sciences at Cambridge University in the UK and graduated with a Masters degree in 1974. He published a peer-reviewed book on low-carbon energy systems in 2012The Power Makers’ Challenge: and the need for Fission Energy

Firstly, what does renewable energy (RE) actually mean? Wikipedia says renewable energy refers to the provision of energy via renewable resources which are naturally replenished as fast as being used. RE resources include sunlight, wind, biomass, rain, tides, waves and geothermal heat.

In “The myth of renewable energy” (Dawn Stover, published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists), Stover believes that “renewable energy” is a meaningless term with no established standards.

RE certainly needs to deliver energy that we can readily use – more than just the RE resources (sunlight, wind, etc.). These RE resources have to be converted into usable energy.  We need wind turbines, solar panels, farming equipment and generators for biomass, and water catchment and generators for hydro sources. Alas wind turbines and solar panels do not grow on trees.

Renewable energy converters require the use of steel, copper, concrete and rare earth elements plus all the land on which to build these converters. Wind farms and large scale solar plants require transmission lines to connect to the electricity grid. The materials used to make the energy converters and transmission lines are not naturally replenished so Stover is probably correct when she says “renewable energy” is a meaningless term. But let’s stick with the term for now because it is in the common vernacular.

But is RE looking like a ‘new religion’?

It certainly seems to have its gurus (definition: “an influential teacher or popular expert.” ). In the USA there is Amory Lovins – Chairman/Chief Scientist of the Rocky Mountain Institute USA and Bill McKibben – Founder of  In Australia we have Mark Diesendorf from the University of N.S.W.  All seem convinced that 100% RE is the ultimate target for the future to replace all fossil fuel energy sources.

RE even has its own institutions, creeds and denominations, in the guise of Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, the Rocky Mountain Institute and, among many others. RE bibles have even been published such as Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution. Alas the sermons often contain a good dose of greenwashing.

But the RE religion also has its critics. David MacKay FRS is the Regius Professor of Engineering at the University of Cambridge. MacKay has written a book titled “Sustainable Energy – without the hot air” – available for free at MacKay’s website. More recently, MacKay presented a TEDx talk titled “How the Laws of Physics Constrain Our Sustainable Energy Options”.

In this TEDx talk, MacKay looks at the land use for RE resources.  He calculated the power density in watts per sq. metre for wind, solar, water and plants/biomass (see Figure 1). All RE resources are diffuse.

Figure 1 – Power density for various RE resources. Source MacKay TEDx talk 03-2012.

He then compares these power densities to the energy consumption per person and population density for countries around the world (see Figure 2). MacKay tells us that to use RE sources alone, you would need to consider the land use as “country” sized or at least a good part of the country. For example, to power the UK with RE alone would require about 25% of the total land area for the UK.

Figure 2 – Energy consumption and population density. Source MacKay TEDx talk 03-2012.

In comparison, MacKay estimates that the alternative low emission energy source, nuclear power, has a power density of about 1,000 W/m2. But within the RE religion, nuclear power is treated like Mephistopheles: demonised at every turn, despite it being one of the cleanest and safest sources of energy. Why do the 100% RE advocates demonise nuclear power when it has a land use 1/500th of the most efficient RE source?

Gaia has given us many energy sources, but the most land efficient sources are uranium and thorium because of their very high energy density – why are we not using them more often? Perhaps the renewable energy story was too good to be carefully fact-checked.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against renewable energy. I’m just concerned that RE devotees, who genuinely believe that we can supply all our energy needs from RE sources alone, consider carefully this excellent work from MacKay which suggests that using RE sources alone will not be the case for most countries. The laws of physics are against it.

Martin Nicholson

End-note from Barry Brook:

Of course, we should always try to be our hardest critics. Can the same be said of those who advocate for nuclear energy?

I would argue not, because in its environmentalist (not fundamentalist) form, a nuclear-friendly advocacy does not seem to meet any of the criteria Martin outlines above for religiosity. In this ‘doctrine’, no energy source is demonised — the argument is instead that all energy sources ought to be weighed fairly on their merits and demerits, on the basis of irreligious laws of nature (and market forces!). Gurus are lacking, at least those dedicated to the creed. Nor are there obvious counterpart advocacy institutions (or perhaps we count the WNA and or bibles (see Loftus et al. 2014 for a review of such global decarbonisation scenarios). But we do definitely have our denominations and bellum sacrum – witness the fast reactor vs thorium schism!

Let’s explore these issues in the comments…



  1. Religiosity is what the IPCC and the science community is repeatedly accused of – by climate change sceptics – so I’d be a little careful in using the term too recklessly. It’s become a term than any group can conveniently fire at another.

    That said, even as an advocate of a renewable energy future I accept that for many citizens who don’t have much technical background low density renewable energy is seen as a grand panacea when it clearly isn’t and can’t be.

    The religiosity tag is relevant when the hard limits of renewable energy are not recognised or are seriously overblown. What has encouraged this latter train of thought in recent times is 1) the plummeting prices of solar pv and 2) an enthusiastic advocacy of renewable energy on the grounds that the public needs to hear positive stories. What more positive story is there than to keep coal in the ground and run industrial society on solar panels?

    That’s a naive prospect that has become an infectious meme. I test this out among environmental advocates and most have a much more measured view. Most couple renewable energy development with the need for tandem radical culture change, recognising that the net energy return on renewables (other than hydro) is much lower than what modern society requires to function in its present form. This is especially so if battery back-up is configured into renewable systems.

    Environmental advocates such as Mike Stasse at Damn the Matrix represents the opposite end of the renewable energy belief spectrum, not discounting it as a useful energy resource but recognising its cradle-to-grave energy analysis as possibly negative and thus limiting its applicability only to essential needs.

    The pivotal philosophical argument is not really about renewable energy it is about the prospect of sustaining growth in a finite world and what happens if (or when) growth stalls.


  2. It doesn’t make sense to call renewable energy a new religion, because it’s part of a package containing:
    * environmentalism
    * climate change obsession
    * renewable energy

    RE is much better understood as part of a political project. Like many previous political projects, it doesn’t need to make sense. The trick is to offer something apparently new, while being as imprecise as possible over the practicalities. As CC damns us, RE is the salvation. It’s the fanaticism of the RE believers that draws comparison with religion: their ability to dismiss the usual rules of debate (economics, CBA, practicality, …) on energy matters. All political extremes show similar fanaticism. No one really argues from the evidence in politics; not even mainstream parties.

    RE offers something apparently new, it’s the environmentalist’s heaven to their climate change hell. Heaven and hell are just metaphors here.


  3. Barry,
    I think the Schism that you are referring to is between the Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) and the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR). Both reactor types can theoretically use Uranium and Thorium.
    The point is that the R&D funding provided for these technologies compared to the funding and subsidies given to RE technologies is well short of the promise and potential that they offer.
    This lack of funding is a result of the political lobbying of the religious zealots mentioned above just as much as it is from the general populations ignorance of the facts of Nuclear Power.
    Students studying Senior Chemistry and Physics will most probably graduate with an almost complete ignorance of Nuclear power because their is nothing in the curriculum and most of the teachers (my daughter included) know nothing about it either.
    As an aside
    I keep asking my Pro RE acquaitances how do you generate electricity at night with Solar. They have never answered my question.
    When I mention nuclear power they become quite irrational and start talking about Bombs and also exhibit all the clinical signs of Radiophobia.

    Regards Tony Carden


  4. 1.000 W/m2 for nuclear – come on really???

    A gigawatt facility is about one square kilometer.

    What about the average capacity factor of nuclear power plants should that number not be factored in?

    What about the period after decommission should that not be in the equation?

    What about the construction period is that not also excluding any other use of the land?

    The safety clearance area in terms of habitation, ground water extraction etc. around nuclear installations is how big?

    The needed area to provide 2,7 liter water per produced Watt is how big?

    The needed area for the mine operation that deliver nuclear fuel is how big or does cooling water mysteriously flow to nuclear power plants?

    The needed water resource for mining is how much and how much area does it require to receive the water needed for the operation?

    The needed area to produce the nuclear fuel is how big?

    The needed area to store fissile waste is how big?

    The areas affected by nuclear mishaps are they too excluded from the calculations?

    On one side of the equation there seems to be no calculations.

    Sure a one gigawatt nuclear power plant delivers 1.000 W/m2 if you ignore anything before after and around that nuclear power plant and assume 100% capacity factor.

    As for the other “calculations” that is used to compare I think there is a lot of fuzziness.

    Modern wind turbines does not exclude a number of normal activities beneath and around them and the same is true for several other renewable technologies whereof several are simply not mentioned.

    The renewable energy density figures are also way too low for especially wind and solar.

    If wind only has to be cheaper than Hinckley Point in British context then offshore is a possibility and a modern offshore wind park would claim a tiny fraction of british waters if it were to supply the entire British energy consumption.

    Just to avoid being accused of advocating offshore at the bloated price level it has been sold for, I strongly recommend to await lower prices for offshore.

    Hornsrev 3, that Vattenfall has won the bid to build currently awaits commission, will get a guaranteed price per produced kWh of 0,77 DKK, which is $0,11 per kWh but only for a ten year period and only when the spot market for electricity is above zero cent. After the 10 year period Hornsrev 3 will sell electricity on the spot market to whatever price the market is prepared to pay. The projected lifetime is 25 years so the average selling price per kWh will most likely be around $0,075 US cent per kWh.

    This price is a little less than the current wholesale electricity price in Britain.

    But very much cheaper than Hinckley Point.


  5. In reply to Jens Stubbe
    The Math is quite simple.
    A. 1 gwhr = 1000,000,000 whr (one billion)
    B. 1sqklm =1,000,000 Sqm

    A/B = 1000whr/sqm

    If you doubt the figures I suggest you follow the link to the TED talk the Figures are Prof McKays.

    The proposed Gen 4 nuclear reactors such as IFR’s and MSR’s do not use water as part of the process unlike the current reactors.
    Thorium is currently available in significant quantities as a byproduct of Rare Earth Mining. The Chinese have plenty.
    The current estimate is that one tonne of thorium can provide the same amount of energy as 3.5 million tons of Coal

    Regards Tony Carden


  6. I suppose that I’m not really that different then “them” (i.e. the renewable energy advocates or renwaphiles as I like to think of them). I care about preserving genetic diversity, and climate change. I also care about human beings and that people now and in the future should get to lead some kind of decent life with enough food, shelter and various basic comforts at the least. I suppose we should be on the same side, but I’m just so angry at them because more than anyone they get in the way of any practical solutions. The most annoying thing about them is how they don’t examine all the evidence. They just dismiss or ignore anything that doesn’t fit their preconceived notions. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and thinking about both sides of the argument, but they only listen to each-other. I guess in that way they are a lot like a religion.


  7. Friends – let’s not post any replies to a comment that is clearly off topic. The previous thread was choked up by our own responses to a troll‘s graffiti. Instead we could send the URL to the moderator and request that it be deleted as being off topic.


  8. I opine that “religion” is the wrong concept for those taking faith in 100% so-called renewables. My, but religion is a fuzzy concept:
    makes a stab at it. “Faith” might be better and here is an article from the religious perspective:

    What I see instead of either is a deep intranisgence on the part of some in failing to address properly so-called renewables issues in powering a reliable electric grid. I don’t know the proper psychological term, although the Afrikaans “verkrampte” seems apt.

    For example, I have often suggested a model grid based on Bonneville Power Administration data for the BPA balancing authority region. I request advocates of this or that to indicate how they would reliability power the grid and at what wholesale cost. I have yet to see a single response.

    Here is the simplified grid, with every day exactly the same: from 6 am to 11 pm the grid is at 100% while overnight it is at 70% of maximum load. Choose your own maximum in the range 10–30 GW, a modest size.

    I have down this several times in the past, leaving the results on various threads of Brave New Climate or also maybe
    Using realistic LCOE figures I always concluded that powering mostly by nuclear equipped with therrmal stores is less expensive than adding any wind power at all, but that some household and commercial solar PV, up to about 30% of the maximum load at noon, could be accommodated for little additional cost for utility ratepayers.

    I didn’t do this for the current costs for wind generators, but given the way the analysis has to go there isn’t much point in doing it again. The basic problem of providing backup for when the wind resource is not available remains. I refused to consider using natgas as that is nowhere near carbon neutral. So basically one has to power down some of the nuclear generators when the wind is blowing and this is never, ever, cost effective. The same holds for solar PV, but the utility recovers costs associated with cloudy days by charging those customers with their own solar PV at a higher rate for the power that is consumed above their sunny day allotment. Up to a point this works.

    This challenge remains open to advocates of any mixture of generators; be sure to include ample reserves against unplanned generator tripoffs. Recall that pumped hydro is highly geography specific and so is not generally applicable.


  9. Mark4asp – “RE offers something apparently new, it’s the environmentalist’s heaven to their climate change hell. Heaven and hell are just metaphors here.”

    I fully agree with this, but to me this smacks of religiosity.


  10. Tony Carden – the densities discussed by MacKay are power densities not energy densities. And yes Jens, capacity factor does matter when converting power densities to energy densities. But the capacity factor for nuclear is about 3 times wind and 6 times solar PV which makes the land use for nuclear a v. small fraction of the land use for RE as MacKay clear shows in his TEDx talk.


  11. EVcricket, My estimate to power all Australia with solar PV would require 1700 sq km of roof and land area. The total roof area is about 400 sq km so we would still need 1300 sq km of land. We could do the same job with about 30GW of nuclear or 30 sq km.


  12. Chris H said – “If we don’t take seriously the urgency of taking action on climate change then …”

    Yes, that sense of impending doom is certainly what is driving my own passion, and I hope, many of the people I talk with. As a means of laying blame, I guess that is politics and eventually the re-writing of history by the survivors. As a call to action, it is about our survival. Said like that, it is no more religious than a revolutionary calling out “the British are coming!”.

    What we mean by “our survival” is certainly an ethical question of whether to include the welfare of future generations amongst the interests of today’s generation. To that extent I guess its religious. But if the complacent young twits would get off their backsides and march in the streets, it would be political.

    But that vision of impending doom is not shared by a renewable energy enthusiasts. To them the issue is not whether wind or solar is carbon free, but whether it is renewable. To them, the disaster ahead is that we are about to run out of non-renewable resources. This must have been contradicted by every geologist they have talked to across the last 50 years, so their contrary belief does smack of blind faith, of religion.


  13. David Benson,
    Both coal and nuclear power plants use superheated(say 250 degrees C) steam to drive the turbine that drives the generator. With Nuclear one of its inherent flaws is that to achieve this temperature water must be contained at pressures in the order of 80 atmospheres. This is one of the inherent and limiting flaws in all Pressurized Water Reactors, hence the Chernobyl and Fukishima incidents.

    The designs of both the Integral Fast Reactor(IFR) and the Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) do not use water for cooling or heat transfer. They both operate at temperatures in excess of 700 C.
    It is proposed that they use Closed Cycle Gas Turbines (CCGT) to drive the generator.
    My point is simply that because these reactors do not need water is another very good reason for investing R&D funds into their development.


  14. Tony Carden — The existing IFR outside of Russia is the GE-Hitachi S-PRISM which does indeed use a steam generator. I don’t know about the Russian BN series much, but the BN-600 has had at least one sodium fire which suggests that it also has a steam generator.

    Supercritical carbon dioxide Brayton cycle generators are not yet in production. Soon, we hope.


  15. Tony Carden — Jens question about water evaporation led to some confusion. The water used to remove heat from the reactor core is not the water being evaporated to remove the excess heat at the bottom end of the generator’s Rankin cycle. A coal burner has the same necessity of removing the reject heat. So does a concentrated solar generator.

    None of wind, solar PV or hydro have this problem, just lots of others.


  16. David,
    I am not sure in relation to IFR’s but for MSR’s no water is used to transfer energy from the reactor core to the turbine. It is done via an inert gas such as Helium.
    Steam driven turbines operate at their most efficient when the steam is heated to 250C approx. For water conservation purposes it is then released into the cooling towers for recycling and resultant heat reduction.
    I am not aware of the figures for water consumption of steam driven power plants but it is considerable. I would welcome a figure.
    I am not that familiar with the Rankine Cycle so I am not sure of how much energy needs to be removed from the system. But would it be possible to use a closed water system similar to a car radiator at the bottom end of the Rankine cycle. Hence minimal water consumption.


  17. As regards the 1 Gigawatt reactor requires 1 square kilometre formula, Bruce generating station in Ontario has eight reactors totalling over 6 Gigawatts on 0.9 km2. There is also room for a decommissioned reactor and storage for most of the province’s low and intermediate waste; two more reactors had been planned for the same site. That would have been nearer 10 GW per km2.


  18. Hi Martin

    If you assume average capacity factor for wind and average capacity factor for nuclear you are probably just about right assuming the Nuclear deliver three times more energy relative to nameplate capacity.

    The general concept of the article is however future oriented and questioning if there is any reason to consider renewables.

    If you consider new Nuclear vs new wind capacity Nuclear delivers no more than two times more energy relative to nameplate capacity.

    The land use issue presented by MacKay is totally manipulated to the point where just presenting the nonsense devaluate credibility.

    If you wanted to manipulate figures the other way around you could argue that wind turbine land use is limited to the area of the ground that they occupy.

    You are a mathematician so you know how to do analysis and how to calculate so I believe you could do better if you wanted to try.

    It could actually be interesting to see a fair calculation of the land required for the different technologies to power the world.

    As for the notion that RE is a religion I can certainly answer no for my own part. My concern is similar to most that takes an interest in Brave New Climate, I think there is enough evidence that shows we have to limit CO2 in the atmosphere.

    As for the means to be used I would argue that we should use the cheapest.


  19. Jens – Nuclear is cheapest because of, among other reasons, the renewables overbuild requirement, the expense of the largely non-existent storage infrastructure (and material requirements to create it), the transmission requirements, and the general waste of limited resources associated with intermittent renewables. This is not to say that the technologies will not improve. I hope they will. However, betting the future on such hopes seems very foolish.

    Respectfully, you seem to exhibit what is sometimes referred to as “nuclear exceptionalism.” (NNadir’s term, I believe). E.g., you indicate mining area must be taken into account in calculating nuclear’s land use impacts, but ignore the corresponding materials mining requirements for renewables, e.g., the neodymium mining referenced in one of Professor Nicholson’s links (and other rare and less rare materials that must be secured, fabricated into structures and devices, etc., and transported and put into place, and [unless the related problematic materials are to become “distributed toxic waste”] decommissioned and controlled at the back end).

    If you were to read through the history of matters addressed by Barry Brooks’ and guest bloggers on you would find that the kinds of issues you raise have been thoroughly and thoughtfully addressed, most likely more than once.

    I would suggest you “do the numbers” for an energy system built largely around inevitably intermittent renewable energy. Civilizations require whole energy systems. Barry has done the numbers, Mackay has done them, Armond Cohen (Clean Air Task Force – another former anti-nuclear activist who previously thought “we can do it all with renewables”) has done them, and others have done them as well. Rigorously. A common consequence of doing the numbers rigorously is loss of faith in renewables, standing alone, as a cornerstone of a viable climate and energy solution.

    If you have some compelling analysis after “doing those numbers,” then provide a link and I expect a number of people who follow discussions here would look at it. It is always useful to challenge one’s beliefs and make room for other possibilities.

    However, isolated data points combined with sweeping unsupported statements do not constitute a position that merits serious consideration. Instead, this kind of disjointed approach only seems to re-validate Mr. Nicholson’s theory about renewable energy advocates holding something equivalent to a belief system based mostly on faith instead of facts.


  20. “If you were to read through the history of matters addressed by Barry Brooks’ and guest bloggers on you would find that the kinds of issues you raise have been thoroughly and thoughtfully addressed, most likely more than once.”

    At this point this should almost be pinned to the top of the blog. I guarantee any and all criticisms and objections to nuclear power have indeed been addressed in the hundreds of articles here.

    On Armond Cohen, his analysis is thorough and incisive and essential viewing:


  21. Tony Carden — Turbines are heat engines and so subject to the limitations of the
    The efficiency of which which cannot be actually obtained in practice. Gas turbines use the practical
    for which the helium or supercritical carbon dioxide closed cycle turbine is an astounding 45% efficient; 55% of the supplied heat is rejected to the environment:
    Steam turbines use the older
    and due to the temperature limitations imposed by the zirconium alloys used to hold the uranium pellets in position is only about 38% thermally efficient; 62% of the generated heat must be rejected to the environment.

    For steam, rejection is done through a condenser. The turbine water is condensed back to water which is pumped back to the steam generator. On the other side of the condenser the choices are water evaporation, once-through cooling water, or air cooling. I know of no nuclear reactor which uses or ever used air cooling. I know of a few coal fired power plants which use air cooling. The difficulty with air cooling is that about 5–8% of the generated electricity is consumed running the fans.

    Finally, there currently are no MSRs generating electricity for any grid. Until some of the projects in
    are actually built we won’t know how economic the design is in practice.


  22. Agreed Eli. So we need to pursue a joint strategy of deployment of technologies that we KNOW work at scale (e.g. thermal nuclear in France, Ontario, Sweden etc.) and pursuit of technologies that we hope (have faith) will work even more effectively in the future (advanced nuclear, advanced solar, large-scale energy storage). Where the 100% technosolar (i.e. not hydro/biomass) advocates fail is in not recognising the criticality of both coupling faith with proof.


  23. Steam driven turbines operate at their most efficient when the steam is heated to 250C approx.

    Sorry, wrong.  Steam turbines continue to increase efficiency with increasing input temperature up to the limits of materials currently available.  So does every other heat engine.  Supercritical steam plants use steam hotter than the critical point of water (374°C, 22 MPa), and the trend is toward ultrasupercritical steam plants.  Next Big Future recently ran a piece on supercritical nuclear reactors which would function like BWRs but operate well above the critical pressure.  There would be no phase change in the coolant so no issues of thermal shock or localized heating from boiling.

    Sodium-cooled reactors operate in the neighborhood of 500-550°C to maintain overhead below the BP of the coolant.  MSRs built so far run considerably hotter, up to 850°C if I recall my reading about the “fireball reactor” correctly.  If either was paired with a steam turbine, it would be at least a supercritical steam system.  No mechanical engineer worth his salt would take a 550°C coolant and design a steam generator to turn out 250°C steam for a system primarily designed to generate electricity.  You can convert a lot more of each BTU of heat into work if you start with 550°, 30 MPa steam.  It’s a simple matter of less entropy being generated, so less needs to be rejected as waste heat.

    I am not that familiar with the Rankine Cycle so I am not sure of how much energy needs to be removed from the system.

    If you don’t know how to use the steam tables in the back of a thermodynamics textbook, you aren’t informed well enough to have a worthwhile opinion of your own on this issue.  If you need an expert, hire one.  For $100 per hour I will calculate all of the theoretical efficiencies you like, with as many practical variations (like different turbine efficiencies) as you want thrown in.  You’ll get OpenOffice spreadsheets including all data, with sources cited.  Since they would be works for hire, you could post them or do whatever you like with them.

    Change in entropy is defined as ΔS = ΔQ/T(abs).  You can see that putting in a megajoule of heat at 550°C (823 K) yields less entropy than doing it at 250°C (523 K).  Every bit of entropy you input or create has to be rejected to the environment, and that means ΔQ (waste heat), so less entropy is always better.


  24. Frank Jablonski

    First of all I do not find the prospect of being able to replace fossils with renewables unrealistic or foolish.

    The dependence on rare earth materials is not very expressed for wind turbines and a company like Enercon does not use any rare earth materials in any of their up to 7MW large turbines.

    Most others use rare earth for economic reasons purely including Siemens that use approximately 200 kilo in their 6MW turbine.

    The environmentally problematic conditions connected to rare earth mining in China should be addressed asap.

    If you assume 50% capacity factor in a the projected 25 year lifetime a 6MW Siemens wind turbine will produce 675000MW so for each produced MW there will be spent 0,3 gram. If you assume that 99,5% will be recycled the actual usage of rare earth materials per produced MW is approximately 0,0015 gram.

    Back to the real topic I would like to get my curiosity satisfied about the rational substance of the debated differences in power density it could be interesting to get real values on the table.

    However at the end of the day the energy discussion should be about how to reduce pollution of any kind while producing energy at the cheapest feasible price point.

    I found a map over wind resources and this indicates that you have fine resources in Australia.
    And a more detailed one
    And not much habitation in the windy desert and grassland areas

    The argument for nuclear should at the end of the day be that you can deliver electricity cheaper.

    $0,031 US cent per kWh on 20 year PPA without subsidies was the average standard in 2013 for US interior and this appears to be a target price that could be achieved in parts of Australia as well.


  25. To all interested in running nuclear with no water consumption I think the interest regarding the existing fleet of nuclear power plants is rather academic because the majority of nuclear plants runs with water cooling for a reason and that reason is that you can extract more energy with water usage. In arid and semi arid areas without access to seawater cooling the problem is real for thermal power plants – and significant for everyone that is locally affected of water shortage or changed aquatic environment.

    The flashed water vapor contains several gasses whereof some are greenhouse gasses such as CO2, N2O, CH, O3 and H2O.

    While water will return as rain all the other mentioned greenhouse gasses has significantly longer lifetime in the atmosphere.

    If any of you have knowledge about the issue I would like to be informed.

    For attempts to use air cooling it is important to notice that you then will make the output from Nuclear more variable with less output when the ambient temperature is high and more when it is cold.


  26. Jens – several authoratative voices have told you that nukes dont HAVE to have water, yet you keep repeating it as gospel that they do. So “In arid and semi arid areas without access to seawater cooling the problem is real” is not true. Kogan Creek is in a drought-prone area of Queensland and it has no such problem. You bear false witness.


  27. Roger Clifton

    Here is one authoritative source that I suppose you do not find to be a member of my choir.

    They are not in denial about cooling.

    “The amount of cooling required by any steam-cycle power plant (of a given size) is determined by its thermal efficiency. It has essentially nothing to do with whether it is fuelled by coal, gas or uranium.
    However, currently operating nuclear plants often do have slightly lower thermal efficiency than coal counterparts of similar age, and coal plants discharge some waste heat with combustion gases, whereas nuclear plants rely on water.
    Nuclear power plants have greater flexibility in location than coal-fired plants due to fuel logistics, giving them more potential for their siting to be determined by cooling considerations.
    The most common types of nuclear power plants use water for cooling in two ways:
    To convey heat from the reactor core to the steam turbines.
    To remove and dump surplus heat from this steam circuit. (In any steam/ Rankine cycle plant such as present-day coal and nuclear plants there is a loss of about two-thirds of the energy due to the intrinsic limitations of turning heat into mechanical energy.)
    The bigger the temperature difference between the internal heat source and the external environment where the surplus heat is dumped, the more efficient is the process in achieving mechanical work – in this case, turning a generator[1]. Hence the desirability of having a high temperature internally and a low temperature in the external environment. This consideration gives rise to desirably siting power plants alongside very cold water.*
    * Many power plants, fossil and nuclear, have higher net output in winter than summer due to differences in cooling water temperature.”

    World Nuclear brings an EPRI graph over the cooling water usage, which indicate nearly 850 Gallons per MW or approximately 3,2 liters per kWh. And another graph from NETL suggesting 2,36 liters per kWh.

    World Nuclear clearly states that running Nuclear air cooled is feasible but comes at an extra cost and reduce output.

    Despite the interesting question related to the released greenhouse gasses from the cooling water there is no quantification.

    The link to NREL analysis from Quekka does not even mention the problem.

    Ps. I have at no point argued that Nuclear power plants has to use water, I have just quite correct mentioned that they all do and it is interesting to analyze the emissions and the effects on the aquatic environment and farming etc.


  28. Thanks E-P. I dug up my copy of Len Koch’s EBR-II book, in which he says the following on pg 3-35 to 3-36:

    The steam system served as a heat sink for power generated in the reactor. Steam was generated at 1,300 pounds per square inch, 850F from the heat delivered by the secondary sodium system. At 62.5 megawatt thermal reactor output, the steam generator system delivered 248,000 pounds per hour of superheated steam to a conventional 20 megawatt turbine generator system.

    An induced draft cooling tower provided low-temperature heat rejection. A steam by-pass system was incorporated around the turbine to permit absorption of all energy produced in the reactor independent of electrical output. The condenser was sized to accept 100 percent of the steam generated… The evaporation section consisted of eight identical shell and tube heat exchangers connected in parallel on the tube side to a horizontal, overhead steam drum with conventional moisture separation internals… achievement of high thermal efficiency was not an EBR-II primary objective, but reliable operations was”

    EBR-II used a dry cooling tower, with water used to cool & condense the condenser LP turbine discharge steam.

    Rod Adams noted the following:

    A “dry” cooling tower still uses water as the cooling medium in the steam cycle condenser. The “dry” part is in the fact that the cooling tower uses dry air to reject the heat from the circulating water system instead of evaporating water to take advantage of the latent heat of vaporization at the expense of consuming fresh water at a rather rapid rate. INL is in a high desert where water is too valuable to waste in evaporative cooling towers.


  29. Renewable Energy is NOT a new religion. RE actually delivers tangible benefits to those who partake.

    What has become a religion is the anti Renewable Energy phenomenon.

    For instance Warrick Anderson of the NHMRC said in a recent talk that despite the lack of hard scientific evidence that wind turbines cause harm

    almost the only complaint subject put to the NHMRC related to windmills. Nothing else, of all of the things that people could or should be concerned about, just wind turbines.

    But the other new “religion” is of course anti Nuclear, without a doubt.

    So I reject the argument that pro Renewable Energy is a religion. It is in fact a movement, and one that gets results.

    To my thinking though, the nuclear industry is its own worst enemy. I believe that it fails to recognise its opportunities. Just looking at the above discussed EBR II reactor I see a machine that would easily fit in the engine space of a ship and even though its electrical output a was just 20 megawatt, I imagine that there is not that much difference in size between that and an 80 megawatt shipboard water cooled machine.

    “Costing more than US$32 million, it achieved first criticality in 1965 and ran for 30 years. It was designed to produce about 62.5 megawatts of heat and 20 megawatts of electricity, which was achieved in September 1969 and continued for most of its lifetime. Over its lifetime it has generated over two billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, providing a majority of the electricity and also heat to the facilities of the Argonne National Laboratory-West.”

    That energy output amounts to nearly 3 years of 24/7/365 energy delivery at 80 megawatts equivalence. My opinion is that they need to do 2 modular designs for ship board 40 megawatts and 80 megawatts, and they will have a robust volume production business. Such a modular reactor design could be made to drop out of the bottom of a vessel in dry dock into a reactor receiving well for reprocessing at the end of its (ship and or reactor) life.

    I doubt however, that is going to ever happen as their focus appears to be to have big land based reactors. Solar energy is proven to be able to power land based needs where there is ample space to collect the energy and there is a reconfigurable demand profile, but there is no way that Solar Energy is going to power the container ships of today. There is a 1.3 billion dollar cruise ship about to arrive in Sydney. Why is that not Nuclear Powered? What would be the cost of the 80 megawatt reactor to power that ship? There are so many cost reduction factors with ship board powerplants, that land based costings cannot be used. Cooling is via heat exchange, there is no real estate required, there are no buildings required, reactor cooling energy can be used for water desalination en route to provide a marketable product in many ports (fresh water).

    I see the Nuclear industry as being an example of stale thinking and lost opportunities. And its frustrated proponents believe somehow that attacking an industry that is getting on with the business of reducing carbon emissions and improving living standards, the renewable energy business, will somehow improve their pet Nuclear industry’s prospects.


  30. Separately If this battery

    proves to be real, and, considering the number of battery technologies clamoring for record claims, there is every reason to be skeptical, then the anti battery argument will fall on its face and battery ESOEI figures will need to be reviewed.

    Skeptical is one thing, cultist denial is another. Here is the opportunity to see if we are religiously against renewable energy storage, or just fatigued by optimistic (think nano technology) technology overreach.


  31. Hi BIIB

    Nuclear has frequently been employed on ships and the idea is still in work for many military ships.

    Currently a big MAN machine has a 60% efficiency but it runs on really heavy polluting fuel.

    This article is based upon peer reviewed research by an institute just across the street from my lab and indicate that 50.000 Europeans die every year due to pollution from the international shipping fleet and that the added health related cost per year reaches approximately €58 billion.

    If you want to make your case you should do the calculations and present it including both the case for the ship owners and for the society at large.

    On the down side there will be lost a few reactor on the sea bottom every year as has already happened on occasion with nuclear military vessels over the years.

    Nuclear is also in this field battling renewable solutions and may loose out on this opportunity too simply because the competition is more nimble and fast moving. There have been many trials with flying sails, automated sailing rigs, Flettner rotors, solar panels, classic wind turbines and designs where the entire ship hull functions as a sail.

    Not surprisingly they all work well in principle and praxis but a modern vessel is doomed the second it looses propulsion in too rough weather, so the engines needs to be there and then the economy become tricky.

    The constant battery cycle cost reduction may change this combined with the stricter regulation of the permitted pollution.

    If you look more into the matter it would be interesting to read a more in depth analysis.

    Ps. Nuclear will benefit every bit as much as renewables from better battery economy so I agree about your other remark against cultish denial of battery development.


  32. The main driver of both sides of this debate seems to be enthusiasm for technology. In that respect, the proponents of both sides tend to be earnest, geeky blokes who love their preferred technology and bat for it as hard as they can.

    Climate change is also a driver and I think we should generously accept that this holds true for the proponents of both nuclear and renewables proponents – though in combat mode each accuses the other of not being genuine on that score.

    BILB, you make some very good points but I think the substantive debate is not about a supposed anti-RE sentiment it’s about the limits of dilute energy sources – i.e. what they can and can’t deliver. A rational debate on that score is very valid, by everyone not just by nuclear proponents.

    Given that society is hurtling towards a brick wall and nobody has a sure fire solution everything that holds promise should be on the table.


  33. The frustration expressed by Bilb is understandable, but his arguments simply do not hold water.

    He has left unanswered questions, some of which have already been tossed around several times upthread and more often than not been dealt with in detail on this site in other threads.

    I suggest that Bilb put to one side any personal rants about the motives or belief systems of others and truly consider the bases for the statement that the renewables industries “is getting on with the business of reducing carbon emissions and improving living standards”. This may be true in isolated locations and special market niches, but it has not been demonstrated to be so in modern, technologically advanced societies and it is this perception which is at the heart of the ensuing disagreement. The belief systems and various rants are not the point – what must be demonstrated are the links between improved living standards, reduced CO2e (and other environmental impacts) and renewable energy.

    Where are the improved living standards in Denmark and Germany? They have the most expensive electricity systems in Europe. Germany is still, despite years of spending billions of euros annually, not closing coal mines but is opening lignite mines and constructing power stations to use this, the dirtiest of fuels. To demonstrate that claims to the contrary are founded on more than faith, perhaps Bilb will return with substantiated examples of “reduced carbon emissions” on a national or grid-wide scale in technologically advanced societies. The only examples I can offer of reduced carbon emissions are coupled with reduced energy consumption overall, which tends to indicate not improved living standards, but the converse and a reducing GDP.

    Australia, of course, has pressure on its GDP coupled with increasing CO2e emissions, despite a decade of serious public and private support for renewables. Isn’t that sufficient indication that something else must be tried?


  34. Hi singletonengineer

    If you bother to do the distinction between electricity cost before and after taxation you will find that Denmark is slightly below average in Europe.,first_half_2013(1)_(EUR_per_kWh)_YB14.png

    Most countries that can boast cheaper electricity than Denmark can do so because they have hydro power or nuclear power that was constructed decades ago and thus have enjoyed the benefits of inflation.

    Further a lot of the cost of electricity in Denmark can actually be attributed to policies that subsidize fossil power and dodgy political schemes where the once user owned utilities were privatized, which has burdened the electricity prices considerably. And DONG the major utility made a very stupid bet on gas prices to the tune of billions of DKK lost due to the subsequent collapse in the prices of fossil fuels.

    Your claim that highly developed economies cannot be based upon renewables is fictional.

    Your claim that Germany spend billions is related to the notion that net metering is somehow different from other means of energy savings such as insulation, more efficient cars, biking, LED lighting or ground heat pumps etc.

    The major real hard cash subsidies for energy production in Germany goes to coal production. I think you know full well how many people that dies and is hospitalized annually due to contamination from coal power.

    Cumulated direct subsidy to coal without external cost is around €30 billion over 13 years.

    The total amount of subsidies to renewable energy in Denmark has now peaked at 0,2% of GDP and is likely to slide gradually over the next few years. To compare to other cost we spend four times as much on budgets assigned to aid the developing world and without being totally sure it is not far from the cost of our military operations abroad.

    Based on this I would think that the impact of renewable on the Danish living standard probably is positive since we have about 28.000 high paying jobs in the wind industry as of 2013.


  35. On the aluminum battery, there’s already been much discussion at GreenCarCongress.
    It is currently about 40 Wh/kg, so it isn’t suitable for an EV or even a full PHEV.  However, its stellar power/weight makes it a prime candidate to replace NiMH and Li-ion in HEVs, and the deep-cycling capability allows mild PHEV use.  A series HEV with a 50 kg/120 kW battery, 1 motor per wheel, 160 HP on tap, traction and stability control and a 40-50 kW sustainer engine running at 40% thermal efficiency (no compromises for driveability) achieving 50-60 MPG has the potential to kill in several market segments.  If you add “mild PHEV” capability, topping off with 1-2 kWh when the opportunity arises, fuel economy could go north of 100 MPG for many driving patterns.  It would spell the end of US oil imports.
    As per BNC Comments Policy, your post has been edited to exclude your personal opinion of others and link to your references inserted.


  36. Religions erect symbols for the public to see.

    A solar panel on a home is an assertion of a virtuous family. Windmills appearing on a countryside stand in testimony to an environmentally virtuous community. A lone windmill on a hill looks like a statue of the Redeemer above a Catholic city. A wind farm on a hilltop looks like a Calvary of crosses. Windmills across the skyline in the Pyrenees (between France and Spain) seem like candles lit by pilgrims praying for redemption.

    Many nuclear power stations have been architected in a grandiose manner, like cathedrals to high-tech, or to big energy. If they loomed too large in the public eye, it may partly explain the downfall of Superphenix or Monju.


  37. Jens Stubbe: Wind power averages 20% of nameplate power due to intermittent winds. The real problem is energy storage. I and others have estimated the cost for the US at about a QUADRILLION US dollars. That means it can’t be done soon enough to avoid a collapse of civilization.


  38. Commit the following sequence of numbers to memory folks – 20, 367, 2.8, 0. What do they mean? In the last 20 years, the world has spent $367billion on subsidies for renewables for which the world generated 2.8% of its electricity with, to all intents and purposes, no reduction in greenhouse emissions. The renewables have been a scandalous, wasteful folly and as soon as they reach their use by date [25 years at best in the case of wind farms] they should be dismantled and sold for scrap and replaced with appropriate sized nuclear reactors.


  39. Terry Krieg, I think that you need to declare your information source for the renewables figure. My first look at this from this

    source says that the renewables total production is 20% at 4,699 Twhrs.

    and according Wikipaedia

    renewable electricity subsidies amounted to 88 billion.

    That is a vastly different picture to the one you painted so which is correct?

    I’d also like to point out that renewable energy sustained modern humans for 350,000 years prior to the wide spread use of Fossil Fuels.


  40. MOD: I checked the GCC link on Engineer-Poet’s added link and it makes no reference to this

    battery. However GCC does make reference to a Lithium Sulphur battery with double the energy density but the same charge life of conventional Li-ion batteries. This battery would take the ESOEI from 10 to 20.

    The newly invented Stanford Al-ion battery, assuming it stacks up and becomes a production battery would take ESOEI from 10 to nearer 100, which would eliminate the renewable energy storage from being the road block that renewable energy detractors claim it to be.

    The future for renewables, I observe, just keeps getting better.


  41. It is an invention at this stage and not a product, David Benson.

    I came across this (below) system that I had not heard of before, while testing you dismissive claim. This battery has a 3000 cycle life according to the Wiki, so 7500 cycles of an aluminium and graphite battery stack has got to be comparable.

    Of course my interest is for domestic and small business energy production so the Al-ion battery sounds perfect. Too perfect to hope for, almost.

    Regardless this makes the point that there are many technologies being explored and the future of energy storage is wide open, and far from being a foregone conclusion as a previous thread had suggested.


  42. Redemption does seem to explain why so many people want to make token “reductions” in carbon emissions. By reducing his emissions by one tonne of carbon dioxide per year, one feels forgiven for emitting the other ten tonnes (ref).

    Eliminating carbon emissions is not in these people’s interests. They would no longer be able to reduce and feel righteous by that action. Elimination would then appear sacrilegious. However, a breakaway movement could collectively demand “elimination” and feel redeemed by each success in that direction.


  43. Oh, COME ON, Moderator!  BilB was provably using “I know you are but what am I?”.  Back here he wrote

    Renewable Energy is NOT a new religion. RE actually delivers tangible benefits to those who partake.

    What those tangible benefits are, in the absence of subsidies and preferences, he doesn’t state.  Net metering laws are as much a subsidy as feed-in tariffs… and those subsidies and preferences now have quasi-religious fervor behind them.

    What has become a religion is the anti Renewable Energy phenomenon.

    Which he conflated with the “anti-subsidies and preferences” phenomenon.  Forcing wind and solar to be dispatched first is a preference.  Paying net metering customers the same rate for watts sold as bought, ignoring the cost of maintaining the grid and generators they still expect to be there, is a subsidy.  He continued:

    Solar energy is proven to be able to power land based needs where there is ample space to collect the energy and there is a reconfigurable demand profile

    “Reconfigurable demand profile” is a mouthful that he has not defined.  Does it mean “shutting down all industry that requires 24/7 energy, and idling workers whenever nature takes the day off”?  Without defining his terms, he can argue for (or against) almost anything.

    When I wrote “Shorter BilB: “I know you are but what am I?”” I was being charitable.  (Also trying to minimize his monopolization of this comment thread, which you aided and abetted.  Sometimes mockery is justified.  This is one of those times.)

    BTW, the aluminum-ion battery thread at GCC is here.
    My job is to apply the Comments Policy viz:
    Civility – Clear-minded criticism is welcomed, but play the ball and not the person. Rudeness will not be tolerated. This includes speculation about motives or what ‘sort of person’ someone is.


  44. Jens Stubbe writes again:

    Hi singletonengineer
    If you bother to do the distinction between electricity cost before and after taxation you will find that Denmark is slightly below average in Europe.

    That bit of sleight-of-hand (allowed by EU rules) is the key here.  The line items on electric bills which have doubled German rates are designated “environmental fees”, not renewable subsidies despite being directed to wind and PV generation.  Whatever difference there may be to Brussels, there is no difference to the consumer.  Most consumers do not get to enjoy those lower, wholesale rates that their “fees” subsidize.

    Most countries that can boast cheaper electricity than Denmark can do so because they have hydro power or nuclear power that was constructed decades ago and thus have enjoyed the benefits of inflation.

    Countries with the foresight to build energy assets which last in excess of 40 (and perhaps as much as 60, 80 or more) years should get credit for it.  How many of Denmark’s 1980-95 wind turbines are still running?  How much do they cost to keep in service?  The one Vestas turbine near me, only 17 years old, was almost abandoned due to lack of repair parts.

    Further a lot of the cost of electricity in Denmark can actually be attributed to policies that subsidize fossil power

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, but Stubbe gives no reference for this assertion.

    DONG the major utility made a very stupid bet on gas prices to the tune of billions of DKK lost

    The last time I looked for a list of Danish electric generating stations, only two of them (Nordjylland and Avedøre) used natural gas at all (and both were co-fired with either coal or petroleum).  How a bet on NG prices by DONG could have an effect so far beyond those, Stubbe fails to explain.  I can explain that failure:  Stubbe is a propagandist with no interest in honest debate.

    Your claim that Germany spend billions is related to the notion that net metering is somehow different from other means of energy savings

    The “notion” is incontrovertible fact:  net metering on basic per-kWh residential billing schemes pays the PV owner for the utility’s costs of maintaining generators and lines which are rolled into that rate.  The only fair way to treat net metering is to un-bundle all those costs, and also pay PV generators at real-time market rates which discount the price of energy when it’s in surplus (meaning, when PV generators have much of it to sell).  That this destroys the economics of PV is no coincidence.


  45. Engineer-Poet,

    Reconfigurable demand,….heat water, charge batteries, pump pools, wash clothes, operate slow cookers, etc during the day rather than the night, for instance.

    E-P you made the GCC “aluminium battery” connection then started talking about 40 Wh/kg and unsuitability for EV’s “or even PHEV’s”. Clearly you were talking about a different Aluminium battery technology altogether to the Al-ion battery offers 1060 Wh/kg, more than double that of current Li-ion batteries (see Wiki link above), and there was no reference to that on the link provided.
    Religions generally are less about machinery to enable a lifestyle and more about a state of mind held together by a system of beliefs. Renewable energy is set of technologies which deliver physical benefits. Nuclear energy is the same.

    From my perspective the activity that most fits the notion of a religion is expressed in the conflict of preferences, where discussion focuses on denigrating alternatives in a negative and irrational discourse. That was my point. I don’t see Nuclear advocates, nor renewable energy advocates as being religious cults where their energies are directed to advancing their cause in a positive manner. It is the negative activity very much has the elements of religious cultism.

    Looking at your comment to Jenns, Engineer-Poet, I see that you repeat

    “pay PV generators at real-time market rates which discount the price of energy when it’s in surplus (meaning, when PV generators have much of it to sell). That this destroys the economics of PV is no coincidence”

    I think that you are completely wrong about this, Can you please expand this argument quantitatively?
    Your comment has been edited to call a halt to the toing and froing of unnecessary bickering. Please desist from this type of commenting. EP too!


  46. Hi Engineer-Poet

    You claim that Denmark has a systematic deficit from the electricity trade. From year to year the net average kWh price sold to Norway, Sweden and Germany is sometimes higher than the net average kWh price purchased from either of these countries. The same is true for the net import amount and net export amount.

    The key variables are the annual variation in precipitation in Norway and Sweden, when spring arrives and whether the Swedish nuclear power plants are working as planned or not.

    What is always true is that the Germans pay to get electricity to and from Norway and Sweden via the Danish transmission lines.


  47. Hi Terry Krieg

    Your numbers are interesting but for lack of links or explained methodology not easy to comment.

    If you compare the subsidies available for nuclear and wind or solar in US you will notice that PTC for wind has been on and of while the subsidies for nuclear are consistent and if everything growing. For solar there is a tariff on Chinese panels and the ITC is terminating soon.

    Fossil based generation that, on top of the greenhouse gas emissions also emit huge amounts of other poisonous substances that kills and destroys property, receives huge subsidies in USA.


  48. Hi Edward Greisch

    I wonder why you use 20% capacity factor for wind since top of the class wind turbines on good locations average more than double that capacity factor and surely will b preferred in a wind scenario.

    So unless you link to your excel or at least an article where you outline your basic assumptions it will be very difficult to understand what you mean to say with your bold statements.

    Load following Nuclear will be significantly more expensive than baseload nuclear so you have to add storage or peak power plants or HVDC grid or smart grid technoogy or extra addition of electricity consuming appliances to a nuclear system to match supply and demand side without sacrifizing economy.


  49. Engineer-Poet

    I believe that a nuclear scenario for the world will demand significantly cheaper electricity from Gen 4. nuclear plants that can run primarily on spent fuel.

    To ensure that the fossil age ends you need to meet a price point for electricity that is sufficiently low to use electricity for Synfuel.

    The excellent blog by John Morgan on the subject states that $0,0204 per kWh is likely from Chinese nuclear but I have been unable to find verification of that attractive price point as of yet.

    As of 2013 the average 20 year wind PPA for US interior was $0,021 per kWh, which is about $0,031 per kWh unsubsidized.

    The weighted US average PPA in 2013 was $0,025 with some variation as can be seen here.

    Wind technology is improving very fast and two of the leading companies Siemens and GE are huge well funded companies with good experience within nuclear. Third tier one supplier Vestas is a much smaller company but has recently joined forces with another well known nuclear company Mitsubishi to develop offshore turbines. Mitsubishi is developing a hydraulic gear from a UK company that they have purchased with the goal tol increase the profitability of wind power significantly.

    Over the last five years the Wind LCOE has dropped 58% and there are no signs of an end to that development trend.

    To go below the one US cent per kWh requires advances that does not seem impossible to achieve within a reasonable timeframe because there are so many elements in a wind turbine that can be improved.


  50. “Solar Power Battle Puts Hawaii at Forefront of Worldwide Changes”
    discusses the issues familiar to many readers of Brave New Climate. I opine that in Hawaii, while utility rates may have to increase, those with solar PV will have net costs well ahead. Hopefully the rates will be set so that those without solar PV are not subsidizing those with.


  51. Reconfigurable demand,….heat water, charge batteries, pump pools, wash clothes, operate slow cookers, etc during the day rather than the night, for instance.

    So, no reliable energy for smelting and tempering furnaces, industrial motors, sewage lift pumps, elevators, and the other essentials required to run industry and just keep cities habitable.  Even the rest… what do you do on a cloudy day, reconfigure your menu for uncooked food?  How do you know what to cook when you don’t have the reliable energy needed to launch weather satellites and run measurement networks for forecasting?  When you come down to it, that is a recipe for total industrial collapse followed by gigadeaths.

    I had a bad thought once, that the people pushing this vision had no idea how it would work out in practice.  They were all well-meaning but clueless, unable to see the consequences because their minds simply couldn’t understand things at the required level.

    Then I had a worse thought, that inevitable failure was a feature to them, not a bug.

    E-P you made the GCC “aluminium battery” connection then started talking about 40 Wh/kg and unsuitability for EV’s “or even PHEV’s”.

    If you look at the GCC thread, you’ll see someone mentioned 40 Wh/kg in the comments.  At 40 Wh/kg, a PHEV battery would be in excess of 4-500 lb, a Leaf-class battery would come in at 600 kg or more and a Tesla-class battery would weigh more than 2 tons.  That is just plain too heavy.  I have now looked at the free data on Nature and don’t know where the 40 Wh/kg number came from.  At 70 mAh/g and 2V nominal, the battery would come in at about 140 Wh/kg.  That’s not stellar, but highly competitive.  A Tesla-class battery would be closer to 600 kg, and a 5-minute charge would have convenience similar to filling with gasoline.  That’s good enough to kill the internal combustion engine in nearly all on-road applications.  If you can arrange high-power charging in motion via overhead wires, it even works for heavy trucks.

    This gets back to one question:  is it real?  I hate having to ask that, but everyone should remember the EEStor fiasco.  Fraudsters are only too ready to take advantage of people.  I hope to see news that this has been replicated, and I’ll breathe a sigh of relief.  We need this.

    The other thing I’d like to see is news of Al refining from other than bauxite.  If chloroaluminate ion can be extracted from e.g. common clays, then there aren’t any supply constraints I can see.  Being able to convert chloroaluminate to metallic Al at room temperature itself looks like a huge advance.

    I think that you are completely wrong about this, Can you please expand this argument quantitatively?

    It should be obvious.  There are plenty of examples of RE-heavy subgrids having wholesale electric prices driven to zero and below during periods of surplus.  Sub-zero wholesale pricing only occurs because of FITs or PTCs, but even in their absence a condition of abundance of zero marginal cost power will send market prices toward zero.  But it is precisely during those periods of abundance that most wind and solar generation occurs.  If you’re getting almost nothing when you have most of your power to sell, you’re not going to be able to amortize much investment.  The only solutions are storage or immediate consumption/conversion (“eating your own dog food”), and the capital cost of equipment for doing that has to be added and amortized also.


  52. M writes:

    Here is a gridscale battery with 40k cyclelife (test cells exceeding 45k cl).

    It’s based on lithium, so it probably can’t scale due to resource constraints.  This is a problem we don’t have with aluminum and carbon.


  53. Stubbe continues:

    If you compare the subsidies available for nuclear and wind or solar in US you will notice that PTC for wind has been on and of while the subsidies for nuclear are consistent

    There are essentially NO subsidies for nuclear in the USA.  The “nuclear” budget of the Department of Energy is almost all devoted to either fusion or weapons.  On the contrary, the power industry has paid tens of billions of dollars in taxes for fuel disposal services that it has not received.

    I believe that a nuclear scenario for the world will demand significantly cheaper electricity from Gen 4. nuclear plants that can run primarily on spent fuel.

    Your belief is not based on fact.  Uranium is a very small part of the cost of nuclear energy.  Most of it is interest and legal/regulatory costs plus labor required to comply with regulations.

    To ensure that the fossil age ends you need to meet a price point for electricity that is sufficiently low to use electricity for Synfuel.

    But you don’t require this of wind or solar, both of which are subsidized at rates far too high to make competitive synfuel even if the capital cost of synfuel plants running at low capacity factors was affordable.

    the average 20 year wind PPA for US interior was $0,021 per kWh

    Plus 10 years of PTC worth considerably more than that.

    Over the last five years the Wind LCOE has dropped 58%

    Energy produced when it’s in surplus is worthless.  What matters is the cost of power WHEN YOU NEED IT.


  54. Engineer/Poet

    Everyone can check here what kind of direct subsidies that are available for Nuclear here.–Nuclear-Power-Policy/

    And here are some excerpts from the incentives catalogue:
    Production tax credit of 1.8 or 2.1 ¢/kWh from the first 6,000 MWe of new nuclear capacity in their first eight years of operation.
    Federal risk insurance of $2 billion to cover regulatory delays in full-power operation of the first six advanced new plants.
    Rationalised tax on decommissioning funds (some reduced).
    Federal loan guarantees for advanced nuclear reactors or other emission-free technologies up to 80% of the project cost.
    Extension for 20 years of the Price Anderson Act for nuclear liability protection.
    Support for advanced nuclear technology.

    Nuclear fuel is not an insignificant part of electricity cost when kWh prices go below one US cent.

    Off cause I require wind and solar to be cheap enough to out compete liquid fossils based upon Synfuel production, which means that you have to go below the one US cent mark.

    If you read up on the excellent blog by John Morgan you would know that the plant cost are an insignificant part of Synfuel cost so the lower capacity factor of wind and solar is affordable.

    The value of 10 years of PTC can be seen here and is clearly not worth more than the average 20 year wind PPA for US interior was $0,021 per kWh.

    What matters is the cost of power WHEN YOU NEED IT. Agreed and wind intermittence is factored into the low PPA price. If you changed a Nuclear power plant from base load to load following the plant will run less efficient for less lifetime and with less total production of energy, which translate into higher cost per kWh. Nuclear cannot effectively run a grid without backup that deal with the fluctuation in demand and the occasional fluctuation in nuclear power output.

    I wonder what the realistic price point is for Nuclear. John Morgan quote $0,0204 for Chinese Nuclear in his article on Synfuel. Gen 4. should be able to use more abundant Thorium in combination with spent fuel, which means that there is a potential for an attractive price point.


  55. Engineer-Poet

    What lithium resource constraints do you think you have discovered.

    If you browse through this article that share your views you begin to wonder.

    What about the lithium contained in the huge salt layer at the bottom of the Mediterranean or the massive salt deposit in northern Europe

    What about the lithium in seawater or in the steady streams of mineral enriched water from geothermal plants.

    Human ingenuity and energy cost seems to me to be the two constraining factors – not the availability of the mineral.

    Unlike hydrocarbons lithium is fully recyclable and battery development constantly lowers lithium requirement per stored kWh.


  56. Engineer-Poet,

    You’ve become completely random with you comments. I’m talking about domestic and small business PVT’s and you fly of into grid scale production, which for Australia can be fully covered with baseload hybrid CSP with thermal storage. CSP and wind work well together as wind extends the storage of the CSP. Whether CSP or Nuclear becomes the baseload supplier is a matter of economics and politics.

    You appear to not understand that the Al-ion battery offers 1 kwhr per Kg with a service life of 20 years at one charge per day, and requiring no Lithium.

    That would mean a greater battery capacity than the Tesla S weighing just 100 kg.

    Coming back to domestic rooftop solar, I evaluate for a zero FIT, zero subsidies and/or grants, zero power draw from the grid and zero power feed into the grid. I don’t know how to make it plainer than that. The value of a rootop solar system to its owner ultimately is the retail electricity total that the owner does not need to buy, and the retail petrol where an electric vehicle is being charged from the system that he does not need to buy. There is nothing that can happen on the grid to destroy that economic model.

    As far as the grid goes CSP with thermal storage is the appropriate solar energy generation complement for wind power as wind energy surges can be accommodated with heat energy from solar collectors being directed to storage without performance loss. The CSP proponents face the same frustration that the Nuclear proponents do, a Federal government with its head in a bucket, and a power industry determined not to change.

    Australia will soon bd facing international forces that will compel the necessary change of direction.
    “Australia can be fully covered with baseload hybrid CSP with thermal storage.”
    This is personal opinion unless you supply peer reviewed scientific references regarding the current availability of baseload hybrid CSP with thermal storage. Thank you.


  57. Using NREL’s “Simple Levelized Cost of Energy Calculator”,
    with the high estimate for the
    nuclear power plant of US$5000/kW but assuming somehow this can be financed for 30 years at 5% interest, the LCOE is US$55/MWh.

    The figure is interesting in comparison to the monetary requirements for the Columbia Generating Station, from
    is about US$48/MWh but replacement with firm dispatchable power is estimated to cost about US$53/MWh.

    To compound BPA’s problems, even the lower figure is about US$6/MWh in excess of the Mid-Columbia Hub spot price for wholesale electricity in recent years.

    However, total replacement with natgas is estimated to cost about US$60/MWh (no carbon tax). So it might be that the Nuscale unit will prove cost effective even here in the Pacific Northwest with traditionally low power prices due to all the hydro available.


  58. There is no means for me to supply the links before tomorrow but the search for information about Ivanpah solar and Tonapah solar will enable one to check that wholesale prices are around US$135/MWh.

    A Nuscale nuclear power plant even with 10% financing has an LCOE of about US$85/MWh.


  59. Mod: there is any amount of material on baseload CSP most authoritatively coming from the DLR (Germany’s equivalent of NASA) who have done much research work and CSP product development, which then fed into companies such a Siemens for manufacture. Are these works “peer reviewed”? I think that is arbitrary. I did not attach a link as the work has not been done to establish a “price” to apply such systems to Australia and therefore costs are entirely speculative, as is any such prospect for Nuclear. That situation will not change until the government and possibly also the bureaucracy does.

    There are only three types of energy available to humans to power their technologies. There is the energy that comes continuously from the sun, there is the energy that came from the sun in the past and has been stored on or near the earth’s surface by life processes or chemical interactions, and there is energy that is left over from the formation of the planet. By far the greatest of these sources is the energy that comes from the sun in the present and the future. Past energy has been useful to power Human development, and energy left over from Earth’s formation in the form of nuclear potential energy and geothermal energy play a role.

    One way of viewing the various energies is to see them from an investment point of view. In this example solar energy represents cash flow, fossil fuel energy represents savings, and nuclear and geothermal energy represents “the farm”. Our near past and current living status is that we have been spending our savings to build our lifestyle. That is good for a time but savings will surely run out. We can live well for a very long time by cutting off chunks of the farm and consuming that, but most sage advisors would recommend using one’s cash flow for living and leave the savings for a time of need. From that perspective the wise housekeeper optimises the use of cash flow, uses savings to smooth out fluctuations in cash flow, and converts property only for structural improvement.

    At present we squander our solar resource, waste our fossil fuels, and utilise nuclear assets very poorly. My opinion, yes, but prove me wrong. For our technologically advanced civilisation it is not a particularly good report card.
    Please check the TCASE series on BNC as much of what you say has been dealt with already including the ecomomics and engineering aspects. If you don’t do that and continue to repeat your claims on renewable energy, it must be considered trolling, which is not allowed on BNC.


  60. The featured Olkiluoto III reactor is still unfinished, the cost has blown out to 9 billion Euro and the company building it is facing substantial damages claims and is on the verge of bankruptcy and will require bailing out by the French public.

    Apart from that the figures put forward in your TCase 15 thread for Solar and CSP appear to me to be highly fictional, bearing no resemblance to projected figures at the time.

    This will require a little research to verify but for quick figures the Andasol CSP with 7.5 hours of storage cost 300 million Euro. The DLR approach to achieving was to quadruple the collector area to achieve the equivalent of 24/7/365 power. Using that approach and the ACTUAL Andasol completed cost this becomes 150 meg nameplate times 6.7 times 4 to give a targeted 1 gig baseload at 8 billion Euro. Compare that to TCase 15’s

    “Solar CSP (thermal storage): $US 25.1 billion/GWe (or $32.9 billion if the higher cost estimate is correct)”

    and there is a TCase 15 conclusion credibility gap of 16.6 billion dollars, an error factor of 3.

    If you have any questions I think that I still have the DLR’s Dr Franz Trieb’s phone number.

    Your opinion of the calculation figures being fictional is just that. Prof Brook has had several papers on this topic published in respected peer reviewed journals. If you want credibility do your research, present your findings and give us links to your peer review publications. Or at least give us other scientists peer review, published figures.


  61. Oops. I’ve just seen that it was the 3 plants that made up the 150 megawatts taking the total cost to 24 billion on the DLR formula. However the DLR formula is over capacity by 1.5. CSP costs else where look like

    “Morocco expects to build five new Concentrated Solar Power plants by the end of the decade with a combined production capacity of 2,000 megawatts (MW) and at an estimated cost of seven billion euros ($9 billion).

    The Nour 1 Concentrated Solar Power plant cost 600 million euros and is expected to have a capacity to generate 160 MW”

    …so, far from ranging up to 32 billion as the TCase 15 suggests, CSP future costs are ranging down as DLR literature suggests.

    My point is that CSP and wind power are complementary technologies which serve to reinforce on another rather than compete as wind and coal tend to do. Not that this should surprise anyone as Solar is intended to replace fossil fuels, sooner rather than later.
    Your link is to a promotional article by the company not to any scientific appraisal. I repeat, give us peer reviewed refs on the costings etc or you are in breach of the Comments Policy and may be banned.


  62. BilB, you say, “There are only three types of energy available to humans to power their technologies”, excluding nuclear energy. Why do you want people to believe that nuclear energy is not available to humans?

    Could it be that you want us to believe that it is in some way unnatural, or wicked, or evil?


  63. @BilB

    There are many different ways to categorize things. Yours has some flaws.

    “there is energy that is left over from the formation of the planet”

    Taken literally this would only include geothermal energy (Through not all of it because a lot of it comes from radioactive decay), and gravitational energy from the relationship between the earth and the moon.

    Nuclear energy in the forum of uranium and thorium is energy left over from a death of a star not the formation of the planet so logically wouldn’t be included in your definition.

    According to E=mc^2 meant that the amount of energy that has existed on earth sense its formation is vast, but really we are only interested in the energy available for human use, and the difficulties in using it. Thus total amount of energy is not the only important issue, and describing it as such is deceptive. The reality is here is enough energy in Uranium and Thorium to power human civilization until the sun grows old a fries this little planet of ours.

    Thus talking about there being more energy from the sun is meaningless. There is enough energy available from uranium for our needs, and it is in many ways easier for humans to use then the energy from the sun which is a fact that at least should matter to you.


  64. Claims that solar thermal is a realistic proposition for baseload power in Australia any time soon really need to be viewed with considerable scepticism. The proposed CSP plant at Port Augusta has now been abandoned because it is too expensive:

    The July 2014 feasibility study is here:

    Looking at the LCOE estimates in Table 2 suggests that the outcome was inevitable. Whether any of the configurations really qualify as “baseload” is debatable.


  65. @Quokka1: In similar vein, the two solar thermal arrays within the now-AGL Macquarie Liddell Power Station have had troubled careers. I am out of touch with operational issues now, but last I heard they were achieving much less than predicted output and were consequently not in service much of the time.

    By that I mean truly not in service. Turned off. Not just waiting for the sun to shine.

    Control, availability and reliability are very serious factors for this type of plant. Unless all three are adequate, performance is inevitably shot to pieces.

    AGL now own the privatised power station. There may be hope for improvement.


  66. @quokka Indeed, while we know certain Anything-But-Nuclear, Renewables-Only academics and others either have trouble grasping what baseload is, or rely on a perceived lack of public comprehension when marketing their proposals, I bet you’re like me and yet to be convinced that the label of ‘baseload’ has been earned by CST. More instructive would be to see if the label ‘dispatchable’ fits, such that a CST plant can provide dispatchable power equivalent to what it is constantly promoted as replacing (coal in Australia).

    I’m looking at rough stats saying Adelaide gets over 100 days a year of over 75% cloud cover. So to dispatch power like a coal plant, CST needs to have a number of hours of storage available which could be economically ‘charged up’ on sunny days and saved for an inevitable string of heavily overcast days. What is that number? Some of these plants boast 6 hours storage, but that clearly won’t be enough. The most expensive Alinta configuration states 15 hours, but that won’t last much into the next day.

    As usual, I find the technology quite impressive in itself, but some of its proponents sell it as more than it is. And, divisively, it is most often as a way to avoid considering nuclear, which didn’t cost $2 million of government money to evaluate


  67. It is a more than a little instructive to revisit the ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan in the context of the Port Augusta experience. The “plan” envisages 60% of Australia’s electricity to come from solar thermal with an LCOE of 5-6c/kWh. ZCA2020 is wildly wrong and completely unimplementable but still gets cited as “proof” that nuclear is not needed.

    It also heroically assumes more than 50% reduction in energy use from 2008 to 2020.

    I’d really like to know what the point of such documents is, if not to serve as ammunition in the “nuclear” debate. It was never a roadmap for emissions reductions.


  68. Everyone can check here what kind of direct subsidies that are available for Nuclear here.

    Everyone can see that it’s possible that not one plant may be completed soon enough to qualify for the nuclear PTC.  There are 4 AP1000s under construction anyway.

    Federal risk insurance of $2 billion to cover regulatory delays

    This is just the government giving back what it takes away via the delays.

    Rationalised tax on decommissioning funds

    Which is nothing compared to the investment tax credit given for wind farms.

    Federal loan guarantees for advanced nuclear reactors or other emission-free technologies up to 80% of the project cost.

    In other words, if the regulators kill a project with delays or rule changes (like Jaczko’s imposition of a new aircraft impact rule on 4 projects already designed and contracted) the victims of Washington’s caprice still have to eat 20% of the cost.  That’s not fair; Washington should have to pay 100%.

    Extension for 20 years of the Price Anderson Act for nuclear liability protection.

    It should be cancelled.  Price-Anderson makes all plants pay for an accident that goes beyond the individual liability limit of any plant.  No other industry has such liability.  Imagine if all oil companies had to pay for the BP spill!  Nuclear should be treated the same as oil wells and chemical plants.

    Support for advanced nuclear technology.

    Get rid of NREL and we’ll talk about that.  The per-kWh subsidy implicit in the NREL budget is many times what nuclear has received.

    Off cause I require wind and solar to be cheap enough to out compete liquid fossils based upon Synfuel production, which means that you have to go below the one US cent mark.

    Meanwhile, the British strike price for off-shore wind is ###/kWh, and the German FIT for PV is €###/kWh.

    If you read up on the excellent blog by John Morgan you would know that the plant cost are an insignificant part of Synfuel cost

    No hyperlink, not even to the blog’s main page.  Knowing what I know about chemical plant costs, I’m sure it’s total nonsense.  I wish I had some way to bet against you on these matters, because I’d win enough to make it worth my time to debunk your sources.

    The value of 10 years of PTC can be seen here

    The PTC in the early years is worth more, because future profits are discounted by the interest rate.  IIUC the PTC is actually worth 3.8¢/kWh to passive investors.  That’s almost twice a 2.1¢/kWh PPA price.

    If you changed a Nuclear power plant from base load to load following the plant will run less efficient for less lifetime

    So run it flat-out and do other things with excess power/heat during off-peak periods.  Heat can be stored; if you compress a PWR’s steam to 35 MPa, it yields much of its heat at well over 500°C and can be used to “bank” heat in solar salt.  That stored heat can make peaking power in the afternoon.

    Nuclear cannot effectively run a grid without backup that deal with the fluctuation in demand and the occasional fluctuation in nuclear power output.

    Compared to wind and solar which require on the order of 100% backup, and the only real option for the foreseeable future is fossil fuels?

    In a nuclear-electric future, EVs figure prominently.  If you have enough EV chargers on demand controls to equal the output of the largest plant on the local grid, you need NO spinning reserve because you can drop demand equal to any single plant loss.  If you have nuclear plants feeding heat into storage, ditto; my calculation is that an AP1000 with a salt storage system taking 20% of its steam production could instantly drop 180 MW of electric load in the steam compressor, followed within seconds by ~220 MW of increased generation in the main turbine as steam flow returned to it.  This change of ~400 MW is more than 1/3 the base plant output and more than 1/2 the net output of the plant in full storage mode; for any number of AP1000s on a regional grid, 3 of them in storage mode could handle a trip of any plant.

    What lithium resource constraints do you think you have discovered.

    I didn’t discover anything, I went with numbers from reasonably-official sources on the web.  Those numbers weren’t sufficient to convert even the US vehicle fleet to Li-ion power, and at accepted figures of 1 kg of lithium per kWh, they aren’t likely ever to be.  Perhaps the new discoveries will change that, and maybe not.

    I like to compare such things to nuclear power.  If employed in fast-spectrum reactors, the uranium inventory of the United States (about 470,000 tons of depleted U in storage, plus 60,000+ tons in used LWR fuel) could supply total world human energy consumption for about a century.


  69. BilB rants:

    You’ve become completely random with you comments. I’m talking about domestic and small business PVT’s

    Yes, about that.  I’m way behind in dealing with your claims in the old thread, but there’s the little detail that PV does not like heat (crystalline Si in particular loses output rapidly at elevated temperatures, and almost everything save GaAs deteriorates faster as well).  The times when PV is running hot enough to yield useful thermal output are generally the times when you are trying to get rid of heat (summer); putting insulating cover glass over PV slashes its efficiency and makes it vulnerable to damaging loss-of-cooling events.  PV and thermal don’t get along.  The two functions are generally better kept separate.

    you fly of into grid scale production, which for Australia can be fully covered with baseload hybrid CSP with thermal storage.

    I’d have to dig because I know I didn’t bookmark the reference, but I recall reading that CSP is expected to fall to essentially zero useful output in Australian winters (I see actinideage has addressed that).  CSP requires direct sun, and even light haze slashes its output.

    You appear to not understand that the Al-ion battery offers 1 kwhr per Kg with a service life of 20 years at one charge per day

    Where. Can. I. Buy. Them.  Or are they vaporware?  You have no reference for this claim.

    That would mean a greater battery capacity than the Tesla S weighing just 100 kg.

    Implying that Elon Musk is an idiot for wanting to build huge factories for Li-ion cells which are about to be obsolete.  Elon Musk did not become a multi-billionaire by being an idiot, but blog trolls have no reason not to push idiotic positions.  Wasting sensible people’s time is a mode of attack.


  70. Roger and Sodacup – It may well be that BilB considers nuclear within the category of “left over from the earth’s formation,” so your comments may not be merited by his intentions.

    Irrespective, BilB’s farm analogy seems to fail logically because the human species is not foreseeably going to run out of materials to fission before coming up with something even better. Consequently, using fission to power civilization is not meaningfully comparable “selling off part of the farm.”

    All – a conflation of system costs/issues and busbar costs may have commenters talking past each other.

    System costs matter more than busbar costs because these are what society has to pay.

    The widely accepted notion that the transmission grid has to be entirely reworked merits questioning.

    If a “busbar” cost is paid for a resource that is located at a concentrated already-existing transmission node, then adding a power resource in that location (e.g., substituting nuclear for coal) adds less overall cost to the system. Unless you prefer higher costs because, e.g., they may drive improved efficiency, this should matter, because avoiding un-needed transmission costs lowers the overall cost of decarbonization. Also, avoiding transmission reduces environmental impacts; optimally, other things being at least equal, we would place need less stuff into the sky to interfere with flying animals, not more, right?

    Renewables-only advocates seem to presume, a priori, that the whole electrical system should be reconfigured, and the costs socialized, to accommodate renewables just because they are renewables.

    Transmission to accommodate new renewables is not a trivial issue or expense. Just try and build a line and see how people along the path respond. Notably, although transmission costs a lot of money, it adds, on its own not a single carbon-free kWh. Furthermore, the constructed wires infrastructure to bring in remote renewables is not likely to “sit unused” when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. Optimal of the transmission asset means it will be employed to transmit electrons derived from any resources – – not just the ones used to “sell” the alleged “need” for the facility to the public. Possibly, providers could firm it up by burning some food and wildlife habitat, releasing the associated carbon to the atmosphere under the theory that, its renewable, so we know, of course, that it is an unqualified good thing. However this is, in my view, at least questionable, and probably, overall, a very, very bad idea.

    One thing is certain: the cost of the allegedly necessary transmission is not slated to be built into the “busbar” prices of the entities that cause the costs.

    One particular advantage of nuclear derives from its ability to “fit into” the legacy system. That may seem unfair to renewables-only advocates, but it is nonetheless something that should matter because re-engineering the transmission system has significant real costs, environmental and social impacts, and incremental resource demands associated with it.

    Because of its ability to fit into the incumbent transmission system, nuclear offers a clearer, shorter, easier (from an engineering perspective) path to a decarbonized grid in the countries already using a lot of electricity. Because of its comparable load-serving characteristics, nuclear directly challenges and can displace coal. Coal remains the fastest growing energy resource (in added kWh year-over-year) worldwide.

    Regardless that the notion that “the grid must be redone” is a dominant meme, the issue merits careful thought, not unthinking acceptance. The grid only needs to be substantially remade if you presume that the system has to be reconfigured to accommodate distant and usually intermittent renewables. This presumption is not justified by the need to decarbonize the grid unless you categorically exclude nuclear. This may be why institutional environmentalists, who seem to have become an advocacy subsidiary of the wind industry, cling so hard to their anti-nuclear position.

    If you can decarbonize without most of the projected expense of redoing the grid, then it would seem that large portions of the expense of a massively reworked transmission grid should be seen as another renewable energy subsidy. As a corollary, a focus on busbar costs of renewable resources is misleading with respect to the central question – – what is an optimal way to decarbonize the energy system.

    I hope this does not seem off-topic. I wanted to interject this issue because I think it highlights system-wide concerns that I believe should appropriately be considered when comparing decarbonization strategies, and I think that these costs are elided when when one simply locates and quotes a busbar cost.


  71. The fraudulent praxis in Korea where they had to close down several reactors due to parts not meeting the approved standards shows that regulatory demands needs to be strict so the $2 billion incentive per reactor is simply just an extra incentive.

    You do not seem to value the incentive scheme where 80% of cost including overhead are Federal loans at fixed low guaranteed interest rates. On top of this owners get money in hand for every kWh the first ten years and cheap insurance.

    Without Price-Anderson act there is no nuclear bankability. Should politicians impose liability demand on the fossil fuel industry then energy prices would sky rocket and fossils would soon be history.

    NREL has nothing to do with advanced nuclear and the per-kWh subsidy implicit in the NREL budget is certainly not bigger than what advanced nuclear get since no advanced nuclear plant delivers any power to the grid.

    British offshore strike price or German FIT has nothing to do with the actual cost of wind or solar – that is as pointless as if I was dragging Hinckley Point or Olkiluoto 3 into the discussion to prove excessively costly nuclear. You would always base Synfuel production on the cheapest available sources and thus look for onshore wind and solar in areas with either plenty of wind or high insolation and plenty of waste land or as John Morgans does look for possibly cheap Chinese nuclear power.

    Here is John Morgans Synfuel blog and good luck with the debunking effort.

    Your comment on the PTC is not on target at all and the comical element in the comment is that an instrument similar to PTC is available for nuclear too but on a permanent basis with broad by party support in both Senate and Congress.

    You suggest to deal with Nuclear’s load follow problem by running it flat-out and do other things with excess power/heat during off-peak periods.

    Ok so we are on the same page here and can surely agree that storing energy adds cost.

    Your claim that wind and solar require 100% backup is about a factor hundred or more of target. RE can do just as well with a number of different storage options and use Synfuel production as power dump when demand is too small for supply. Nuclear needs spinning reserves because history shows that nuclear reactors on occasion fail and some failures demand that all reactors with the same failures is required to be taken of grid. New state of the art Korean nuclear power plants target to reduce the number of unintentional shutdowns from presently 0,8 times annually to 0,2.

    I wish you had thought of documenting your rather radical lithium shortage claim and especially so because you argue for EV’s as storage for Nuclear yourself. The end of decade target price for EV batteries is $100 per kWh. Approximately 3% by weight is Lithium so Cobalt and Vanadium actually contribute more to the price of Lithium batteries. If Lithium supplies needs to be bigger there are plenty of Lithium everywhere but at a higher price point. Currently the EV battery price is thought to be $300 per kWh with an outlook to $230 per kWh in 2018.

    However solid-state Lithium batteries are coming and they have reported more than twice the power density of the incumbent technologies based upon liquid electrolytes. Getting rid of the liquid electrolyte is also good news for stability and lifetime expectancy.


  72. Jens Stubbe — The United States Government does not lend money to build nuclear power plants. Instead, the Department of Energy (DoE) provides some loan guarantees so that in the unlikely event of certain forms of nonperformance by the builder or the utility the investors receive their money back anyway. The utility wishing to obtain such a guarantee must pay the DoE many hundreds of thousands of dollars to obtain it.

    Price-Anderson is only applicable in the United States. Many other countries also have nuclear power plants.

    Every electric grid requires spinning reserves in case a generator trips offline. This is true irrespective of generator types operating on the grid. Further nonspinning reserves are also required to meet the grid reliability standard.


  73. I’m sorry for the late response Jens but I think your figure of 20% for renewables contribution is probably the name plate capacity. When you consider the capacity factor which in the case of wind averages about 20-25% around the world, your 20%reduces to about 5% in actual electricity delivered. That is certainly true here in South Australia. Our chairman of SANTOS [big oil and gas company] sung the praises of wind [20% of our electricity generated] during a programme called QandA on ABC TV last year. Unfortunately he forgot to add “when the wind blows” which of course means he failed to mention the capacity factor.The chairman was enthusiastic about wind in SA because wind requires back up, in SA’s case, it’s gas and he’s the chairman of SANTOS which provides the gas.


  74. Terry Krieg — The “name plate rating” of a generator is the power delivered when the generator is working at its maximum. For a wind turbine that is when the wind is blowing hard enough but not too hard.

    The availablity is the fraction (or percentage) of the typical year that the generator could be operating; the figure is adjusted to the assumption of operating at its maximum. The capacity is the fraction of the typical year that the generator is actually delivering power to the grid; again adjusted to the assumption of always operating at maximum.

    As an example near to me, the Columbia Basin wind regime has enough wind for the turbines to have a 29% availability under the assumption of perfect operation. The wind farm operators actually acheive a 27% capacity factor as not all turbines are in working condition all the time.

    For the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) balancing agent portion of the grid, the wind farms deliver about 8% of the total yearly generation as BPA is unable to balance, i.e., backup, more than that.


  75. Missionaries used to come knocking at a student house I once shared long ago. We used to keep copies of the (Communist) Tribune behind the door so we could swap literature and promise to discuss our respective liberations when they returned next week, which they never did. They probably only really wanted to hear us say the word, “God”, so they could go away feeling that they had saved the world, leaving us to continue with business-as-usual.

    Similarly, if we use the word “renewables” in reply to one of today’s missionaries, we are vindicating his tenet of faith that the world is imminently running out of non-renewables. He only has to press us a little further to get our apparent agreement to making token “reductions”. Then he too would go away feeling that he has saved the world and lets us continue with business-as-usual.

    When someone says “renewables” to us, we should instead say “wind and solar” in reply, avoiding the rhetorical compromise attached to repeating their holy word. For that matter, when someone speaks of “reductions”, we should reply with something like “zero emissions”, lest we seem to agree that the greenhouse can tolerate any emissions at all.


  76. The fraudulent praxis in Korea where they had to close down several reactors due to parts not meeting the approved standards shows that regulatory demands needs to be strict

    Part of that is the excessive certification requirements for nuclear-grade parts.  I recall industry insiders saying that there’s no significant difference in construction or performance of those parts versus regular commercial grade; they are just far more expensive.  If so, that is a cost that could be eliminated without affecting public safety.  If the cost reduction led to replacement of FFs by nuclear, it would actually improve public safety.

    Without Price-Anderson act there is no nuclear bankability.

    Nonsense.  Without Price-Anderson each plant would be owned by its own corporation, which would carry some liability insurance but simply go bankrupt if there was a major accident.  The plant would be worthless anyway, so there would be little or nothing for plaintiffs to recover.  This is what all other industry does.  Do you think there was any money to be found when the fertilizer plant in West, TX blew up and took the town with it, or that Dow Chemical was on tap for the damages?  Do you think e.g. LPG tank farms don’t occasionally explode and take nearby areas with them?  Why should nuclear power be held to any higher standard than those, except for paranoia?

    NREL has nothing to do with advanced nuclear

    Oh, dear!  The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has nothing to do with advanced nuclear!  Stop the presses!  </sarcasm>

    If you weren’t so intent on evading the point, you’d acknowledge that the NREL budget is an implicit subsidy for renewables.  You’d also acknowledge that the bulk of the US Department of Energy’s budget is for weapons and fusion and has nothing to do with civilian fission power.

    the per-kWh subsidy implicit in the NREL budget is certainly not bigger than what advanced nuclear get since no advanced nuclear plant delivers any power to the grid.

    So what’s the per-kWh subsidy for advanced renewable concepts at NREL that aren’t in service yet?  The hypocrisy in your arguments is simply breathtaking.

    British offshore strike price or German FIT has nothing to do with the actual cost of wind or solar

    So why do these suppliers need such a high FIT?  If they’re competitive, why do they need a FIT at all?

    For the record, I don’t expect an on-point reply from you.  Not now, not ever.  That’s the reason for the sarcasm.  If you won’t deal directly with facts instead of evading and putting up straw men, it is the only fit response.


  77. E-P,
    I agree with you about the temperature of steam. The point that I wanted to make is that Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) use water in the reactor core at a pressure of approx 150 Bar
    (according to Wikipedia). If the reactor core is compromised, highly radioactive material is released under high pressure with the possibility that large areas of land are contaminated. Because Molten Salt Reactors (MSR) operate at 1 Bar, this issue does not exist for them.

    David Benson,
    In relation to the cooling requirements of MSR’s, Robert Hargraves in his book, Thorium – Energy Cheaper than Coal, proposes that by running a number of Brayton Cycle Turbines in series MSRs can be air-cooled.

    In relation to the ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan that you mentioned, If i might just correct you. The plan proposes to reduce the consumption of Petroleum by 50% by the use of Battery powered and other forms of electrified transport. ( I do not think that this is possible but lets not get too nit picky.) Consequently, power production must be increased by 40% to compensate.
    For those interested here is the URL.

    But as the above is the first Grid Scale RE plan that I have seen lets quickly run a ruler over it.
    The Plan estimates a cost of $370 BN (AUS) to install 90GW of Renewable Energy Total name plate capacity including necessary upgrades to the GRID. The proposed advantages of this scheme are zero carbon emissions from Australia’s power grid and also zero fuel costs. I see a few serious problems with the concept but I wish to ignore those for the moment.

    Lets examine an alternative proposal.
    Replace all of Australia’s generating capacity( currently estimated at 30 GW) with MSR’s.
    Also, lets assume that we can achieve a 50% reduction in petroleum consumption. We therefore need 42 GW (30 GW plus 40%) of MSR name plate capacity.
    Lets look at an MSR strategy, which will also give us a Zero Carbon result.
    But we do have some fuel costs assuming that we run the MSR’s 24/7 365 days per year.
    Estimated Thorium Fuel usage, (See note below)
    1 ton of Thorium/year = 1 GW/year
    Total Thorium/year = 42 ton/year
    Thorium cost is approx $80,000 / ton.
    Total Fuel cost/yr = 42 x $ 80,000 = $3,360,000 per annum

    The Net Present Value in perpetuity of the Total Thorium Cost @ 5% interest is $ 67.2 million dollars.
    Lets say $100 million dollars

    Our breakeven point between MSR’s and the ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan therefore becomes

    Cost of ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan = $370BN

                         less NPV of Thorium Fuel     = $0.1BN

    Capital Available to Build 42 x 1GW MSR’s + $369.9BN

                                                1 GW MSR is  $8.8 BN

    Cost Estimates for the Westinghouse AP1000 Uranium based Nuclear Reactor are $3.5 BN US or $4.5 BN Aus.
    The Cost of a Grid Scale Renewable Energy Option is approximately twice that of Nuclear albeit that it is compared to a Uranium Reactor .
    Proponents of the MSR believe that it will be significantly cheaper to operate and build than the Westinghouse AP1000.
    I have assumed that no significant upgrade of the Grid is required for the MSR option because there is no reason why these power stations can not be built beside existing coal fired power stations.

    The above is a very simplified analysis but it might explain China’s very significant investment in MSR technology in their war on pollution.

    Note on Thorium Fuel Cost.
    Thorium proponents give the following energy comparison

    1 ton Thorium = 250 tons Uranium = 3,500,000 tons Coal
    which generates 1GW per Year.


  78. Tony,

    Lets examine an alternative proposal.
    Replace all of Australia’s generating capacity( currently estimated at 30 GW) with GW scale windplants.

    Proponents of GW scale windplants have concluded a cost of 1.5B€ for a 5GW plant from actual computer models (the production from a prototype plant matches the numerical simulation perfectly) though cost should come down when approaching the proposed technical limit of ~64GW per plant.

    266B€ (370B Aussie Dollar) = 177*5GW=885GW at 90%CF.

    Personally I think you should go for 900GW of windpower and use the overcapacity to built some Giga-factories and a huge industry to supply the whole world with GW-scale windplants and replacement lines/wings. People will need those batteries for their EVs anyways.

    The EROEI should be around 2000 btw.
    Does the datasheet/manual of your SMR state an EROEI?


  79. Martin,
    Jenny proposed a little under 900GW windpower with a CF around 90%.

    I know Massimo and bis engineers have modeled such figures but we could stay on the conservative side and assume around 500Million€/GW at a CF of 70%.

    Take some of the budget for the proposed battery factories and electrify the complete car fleet.
    I would also do windgas for trucking till batteries are there.
    OTOH you would save so much on energy imports that building swapping stations and superchargers for trucks would be an option.

    You could also attract a bunch of energy intensive industry. I hear Germany is attracting smelters for they got a lot of cheap renewable electricity.


  80. Jenny and Heavyweather,
    I am having a few problems understanding your comments. Wikipedia mentions Wind Turbines (WT) of 8MW and that work is underway on developing 10 MW units. The 5GW unit, that Jenny
    is talking about, is therefore 500 times larger than that. Can you give me some more information about who is developing this type of unit. The URL that you have given above is only to a crowd funding site. I am also unaware of any major wind installation with a capacity factor of 90. Figures for the USA show about 30.

    The EROEI figure of 2000btw i do not understand. The EROEI figure for wind is 18 (refer to the article The Catch 22 of Energy Storage article on this site). That article gives an EROEI of 75 for Nuclear. I presume by SMR you mean MSR (Molten Salt Reactor). Because theoretically MSR’S are more efficient than current Nuclear Technology that they would have a higher EROEI than 75.

    Who are Massimo and bis engineers?

    What is windgas?

    In relation,to battery powered vehicles,the Mitsubishi iMiev can not drive from Brisbane City to Southport and return without recharging and that is without the lights on or the air conditioning running. Hybrids though do work.

    In order to run our Heavy Transport fleet on any kind of Battery power is impossible unless we can increase the power to weight ratio of batteries by a factor of at least 1000.

    This is another reason for not burning fossil fuels to boil water to make electricity. We need to conserve fossil fuels to power our heavy vehicles and our planes.


  81. My pro nuclear source does not agree with you on lifting nuclear certification demands and I would also caution against it because nuclear cannot afford poor quality as was the case in the link I posted – simply because it ruins the economy if cheap but indispensable parts as was the case in Korea cause not only an almost completely new nuclear plant to go out of operation but in fact forced a large number of plants to go out of operation for costly repair. Certification is not for security alone it is also a valuable quality assurance tool.

    Without Price-Anderson act there is no nuclear bankability. Ok since you are the first pro nuclear person I have ever heard about that does not fight to keep the Price Anderson act and similar schemes all around the globe going, I must conclude that the rest of the nuclear business consider positive local relations higher than you do.

    Sweden chose to place Barsebeck on top of the only active fault line in Scandinavia almost exactly in the center of Scandinavias richest and most populated area just 20 km from the city square in Copenhagen. Swedish nuclear plants has limited responsability and Sweden could never repay the cost associated with a worst case accident. For this reason Barsebeck ceased operation well before the planned date.

    I think discussing absence liability in this forum where the whole idea is to act responsible by substituting dangerous fossils is at best absurd. The majority here on Bravenewclimate would probably prefer safe and responsible nuclear with appropiate regulation rather than your disregard for responsibility.

    NREL has in any case not contributed much to the development of wind technology because it traditionally has been developed in Denmark where the bulk of new wind technology development still is done. I do not know how much NREL budget is spent on classic wind technology. GE is the only major US player and surely able to run their own research programs. NREL tend to seek out out of the box technologies not likely to fly in my experience.

    “US Department of Energy’s budget is for weapons and fusion and has nothing to do with civilian fission power.” That is a first for me. I did not know of a single Dollar spent by DOE that goes towards weapons. As for fusion, Denmark too spends a few hundred million dollars annually in joint international efforts. Not because fusion is seen as a game changer soon to power your home but because there is a lot of valuable research results that are useful for a lot of other scientific purposes.

    So what’s the per-kWh subsidy for advanced renewable concepts at NREL that aren’t in service yet?
    I would not know as it is very hard to tell whether research yields results at all and to what extend and as I explained not very much has ever been contributed to wind power from NREL.

    So why such high FIT for offshore?

    Offshore is new technology and so far less than 1% of the wind market and the FIT is a very small investment in maturing the only wind technology that is useful in heavily populated Europe. The most recent Hornsrev 3 off shore wind farm is already cheaper than US Navy nuclear power at $0,07 per kWh.

    Far cheaper than Hinkley Point and that is probably why politicians and voters alike would like to explore the technology further.

    If you look beyond the 25 year design life of Hornrev 3 the wind turbines can be refurbished at approximately 35% of the original investment not incorporating the expected continued technology improvement. So with a 60 year perspective similar to nuclear plants the cost are far lower.

    FIT for offshore wind is also part of a compensation package for utilities that experience lesser utilization of their fossil powered plants forced to run in load follow mode.

    EON, Vattenfall, RWE and DONG where basically alone in the field but now new competition is bidding for new projects where the FIT is fixed at 0,58 DKK per kWh ($0,084) in 30.000 full load hours whereafter they sell at market price at the spot market. That reduces the FIT by 55% relative to Hornsrev 3.

    As for the sarcasm I would suggest you tone it down because it involuntarily devaluate your contribution to the discussion.


  82. Hi David Benson

    You got name plate rating right and availability right but the capacity factor is the percentage of the possible energy that could be produced if the wind turbine ran 100% on the name plate rating all year round.

    Availability is above 98% for all modern wind turbines and guaranteed above 99% for some.

    Most modern wind turbines except for the Chinese that are not on par with GE, Siemens and Vestas operate above 35% capacity factor and the capacity factor is on the rise fast.

    Further just as has been the case with nuclear power plants the operators become better and better and there are constantly added improvements. This means that the initial achieved capacity factor typically is improved during the lifetime of wind turbines.

    As for the backup question this is more an economic issue than a technical issue and the development is driving backup cost down fast and Synfuel production parity is within reach for wind power. Further the backup issue is also affected by the sharp rise in wind capacity factor and the constant development of fortified HVDC grid connections as well as the development of energy efficient technologies and smart grid enabling technologies.

    As the challenge for Nuclear that does not operate economically and technically optimal when required to operate load following is similar it will be in everyones interest that technologies that regulate supply and demand improves.

    For a sustainable nuclear future breeder reactors are required and to keep fossils underground the kWh price has to go well below one US cent. While the potential is there the timeline is uncertain and most likely to be expected more than twenty years from today.



    Pressurized Water Reactors (PWR) use water in the reactor core at a pressure of approx 150 Bar
    (according to Wikipedia). If the reactor core is compromised, highly radioactive material is released under high pressure with the possibility that large areas of land are contaminated.

    LWRs simply don’t fail that way, and the “contamination” is minimal.  If there was any need to be concerned about milliSievert levels of exposure, every hot-spring spa in the world would have to be closed.

    This isn’t an argument for not replacing LWR technology.  Large pressure vessels are expensive, and if you can do without them so much the better.  But LWRs are what we can buy today, so we should buy them.

    Because Molten Salt Reactors (MSR) operate at 1 Bar, this issue does not exist for them.

    The same is true of sodium-cooled reactors.  Pool-type reactors can’t even leak very easily.

    The plan proposes to reduce the consumption of Petroleum by 50% by the use of Battery powered and other forms of electrified transport. ( I do not think that this is possible but lets not get too nit picky.)

    It’s not only quite possible, I’m doing it.  My previous car averaged about 38 MPG, the one before that averaged maybe 22 and got about 26 on the highway.  My current PHEV is averaging 113 MPG despite a paucity of chargers.  I’ve cut my petroleum consumption between 66% and 80%, depending which you use for comparison.  Getting to a 50% cut with widespread charging infrastructure would be a piece of cake.


  84. Hello Peter,

    The GW scale plants will be the ultimate implementation of the KiteGen technology. This is the next leap of wind energy analogous to gen4 in nuclear.
    The link is the crowdfunder for the industrial pilot plant of the KiteGen Stem 3MW unit which will operate at a CF of around 75%.
    The GW scale plants will be even more efficient as there is no need to pull the kites back down and the forces of the tethers will be less also resulting in a much smother operation and an even higher CF and EROEI.

    The EROEI of a modern wind turbine is around 50 (recent lifecycle study based on actual offshore windfarms). Now you do away with the tower cut ting material use by 20 over a conventional turbine. You also use Dyneema and kitefoils (it’s rather a huge wing than a soft ram air kite) developed for speed and efficiency instead of 3 expensive carbon blades. The whole 3MW unit fits on a truck now.
    Now you tap into winds between 800 and 5000m.
    Offshore wind is also limited to shallow waters. Most of the US Pacific coast and the waters around Japan (which has pristine altitude wind resources btw) are too deep for conventional wind. They are trying floating platforms now but I doubt you could install 200m towers on floating platforms – 25MW wind turbines are believed to be an option for offshore wind as assessed by EU studies . The KiteGen Stem technology was developed (KitVes was funded by the EU) for operation on ships.

    The pieces are falling into place now. KiteGen developed all the parts of the system over the last 10 years. You can visit them in Turin if you happen to be in Europe.
    KiteGen also offered to built a 200*1,5MW windfarm on Sardinia with a footprint of 1km² when coal power was too expensive for the aluminium smelter ALCOA back in 2012.

    Massimo Ippolito is the inventor of the KiteGen.

    Windgas is power2gas. Germans call it that way and Greenpeace energy is selling it under that name too.
    (The gas net is worth some 200TWh of storage in Germany btw., also the big gas interconnections do have a carrying capacity of 70GWth. The natgas grid is effectively all the deep storage Germany would need.)

    I am sure you could have found all the information through the crowdfunding link.
    KiteGen engineers are very confident of their simulations as they have a proven track record compared to the prototype generators tested at up to 800m.
    Here is one of them speaking on the Carousel type GW scale plant. (only available in French or German I am afraid).

    Germany is trying to catch up with Skysails Power (they already have some 400m² kites in operation towing ships and cutting fuel use) and NTS X-Wind.

    You don’t have to take the 5GW/1.5B€ plant for your calculations. Using the 2.5M€ (4.16B/5GW) Stem units at 3MW/CF75 will also beat coal already.

    Australia should really explore it’s options. Weather it is Gen4 nuclear, fusion or KiteGen technology you should do it like Germany and built an export industry around the technology. (Germany is exporting 2/3 of it’s wind-turbines).
    That will be wise and needed to offset the inevitable loss of coal industry and exports.


  85. Jens Stubbe — We agree about the definition of the capacity factor. The capacity of a generator cannot be higher than the availability of the energy to power it; the wind availability for wind generation. To avoid overusing the word availability”, it is probably better to using the term “reliability factor” for the operating condition of the generator.

    The EIA estimates are for the United States but in any case the FIT for Vattenfall is so low that I suspect another source of funding is also made available. Irrespective of that, the FIT is still more than the EIA estimate for advanced nuclear.

    I have no idea why you continue to claim that nuclear power must fall to less than US$10/MWh to be competitive with coal power (without a carbon tax). For example, “Power from the [Colstrip] plant has been among the most expensive electricity for NorthWestern Energy for several years now, according to data filed with the PSC. In fact, it’s twice as expensive as wind power.” from
    Using the EIA estimates, that makes Colstrip coal power much more expensive than advanced nuclear power.

    (Disclosure: my utility derives about 23% of electricity provided from Colstrip.)


  86. David Benson

    Nuclear is already competitive with coal and will undoubtedly stay competitive with coal provided you factor in the external cost.

    The reason that nuclear is required to become less expensive than one US cent per kWh is that you can only build a sustainable future if it becomes possible to replace oil derived products with products based on Synfuel.

    I suggest you read the excellent article by John Morgan and the equally compelling spreadsheet he provides and couple the information he provides with the oil extraction cost and oil refinery cost. Saudi Arabia has around 25% of the known reserves and very low cost production, which means to keep their oil underground you need very inexpensive electricity.

    Besides nuclear also needs to stay competitive with other forms of low emission electricity generation.

    I am not writing of nuclear just because of the negative construction learning curve because there are far better designs brewing as Nnadir has pointed out in his blog and many plants has experienced steady improvement in capacity factor. The present goal for the Korean nuclear industry is to reduce unplanned production stops form 0,8 times annually to 0,2 times annually, which reflects the careful attention to quality needed both for safety and prolonged lifetime as well as for high capacity factors.

    Nuclear has a chance to catch up with wind but the window of opportunity will not stay open forever, so there is real pressure on the nuclear innovation teams.

    The FIT that Vattenfall won the tender with is their own doing and as I explained there are several projects on the way in Denmark that plan to use the standard FIT for onshore, which is approximately 55% less than the FIT Vattenfall achieved.

    Recently Siemens upgraded their 6MW offshore turbine to 7MW just by small changes to the generator and better blade technology.

    Companies such as GE, Siemens, Vestas, Alstom, Areva, Samsung, Mitsubishi, Enercon, Gamesa and some Chinese all have offshore turbines.

    The very expensive infrastructure including special harbors, special ships etc. is now in place in Northern Europe and the market is huge because a very large number of power plants are nearing their planned design life.

    Due to the intermittency of wind power I think that despite the huge external cost of coal the European Utilities will only source offshore wind power if the cost is lower than known alternatives. 7 US cent over lifetime as is the case with Hornsrev 3 is too high and wind cannot indefinitely secure FIT as I suspect will also be the case with nuclear.

    The lessons learned from the business is that aggressive upscaling is required to drive cost down and above all quality has to be improved because it is expensive to repair and do maintenance at sea.

    Ps. Krieger Flak wind park has now been officially agreed and the tender process will now begin. It is a joint Swedish, Danish and German project and will secure that wind will produce slightly more than 50% of the Danish electricity consumption.


  87. Hi Jenny Sommer

    Not to discourage your enthusiasm about Kitegen but it is still a very immature technology and there is absolutely no reason to believe that they do not have to go through the same cycle of development as classic wind turbines has gone through.

    Classic wind turbines are a really fast moving target to catch up with (58% LCOE drop in the last five years) and there are huge fundamental issues with flying wind catchers.

    As for the capacity factor then classic wind turbines offshore are not far off from Kitegen performance and there are several technologies underway that combined with upscaling will close that gap further.

    Makani owned by Google is probably a more well funded wind kite company with a slightly different approach. The logic is that at a 400 meter hub height the energy density is roughly 88% higher than at a 100 meter hub height. The negative list is very long and very difficult to design around. Should Makani and others however become technically successful then they have to focus upon becoming economically successful including building a track record so in that respect you are probably right to compare with Gen 4. Nuclear.

    As for the materials use the energy needed to construct a wind farm is recovered a few month after the production starts and most of a offshore wind farm is reusable or recyclable.

    As for your doubt about floating wind power you should check in on this homepage. where they combine wave power and wind power. The wave power system provides some energy and at the same time it stabilize the system and provide a safe harbor for the crew to land on and living accommodations. I have visited their pilot plant and I know they will launch a full scale test next year.

    As for wind gas I rather prefer Synfuel. John Morgan have taught why it is feasible and Nnadir has explained the virtue of non polluting fuel that is not health hazardous. Further Synfuel fits right not the current supply chain and can make any engine CO2 neutral and reduce particle emissions to a negligible level.


  88. Thanks Jenny,
    I have been able to find some more information about these Kite Gen systems. For those who are interested here are some useful URL’s

    From reading the above literature, I can find no reference to a 5GW system although they do mention a 500 MW system.
    Can you tell me, if they have any issues dealing with severe weather events such as Hurricane Katrina?

    In relation to WindGas I can see no application for this technology in the trucking field.


  89. Hi Jens,

    Wind is an amazing field. It will be hard for any technology to keep up. Siemens recently did some detailed ecological review of its wind turbines. Turns out that that the actual EROEI (it takes into account materials, production, construction, operation, maintenance, dismantling, and recycling) of the surveyed onshore windfarms (2*20 turbines)is between 55-66. Offshore are a little below that figure. Floating turbines could turn that around probably. All power to them they can make them float.

    Here is the development of the KiteGen so far.

    Windturbines are great as they are and will not go away for decades but wouldn’t it be nice if there was a complementary technology that could boost the EROEI and get emissions down under 1g/kWh? Also operating it from a vehicle or dropping it off in some remote location would be a bonus. This could power military bases in a way a windturbine never could, easing fuel supply logistics and cost.
    Here is a technology that could start it’s learning curve already from a higher level than windturbines. This machines are only made possible by today’s technology.
    If today’s windturbines would have been around 50 years ago our whole situation would probably be different today.

    The cost of windturbines would have to come down to around 10%-20% to match the economics of kites also. There is really a gain in losing the tower and the blades.

    I do have my doubts about Makani but with Saul Griffith being an Australian citizen maybe Australia would be more enthusiastic about his approach :)
    Makani does not use kites. There is a lot of mass in the air with Makani, they have to transmit power down the tether, the wing is very fast with extreme dynamic forces involved and will do a lot of damage hitting the ground.

    “The logic is that at a 400 meter hub height the energy density is roughly 88% higher than at a 100 meter hub height.”
    Wind power is proportional to velocity cubed. The operating hight will be between 600 and 2000m above ground station level. Also the area being sweeped by the whole of the fast moving kite is much greater than the effective area of a conventional turbine (mostly the fast moving tips).
    With VAWT the power output drops about 10% for each 1000m owned to decreasing air density while the turbine is still at the same high above grounds.
    There is a reason why turbines are getting bigger and taller but I doubt that they will ever reach 2000m (or even 400m) above ground level.

    Nobody denies that there are technical challenges. Let’s built the full scale Stem and start ironing them out.

    KiteGen is not particularly doing well in marketing I guess. Instead of giving away profits to NGOs I would cooperate with some outside players like RedBull, brand the kites and have RedBull take over the marketing, nobody is better at that :)
    Let them built a kitepowered “Wavegarden” (you have to look that up for yourself…but it needs about 800kw to run the fun which makes it kinda expensive.)

    Windgas (syngas) or liquid synfuel is both the same for me. Read that the “Sunfire” reactor yields 0.7kWh of liquid synfuel for each kWh of power. It seems a bit wastefull to convert good electricity into synfuel and burn it in wastefull ICE cars.
    I’d rather have syngas for storage and electricity for mobility.
    We could still use synfuel for aviation or Diesel generators aboard electric powered ships (just for augmenting the kite propulsion.)


  90. Engineer-Poet,
    In relation to PWR’s vs MSR’s I am simply saying that if these reactors are equal in all other things that I would prefer a reactor that operates at one bar rather than 150 bar.

    I personally have no objection to the immediate installation of the Westinghouse AP1000 in Australia particularly at Loy Yang power station. Loy Yang is a 3GW power station located near Melbourne Australia that burns 30 million tons of brown coal per year.
    Despite all the rhetoric that goes on in Australia about climate change, CO2 emissions, carbon taxes, and pollution in general, there is no plan to replace this power station.

    In relation to Petroleum Consumption I was refering to the ZCA2020 Stationary Energy Plan in which they assume a 50 percent reduction in both petrol (gas for Americans) and diesel consumption through the use of battery technology.
    As over half the fuel burnt in Australia every year is Diesel Oil basically the fuel of our heavy transport fleet. It would require our passenger car fleet to use virtually no fuel at all. Battery technology is just not capable of doing this at the moment. I do hope that one day it does but it is a little way off I think.


  91. Tony,

    The 5GW simulation is mentioned in the french youtube piece.
    A technical limit for one carousel plant was drawn at over 60GW in an italian article.
    Wouldn’t 2000 kites make an impressive tourist attraction too?
    Built it on top of one of those :)
    Some more insightful comments by Massimo are made on the comments to some older articles.

    here is more:

    Do you mean the resistance of the ground stations against extreme weather events?
    The kites can be reeled in in under a minute and handle tropospheric winds at high speeds. They would still operate at speeds a windturbine shuts down.

    It has been proposed to convert the US trucking fleet to LNG.
    Buses will be more economical on batteries anyways. Most of buses in my city run on LNG now but some are already running on batteries.
    Batteries would make a lot of sense for school buses also.


  92. Hi Jenny,
    I agree with Jens that this technology whilst seeming very promising has a long way to go.
    They would have to tested in Hurricane conditions to determine their reliability. If they can not operate in pretty much all weather conditions like coal and oil do then we can not decommission the oil, gas, coal base load power stations.
    I personally prefer Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR’s) but they are still in development like your kite technology. Although no Thorium powered prototype reactor has yet been run a uranium based prototype has run successfully. The Chinese Government is investing billions of dollars in the development of this technology. Interestingly LFTR’s are also scaleable and the range given is typically from 30 MW to 300 MW per unit. They are extremely efficient with 1 ton of Thorium theoretically being capable of giving one GW of electricity per year. To put that in perspective I could drive down to the Thorium shop in my pickup and get enough Thorium to run a one GW power station for a year. The military might prefer them as well in that by using a LFTR you are not really waving a flag telling your enemy where your source of power is.

    In relation to the use of LNG etc I am not really referring to school or city buses. I am referring to large heavy haulage vehicles with payloads of 25 to 40 tons. Whilst the idea of running heavy haulage on LNG has been suggested I doubt that it would gain acceptance. Engines that are typically used in this area have capacities of up to 10 litres and produce power of 400 to 500 hp and torque of 1500 to 2000 lb/ft.


  93. Tony,
    Here is a KiteGen document with a bold foreword by Massimo Ippolito. Imagine a 20km diameter ring with 60GWe that could power a whole country.
    I just love that vision.

    The prototype plant has been tested in all kind of conditions. This will be the first 3MW production pilot plant with a dedicated wing.
    Enerkite has also clocked several hundred hours of autonomous flight including during heavy rain and extreme weather conditions.
    It is also interesting that the engineers behind Enerkite abandoned the fiel of lighter than air devices due to it’s limitations and ultimately ended up with kites.
    There are also people involved with a background in windturbine design so I guess the limits and potential of the various technologies are well understood.

    There are many other reason I am very confident about the KiteGen. The R&D is done by public and private organisations with crucial industries on board and working together with Italian and European universities, among them the Kite Lab from Delft.
    It is pure physics and I can’t think of any unknown that would not have been discovered by so many people over the course of more than 15 years.

    I let it rest for now and hope that the fullscale pilot plant will get built soon to gather data and proof the validity of the simulations.


  94. Hi Jenny Sommer

    Nothing great was never achieved without passion but to temper your enthusiasm I think you need to read this analysis.

    You write “The cost of windturbines would have to come down to around 10%-20% to match the economics of kites also. There is really a gain in losing the tower and the blades.”

    Are you suggesting that Kites at a point in time will deliver electricity at $0,003 to $0,006 per kWh under a 20 year PPA contract?

    I think classic wind power has potential to meet a price point in that regime but would not imagine that it is feasible for Kite based wind power.

    For an outlook towards the near term cost reduction prospect for wind you should look into the recent Fullenkamp report, which is commented in this article.

    If Kitegen finally become able to pull it of technically it will be interesting to watch their race to become economically viable against tough competition.


  95. Jens,

    Mike Barnard does have a strong opinion as always but physics is clearly not his stronghold.
    I don’t get his rating chart either. Why does he rate potential for HAWT 5 and the KiteGen 2? He had a post on his blog (…not anymore) where Skysails got the most points. His guesses are as good as anyones.
    If we go by his reasoning that it would have been done already if it was viable we can stop R&D on anything including gen4 nuclear.

    Same goes for Craig Morris who has a beef with NTS x-wind for, in his opinion, badmouthing conventional HAWTs.
    He is basically repeating Mike Barnards opinion.
    I had an email conversation with Craig some days ago in which he claimed that the lower air density at higher altitudes would be a show stopper. Yet there are conventional wind turbines installed at altitudes over 2000m with hub heights of “only” 100m. Clearly Morris doesn’t have a clue about physics either.

    I am more interested in academic papers and data.

    If you go to page 14 of the KiteGen Dossier, right hand lower corner it says 6€/MWh.
    Bold Dossier right but it illustrates the confidence.
    After all this is what they set out for.

    Can you explain how classical wind could meet that pricepoint? The hardware alone wouldn’t allow that I guess.

    Anyways, lets see what KiteGen can come up with.
    Getting Massimo Ippolito to write some new article with some insight would be great.
    They also seem to have support from the Italian government. The KiteGen was featured at Italys EXPO Pavillion in Shanghai and there are some puplic hearings about KiteGen in Italian on Youtube.


  96. Jens, that putdown is simply mean.

    Your references are, in this article, primarily from industry sources and are biased accordingly. Few, if any, are from peer reviewed sources, yet you attack Jenny Sommer’s claims which, by the way, I do not accept either at this stage.

    I could criticise Jenny S’s contribution along similar lines, but at least the Kitegen information was informative, if not compellingly persuasive.

    Please justify your statement by reference to a peer reviewed publication which demonstrates that wind delivers power at $0.003 per kwh on a 20 year PPA contract, or retract it. Available LCOE figures from various sources tend to cluster around $0.05/Kwh outcomes for 2030, measured at the terminals, ie before transmission and other system costs and excluding costs of backup generation capacity.


  97. Over the years one tends to become inured to the dozens of promises of prospective new technologies that are advanced with great enthusiasm by their respective backers, as if by glossy sales brochure. Most of them disappointingly turn to nothing more than wishful thinking and we later wonder why we ever thought they were possibilities.

    But it’s a mistake to discount what we don’t really know. We have to keep our eyes open to possibilities, knowing that in each case the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. Kite energy (yes it sounds compellingly persuasive) and Gen IV technologies stand alongside each other in this respect.


  98. Chris, I have no opinion regarding kite energy, pending receipt of production-scale results and expert peer reviewed pricing and performance data. Others have stated that the land area required is huge: again I have no opinion.

    However, I suggest that Gen IV is somewhat more robust than kite energy at this stage. That is purely a personal opinion. That is where I am at today.

    Indeed, I wish them both and all other low- and no-carbon emitting energy sources well. Our little blue planet will need all the help it can get.


  99. I was once a fan of flying wind turbines (a concept that is like Kitegen but doesn’t rely on tension*speed of a rope to deliver power) but I’ve noticed something:

    NONE of these reasonably-testable schemes seems to have gone very far, despite years and no obvious technical barriers.

    I’m also slightly wary of “miracle” renewables like Kitegen.  Do we really understand what the effects of adding resistance to airflow at higher altitudes will have?  These days I am all about watching for unpleasant surprises.

    The nice thing about Kitegen is, if we stop using it, the effects go away.  You can’t say this about fossil fuels.


  100. Hi Singleton

    You got it wrong. Jenny Sommer assumed that HAWTS needs to be 80% to 90% cheaper. I was enquiring her opinion of whether Kitegen could become 80% to 90% cheaper than standard PPA’s for classic wind turbines.

    I am not mean to Jenny and I do not consider her to be of that opinion either.

    As of Barnards affiliation with wind industry I know nothing about it so your guess is as good as mine.

    Many of the points he makes are I think valid.

    As for the possibility of bring cost down for classic wind turbines I consider the following elements to be crucial to improve:
    1. Scaling
    2. Longer blades
    3. Better aerodynamics
    4. Better quality
    5. Better financial models
    6. Better maintenance procedures
    7. Better wind park scale LIDAR systems
    8. Standardized approval system
    9. Standardized insurance system
    10. Better siting algorithms

    Combined they will increase the capacity factor, lifetime, PPA duration and lessen the administrative and financial costs.


  101. Hi Jenny Sommer

    You wrote “Can you explain how classical wind could meet that pricepoint? The hardware alone wouldn’t allow that I guess.”

    Hardware needs to be slightly cheaper per installed MW but can still be more expensive per wind turbine and even per materials cost, and I consider hardware cost improvement as described in the article about the Fullenkamp article to be feasible. In my reply to Singleton you can see the elements that needs to be improved. There are actually far more small gains that can be added and a number of interesting patents that are expiring soon and a number of very interesting materials science developments that are about to enter the wind industry.

    The huge advantages that classic wind turbines have over the Kitegen project are:
    1. Proven track record
    2. A large industry with many strong competing companies
    3. Low interference with agriculture
    4. Complete supply chain systems
    5. Fast development cycles
    6. 58% LCOE improvement over 5 years

    If Kitegen can deliver on promise however they could be a formidable contribution to a cleaner future and the world would benefit hugely from cheaper energy and especially so if fossils once and for all can be competed out of the market place.


  102. Engineer-poet

    Your concern about stopping the wind has been suggested before and researched but with no conclusive argument that I know of. Classic wind turbines are far closer to the Betz limit than Kitegen can ever be so they stop wind far less than Kitegen does.


  103. First, one question to all: Have any of you heard of Renewable Fischer Tropsch Synthesis fuels? A good starting point would be, and also there’s a project at Audi, eDiesel, making fuel by the kind of technology. Study this, think about it. It’s real engineering, and it works, and it can solve all the unsteadiness problems with renewable primary energy sources like sun and wind to give us a stable grid or network of microgrids and to supply all of our transport fuel needs “forever”.


  104. Pingback: Der Flächenverbrauch der Energieversorgung – Astrodicticum Simplex

  105. Greg Horall – your link claims a system that “can solve all the unsteadiness problems with renewable” energy.

    However, reading between the lines we realise that the variations in renewable energy supply are to be smoothed out by the use of shale gas. Shale gas!! Shale gas is methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and the more we use it the more we emit it. It ends by explaining that by the time coal extraction stops in 2090, ongoing production of shale gas will save the day. Would you really support any future production of shale gas, especially considering that even the IPCC recommends zero carbon emissions by the end of this century?

    Shale gas will not save the day for any system that purports to rescue the greenhouse. Your link is a rehash of one of the “hydrogen economy” pipe dreams of the 1980s, relying on the fallacy that there is a sustainable level for gas consumption.


  106. I know of one reactor that had helium as the core coolant. Source: Private communication from Alex Gabbard of Oak Ridge National Lab. It was a meltdown proof reactor and was tested and proven meltdown proof in the worst possible scenario. It was graphite moderated. All materials were refractory materials so that the reactor vessel could get very hot to dissipate heat through the containment building in the worst case. It was a high temperature reactor capable of [if memory serves] 50% efficiency. In other words, the reactor vessel would radiate heat to the containment building. The containment building would get hot enough to dissipate heat to the external air, but not hot enough to weaken the containment building. ORNL actually tested it in this worst possible case. If all cooling is lost, the reactor turns itself off over a period of time by means of laws of physics.

    Alex Gabbard recommended this reactor as the best option for the next generation. There is nothing the operator or anybody else can do to cause an unsafe condition, and it operates at high efficiency.


  107. Venezuela, where 2/3 of its electricity comes from renewables… if it rains. Once again, the concept of 100% renewable power is shown up as a lie that only the credulous can believe. R.E. evangelists would be more widely believable if they costed a proportion of sit-in-the-dark into their visons. Perhaps they could reassure the faithful by invoking The Grim Reaper, choosing times of extreme weather for his appointments with the frail… in their thousands.


  108. The lights went out in Venezuela, where 2/3 of its electricity comes from renewables… if it rains. Once again, the concept of 100% renewable power is shown up as a lie that only the credulous can believe. R.E. evangelists would be more widely believable if they costed a proportion of sit-in-the-dark into their visons. Perhaps they could reassure the faithful by invoking The Grim Reaper, choosing times of extreme weather for his appointments with the frail… in their thousands.


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